Ballinasloe Football Club known then as St. Grellan's, was blessed in the 1970's with an abundance of young footballers who went on to win county titles in u-16 (1972), minor ('74), u-21 ('78) and senior in '79 and '80.
The late Mattie Gantly had been doing trojan work for many years coaching the boys of St. Grellan's National School in the skills of the game. The club wisely set up a juvenile committee in 1972, to ensure that these young lads were properly catered for. John Molloy, Chairperson, Tony Broderick, Secretary, and a very enthusiastic committee did terrific work in developing a very deep reservoir of footballing talent.
The 1974 successful minor team travelled to London in April 1975, winning both of their matches against strong opposition. The trip had a real bonding effect on the squad and played a key role in ensuring subsequent victories. Following the winning of the u-21 title in 1977, the club decided to embark on a trip to the United States in 1978, something few clubs in Ireland undertook at the time.
John had worked for four summers in San Francisco in the early '70s and really enjoyed the West Coast far more than his time working in New York. The original idea was that the club would play a game in New York on the way out west, a few games in San Francisco, and one on the way back in Boston. But the cost of flights proved prohibitive, so the club decided on a three-week trip to New York, Hartford, and Boston, with a visit to Washington proving exceedingly popular. A monthly draw was arranged, for shared expenses but each player financed their own trip.
Twenty-three players flew out of Shannon Airport in July 1978, a new experience for all of them as flying was neither popular nor affordable then 43 years ago.
The team played five games, winning four, and drawing one against the fabled Connemara Gaels, New York. Football was extremely strong in the States at that time as there was a lot of emigration.
John added: “The games were tough, and you fought for every score, there were no yellow or red cards then and crunching tackles were part of every game. The Ballinasloe lads were well prepared to take on all opposition and made Ballinasloe and Galway football proud.”
Among the Ballinasloe natives, who were so happy to welcome the team, were Sean Smyth and Packie Reynolds, who had played for Ballinasloe before being forced to emigrate, along with many more from the area, they ensured that the team wanted for nothing and that a wonderful time was enjoyed by all.
The footballers repaid the hosts' generosity by their excellent behaviour and making the Ballinasloe jersey proud on the pitch. An extremely happy, tired and, undoubtedly, wiser band of young men returned home in mid-August after an unforgettable experience.
Get your dancing shoes on, and be ready to jive as new Sean Nós, Old Traditional Céilí and Step Dances are starting up at the GAA Clubhouse, in Brackernagh.
This year the Club be introducing a refreshing but traditional element to the classes. Being part and parcel of the word ‘Sean Nós’ meaning old style, the classes will be teaching some of the original Traditional Céilí and Step Dances such as the Priest in his Boots, Maggie Pickie, The Three Tunes, High Caulded Cap, St. Patrick's Day, and many more great dances.
A lot of these dances began to fade away as Step Dancing ‘stepped’ up so to say and became the dominant force during Céilís. Nowadays, the popularity of these generation-old dances handed down throughout the years is beginning to emerge again in a non-competitive form.
Within Irish culture it is essential that the dances are kept alive and immortalised forever ready to break out at weddings, parties, and musical events - creating great fun for all.
Dancing in all forms is so good for your mental health and wellbeing and as Céilí dancing is low impact it is suitable for people of all ages; all you need is a comfortable pair of shoes!
Registration for these classes is encouraged and will be great for fitness and fun. Registration for children will be held on Tuesday, October 5th, from 5 pm for children, and 7pm for adults of any gender, above the age 18, and over, who are also fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Covid guidelines will also be fully adhered to.
The Club marks a milestone 10 years of activity this year officially but with the 18 month Pandemic gap – they are working out how best of officially mark it !
For further information contact Martina Flanagan by dialling (087) 900 7036 or contact Bridie at (087) 216 8436.
Originally from Buncrana, Co Donegal, Patricia Flynn moved to Taughmaconnell 10 years ago.
With a strong computer background, she studied various courses including Office Information Systems, ECDL, Advanced ECDL with Computerised accounts and Windows Operating Systems. Patricia graduated with a JEB Teacher Trainer Diploma before the eligible course age, making her the youngest person to successfully complete this course in Ireland.
She recently studied Microsoft Office Specialist in Athlone I.T. attaining the highest accredited certificates in Microsoft Office; becoming the first person ever in Athlone I.T. to successfully complete all 7 course modules achieving the Microsoft Office Specialist Master certification.
She now has decided to setup a Computer Training Company in Ballinasloe named Login IT Training.
She will offer a range of courses suitable to individuals of all levels from The Study Centre, Marina Point, Ballinasloe.
She offers small class numbers to ensure a comfortable learning experience and a relaxed environment. All courses are exam free and progress at the rate of the students’ needs whilst ensuring the students complete the necessary skills to carry out essential everyday tasks on their computers and devices.
The Study Centre provides students with Laptops for use in all classes, Free on-site Parking and use of the Canteen/Kitchen facilities.
Courses are currently available from €180. Private group or individual lessons can be quoted for on request.
Courses for the winter season include Computer Applications, Computer Fundamentals, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word.
