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The Germans can take a Sunday break Ð so why canÕt we?

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 20-Jun-2012

A group of us happened to be in the German city of Frankfurt last week and, with some downtime at our disposal on the Sunday, we had planned to take in a few of the shops. But apart from two souvenir shops and a small Turkish travel agency, our search was entirely in vain.

Because Frankfurt – boasting over 70 international banks and one of the four biggest stock exchanges in the world – doesn’t open for business on a Sunday. Every shop in this city of 670,000 people is closed.

And yet people in this city that is home to both the European Central Bank and the Bundesbank seem to survive just fine with just a six-day commercial week – which is what we used to do before greed got the better of us.

Indeed we used to take this to an even more extreme level because I remember the ‘half day’ when every shop in the village – in our case, Oughterard – closed its doors so that business people had the chance to draw breath.

But the half day is long gone and so is the notion of downtime on a Sunday; indeed you can now do your grocery shopping while most of the world is asleep because 24/7 is the working day in the supermarket trade.

So we have shops that only close on Christmas Day and we’re broke; Germany shuts up shop every Sunday and they’re paying the price of our profligacy. Isn’t there a lesson – or indeed an irony – there somewhere?

Would our world really grind to a halt if we couldn’t buy the groceries on a Sunday? Would nobody every change their television if they only had access to electrical stores between Monday and Friday? Would the people of Ireland get cabin fever or withdrawal symptoms if we were forced to relax one day a week?

Of course those who are struggling to survive in business would argue that every second counts, and indeed it does if your competitors are open longer than you are – particularly if that’s on a day when half the population are off.

And so many people no longer work the regular Monday to Friday, nine to five, week – so shift workers and those who do anti-social hours might only have a Sunday window to catch up on things whereas their forefathers knew that work finished on a Friday evening and didn’t resume until Monday morning.

But German shops didn’t decide to stay shut out of some sense of community conscience or on the back of respect for family values – they did it because the Government legislated for it, and only allows shops to open on three or four specific Sundays, special occasions, every year.

Instead people go to museums, parks and other municipal facilities; they can go to coffee shops or even to pubs. But the biggest crowd we saw in Frankfurt that Sunday was after the mass for Croatians in the city’s biggest and most historic Catholic Church.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

images/files/images/x3_Courthouse.jpg

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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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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