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Why the Saw Doctors should be seen as a national treasure



Date Published: {J}

It is a tribute to their longevity that the Saw Doctors’ brilliant new drummer Eimhín Craddock was born the same year the band was originally formed, back in 1986 – and 24 years on, through many changes, they sound fresher as ever.

Last weekend they played Glastonbury, having warmed up for the task with a series of Galway city showcase gigs at Kellys over the last few weeks either.

Through all the changes, there have been constants – Davy Carton and Leo Moran for an obvious start in terms of the line-up, but just as importantly their originality and energy that has seen them stay at the top of their game.

And yet they’re dismissed in some quarters as a sort of good time novelty act who sing about lost love and the Tuam Road but who shouldn’t be taken all that seriously.

In fact the complete opposite is the case – the Saw Doctors aren’t just one of the best live acts around; they are also social commentators who write and sing about a side of this country that is so familiar to so many of us.

They observe life in a way we can all recognise but could never get down in words; there is humour, pathos, love, longing, exhilaration, depression….all emotions delivered in lyrics that stay in your head forever.

It’s been something of a traditional pursuit for some Dublin media to poke fun at the Saw Doctors as though they were some hick outfit from the back of beyond, but to dismiss the band because they sing about their own history and home town is ridiculous.

Did Bruce Springsteen limit his appeal by singing primarily about New Jersey? Were the Beach Boys naive to return time and time again to California and surfing as a recurring theme?

The Saw Doctors have painted musical pictures of Irish life as we know it or knew it, but they’ve also sung about first love, lost love, missing home, golden moments….the sort of stuff we can all share in no matter where we’re from.

And, yes, there’s a song on the new album with a chorus that lists the townlands ‘as Gaeilge’ around Caherlistrane which is as brilliant as it’s bizarre – but that’s how to get the place on the map up there with the global recognition the N17 now enjoys!

The showcase gigs represented quite a risk – a few old songs topping and tailing a complete run-through the new album that only a few have been lucky enough to hear – and yet it went down an absolute storm.

Further Adventures may well be the Saw Doctors’ best album to date and the instant approval from their audience would suggest that it’s a guaranteed best seller even before it hits the shops.

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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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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