101-year-old apple grower among participants as Galway prepares to be European capital of culture

Nellie Browne may not only be one of the west of Ireland’s oldest apple growers, but she may also be one of the wisest participants in Galway 2020, the city’s European capital of culture.

101-year-old apple grower among participants as Galway prepares to be European capital of culture

Nellie Browne may not only be one of the west of Ireland’s oldest apple growers, but she may also be one of the wisest participants in Galway 2020, the city’s European capital of culture.

Mrs Browne, who marked her 101st birthday last weekend, is celebrating the art of apples as part of a community project in her neighbourhood of Salthill.

Úlla Buaile, as the project is called, received Galway 2020 funding under its Small Towns, Big Ideas programme.

It involves over 100 neighbours who grow apples in their gardens and plan to plant a community orchard on local authority land.

The community has already “gifted” and planted some 30 fruit trees with like-minded apple lovers in the grounds of the John Paul centre, run by the Brothers of Charity for people with intellectual disabilities in the Galway suburb of Ballybane.

Mrs Browne, mother of five sons, a grandmother and great grandmother, is one of a number of experienced growers in the Devon Park area of Salthill.

She has been baking tarts and making crumbles from her fruit crop since some half a dozen trees were planted by her late husband, Peter, in their back garden in 1965. He died suddenly at the age of 54, leaving her with five young boys to rear on a widow’s pension.

She remembers a horse and cart coming with the trees, and how her sons and friends stopped a football match in the street to welcome the delivery.

“The delivery man was joking, as he knew the kids would think the apples would be on the trees next morning,” she says.

Her son, Conor, who lives with her, said a spreading of potash once a year was enough to sustain the trees – some of which are now so high that the blackbirds are the only beneficiaries of the crop.

Máire Ní Choileáin, one of the Úlla Buaile project’s founders, said photographer Conor Ledwith was invited to record the participants, ranging from Mrs Browne to musician Sharon Shannon.

The youngest photographed was baby Róise McMorrow, in her cradle with an apple.

The photographs were taken over a nine-month period from last winter.

"The idea is to represent the notion of a cycle, ”Ms Ní Choileáin said. “This is a quiet celebration of the tradition of growing apples and of the people who grow them."

The photographs are on display in Salthill’s Engage Studio until this Saturday, October 19.

Mrs Browne said that she has two letters from President Michael D Higgins, to mark her 100th and 101st birthdays, and a silver medal - but hopes for a gold medal next time, especially if Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina call to taste her apples.

Úlla Buaile is one over 70 projects approved in Galway city and county between 2019 and 2020.

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