He already has the freedom of Connemara – but when it comes to the west coast, Ryan Tubridy wants it all. Which partly explains why he is taking his radio show to Inis Mór next week – and broadcasting for the first time from the Aran Islands.
“I’m hugely looking forward to it – not that I ever need an excuse to head to the West. But the Late Late season finishes on Friday . . . and my ‘working holiday’ then sees me head straight for the Wild Atlantic Way,” he laughs.
Thus, his RTÉ Radio 1 show next Thursday will see Ryan pitch up at the Tourist Office in Kilronan, facing out onto the beach.
“When you put it like that, it doesn’t sound like work, does it?” he admits.
But this is no flying visit or fleeting love affair; his radio show is also coming close to its summer break – which means Ryan is straight back to Galway for his annual holiday just a week later.
His affinity with the county goes back to his childhood.
“From as early as I can remember, we headed off for the summer out to Baile na hAbhann; my mother’s father had a little house there and that is deeply associated with the happiest days of my childhood.
“It’s the sort of ‘sand in the sandwiches’ summer that we so remember; trips to Tí Johnny Sean’s pub; snooker tables with rips in them – happy days,” he says.
But it really wasn’t until about a decade ago that Galway – and Connemara in particular – began to form such a part in Ryan’s own story.
“Ten years ago, when I did Who Do You Think You Are?, I really discovered how deep this goes,” he says about his experience of the TV genealogy documentary series.
“My dad’s dad was from Beal a’ Daingean and indeed his parents had come here to work as joint principals in the national school, Scoil Mhic Dara in Carraroe.”
Ryan’s great-grandparents, Patrick and Jane – from Kilmurry Ibrickane in Clare and Kilkelly in Mayo respectively – shared a vision; that education held the key to progress.
At a time of great poverty along the west coast, they actually worked with the great patriot, Roger Casement, and helped to set up a fund for free school dinners there.
Their son – Ryan’s grandfather – Seán, shared their passion for progress and served the area too, both as the local GP and then as a TD for Galway. But it could all have ended before it really began.
“Granddad was taking over as the local GP from a man who was retiring after a long and distinguished career in the post,” reveals Ryan.
Such was Seán’s enthusiasm that he presented himself for duty the day before he was supposed to start and offered to begin work immediately – the night before his posting officially began.
“The serving GP told him to wait until the morning as planned because he had one particular patient who was living on one of the islands; this man was dying and as his GP he wanted to see him one last night,” says Ryan.
But tragedy struck on the return journey; the boat went down, taking the lives of the small crew and the retiring GP – a death toll that would have included Seán Tubridy, if his predecessor hadn’t insisted on him taking the evening off before starting work the next morning.
“I often think about that – if my grandfather had gone on that boat, the story would be a very different one,” says Ryan.
He knew little of this when, as a teenager, he was dispatched to Irish college in the Gaeltacht back in the 1980s – a summer he remembers fondly in Carraroe.
“Last summer, I was driving around the West and I went on a day trip to Carraroe. Nothing would do me but to find the house I’d stayed in all those years ago – and when I arrived my old Bean an Tí was outside.
“I walked over to her and said: “You don’t know me, but I know you”, and she nearly died. We went in and I had a look at the bunk bed I’d slept in that summer,” he says.
So his Galway connections – and his family roots – are beyond reproach, although he readily admits that he’s not quite as familiar with the Aran islands.
“I don’t know Aran as well as I should. I’ve always gravitated towards Inishbofin and this summer when I’m there, once again I’ll be spending time in a little cottage that my cousin owns on Inis Turbot.
“We’ve taken the show the most parts of the Wild Atlantic Way over the last few years and I love it; what we try and do is create an aural postcard, where we bring the listeners with us on the journey.
“We want to make it feel like they’re there too,” he says.
While the purpose is to promote all that is good about the Wild Atlantic Way, he doesn’t want it to feel like a hard sell. “I’m just in my element, being where I love to be,” he says.
Part of his experience on Inis Mór will be immersive – quite literally because he will be the Bláth na Mara seaweed bath, as well as taking in a visit to Dún Aengus.
But he wants most of all to meet the local people and therefore he’s issued an open invite to all to turn up at the Tourist Office in Kilronan next Thursday morning to take part in the show.
