‘Ranks’ – A New Exhibition by Limerick City Archives


Ranks – A Limerick Industry (Exhibition)

The Limerick City Archives in collaboration with the Hunt Museum has launched a unique exhibition this evening (Tuesday) on the former Ranks Flour Mills titled Ranks A Limerick Industry.  This exhibition is a collaboration between Limerick City Archives and the Hunt Museum and is based on the stories, memories and contributions of former Ranks workers and their families.

Ranks Flour Mills and grain ships were a crucial part of Limerick life over a span of several decades and it’s legacy provides an excellent example of life and work in Limerick’s recent past.

Through interpretative panels, installations, photographs, documents, industrial equipment and memorabilia the story of the working and social life of the Ranks workers is told. The exhibition will run from 13th March – 31st May 2012 at the Hunt Museum on Rutland St.

The acquisition of the Limerick Mills by Ranks in 1930 was hugely controversial as Ranks was a British company. However the company grew to the biggest or second biggest flour mill in the state during the Emergency. The mill gained further profitability during the 1960s but in the 1970s the company began to lose market share as Ireland’s accession to the EEC opened up the Irish flour market to cheap imports.  Rank eventually closed in 1983.

An Oral History Project was organised with the assistance of Mary Immaculate College, staff and students. Through a series of interviews Limerick City Council sought to record the experiences of those employed by Ranks.

City Archivist, Jacqui Hayes said “Over the past year Limerick City Council have conducted a series of oral history interviews and received material from former Ranks workers including an old wheat shovel, an old bastible for baking bread, a clock that was a given as a retirement present & even a high Nelly bicycle!”

Ranks reached into every home in Ireland with its products and advertisements. Its marketing strategy and brand awareness made it a recognisable household name. Traditionally Ranks was regarded as a good place to work, one that paid good wages, even contractors or casual workers were relatively well paid.

From an early date the Shannon Mills offered their employees benefits that few other workers locally or nationally received including the introduction of a pension scheme in 1947.

Tony Clohessy, a former employee remembers, “It was a happy-go-lucky place. Industrial relations were very good compared to other places a lot of companies around town were bad- never strikes there-everything was negotiated- the management contributed to the atmosphere- it was all first names unless you wanted it otherwise…Ranks was different- a pleasure.”

Future plans for the Ranks story are already in place. The City’s Archives commitment is to not just to record and preserve the people’s history but to bring our heritage to as wide an audience as possible. Alongside the publication of a book- the archives are opening a website dedicated to Ranks history and in co-operation with the Hunt Museum will host an exhibition dedicated to the Limerick Mills.

For more information or to enquire about guided exhibition tours, school workshops and lunchtime lectures please contact The Hunt Museum contact the Hunt Museum on +353 61 312833.

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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Archives, Uncategorized


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Apt Apps for Book Lovers

When looking at your reading habits of late, chances are there is a sizable balance between reading the page and screen. The same can be said of your writing habits – be it sitting in your armchair with your laptop or notepad or else on the bus or train and typing a few lines into an app on your smartphone to keep safe for when you get home.

In fact, if you look around on your morning or evening commute (perhaps not you drivers – keep those tired eyes on the road) you will see more and more people glued to the screen of their kindle, ipad or smartphone. Well, for all the bibliophiles among them, there must be something worthwhile that is keeping them from picking up and carrying around their latest paperback or hardback volume. Interestingly, it is not just reading a book or news that are a primary function of these devices as they are becoming much more active and indeed an everyday part of the routine of a reader and/or writer.

There are literally thousands of apps that are very functional and practical for book and word lovers as well as the growing few that are simply just good fun. I have included a selection below of some of the best, most useful and also just good for passing some time on that commute. These are, of course, a tiny fraction of what is out there so if there are apps you use and swear by for all about the written word and e-reading and writing then leave a comment and join in the conversation.

  • Kindle App – Android, Iphone, Ipad (Free)

Perhaps the king of the e-book/e-reading revolution, this allows you to take your kindle library on-the-go on your smartphone. Very functional and a handy substitute should you leave your Kindle at home or forget to charge it.

