Galway watched its new bishop with some amazement

Thu, Apr 06, 2017

On Sunday September 19 1976 the former bishop of Kerry, Eamonn Casey, succeeded to the See of Galway. He had been appointed some months beforehand, but was delayed by his long goodbye tour of Kerry. The people of Kerry were heartbroken to lose him.

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‘A New Israel for Iarchonnacht?’

Thu, Mar 30, 2017

Although many of us swallowed hard at Desmond Fennell’s cry for a ‘new Israel for Iarchonnacht’ we knew what he meant. In the 1970s the Irish language was fast slipping away, even in the Connemara Gaeltacht. Of course there were many who cherished Irish. There were Gaeilgeoirí in Dublin and elsewhere who delighted in Irish conversation. I often heard Irish spoken with ease and fluency among shoppers in Galway city.

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Irish - is it time to declare a language emergency?

Thu, Mar 16, 2017

‘Most of us don’t want to speak Irish, but we like to have Irish in our lives’, writes the provocative Desmond Fennell, in one of his concluding essays in his just published autobiography.* ‘We cherish Irish, the surveys show, as a precious part of our national heritage. We are glad there are Gaelscoileanna, a Ráidió na Gaeltachta and a TG4; that the destinations of buses are shown in Irish as well as English, and to hear that there is a magazine of news and comment in Irish on the internet. We would not like everything in Ireland to be in English only’.

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Passage of time....

Thu, Mar 09, 2017

An interesting story has emerged linking a badly burnt survivor from the SS Athenia, a Galway pharmacy, and Glasgow’s Riverside Museum.

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Merlin Park - An epilogue

Thu, Mar 02, 2017

Merlin Park House was a large late Georgian pile surrounded by trees, but built on a sufficient height that it enjoyed views of Galway Bay. It was originally built in the early 19th century by the influential Blake family, who were renowned for throwing wild parties and hunting with the hounds.

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International outcry at Athenia sinking

Thu, Feb 23, 2017

Week III

The sinking of the passenger liner SS Athenia on the evening of September 3 1939, off the Rockall Bank, prompted immediate outrage among the Allied and neutral nations. The ship, belonging to the Donaldson line, left Glasgow for Montreal, Canada, via Liverpool and Belfast on September 1. On board were more than 1,100 passengers, including women and children and 311 Americans, fleeing the inevitable war coming in Europe. One hundred and twenty eight passengers and crew were killed, 28 of whom were US citizens. Due to relatively calm seas, the survivors were picked up by passing ships, and brought to various ports including Galway, which I have mentioned recently.

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Galway was ready to receive SS Athenia survivors

Thu, Feb 09, 2017

In the early afternoon of Monday September 4 1939, Galway’s harbour master, Captain Tom Tierney, was amazed to be contacted by radio from a Norwegian freighter Knute Nelson. It was steaming south towards Galway with 430 survivors from the passenger liner SS Athenia, which had been torpedoed 250 miles north-west of Inishtrahull Island, off the Donegal coast. Many of the survivors needed medical attention. Was Galway in a position to offer aid and safety?

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The knights ride to the rescue

Thu, Feb 02, 2017

I have written before about the woeful lack of ambulances that serviced the old Central Hospital, especially in the 1930s. That shortage became acute during the war. Because of the severe rationing of petrol, and the unavailability of spare parts, for a long period only two ambulances were available for the whole county. As they were frequently on the road simultaneously there was no reserve vehicle to answer any emergency.

That crisis was relieved somewhat by the founding of the Knights of Malta Ambulance Corps. The Galway unit was the first to be established in Ireland. It was set up by Professor Conor O’Malley in October 1937, and the following year the unit had passed all its medical training. It was now ready to be fitted with its distinctive grey uniform, peaked cap or beret, with its white cross against a red shield badge. Its first public appearance was the Corpus Christi procession in 1939. It was the first time in Ireland a unit of Knights of Malta appeared, and it was regarded with great curiousity. Rather shyly the young volunteers lined up outside the Nurses’ Home, before marching through the town. But they were quickly put to good use attending the sick at Knock and covering GAA matches. During the war, until the Irish Red Cross was formed, it manned first-aid stations at the university and Woodquay. It provided a transport service for the sick, and provided home nursing. It transported TB patients out of the Central Hospital to a temporary sanatorium at Woodlands; and later from there to Merlin Park when that hospital opened a few years later.*

