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The eternal optimist still dreaming after all these years



Date Published: 11-Aug-2010

Johnny Duhan is a true original; a one-off; a dreamer; a man who has hit 60 and still sees the world as a thing of beauty – and most of all, a singer/ songwriter who should be a lot more famous than he already is.

Perhaps it’s because he only knows how to write one way – from the heart. He couldn’t write a pop song for the sake of it, if you gave him a million dollars. And yet he’s written some of the finest, most enduring songs of a generation.

Limerick-born but domiciled in Galway long enough to earn dual citizenship, he has just released another spellbinding CD that may never make the top of the charts but which should be listened to and cherished by anyone who loves dreamers and wordsmiths and who recoils at the X-Factor path to overnight success.

Johnny will always be synonymous with his best known song, The Voyage and he revisits some of that territory with Part of the Tribe, one of the tracks on The Burning Wood, his new CD which is in the shops from next week or available from

The title track is up there with anything he has done in the past – and that’s high praise for a man who has written songs such as Molly, Girls in my Memory, There is a Girl, The Night You Left Me, Stowaway, Two Minds, and most of all the brilliant Your Sure Hand which sums up every father/daughter relationship since time began.

The Burning Wood is his first entirely new album in some time because he keeps coming back to his earlier work and reshaping it to give it a completely new feel – but this new album proves that he can start from scratch as well as remaster.

He’s lived in Barna for many years but ventures out on tour with admirable regularity – and it’s only in a live setting that the real humour and the storytelling ability of this quiet and unassuming man comes to the fore.

He tells stories about himself and against himself like a seanchaí – he’s as likely to tell you about living in a flat with Phil Lynott as breaking up with one of his admirably impressive list of ex-girlfriends – and he puts his songs into context with the skill of a born wordsmith.

Unless he tells you, you’d never take him for 60 – not just because he looks 20 years younger than that but more because he has a positive outlook on life that cannot be shaken.

Back in the sixties he enjoyed fame as a teenager, when he was in the Limerick band Granny’s Intentions which scored the first ever top 20 UK album for an Irish band.

But just as that looked like the fast track to fame and glory, the trappings of success brought it all crashing down.

Johnny has dusted himself off more than once since then and, if he were a more cynical man, life might be one of ‘what ifs’ and regrets – but not a man whose spirituality and love for his family ensure that he knows what real happiness is….and it doesn’t always come in a royalty cheque.

I admit I’m biased when it comes to Johnny Duhan because I love his music and I’m lucky enough to know the man. But you don’t have to meet him to know him – anyone can access him through his songs, because without exception they’re written from the heart.

He returns to themes like pain, love, loss, winning, losing, God, growing up, his father, his daughters and, most of all, his wife feature in words that are touching, raw, powerful and always searingly honest.

There will be bigger selling albums than The Burning Wood this year, but there won’t be any that are more honest, melodic, sparse, precise and crafted.

Not that that should be a surprise really – what else would you expect from a spiritual soul who writes from the heart?


See more in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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