  • Ibooks – Iphone, Ipad (Free)

As you would expect from Apple, this is a slick and good looking, user friendly e-reading app. Allows you to purchase and download to your device and read on the go. As with most of these types of apps (smartphone, ipad, tablet etc) there is a backlight that can tire the eyes

  • Aldiko – Android (€2.99)

E-reading device app that allows for adjustable font type, size, colour and line spacing. Download directly from online store direct to your phone or tablet – a good android alternative to ibooks.

  • Bookcrawler – Iphone, Ipad ($1.99)

A great app for the book anaoraks. It allows you to create your very own personal library catalogue. Using your phone or Ipad 2 camera you can scan the book barcode and Bookcrawler will generate the relevant catalogue information. You can add tags, collection information, custom fields and decimals (to note the location of books in a personal library). There’s also an option to link it to a book in the iBooks, Kindle, or Stanza apps, and you can even mark a book that you’ve loaned out. Simples.

  • Audible – Android, Iphone (Free)

A much loved and widely used app that makes listening to digital audio-books on the go a doddle. It’s layout is easy to navigate and also includes chapter navigation, annotated bookmarks, sleep mode, stats (who doesn’t love stats?) One pity is you can no longer download direct from your phone but Wifi transfer from your computer-based Audible account works well. Put on your headphones and enjoy.

  • Dropbox – Iphone, Ipad, Android (Free)

One of the great file storage and docu-portable apps that allows up to 2 gbs (Free!) of storage. You can sync across devices that you have Dropbox added to so you can write in your phone, view it on your tablet and email it from your desktop. Life A.D. (After Dropbox) is so much simpler.

  • Evernote –  Android, Iphone, Ipad (Free)

Another app that, like Dropbox, you can sync across multiple devices, you will never be stuck when out and on the move when inspiration strikes. Write directly into Evernote and save for access later. A great feature allows you to record and save audio notes and photographs via your phone’s camera directly into the app. Another real beauty of this app is the organisation it allows, start various ‘notes’ for various stories or chapters or ideas, or even the shopping list.

  • Goodreads – Andoid (Free)

A solid all-rounder. Goodreads allows you to scan book barcodes to catalogue and save your library, to always have your personal library catalogue with you. You can search across Google and Amazon for prices, reviews and ordering. Build your own profile and join in groups. Good reads is very good.

Just for Fun:

  • miTypewriter: The Amazing Typewriter App – Iphone, Ipad ($3.99)

The most expensive of the apps shown here but just great fun! This is a good old-skool typewriter gone digital. There is just something about that font and type that makes want to nip down to your granny and beg for that typewriter buried in the attic.  Your typed master pieces can be emailed for printing later. All you are missing is the ‘clack’ and ‘ding’ of the real thing.

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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Books


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‘Over the Edge’ – New Writing in Galway

Over the Edge public reading

Over the Edge public reading

A quick croissant and a coffee is just about enough to keep Kevin Higgins seated long enough for what would be a really insightful account of not just teaching writing skills through the Galway based Over The Edge group but also of writing and publishing in Ireland. He dashes from one class to another with an hour to spare in between. As someone who has given just under two-hundred individual sessions to writers and students of all levels over the past year, he is in a prime place to know how emerging writing and writers are doing.

This Thursday (19th January) marks the ninth anniversary of the Over the Edge writing group based in Galway. Set up as an initial idea by his wife and fellow published author, Susan Millar DuMars, the group gave their first public reading in January 2003. It occurred as a response to the few platforms and lack of forums for emerging writers in Ireland. The idea was simple: three readers (one established and two emerging) a reading time of fifteen minutes each (no exceptions) and then an open-mic for others to throw their literary hat into the ring.

The system has served them well with a consistent and loyal audience that always attracted newcomers at each public reading who embraced the democratic nature of the whole thing: everyone had a voice and a story to tell. Higgins outlines, “Susan and I had no real end plan for this when we set it up. It was to give writers and audience alike a forum to challenge the hierarchy that can be evident in Irish writing circles. There were a lot of closet writers with potential and we wanted to make the development and public reading setting a lot less reverential, less like Sunday mass. There can be questions and challenges.”

