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We must have silver stuck down the back of the couch



Date Published: {J}

Ever since the latest McCarthy Report came out last week, there’s been a lot of talk about Ireland selling off the family silver as though there was a big dresser somewhere in Leinster House packed with forks, spoons and salvers that might somehow drag us out of hock.


The fact is there would want to be the equivalent of a small mine of the stuff to even begin to contemplate such drastic action, but all this talk of silver seems almost uncouth in these straitened times.

And anyway, what do they all mean. Have you ever met someone who did sell off the family silver? And if they did, who would they sell it to?

Would it be those parasites who offer to exchange your wedding ring or granny’s jewellery for cash? Or is there a silversmith out there who refashions your old knives and forks into a new cup?

What exactly is the family silver anyway – are there families out there who have silver cutlery instead of the cheap stuff the rest of us cut our pork chops with?

I’ve always worried about those children who were born with a silver spoon in their mouth; isn’t it very dangerous for babies who haven’t an ounce of sense to be sucking on valuable spoons? The silver spoon could choke them.

Apparently we’re thinking of selling off the family silver now – although in our case, given that we’re talking about Coillte, it appears we think money grows on trees.

Sonia O’Sullivan won silver medals at the Olympics and World Championships which she might be persuaded to part with in the national interest, and Fianna Fail sold us down the Swanee for forty pieces of silver – so the least they could do is offer that back to the state by way of some very small compensation.

We’ve had a few stars of the silver screen, and clearly the current crop of household names like Saoirse Ronan, Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson would fetch a few bob on the open market.

We also have six sets of silver letters to flog after they were removed from the front of branches of the world’s baddest bank last week that spell Anglo Irish Bank over and over again – like a sort of recurring bad dream.

Of course we couldn’t sell all of the letters – just the ones that say ‘rankish’ because we need to hold onto the rest of them to come up with the new name for this financial albatross around our necks. We’re calling it ‘Big Loan’.

Or maybe we could pretend that Silvermines is actually a business as opposed to an area in Tipperary. The only problem there of course is that, even if we had a silver mine somewhere, they’d expect to get it for nothing – just like Shell did when we discovered gas off the Mayo coast.

Staying with precious metals, however, we also have a fleet of silver birds for sale – as in, the helicopters that were once the transportation mode of choice for our developers. Like these high flyers, they too are now grounded – like our ghost estates, they are now gathering dust.

To sweeten the pot, we could throw in Roger Casement’s sword which was unveiled last week by Jimmy Deenihan, wielding it like a hurley, and we’d even part with the Ardagh Chalice, a job lot of Roses of Tralee, Jedward, Mary Byrne, Westlife, Gaybo, Twink and Bono.

We could certainly throw in the old silver fox, Colm McCarthy, who keeps issuing these reports that cause mass consternation every time he puts pen to paper. The man really is a national jinx.

But we’re keeping Micheal Ó Muircheartaigh because even at the age of 80, he has scarcely a silver hair on his head.

And more importantly he’s a national treasure – and even when we’re stony broke without the price of a pint, there are some treasures we’re not prepared to part with.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



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

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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