Monday, July 25, 2016

"Riders upon galloping horses" - Galway Races from the Archives

Cover of programme, Galway Races, 1969
An evening at the Galway races over a century ago inspired the poet W.B. Yeats to write a poem especially to mark what he had experienced. Written at the home of his friend and collaborator, Lady Augusta Gregory, Coole Park, in county Galway in 1908, "At the Galway Races" sums up the spectacle, passion and revelry that the unique annual Galway race meeting brings. There is also a series of watercolour sketches by Jack.B Yeats which depict various scenes from the Galway Races, race meetings, horse and trade fairs in the West of Ireland dating from 1900 and which are on display in our Archives and Special Collections Reading Room.

At Galway Races
There where the course is,
Delight makes all of the one mind,
The riders upon the galloping horses,
The crowd that closes in behind:
. . . .
Its flesh being wild, and it again
Crying aloud as the racecourse is,

And we find hearteners among men
That ride upon horses."                                  

Within the archives of the Hardiman Library is a race card from the centennial meeting of the Galway Races. The 1969 meeting marked 'a century of racing at Ballybrit' and in particular, its centrepiece event, the Galway Plate. The programme includes a note on the history of the races written by Christy Townley, then Librarian of the Hardiman Library, U.C.G., as the University was then known. 

The runners and riders for the centennial plate race are listed - thirteen listed starters in all. The prize money is detailed and the distance noted as being "two miles and about five furlongs". The owner of the race-card lists the placed finishers with the winner of the 1969 Galway Plate being "Royal Day", owned by Mr. P. Dunne Cullinan and trained by P. Sleator. (there is no evidence that this racegoer had the winner backed!)

Entrants in Galway Plate, 1969
Also of note on the back cover of the programme is a tip for "an essential for Galway Week . . ." and being "a credit or deposit account with Tote Investors (Ireland) Ltd." Hopefully that 'credit account' did not grow too large. 

Happy race-going to all!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

French Playboys of the Western World

As the build-up begins to the awarding of the designation of European Capital of Culture, a look into the archives reveal endless cultural exchanges between Galway, its people, place and of course culture and the continent. In 1984, La Baladin du Monde Occidental (The Playboy of the Western World) a French translation of the iconic play written by J.M Synge, was produced in Galway by a French theatre group - Théâtre du Pré Perché, a theatre group from Brittany. The play was produced at the Jesuit Hall in Salthill, a venue also used by other theatre groups such as Druid Theatre Company on various occasions.

A further French production of 'Le Balladin' and a programme for which is within the Druid Theatre Company archives at the Hardiman Library, NUI Galway, is a production by 'Théâtre des Treize Vents', the national dramatic centre of the region of Langeudoc-Roussillon, based in Montpellier. The programme contains numerous articles on the history of the play, information on the culture and history of the West of Ireland and a biography of Synge.

In 1896, Synge had a chance encounter with the poet and dramatist, W. B. Yeats, who gave Synge the now famous advice, which was to give up Paris and go to the Aran Islands. "Live there as if you were one of the people themselves; express a life that has never found expression." As well as the volume of essays published by Synge in his "The Aran Islands", the infamous 'Playboy' was born from that trip and as can be seen in these images, brought the wild stories of Christy Mahon to the French  language.