Running barefoot to their dreams...

Thu, Mar 18, 2010

Sometime in the 1880s my grandfather, Philip O’Gorman, left his home town of Littleton (An Baile Beag), north Tipperary, and walked into Galway. He must have been very well educated because his first job was reading the Dublin newspapers in two pubs in High Street. The Dublin papers arrived on the afternoon train. Then, surprisingly, he got a good job as an assistant librarian in the university. Surprisingly, because at the time it was a predominantly a Protestant institution. From there, he rented a small shop in High Street, established the Galway Printing Company, and cycled around Connemara getting orders for small printing jobs. These were later dispatched from the Claddagh quays to be delivered or collected from the small harbours all along the coast.

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A charming American who hid his battle secrets

Thu, Feb 25, 2010

I know it’s only a rumour, but nevertheless profoundly believed, that male medical students have an easy time with the girls. Many women appear to be under the impression that a doctor would make a ‘lovely husband’, and exert their wiles to make them believe they would make a perfect doctor’s wife.

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The Maamtrasna Murders, August 17 1882

Thu, Jan 28, 2010

Early on Friday August 18 1882, John Collins, a tenant farmer, having heard disturbances during the night coming from his neighbours’ house, the Joyces, went to check if all was well. He must have feared the worst because he brought with him two neighbours, Mary and Margaret O’Brien. They discovered an appalling sight. Even today, when our senses have been hardened by so many atrocities, it was a scene of savage murder that cried to heaven. No mercy was shown to this unfortunate family.

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Saving old buildings with new ideas

Thu, Jan 21, 2010

When it comes to planning applications in Galway, whether it is for a new building, or the renovation of an old building, modernisation or improvement, there are two strands of thought that can affect the decision from the local authority. I may not have all the technical jargon, but I understand that one side of the argument insists that pretty well every building that is a few generations old should be preserved. Any additional building must use the same or similar materials so that the addition appears to be a seamless add on.

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Paying roads repair money by kilometre is fairest

Thu, Jan 21, 2010

Now that the ice has melted and the snows have disappeared, people are really appreciating the opportunity to get out of the house and travel in a manner that was denied them during the cold snap.

However, this now represents a new danger as the ice and cold have left our roads network in the terrible shape. Road surfaces have been ravaged by the ice and grit, and at a time when the country is in the throes of economic misery, our already inadequate network has gone backwards and needs major refurbishment immediately.

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The Tulip of Tuam and other flowers

Thu, Jan 14, 2010

Many years ago I found the courage to ask the late Lady Molly Cusack -Smith whether she had posed nude for the famous artist Augustus John during his many sorties into Galway and the west. She looked at me very hard for some time. Then said in a very cross voice: “How dare you, HOW DARE YOU ask such a impertinent question!”

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The man who ran the ‘Corofin mile’

Thu, Jan 07, 2010

One of the most dramatic and legendary events in the history of Irish foxhunting took place with the Galway Blazers on December 19 1953 between Cregg Castle, Corandulla, and beyond the Clare river, near Anbally. This is great fox hunting terrain. It’s level going, open and free. When on a good scent the hounds will skim the walls and allow no time for man or beast to make mistakes if they want to stay close to them. December 19 1953 was a clear, frosty day, with similar temperatures to those we are enduring these past few weeks. The hounds were in full pursuit ‘skimming the long low walls the way the swallows do’. After a four mile chase they hit the river Clare about a mile short of the nearest bridge at Corofin village.

The river was in flood, but the hounds plunged in, emerging as one body on the other bank, and headed off at full throttle towards Ballyglunin. Mr John Lancelot Smith, Master of the Hunt, was renowned for keeping up with the hounds no matter where they went. Automatically he plunged into the raging river, and immediately was in trouble. He separated from his horse, which managed to drag herself ashore, but the current brought Lancelot Smith downstream. His heavy hunting clothes and boots soon filled with water, and it became impossible to swim. Luckily he managed to cling to an overhanging branch; and there he perilously clung thinking his end had come. But incredibly, as if in a Hollywood movie, a rider galloped up, and saw immediately the danger. He leapt from his horse, threw off his heavy red coat, threw his cap to the winds, and dived into the swift moving torrent. Despite the fact that he was still wearing boots, he swam strongly towards the helpless Master.

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Chasing the girls, and hunting the wren

Wed, Dec 23, 2009

Even though mistletoe is not native to Ireland it has long been associated with Christmas here. The tangled green plant, with its soft white berries, has been introduced in some Irish counties (grafted onto apple trees), and was being sold in basket fulls at the Galway market last December.

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Animals at war, virgins in Loughrea, poitín, and peace at the ‘Augi’...

Thu, Dec 17, 2009

World War 1 is the backdrop for the London box office success War Horse. It’s the story of bravery, loyalty and a mutual bond that grew between a young farm boy and his horse. But it is the highly imaginative and skilful way that the story is presented that has caught London’s imagination. The play is based on a book by Michael Morpurgo; and a recent acknowledgement by the public of the role animals have played in war, from the horse, the mule, the dog, the pigeon, even the humble glow worm used by sappers in No Man’s Land as they drew maps in the dark*. During the merciless, and relatively recent Battle of Stalingrad, (July 1942 to February 1943), 207,000 horses were killed on the German side alone (the human cost was an unimaginable one million). Animals are still used to help solders navigate rough terrain, or for dolphins to seek out mines, and dogs to sniff out contraband.

