Date Published: 24-Sep-2009
THERE are certain dates from the past that have become indelible in the memories of people the world over. The question ‘where were you when’ … John F Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas on November 22, 1969 or on September 11, 2001 when terrorists attacked the Twin Towers in New York, will inevitably conjure up vivid memories of those unforgettable events in world history.
For Irish people and in particular Galwegians, September 30, 1979 is one such special date. On this the eve of the 30th anniversary of the visit by Pope John Paul II to Galway, many of the estimated 275,000 pilgrims who are still alive today will be reminiscing on Gthe occasion that was then described as “the most joyous moment in Galway’s history”.
The crowds had begun arriving in Galway on the Friday and Saturday nights in anticipation of the papal visit on Sunday morning, when the popular pontiff made the well-remembered “young people of Ireland, I love you” speech during Mass, which was specially dedicated to young people in Ireland.
At about 10.30am, the orange Bell helicopter circled Ballybrit twice before landing, to the delight of the massive crowd who had waited patiently through the night for his arrival.
The pontiff was then escorted to the weigh-room along a red carpet where he vested in special robes before making his way to the 40-foot high altar, behind a 600 yard long procession of priests and after mass he was driven through the crowd along a zig-zag route, so that the maximum number of pilgrims would catch a glimpse of him.
The exact moment when the pope’s helicopter appeared through the overcast sky, is one that will live with Shantalla native Dominick Burke forever. Dominic was head commandant of the local branch of the Irish Red Cross and was responsible for up to 200 volunteers, including 60 from Galway, who were on-hand at Ballybrit to administer first aid to anyone who needed it.
Seeing the pope’s helicopter was memorable firstly because the sun began to shine through the grey clouds at the exact moment the pope appeared – “it was as if god had appeared himself,” recalls Dominic. But also for the effect that first glimpse of the pope had collectively on the crowd, many of whom collapsed and fainted in awe.
“I remember when…
The way we were – Protecting archives of our past
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 girls make a splash on Irish U-15 water polo side
Date Published: 18-Feb-2013
The Irish U-15 girls’ water polo team, which was backboned by eight Galway players, made history in Birmingham made history last weekend when they reached the final of the British Regional Water Polo Championships.
All the girls are members of Galway’s Tribes Water Polo Club, formed only two years ago by Deborah Heery and Amanda Mooney. To get eight members from one club onto a National squad of 13 was an achievement in itself for this new club, but to be part of an Irish team – which was captained by Galway’s Róisín Cunningham, Smyth – to reach a final at such a high International level exceeded all expectations.
Competing against Scotland and Wales, Ireland made it out of their group to a semi-final place against the much fancied North West A England team. The semi-final proved to be the game of the tournament with nothing to separate the teams.
After goals from Carmel Heery, Aisling Dempsey, Eleanor O’Byrne, Roisin Cunningham Smyth and a dramatic penalty save by goalie Ailbhe Colleran, the Irish girls ran out 7-6 winners to become the first Irish side to make a final.
In the final on Sunday afternoon, they met tournament favourites, London, who they had previously beaten in the Group stages. With excellent performances from Eva Dill, Ailbhe Keady and Laoise Smyth, Ireland held the experienced English team to a 4-4 scoreline at half-time, but the English team, with their stronger and more experienced panel pulled away to win the tournament in the second half.
The success of the Irish team in reaching their first ever British Regional Finals was enhanced even further when Tribes member, Carmel Heery, was nominated Most Valuable Player of the Irish Team
In addition to their recent International success these girls were also members of the Tribes Water Polo team that won the U-14 & U-16 National Water Polo Cups this year and the Grads invitational U-15 tournament.
The success of this young Galway Water Polo Club nationally and internationally is in no small way due to the exceptional ability of their talented coaches, Padraig Smyth, Amanda Mooney, Jeremy Pagden, Carol O’Neill, Roisin Sweeney, Cathal Treacy.
The Irish team was coached by Aideen Conway (IWPA) and managed by Tribes founder, Deborah Heery.
Feast of folk at An Taibhdhearc
Date Published: 21-Feb-2013
Galway group We Banjo 3, comprising Enda and Fergal Scahill with Martin and David Howley, will team up with Dublin band I Draw Slow for a unique concert at An Taibhdhearc, on Thursday next, February 28, 8pm.
Featuring banjos, fiddle, mandolins, guitars, banjolin and vocals We Banjo 3 combine Irish music with old-time American, ragtime and bluegrass influences, revealing the banjo’s rich legacy from its roots in African and minstrel music through to the Irish traditional sound pioneered by Barney McKenna.
Their début album, Roots of the Banjo Tree, was voted best trad album in The Irish Times in December 2012.
The roots band I Draw Slow perform a blend of old time Appalachian and Irish traditional material that has been described as a fully natural evolution of American and Irish traditional styles.
Their top 10-selling second album, Redhills was named RTÉ’s album of the week in 2011 and it frequently features on playlists of stations in Ireland, the UK and the US.
Next Thursday’s concert in An Taibhdhearc is presented by Music Network and An Taibhdhearc and starts at 8pm. Tickets are €15. Booking at 091-562024.