Developing Links Between Ireland's Technology Heritage Museums

The Communications and Computer Museum (which I helped establish it as part of my Outreach work) at DERI NUI Galway intends to establish links with the telecommunications museum at the Alcatel-Lucent plant in Dublin.

I held discussions yesterday with the corporation’s Toby Joyce with a view to developing an ongoing working relationship between the two technology learning facilities that are unique to Ireland with the aim of promoting an awareness of technology innovation particularly amongst young people.

Toby is an ex-employee of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) Galway and attended the DEC Reunion that was held in DERI last February.

Alcatel-Lucent’s R&D element is the New Jersey-based Bell Laboratories whose proud ancestry goes back to Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone who founded a research centre to focus on the analysis, recording and transmission of sound.

Bell Laboratories was one of the greatest communications research facilities of modern times, developing a wide range of revolutionary technologies that have helped change the world including the transistor, the laser, solar cell battery, synchronous sound motion pictures, the UNIX operating system, C & C++ programming languages. 7 Nobel Prizes were awarded for work at Bell Laboratories.

The corporate’s Blanchardstown plant has a museum that exhibits many of these inventions including a replica of the first telephone (1876),

a 1915 air-to-ground two way voice radio communications apparatus (consisting of a leather pilot helmet with built-in radio receiver and a microphone)

a 1923 Loop Antenna (Western Electric engineers used a similar device to send the first transatlantic telephone signal 1915);

an early fax tele-photograph machine (1925)

a 1926 Vitaphone record and project system (first talking movie).

Telstar model (somewhat smaller than the original) with Toby Joyce

My favourite artifact was the tiny solar-powered Telstar (first communications satellite) to relay television signals, telephone calls and fax images (1962).

There was also a fine collection of early telephones including a 1926 telephone switchboard contained in a beautiful carved wooden cabinet. The unit was from Newbliss County Monaghan and had only 3 customers (Garda Siochana, Post Office and Tyrone Guthrie) when it was installed was operated non-stop for 60years by one man Patrick McCabe. When it was replaced by an automatic service Patrick was made redundant at the ripe old age of 90years!

Plans for another 'Local Community Harvest Festival' in Galway City Gathers Pace

There was a great attendance at last Tuesday’s meeting in the Menlo Park Hotel called to help in organising a neighbourhood Harvest Festival at 12.00-2.30pm on Sat Sept 10th in the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden.

The discussions and the resulting proposals were ambitious but nevertheless achievable.

Participants agreed to provide at the Harvest Festival the following:

a) mass display of children’s Scarecrows b) Arts activities including Face-Sketching by local children c) Music & ents (on stage) from local musicians d) Stalls selling locally-produced Organic Veg and Fruit produce e) multi-ethnic Cuisine(Irish, African, Asian f) Family Picnic area g) Bicycle Maintenance Workshop h) Displays of locally produced Crafts i) Recruitment Stall for new Men’s Skills Club (Cumann na bhFear j) Nature Tours (hourly) of neighbouring Terryland Forest Park.

Recent Scarecrow to Garden

Furthermore, it was agreed to continue with the mapping of walking and cycling routes in the Ballinfoile-Castelgar-Menlo localities.

Last year’s Ballinfoile Harvest Festival and the ongoing success of the Castlegar Boreen Festival shows that the spirit of the traditional Irish rural ‘Meitheal’ is making a comeback in Galway city.

Raised Beds, constructed by local volunteers

Raised beds in Polytunnel, constructed by local volunteers

Ballindooley/Castlegar Walking Route

View along the proposed new Ballindooley-Castlegar 'Greenway'

In advance of the Harvest Festival, it was further agreed to support local residents and landowners in a major clean up of a botharín that has been identified as a possible major new scenic walking and cycling route that links the Headford Road (near Ballindooley cross) and Tuam road (near Clooncauneen Castle).

Councillor Frank Fahy has liaised with local farmers and has secured broad support for its development as an ‘Off the Beaten Track’.

The clean-up will take place on Saturday Sept 3rd. Rendezvous: 10am at Ballindooley Stores.

Discussions are also taking place with Rosie Webb of Galway City Council on development of further 'greenways' in the Terryland Forest Park environs.

Terryland Forest Park Clean-Up

Members in attendance from the Lisbrook Asylum Seekers Accommodation Centre agreed to coordinate a clean-up of a section of the Terryland Forest Park in advance of the Harvest Festival (details to follow soon).

Children’s Giant Eco-themed Mural

Last summer, City Arts Officer James Harrold commissioned artist Margaret Nolan to work with local children in creatively coming up with ideas to transform the ugly exterior of the multi-purpose (kitchen, toilets & storage) container into a giant canvass dedicated to Nature, gardening, agriculture and themselves.

The mural covered three sides of the unit. Local adult volunteers spent a week sandblasting the walls in preparation for the painting.

In advance of the Festival, Margaret will once again work with the local children and garden committee to complete the artwork.

Wildlife-friendly garden ethos

Volunteers Urgently Needed

Many Hands Make Light Work!

Next meeting will take place at 7.30pm on September 1st in the Menlo Park.

Everyone is invited to support this exciting neighbourhood ‘Meitheal’ project. So if you feel you can contribute something and could not attend the last meeting, please contact us asap! This community initiative needs lots of volunteering help and advice to make it a success. So if you have any ideas for:

Children’s arts /crafts activities, nature walks, eco-stalls… or would just like to assist on the day in general volunteering, we would love to hear from you.

