t. elizabeth renich

author of historical fiction

Microfilm & Memories at the Galway Library

Friday, 28-Jan-2011

Before I left for Ireland, I e-mailed the Galway Library and made contact with them, explaining what information I was hunting for and when I would be there.  Maureen, the lady I’d traded e-mails with wasn’t working that day, but she’d left word and Mary, Peter, and a few others were on hand to help me out with the materials I needed.  Bernadette, bless her, handled making copies of handouts and selected book pages…

At the microfilm machine, I could make my own copies.  Just line of the image within the margins and presto – the equivalent to our 11×17 ledger-sized paper.  We started with June 1963 editions of the Connaught Tribune, a couple of weeks before President John F. Kennedy was scheduled to make his appearance in Galway, and read through to the edition published the week after he’d been there.  The pages offered some pertinent and fun details – like when the residents had to have their cars off the streets prior to the presidential motorcade and how many pounds it cost to purchase a new black and white television set.

While scrolling through the microfilm reel, a gentleman approached me and introduced himself as Peter Rabbitt (No, not the Beatrix Potter character).  Peter was actually there the day that President Kennedy passed through, his father’s establishment, Rabbitt’s Bar, was along the route the motorcade followed through town.  Peter, who was six years old at the time, and his brothers looked on from a 2nd story window while President Kennedy passed by on the way to Eyre Square, where he received Freedom of the City and gave a short speech before heading on to the Seapoint Resort at Salthill.  I was honored that Peter would share his stories and recollections with me.

We had lunch before heading to the Galway City Museum, near the Spanish Arch, where we were able to watch a video of complied footage – both newsreel and home-movie style – of JFK’s visit.  Bernadette and I walked back to Eyre Square and matched up some of the photocopy pictures with what is there now to put into visual perspective where the stage would have been, where the Browne Doorway stands – almost directly across from what used to be known as the Great Southern Hotel – and determine which buildings standing now would have been in existence in 1963 (most of them,  just some have different names now).

Kenny’s is a book store and art gallery that has been in business since the 1940’s.  It is no longer in its original location, having outgrown the space, but it’s someplace that I want to include in my story.  Just for fun, we went to see the place and I ended up getting a book about Galway there.  I’d already ordered “JFK in Ireland” by Ryan Tubridy online – and had them ship it home to me.  That way, I didn’t have to try to pack it in  my carry-on.  It weighs 2.5 pounds all by itself!

A box that I had shipped to Bernadette two weeks before I left for Ireland still had not arrived (in fact, it didn’t arrive until a week after I’d come back home).  Therefore, we were missing the graham crackers needed to make s’mores.  Colm is mastering the art of roasting marshmallows…  Bernadette and I stopped to do some shopping at the Tesco in Oranmore, but the closest we could come to graham crackers was something called “Digestives” – which didn’t sound appealing, but were an almost suitable substitute.  Close, but not quite.  Leonard, Colm, Bernadette and I did the best we could with what we had to work with.  You pretty much can’t go wrong with Cadbury chocolate, so it was all good – with the white marshmallows, NOT the pink ones.

Colm put on a video of a championship hurling match that he played in, to show me what his sport looked like in action.  It reminded me of lacrosse, hockey, and soccer – combined, sort of.  Never a dull moment.

Later that night, I had a sinking feeling that something was going wrong with my camera – or at least my memory stick – because there were numbers missing in the jpeg sequence.  A lot of numbers missing…  I somehow lost in the neighborhood of 200+ pictures.  All of Bunratty Castle was gone, all of the Galway sites we’d seen the day before, including the sports grounds – and the photos I snapped of our s’mores…  Bernadette comforted me by telling me she knew of a camera store in Galway where we could stop and get another memory stick – and we’d probably have enough time to re-take some of the pictures on our way to Clifden, which was better than nothing.  Thankfully, I would at least have my postcards to remember Bunratty Castle by…  disappointing, certainly, but not devastating.

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Author of the Shadowcreek Chronicles


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