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Wheeling out new direction for cycling in the West

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

Three young women, cycling hell for leather and with not a care in the world, gradually approached and could be heard signing in unison when they came within earshot. They weren’t great singers by any means but they were certainly getting into the spirit of the occasion.

They were plucking a few lines from a 1980s hit from Queen as they passed us by. “I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike” before they burst into laughter and continued on their journey along one of the most amazing cycling trails in the country. It was probably the only line of the song they knew as they continued merrily on their journey.

It was perhaps the freedom associated with the Great Western Greenway that runs between Newport and Mulranny that now encompasses both Westport and Achill on either side that gave them this feeling of independence. There were no cars, buses or lorries to contend with along this route.

The increasingly popular greenway is the longest off-road cycling and walking trail in the country and not alone has it proven a huge economic boost for the area, but it is also an incredible facility to have on our doorstep and one that is attracting people from all parts of the country and overseas.

In the words of Ernest Hemingway: “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you and you have no such accurate remembrance of a country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”

There is no doubt that cycling the greenway in Mayo is a memorable one. With the Nephin Mountains on one side and the splendour of Clew Bay on the other, the views are breathtaking and the challenge a fair but formidable one with the journey from Newport towards Mulranny – into the prevailing wind – being the more daunting.

Back in 2010, the 12-mile cycle and walking trail between Newport and Mulranny was officially opened and since then the visitor numbers to this area have increased dramatically. It coincided with the opening of bike hire businesses while local hotels have noticed a significant increase in bed nights.

It is built on the old railway line that once linked Westport to Achill but which closed in 1937 – it was one of the famous Balfour Lines – but it has now been put to good use and a couple of months ago it was extended to a 26-mile trail. And, although parts of the new sections currently run along main roads, this situation will be rectified in time.

It is a facility that is used by cyclists, walkers and runners. It is utilised by individuals, families, fundraising groups, hens, stags, office outings and even members of a union . . . like ourselves in this noble profession of journalism. A total of 12 of us took to the trail recently and it proved to be one hell of an enjoyable experience.

The Greenway is a trail that probably should be done twice within a short space of time. First of all it should be done to experience the simply-provided facility and view the rivers and streams that cross the old railway line and then experience the incredible views. Then it should be done as a bit of a challenge . . . head down and lash into it.

It is incredible to think that the provision of a hard surface on top of an old railway line could provide a region with one of its most impressive tourist facilities and that is exactly what has happened as far as the Great Western Greenway is concerned. The concept was pure genius.

Nothing is ever perfect – and the Greenway has to deviate from the route of the old train track on a couple of occasions because agreement could not be reached with every land owner along the route. But, even with a couple of short diversions, it keeps cyclists and walkers far removed from the busy main road.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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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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