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Connacht Tribune

Veteran fiddler still going strong as he marks 100 years




He celebrated his century with a return to the stage of An Taibhdhearc after 780 years – and drove himself to his 100th birthday party. Tom Quinn is still hale and hearty, and he sat down with Ivan Smyth to talk about his long and eventful life.

Tom Quinn greets me at the front door of his house on a rainy Saturday morning. We pass by pictures and plaques gathered from roughly 86 years of playing the fiddle. He rushes inside and cleans up his plate of toast as we enter his kitchen.

We sit in a corner as he stares out the window at the bushes before directing his attention to the back door which he insists on leaving open. On the windowsill lie leaflets on gardening and scraps of paper. He adjusts his seat and grabs a tea towel to clean up.

He plays with the button of his grey jacket and the collar of his blue shirt. Above his head hangs a balloon celebrating his 100th birthday. To the right, on a wall in the corner but still clearly visible is a clock in the shape of a fiddle.

He is tired but willing to talk about his love of music and his interesting life. He was only home at 12:30am the previous night after playing in the Emerald Bar in Ballinasloe, where he goes every Friday.

He first played the fiddle in 1943 at 14 years of age – but how did he end up doing so?

“My brother; he wanted to buy a gun and my mother wouldn’t let him. As a compromise she bought him a fiddle,” he says, struggling to contain his laughter.

Legendary South Galway fiddle player Jack Mulkere brought Tom’s brother in to the local hall where the Gort man would give lessons to young musicians. It was there that Tom realised he had a passion for music.

“I used to be listening and I was taking it up as quick as he was,” he remembers.

From there Tom decided to play and has continued to do so ever since. He was born on February 24 1919 and is still fit and healthy.

So what is the secret to living such a long life?

“Well I never drank or smoked. No matter where I performed growing up, there was always drinking and smoking but it never bothered me.”

He was raised in Athenry before moving to Ballinasloe in 1941. He worked in St Brigid’s hospital for 42 years and it was there that he discovered his second passion, gardening.

He states: “Halfway through my time there I was put in the garden. I spent half my time as a nurse and half as a gardener.  I kept at it after I left in 1983.”

He continues to grow his own vegetables. On his table sits leaflets on different seeds and flowers.

He picks up one before showing me in to his sitting room where he houses potted plants alongside photos of his family and the various groups he has played with. Every item holds a memory for him.

As we return to the kitchen he stares out at his garden as the rain continues to beat down. A car sits outside in the narrow driveway.

The Athenry native says: “I do still drive. I am happy enough at it. All I do is drive down to the chapel and into Ballinasloe.”

He has five children, 14 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. He married his wife Lily in 1951. They were together for nearly 60 years before she died eight years ago at the age of 87.

His youngest son Declan states: There was a void in his life when she passed away. He was lonely but he had great support from neighbours and friends while his music helped keep him active.”

Declan’s daughter, Niamh, plays the fiddle as her granddad encourages her to when they visit him. Tom’s son Tomás also plays and brings his father to perform every Friday evening.

Declan knows how important music is for his father and how much he has enjoyed playing with the Ballianasloe Comhaltas.

He says: “Dad loves the social aspect. He has a great grá for it. He has played all over the country and loves mixing with people.”

Former neighbour and Irish dancer Michael Cusack says: “When the feis’ would take place, he would start playing at 9am Saturday morning and might not finish until 10pm Sunday evening.”

Tom does not hesitate when asked what he enjoys most about playing the fiddle.

“The company,” he says. “It helps me feel part of the community.  I love meeting and talking to people when I go and play.”

Alongside playing every Friday, he also performs in the social services in Ballinasloe on Tuesdays.

“I do play the social services every Tuesday and I am the oldest one in it,” he says, chuckling to himself.

And with that, he gathers his fiddle and plays a tune – one of many played along the way…with many more still to come.

Connacht Tribune

Galway Real Estate have attractive site for sale on the Aran Islands




Oghill, Inishmore, Aran Islands.

Galway Real Estate have an attractive site/property for sale at Oghill, Inishmore, Aran Islands.

The site is approximately c.150 square metres. (c.1600 sq. ft.) on c.1 acre with planning permission to convert to a dwelling house and fit a new waste water treatment system. Planning Ref: 17/1284. There are two years  left on planning. The planning is for a proposed 4 bedrooms, kitchen, dining/room, laundry/room, bathroom. This is a wonderful opportunity to get a property ready to go. Offers in excess of €125,000 considered.

Full details from Paddy Flynn 0872557618 or Galway Real Estate on 091565488 or email:

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Connacht Tribune

Aran to welcome Ireland’s largest domestic passenger ferry




Saoirse na Farraige

The largest domestic passenger ferry in the country is making its journey from the Far East to the Far West – ready to commence service from Galway to the three Aran Islands.

The 40-metre ‘Saoirse na Farraige’ represents a massive investment – and vote of confidence – in island tourism on the part of the owners, Aran Island Ferries.

Commissioned in January 2019, this sixth member of their fleet has a capacity of 400 – and it is expected to arrive in Galway Bay from Hong Kong in October.

The vessel departed Hong Kong last week, embarking on a 2,500 mile journey to Galway Bay – inside the hold of a heavy lift ship called Svenja’”.

Saoirse na Farraige has at least three more stops to make before arriving in Galway Bay at the end of October – and it won’t not enter service until next spring.

Aran Island Ferries Sales and Marketing Manager, Aine McLoughlin, said that they were looking forward to seeing visitors enjoy their journey to the Aran Islands, enjoying the increased capacity, accessibility, and safety features.

“We are really looking forward to officially launching ‘Saoirse na Farraige’ next year and seeing visitors enjoy their journey to the Aran Islands on board our new ferry,” she said.

Saoirse na Farraige will serve all three islands from Rossaveel – with a journey time of 40 minutes to Inis Mór, 50 minutes to Inis Meáin, and 55 minutes to Inis Oírr.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in now – or download our digital edition at

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Connacht Tribune

Emergency Department upgrade will happen at UHG – but it’s complicated

Denise McNamara



The current ED at UHG.

Revamping the emergency department at UHG will involve three separate projects – leading to the hospital’s chief describing the process as ‘very complex’.

City Councillor John Connolly (FF) said the people of Galway were concerned that the new emergency department – like the ring road – would never happen, as it appeared to be so bound up in red tape.

Joe Hoare, assistant national director of estates in HSE West, told the Regional Health Forum West meeting that that outpatients department adjacent to the emergency department was being redeveloped to create more capacity for streaming Covid patients from non-Covid patients for the winter.

The outpatients department would be relocated to the Merlin Park campus. The design for this building would be completed within ten months with construction expected to begin in by last 2021 at the earliest.

An interim emergency department was the next priority so that the current building could be knocked to make way for the new state-of-the-art building, creating a new maternity department and paediatrics unit.

Since the budget for the new children’s hospital had blown out of all proportion, the rules over public projects over €100 million had changed and the Saolta hospital group had to ensure its business case for the massive project was ‘watertight’.

Mr Hoare said all three projects were moving in parallel, including the enabling works for the main build, which would take around 18 months to complete.

He described the project as Saolta’s ‘absolute top priority and was regarded as such by the national HSE organisation.

Head of Saolta, Tony Canavan, said the project was ‘big and very complex’ and required management to remain ‘very focused over a long time’.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in now – or download our digital edition at

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