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Twenty years in just twenty paragraphs…



Date Published: 17-Aug-2012

TWO weeks ago I was at my friend The Goat’s 65th birthday party in Clifden, and as Stretch tuned up his guitar with a few bars of Pink Floyd, I realised that it had been 20 years since I first walked into Terry’s in Clifden and watched these boys play… (cue wavy screen and diddydiddlydiddly harp music…)

It’s April 9, 1992, and the Conservatives have won their fourth consecutive English General Election. I’ve just finished writing a novel, feel the British public deserve their Tory fate, walk into a travel agents’ and ask for the cheapest one-way ticket out of the country. £39 flies me to Malaga and then I hitch, looking for a new home.

Saturday August 1, I step off the French ferry from Roscoff onto Irish soil for the first time. Over the previous 20 years I’ve been around the planet a couple of times, but never visited the country next door. I have neither friends nor family here, no addresses, a clean sheet, which feels perfect. I’ve run out of countries, so Ireland’s going to be my home. Flipping on the TV in a Cork City B&B, I watch the Galway Races.

After cold calling for jobs in Cork I head to Kinsale, work split shifts as a kitchen porter while living in a hostel, go mad and flee to Galway, where I fall deeply in love with Connemara. I find a room to rent in Salthill. It’s 24 hour party people, Crusties and lost souls such as myself.

One month later I have this colyoom and a FAS course working as a youth worker in the Rahoon Flats. Escaping the other blow-ins, I meet the mightiest crew of local lads in the shape of Blitz, The Body and Whispering Blue, but exhausted by the craic, I plot my escape from Galway.

May 1994 sees me loading all my worldlies into the back of my transit van and driving off to the first house I’ve ever lived in alone. Off the road between Ballyconneely and Slyne Head, Bunowen is bliss. I walk and write another novel and walk more and write six columns under six different names and then fall in love and move to America to be married.

Four years later I return to Galway, failed and lost, to be rescued by old friends who offer me a room to rent in their house in the Claddagh. The good people of this noble rag offer me back this colyoom, for which I am truly grateful.

Evidently I’d had to leave my home to realise that, after a lifetime’s search, I’d already found it in the West of Ireland. Whiskey and mayhem ensue between Taylor’s Bar and Harriet’s Nimmo’s, but I keep it together enough to open and run a charity shop for Age Action, write minority sports interviews for the Irish Examiner and plot my escape from Galway.

The Snapper serves me at Nimmo’s and my life once more becomes a C&W song: “Just when luuuuurvve’s a million miles from my mii-iind, she smiles and pours me a glass of wii-ii-iine.”

In March 2001, I move to a beautiful farmhouse outside Killala, Co Mayo, but am then trapped indoors by the Foot and Mouth epidemic. I’m writing this colyoom and Diary of a Blow-In, a column for the Irish Examiner, and selling bags of features to the Examiner and the Irish Post in London, but I’m such an emotional wreck from my failed marriage, I can’t write fiction.

My first two years in that house are exceptionally happy. North Mayo is Ireland’s best kept secret, with virgin white sand beaches and the most excellent bunch of people, pleased to have me in their midst.

By my third year in Killala I realise that no locals ever visit my house. Scenting the first whiffs of loneliness, I start to plot my escape to Galway. Ironically, the entire village arrives at my house to throw me a surprise leaving party. Truly wonderful, if only they’d visited earlier.

Eventually I find a one bedroom house in Salthill and get a job as a youth worker in Ballybane. My boss is so brilliant at his work, I learn as much about myself as the teenagers with whom I’m working.

The Snapper and I move into a new house together. Sadly I leave my job, as I’m spending so much time in England with my chronically unwell father. I’m finally getting to grips with the fourth novel, and then my father dies and the Snapper and I are married two weeks later. With the help of friends we throw a wedding bash at Massimo’s that blows us and half of Galway away; truly a celebration of life.

The Celtic Tiger dies, the freelance market dries up, and this colyoom is cancelled in 2009. I go through a deeply dark year with no income and no Dole, forced to spend my father’s inheritance just to buy the groceries, which breaks my heart.

I work crazy hours trying to earn money and when our families buy us a holiday, I end up in a French hospital with a massive panic attack.

Time to learn that I’m not invulnerable. At Public School they told us we were worthless pieces of scum and exceptionally gifted leaders of men, which screwed me and most of my friends up for life, but now I know: showing weakness is allowed.

I sell a couple of features to the Irish Times, but columns are rare as sunny Galway summers. The Snapper and I hunker down with the rest of the nation, moving out to a lovely house, half an hour from Galway. At last I don’t have to plot an escape, because now I have both country and city. A couple of months later this noble rag offers me back this colyoom. Hoorah.

This is a very Happy Anniversary! Thank you, the West Of Ireland! Here’s to the next 20!

We drink to life – L’Chaim!

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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