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Young mum does it by the book for her novel success



Date Published: {J}

If you want a job done ask a busy person, is a wise saying that might have been designed for writer Nuala Ní Chonchúir.

The Ballinasloe-based mother of three children, ranging in age from teenager to toddler, has just had her debut novel, You published by New Island Press to great critical acclaim. That in itself is an achievement. But finding time to actually write the compelling novel, which is set in Dublin in 1980 and told through a child’s voice, presented the greatest challenge of all.

The current economic downturn means that Nuala’s husband, who works in IT, has to travel to work in Dublin every day. That means he’s gone before daybreak and doesn’t get home until late in the evening. So, in effect, Nuala looks after the school runs, cooks the dinner, puts the two younger children to bed and organises the house. All that in addition to setting aside precious time for writing.

Not that she’s complaining. In fact, her sympathy is for her husband, because of the unsocial hours he has to keep and the effort that’s required just so he can reach his Dublin workplace.

Her own office is at home, in the corner of the dining room where she snatches a few hours three mornings a week while her youngest child, Juno is in the crèche.

“I have 10 hours a week to write, so I really guard those hours. If I commit to something, I really commit to it and I’m not in the business of procrastination,” she says.

“I have a desk in my dining room, but I’m able to write anywhere, in bed or in the car if my husband is driving.

“At the moment I am writing a novel and I am at the point where I just want to write. I don’t want to socialise, I don’t want to mind kids, I don’t want to do anything else,” she laughs.

The new work is set in Scotland, where Nuala lived during 1991, keeping a diary, which is something she always does when she travels.

“Because I was 22 at the time, there’s a lot of rubbish in it, but some of it brings me back to that place,” she says, adding that she and her workmates used to drive around the Highlands in their spare time.

Nuala intends to return to Scotland with her husband and kids this summer, to immerse herself in the language of the place for her second novel.

That attention to detail is a mark of how seriously she takes her craft, so it’s no surprise that Nuala was widely praised by critics for her use of Dublin vernacular in You, and for “being alive to the language of her characters”.

Before the novel was published late last year, Nuala had already produced three collections of short fiction, three poetry collections – one in an anthology – and edited several literary magazines.

You gained her new recognition and, as she says herself, “brought me to a new level”.

The Dublin writer has lived in Galway since 1996, when she moved here work with the short-lived Punchbag Theatre Company.

She had studied early and modern Irish in Trinity College for her BA degree, continuing on to DCU where she did a Masters in Translation Studies.

“I loved that Galway was a city where there is Irish and it’s a living, breathing language,” she says of her reasons for moving West.

Nuala worked with Punchbag for over a year, then went on to the Gaillimh le Gaeilge organisation where she put her translation skills to good use.

After that, she worked in a bookshop, then in the University library and then in the Western Writers’ Centre.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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Archive News

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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