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Voices at a funeral recall records from my fatherÕs time



Date Published: {J}

I WAS at a funeral recently where the choir performed a positively splendid version of Angels That Around Us Hover – why it struck up such a memory for me was that I had not heard it for maybe 20 years, though it was a huge favourite in our house in my father’s time.

I understand that it may also be known as The Angelus. Whether or which, it is drawn from Maritana, that marvellously tuneful ‘ballad opera’ which was very popular among musical societies a number of years ago, but has become practically a rarity in more recent times.

I must say I intensely dislike that slightly snobbish term ‘ballad opera’. It makes it sound somewhat rustic and not quite up to the standard of, say, grand opera of French or Italian origin. Can I say that it didn’t matter a damn to us growing up . . . we loved a number of the arias from the William Vincent Wallace work first performed about 1850.

Maritana was among a collection of records which my father had. They were the old giant 78s, so called because they spun on the turntable of a gramophone at a speed of 78 revolutions per minute. The reason I am explaining is that I

have to be careful – there is a whole

generation out there who have never

seen a ‘record’.

Life moves on so quickly these days, though I am one possibly least equipped to discuss changes in even the technology which has impacted directly on all our lives. I would have been the type

who thought Betamax format was the be all and end all .. . and we all know what happened to that when VHS and swept the world. And there are youngsters who never even heard of the formats . . . now it’s all DVDs.

Our house more than 50 years ago was fairly typical of most others in the country. There was hardly a home that did not have a gramophone – usually a giant piece of furniture housed in a mahogany case, which sat in the corner of the sittingroom and was presided over by someone like ‘the man of the house’ when it was decided that the precious records would be taken out.

There was no such thing as television, so, if the radio was not the centre of attraction, the huge HMV gramophone would be opened, occasionally, especially around Christmas when the sittingroom, came into use for a few days.

My father, or one of the older sisters or brothers would, under supervision, ‘wind’ the spring with a giant key which really was rather like a small version of a car starting handle, and we would be treated to an evening of music such as The Barcarole from The Tales of Hoffmann, or some John McCormack.

The 78 records were quite brittle and would not take any sort of abuse. The steel ‘needle’ with which they were played – which was rather like a stout steel pin – was anything but easy on the playing surfaces. Invariably, the sound was somewhat tinny, like too much treble on the modern sound systems, but we sat contentedly for ages listening to arias from Maritana sung by people like Denis Noble and Heddle Nash.

In our case, the centrepiece of the rather small, but special, record collection was a bound album of six records which carried the highlights from Maritana – arias such as Scenes That Are Brightest, There Is A Flower That Bloometh, I Dreamt I Dwelt In Marble Halls, Alas Those Chimes, Let Me Like A Soldier Fall.

Of course, there were others. What collection could be complete with some John McCormac. There was a set of six records of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado performed by the D’Oyly Carte company.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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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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