The actual horses whose thundering hooves provide the thrills and spills of the fabled Galway Races are cooling down now, but the impact of the historic event upon the entire region around the mighty City of the Tribes will continue, as always, for weeks to come.
When I was working as a reporter in Galway those weeks of the high summer were ones that I dreaded totally because of all the extra pressures involved.
I was forced to cover the races themselves of course, and I’m not at all interested in the sport, and I still remember clearly that my reality was that, because of the event’s unrivaled popularity, I experienced awful pressures in parking my car when I got back from the racecourse at Ballybrit, even worse trouble (pre-cellphone era) in getting a landline free to telephone my stories back to The Irish Press in Dublin, and then being unable to get elbow room in any of the crowded bars around the city center and Salthill to relax with a pint of Guinness after all my sufferings.
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I still shudder as those memories return down all the decades that have galloped over the Galway Races since then. There was high merriment and excitement, of course, for about everybody else involved.
Moving to the lighter side of that, as is my wont, can I quote a verse and chorus of a lively song written by my gifted songwriter younger brother Mickey MacConnell whom many of you know as the composer of the classic ballad “Only Our Rivers Run Free.”
Mickey also wrote many other great folk songs of the time and this one, which I always rated very highly indeed, is titled “Supermarket Wine,” and the relevant verse about the Galway Races’ outcome for many merrymakers in the throngs he catches perfectly in my view. It goes like this:
“You remember Galway Races and the man in Harris Tweed
Who because he knew your father said he’d do us a good deed
And the horse he put our money on, I’d swear it’s running still
And we were staying in a boarding house and couldn’t pay the bill
And you laughed at me when I got mad and told me not to swear
You said the town is full of Americans, we’ll go busking around Eyre Square/
And we sang ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Galway Bay’ a hundred thousand times/
And the world was ours and I was yours/
And I thought you were mine.”
“There were roadside stops for bread and cheese and supermarket wine/
When the world was ours and I was yours and I thought you were mine.”
Ye who are better than I at finding out more about Mickey and his songs on the hi-tech webs of today can easily find more details of this poignant recall of the Galway Races. Well worth your while too.
Reality intrudes, as is so often the case globally because the opening lines of the last verse reveal that the young lady called from the airport before she caught her plane out of Ireland, said that she was leaving, and he was not to blame. Is that not the way of the world we dwell upon?
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If any of you readers here are planning a maiden trip to Galway and this coast of the Wild Atlantic Way about now, and the statistics reveal that we are already experiencing record surges of tourists and home-comers.
Can I again repeat, at the risk of being boring, my recent strong advice that you appoint one member of your party to abstain from alcohol for the night out, and indeed for the morning after the night before because our drink-driving laws are now among the most stringent in Europe in an effort to sharply reduce the mortality rate on our roads.
Be aware of that please at all times during your stay. I don’t think I need say any more on the subject.
Finally for now, with the racehorses resting themselves, will ye permit me to venture out for a pint or two under the harvest moon hanging over the Shannon. Needless to say, I will leave the car at home when I go out. Slan for the moment!