For the rest of this interview with Kevin Higgins of Over The Edge click here to see it on

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Posted by on January 19, 2012 in Books


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A Closer Look – Drawing Dublin’s Theatres

When you walk past a theatre do you ever stop and take a moment and really look at the building? Is there a particular way a theatre should look? If there were no signage would you instantly know you are outside a theatre? It is an interesting question. Perhaps to truly get a sense of what the facades of Dublin’s theatres form and represent you have to create your own images of these buildings. That is exactly what Kate Brangan did.

“I am a graphic designer and illustrator from Dublin. The theatre drawings were undertaken for a self directed project I did last year. I have worked in the design industry in Dublin for three years and when my most recent job ended last year after the company I worked for went in to liquidation, I found myself looking for work. A three month freelance contact with the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival was advertised and the idea blossomed from there”. Abbey_pic“I was aware that the role was a coveted one I wanted to apply to the position with a unique CV, so I decided I would draw each of the theatres listed on their website (16 in total) and create a booklet that would also display the drawings. Motivated by the deadline that the Festival applications had to be in by, I took a rare sunny evening out last June and cycled a full circle of the city, visiting 13 of the 16 theatres. (I visited the remaining three at different times as they were in the suburbs.) I spent a bit of time at each theatre, taking photos from all angles before cycling on to the next.”

“The reason I mention this at all it that I really want to share what an amazing and enjoyable way it was to spend an evening in Dublin. I have lived here all my life but never before have a reason for such a diverse journey around the city in a concentrated amount of time and one which also forced me to take a proper look at this range of buildings in such a small space. Cycling down through Gardiner Street from The O’Reilly Theatre, to then find myself in the grounds of Trinity taking in the beautiful structure of the Samuel Beckett Theatre within the same 30 minutes was a really refreshing experience! It made me look at my city in a whole new light and this is in turn made me really enjoy and love doing the drawings all the more.”

Talking with Kate there is an obvious sense of an artistic quality and appreciation for the aesthetic qualities of these theatre buildings. Brangan openly admits she has not had a life-long relationship with theatre but explains how the experience opened up some of the spirit and atmosphere that is unique to each theatre space. “I just think it is quite funny how things work out because at the time I considered it (getting the advertised job) crucial and was devastated when I didn’t get it, but the process that got me there, doing the drawings, making the booklet etc. turned out to be much more beneficial in the end. I decided I enjoyed it so much and was pleased with the outcome that I decided I did not want to leave it there. In order to remove the association of the drawings from my failed attempt to get the job, I decided to add in two extra theatres, that were not on the original Festival list, which are in fact my two personal favourites, The Grand Canal Theatre and The Olympia Theatre and from there made up a batch of booklets which I brought down to the Winding Stair Bookshop on Ormond Quay and also to ‘Article’ in the Powerscourt Centre and the booklets of drawings sold out completely.”

“I did surprise myself by realising just how much I enjoyed taking in all the varied detail that the theatres possessed. It would excite me when I arrived at each theatre to find it was in complete contrast to the one I just left, the repetitive horizontal brick work of O’Reilly, the vertical slats of Samuel Beckett, the grand structure of Newman House compared to the humble townhouse on Pearse Street, also to then have so much brickwork involved in the city based theatres compared to the modern structures and angles of the suburban ones. It was just so interesting to be able to pack so much detail into such a small publication. Each theatre has their own unique history and story, and what I think I really love about them is that this is something that is almost unique to theatres. They are all included in the booklet under this umbrella term of theatres but each building is so unique and a stand-alone structure in itself.”

To view the images from Eighteen Theatres please visit Kate Brangan’s website by clicking here

Contact and order details for work by Kate Brangan can also be seen on her website

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Posted by on November 11, 2011 in Abbey Theatre, Theatre


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Spotlight on Galway for Theatre Festival 2011

Galway Theatre Festival. Image by Paddy D'Arcy

The Irish theatre spotlight falls fully on the West this week as the Galway Theatre Festival has just kicked off. Already with an opening day with sell-out productions under its belt and with many more to follow, Barry Houlihan talks to Director of the Galway Theatre Festival, Ròisìn Stack to discuss the growth of the Festival and what the audience can expect from this festival feast.

