25 May 2010

Galway GAA Digital Heritage

Most of the photographs of handball alleys in Co. Galway have been provided by Michael Geogeghan who, together with John Williams, has been gathering information for the handball section of the Galway GAA Digital Heritage Project which will be launched on Friday 28th May at 8pm in the Meadow Court Hotel. All are invited to attend and admission is free of charge.

Irish Handball Alleys thanks Michael and John most sincerely for sharing the wealth of information they have gathered over the past 6 months.


Cllr. Tom McHugh, Mayor of the County of Galway and Mr Christy Cooney, Uachtarán an Chumann Lúthchleas Gael will launch County Galway GAA Digital Heritage Project in the Meadow Court Hotel on Friday 28thMay at 8pm. It is a unique partnership project involving Galway County Board, the Heritage Section of Galway County Council, the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI), NUI Galway and Galway County Heritage Forum.

The first phase of the project involves presenting the history and heritage of five clubs namely, Kilconieron, Caltra, Tuam Stars, Annaghdown and An Spidéal as well as the history of handball and general GAA in the county in a digital format and putting it on the world wide web. The overall vision for the project is to place Galway GAA sporting heritage at the heart of the life of the county through increasing awareness, enjoyment and knowledge of this very rich cultural heritage resource. The project motto is ‘your club, your parish, your county, your heritage’.

It is very much a local community project that is undertaken in a voluntary capacity. Mr Brendan Smyth, Education and Community Outreach Officer, DERI, NUI Galway has provided training and technical support to clubs involved over the past few months while Dr. Clíona O'Carroll, Lecturer in the Department of Folklore and Ethnology, University College Cork provided a training session in oral heritage interviews. Brendan Smith said that ‘this project not only helps to improve the digital media skills of the clubs involved but also helps them to showcase their rich and wonderful heritage in new and innovative ways.’ The late John Kelly (RIP), Caltra Park, Caltra, Co Galway was one of the club members that was heavily involved in the project. John attended all of the training sessions and collected, collated and annotated photographs as well as conducted interviews. Unfortunately due to his untimely death John is not with us for this launch and to see the fruits of his labour. His work, dedication and love of the GAA in Galway is what this project is about.

The result of all of the hard work of those involved in the project means that there are currently over 1200 photographs and over 70 interviews on podcast available on the website www.galwaygaaheritage.com . The podcasts include interviews of former officials, players and people connected to the club such as Pádraig Ó Céidigh, owner of Aer Arann and main Sponsor of the Galway Senior Football team, former MEP Seán Ó Neachtain, and local historian Beairtle Ó Conaire all from the An Spidéal club. Páid Ó Neachtain, Cathaoirleach of the An Spidéal club said ‘it was an excellent project to get us started in the collection of the clubs history and folklore. It has inspired us to keep collecting and we would hope to compile a full history of the club in the future.’

The photographs collected and uploaded on to the website are varied and give a really good insight into the role that the GAA and those connected to it have played in the county over the past 126 years. Many of the photographs are annotated and once a viewer puts the cursor on the person on the photograph they are given information on that particular person. Kilconieran club has an annotated photograph of the 1908 Senior Hurling Champions team as well as a photograph of an unusual medal that belonged to Padraic Naughton that had an inscription stating that the medal was for the County Galway Hurling Championship Senior 1912 and Intermediate 1911 won by Kilconieran Hurling Club. Caltra Club has uploaded an annotated photograph of the 1955 Killasolan 7 a side and a 1930’s photograph taken at the workhouse in Mountbellew of a tournament team. Among their collection are several photographs of painted boards, cars and a boat with slogans and words of encouragement for the Caltra team in 2003/4 when they were the All Ireland Football Club champions. Mike Fahy and Karl Martyn said “Working on this project gave us a chance to bring to the life some of the great work recently done for our clubs recent published history book. Recording the personal interviews with podcasts brought life to the stories and photo’s past players, club officials and members. In this project we were able to complete 6 entertaining and enjoyable interviews and collect almost 100 photographs illustrating the rich hurling tradition in Kilconiern’. While Mattie Kilroy, Pat Lawlor, Anthony Cunniffe, and John Kelly[R.I.P.] have uploaded 200 photographs and 10 podcasts for the Caltra Club.

