This really isn’t what any of us had planned for this time. Everyone of us had plans for what we would have been doing last weekend, and in the summer ahead. None of us could ever have foreseen just how all of these would be reduced to dust in the interest of the greater good.
At the Advertiser, today’s date, April 16, 2020 has been uppermost in our minds for the last ten years and the ten before that. Because today is the exact day and date that marks our fiftieth birthday. Fifty years ago today, Galway City saw its first issue of the Galway Advertiser, and it is appropriate that the man whose creation it was, who laid out the pages, sold the ads, wrote the stories and ran the business, is still the figurehead who drives the ethos of the Advertiser half a century later.
Although he still doesn’t even look fifty and lets the rest of us all age ungracefully past him, the Galway into which Ronnie O’Gorman introduced the Advertiser was a very different place to that which it is today. It was a large regional town yet to experience any of the wonderful expansion that it was to see in the succeeding five decades.
While initially he was deemed eccentric for proposing a newspaper that people would receive free of charge, what he created was much more than that. What started on that Thursday in 1970 was a vital part of the rite of passage of everyone who came in contact with Galway. With the Advertiser came the famous accommodation pages and the queues for these in the 90s and early 2000s often numbered into many hundreds.
With the Advertiser came a paper that knew no demographics. It went through every letterbox, not knowing whether prince or pauper picked it up. As such, it has become an invaluable platform for opinion and information. It also became the best marketing campaign that all of the top businesses in Galway used, and continue to use to drive customers through their doors.
It was a newspaper that would truly reflect the rich fabrics of the many colourful threads of the patchwork quilt that Galway city was yet to become.
It was a publication that dedicated almost a sixth of its space to the culture and the arts; that enabled the promotion of the fledgling Galway Arts Festival and Druid; that allowed freedom of expression to all people.
Even to this day, it acts as a platform on which we are willing to accommodate all sides of every argument. We are a city and a region full of creative thinkers and their thoughts and opinions have oft filled this pages. The more diverse the better.
We had a series of events planned to mark this milestone. An all-star concert which was to be held tomorrow night at the Town Hall Theatre; a exhibition of photographs from the first fifty years of the Advertiser was to be held at the Eyre Square Centre from this week, and then move to libraries around the county; a magazine supplement was to be delivered free with this edition of the newspaper… but like so many plans in our lives, they have been put on hold and in the greater scheme of things, they stand in the shadow and can be held at a later date when we are all more able to enjoy them.
Instead, like many businesses, our employees are working remotely from home as we bring out the paper from 28 different locations around the west. Technology has evolved to allow us to do that and for the duration of this crisis, our headquarters at Eyre Square lies empty, although all our usual contact numbers and email addresses work as normal. We also bring all the latest news and information on our social media channels and on our website.
While it is not the way we had thought our fiftieth birthday would evolve, it has been a time when the team who produce the Advertiser have come together, although apart, to bring out a newspaper that we hope continues to reflect the ethos of Galway city and county at this time of crisis.
It is at times like this that the Advertiser is able to best fulfil its role. And we will continue to do that until we are out the other side of this terrible affliction. Then, as we have always done, we will be cheerleaders for the reconstruction of our society.
We thank all our readers for being there all these years; We thank our customers who continue to support us and enable us to be the platform we are. We thank all the staff who have worked here over the last fifty years. We thank all the contributors who have shared their opinions on our pages. And we thank Ronnie, and his vision.
If you are reading this, then the paper must be out.
Tomorrow we start work on the second half century of the Galway Advertiser.