‘Celebrating Voluntary Activity & Sporting Achievements in Community Life in Ballinasloe’
What are the People of the Year Awards?
These Awards recognise and celebrate the voluntary work that individuals, groups, organisations & schools contribute to their community. There are 8 Award categories in total and they are open to individuals and groups from the Ballinasloe Area and Hinterland.
These awards are being organised by Ballinasloe Area Community Development Ltd (BACD). BACD is a not-for-profit registered charity voluntary group striving to carry out both short term and long-term actions to ultimately improve and revitalise Ballinasloe and its hinterland.
This is the fourth time for BACD to host these awards, with ceremonies previously held in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
The aim of these awards is to acknowledge the tremendous amount of voluntary work carried out in Ballinasloe and hinterland which forms the backbone of our community. Many voluntary groups and individuals make invaluable contributions to our community. Our wish is that such people are formally recognised so that we can publicly acknowledge their efforts and achievements. It is also our wish to honour very special and talented individuals or groups who have achieved excellence and represented our community regionally and nationally.
In contrast to previous year’s ceremonies, we will be acknowledging our international athletes who have represented Ireland in their specific sporting fields. Our sport stars will be directly invited, and their achievements acknowledged at the awards ceremony, separate from the 8 award categories.
The 2023 People of the Year Awards will acknowledge outstanding people and organisations who, through their commitment to participating in community and voluntary activities, have had a positive and significant impact on the quality of life in their communities in Ballinasloe.
There are so many people making a difference in our community this is an opportunity to formally recognise their achievements under the format of People of the Year Awards. We encourage you to please put their names forward for an award.
Thank you to our Main Sponsor Ballinasloe Credit Union. The event is also being supported by KPW Design & Print, and the Shearwater Hotel & Spa.
A weekend of Traditional Irish Music, Culture & Heritage
Feile Cheoil Larry Reynolds have a fantastic new website where you will find all you need to know about this lively music and cultural festival taking place from 7th to 10th September in Ballinasloe.
Feile Cheoil Larry Reynolds started out in 2014 in the form of a celebratory concert to honour the musical life of Larry Reynolds, and to promote the East Galway style of music and playing in the region. It has now progressed and grown successfully into a four-day Féile of which we are now in our 10th year.
For a full interactive guide to what's on and where visit the website below:
They have spread their wings over the years and incorporated a larger programme with something for everyone, including an opening concert, music sessions, music, singing & dance workshops historical walk, art competition, fiddle competition, photo competition, ceili, singers circle, and traditional crafters. The organisers are delighted to have as part of our Féile every year, both local and visiting artists, of the highest calibre.
Féile Larry Cheil promotes the East Galway style of music, hosting a series of lectures, with photo exhibitions and archived footage about local musical greats who were synonymous in this style of playing and have left a huge legacy behind them. Musicians and bands such as Paddy Fahy, Eddie Kelly, the Aughrim slopes Ceili Band, the Ballinakill music players and Ballinakill Céili Band, Tom Quinn & Paddy Carty, Mairtin Burns, Joe Burke, and Raymond Roland.
They are delighted to welcome old and new faces to our Féile every year and over the past number of years visitors have travelled from America, UK, Italy, Germany, as far north as Belfast, south as Kerry, west to Achill, inside the pale and everywhere in between to join the festivities.
By Colm Croffy
Locals from Ballydangan and Moore collaborated in producing a promotional video with Roscommon County Council for the Red Grouse Project, an initiative aimed to prevent the extinction of endangered bird species. The widely acclaimed innovative, Ballydangan Red Grouse Project, was founded in 2009 by Moore Gun and Conservation Club and a small group of its village residents. Since then a long standing partnership with Moore District CE Scheme has supported the initiative and is currently employing four workers to help on the land with predator control and nest protection. The project was initially established to protect Red Grouses in Ballydangan, who has experienced a 50% decline nationwide between the 1970s and 2008 and has especially seen a reduction within the local region as a result of commercial peat extraction.
The initiative has since diversified and welcomed a breeding site for varying wader species including Lapwing, Curlew, Snipe, and other small ground nesting birds. The community pursuit aims to increase awareness surrounding these species, as well as any other listed mammals, insects and plants found on their sites. The projects leader Pat Feehily, a suckler and sheep farmer from Ballydangan, spoke about the habitat grounds in a recently produced video with Roscommon County Council sharing: “we are blessed to have this natural resource on our doorstep. It is regarded as one of Ireland’s best examples of community conservation.” The wet bogs of Ballydangan store over 10,000 years’ worth of carbon and act as a safe-haven for its vulnerable species with its abundance of insects, as discussed by Moore peatland ecologist David Fallon.
