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Wrapping up with the final word on Christmas presents



Date Published: 04-Jan-2012

Why don’t Christmas presents all come in square boxes as standard? I mean have you ever tried to wrap a toy car in a multi-angled box and not lost the will to live?

And anyway how would you disguise a football so that it looks like anything other than……a football?

Is there a way of hiding the fact that you’re giving someone a CD – and short of putting a book in a shoebox, it will always look like a book.

A bottle of wine would look like a bottle of wine even if you wrapped it in a blanket, despite the fact that drinks companies – and whiskey distillers in particular – are doing their best to come up with a presentation box. But now you have to wrap a cylinder, which is fine until you try to tidy up the wrapping paper at either end.

Then there’s the possibility of mistaken identity – like if you bought your loved one a very practical iPod Nano – and it’s mistaken in a rush of excitement for a little box with a much more romantic, but non-existent, ring.

At the end of the day, no matter what you do, once the presents go under the tree, little fingers begin to poke holes in the vulnerable parts of the wrapping to see if a glimpse of what lies beneath can clear up any remaining mystery as to its identity.

So quite honestly there’s little point in bothering with all that wrapping – particularly when you’re ultimately going to be left with yards of coloured paper at a time of the year when they bin is overflowing and the next collection – if you live in Galway city anyway – isn’t until the middle of January.

You can of course put your purchase into one of those present bags so that nobody has a clue what it is and you’ll also save yourself a fortune in Sellotape. But frankly if you want to give a present in a bag, you might as well just leave it in the one you bought it in.

Wrapping a square or rectangular box is child’s play; you need a scissors and some sticky tape, with a kitchen table on which to perform your task as an added bonus.

But wrapping the equivalent of an octopus would require the dexterity of an acrobat……and the patience of Mother Teresa.

Of course all of this is a precursor to the real stress – have you bought something that is remotely appropriate or appreciated or, for the ninth year in a row, have you made a complete bags of it?

And how are you supposed to react when someone thinks they’ve bought you the best present ever and it’s taking you all your time not to throw up all over it.

I’ve been given tickets for concerts by bands I wouldn’t go to see if they were playing at the end of the garden; one year I even got meat – loads of it – and on more than one occasion the present I didn’t jump with delight on opening was taken back and exchanged….but the resulting voucher or refund never made it back to me.

It’s a sort of a variation on the ‘dog isn’t just for Christmas’ line – because in my case sometimes a present is just for Christmas and it has to go back where it came from in the New Year.

The other problem with presents for kids is the small pieces that go along with the ship or the castle or the doll’s house.

Because there’s nothing quite like the imprint of a little figurine or a piece of Lego in the soul of your bare foot on a cold January morning to wake you up cursing Santa and vowing to write to him to ask him to just give vouchers to everyone next time he’s dropping in.

See full column in 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

Teenage Kicks hard to beat Ð unless youÕre Eden Hazard



Date Published: 28-Jan-2013

A receiver has been appointed to Greenstar, which operates Kilconnell dump near Ballinasloe with a staff of approximately 15

The company has a workforce of 800 across the country in collecting waste from 80 thousand households and 12 thousand businesses

It is part of the NTR group which last month (july) published a report stating its subsidiary Greenstar will close its nationwide landfills over the next three years unless prices improve

However in a statement today the board of Greenstar said it wanted to express its disappointment at what it called the ‘unexpected’ move of the appointment of a receiver

The company said it was regrettable that its lenders have chosen to take this action – as the company has not missed any scheduled repayments and is in a strong cash position to continue trading for the foreseeable future

Business Analyst Ian Guider says Greenstar feels there was no need for the banks to take this drastic measure

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Archive News

Galway loses a vibrant voice with the passing of Tony Small



Date Published: 31-Jan-2013

With the passing of Tony Small, Galway has lost a truly vibrant voice. Growing up the son of a tailor in Corrandulla, Tony was reared in a musical house. His brother Jackie was the host of RTÉ 1’s The Long Note, and is also a piper and accordion player of some repute.

Over 30 years ago, Mick Crehan, who runs The Crane Bar, struck up a friendship with Tony Small.

“The first time I met Tony I was playing with an outfit, we were touring around Germany,” he recalls. “Tony was playing with The Wild Geese. They were huge in Germany at that time. There was Tony, Peadar Howley, Norman White, Christy Delaney, Mick Ryan and later Eoin Duignan. They were wild in every way! Tony was a great frontman, a tremendous voice.”

At the time, De Dannan and The Bothy Band were also touring Germany, but as Mick says, ‘The Geese were always top of the bill.’ Tony had a deep affinity with Irish traditional music, but he also put his own spin on it.

“Tony had an extra quality that I find hard to put into words,” says Mick. “He had a vast repertoire of traditional songs and ballads, plus he was writing his own. He had great respect for tradition, but he always added something extra. He bred new life into old songs; he was very innovative.”

“I’d put Tony in the same league as Andy Irvine, who I have tremendous respect for. Andy did things with traditional music that I don’t think have been improved upon. Tony had that type of approach to the songs as well.

Tony Small and Gerry Carthy played the very first gig in The Crane back over 33 years ago. The occasion was re-lived at the beginning of January, when Tony and Gerry played together once more.

“Luckily for Tony, shortly before he died, Gerry was over from the States,” says Mick . “We had a gig here with Gerry, Tony, Jackie, and Sean Tyrell was here, and Johnny Mulhern, and Eugene Lamb, the piper. A fantastic gathering of old buddies.”

Last year, Tony Small released Mandolin Mountain. Recorded in Dingle by Donogh Hennessy from Lunasa, it saw Tony at the peak of his powers.

“It’s definitely his best work,” says Mick. “Nearly all the songs are written by Tony – or re-written. I had the privilege of launching it and writing the notes. There’s a huge variety of stuff on it, there’s philosophical songs, travellers’ songs, rakish songs, very deep songs. I think it gives you a picture of Tony and what he liked, and a very good picture of himself.”

Tony Small took a delight in music that was infectious. In an interview with the Connacht Tribune last November, he reflected on a lifetime’s playing.

“I’m able to sing and I’m able to play a bit,” Tony said. “I’m no virtuoso, but I love doing it. And I love sharing it. I do the best I can. What more can I do?”

Tony Small loved playing music, and had an effect that will endure beyond his lifetime. The Galway music scene has lost a truly gifted player. As Mick Crehan says, “he’ll be really missed.”

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