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Interview: Marie Meets – Michelle Cooper Galvin

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Well-known and much loved photographer Marie Carroll O'Sullivan met up with Michelle Cooper Galvin this week to discuss her career, accomplishments and plans in retirement....

It was a private do at Killarney Town Hall last Friday evening, for the Civic Reception to honour Photographer Michelle Cooper Galvin, which was hardly surprising given she most likely attended and captured every other civic reception over the past 42 years with the Kerryman Newspaper. 

Therefore, it was a must, to catch up with Michelle in the aftermath, over a cuppa at Deenagh Lodge. As a photographer, I had so many questions. I asked but a few, I just listened to the many stories, some of which cannot be mentioned and I hung on her every word.

“It really was a lovely evening Marie. Mayor Niall Kelleher surprised me with his knowledge of my career. It was a lovely meaningful speech. He had really done his homework and even knew that my first assignment with the Kerryman was to attend the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis in Dublin” Michelle began, to which I replied “Perhaps he had genuine concerns in getting it wrong”! I now know how he feels!

“Before we go forward Michelle, lets rewind back a little” I asked. “My parents were Tommy & Maureen Cooper who passed away when my sister Katherine & I were quite young. My late Grandfather Tomas G Cooper, owner of Killarney Cinema and creator of the film 'The Dawn' took care of us and we attended Drishane Convent in Millstreet as boarders. After that, I went to the College of Art in Cork, to study Graphic Design and Photography, before landing full time employment with the Cork Examiner under Editor Fergus O'Callaghan. Absolutely nothing about my job then is the same as it is now. Everything was raw, from the printing of the newspaper to the developing of the photographs” Michelle explained. I thought to myself the maths that goes into balancing aperture, shutter speed, ISO and white balance ever before you create the composition of an image, but to do it without playback, was in my book, impossible and therefore genius!

“I met my husband Dermot and he took me back to Killarney where we were married at St Mary's Cathedral in October 1979 and held our reception at the Aghadoe Heights. Who did I think I was keeping my maiden name and hosting a formal dress, wedding reception?” Michelle joked. “I opened my own freelance photography business in Killarney, still covering some events for the Examiner, until the Kerryman got wind of my existence and I spent the following 42 years representing them all over the county. I had my own dark room at home. Things are so much easier now. For example, right now I can take your photo Marie, connect my camera to my phone through wifi, and email it to the Kerryman within seconds. Back then you'd develop, fix & wash, and if you were in a hurry you'd use a hairdryer to speed up the pace. Captions were cellotaped to the back of each image and you'd send them with the bus driver over to Tralee to be met at the other side. On some occasions, I would stand on the Tralee Road willing someone to pass that'd I'd know, to transfer the urgencies when 'going to print'! It was literally the turn of the century when it changed from film to digital, or perhaps the late 1990's which was really difficult for papers to adapt to. I've never ventured from Nikon. I've moved with the times within technology and have recently purchased my first Z7ii model which is mirrorless, making it lighter and sharper in many respects. I found in the later stages of my career, the photography end of things got easier but the demand for the 'now' was far greater” Michelle replied.

“Outside of the endless change to the mechanics of photography, I'm sure there were many highs and perhaps some lows down through the years. Do you think you could share one or two?” I asked in hope. “For me the Centenary Team of 1984 with Ambrose O'Donovan and Mick O'Dwyer. I travelled the length and breath of the county over a four week period documenting the joy of Kerry football. I have an image of the full team at the Grand Hotel in Malahide the morning of the game, something that would never happen now!” Michelle replied. I got lost in thought imagining how she manipulated her shutter speed for sport with no play back but quickly resumed to interview to hear the lows. “The Kerry Babies and Air India Flight 182 off the south west coast Marie, these were two tragedies I found difficult to cover, particularly because I had a 7 week old baby and an 18month old at the time” Michelle continued. “How in God's name did you cope with the intermittent demand to be everywhere as well as being a new mother” I asked knowing full well, the passion for her work was the driving force. “I was very fortunate that my family intertwined with my career. The job is 24/7 and if the phone rang I had to go and that was it! Dermot and my sister Katherine were a huge support. I could not have done it without them and my kids adapted to my career” Michelle replied.

“Over all the years and the mountains of archives Michelle, do you have any one favourite photo?” I asked (The answer to this question I felt summed up Michelle in a nutshell). “In 1991 Sheen Falls opened it's doors to various opening parties for different clientele, one of which I held an invitation to photograph An Taoiseach Charles J Haughey's arrival by helicopter to the premises. I knew he was rumoured to be close with Fashion Columnist Terry Keane, who waited in line to be greeted by the Taoiseach with her daughter Madeline. I stood behind a potted plant, popping out at just the right moment, before vanishing into thin air. It was a very popular sale for quite some time, and still is” Michelle smiled.

“What has retirement in store for you Michelle?” (who was sitting opposite me, camera in hand). “I am in good health thankfully. I look after it well. I haven't downed the camera entirely and still work closely with St Brendan's College, Killarney Golf & Fishing Club and Killarney Credit Union and I will continue to document the community when I can. I am grateful for the many friends I have made through my work. I most look forward to spending time with my children Caoimhe, Diarmuid & Grainne and my grandchildren Pierce, Kate & Emily who refer to me as 'Shelly'. Munster Rugby has always been a passion of mine and next weekend I am looking forward to taking my granddaughter Kate to her first game in Thomond Park.