Club crests, rolls of honour, brief club histories and local songs and poems connected with the clubs have been collected and are available on the website. Many people look at club crests and often do not understand their meaning. Seamus Kelly and John Dooley have included information of their crest as part of the project. The Tuam Stars coat of arms for instance has the following meaning: The red Latin cross is representative of Tuam’s importance as an ecclesiastical centre. The double green flaunches at the sides, represent the two hills or shoulders of Tuam’s ancient name, Tuaim Dhá Ghualainn . The two crowns recall the High Kings, Turlough and Rory O’Connor who were based in Tuam. The broken chariot wheel being a reminder of the foundation of the monastic town, when St. Jarlath’s chariot wheel broke. The motto of the town, Tuath Thuama go Buan , translates as Long Live the People of Tuam. The Old Tuam Society also provided help and assistance to the Tuam Stars club in undertaking interviews for the podcasts and all of the clubs received lots of local help and support which is acknowledged on the website.

Marie Mannion, Heritage Officer, Galway County Council ‘this is a very valuable digital heritage project as the photographs, interviews and materials collected have a lasting value and significance and the use of digital media allows a greater access to this valuable resource by all sectors of the community.’

All of the 85 clubs in the county were also asked to put together a brief history of the club, a list of officers through the years and collect some pictures associated with the club and its past.

The Annaghdown Club said that ‘Since the publication of our club history Annaghdown GAA 1887-1989 there has been a consciousnesses of the importance of the collection of old photographs and this is evident from the sheer volume of photographs that have been collated for this project. What this project has done is highlighted that the memories of members of the GAA community and their reminiscences of events and personal interactions are equally important and interesting. The project has seen the culmination of several years of work supported by Seamus Finnerty, Kenneth Leonard, Niall Canavan Kevin O Connell and Michael Geoghegan. It is now hoped to build on the momentum with a continuation of the work which hopefully will see an update to our club history and possibly a multimedia DVD’.

Michael Geoghegan and John Williams who worked on the handball section said that ‘most of the photographs relating to handball do not feature people just walls, doorways, viewing galleries and stairs. However, many years ago, these spaces were filled with human presence. Travelling around the highways and byways of Galway, visiting these alleys, which at one time were such a focal point of community activity, you can almost feel the ghosts lingering in the corners, among the shadows and behind the walls. There is a longing to conjure
up the spirits of the people who got such enjoyment from the simple pounding of a ball against a wall, to bring them back into being. To once again hear the calls of "look sharp," "game ball" and "game".


This project hopefully goes some way towards acknowledging the fading but enormous melancholy, the great sadness, of a forgotten gem in Ireland’s past, the old 60' by 30 'Big Alley'. The interviews section strives to make human these great artefacts of Irish architectural and social history. Hopefully the sections on the 40' by 20' indoor alleys and the new found interest in 'One Wall' will bring attention more to the modern game and its promotion’.

It is hoped that in time all 85 clubs in the county will document their history and that County Galway will have a very rich online digital sporting heritage resource for the future. It is also hoped to produce dvds and further develop this digital resource. The project organisers would like to invite people that have memorabilia, photographs or information that they feel would be of value to the project to e-mail them to galwaygaadigitalheritage@gmail.com. All are invited to attend the launch in the Meadow Court Hotel, Loughrea on Friday 28th May @ 8pm and admission is free of charge.


Press Release Issued by:

Marie Mannion,
Heritage Officer,
Galway County Council
Phone 091 509198
E-mail mmannion@galwaycoco.ie
On behalf of the project organisers.

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