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What a week in the history of newspaper publishing

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Date Published: {J}

The demise of the News of the World brings to an end an extraordinary era of what one might term the truly mass-circulation newspaper – though there are others around the world which sell in their millions.

The NOTW was always careful to describe itself as the highest selling English language newspaper. From the revelations of the past week it would appear to have been about the only nicety which they observed . . . for the daily discoveries about their methods show a carelessness with the rights of others which had become systematic in pursuit of ‘the story’.

Over the years, they had changed quite dramatically in much of their coverage; time was when the NOTW came into the house in a covert way, was usually bought by the dad, and consisted largely of stories about ‘dirty old vicars’ and brilliant re-writes of court cases with a salacious or sex angle which could come from any part of Britain and Ireland.

I’m speaking now of the days of my youth in the 1950s, when my father would purchase the News Of The World, The People, The Express and The Observer. Yes, it was not unusual for a household to have four or even five Sunday newspapers . . . and there were any number of other titles also to choose from.

My memory is of The Sunday Dispatch, and a paper called The Sketch which, on a Sunday came all stitched together like a giant tabloid with over 100 pages and dealing with all the news and events of the week . . . with the odd picture of a woman in a bikini and interspersed with court cases involving messy break-ups and fairly explicit evidence.

Many of these papers were frowned upon by the Catholic Church, especially because of their huge sales on a Sunday. But that didn’t stop people from buying them in very large numbers, even if they did try to hide them from ‘younger readers’ in the household . . . which meant that people like yours truly had to hunt about to find The People.

Of course bugging phones, didn’t just start in the past few years with the News Of The World. We had our very own bugging scandal here some years ago . . . and this involved the Minister for Justice and was known about by the Taoiseach of the day, but took years to come out.

The Justice Minister was Sean Doherty. One of the safeguards in the system was that any bugging was supposed to be initiated by the Garda authorities. In other words, they were supposed to go to the minister of the day with the request for a phone tap. Doherty had reversed this – he asked for the tap and the Gardaí obliged.

For a while it was alleged that bugging was going on but no-one could make much of it. Indeed, I remember at one stage ringing a very senior figure in Fine Gael and being told to hang up and that he would ring me back in a matter of minutes.

He duly rang back 15 minutes later and said he was in a public phone booth because they suspected that their phone lines were bugged. I dismissed it at the time as paranoia – though it was never proven to have happened, it is possible that the lines were bugged.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Archive News

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

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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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