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Country Living

A week when sensible souls lose their marbles and lucre

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Studying the form: Two 'steady' punters take it all in. A lovely shot from the Galway Races back in the 1980s. PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

It’s been going on for the past 148 years at Ballybrit – since August 17, 1869 – and while horses are sent out to run and jump, the Galway Races will continue to be part of the Irish way of life, a week when normally sensible men and women lose that quality of being sensible.

For the past couple of months that talk has been that: “We won’t feel now until The Races,” and sure enough as night follows day, the great holiday climax of the west is upon us with all its frolics, tomfoolery and an absolute sense of determination that the week is going to be enjoyed.

The Races are thought to have their root in Loughrea back in the late 1700s when a five-day meeting was held but all was to change back in the late Summer of 1879 when the first day of racing was held in Ballybrit and a crowd of 40,000 (how that was estimated I don’t know) turned up for day one, of a two-day meeting.

It seems as if Galway got into the spirit of the occasion right from the very off with the green area of Eyre Square used as a camping site for the crowds that couldn’t be accommodated in the city’s hotels. Whether there was any damage done to the grass area in those days, we will never know, but you imagine if there was a wet Summer what conditions would have been like there.

The first Chairman of the Stewards (a fine title) was Lord St. Lawrence, an MP for Galway, who was involved in the setting up of the Punchestown course. Eight races in total, split evenly between the two days, made up the first meeting with the winner of the Galway Plate picking up a prize of 100 sovereigns (gold coins at the time worth one-pound sterling but now an awful lot more).

Two of the fences jumped at that first meeting were reputed to be genuine Galway stonewalls, so if a horse mis-timed his jump, then the consequences for the fetlocks could be serious enough but through the latter part of the 1800s major improvements were made to the fences and course that pushed it into a major racing event by the turn of the century.

A ‘raider’ from the Premier County, appropriately named Tipperary Boy, is credited by racing historians as the greatest steeplechaser ever to gallop in Ballybrit winning the Galway Plate on three separate occasions in 1899, 1901 and 1902.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Country Living

Recalling strange times that ‘shook up’ our lives

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

THE other day while doing another of those clear-outs of old documents that are well past their sell-by-date, I came across a couple of letters from my employer, which jolted me back into another world . . . but still a quite recent one.

Their purpose was to indicate that I needed to show up for work in-person (an essential employee if you don’t mind!) and if I was stopped at a Garda Covid checkpoint, then I could produce this piece of paperwork. We really did go through some strange times.

There are occasions too when I leave my desk and just for a split-second think that I’ve forgotten to don my mask. That same feeling also crosses my mind at times as I enter shops or other public places but then I realise that’s all very much of ‘yesterday’s news’.

Reminders still persist of those black days across the country mostly on visits to healthcare settings like pharmacies, GP surgeries or nursing homes, where staff still wear masks, and visitors are encouraged to do the same.

It takes me back to a Sunday evening on March 15, 2020, in my local watering hole less than 48-hours before the arrival of St. Patrick’s Day, when we were all highly sceptical about any pubs closing down.

We reassured ourselves too that such a development could never happen in a country noted for ‘the craic’ as our traditional day of national celebration approached. In our innocence, we thought we were wise old sods . . . but we had gotten things spectacularly wrong.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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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Country Living

Good to be young again even for only two hours

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Blue skies . . . 80,000 fans . . . and one Garth Brooks 'belting it out' on stage.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

OKAY, so I must admit to being one of the approximately 400,000 ‘Paddies’ who made the trek or pilgrimage to Croke Park a couple of weeks back to see one Garth Brookes, even if there was an element of chance to the escapade.   Tickets rather unexpectedly happened to come my way and a family gang of us set off to the North Circular Road on a Saturday afternoon hit-and-run mission with no overnight stay on the agenda due to a combination of late enquiries and high prices.

It wasn’t the first time that I’ve listened to the man from Oklahoma – the last occasion being in the then Point Theatre in Dublin – which I thought only felt like yesterday, that is of course until I looked it up, to discover that it was 1994.

Most things these days seem like the line from the Rod McKuen song, Love’s Been Good To Me of: ‘It seems like only yesterday, as down the road I go’, but I was quite taken aback that 28 Summers had passed since that trip to The Point.

Garth Brooks is a hard phenomenon to figure out and while I didn’t venture to Croke Park bubbling with youthful enthusiasm (come to think about, quite an impossibility), all the reports coming back from the Jones’ Road venue on the concerts had been positive.

This grandfather of 60-years-of-age, who is now married to second wife Trisha Yearwood, really seems to have a kind of spell on the Irish. He does all the right things like wrapping the tricolour around him as he traipses around the stage, but yet there’s something more to him than that.

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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Country Living

No choice in the matter as we all continue to dream on

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The stuff of dreams!

Country Living with Francis Farragher

I suppose that it really is something that shouldn’t bother me, but of late, I’ve made a very conscious decision to try and recall the content of dreams and, believe it or not, that is quite a skill in itself. Medical research indicates that we all dream, but most of the time, many of us forget within minutes what the dream was all about – maybe a good defence mechanism at times, especially so when our legs won’t move just as the ogre is about to pounce and quench our existence.

There I was the other morning in an outdoor setting with a range of mechanical implements which I had never seen before as I watched huge 20-tonne track machines falling off a conveyor belt onto the ground, but despite all that, it still remained in perfect condition.

As the dream continued to go and on, I asked several bystanders to wake me up as I had enough of this sideshow and wanted to return to my own world of reality, but my requests were completely ignored, and it took the 6.30 crackle from the phone alarm to rescue me.

Many decades on from my Leaving Cert exploits, modest enough in their own way, I still dream of sitting down in that lonely single examination desk in the old gym of Tuam CBS to be confronted by an English paper and realising that I hadn’t read even one of the poems, essays or plays that feature on the paper. Disturbing enough, even at this hour of my days.

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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