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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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A fire fighter battles the blaze at McDonogh's and Corbett's Stores on Merchant's Road in August, 1971. The fire casued £2 million worth of damage.

1919

Tribute to peace

It is a tribute to the peace, good order and spirit of chivalry that prevails in West of Ireland towns that the local elections passed off without any untoward incident, without any unseemly displays, and without any hitch.

Indeed, courtesy and helpfulness were displayed on all sides, without reference to party divisions. All were citizens of the same city, and all were given an equal chance of putting their claims for election before the voters.

Where this rule was transgressed, as it was in one instance before polling-day, the transgressor was taught a sharp lesson by the electors, who brought about the defeat of no fewer than thirteen of the candidates whom he sought to have elected by methods of mendacity.

That these men did not climb to power over the blighted reputations of their fellows is not due to any lack of zeal on the part of Mr. Nicholls; rather it is due to over-zeal, and the laudable desire of the police to put a lid on the poison gas cylinders that have been nursed in our midst to so little effect.

Police officer shot

Constable Finnegan, a native of Dunmore, was fired at and wounded at 10.30 on Tuesday night in the town of Thurles, Co. Tipperary, where he had been stationed for two years. Two of the bullets lodged in his right arm and one in his abdomen.

He lies in a critical condition in Steeven’s Hospital, Dublin, whither he was removed with all haste. An operation was performed, transfusion of blood, which was procured from another constable, being necessary.

Constable Finnegan had ten years’ services, and is a married man with two children. He was going towards his own house when fired at.

Several residents heard the shots, but thought they were the sounds of slap-bangs. Constable Finnegan staggered to his door crying to his wife, “Oh, Mary, I’m shot.” Her screams could then be heard, and some neighbours rushed in and placed the husband in a lying position.

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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Children from Peterswell after their Confirmation in May, 1974.

1920

Dairy decline

The extended report of the evidence given before the Commission appointed “to enquire into the causes of, and suggest remedies for, the decline of dairying in Ireland,” should be carefully studied.

Prior to the war, a Milk Commission took evidence at Galway and throughout Ireland and Great Britain, but the outbreak of hostilities so altered the situation that a review of the position has now become essential.

The decline of dairying is obviously due to the fact that the Department of Agriculture permitted milch cows to be exported from Ireland in considerable numbers during the last four years.

In the result, the people living in our towns were reduced to a state of semi-starvation. This condition of things was effectively countered in Galway by the successful establishment of a milk depot.

But the expedient was not sufficient to meet the clamant need. The conflict of opinion between the advocates of the milk depot system and the advocates of increasing the ordinary means of supply does not, in the least, detract from the value of a policy that meets the immediate needs of the public and of the poor, while a better way is being sought to regulate on an economic basis the normal means of supply and demand.

Clifden Castle

The judgement in the now famous Clifden Castle land case has been awaited with the most intense interest not merely by the people of Connemara but by all classes throughout the country.  Monsignor McAlpine, who had no interest in the matter save that of the poor tenants who are his parishioners, has lost.

A Chancery Judge has decided in favour of Mr. Joyce and given an injunction with costs, that he is not further to be interfered with in his possession of the Eyre Castle and estate. We may be sure that this decision will be challenged on appeal. But the one fact that emerges is that all this trouble was brought about by the culpable neglect of the Congested Districts Board in delaying for five years the rescue of the Clifden congests.

In 1913-’14 the trustees of the estate were negotiating for the sale of the Castle and lands to the Board for the express purpose of relieving congestion. In 1917 Mr. Joyce got into communication with the auctioneers, and speedily completed the purchase.

He subsequently agreed to sell to the trustees for the tenants upon receiving £20 on his bargain; but Judge Powell has determined that his agreement was made under duress, and cannot stand. Stripped of all the rhetoric that tended to cloud rather than clarify the issues, those are the undisputed facts.

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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Western House, Salthill, in the Summer of 1981. The Rockland Hotel has since been replaced by apartments and a restaurant, and the 'Big Arc' or Salthill Amusements (then with pool and snooker upstairs) redeveloped.

1920

Watered down charges

At Galway Petty Sessions on Monday, before Mr. Kilbride, R.M., Sergeant McCaffrey charged Patk Ussher, Wood-quay, Galway, with selling buttermilk containing water. Mr. George Nicolls, Solr., appeared for the defendant.

Complainant said that on November 24 he purchased buttermilk from defendant which, on being analysed, was found to contain 35 per cent. of added water, exclusive of 25 per cent. allowed for churning.

Mr. Nicolls said that the defendant only got the buttermilk from other parties in the Moycullen district, and re-sold it. He did not get any guarantee from the person he bought the milk from, but he (Mr. Nicolls) understood that the sergeant had taken a sample of buttermilk from that person, but the result of the analysis was not known yet.

Defendant sold the buttermilk exactly as he got it. He was a well-known man in the town, and held a responsible position, and everybody knew he was not the sort of man that would commit a fraud.

Complainant stated that after receiving the summons defendant came to him on an evening when the person he bought the milk from was in his house with more, and asked him (the sergeant) to go and take a sample from her. Witness did so and sent it to the analyst, but had not yet got the result.

Mr. Kilbride said that even though defendant did not tamper with the milk it could not affect the offence with which he was charged – that of selling milk with added water. By having another sample of the milk analysed would, of course, clear the defendant of any allegation of fraud.

Sergeant McCaffrey said he did not allege that the defendant tampered with the milk.

Mr. Nicolls said it would be no use questioning the analyst’s certificate, though that might be done as he saw from a report of a case in Dublin that the certificate of three different analysts varied.

Mr. Kilbride said it was too bad to have people paying dear for milk a large percentage of which was water. He fined the defendant £1 and 10s. 6d. costs.

Immodest clothing

A league of St. Brigid will be started on January 10, to give Irishwomen an opportunity of uniting in protest against inroads of foreign immodest fashions.

It is proposed that the centres for joining the League should at first be the educational convents all over Ireland. No subscriptions are required, but each member will be asked to make the following promise in Church or Oratory: “For the glory of God and the honour of Erin, I promise to avoid in my own person all impropriety in the matter of dress and to maintain and hand down the traditional and proverbial purity and modesty of Irish womanhood.”

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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