“My only regret in life,” he says, “is that I’m not a Galwayman. I’m half-Galway by blood – but I want to make it full-Galway by legal documentation. I wonder if that can be sorted?,” asks the man who is already an official Freeman of Connemara.
Two arrested in Galway over spate of burglaries
Two men in County Galway have been arrested as part of a Garda investigation into a series of burglaries in businesses in Limerick and Tipperary.
As part of the operation, three houses were searched yesterday (Saturday) morning in Co Galway and two men in their 20s were arrested. They were brought to Henry Street and Roxboro Road Garda stations in Limerick, where they were detained under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2007.
During the search operation, two vehicles were also seized for technical examination.
The eight burglaries were carried out in the Limerick and Tipperary area in the early hours of last Wednesday morning.
As part of these investigations, an operation was put in place by detective Gardaí from Henry Street Garda station with the assistance of the Armed Support Unit in the Western Region and Gardaí from Tipperary, Limerick and Galway.
Branar reaching for skies at former airport
Lifestyle – The disused terminal at Galway Airport is being transformed for Sruth na Teanga, an immersive journey through centuries of Irish language and culture. Created by theatre company Branar, it was commissioned by Galway 2020 and will use puppetry, music, video and live performance to give audiences a fresh insight into the oldest vernacular language in Western Europe. Its creator and director, Marc Mac Lochlainn talks to JUDY MURPHY.
Entering the terminal of Galway Airport is like visiting the place that time forgot.
The desks for Avis and Budget Travel are still in place, exactly as they were when the facility closed nine years ago. So too are signs saying ‘Departures’ and ‘Garda and Customs only’, while the yellow pay-machines for the empty car-park stand abandoned by the main door and wind howls through the deserted building.
At the reception desk, a dog-eared copy of Dan Brown’s novel, Deception, is a lonesome reminder of the days when people thronged through this airport, carrying reading material for their flights.
“It’s a bit like the Mary Celeste,” says Marc Mac Lochlainn, the director of Branar Téatar do Pháistí with a mischievous grin. He’s referring to the American shipwreck that was found abandoned off the Azores in 1872, with everything perfectly intact but its crew missing.
At the height of Storm Brendan, with the rain lashing and wind howling, the space does feel eerie, but from March 2-29, thanks to Branar, it will become home to magical forests, streams and islands for one of the main events of Galway 2020 – European Capital of Culture.
Branar’s new show, Sruth na Teanga, was commissioned by 2020 as one of its flagship productions. Now the theatre company has just over a month to transform the abandoned terminal building into a space for an immersive journey capturing the evolution of Western Europe’s oldest written, and still spoken, language. That language is Irish – a subject which caused so many people so much angst at school.
Marc is aware of this difficult legacy, but points out that Irish language and its culture far predates what has happened to it in the 20th Century at the hands of the Irish education system.
And that’s what Sruth na Teanga – based on the metaphor of a river – is all about. With puppetry, music, video mapping and live performance, it’s for children and adults and Marc hopes it will give people a fresh appreciation for Irish and its ongoing role in shaping us as a nation, through our place-names, our stories, our songs and the way we view the world.
Transforming the deserted airport terminal for this production will be no small feat but then Branar have never been short of ambition, as anyone who has seen their magical productions, such as How to Catch a Star and Woolly’s Quest, will be aware.
Sruth na Teanga has been evolving since 2015 when Galway first sought the European Capital of Culture designation and invited people such as Marc to dream big.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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Corofin stand 60 minutes away from club football crowning glory
IT’S a date with destiny like none other in the history of club Gaelic football. A team from Galway trying to go where no parish team has gone before.
Protecting a remarkable 35-match unbeaten run, Corofin stand on the threshold of becoming the first team to win three All-Ireland club senior titles on the trot.
It would represent a phenomenal achievement and the crowning glory for the Galway champions who have been such a compelling force over the past decade.
Standing in their way are All-Ireland final debutants, Kilcoo from Down, and while Corofin are red-hot favourite, the biggest occasion on the club GAA calendar has been littered with upsets down through the years.
It’s not in the nature of Kevin O’Brien’s charges to take anything for granted, however, and if they bring their A-game to Croke Park for the third year running, Corofin will have secured a cherished place in the record books on Sunday night.