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Tragic death of city woman on African holiday



Date Published: 08-Jan-2010

THE family of a Galway woman who died suddenly while on holidays in Africa has spoken of their shock and devastation at hearing of the tragedy.

Well-known and popular businesswoman Laura Thornton (32) of Salthill died suddenly last weekend in Cameroon in West Africa.

Laura, a masseuse with a treatment centre in Munster Avenue, departed Galway at Christmas with friends for a dream holiday on the African continent, a place she always wanted to visit.

On Saturday she was walking with friends about one hour outside the capital of Cameroon, Yaoundé, when she got a shortness of breath, collapsed and fell unconscious.

She was brought to the local hospital but was pronounced dead upon arrival.

The exact cause of death is not yet known and the Thornton family, well-known in squash and tennis circles in Galway and Ireland, are waiting until Laura’s body is repatriated before a post-mortem examination is carried out.

Laura had taken all the holiday vaccine precautions and was a very fit young woman – and had even represented Ireland in squash – although she did suffer from mild asthma, and temperatures reportedly had reached 35 degrees Celsius at the time.

Laura is a past pupil of Salerno in Salthill and of GMIT. Her father Kevin, a retired teacher from the Bish, and her mother Miriam, reared their family in Salthill and they subsequently moved to Oranmore. Laura is the youngest of four and her brothers David and Ian and sister, Sarah, are all well known squash and tennis athletes.

Laura’s family was informed of her death on Sunday and is receiving consular assistance from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Speaking to the Galway City Tribune, her brother Ian said her family and friends are still in shock and are now focusing their efforts on bringing Laura’s body home.

“Laura always wanted to go to Africa, it was her dream holiday. She had really come out of herself and had found her place in life – she was really enjoying life and loved travelling. We can’t believe it, it happened so suddenly and we are just trying to come to terms with it. We are devastated . . . we just want to bring her home now,” he said.

The family were advised not to travel to Cameroon, but Ian added that a small comfort to his parents at this tragic time is that a Galway nun, Sr Sheila Crowley, a member of the Jesus and Mary Order in Cameroon, who is known to the Thornton family, heard of the tragedy and said prayers at Laura’s bedside at the hospital.

Ian said the family would also like to thank their friends and the people of Galway who have been so supportive and who rallied around at this sad time.

The nearest Irish Embassy to Cameroon, in Nigeria, was informed of her death on Monday.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed to the Galway City Tribune it is giving the Thornton family consular assistance, including help with the repatriation of her body and by dealing with the relevant authorities in Cameroon. The UK Consulate in Cameroon is also assisting.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced and it is as still unclear when Laura will be brought back to Ireland.

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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