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Thinking back to teenage memories of tape recorder days



Date Published: {J}

Long before the land of iTunes and the internet, resourceful teenagers still had their own way of coming up with music playlists – only we used to call them cassette tapes.

And compiling your personal playlist involved listening for hours to the radio in the hope that they’d play something from Thin Lizzy or Hazel O’Connor or whoever tickled your fancy. If you’d just fallen for someone, it was happy music all the way – but break-up music was even better.

Of course the orthodox way was to buy records or tapes and help line the pockets of millionaire superstars with your pocket money – but even if you wanted to play by the copyright rules, there wasn’t much of an outlet for record shops in Oughterard.

Galway had Star Records and Zhivago, but our few pennies were spent on Shoot! or Goal or Roy of the Rovers – we didn’t have money left for Elton John.

So you bought blank cassettes; your C60 or C90 gave you an hour or hour and a half of the songs that mattered – normally minus the start and/or finish with a few words or exclamations from Larry Gogan thrown in because you weren’t fast enough with the record button.

You could have gone for the C120 tape of course to give you two hours of your favourite music, punctuated with those words of wisdom from Larry or Dave Fanning or Gerry Ryan or even Marty Whelan that you just weren’t competent enough to erase.

Editing wasn’t a skill in your toolbox, so you were left with whatever went out between the time you pressed record and the time you hit stop. Larry in particular was a divil for talking over the intro, and you could forget all about capturing the guitar or sax solo at the finish.

And bear in mind we’re going back to an era when the radio and tape recorder were separate machines, so you had to told the recorder – a front loading black box of the sort that would probably have survived an air crash – over the radio to record your music in surround sound medium wave static.

The arrival of the radio/cassette recorder was right up there with the invention of the wheel until iTunes came along; suddenly you had one device that facilitated the pirating of hit singles with just the flick of a single finger.

That’s presuming, of course, that you had the price of a boogie box in the first place. But at least, like an iPad, it was something you could aspire to.

Of course audio cassette could also record television – minus the pictures of course – and many the Top of the Pops classic could be replayed at leisure later.

So too could sports events if you could anticipate the moments of drama.

I remember recording FA Cup finals off the television; like every other house we only had one TV in the house so it meant nobody could make a sound for the duration or they’d be forever engrained in the fabric of a Frank Stapleton equaliser.

Of course the end for audio recordings from the television happened with the arrival of video – although once again that was a slow process for most homes given the prohibitive price of these devices.

It’s hard to believe even now that a video recorder back in the eighties was several times more expensive than your state-of-the-art DVD or digital TV recorder would be today.

Back in the sands of time, one can recall the battle between VHS and Betamax for the video recorder market – ultimately those who plumped for Betamax were left with the electrical equivalent of the dinosaur.

They were so big and bulky – and inevitably top loading – that they never fitted in any old telly unit; so the DVD player, by virtue of its size, shape and perhaps because its price merited prominent display anyway, was normally on top of the telly or delicately balanced on a shaky shelf.

To those who know only a world of integration, where radio, television, music and internet are all intertwined, it might seem like the dark ages when we were thrilled with a variety of clunky electronic boxes that were as compatible as Paisley and the Pope.

And of course in many ways, it was – but those teenage memories of tape recorder days are like an old familiar blanket, remembering a time when it took effort to get your music into some sort of sequence, as opposed to clicking Genius on iTunes and letting some computer do it for you.

And iTunes has never mastered how to include snatches of Larry Gogan.

For more, read 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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