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The town I loved so well



Date Published: 26-Jul-2012

By Dermot Keys

Roddy Mannion may be best known for his architectural work but the Moylough native has recently launched a comprehensive new book on the city called Galway: A Sense of Place.

The book charts the evolution of Galway City, looks at its culture and architecture, and provides a vision of the city’s future development. It provides an in-depth analysis of a city that he has lived in and worked in for 25 years.

The well-known local architect never imagined that he would write a book but it came about in a relatively organic way. After researching and writing about the impact that the new port would have on Galway, he was inspired to expand the work to cover the wider city.

“I see it as a study of the city of Galway and all the unique features that make it up,” Roddy explained.

“I was attracted to the title “A Sense of Place” because I think a sense of place captures the uniqueness of a particular locality. What I wanted to capture was the distinctive features of Galway that distinguish it from all other cities in Ireland. In studying the city, I wanted to look at all its features but also its weaknesses and flaws.

“So I suppose I would describe it as a warm embrace of a city I love living and working in, but at the same time it is a gentle whisper in the ear that all is not perfect! That’s the way I’d probably describe the book.”

Researching the book threw up some interesting surprises for Roddy, including the fact that Norman French was Galway’s first language between the 13th and 15th centuries and that an old Gaelic settlement at Menlo once rivalled The Claddagh in terms of size.

“It was great doing the research because all these gems came up that I hadn’t been aware of and it was lovely to read about them. I have most of them in the book in some form.”

As well as offering an insight into Galway’s history and culture, the book also looks at the city’s potential development.

“The city has grown more in the past 50 years than the previous 500. The population has trebled since 1951 but more revealing is that the physical city has grown tenfold, so in other words the city has physically grown over three times more than its population growth. Now, we’re a far more spread-out, sprawling city than we were 50 years ago.”

Galway now has a population density of approximately 30 people per hectare, compared to 90 people per hectare in 1960. A typical European city has about 100 people per hectare. Roddy explains that Galway’s current low density is too low to support a proper public transport system.

“I suppose we turned our back on the historic city, which was a compact, mixed-use, dense city. If we’d continued with that, we would be able to provide a transport system because it would be a lot smaller and more compact.”

Galway is located in a 4km wide neck of land between the Lough Corrib and the sea and Roddy examines how this has led to traffic issues in the city.

This congestion is centred on the eastern approach roads and, although the proposed Outer Bypass will provide some relief, Roddy believes it will ultimately end up going the same way as the Quincentennial Bridge.

Two alternative transport systems are mooted in the book. One is to develop the existing railway line which comes into the heart of the city from the east.

“The international trend is that you have high density around a transport route like that because it makes sense. That piece of transport is the most sustainable piece of transport infrastructure we have in the city and we are dismissing it.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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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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