We remain much the same as one hundred years ago

One of the most imaginative ideas to mark the 1916 centenary is the 100 To One Project. Three Galway photographers, Enda O’Loughlin, Ian McDonald, Bill Barry, and journalist Caroline Whelan, worked together to produce a book containing 100 photographs of local people aged from 100 years old to a few months. With the exception of the ‘few months’ and other small children, all tell the story of their lives so far.

The authors did chose some high profile characters such as politicians, sports stars, and artists, to get the project going. But through Facebook, and advertisements in the local press, they invited people to come forward. The real power of the book is the stories these people tell, and their Galway faces, many of whom we recognise. Surprisingly despite the enormous political changes during that time, we, as a community, have remained much the same.

There are some subtle changes. ‘New Irish’ faces (and that includes British and Americans ), grin out from the pages, and certainly there is an emphasis on third level education among the young; but we are still largely a community of farmers, shopkeepers, teachers, musicians, housewives, and we’re still very fond of the old bicycle.

Patsy Daffy (1928 ): farmed a smallholding all his working life with dairy cows, pigs, and hens, which provided eggs for the family. In those days, he says “We would always share the bacon with our neighbours whenever a pig was slaughtered.” His mother was a teacher in the 1940s who earned £10 per month.There was a change of government and her wages were reduced to £9 with their budgetary cuts. Patsy, a resident at St Brendan’s Home, Loughrea, is still hurt by that cut. “I have never voted for that party since and never will,” he says.

Pat O’Sullivan (1936 ): Pat was born in Galway to a musical family and has enjoyed a lifelong love of music. He emigrated to the UK in the mid 1950s, but came home to work on the docks in 1966 with his wife and three children. The couple went on to have two more, and Pat now enjoys 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Coming home Pat rejoined the well known Galway St Patrick’s Band. He was a wonderful fundraiser. He succeeded in getting the American ambassador to donate $10,000; and following a generous Lotto grant, rebuilt the present home for the band at The Fairgreen. Pat has been a member of the award winning Baroque Singers since its inception in 1983, and is a director of St Columba’s Credit union.

Ken Bruen (1951 ): an extraordinary successful author, with 33 books published, eight of which have been made into movies.

Ken has a PhD in metaphysics but when he addresses audiences on the subject, it only wants to hear about his greatest fictional character, the now famous Jack Taylor.

Ken is happy to talk about his family, his love of Galway and his home in the heart of the city.

Micheline Sheehy Skeffington (1953 ): was born in Dublin, and joined the staff at NUIG in 1980 as a lecturer. She is now professor emeritus, a plant ecologist with an interest in terrestrial ecosystems.

The unlawful killing of her grandfather during the 1916 Rising makes this year a very poignant one for her. Her grandmother, Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington was one of Ireland’s most militant suffragettes. Micheline is very focused on the progress of women in society.

David Kingsland (1967 ): Born in Croydon, in the UK, David moved to Ireland along with his Loughrea-born wife Martina in 1999 to work as a water inspector. They live in New Inn with their two children Rebecca and Harry. David leads a very active life in the community helping to set up the Rother Cycling Club which has raised much needed funds for the Irish Kidney Association. He grows fruit and vegetables in abundence, and is famous for his chutneys and preserves.

Helen Ogbu (1971 ): is an ethnic Biafran who was born in Nigeria, where she obtained an MA in history and diplomancy. Coming to Ireland in 2001 Helen continued her studies at NUIG, where she obtained another MA in family support studies. She works at the Galway Volunteer Centre at William Street.

Living at Knocknacarra with her two girls, Helen says that Galway is a very welcoming city. “This place gives you room to be who you are.”

Shreya Pol (1999 ): born in India but came to Loughrea as a baby when her father dsecured a job locally. Shreya attends a local secondary school with her Irish born sister. She plays volleyball for the school team. She is a talented artist and wants to becomea biologist.

Éanna Naughton (2005 ): Lives in Barna with his parents and two younger brothers, Donnchadh and Cormac.

He currently attends Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh. Éanna is a great sportsman playing both Gaelic football and soccer, and an avid supporter of Chelsea Football Club

His dream job is to play for Chelsea some day.

Sense of community

In an introduction to the book, Martin J Walsh, the current mayor of Boston, believes that he would not be mayor of that great city were it not for the support of the Galway community there as well as in Connemara.

Martin’s father John Walsh, emigrated to Boston from Carna in 1956. There he met Martin’s mother, Mary O’Malley from Ros Muc, who had also emigrated there three years later.

The first trip abroad for the newly elected mayor was to Ireland. “When I returned home this time, I felt the bond with my heritage deepen and grow. When I stepped off the plane at Shannon, I was greeted with a warm welcome from not just my mother, but from what seemed like half of Connemara.

“Later at Screebe House in Ros Muc, over 1,000 people came to welcome me. It was like a family reunion.”

NOTES: *Rising Beyond - celebrating a Centenary of Galway People, ‘Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine’ on limited sale, at only €20 which goes to charity.

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