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Young-at-heart Tom breathes new energy into antiques

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: {J}

Tom O’Loughlin has just turned seventy, but instead of retiring he has just relocated his antique business to a new premises in a move that to him is like starting anew.

It is this ‘get up and go’ attitude that has probably kept Tom young at heart and determined to continue a business that many might have abandoned in these recessionary times.

But Tolco Antiques on the Headford Road has been around for forty years and Tom can’t imagine not having to go into the shop every day. Nor can he contemplate stopping his regular shopping trips to England, where most of his stock is sourced.

An indication of Tom’s strength of character is his speedy recovery from a recent knee operation. Basically, he got a new knee and his doctors have been amazed at his fast recuperation. Yes, he was on crutches for a while but last week he was just using a walking stick and no doubt this week, he is back driving and walking around unaided!

Like many of his generation, there was no talk of third or even much of a second level education in Tom’s youth. Once boys reached 14 they were expected to go and find a job, any job that would help the family finances and for the O’Loughlin family in Lough Cutra in Gort, it was no different.

Tom says he was lucky to have got a job with Coen’s, a large furniture shop and building supplier just outside Gort.

At that time, some employees were put up in dormitory type accommodation and given three square meals a day. There was very little pay – ten shillings Tom remembers – but for his parents it meant there was one less mouth to feed at home.

“We were well trained but the money was very little. There was very little left over when you paid to get into the dance on a Saturday night. There was nothing left to hand over at home . . . with so little pay, it wasn’t expected,” he recalls.

He transferred from there to Taylor’s, a well established antique shop in Boyle, County Roscommon with an excellent reputation

It was there that Tom really developed his love of furniture, especially pieces with history attached. Taylor’s too had a building supply section but Tom preferred the furniture end of it. The pay was slightly better there and he managed to save enough for the

seven years.

He was just 22 when he landed Down Under. In the early 1960s the Irish were in great demand in the construction industry and there was plenty of work in and around Brisbane and, later, in the Snowy Mountains on a hydroelectricity and irrigation scheme.

It was hard work but he enjoyed it and the pay was good. That enabled him to buy land that he sold at a profit just before he returned home. In turn, that helped him open his first shop in Galway, in Kirwan’s Lane.

“It was a very slow start and there wasn’t much money around when I opened up in 1971. But business grew steadily and in 1976, I bought a site three miles from the city on the Headford Road and I set up in a premises there. We had a lot more storage space and people could park and it was more suitable for the type of furniture we were selling.”

Tom had only intended coming home from Australia for a visit, his first since he left home. But he stayed in Galway, partly to help his uncle John O’Loughlin who had a draper’s shop in Prospect Hill.

“They couldn’t drive and I could and I felt that if I returned to Australia I would be abandoning them,” he says.

There was another reason Tom stayed at home. He had met the woman he knew he was going to marry. Except that, at the time she was a mere girl just short of her 16th birthday.

Breda Byrne used to babysit for Tom’s sister, Ann, in Dublin and the minute he clapped eyes on her, he was hooked.

“I was 29 and she was a bit young, but I was happy to wait,” he says with a twinkle in his eye.

Breda, who hasn’t lost her Dublin accent, quickly pipes in “Well, you didn’t wait long!”

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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