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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

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At the Calderwood/Derrydonnell Fianna Fáil dinner in December 1986 were Brendan and Mary Jordan, Martin Daly, Ballinderreen, Phil Dooney, Woodvale, Craughwell, and Ned and Phil Lyons.

1919

New club needed

A meeting of the Galway Discharged Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Federation was held in the Court Theatre on Saturday afternoon, Mr. T. F. Goulding, President, in the chair.

Colonel Chamier, O.C., Renmore Barracks, detailed the steps being taken to procure a club for the men.

Captain W. G. Seymour, Secretary of the Galway County Council, said they intended to build a hall worthy of the men he saw before him and of the three or four hundred he was sorry not to see there (applause).

Up to the present they had £1,250 on hands for the object. That was for the whole county, as they had soldiers’ federations in Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Portumna, and elsewhere, which they also had to look after. They intended to make a start with the work before appealing for more money.

Mr. J. S. Young, J.P., said he would like to see more of the demobilised soldiers and sailors there that evening. He was sorry to see that a number of ex-service men were not joining the federation that ought to join it, and a number of those that were joined did not turn up to the meetings or pay their subscriptions.

The poor’s suffering

At a meeting of the Ballinasloe Guardians on Saturday, Mr. J. McKeigue presiding, twelve tenders were received for milk at 3s. per gallon. – In reply to the Chairman, the master said last year’s price was 2s.

Mr. Parker: I consider fifty per cent. of an increase outrageous.

Chairman: It is a big rise, but look at the price of an acre of hay and a cow.

Mr. Lynskey: I propose 2s. 6d.

Mr. Parker: They are no higher than last year.

Mr. Mitchell: There is no use in being death on the poor milk contractors. They are giving 2s. 8d. in Loughrea. The master takes most of the milk in winter.

Mr. Parker: It would make things very hard on the poor people.

Mr. Claffey: It would be creating a precedent to give 3s. for milk. The poor people would say the high price of milk was our fault. He would propose 2s.

Mr. Parker seconded. – After further discussion, Mr. Parker suggested 2s. 3d. and Mr Geraghty favoured 2s. 6d.

Mr: Parker: I wish we could give them 10s., but it is the poor people have to pay, not us.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Members of the Old IRA at the unveiling of the Liam Mellows Memorial at Killeeneen, Craughwell, in April 1965.

1919

War rents

The war has bred manifold evils, not the least of them being insensate profiteering in all departments of life. A War Rents League has now been established with headquarters at 4, Duke-street, London, and it proposes to tackle the question of house “profiteering.”

The Premier has asked the League to give him a memorandum as to the extent of the practice, the idea being to bring profiteering in rents or in the sale of houses within the scope of the Act.

The Government have at last begun to see that it is absolutely essential that the cost of living should come down, and he put the proposition to Mr. Thomas at the railwaymen’s conference that wages must then also decrease.

Mr. Thomas admitted that in such an eventuality wages might be reviewed; and it is said that this gave the rank and file the impression that the Government was going to reduce wages and precipitated the strike.

At any rate, it is obvious that wages are a delusion and a snare so long as wholesale profiteering goes on.

Excessive price

With regard to the acceptance of the tender of Mr. Martin Ward to supply eggs for use in the workhouse during the ensuing half-year at 9s. 2d. per score, the Local Government Board wrote to the Loughrea Board of Guardians on Saturday stating that the price seemed excessive, and the Guardians should endeavour to procure eggs on more reasonable terms.

Mr. Earls: 9s. 2s. per score is very dear.

Mr. Cahill: That is for the winter months.

Chairman (Mr. M. Henchy): Couldn’t we get them cheaper?

Mr. Earls: 6s. 8d. per score is the correct price.

Chairman: Are we bound to consent to the contract price?

Mr. Connell: In my opinion, Mr. Ward would be as well pleased not to get the contract at all.

Mr. Cahill: You readvertised for eggs three years in succession, and the original tender was lower than the one accepted on each occasion.

Mr. Earls: They won’t be cheaper either.

Mr. Flannery: Let us be careful of a surcharge. If they were that price in Dublin I am sure the Local Government Board would not object.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Described as young stars of the future, pictured at the Corrib Rangers FC dinner in October 1985 were (from left) Barry Conneely, Declan Craughwell, Mark Keane, Jason Faherty, Robert Forde and Tommy Murray.

1919

Bad fortune

When Madame C. Blanche, Bridge-st., Lisburn, was put under a rule of bait by the Petty Sessions Court on conviction for professing to tell fortunes by palmistry, Mr. Maginess, for the defence, said if it was against the law for this woman to tell fortunes it was also against the law to do so at bazaars in aid of church funds.

“It is a bigger crime at bazaars,” observed Mr. Griffith, J.P., who added that “it is a shame such a thing should be allowed there.”

The case was proved by Police-woman Jane Bell, who, amid laughter, said Madame Blanche told her, among other things, that she had four offers of marriage, that she would be married “for better,” that she “would not shed a tear for anyone for nine years,” and that she “would never be in the courthouse with anything concerning herself.”

Carpenters’ strike

The carpenters of Galway “downed tools” on Saturday morning. The local firms affected are McDonogh and Sons joinery works, J. Steward, Salthill, Timothy Emerson, McNally and Co., Frank Lydon, Robert MacDonnell, Walter O’Flaherty, and the Galway Urban Council, which is acting as a paymaster for the Government under the reconstruction scheme in connection with the erection of a hangar for the building of motor fishing boats at the docks.

Carpenters are paid at the rate of 1s. 2d. per hour, or £ 19s. 6d. for a fifty-one hour week. They demanded 1s. 8d. per hour, or £4 5s. per week.

After conference and consultation with other employers in different provincial towns, the employers in different provincial towns, the employers offered 1s. 4d. per hour, or £3 8s. per week. The men also demanded 3s. per day subsistence allowance when working out of town.

Fire outbreak  

On Sunday night a defective chimney which serves the houses of Messrs. J. J. Gurhy and J. Raftery, Main-st., Loughrea, caught fire. As soon as the alarm was given a number of willing hands and the local “fire brigade” were quickly on the scene to try to cope with what first appeared to be a serious outbreak.

Fortunately, however, their services were not required as the conflagration, which lasted for several hours, did not extend beyond the chimney originally affected.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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