The variation of Michelle's work over five decades in photojournalism meant she wore many caps on a daily basis, always knowledgeable of her surroundings, respectful of the situation she encountered, professional and adaptable to what ever she had to work with, but always and ever, the opportunist in 'getting the shot'. Over my own few years in press photography, I learned fast and well from being around Michelle. She could analyse a situation quickly and round up troops in seconds.

I thanked Michelle for her time over a busy bank holiday weekend and was thrilled to capture her the other side of the lens.

“In the words of Frank Sinatra Marie, 'I did it my way'!”

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Three Peaks Challenge to raise funds for Down Syndrome Kerry

This year’s Three Peaks Challenge, organised by Killarney Cycling Club will raise funds for Down Syndrome Kerry. The June 15 event,  the only one day cycle event Down Syndrome Kerry […]

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This year’s Three Peaks Challenge, organised by Killarney Cycling Club will raise funds for Down Syndrome Kerry.

The June 15 event,  the only one day cycle event Down Syndrome Kerry is associated with this year, promises to be a fabulous day of cycling and fun!.

The 100km route challenges the stronger cyclists and the 75km route gives cyclists the chance to become familiar with Moll’s Gap which is part of the Ring of Kerry route.
The cycle sets out from Killarney, heading out the Cork Road. The 75km route (one peak) turns right at Loo Bridge for Kilgarvan and onto Kenmare, while the 100km route, (three peaks) heads over the county bounds to Ballyvourney, onto The Top of Coom and then Kenmare. Both routes continue on over Moll’s Gap, passing through the picturesque Ladies’ View and back into Killarney, where all participants will be treated to a burger and drink at the finish line.

“We will guarantee plenty of laughs and refreshments along the way, there are two routes available; 100km or 75km, to meet all abilities, covering some of the most beautiful landscapes in Ireland. This is the perfect warm-up for anyone thinking of doing the Ring of Kerry cycle this year or anybody looking for a really well run sportive with great craic compulsory,” Chairperson of Killarney Cycling Club, Kevin Murphy.

All cyclists who register online will be entered into a raffle for some great spot prizes kindly donated by our sponsors, winners collecting their prize at the finish line.

Down Syndrome Kerry’s goal is to help people with down syndrome to make their own futures as bright and independent as possible by providing them with education, support and friendship every step of the way.
Funds raised from this cycle will help Down Syndrome to continue to provide vital services such as speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and job coaching to their members.
As Down Syndrome Kerry do not receive any government funding, they are totally dependent on your support to continue to make these services available to those who need them.
You can register for the cycle which is €40 for Cycling Ireland members, €20 for accompanied under 16’s on event master:- https://eventmaster.ie/event/dW04CnGSwV

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BAR 1661 is teaming up with Pig’s Lane for a night of cocktail mastery

BAR 1661, the winners of Ireland’s Bar of the Year 2022, are taking up temporary residency in Killarney’s first underground hotspot, Pig’s Lane for one night only on May 21. […]

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BAR 1661, the winners of Ireland’s Bar of the Year 2022, are taking up temporary residency in Killarney’s first underground hotspot, Pig’s Lane for one night only on May 21.

The dynamic team at Dublin’s BAR 1661, who have recently taken their talents to venues in Sweden, London, and the famous Dead Rabbit Bar in New York, are now hitting the road to Killarney for an epic takeover event.

Staunchly Irish and fiercely independent, BAR 1661 have two goals in mind; to introduce the world to Poitín and lift Irish cocktail culture to fresh heights.
Headed up by their founder Dave Mulligan, the Dublin team will transform Pig’s Lane on College Street for one night only. Since opening just a few months ago, Pig’s Lane has been raising the bar in Kerry with its cocktails, whiskey and wine offering. Kicking off at 6pm, experience a curated selection of Poitín-infused cocktails, featuring a bespoke rendition of BAR 1661’s drinks menu.

The crew will also serve up their unique take on the classic Irish Coffee with their Belfast Coffee, steeped with cold brew coffee, top-quality Irish Poitín, and rich demerara syrup. Guests will be able to chat with the team, get some insider knowledge on how to elevate their own cocktail-making skills, as well as learn insider tips on how to blend flavours to satisfy their own palette.

Two-time World Championship Mixologist and Drinks Development Manager for the O’Donoghue Ring Collection and Pig’s Lane, Ariel Sanecki said of the upcoming takeover: 

“We are very excited to welcome one of Ireland’s leading bars, BAR 1661, for an exclusive collaboration with us here at Pig’s Lane. This takeover is a great opportunity for people to meet with innovative mixologists who will be crafting bespoke creations right in front of them! We look forward to welcoming guests on the night, to what promises to be an epic event, featuring premium drink producers and unforgettable flavours.”

Before the takeover starts, drinks aficionados can join Dave for an intimate Poitín Masterclass. Attendees are invited to explore the diverse landscape of Poitín, accompanied by fascinating insights into its vibrant history and contemporary revival.

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