The bogland has been attracting visitors from nearby schools, colleges and the general public, as well as international students from the University of Galway to study biodiversity in the area. The project leaders hope to continue educating the public on the declining number of red listed species and other aspects of conservation. The land is currently home to eight to ten pairs of Curlew, previously one of the most common birds in the Roscommon landscape but now down to 150 breeding sets across the Republic. “We have seen a phenomenal increase in the number of ground nesting birds on site and we look forward to its continued success and improve into these numbers in the future” stated Pat. The short promotional video can be found in its entirety on the Roscommon County Council YouTube channel below:
By Colm Croffy
There is a huge upsurge of history and heritage locally and a variety of local groups have taken up the challenge to programme some activity for this year Heritage Council Heritage Week.
Beginning August 12th and concluding on the 20th – there are many events to chose from the town centre as far as Athleague if you have an interest in the Ui Maine Kelly – Kingdom of Lore. Take a look at the calendar below!
The week’s activities concludes with a guided walk around the town, taking in key water related landmarks in the area – in keeping with the National theme by the locality’s newest District Heritage Society.
Starting at the Suck on River Street, moving along to the Elizabethan Bridge, through the town and around by the old Canal Basin before finishing at the Marina, this guided tour will encompass all the key historical places and roles these landmarks played, and continue to play, in the story of Ballinasloe.
From the very forming of the settlement, through the medieval period and industry of the 18th and 19th centuries, water has played a central role in the development of the Ballinasloe.
This walking tour will visit these sites, as well as give context on their historical importance to the area and how they effected the lives of the townspeople who lived through these periods. The walk with input from local historians and archaeologists is a continuation of the new group’s work this year in renewing and expanding on the knowledge of the rich history and heritage. The Tour Route is just over 2KM in length No charge and all are welcome.
The monthly public meetings are proving to be very popular in providing a forum for local individuals and groups to give input on how the society can expand its work and commitment in this regard. The next meeting is on September 6th from 8 to 9pm in the Men's Shed (behind the Credit Union) and again is open to all!
The group is also very excited about plans being finalised for Culture Night, an insight into the towns outstanding examples of stained-glass windows. Keep an eye on the new Ballinasloe & District Heritage Society Facebook - page for further information in due course.
Cath Eachroma 1691 will present their annual ‘Talk About and Walk About’ during this year’s Heritage Week.
The heritage group, formed to educate the public about the 1691 Battle of Aughrim and its significance, invites you to join them at the Visitor Centre for a guided tour of the surrounds of the historical site. Over 100 people participated in 2022, and this year they hope to expand their programme to include weapon and uniform displays
The event will be hosted on Saturday August 19 at 14:00, no booking is required.
The Aughrim archivists recently held a foraging event exploring the battlefield rummaging for food, and showcased historically accurate props at their stand during Livestock Festival.
Incoming Galway City Chamber of Commerce President and Group Marketing and Innovation Manager at Connacht Hospitality Group is Ballinasloe's own Eveanna Ryan.
A popular pupil in St Joseph’s NS, she then spent 6 amazing years in Scoil Mhuire, before obtaining her diploma from Cornell University in strategic Management. “Having spent my teens working in the East County Hotel and Tohers, I caught the bug for hospitality early. The summer after my leaving cert I worked in Clifden and deferred college (fine art degree in Waterford) to travel and that spring I was lucky enough to be hired to do a season with Kel Air Vacances (Campotel) working in the west coast of France. From there I joined the team in the Office of Kel Air in Ballinasloe and stayed there for a very happy 8 years, until the Carlton Shearwater opened and I returned to my hotel roots, I was part of the preopening team working in reservations, before moving into a sales role and from there I continued my career with Carlton for 8 years working in both the Shearwater and in Blanchardstown in Dublin. It was at this time I completed my Cornell University course and really found my love for marketing and was able to get back to being creative.” recalls Eveanna.
But ultimately the West called again, and she returned to Galway City to the role of Sales and Marketing Manager for the reopening of Glenlo Abbey Hotel and the Harbour Hotel under MHL. She spent a whirlwind four years learning about the luxury market and building her connections in Galway and now finds herself in the most exciting role yet with Connacht Hospitality Group where she oversees all the marketing and innovation functions of 11 brands (and growing).
