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Thirty years later – and I still have the infamous 1978 ‘Dunkellin Wellingtons’



Date Published: {J}

There was a time in this country when you could tell we were on the eve of a General Election – as sure as the first swallow heralds the summer, if a minister started waffling about ‘draining the Shannon’ you knew we were likely to be off-and-running within a matter of weeks.

The equivalent early warning signs these days have to be things like a total discipline collapse among FF Dail Deputies and Senators, and Green ministers rushing through legislation about dogs, stag hunting and same-sex partnerships.

Years ago, once ministers mentioned ‘draining the Shannon,’ you could start dusting off the posters.

Draining that damned river was one of the great unfulfilled promises of decades of governments of all political persuasions. It didn’t seem to matter that the only action was a lot of huffing and puffing from ministers …. the ‘old chestnut’ was trotted-out, election after election, without so much as a blush about the previous proposals and promises.

In Galway, meantime, the local equivalent promise in those days was that politicians started waffling about ‘draining the Dunkellin.’ At the mere mention of ‘the Dunkellin,’ the likes of TDs such as Johnny Callanan, Mick Kitt, Brigid Hogan-O’Higgins, and others, would scent the air like hunting dogs, and be off and baying.

Of course, in those times, there were other definite signs also. If Minister Bobby Molloy turned up in the newsroom of The Connacht Tribune, then you knew something was brewing. Molloy was never one to court the media – local or national – and his presence in the newsroom was as big a giveaway as the call of the first cuckoo heralding summer.

But, I never thought I would hear of the Dunkellin again. It was like old times when I read the Dail debate from last week and no less a personage than Minister Martin Mansergh became the umpteenth minister from an umpteenth government to say there were proposals.


He was replying in the Dail to FG Dail Deputy Paul Connaughton (Galway East) on planning some work which will impinge on the Dunkellin and the Aggard stream, following the disastrous flooding of last winter, when flooding forced families out of the homes and farms. (You can read the reply elsewhere and the news story about it).

My memory of the Dunkellin as a political ‘hot potato’ goes back to a field trip in 1978 which went into journalistic history.

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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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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