If you or anyone you know is interested in enrolling in these courses, please log on to www.studycentreltd.com to book.
If you have any queries about any of the courses or want to chat about your bespoke training needs contact Patricia at 086 3342003 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Valerie Thorington Former President of the Agricultural Show and indeed former national Director of the Irish Shows Association, took some time over the lockdown to do some decluttering of her late father’s papers and books and fascinatedly came across a 1920 Autobiography of one Joseph Tatlow.
Of a Train family, the Railway Gazette published his witty and reflective memoire in 1920 after he rose to the position of Director of the Midland Great Western Railway and served a member of the Dominions Royal Commission 1912 – 1917.
Chapter 14 reflects his first visit as Manager to the Fair in 1891 and the railways role .Thackeray the famous travel writer commented that Ballinasloe Fair where cattle and sheep assemble in greater numbers, than at any other livestock fair in the United Kingdom upto the Napoleonic Wars.
“On the first Monday in October, 1891, to a special train of empty carriages run by the Midland from Dublin for the purposes of this fair, a vehicle, called the directors’ saloon was attached, and in the chairman of the company, most of the directors and the principal officers travelled to Ballinasloe, there to remain until the conclusion of the fair at the end of the week.
The saloon merits a word or two. It was built in the year 1844, was originally the property of William Dargan, the well-known contractor and the promoter of the Dublin Exhibition 1853, whose statue adorns the grounds that front the Irish National Gallery.
Ballinasloe fair has two specially big days – Tuesday and Friday – the former devoted to the sale of sheep and the latter to cattle, though in fact its commerce in cattle, sheep, horses, pigs, calves, rams and goats, not to mention donkeys and mules, goes on more or less briskly throughout the whole week, Saturday being remnant day when jobbers spick up bargains. For a hundred years ago, in Peggy O’Dowd’s time, in the west of Ireland it was the great event of the year, not only for the sale of flocks and herds, but also for social gatherings, fun and frolic, so at least I am told by the oldest inhabitant. An older account still, says these fairs were a time for games and races, pleasure and amusement, and eating and feasting, whilst another record describes them as places “where there were food and precious raiment, downs and quilts, ae and flesh eat, chessmen and chess boards, horses and chariots, greyhounds and playthings besides.” It is curious that dancing is not mentioned, but dancing in the olden days in Ireland was not, I believe, much indulged in. Eighty years ago over 80.000 sheep entered the fair and 20.000 cattle.
Arrived at Ballinasloe we established ourselves in quarters that were part of the original station premises. These consisted of a good sized dining room.
In the creature comforts provided at Ballinasloe the working staff was not forgotten. Adjacent to the station as a large room in which meals were provided for the men, and another large room was furnished as a dormitory. Two long sleeping carriages had also been built for the accommodation of drivers, guards and firemen, which were used also for other fairs.
Ballinasloe was never new to me, and I felt not a little anxious concerning the working of the fair traffic, which I knew was no child’s play, and which I was told was often attended with serious delays. Early on Tuesday morning I was awakened, long before daylight, by the whistling of engines, the shunting of wagons and the shouting of men. My friend Atock and I rose early, went along the landing banks where we found the work in full swing and one special train loaded with sheep ready to start. The entraining of sheep, not so difficult or so noisy a business as the loading of cattle, is attended with much less beating of the animals and fewer curses; but there was noise enough, and I can, in fancy, hear it ringing in my ears now.
Throughout the day I was besieged by grumbling and discontented customers: want of wagons, unfair distribution, favoritism, delays, were the burden of their complaints, and I had to admit that in the working of the Ballinasloe fair traffic all was not perfect. The rolling stock was insufficient; trains after a journey to Meath not Dublin with stock had to return to Ballinasloe to be loaded again, which was productive of much delay; and what added to the trouble was that everyone seemed to have a hand in the management of the business. It gave much to think about. Before the next year’s fair I had the whole arrangement well thrashed out, and when the eventful week arrived, placed the working of the traffic under sole control of my principal outside men, with excellent results.
Under Thomas Elliott’s management, the work at Ballinasloe has for many years been conducted with clock-work regularity.
In 1891 there were 25.000 sheep at the fair, 10.000 cattle and 1.500 horses, and the company ran 43 special trains loaded with stock. The sheep fair is held in Garbally Park, on the estate of Lord Clancarty, and the counting of the sheep through a certain narrow gap, and the rapidity and accuracy with which it is done, is a sight to witness.
The hospitality part of the business was attended with the success deserved, and helped to smooth the difficulties of the situation. I remember well our dinner on the Tuesday night. On the Monday we dined alone, directors and officers only, but on Tuesday the week’s hospitality began. That night our table was graced five or six guests, one being Robert Martin, of Ross, a famous wit and raconteur, and the author of Killaloe.
Another delightful guest was Sir George (then Mr.) Morris, brother of the late Lord Morris, the distinguished judge.