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A Taste of Galway

Thu, Dec 10, 2009

Emer Murray, crowned by food writer John McKenna as ‘the best baker in Ireland,’ was an unhappy law student at NUIG. She came from a business and insurance agents background, and the law just didn’t have the excitement she thought it would have. One day her mother Ena told her that John and Anne Sherry were looking for outside caterers. They had recently taken over Lydon House, and wanted croissants and Danish pastries for their breakfast menu. Emer, who had a passion for cooking, went into O’Gorman’s bookshop, bought a book on making breads and pastries, and, that evening called round to the Sherry household with samples. She got the job.

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When it comes to Christmas, the best is always worth it

Thu, Dec 03, 2009

“Christmas dinner is the most important dinner of the year,” says Ray Colleran, third generation butcher in the city’s Mainguard Street. “And this year it’s more important than ever.” I was challenging Ray on the price of turkeys. One international supermarket chain is selling frozen geese for €25, how can they do that?

“We have been using the same supplier for 35 years. Our prices are exactly the same as last year, and probably a bit cheaper,” says Ray. He believes that this year, however, there is a nervousness out there, an uncertainty about jobs, the endless drip of bad news and rain. Families are feeling threatened. “We have already noticed that whereas last year, there may have been two people sharing a turkey, this year the same couple have ordered a bigger one because they are going to their mother’s, or family are coming home. It’s time to circle our wagons and see how we are all getting on. And there is no better way than sharing guaranteed quality Irish food, good talk and being together.”

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Opening a door on the Clarinbridge community

Thu, Nov 26, 2009

Not so long ago December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, a day when schools were closed, was the start of Christmas for most people. There were not the long gruelling hours of late-night shopping that are par for the course today. Perhaps in the final days before Christmas, most shops would open late; but generally in the weeks leading up to December 25, it was the normal week’s opening times. Believe it or not, everyone got their shopping done.

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Gallows humour, and the late Ms Barbara Cartland

Thu, Nov 19, 2009

I was surprised to learn recently that I shared a theatrical experience with the journalist and commentator Fintan O’Toole. Years ago Fintan went to the toilet during one of the many intervals in John Arden’s The Non-Stop Connolly Show (it was non-stop for an amazing 24-hours). The toilet was just behind the stage. When Fintan came out, the performance had restarted, and he was on stage. The audience applauded the embarrassed young Fintan.

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The priests were on the ball...

Thu, Nov 12, 2009

Nothing more symbolised the relationship between the Irish Catholic Church and the GAA than the formalities in the lead up to an All Ireland final in Croke Park. To the musical accompaniment of the Artane Boys band, there was the parade of the players, then a rousing version of the national anthem, followed by Faith of our Fathers, and then the sight of a bishop throwing in the ball to begin the game.

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The crucial match that Loughrea lost

Thu, Nov 05, 2009

One of the many voices in our kitchen when I was growing up was Michael O’Hehir and the Sunday afternoon game. The GAA (Chumann Lúthchleas Gael) has been blessed with its RTE broadcasters. I don’t think anyone can equal the inimitable Míchéal Ó Muircheartaigh, whose all inclusive broadcasts today are a performance in themselves. I think I am the same as most people to say that I turn down the sound on the TV, and turn up the volume on the radio when Ó Muircheartaigh takes flight.

I don’t know what technique Ó Muircheartaigh uses to memorise all the background information of the players, their clubs and colours, the boreens where they live and play, and their mothers, not to mind the local neighbours glued to their broadband internet in Honolulu and other exotic places that he throws out with delight; but O’Hehir had a different intimate touch. In his autobiography, published in 1986, he recalled that in his early days of broadcasting, he would picture in his mind’s eye a man called Patrick Garry, from Ballycorrig, Co Clare. “For some years before I started, he had been bedridden,’ he wrote.“So I’d imagine myself talking directly to him.... In those formative years it was not the people of Ireland or anywhere I was speaking to, but to Patrick Garry, doing my best to tell him what was happening.’

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The Strange case of Warden Bodkin’s hand...

Thu, Oct 29, 2009

Week II

What did John Bodkin, the last Catholic warden of St Nicholas Collegiate Church, mean when, handing over the keys of the church to the Williamite soldiers in July 1691, he cried: “My God, that my right hand may not decay until the key of this church be restored to its proper owners?”

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The strange case of Warden Bodkin’s hand...

Thu, Oct 22, 2009

In March 1838, workmen, under the supervision of a Mr Clare, were carrying out repairs on the vaults and tombs near the main altar of St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church. They made a remarkable discovery. A body, which had rested in a tomb for 129 years, had been discovered incorrupt. Incredibly it was the remains of the last Roman Catholic warden John Bodkin, who when handing over the keys of the church to Williamite soldiers, after the town’s surrender on July 26 1691, cried out in despair: “ My God, that my right hand may not decay until the key of this church be restored to its proper owners”.

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Portrait of the writer as a young man

Thu, Oct 15, 2009

The great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (Oct 27 1914 - Nov 9 1953) had absolutely no interest in school. He attended Swansea Grammar where his father, DJ Thomas, was the much feared English teacher. Both the boys and the staff were afraid of his temper, so much so that when Dylan, frequently bored with school, walked out murmuring that he was gong to write ‘bloody poetry’, if he met the headmaster on his way, the head would only nod, and say; “Don’t get caught, will you?”

In was amused to see that when the Galway writer Walter Macken was at the ‘Bish’ and asked to be excused from class for the toilet, Bro Leonard, who had a sense of humour and knew most of the boys hopped out for a ‘quick smoke’, would say: ‘Do you want a match Macs?’

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A risen people achieve their own miracle

Thu, Aug 27, 2009

An unusual feature of the apparition at Knock on August 21 1879, was that it was silent. On all other occasions when the Virgin Mary has appeared, a verbal message was imparted to the visionaries. It was usually an exhortation to pray. But the Knock vision, consisting of Mary, St Joseph, St John the Evangelist, and other religious images, was motionless. There was no verbal message.

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