Reflecting on her two decades in hospitality she accepts it is not for the faint hearted, but if you thrive on working at pace, and genuinely enjoy people it is a wonderful career. “No two days have ever been the same and the world of Marketing changes every day, and you need to stay ahead and relevant. Hospitality gets a bad reputation, but it has given me a life and career I could only have dreamed of. It allowed me to work and study at the same time as well as being a young mother (he’s 22 now) and if you are willing to work hard there are so many rewards. If it’s any testament my son Cillian having trained in a completely different field (graphic design) has recent taken up a hotel management role and I couldn’t be prouder, I know he is in the right career for him and I’m excited to see him grow and develop within this exciting industry” enthuses Eveanna. She won "Sales and Marketing Manager of the Year 2019" at the Irish Hospitality institute Awards in 2019, serving on the national council for the IHI. She then joined the board of the Galway Convention Bureau and is currently the deputy President and soon to be the President of the Galway Chamber.
When asked why she preferred to reside for so much of her last two decades in the town she is blunt - “For me it was proximity to family, Cillian being able to go to a school like Garbally and see his Grandparents every day. Also affordability, my commute on a daily basis was “just a quick podcast” and for nights that I had events I would avail of the 10.10pm train home so it was a great asset."
“Ballinasloe is home and will always be home, more and more of my childhood friends have moved home as I did to raise families. Hotels like the Shearwater gave me a career and for that I will always be grateful.” she states.
Focusing on the tourist potential of town she believes that Ballinasloe has as much to offer as any town on the Shannon with our Marina and waterways, great hotels, growing restaurant & bar community and the wealth of local history. "Ultimately, I believe this is about branding, deciding what we want to be perceived of as a town, what markets we are looking to target and working together as a town and industry to get them here. As the businesses of Kinsale say “let's fight together to get them here and fight over them when they are here” she explains. Looking forward to her new role for the Regional Capital Business Community she states “I’m honoured to be the incoming President of Galway Chamber of Commerce. For me it was about giving a voice to the hospitality industry and highlighting the importance of tourism in the overall Galway business community, from marketing to FDI. I follow a line of financiers in this role, and I hope to be able to bring my own strengths, in storytelling, positive outlook and strategic planning to the role”.
She strongly believes the West of Ireland is incredibly well positioned for business growth as indeed is Ballinasloe. “Boasting a highly skilled and educated workforce. Renowned universities and educational institutions that produce a steady stream of talented graduates, makes it easier for businesses to find qualified professionals across various industries. The West of Ireland's diverse economy, spanning sectors like technology, tourism, healthcare, agriculture, and renewable energy, also contribute to its appeal for business growth” she ascertains. In her view the diversity ensures that companies in various fields can find a suitable niche and prosper in this dynamic and robust marketplace. Beyond business, the West of Ireland offers an incredible quality of life. Its breathtaking landscapes, and charming towns and villages like Ballinasloe make it an attractive destination for employees and their families.
As for those grappling with CAO choices her advice is simple - “I have always preached the benefit of having a good attitude and working hard. Attitude wins over aptitude every day in my opinion. And also to be patient with yourselves, you don’t need to have a fixed career path any time soon, be flexible and curious and let the opportunities find you. And last bit of advice “take the job your think you’re not qualified for and figure it out” It’s worked for me to date,” she frankly admits.
In looking back on the breaks she still has a wonderful soft spot for The Keller’s for giving her first “office job” when she didn’t even have an email. “I still recall the wise words of GaGa (Mr Liam Keller). “If you don’t know something, be honest but go find out!" A life lesson I still live by, my years working in Kellers were some of the happiest of my life. And ultimately huge thanks to my parents, siblings and my son Cillian who keep me in check but are also my biggest supporters,” states a very busy Eveanna.
Moher resident and retired Vocational School Teacher Gabriel Rohan has some decades to reflect upon since his arrival to a family of 11 ( 7 boys and 4 girls ) in Tiaquin near Athenry during the Emergency.
The 7th eldest boy on a modest family farm - did chores in the morning and indeed well after his national schooling days and in common with all other youngsters walked the roads to his education. A long monastic and austere regime of five years as a boarder in St. Mary’s Galway, where ration books, porridge and bread measured by the half slice were common place!
While he dabbled in hurling – in common with most of the pupils, he found some merriment in the Stage – school plays, the annual Gilbert and Sullivan production at Christmas time before sitting the leaving cert in 1959.
Of the 40 or so lads who completed their studies – a third went back to family farms, businesses, about a third went on to the Priesthood and he was in the lucky third of those who signed on for third level education after Matriculation.
He chose Agricultural Science as he enjoyed Biology, being an early third level commuter – he took the early train from Athenry, staying in digs for a few weeks before the ritual exam times.
“We had a very tight, small circle of friends which anchored around the Lydon’s Coffee House, the Tennis Club , Sea Point and The Hanger where regular evening haunts and you have to remember the only Quad facilities were a small coffee dock back then“ he recounts.
