UCG Student Days & Nights– The wonderful Stories that must be told!

 

Dancing in the Aula on a Friday night, UCG, 1979

A few weeks ago, I completed a month’s leave of absence from my employment at NUI Galway. I took this break for two reasons:
(a) to concentrate on promoting the ‘Galway National Park City’ initiative and particularly to lobby the councillors of Galway City Council to include this designation within the Galway City Development Plan 2023-2029 in order to make our city a flagship for sustainability and environmentalism that other cities would emulate. In spite of the support of many councillors (Niall Murphy, Imelda Byrne, Owen Hanley, Frank Fahy, Terry O’Flaherty, Deputy Mayor Martina O’Connor and Mayor Colette Connolly), that did not happen. A motion to have it deferred to a later date was passed. This is no bad thing as it will give time to prepare further to ensure that City Hall adopts an initiative that has been endorsed by President Michael D. Higgins (our patron), Duncan Stewart as our National Champion, Kathryn Tierney as our EU champion, and over 100 champions from across all sectors of local society. But more on that anon!
 
(b) to start the research for a book that I have postponed for far too long about student life in Galway during the period of 1975-1981. Over the years, I have gathered together a wonderful collection of photos and stories of that exciting era which I and so many of my good friends were part of.
Thanks to the introduction of state grants for third level education I was part of a first generation of young people from small farming and working backgrounds who got the opportunity to go to university and the technology colleges. We had no idea what to expect. But the change to us personally and to Irish society was monumental. We arrived to what was essentially a large but quiet town in the West of Ireland as starry-eyed young teenagers leaving home for the first time. It was my first time west of the river Shannon.
 
As the days, weeks, months and years rolled by, we immersed ourselves in the freedoms offered as the campus became an exciting spicy melting pot of radical priests, nuns, monks, capitalists, liberals, communists, socialists, republicans, artists, musicians, army officers, scientists, innovators and so much more. Every issue under the Sun (& beyond) was debated and argued at meetings, over coffee in the daytime and over pints on Thursday nights. By the time most of us had left UCG (later NUIG) and RTC (GMIT) a few years later, it had been transformed beyond recognition into a vibrant cosmopolitan city pulsating with social, political, economic, scientific, technological and artistic activity, made possible by the youthful creativity of its new population of students and those that came to work in its new factories, arts centres and expanded hospitals. We felt like pioneers opening up a new frontier where anything was possible and very little was out of bounds. 
 
In our time in Galway we were also part of the first wave of Irish youth that discovered the newly unfolding Global Village as we spent summers working as far afield as Atlantic City, New York, San Francisco, Paris, Amsterdam and Munich; or travelling by ferry, train, and camper van to Athens, Berlin, Belgrade, Kabul, Kathmandu and Marrakesh. When we didn’t travel abroad for the summers, we hitchhiked to the many open air musical festivals that started to appear across the country including Lisdoonvarna, Ballisodare, Slane to Carnsore Point. 
 
In UCG, we studied hard and attended lectures given by inspirational lecturers (Michael D Higgins, TP O'Neill, Pete Smith, Emer Colleran, Gearoid O'Tuathaigh, Iggy O'Muircheartaigh, Chris Stevens, Gerry Humphreys, Nicholas Canny, Mícheál Mac Craith, Breandan Mac Aodha, Ollie Ryan, Rosaleen O'Neill, Owen Bourke, Jim Gosling, Kevin Boyle, Tony Finan, Frank Imbusch, Leo Smyth, Bill Shade, Jim Flavin, Ma Heavey, Tom Boylan, Jimmy Browne, Hubert McDermott…); played sport or organised a plethora of cultural events; often protested, marched and occupied college or state buildings as we passionately fought against discrimination on all fronts both at home and abroad; on Thursday and Friday nights we socialised in the city centre, danced in the nightclubs of Salthill and partied (no drugs, no violence) late into the night in student houses across Galway. 
 
So it is long past the time that the seriousness, inventiveness, madness and humour of this previously unwritten part of modern Ireland was captured and made known to present and future generations.
I made friendships then that have lasted a lifetime. I owe it to these good folk to ensure our times together will not be forgotten.
Publication Date: 2022.
 
p.s. Photo was taken at a Friday night Disco in the Aula section of the Quad in UCG. This was a regular event organised by the Students' Union. No alcohol was served. Students just went along to dance the night away!
p.p.s. If anyone feels they may have photos/images or some interesting stories to tell related to the period 1975-'81, please do not hesitate to contact me

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