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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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on

Some of the women who attended the Fr Griffin's Social in the Imperial Hotel in December 1965 were (front row, from left): Miss Monica Hanley, Miss Collette Heaney, Mrs Willie Tyrrell, Mrs Paddy Higgins, Mrs C. Crowley and Mrs C. Cunningham. Standing (from left): Mrs T. Higgins, Mrs J. Divilly, Miss Mary Theresa Flaherty, Mrs T. Morrissey, Miss Della Heffernan, Mrs Michael O'Sullivan and Mrs E. Dunne.

1919

Postal delays

Sir – Since early in November the postal authorities have inaugurated “Daylight working of posts,” with the result that we do not get our mails delivered until the morning following their reception at Oughterard Post Office.

Mails reach that office at about 12.40 mid-day, and the post-men (with one exception, the village deliverer) are not despatched until 8 a.m. the following day. This is a great hardship to rural residents, and, personally, I have missed five important meetings through not having received my letters in time.

I live four miles from the local post office, and as I cannot always send in for my mails, I – as well as my neighbours – have to wait for them.

Why are we paying a staff of postmen here if we have to call for and carry our mails? I trust the authorities will remedy affairs at once, and before Christmas, otherwise we shall have “to get questions asked in Parliament.”

I may add that the local post-master is at all times most obliging. These instructions proceed from headquarters.

“A rural resident.”

Oughterard, December 6, 1919.

Farmers’ organisation

The pages of the “Tribune” from week to week afford ample testimony to the progress that is being made throughout the west of Ireland by farmers’ organisations. At the last meeting in Loughrea a suggestion was put forward that, if generally adopted in Ireland, will give these organisations new power and significance.

The proposal that they should be registered under the Trades’ Disputes’ Act was referred to the Farmers’ Union. One gratifying feature about these gatherings is that they afford a common platform whereon all classes of Irishmen can meet and discuss business of mutual concern.

Sir H. Grattan Bellew, who has contributed so much to the industrial life of the district in which he lives, played a very valuable part at the Loughrea meeting. We hope to see men like him playing a greater part in the life of our common country in the future.

Pay and conditions

“In one place in Galway a lot of boys are employed who work sixty-seven hours a week,” said Mr. Seamus O’Brien, organiser, at a meeting of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union in the Town Hall, Galway, on Monday night.

Telling of his visit to this factory, Mr. O’Brien said that the manager admitted to him he had girls working for 10s. a week. Mr. O’Brien asked him would he want his own daughter to work for 10s. a week and support herself. “That was a different question,” Mr. O’Brien commented, “but he gave and evasive answer.”

“This fellow happened to sack a lad belonging to the union. He gave several reasons for it. It was not because he belonged to the union or anything like that. It was because the boy was too hard of a worker, I suppose.” There was laughter at Mr. O’Brien’s sarcasm.

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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Seventies-style and sophistication on show at the Autumn Fashion Show in Leisureland in September 1975.

1919

Disgraceful conditions

A report was forwarded through the Local Government Board, from Mr. Pack Beresford, on the condition of the labourers’ houses in Aughrim.

It showed they were in a most disgraceful way, without any sanitary accommodation and little better than hovels.

Fr Coughlan in a letter to the Local Government Board drew attention to the unsanitary, unchristian and savage conditions under which the poor labourers of Aughrim had to live.

As it was Fr. Dan Coughlan brought the matter up first, the Council returned their thanks to him, and it was decided to take steps to have proper houses built.

Economic danger

The country is at present passing through a period in its economic history which is full of dangers. There is a sinister tinge of irony in the reflection that a war, that has brought sorrow and devastation on many peoples and many lands, has brought wealth and prosperity to other people and other lands.

In a small measure, relatively speaking, the Irish farmer has been able to share in that prosperity. The demand for increased food production and his own efforts and industry have succeeded, during these terrible years, in finding bread and work for himself and his children.

In the result, both have lived in comparative comfort. To-day, America is seeking out immigrants who shall be good citizens and capable workers. The State Emigration Department of Washington is looking towards Ireland.

It does not want anarchists of revolutionaries from southern Europe. And of all the heterogeneous company that crowds into the States, the Irish emigrants make the best and most reliable citizens.

The difficulties of securing passports are rapidly disappearing. The day is drawing nearer when our young men and women, if they are not given a decent incentive to secure bread at home, will pour forth in thousands to the land where ten million Irish have found a home.

Water complaints

Complaints from all sides as to the City’s water supply were heard at the meeting of the Galway Urban Council yesterday (Mr. J. S. Young presiding).

First there was a letter from the Dominican Convent, Taylor’s Hill, about the insufficiency of the supply to the Convent.

The Town Steward (Mr. Molloy) said the tank in the convent was filled every night, but that it was wasted very soon. There were 200 people in the place.

Mr. Cooke thought it was a great surprise that after spending so much money on their new waterworks’ system that there should be a shortage. – “It is extraordinary,” agreed the Chairman.

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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on

At the Pres Galway Bon Voyage Ball in 1975 were (from left): Mary Higgins, Colmcille Road, Shantalla; Teresa O'Connell, Oughterard; Carrie Walsh, Fairlands Park, Newcastle; Ann Keating, Fairlands Park; and Eleanor Coyne, Davis Road, Shantalla.

1919

Essential publicity

At the conclusion of the quarterly meeting of Galway County Council on Wednesday of last week, the question of the county advertising was discussed. The subject came up at the end of a three hours’ sitting, the great part of which was concerned with demands for increases in salaries.

In fact, if these demands had been cut out, there would be very little County Council left! But the attendance had petered away, and scarcely a quorum was left to decide whether the Council should or should not advertise its various activities in the principal newspapers in County Galway.

The attitude of these remaining members was decidedly friendly and intelligent. But the attitude of the two principal officials of the Council, both of whom took part in the discussion, deserves careful examination.

For it has to be remembered that without publicity – adequate and full publicity – a representative money-spending authority must cease to function healthily as such and may become a danger and a menace to the community.

Moreover, a cardinal principal of democracy is undermined by the refusal to adopt or frankly to submit to such publicity, and the most vicious form of bureaucracy is enthroned in its stead.

Let there be no mistake on this point. We have already seen how necessary. how absolutely essential, is the fullest and frankest publicity in relation to the administration of public bodies in County Galway. It is therefore of relatively greater significance when It concerns the premier spending authority.

Pay increase

Last evening, Mr. E. P. Harte, organiser of the Dock Labourers’ Union, with Mr. P. Garvey, chairman of the branch, and Mr. W. Flaherty, secretary, met the Employers Federation in conference, Mr. Martin McDonogh in the chair, and as a result of an interchange of views an all-round increase of 4s. was granted for all classes of men, with the exception of the workers in the flour mills who have recently had an advance under the Government scheme.

The proceedings were most cordial, and the utmost good-will was displayed on both sides. This brings the wages of the ordinary worker up to £2 5s. 6d. weekly.

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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