He recalls his first real summer job working for the Board of Works before heading to the big smoke as the final years being completed in UCD. He remembers the freedom of that time and city – “you could walk from the DCU campus now (‘twas the Ag College Farm back then) in Ballymun all the way into O'Connell St and we often got a lift home after a hop with a milkman – it was such a calmer place back then “ he states.
The late 50s in Dublin the start of the Showband era – young students were often refused access to dances due to the width of their ties! “The dances started at 7.30 pm and finished around 11p.m in the city so the Nurses could be home to their residences in time for curfew “, he laughs.
The Ag Society ran hops to fund their outreach activities and he recounts the wonderment of all the class being on study trip to Denmark and discovering silage being made for the first time. “The modern management and efficient methods the Danes was using at the time, surpassed anything we were doing in Ireland – all the livestock were being raised 8 months of the year indoor and this was nearly a decade before we joined the E.E.C.”.
There were 3 vacancies for Rural Science Instructor at the Galway Vocational Educational Committee, he applied and got the nod!
In Sept 1960 he found himself in Ma Kellers- Curramore Guest House and sharing the Tech Staff room with Stephen Folen, Principal, Nicholas Hartnett the woodwork teacher, Peter Weafer, Art, Pauline Mc Namara, Home Economics and Joe Brennan Irish. Once pupils received their Group Cert after three years of schooling the could finish formal education. It was not until the Free Secondary Schooling Act of Donagh O Malley that pupils stayed on and undertook Inter Cert and Leaving Cert.
Gabriel’s love of Biology saw him move to teaching science and preparing students for Leaving Cert Biology. “ back the for the Group Cert there was a lot of Oral Examination and different teachers would be allocated to different schools around the country to examine the students ,by the time of the leaving cert there was a lot of project work as well so the rote learing was well out of the system by the time I left “ he notes.
In the 60s Teaching staff were expected to live locally and he thrived in the pastimes of tennis, golf, swimming but the lure of the stage, song and drama from his St. Mary’s Days – allied to most of the Tech Staff – building sets, painting scenery was strong. A meeting of the Musical Society in the Wigan Hall chaired by Monsignor Gordon saw a new Guinness PA recently moved to town from Ballina in attendance and as the Hammerstein lyric goes – “. the enchanted evening saw the stranger across the crowded room."
Noelle and Gabriel were married in St. Muredach’s Cathedral in 1965 and the moved into their new Moher Home in 1970 – along with family Brian , Aileen and Carmel . Brian works in Switzerland while the two ladies are teaching locally.
Family life was busy in the 70s and 80s but he managed to act as Treasurer for the VEC County teams and when the kids got involved in swimming he went and undertook all the courses to become a qualified swim instructor. He also was persuaded by stage manager Larry Duffy to participate in a few Relays productions in front of the curtain.
He recalls the Swimming Club of the 80s with some affection – “Popsee Fenton , along with Mick Walsh Chief Coach – the Walshe’s, the Mc Keowans, Ganlys, McCullaghs, we were one the few Clubs in Connacht to have a professional coach back then."
He also in the late 80s got involved in the Tidy Towns as a member and eventually held a number of Officer Positions.
In 1998 Galway County Council had a problem – it could not manage Carrowbrowne Dump and a plan was hatched to utilise the UDC’s own dump to temporarily facilitate the refuse of City and County about a kilometre from his back garden and some 2.6 Kms from St. Michaels Church.
He found himself asked to chair a public meeting , then was asked to Chair the Action Group to contest the issue on behalf of the community when it became obvious that the political class locally were not seeing the wider picture.
Even though it's twenty years ago the legacy is still very raw today where 30 citizens were injuncted by High Court order (14 of that list have passed) and eventually the Community got an Agreed High Court order which the Council truculently had to eventually abide by.
Many of the committee were challenged as to who they were mandated to represent and subsequently several of their number contested the local Urban Council elections in 1999 – resulting in a huge turnout in numbers and some four of the nine councillors being non-party.
“They were difficult testing times , as a community activist, and as an elected Councillor – I am very glad we never took the officials advice on anything – had we - we would not have got the dump closed in 2005 and the town’s balance sheet before transfer to Galway County Council would not have been as large , which allowed for a great deal of public realm investment “ he opined.
Looking back he believes that Urban or Town Council abolition was very wrong. “the centralising of all decision making back to the County or in reality back to Dublin by faceless bureaucrats where local representatives -can offer no real engagement or analysis into policy or decision making is just plain wrong, not the magic bullet promised – true the system needed reform and executive functions needed revisiting but we have remote’. Municipal Chambers now , sadly” , states Gabriel.