Building a traditional Irish rural stone wall

Native Tree Hedgerow preparation along garden perimeter, work carried oout by the youth of Dochas den Óige

The Jollity & 'Irishness' of the Galway Races

Galway Race Week is probably Ireland's most popular Festival.
It is when the rest of the country seems to pour like a tidal wave into the City of the Tribes to indulge in a 7 day extravaganza of fun, gambling, drinking, frolicking, style, paddywackery & networking.
But most of this is undertaken with a nice bit of humour and in good taste.

During the Celtic Tiger years, Race Week was when helicopters descended on the city like a swarm of locusts; when the very latest BMW & Mercs populated the hotel carparks; when restaurants and bars were bursting at the seams; when pink champagne flowed like tap-water; when high class prostitutes turned tricks in city centre apartments & when all-night card games offered pots of six figure sums. It was the annual occasion for the Irish nouveau riche to publicly display their new found wealth with the arrogant vulgarity and pomp that was their trademark.

Trappings of a Medieval Jousting Tournament
The horse racing festivities at Ballybrit had all the trappings of a medieval jousting tournament.
The real Stars of the Festival

The state's traditional ruling political elite –Fianna Fáil (FF)- erected a special tent at the racing festival where the captains and kings of business, banking and industry dressed in all their regalia came to pay homage, to socialise and to be seen with 'King' Bertie 1 a.k.a. An Taoiseach (prime minister).
‘Pay’ being the operative word as it was 350Euro for a meal & seat in this regal tent!

Ballybrit Castle

A People's Festival
Yet like any good medieval gathering, there was and still is an opportunity for the ordinary folk to partake of the merriment and largesse.
So don’t believe for one minute that the Race city is a playground only for the rich and famous.
Young 'Mad Hatters'

Though the event was founded by the Anglo-Irish gentry and merchant elite of Galway city, nevertheless it has taken on a strong People's Festival identity, an amazing egalitarian extravaganza when-for one week only-the ordinary office worker rubs shoulders with aristocracy, priests, farmers, hookers, politicians, beggars, tourists and billionaires. And there is something for all ages- from betting offices, bars, restaurants to fairground attractions.

The Irish too have a special affinity with the horse and horse racing which reach far beyond the medieval period.

So while the festival was only founded as late as 1869, nevertheless its cultural antecedents pre-date even the Celtic epoch and hark back to the earliest Neolithic times when all members of a tribe or tribal confederation would gather together on one sacred location for a celebration of life combining worship with sport, competitions and entertainment for all peoples and all classes.
Of course, the demise of the Celtic Tiger has dampened the spirit of the occasion somewhat. The FF Tent has disappeared from the landscape; the ostentatious trappings of the property speculators is not as garishly on show to the same extent; helicopters seem to have become an endangered species as these noisy flying beasts are now much fewer in the skies over Galway; many local hotel rooms lie empty as ordinary visitors refuse to pay the outlandish prices that their owners stupidly still demand.

Yet the numbers of visitors remain more or less the same, though their spending has diminished. Interestingly, the crowds have over the last few years become much younger and sadly more drunker. For the first time in my years enjoying the jollity of the Festival, I experienced at first hand a darker side of the Week's festivities when I was violently accosted by a bunch of highly intoxicated well dressed young teenagers when I asked them to desist from littering a parkland and frightening others from enjoying the beauty of an area. Talking to friends, I found that this occurrence was sadly not an isolated incident. It is symptomatic of an Irish society that is suffering from a binge drinking malaise perpetrated by the greedy me fein philosophy of the 'boom years'.
But I still believe that these anti-social elements are a minority with most people out to enjoy themselves without wanting to negatively impinge on others.

Ladies' Day - A Race Course Full of Ireland's Most Beautifully Dressed Women

Thursday is ‘Ladies Day’ when women of all shapes & sizes dress up in their most beautiful finery to be praised and ogled.
From early in the morning, large groups of classy garbed females wait at bus stops all over the city on their way to the race course.
Amazingly once the event ends, hordes of girls in the most expensive dresses just take off their high heels and walk the miles back to their city centre hostelries and hotels. There is something so refreshing about this attitude. People may dress up in fantastic clothing for the festival, but most are still just ordinary 'down to earth' folk underneath.

'All the Fun of the Fair'
There is nothing like the age-old excitement of a Fair with fairground attractions for a younger generation to enjoy. But this one needs a serious revamp. Some of the equipment has seen better days & seems to be in a bad state of repair.
Furthermore, a few of the Funfair's attendants could also benefit from a course in customer relationships! This area seems to reek of staleness and inertia.
The children deserve better.

'Mad Hatters' Day!

One of the funniest events takes place on Sunday when girls and women (& a few men) wear "Crazy Hats'. The craftsmanship and time that people put into their headgear is absolutely fantastic. Fully fledged farm, stables and race tracks are recreated in the most detailed miniature to sit precariously on the top of people's heads!

Not only that, others create the most outrageous full length costumes to match their garish hats.
For hours these ostentatious individuals walk and mingle with the crowds before gathering together for the awards ceremony.

There is nothing else quite like the Galway Races on this planet!

Sweet Stall (a la Moore Street)

'Tea Room' - Remnant from British Imperial Days