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Tuam’s Apprentice shows his human side in defeat



Date Published: 19-Dec-2009

HE may have been the hard man of the show but when Tuam man Stephen Higgins broke into tears this week on getting the finger from Bill Cullen, he also endeared himself to a hardened public.

If you haven’t a clue what the hell this is all about, you must have been living in cloud cuckoo land for the last three months.

The 2009 Apprentice show has been the hit home-grown show of the year, and Stephen – alongside Oranmore native Aoiffe Madden – were among its shining lights.

Stephen made it to the final and probably to the global series’ history books when he declared in the semi-final: “I am one of the most talented young people in Ireland."

It is a much more humbled entrepreneur that talks to the Connacht Tribune in the wake of his firing – and his tears.

“Of course I was disappointed, you’re there for such a long time and it’s the be all and end all. I didn’t realise just how much I did want it till going in the car at the end of it and shedding a few tears,” he said, with a slightly embarrassed chuckle.

To be fair, there were tears in the eyes of the winner – Skibbereen- based business development manager Steve Rayner – when he finally got the nod after having to bare his soul about battling his demons with alcoholism and gambling.

But of all the 14 contestants it was Stephen that had the most life-changing experience. A number of his female contestants claimed he was aggressive, arrogant and impossible to deal with. His arch-nemesis on the show, schoolteacher Samantha Conroy, declared there had been a definite turn around in his personality and he was more willing to listen to others on the final task.

Does Stephen think he was unfairly portrayed in the series?

“With reality TV it’s always going to be character driven. I knew they were going to ham it up as much as possible. They really tried to make me look as aggressive and arrogant as possible. But when everyone asked who they got on best with in the house, I was always there, when they were asked who was going to win The

Apprentice, I was always there, so it didn’t add up,” he reflected.

He says people forget he is only 25 and just two years out of college when they level such heavy criticism at him.

His parents sought to censor any bad stuff that came out of his home town when they relayed the feedback from Tuam. In fact they didn’t even know he was going on the show until he used his weekly ten-minute phone call from the house to tell them he was already in the thick of filming. Being part of the show means contestants have to sign confidentiality agreements.

His dad Eamon works for Eircom, and his mum, Nuala, is an artist. The family, consisting of three boys and a girl, is from Bel Air Drive in the town.

Stephen went to St Jarlaths, where he excelled at football and soccer. He left at 16 to try and make a professional career in soccer in the US and Korea, but gave it up after 18 months after it didn’t work out.

He returned to take an honours degree in business and law at the University of Limerick, where he also became an accomplished rugby player.

After college Stephen worked for AIB and Bank of Ireland in Dublin and left the sector in October 2008 to set up The Wedding Trainer, a company that specialises in helping people to change their body type for their wedding day.

He plans to re-launch the company in the New Year in light of all the publicity that the show generated for his business. He also does some financial consulting.

He has received three job offers, one in PR in the car industry, the other two in financial services, and plans to use the Christmas at home with his family to reflect on his future.

The experience of The Apprentice is certainly one that he does not regret. He did however have some low points. It certainly was a cringe-worthy moment when he declared that beneath the tight suit was “all muscle”.

“It did happen that I could be a bit dismissive of people. Anything Bill Cullen or the contestants have said to me I’ve taken on board. I’ve definitely grown as a person. Actually I’ve become a lot nicer since The Apprentice so it could happen that a much nicer Stephen Higgins is going back to Galway this Christmas!”

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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