Galway native Ròisìn Stack has been associated with the Festival since her days as a performer with Fregoli theatre group in the inaugural festival. Now, as Festival Director, Stack has, since she came on board in 2009, worked and overseen the expansion of the Galway Theatre Festival. The Galway Theatre Festival started in 2008 and featured four days back-to-back of shows in Nun’s Island. In the second year, the Festival expanded into the Town-Hall studio and produced a five day Festival run and has expanded every year since.

To get a festival of this size and variety moving and with momentum, the idea of a festival ‘by the people and for the people’ is very much key to the ethos and spirit of the Festival.

To read the full interview with Ròisìn Stack on click here.


Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Theatre


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Bluepatch Productions: Talking Theatre with Artistic Director Aoife Connolly

Aoife Connolly

Bluepatch Productions staged one of the hits of the 2010 Galway Theatre Festival with their play Memory Palace. Now, with the Festival once again upon us, Artistic Director of Bluepatch Productions, Aoife Connolly, meets with Barry Houlihan to discuss their new work and their aims and focus as a company.

Rushing from an evening rehearsal session to make this interview you can tell Aoife Connolly is in full Theatre Festival mode. For this year’s Festival, Bluepatch Productions are staging their latest work Chasing Butterflies. This will be staged in collaboration with Dragonfly Theatre, In the Garden. As Artistic Director of Bluepatch, Connolly outlines how the company came about and in what direction their hopes and aims are focused.

“Bluepatch started as an idea during my M.A. in Theatre Directing in U.C.D., but starting my own company was always part of the plan to be honest. I was a working actress before I decided to undertake the M.A. and before deciding to focus on directing.  I had always felt I was missing out on something or not contributing enough to the creative process. Becoming a director allowed me that opportunity to shape and create my own work.”

To read the rest of this interview on click here


Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Theatre


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“The Brothers’ Lot” – a novel by Kevin Holohan

“For all the kids who never got a chance to answer back” reads the dedication in The Brothers’ Lot, the debut novel from Kevin Holohan.

Set in Dublin sometime during the 1950’s or 1960’s, this was a time when Ireland and its social, moral and physical attributes were not so much guided as forcefully pushed into being by the byword of the Catholic Church. Constitutionally and personally, those in charge handed the most vulnerable and needy of children into hands that were most certainly unqualified to care for them. Such was the life for the children-turned-inmates for the school for “young boys of meagre means” run by the Brothers of Godly Coercion and housed at the dead-end of Greater Little Werburgh Street, North.

Holohan’s depiction of life behind the walls and fences in this school is devastating while also darkly comic. It is a world of tally sticks, novenas, Latin grammar and rote-learned lessons doled out to the children via the leather strap, a fist or a boot as much as they are through the considered teachings of the Brothers. At times it can read with shades of Mannix Flynn, Frank McCourt or Flann O’Brian. It is no direct memoir, but still a fictional account of a world all too familiar to those who were schooled in Ireland at this time.

The Brothers range from those who are closet alcoholics, to those who are more blatant sadomasochistic and to others who disturbingly eat the very words of profanity they ripped from books in a sort of act of cleansing and also censorship. Always the threat of violence and also abuse hangs over the school, never more evidently than when Brother Moody arrives and takes up a post, having come from a post in DrumGloom IndustrialSchool.

The imagery skilfully wrought out by Holohan echoes so much of how Church teaching – and misinterpretation of this teaching, coupled with inefficient monitoring from State bodies allowed such systems to remain in place in these schools and also residential schools. The school building itself is a crumbling wreck, symbolic for the Catholic Church as a whole, left without maintenance it has fallen to rack and ruin – physically, spiritually and morally. As was declared toSt.Peter: “Upon this rock I shall build my church” – On Greater Little Werburgh Street, North, this ‘rock’ was condemned before the school was even built. The band of workmen who came to ‘inspect’ the property were ran-off the premises in a frantic panic by the Brothers in case they prevented the school from cashing-in on ‘miraculous events’ and other interventions by the spirit of the order’s founding Brother; the Venerable Saorseach O’Rahilly.

