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Veteran group Aslan ready to rock Monroe’s



Date Published: {J}

Aslan, who play Monroe’s Live on Friday, January 22, are undeniably one of Ireland’s hardest working bands having had a hectic Christmas which saw them play Vicar St on December 27, Killarney on December 28 and Carlow on December 31.

Billy McGuinness is the guitarist and harmonica player with Dublin based five-piece outfit and for him, the busy schedule is no big deal.

“Aslan is a job so you get as much time off as everyone else,” he says. “Summer holidays and a week in January, that’s it.”

In these trying economic times, it’s heartening to hear about an Irish group who employ eight people full time.

“There are five in the band and three crew – a sound man, a truck driver and a roadie,” Billy explains. “It’s fairly compact. Especially when we go away, we need our own crew to set the gear up. Smokie does sound, and we’ve Adam and Steve. They’ve stuck with us for years, they’re like a part of the band. It’s one big happy family travelling around!”

Fronted by the charismatic Christy Dignam, Aslan have been on the go for over 27 years.

“We formed in 1982, believe it or not,” Billy recalls. “When we formed Aslan we said we’d give it a year. There’s something always spurring the band on, something always happens. The first example is when This Is got released [in 1986]. That got single of the year in Hot Press.”

Keeping a band together for such a long time is no mean feat, so their friendships must be fairly solid.

“The friendship thing has enabled us to stay together,” Billy declares. “We grew up in Finglas and Ballymun, and we were all friends before [the band]. What happens with most bands is if you just go for the best musician, when you have a row you find it very hard to make up. The band is a secondary thing to the friendships; when we have arguments – and we do have arguments [because] we spend more time on the road – then we do with our families, we say ‘let’s make up, shake hands and get on with it. We’ve a gig to do’.”

The importance of those friendships came to the fore in 1988 when Aslan decided to split. The extent of Christy Dignam’s heroin addiction meant they had to take a break. Are the other band members bothered by the media’s fixation on Dignam’s struggles?

“I think that’s part of the story of Aslan,” says Billy.

“Christy’s been very honest about it; he had a drug problem. There was no point in trying to hide that. Aslan are very honest band. In Christy’s autobiography, he goes into the drug thing in a lot of detail. I think it’s part of what makes Christy who he is. Shane MacGowan had his story; Jimi Hendrix had his.

“We’ve done everything a band can do, including breaking up and getting back together again,” he adds. “The reason we broke up was if we hadn’t, we felt Christy was going to die. At the time we were offered lot of money by EMI to actually stay together. We said ‘listen, hang on a minute. This isn’t a business; this is our friend we’re talking about’.”

Dignam’s willingness to confront his addiction, and the return of the Dublin band, gives each Aslan gig a sense of triumph. Billy explains how Dignam eventually overcame his demons.

“Christy went in to the Rutland [Centre] and he ended up going over to Thailand,” he recalls. “He was in Cantra Bok [treatment centre] in Thailand for six to eight weeks,” he recalls. “I mean, Pete Doherty was over there and he lasted two days, y’know? It was a very strict regime and Christy came back brand new.

“It’s like anyone else with a problem, it’s one day at a time with him. But he’s singing brilliantly and it’s never interfered with his gigs. He’s never cancelled a gig in all the years I’ve known him.”

For more read page 26 of this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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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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