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TB epidemic - getting the message across

Thu, Jan 26, 2017

It is no coincidence that the Regional (now the University College) Hospital and Merlin Park opened almost simultaneously in the mid 1950s. The Old Central Hospital, which had opened in 1922, became unfit for purpose, mainly due to overcrowding, and the difficulty accommodating long stay tuberculosis patients. Tuberculosis, or TB, was, in the early decades of the 20th century, at epidemic proporations. The same year that the Central Hospital opened, the same year as the foundation of our State, there were 4,614 deaths from TB; 611 were children under 15 years.

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Health services struggle during war years

Thu, Jan 19, 2017

From the mid 1930s to the mid 1950s Galway medical services were on the verge of collapse. The situation at the Central Hospital was particularly chaotic. By 1933 the hospital had a nominal 317 acute beds but overcrowding soon became a permanent feature of the general and medical wards. In March 1938 the number of patients exceeded the beds by 10, with 251 in general wards, 52 in the fever, and 24 in maternity. It was common practice to accommodate patients on mattresses laid out between the beds.

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Galway’s new anaesthetist: ‘Stuffed with learning’

Thu, Jan 05, 2017

Two remarkable Galway people, Conor O’Malley and Sal Joyce, grew up in the Maam Valley, Connemara, in the closing years of the 19th century. Although they were cousins, they probably never met until they were both doctors working side by side in the Galway Central Hospital, on Prospect Hill, the forerunner of the present University Hospital, in the 1920s.

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Voices at Christmas

Thu, Dec 22, 2016

‘If we had extra geese or cockerels my mother and myself would bring them to the market in Loughrea on the second Thursday before Christmas that was known as 'Big Thursday'. The market was held on the main street that time, you would not collect much money, maybe three shillings per goose but that would help to buy the Christmas.

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The night Stephen Gwynn MP nearly lost his pants

Thu, Dec 15, 2016

The outbreak of World War I brought to a head the divided camps among Irish nationalists, both of whom wanted Home Rule, or Independence, but both saw different ways to achieve it. Probably because of the large army presence in the town, and the natural benefits that the army brought to traders, as well as the family connections that had developed over the years between town and soldiers, the majority of people in Galway town favoured the British military approach.

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Wrestling with ‘foreign born professors’ at UCG

Thu, Dec 08, 2016

It is easy to imagine the paroxysms of fury, outrage and purple faces that must have gripped the venerable membership of the UCG governing body, when they heard that the chairman of the Galway county council, Máirtín Mór McDonogh (who was also a member of this academic conclave) soundly rap them on the knuckles.

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More than eighty Galway girls emigrated on the ‘Earl Grey Scheme’

Thu, Dec 01, 2016

Between 1848 and 1850 more than 4,000 adolescent female orphans emigrated from Irish workhouses to the Australian colonies arriving in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. Their emigration become known as the ‘Earl Grey Scheme’ after its principle architect, Earl Grey, Secretary of State for the Colonies at the time of the Great Famine, suggested the move, and organised its operation.

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Australia offered some relief for Famine orphan girls

Thu, Nov 24, 2016

The extreme winter conditions of 1846/47 exacerbated the mounting crisis that the Great Famine had already created. The number of deaths from hunger in Galway town averaged between 25 and 30 a week. As well as the main workhouse on Newcastle Road (now the University College Hospital) auxiliary workhouses had opened at Barna, Newtownsmyth, Merchants Road, St Helen Street, and in Dangan. Six soup kitchens operated throughout the town feeding some 7,000 people a day and more as newcomers streamed in from rural districts. On one bitterly cold morning two children were found frozen to death on High Street. Another child dead nearby.

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‘What part of Galway is Ireland situated?’

Thu, Nov 17, 2016

By the 16th century Galway was a compact, well laid out town with handsome buildings. The wealth of the Tribal families, built up over decades of canny and adventurous trade, was reflected in their luxurious homes; fragments of which, in delicate carved limestone, remain around the old town.

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