Holohan’s prose is delicately arranged and he always in control of the tone and level of anger expressed. The book is no anti-clerical rant and Holohan never allows to be a personal crusade but rather an expression of the mood of the nation in trying to grasp an understanding of what happened to so many of the country’s youngest citizens.

Saying all this, the Brothers’ Lot is also genuinely hilarious in parts. Holohan’s characters, from the children to the exasperated janitor do highlight that humour and wittiness of the soul is not so easily extinguished. Finbarr, the Cork boy who moves to Dublin to this alien world with his family is, often like the reader, looking at life inside such schools for the first time. Holohan also highlights a touching reference to those girls who also suffered in residential laundries and I believe readers of all ages will take much away from reading this story. The Brothers’ Lot is a delightful book that will raise laughs, tears and grimaces from readers, and all in quick succession. It was submitted for the Guardian First Fiction Award and is published in paperback by No Exit Press.

There is an interview with Kevin Holohan on here and there also copies of The Brothers’ Lot up for grabs.


Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Books


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Walking with Magdalens – “Laundry” at the Dublin Theatre Festival.

Laundry - Anu Productions

Laundry is the latest site-specific work from Anù Productions and features as part of this year’s Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival. Barry Houlihan witnessed this historic play that takes place behind the doors of Dublin’s Magdalen Laundry.

‘Sanctus’. The word is cast in elegant stained glass over a doorway that leads to the inner chapel of the Magdalen Laundry on Seam McDermott Street. The ‘Santcus’ is a song of praise to God and to his angels that in the order of the mass is sung  just prior to the consecration – the act of true faith in the mass. For the thousands of women who walked under this word every morning and evening of their lives spent in the Magdalen Laundry, it offered little respite or comfort.

Laundry is the latest work by Dublin based theatre company Anù Productions. Formed as recently as 2009, the company has quickly proven to be a phenomenon of Irish theatre; staging radically powerful works while specialising in site-specific areas.  While far from a being a ‘play’, this performance is testimony to the stolen childhoods and stolen lives of the ‘Maggies’ who were forced to endure life inside the walls.

To read this review in full from please click here

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Posted by on October 6, 2011 in Culture, Theatre


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Tale of the Tape with Aonghus Òg McAnally

Fight Night, a new one-man play written by Gavin Kostick and produced by Rise Productions is currently on an 18-venue tour of Ireland. The play’s star Aonghus Òg McAnally talks to Barry Houlihan and on how Fight Night came to be, on shaping new work in Ireland and how for Dan Coyle Jnr, he faces the fight of his life.

What outlines someone as a boxer is much more than physical strength. As any follower of the sport will tell you, it is brains over brawn that counts. The cagier fighter will come out on top. Boxing is a solo sport, no one else to rely on in the ring, no one to back you up against the tide of force coming your way. On arriving at Galway’s Town Hall Theatre Aonghus Òg McAnally talks with Barry Houlihan and about the last year in the life of Dan Coyle Jnr and Fight Night.

To read this article in full please click here

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Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Theatre


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Staging Society – Revolutionary Texts at the Absolut Fringe

For those who may have missed it, this post was published on last week in the run up to the ‘Revolutionary Texts’ series of readings and discussion at the Absolut Fringe Festival.

As part of this year’s Absolut Dublin Fringe Festival, a particular series of events is looking at plays that struck a chord with the political and social systems of their times.  The “Revolutionary Texts” series will feature readings of a series of Irish plays from the late 1980’s and 1990’s that are political and directly socially reflective in nature and which today are capable of provoking as much debate as they did when they received their first production.

The programming in the Absolut Fringe programme is right on the nerve of current trends of social discussion and investigation. This is, after all, now the Ireland where economists are the new house-hold names, top-of-the-bill speakers and best-selling authors. Morgan Kelly drew a sell-out crowd at the Kilkenny Arts Festival and Fintan O’Toole spoke to a packed and hushed Town Hall Theatre in Galway in November last year. David McWilliams toured his Outsiders from the Abbey Theatre to various theatres around the country.

For the rest of this article see the ‘Centre Stage’ section of here.

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Posted by on September 28, 2011 in Theatre


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