The Easter Rising on Monday April 24 1916, not only took the British authorities by surprise but also the general population of Ireland. In many places, including the town of Galway, the news that fighting had broken out in Dublin was greeted with amazement, and disbelief. Remember World War I was raging at the time. The Battle of Verdun, which was to continue until December with horrendous casualties, was at a critical stage. Its progress was extensively covered in all newspapers. Furthermore, as a result of an intensive recruiting campaign in both the town and county, there was barely a home in Galway that was not affected by the war. Young men in their thousands joined the British armed forces to defend their homeland, to protect the women of Belgium, for a sense of adventure and a decent wage; and in the words of the Irish Parliamentary Party, ‘ to win freedom for Ireland’.
Following the news that Sackville Street (O’Connell Street ) in Dublin was in flames, came the more disturbing news that rebels were active in Clarinbridge and the Athenry area, barely 30 miles from Galway. A massive public meeting was called on Wednesday April 26 in the Town Hall on how best Galway could protect its citizens and businesses from these ‘disaffected fanatics”.
The meeting was covered extensively in The Connacht Tribune of the day. I am very pleased to read that my grandfather, Philip O’Gorman, made an impression. Having declared that the ‘action of ill-advised persons in the county of Galway, who have, at a time when the valour of Irish troops has done so much to shed glory on the arms of the Empire, chosen to shock and outrage public opinion by bloodshed and civil strife’, he boldly proposed that the meeting call on the authorities and the people of Galway to cooperate ‘to crush by every possible means the efforts of the disaffected fanatics and mischiefmakers’.
Warming to his theme the grandfather made a long speech, during which he pointed out that all the rebels’ were doing was ‘playing into the hands of Prussia’ (applause ).. ‘ at a moment when the national prosperity of the country was greater than of any other country in Europe. Every agriculturist in this country was becoming the owner of his own farm, every home in this country was becoming its owner’s castle, and at such a moment when they all looked for a happy and glorious outcome of the war it was proposed to hand over the country to Prussian militarism’. He continued pointing out that one could not consider the movement (The Rising ) ‘other than an act of lunacy on the part of what had been called misguided men’; but he trusted that whatever happened to the ‘misguided men’, the leaders would be taught a lesson that they would have reason to remember forever (applause ).’
That was telling them! There were further expressions of outrage and condemnation from the great and the good, until the meeting finally concluded by setting up a Committee of Public Safety.
The beautiful Gina
When I was growing up there was always a Connacht Tribune in our home. There still is. But I gauge my growing from a boy into a long, lanky, spotty youth by where my eye fell on the pages of the Tribune. For years I’d only look at what was showing in the ‘flicks’. I enjoyed westerns the best. It was a poor week if neither the Estoria, the Savoy nor the Town Hall did not have a Randolph Scott, Alan Ladd, Van Heflin, Jack Palance or a John Wayne ‘cowboy flick’. I hated any kissing in these films; and always preferred the hero to ride away from the girl into the horizon alone.
Then suddenly, at about 17 years of age, my eye used to fall on who was playing at Seapoint, the Hangar or the Astaire. And on one amazing evening I walked into Seapoint and watched everyone having great fun rockin’ and a rollin’ to the big showband sound of Gina, Dale Haze and the Champions. I was a little in love with Gina. I read whatever I could about her, cut out her photograph in her ad in the Tribune, and kept it in my pocket. That night I saw a girl the splitting image of Gina, the other side of the ballroom, chatting to her friends. For hours I looked and wondered if I had the courage to walk across and ask her to dance. I waited for practically the very last moment before I crossed the room, which seemed about two miles wide. I got there eventually, tapped her on the shoulder and mumbled something. She turned, looked me up and down, and said: “Get lost!”
Immediately I thought a spotlight had been shone on me, and everyone in the room turned to stare. I was horrified. I walked in slow motion back across the room, out the door, straight home and took to the bed for two days. I’m not over it yet.
I have a confession to make. When I started the Galway Advertiser I would let people believe I worked for The Connacht Tribune. No one seemed to have heard of the Advertiser, so when I was asked what was I doing at various meetings, receptions and stuff, the conversation often went thus:
‘Who are you?’
Me: ‘A journalist’.
Them: ‘With the Tribune?’
I met the late Edmund Mahony near Craughwell one day. We were at a house auction and I got talking to him in the stables. Edmund Mahony was a wonderful countryman, a great hunter with the Blazers, and told brilliant stories about the people and turflands, the beauty of meadowlands and the joy of living in county Galway. His first hunt with the Blazers was when he was nine at his grandfather’s covert at Ballinderry, Kilconnell. His grandparents were Andrew and Mary Comyn. Andrew Comyn’s mother was a Joyes, of Woodquay House, Galway. The Joyes’s were one of the 14 Tribes and kept the original Norman spelling of the name. His grandmother was a grand-daughter of Daniel O’Connell.
Edmund turned and asked; “Who are you?”
Me: A journalist’.
Edmund: ‘With the Tribune?’
He told me a good story. He bought a Tribune in Cawleys pub, and was sitting on the edge of a field looking through its pages to find the ad announcing the next hunt with the Blazers. He found the page, and was reading the ad when he felt he wasn’t alone. He slowly turned his head, to see, leaning over his shoulder, a fox which appeared to be reading the same ad.
‘Ah Reynard,” said Edmund, “you’ll know what fields to avoid next Sunday. Good luck to you my friend.”
And sure enough no fox was killed that weekend.
The Connacht Tribune celebrated its centenary last month. I salute it; and also acknowledge the great tradition of fine printing in Galway city and county which goes back 200 years. Joe O’Flaherty proudly showed me around his factory Castle Print at Liosbán, recently. It radiated state-of-the-art Heidelberg quality. Our printing and publishing heritage continues, better than ever.
Following my remarks in last week’s Diary on the late former mayor, and Galway City Councillor, Martin Connolly, and his Trojan work to clean up the Claddagh Basin once and for all, the following poem was sent to me for publication.
A Job Well Done
Where the Corrib meets the Ocean
the Swans chose to sleep
By the shores of the Claddagh
traditions run deep...
to majestic crafts of world renown
Even the sun, came to visit
as the Racers sailed into town.
The masses came to witness
an entertainment spectacle to please.
As pride rested in Galway hearts
the Blue Flag danced in the breeze.
Long before the flag was hoisted
the seed of cleanliness had been sown
By a man, who had the foresight
and the will to save his home.
It took an amazing effort
and I place credit in its rightful place
To the team of organisers
who attracted this Ocean Race.
While the tiger lay sleeping
“Let’s do it” call went out with pride at stake!
Let the cynics and begrudgers join in the sleep
for now at last “The West’s Awake.”
It was the vision from within the “Claddagh Lass”
that assisted the Dragon to the shore,
The people danced with the “Galway Girl”
and the crowds called out for more...
Now I walk along his Causeway
to escape the masses, enjoying the fun.
To the heavens, I gaze and say, Martin I never met you
But thanks for a job well done.
Luke Lanigan 4/6/09