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Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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

Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

Stephen Corrigan

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Computers of a different size to todays models are taken out of the Digital Plant in Mervue Business Park following a fire in 1978.

1920

Get on or get out

It is refreshing to turn from the screeching headlines of our metropolitan Press to the isolated local efforts that are being made to get on with the real work of the Irish nation.

A meeting will be held in the Town Hall, Galway, at eight o’clock on Monday evening next for the purpose of forming an industrial association, and making arrangements for the holding of an industrial exhibition in the City.

May we say at the outset that we hope every class and section of the community will attend, not to criticise or sneer, or to give vent to these prejudices that form such a clog on the wheel of progress in our provincial life, but to take earnest counsel together and see if something cannot be done to put new life into our Western towns?

Twelve years ago, four years after the movement had been started in Cork that resulted in permanent benefit to Irish trade by the establishment of the Irish Trade Mark, a great exhibition and industrial conference was held in Galway.

The event was a notable success from the business, social and cultural aspect. If greater good did not come from it, the fault is to be found in local apathy and local divisions, which failed to grasp the splendid opportunity offered, and to extend the activities and broaden the scope of the Industrial Development Association in our midst.

To-day the need for some such effort is more than ever evident. It is said that the cities and towns, like individuals, become worn out: they reach a stage when all their progress becomes arrested, when as it were, they seem only to move backwards.

To stand on any point of vantage in Galway and view the surroundings is to be afforded tragic and melancholy evidence of the evil days upon which we have fallen.

All round about is a sea of dilapidated buildings, of derelict factories and worn-out roofs. It is, in very truth, a city of ruins.

The few redeeming features of modern effort pass almost unnoticed in pervading atmosphere of decay.

Former glories form a fitting study for the archaeologist, a saddening retrospect for the progressive business mind.

Yet water-power flows down to a glistening far-flung bay, with almost undreamt of possibilities. If steady hands and willing hearts were once found to arrest decay, all might be well in a very few years.

The very effort at progress is ennobling. It breathes a new spirit of enterprise, it restores confidence, it ensures expansion. The law of the physical world to-day is to “get on or get out”.

Surely, the citizens of Galway desire the old town to get on; and for that reason they will lend their whole-hearted assistance to any well-meant effort that is made to establish an industrial association that will not merely avail of every opportunity towards progress that comes our way bit that will seek out new opportunities and make the utmost use of them.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

Stephen Corrigan

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Prizewinners at a Feis in the Taibhdhearc theatre in Galway in July 1971 were Orla Downes, Claddagh, Eugene O'Brien, Limerick, Ailbhe O'Flaherty, Claddagh, Shirley Mullen, Ballinasloe, Margaret Mullen, Ballinasloe, and Sharon O'Halloran, Mervue.

1920

Criminal injuries

The remarks of Mr. Thomas Ruane, Co.C., at the meting of the Galway Rural District Council on Saturday last, reported on page seven, mark, we hope, a healthy awakening on the part of the representatives on our pubic boards to the plight in which the ratepayers of the County Galway are placed by the criminal injuries’ tax.

The announcement in our issue that, in round figures, £20,000 will be claimed at the Easter sittings of the Quarter Sessions has aroused the people to the dangerous reality of the situation.

The rate paying public are being headed straight for bankruptcy, and the sooner they realise it, the better.

If the present state of things continue, if the cattle-maimer, the thief, the arsonite, the night marauder – aye, and the murderer – are allowed to carry on in their campaign unchecked the farmers will find themselves burdened with a cess that will be beyond their capacity to pay; they will be taxed to such an extend that their land will be hardly worth the tilling.

It is not the ratepayers who are guilty of malicious acts of damage for which they are called on to pay so dearly.

It is then, for them to put their foot down. They must make it plain that those who are responsible for the outrages which are piling up the rates by such alarming amounts shall have no place amongst men who are anxious for the country’s welfare and the people’s good.

St Patrick’s celebration

The usual holidaying crowd of people from the country districts came to Galway on St. Patrick’s Day, and with the business houses closed, there were fairly large numbers on the streets although the weather was rough.

The shamrock was worn by everybody. Members of the Fáinne spoke only in Irish, and this rule was followed by many Gaelic Leaguers. Nothing of exceptional interest occurred during the day.

The sermons and devotions in all the churches were in Irish. The Lord Bishop Most Rev. Dr. O’Dea, presided at High Mass at eleven o’clock in the Pro-Cathedral; the Rev. J. Moran, C.C., was celebrant; Rev. Fr. Green, deacon; Rev. T. O’Kelly, sub-deacon; and Rev. J. O’Kelly, P.P., Master of Ceremonies.

In Loughrea the National Festival was fittingly observed. Business houses were closed and tere was a complete cessation of work.

The trefoil was much in evidence and at a few points of vantage the tricolour floated. A gratifying feature of the observance of the day was the complete absence of drunkenness on the streets.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

Stephen Corrigan

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A highly decorated William Street, set for welcoming King Edward VII to the City of the Tribes, sixteen years before the War of Independence which resulted in Ireland leaving the British Empire.

1920

Bread and work

Over a score of the most successful modern factories in the three southern Irish provinces have been started in so many years not as commercial ventures merely, but for the express purpose of providing employment, stopping emigration and arresting decay.

Ireland’s industrial impoverishment and decline constitute the chief reason for the fact she finds herself unable to support, according to modern standards of life, her meagre population.

Hopeful facts, however, emerge from the efforts made not so much by business men, as by enthusiastic social reformers, not so much by keen-eyed commercialism perceiving a fruitful field for industrial expansion as by local patriotism seeking a way to provide “bread and work for all” at home.

Events in Ulster

The way to a settlement of the Irish question is not yet clear. Indeed events in Ulster during the week threaten to render any future solution appreciably more difficult.

Sir Edward Carson has met in solemn conclave not the plain men of every creed and class of “the six counties” which it is proposed to partition, but his fellow-Covenanters who comprise the landlords and capitalists, and their followers in the North-East.

This autocratic body has determined, in effect to scrap the Covenant, and to accept in principle Home Rule for the Ulster State.

Sir Edward rejoices that they have won all they determined to fight. In other words, he has revealed to the world that the so-called Home Rule Bill is a fraud and a sham, intended primarily to repeal the act on the Statute Book to perpetuate the Union, to set up the North-East as a mandatory state in Ireland, and to render a solution in the future all but impossible.

Carson accepts Home Rule not because it will confer freedom upon Ireland, but because it will set up a new Tudor Pale.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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