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Flan Garvey who has retired as Clare Champion parish Notes correspondent in the Inagh area. Photograph by John Kelly

Man of note hands on baton to next Inagh correspondent

AFTER five decades of reporting the news from Inagh, Flan Garvey has handed on the mantle of notes correspondent and is just beginning a well-earned retirement. 

A retired school principal, Flan has been at the heart of local news and notes for almost 50 years. He was Inagh’s very first notes correspondent, after spotting a gap in The Clare Champion’s coverage in the early 1970s. 

“I was a very young, enthusiastic teacher in the parish and joined the staff of Gortbofarna National School in 1965,” he outlined.

“In 1973, I started at the national school Inagh and was there until I retired. I was an avid reader of The Champion and noticed that some areas had notes and details of local events. I approached Frank O’Dea, the editor at the time and Flan Galvin, the owner, with a view to starting the Inagh notes. They said, ‘Yes, by all means’ and it took off from there. I suppose I wanted to put Inagh on the map.”

Gathering notes and news week in, week out, is no small feat. Being a notes correspondent, a highly-respected position, means keeping an ear to the ground.

“I suppose there are a lot of different ways of collecting notes items,” Flan said. “I’m a life-long mass-goer and there’s a lot of information in the announcements and, in more recent years, the newsletter. Details of weddings, funerals and other events are very important as is all of the news from the local GAA club.

“I was one of the founders of the camogie team in 1977, so that also added to the range of activities to be included. So, between news of sport, church items and local get-togethers, there was always plenty of material. As a notes correspondent, the secret is to keep your ears open.”

The importance of local notes in regional papers is something that Flan continues to be passionate about.

“Older people, in particular love the notes. If they can’t get out, they can still keep up to date with what’s going on locally,” he said. 

Among the highlights of Flan’s long contribution to The Champion was the Brían Ború March, a fundraising walk all the way from Inagh to Clontarf.

“It was a fundraising event involving Inagh Development Association, The Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) and Clontarf GAA Club at the other end. We were led by the late Donncha Ó Dúlaing, who was a wonderful leader and motivator.

“The walk was in three legs and I was one of those who went the whole way. We raised a total of £33,000, which was huge for the time. We called it the Brían Ború March because of the connection to the High King of Ireland, even though Inagh is a bit of a stretch away from Killaloe. That event gave plenty to write about and we’ve also had major events like the memorial and commemorations at Crowe’s Bridge to Martin Devitt who died in the War of Independence.”

A man ahead of his time. Flan, pictured in February 1999, as a county councillor, pointing out the solar panels which provided some of the alternative energy for his daughter, Una, and her family. A wind-powered generator is at the side of the house.

Getting the notes in for the weekly Monday deadline was also something that Flan took a disciplined approach to.

“I would normally set aside a bit of time on a Sunday evening to jot down the headings,” he said. “You’d always have news from attending, Mass and the pub and people appreciate getting items into the notes, especially tributes to relatives who might have passed away. On Monday, I’d make sure to have the notes in by midday, because if they were too late, they might’t get in and then people are disappointed.”

The annual Clare Champion Christmas Dinner has, in pre-pandemic times, been another highlight for correspondents. “You’d get to meet people from all over the county, and it was always a very enjoyable event,” Flan said. 

While the notes focus on local events, they are read far and wide and that’s another thing Flan is conscious of.

“The Inagh notes could be read in parishes across Clare and as far away as Dublin and even New York, because people living overseas love to keep in touch with home and to know what’s going on,” he said.

‘Nowadays, the paper is accessible everywhere. I was talking to my cousin who is 90 the other day, she’s Mary (Cotter) Keyes, the mother of the writer Marian Keyes. She told me she still gets all her news from the notes and there are many people who do the same.”

Flan has filed his last set of notes, but has mentored a successor to keep up the tradition.

“Michelle Moroney, Principal of Doolin National School has taken over the Inagh notes and I’m confident she’ll keep up the standard and do an even better job, she’s living locally and her first set of notes has been perfect,” he said. 

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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