‘The people who made us what we are today’

Thu, Aug 28, 2014

John Connell, remembering the
stories of his youth.

Imust admit that I have driven through Kiloughter village probably only half a dozen times in my life. It is located just off the Headford Road, at the start of the Curraghline, about four old miles from Eyre Square. Bordering the Ballydooley village, there cannot be more than a dozen houses there, but it is not an insignificant place.

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‘The people who made us what we are today’

Thu, Aug 28, 2014

I must admit that I have driven through Kiloughter village probably only half a dozen times in my life. It is located just off the Headford Road, at the start of the Curraghline, about four old miles from Eyre Square. Bordering the Ballydooley village, there cannot be more than a dozen houses there, but it is not an insignificant place. Thanks to a charming and beautifully written book by John Connell, Kiloughter has been brought forward as a mirror of old rural Ireland, which in the space of a few decades, has slipped away from us.*

Born August 8 1927, John does not begrudge the fact that today’s farmers have to have up-to-the-minute labour saving machinery; or that every household has machines for the day-to-day chores, and that village silences have been changed with cars and tractors passing through every hour of the day and night. He recalls, however, the village of his youth out of respect and admiration for the people whose ‘strength of character through all kinds of hardship, who walked the byways and cosáns, or pathways that we now walk in their footsteps, the people who made us what we are today.’

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The strange exile of a disillusioned ‘Buck Mulligan’

Thu, Aug 21, 2014

Honeymoon at Renvyle: WB Yeats with his wife
George, who enjoyed a successful life together.

Following his narrow escape from Republican forces, who were intent on killing him by the banks of the Liffey that cold night in January 1923, Oliver St John Gogarty wisely took himself off to London. He immediately became the toast of polite society there who delighted in his stories and witty conversation.

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Colourful Gogarty escapes death by a whisker

Thu, Aug 14, 2014

Oliver St John Gogarty releasing two swans into the river at the Trinity College Boat Club,  at the Liffey’s Islandbridge, 1924. Also in the picture is WT Cosgrave (front left), and in the back, WB Yeats.

A precocious and cleverly witty Trinity student in a yellow waistcoat, Oliver St John Gogarty, was to become a close friend of Sinn Féin's founder Arthur Griffith. At its first historic meeting, November 28 1905, Gogarty proclaimed against the 'tyranny of the British government', in the grand manner of a Cicero addressing the Roman senate. But so moving and compelling were his words that when Griffith reported the meeting in his newspaper The United Irishman, Gogarty's speech was the only one he quoted. And he did so at length.

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Forty years a-binding, and more to come

Thu, Jul 24, 2014

Gerry and Caroline Kenny at Kenny's Bookbindery, Galway. Photograph by David Ruffles

An extraordinary row on the Late Late Show, 17 years ago, had a positive impact on a small Galway business struggling for survival. ‘A very attractive lady,’ Siubhan Maloney, called into Kenny’s Book Bindery, located in Salthill at the time, and told Gerry Kenny that she was a contestant in the Late Late’s Antique Show. She was re-upholstering an old chair, which included a small shelf. She wanted to see how to re-cover an old book in highly decorated leather, which would sit into the shelf. Jerry was happy to show her how it was done. First of all the pages are handsewn together, then clamped and trimmed ready for gold foil, which is applied with heat. This prevents the pages becoming dusty.

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The First Holy Communion dress did not fit everyone

Thu, Jul 17, 2014

Abbot Patrick Hederman: ‘	We need to create the balance necessary to provide a lifestyle that will be total.’

If there isn’t some dramatic change, and matters as they stand are allowed to drift, it is easy to see that the impact of the child abuse scandals within the Catholic church have had a very negative impact on the present and future generations in Ireland. Despite being one of the most generous generations ever when it comes to helping others, young people today are quite indifferent to the church. In fact many are openly hostile.

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Coping with the Magdalen fallout

Thu, Jul 10, 2014

John Quinn, a popular broadcaster with RTE, and author, presents an interesting insight into the beliefs and religious practices of well known politicians, writers, sportsmen and many others in his latest book.

Ilearn something of the impact that the Magdalen Laundries scandal had on the Mercy nuns themselves reading the personal testimony of Sister Phyllis Kilcoyne. Sister Kilcoyne is part of the Leadership Team of the Western Province of the Mercy Order.*

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Patricia’s vocation did not take root

Thu, Jul 03, 2014

Patricia Burke Brogan at the Magdalen Women’s memorial at Forster Street, Galway.

Patricia Burke Brogan joined the noviciate of the Mercy Sisters at the convent of St Vincent, Newtownsmith, Galway  at the end of the 1950s.  It was before the reforms of Vatican II had relaxed rule of the heavy medieval habit, the shorn hair, and a constant reminder ‘to keep custody of the eyes’. What was called ‘discipline’, which was nothing less than outrageous bullying, was meted out on the novices by some of the older nuns, in a cutting and wounding way. The nuns were hard on each other.

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Was this a glimpse of Dante’s Purgatorio?

Thu, Jun 26, 2014

Patricia Burke Brogan at an exhibition of her etchings, some years after she left the convent. Her autobiography, Memoir with Grykes and Turloughs, will be launched at the Galway Education Centre at 6pm on July 1 by Ms Sabina Higgins.