Whilst Sir Ralph remained chairman of the company, which he did until the year 1904, the directors annual stay at Ballinasloe and its attendant hospitality continued. But time inevitably brings changes; for some years now the old hospitality has ceased, the rooms at Ballinasloe are turned into house accommodations for one or two of the staff, and the great fair is worked with no more ado than a hundred other fairs on the line. Not many complaints are made now, for delays and disappointments are things of the past. Yet I dare say there are some who, still attending the fair, look back with regret on the disappearance of the good old days”.
By Johnny Johnston
The Great October Fair evokes many emotions and memories for the people locally. For me it always brings to mind the heritage of ballad-singing and street entertainment. Balladeers have graced the streets of our town for the October Horse Fair for many centuries. They were important conveyors of local and national events and, indeed, were often employed to sing the praises or spread ‘fake news’ about contenders during elections.
They often used wit and subtle offence to decry the foreign forces of the state and the penalty for singing seditious songs in public was often six months in prison. Selling of such ballad sheets, or broadsides, could incur a similar penalty. Initially the charge was obstruction of pedestrians and, as the balladeers tried to circumvent the law by peddling their songs while standing on the street instead of the footpath, the law was amended to include ‘obstruction of equestrians’!
Many balladeers were known to stand in the gutter, much to the ire of the ‘Polis’, and thus avoid prosecution. They were also adept at carrying a bundle of straw and selling a few ‘tráiníns’ for a penny while offering the broadside as ‘a token of appreciation’!
Many of the older ballads make reference to Ballinasloe as a location in their lyrics. This is, no doubt, as a result of the fair and its strong association with the travelling community. Songs such as ‘Nancy Miles’, ‘The Tinkerman’s Daughter, ‘The Great Big Roamin’ Ass’, ‘The Fair in Bellaghy’, ‘A Sailor Courted a Farmer’s Daughter‘ and, more recently, ‘Rosie Reilly’ come to mind. Travellers were the keepers of tradition in terms of music, song and folklore for centuries and a great debt is owed to them. Indeed, their recent recognition as an ethnic group was long overdue. The tone of the traveller’s singing voice is distinct, unique and cannot be replicated.
Of course, complete songs extolling the virtue and beauty of Ballinasloe are many and varied. Local historian Tadhg MacLoughlin had two of his own fine ‘Ballinasloe’ compositions included in his ‘Songs and Ballads’ publication in the 1970’s. Our own Lee Lynch had a hit with ‘Ballinasloe Fair’ as did Brendan Shine.
The following song, ‘Nice Little Jenny from Ballinasloe’ appeared in printed form in a chapbook in Co. Waterford in 1835. I first heard it from a noted Dublin balladeer, Loke Cheevers, in the Góilín Singers Club in Dublin many years ago. It was also recorded in 1947 by Seamus Ennis of the Irish Folklore Commission, and later by the BBC, from the singing of Elizabeth Cronin, Fuhirees, in West Cork. It is also included in ‘Irish Street Ballads by Colm O’Lochlainn. The style is a simplified form of the traditional bardic compositions.
‘The Wonders of Ballinasloe’ is another fine ballad to be found in James N Healy’s ‘Old Irish Street Ballads’. No doubt the exhibition of first class pedigree stock at Ballinasloe Fair was foremost in the author’s mind.
The song ‘Ballinasloe’ is included in the comedy opera ’My Lady Molly’ by Sidney Jones and was first staged in Brighton in August 1902. The song is very much in the ‘stage Irish’ mode and is sung by an Irish manservant named Mickey! While the opera was a huge success at the time, the inclusion of this bawdy piece certainly exemplifies attitudes towards Ireland and the Irish at the time. Presumably Ballinasloe was a random choice!
It is not generally known that the song ‘Old Ballymoe’, made famous by Dessie O’Halloran, Miko Russell and Cathy Jordan, was originally titled ‘Ballinasloe’. In October 1940 Pete McNulty, of the McNulty Family in New York, took this very old ballad, changed a few of the verses, renamed it and recorded it as ‘Old Ballymoe.’ The original song begins with:
‘In the county Roscommon in sunshine and rain,
My pockets were empty, my stomach the same,
I met a colleen and says she, “Do you know
The shortest short cut into Ballinasloe’
and concludes with:
‘The roads they were long and the roads they were narrow.
I loaded this cuckoo into a wheel-barrow.
The wheel-barrow broke and she stubbed her big toe,
So, I carried her home into Ballinasloe’
There was an inference in this final verse that the lady in question may have been a patient from the then Ballinasloe District Asylum and, out of respect, the song was altered.
The politics of a nation are recorded in libraries but the social history of strife, joys, love and local events are recorded in its songs. Ballinasloe has many such songs of local heroes, factions, street leagues and colourful characters. Will these songs be lost? Who will maintain them as a living organic tradition? That issue has surely been addressed by Ballinasloe’s Singing Circle that has been in existence now for 15 years, took a break before COVID and we’ll see what the future holds.
While lockdown may have lulled our creative impulses there are still some who have used their time well to continue the old tradition of crafting ballads. One of these is our living musical legend, Bobby Kilkenny, who has composed this lovely nostalgic ballad of simpler times. Téann an dúchas ó ghlúin go glúin. Thanks Bobby. When you get ‘The Noble Call’ at the next seisiún we look forward to hearing your rendition in good company.
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