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Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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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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Three boys catching up on their reading at the Galway Races in Ballybrit on July 28, 1988. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy

1921

Impure milk

Impure and dirty milk supplies do a serious injury to our population. Milk is, perhaps, the most important part of the diet of our infants, who will some day have to take their part in the work of the nation.

It is our duty to see that all forms of disease, which are likely to weaken the race by sapping its vitality, should be vigorously battled with. No form of food is so susceptible to contamination as milk, for it is a natural and complete food substance which is eminently suited to the growth of all kinds of disease germs, especially the dreaded germ which is the cause of consumption.

Unfortunately, a large percentage of our milch cows suffer from tuberculosis. The disease may not be apparent to the eye but can be easily detected by the veterinary surgeon by means of the “tuberculin test”. Milk from these cows often contains germs of the consumption which is causing such havoc and misery in Ireland.

Something must be done by public bodies to insist on the testing of suspected cows, and the frequent sampling and testing of public milk supplies. Educational authorities should urge farmers to take a personal interest in the matter and stamp out disease by keeping cowsheds sanitary and paying strict attention to cleanliness of milking.

It must be brought home to the farmer that it is his duty to produce an article which is acceptable to the public by being pure, of high quality, and free from the germs of infectious disease. It is only by working on these lines that the farmer can hope to gain the confidence of the consumer.

Races weather

Nothing is more necessary to the complete success of the Galway meeting next Wednesday and Thursday than the rainfall which is pretty general all over Ireland at present.

I learn from a reliable source that Galway is getting its quota and that the course is in good condition. This is all necessary to induce owners and trainers to send on horses, and I have no fear that runners will be plentiful on both days.

Writing as a metropolitan, I can safely predict a great attendance – one can only wish he could predict other things so surely. On all sides one hears the questions, “Are you going to Galway? Have you booked your room” and a reference to “the fun of the fair,” otherwise the Bazaar, nearly always follows.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

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Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

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A man lies on a bed of nails at the opening of Galway Shopping Centre, Headford Road, on October 26, 1972

1921

Silence is golden

Leaders on both sides have stated that the best assistance the country can give in the making of peace is to keep silence.

During the past week there has been a great deal of speculation, most of it harmless enough, as, for instance, the enterprising American journalist’s “exclusive” on the first meeting of the British Premier and the President of the Irish Republic; much of it positively mischievous, as the case of the efforts of a certain journal, which has grown hoary in the reputation for throwing in the apple of discord, to anticipate failure in advance.

Our American colleague was on surer and on safer ground when he told of how de Valera and Lloyd George met.

“Mr. Lloyd George,” he cabled, “was sitting at his desk when the Irish President entered. For just a minute these two gazed fixedly at one another. Then the British Premier walked across the intervening space and shook de Valera by the hand. He led him to a seat where they sat side by side. The atmosphere was tense. They faced one another. Then Lloyd George reached down for a box of cigars. But the Irish President is of Spartan mould. He neither permits himself to drink nor smoke. He politely but firmly waved the box away. Mr. Lloyd George, however, selected and lighted a Havana, and as the smoke curled upwards the atmosphere became decidedly easier!”

Good planning

The wise and practical man always lays by a store against the time when supplies will be scarce. One of the most serious effects of the prolonged drought is the scarcity of supplies of fodder for cattle-feeding during the coming winter and spring.

The hay crop is not more than half the average yield. The corn crop is far below normal. Turnips in many districts are a partial failure. We have frequently emphasised the importance of growing catch-crops to supplement other feeding stuffs raised on the farm, but it is only under circumstances such as the present that their utility is brought home to farmers. Owing to the early harvest, a larger area than is usual can and should be put down this season. This would make good, to some extent, at least, the shortage of hay and other feeding-stuffs.

The demonstration plots laid down by the County Committee of Agriculture have shown that catch-crops, such as vetches and rye as well as other mixtures, can be successfully grown in all parts of County Galway.

We would urge on farmers the desirability – nay, the necessity – of procuring seed and making early preparation for the sowing of an increased area of catch-crops this season.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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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Galway in Days Gone By

Galway In Days Gone By

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Children dancing at the Clonbur Festival on July 5, 1980. An article in the Tribune at the time detailed how this was the fourth such festival with events covering set dancing, figure dancing, art, fishing and an old-time waltz competition.

1921

Peace at last

Hope “hath happy place” in this land of ours to-day. Those who disappoint it are the enemies not only of Ireland, but of civilisation. Before proceeding to the preliminary conference with Mr. Lloyd George at 10, Downing-street, yesterday afternoon, Mr. de Valera said that he thought the outlook for peace both from the British and Irish points of view was better than it had ever been in history.

The Irish leader would not make this statement unless he had good grounds for it. We may accept it as the confident prediction of one who has proceeded with extreme caution throughout these momentous negotiations.

Yet patient confidence in ultimate justice and patient endurance for a little are needed. There are those who would, if they could, thwart the coming of peace, but they will be borne aside by the widening will to peace, and the larger outlook that the coming of the Truce has brought.

The agony of these days that are past, as we hope for ever, is like a nightmare. Only last week, the pages of the “Tribune” told of the trials and tribulations through which the mothers and sisters of County Galway had gone. The stories related at the Quarter Sessions afforded some index of the hell of ceaseless apprehension and the dread which the women and children have had to bear for many months.

It would seem as if there could be no requital for their sorrows upon this earth. But there is sometimes a balance of justice in human affairs. To-day, as Ireland hopes and prays, this balance is about to be meted out as a common national inheritance.

The Truce has been observed in the spirit of mutual forbearance, good-will and generosity. One can conceive that the horrible conditions of the past nine months will ever be recalled. Indeed, there is no person who would desire or contrive at such an eventuality. Its very contemplation makes us fearful of the outcome of these fateful conferences.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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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