‘No one wants these women. We protect them from their passions. We give them food, shelter and clothing. We look after their spiritual needs.’ And that was all that was believed to be required for the inmates of the Magdalene Laundry, in Forster Street, Galway. It is true that no one wanted ‘these women’, because of the twisted sense of morality of the time. Girls who gave birth to a child outside marriage were ostracised by society. If the pregnancy and birth could not be kept hidden (some families kept their pregnant daughter locked away in an upstairs bedroom, or sent to a relative in England); people feared local gossip, and judgment to such an extent that parents turned against their own daughters. They brought their daughters to the nuns, and walked away. The problem was out of sight, and, they probably believed, gone away.

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An artist opened Galway’s ‘Secrets Box’

Thu, Jun 19, 2014

Most families, most adults, and most communities have secrets; past indiscretions they would rather forget about, and usually not very serious. But  some of them can be very painful, and are kept hidden, in a sort of a Secrets Box,  long after they need to be.

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Images of Aran more than a century ago

Thu, May 29, 2014

All great books begin with an arresting sentence. I remember as a boy being captivated by JM Synge’s opening sentence in what I consider his greatest work The Aran Islands, first published in 1907, two years before his death. It has not been out of print since:

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MGQ - many believed she would have been an ideal Taoiseach

Thu, May 22, 2014

Commissioner Máire Geoghegan Quinn: ‘The process of change is not easy.’

I am probably the worst kind of voter that the enthusiastic canvassers could meet. I do not vote for a party, but for a personality, or for a candidate whom I feel will do a good job. I admire politicians. I know that ninety-nine per cent of them are motivated by public service, and genuinely believe that they can effect change. Some of them actually succeed in bringing about change; but it is a long, hard slog.

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Education is exciting, but probably better to leave the Minister at home

Thu, May 15, 2014

The late Br Michael Crowe who ‘made it special’.

Ms Avril Forrest took her first religion class in the Jes when the school chaplain Fr Derek Cassidy was on sick leave. Famine in Africa, and how the West should respond, was the issue of the day. The class unanimously insisted that the Vatican should sell all its assets, and give the money to relieve world hunger.

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‘I’ve been waiting five years for this moment’

Thu, May 08, 2014

Mary Troy Fennell: ‘Privileged to see students at their most wonderful best.’

Seán Duignan, the Irish journalist, newsreader, and political aide and writer, recalls that his time at the Jes, the longest established school in Galway, was generally happy. It was an all-male school then, and had a rowing team that did the school proud.

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Coláiste Iognáid - ‘Was it Eton or Stowe?’

Thu, May 01, 2014

The young William Joyce taken from a group of  students about 1918 (The Jes - 150 years of the Jesuits in Galway).

In any war propaganda is a useful weapon. In World War II both the Allies, and the combined Axis powers used broadcasting, leaflet dropping, false information contained in dead men’s briefcases, diaries, fake military manoeuvres, or through clever counter espionage, to discourage and demoralise the enemy. There were many spectacular successes; but the one that really annoyed the British was the voice of William Joyce, broadcasting almost nightly from Reichssender Hamburg radio. He became known as Lord Haw Haw, a much hated figure.

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Noir By Noir West - disquieting Galway stories

Thu, Apr 24, 2014

How about this for revenge? A man dumps his wife for a younger model. Wife appears quite civilised about it. But just as ex is about to go off on a classy holiday with new model she asks him to check out an old property she is thinking of buying. It’s in an awful state, but she needs him to trip a switch on the meter box in the tiny space under the stairs so she could check the lights on each floor. It will only take him a minute. Its a small space, and she is wearing a tight skirt and hates spiders.

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The man who remembered his father

Thu, Apr 17, 2014

How The Guardian saw President Michael D Higgins during his five day visit to Britain last week. It described him as ‘Ireland’s Poet President.’

During his recent and very meaningful state visit to Britain, and his address to the joint Houses of Parliament, President Michael Daniel Higgins slipped in the fact that his father, John, had fought in Ireland’s struggle for Independence.*

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A child’s time on Spanish Island

Thu, Apr 10, 2014

Joy O’Gorman - gently passed into her mother’s arms

I believe that my grandfather, Ronnie Hackett, was surprised when my grandmother agreed to marry him. He was the youngest of six brothers and four sisters, born in the Blackrock area of Cork city. Many of the brothers having a medical qualification went off to see the world with the British merchant navy. But in their later lives all came back to Cork, and enjoyed a happy life fishing and shooting, and a little bit of medicine. Indeed there are several family stories about a brother’s wife apologising to a full waiting room for her husband’s abrupt departure ‘on an urgent medical matter’. Whereas in fact, the call was from another brother to come fishing.

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The lonely boy who landed on our shore

Thu, Apr 03, 2014

The young Orson Welles: slept by turf fires in Connemara.

It is possible that when the 16 years-old Orson Welles embarked from the SS Baltic in Galway Bay in August 1931, he visited the Taibhdhearc theatre. In any event, he struck up a friendship with a Galway actor. Two months later he visited the Gate Theatre in Dublin, and went backstage to see his friend. Clearly impressed by what he saw, he left a note for its founding partners, Mícheál MacLiammóir and Hilton Edwards, boldly proclaiming ‘Orson Welles, star of the New York Theatre Guild, would consider appearing in one of your productions, and hopes you will see him for an appointment.’

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