The town centre today he feels needs a major review of what property owners wish to do with their real estate – “ we have to find a different way of utilising precious space , would they lease on a sliding scale , take equity in the business concern – look at all the families and people you could house over the first floors of all these shops not being used and the housing crisis?"
The future is bright he is assured – “the assets have never been fully exploited, - Garbally, the Marina, Bridgids, the Greenway, Good housing stock, public transport access, educational, sports and health facilities” , he notes.
He is currently enjoying retirement with wife Noelle and their 8 Grand kids between 8 and 21 , they love their train trips and picnic lunches, they enjoy a lot of the Ballinasloe Active Retirement Assoc. activity programme as active members and he knows “ this is a marvellous community to be retired in."
With his Agricultural prowess he feels there is a major land reusage transformation about to happen “ there is not an acre of tillage, crop or arable sown land between Galway and Limerick – all livestock and a shortage of vegetables, pulses, and grains – not in my lifetime but with Climate Change and people eating less meat – we will see people out working the fields like I did as a child in Tiaquinn” he concludes.
Author and Tidy Towns Heritage Officer Padraig Lyons has relaunched his prized book “Rediscover Ballinasloe and Surrounds”, a publication aiming to highlight the hidden gems and interesting sights within the district.
Padraig began working on his passion project in 2018, finding that there was a distinct lack of literature focusing on the heritage of Ballinasloe. The book aims to be a light read, showing photography of places accompanied by a brief description.
The first edition was released to great acclaim, and completely sold-out from stores last year. The relaunched features a brand-new red sleeve and slightly higher price tag.
“I’m very grateful to BACD and the Ballinasloe Credit Union who sponsored half of the book initially and being a great support” noted Padraig.Available to purchase at Salmon’s Department Store, on their online shop, or at other retail outlets in town at €10 per copy.
The Ballinasloe and District Athletics Club completed one final training lesson prior to their summer break practising their javelin throws, sprints, and more. A highlight of the day included the young racers transferring the contents of one bucket of water to another at opposite ends of the court using a sponge.
“Well done to the coaches who put so much effort into making it such a success despite the weather” commends PRO Dawn Slevin. “We as a club would like to thank the Parents/Guardians for their continued support in helping make our club a success.”
They are looking forward to seeing the young athletes back in September.
Those hoping to join the club following the break can contact them at 087 6769876.
Ballinasloe GAA Gaelic 4 Mothers & Others (G4M&O) has been a driving force in the community of Ballinasloe and surrounding areas since it was begun in the club in 2017.
G4M&O is a Ladies Gaelic Football (LGFA) initiative for women aged 25 & above who are not currently playing competitive football with a club. It was set up to bring women of all ages, backgrounds, and fitness ability together to play Gaelic football in a fun, non-competitive and social environment whilst meeting mothers & others from the local area of Ballinasloe. For anyone new moving to the town or anyone who feels they would like to join a new club to meet more people this is your chance!
Over the years we have been extremely lucky with our coaches/trainers who have generously given up their free time to come and train us. We have many fun outings during the year to other clubs as well as attending the Connacht Blitz and the National Blitz in Dublin as well as social nights out. G4M&O is a unique part of the club as not many other GAA clubs in the extended Ballinasloe area have a G4M&O team and currently we have mothers from surrounding areas such as Ahascragh, Caltra, Taughmaconnell, Moore, Laurencetown, Kiltormer, Aughrim, & Kilconnell.
"Since joining Ballinasloe G4M&O I can honestly say it was one of the best things I did for myself to settle into living in Ballinasloe. I look forward to the training sessions every week. I see it as my hour to get out of the house and go down and play some football with the girls and get some exercise. I have met many amazing girls along the way and I’m so happy to call them friends”, states Laura Howley, Goal Keeper Extraordinaire
“I was hesitant to join at first, being over 50 years old and never having played any team sports before but I'm so glad I took the leap! The team is incredibly welcoming and supportive, and the coaches are fantastic at teaching the game in a fun and approachable way. Not only have I learned a new sport, but I've also made some amazing friends and feel so much fitter and healthier. It's been a great way to stay active and socialize, and I look forward to our training sessions every week. I never thought I'd enjoy playing sports, but Gaelic for Mothers and Others has completely changed that. It's never too late to try something new, and I highly recommend giving it a go! “ explains Una Ní Bhroin – Fearless Forward.
The training sessions are always fun and cater for all fitness levels. We are always looking to welcome new players so if you’re interested dig out those football boots and bring a friend along. They train every Wednesday @ 8:30pm at Teresa’s Pitch, Ballinasloe GAA club.
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