Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Update 21st October

 Harry O’Connor of Ballinameen. All-Ireland Senior Football Winner 1943.

I very recently re-read the Ballinameen GAA History and re-visited the reputation of some former great footballers from that club back in the thirties and forties. The three stand-out players then were Harry Beirne, Paddy Kenny, and Harry O’Connor. Harry O’Connor is usually spelled without the ‘O’ but his sister insisted to her son Pat Cooney, decades ago, that the ‘O’ was also very much part of his name. Those three nominated players were part of the good Roscommon junior team which got to the Junior All-Ireland final of 1932 having beaten Cork in the Semi-Final. They lost the final to Louth. The Ballinameen trio would have come to the attention of selectors after winning the 1931 junior championship defeating Athlone (!) in Murray’s field Roscommon town. (Another member of the 1932 team who I got to know well in Castlecoote was Father Tomás O Láimhin brother of John Joe Lavin. A name that always rings a bell with me is Carlos and there was a Ned Carlos prominent with Ballinameen at this time). Ballinameen won the Junior again in ’34 the Golden Jubilee year of the GAA. Both Kenny and O’Connor are welcomed back to the Ballnameen team in early ’35 so they must have missed the ’34 win. Keep in mind the fact that there were only Senior and Junior championships until the late sixties and the junior championship was a really tough contest. Also, top players in Junior clubs were often head-hunted to reinforce good senior teams and this explains the reason why Kenny and O’ Connor might have tried their senior luck with neighbouring senior teams. It was also a better show-case for Senior county team selection. It crops up again in the forties when the Ballinameen team is absent and Paddy Paddy Kenny played with Mantua and Harry played with Boyle in the championship. If I was ever aware of this, I had forgotten about it. 

Both Harry and Paddy were members of the emerging Roscommon team which won their first Junior All-Ireland in 1940 defeating Westmeath with Harry in his favourite position of centre-back and Paddy Kenny at wing forward. Paddy retired from inter-county football after the defeat by one point to Galway in the senior Connacht Final of ’41. Harry was there with the panel in ’42 and ’43 when Roscommon finally won the Senior All-Ireland Final defeating Cavan in a replay. That Harry was not playing at centre-back is understandable as Roscommon had one of its greatest ever players in that position i.e. Bill Carlos of Ballintubber and Tarmon.

Roscommon had defeated Galway in the Connacht senior league of ’42 after which Harry, a veteran by now, is credited with the remark that; “We have won something senior at last”. Harry was still there with the Breedogue team towards the late forties. Harry was said to be “one of the most fearless defenders in the game and he always put his whole heart into it”. He continued to follow the game through the fifties. In family folklore, he was referred to as being a friend of a connection of mine Willie (Bill) Heavey from Fuerty a member also of the ’43 Roscommon team.   

He was employed as a ‘ganger’ with Roscommon County Council. I was told that he was engaged to be married to a lady from west Roscommon but on Christmas Eve 1957 he was involved in a car accident and though he recovered for a time he declined again and died in June (?) 1958. His death at the age of 44 was an occasion of great grief for his family the Ballinameen community and Roscommon GAA. At the Connacht championship match on the Sunday of his removal to St. Attractra’s Church the two teams and the estimated 10, 000 supporters stood in silence for two minutes as a mark of respect for this fine and popular Roscommon footballer. He is buried close to the gate in Caldra cemetery and his burial place is marked by a fine Celtic cross. 

His sister Mary was married a Garda Cooney who was stationed in Ballinameen. Then and they transferred to Granard. Harry had two brothers Pat and Jimmy who also played with Ballinameen. Harry was represented at various Roscommon events in later years, commemorating that great team of the forties, by his nephew Pat Cooney, a gentleman, from Granard and latterly Shankhill, Co. Dublin. I got to know Pat a little over the years and was very saddened to hear of his death late last year.  I only heard about that a week or so ago. 

So Harry with the Royal appendage of O’ to his Connor will not be forgotten in his native Ballinameen or for his contribution to the great Roscommon team of the 40s’. 

[Hopefully, I can explore the life and times of Paddy Kenny at some future date. I have a faint memory of seeing him and hearing him play the fiddle/violin in the then Kelly’s Bar in Ballinameen in the early seventies not long after me coming to North Roscommon in ’72.]          


Monday, October 12, 2020

Update 12th October


Back a couple of months ago we thought we had it beat but it came back with a vengeance. Now the challenge is there again and it is on our doorstep. So hopefully we as a community will stay the course and do the necessary to stem the tide. And it is certainly a tide in places like the Donegal border areas and Northern Ireland. The third level institutions are really a major issue right now and when the guard is let down it can jump in and create mayhem. The Elphin example is a lesson to us locally.

GAA Response… ‘Disappointing’.
‘Disappointing’ in the GAA context of today introduces me to one (of a series) of words I used in a different life like alliteration, onomatopoeia, simile with the classic being metaphor. ‘Disappointing’ in this line-up might be regarded as a ‘euphemism’ which is really a very mild understatement for something much more serious.  

 If the Covid 19 directions meant little or no personal contacting or hugging and the classic social distancing, then there were many and obvious GAA examples of this being ignored. The front runner of an example of this was following the Dungannon victory in the Tyrone Championship. It was joy unconfined that evening. Rarely have I seen such a celebratory expression of joy at a victory. (Perhaps after Clare won their All-Ireland in ’95.) That was on the pitch. One can only try and imagine what it was like when the ritual celebrations followed in the H.Q. bar of the Club. Apparently Blackrock the winners of a classic Cork county hurling final v Glenn Rovers Sunday had extravagant celebrations which flowed from social media. I have been told also that when Mountbellew-Moylough dethroned Corofin in the Galway Semi-final it was similar.

 It was not always so this summer season. The first final I watched was that of Wexford hurling and at the conclusion of the game it was a pretty muted if satisfying response. I think that may have been in the total lockdown period with no supporters present. Also a real template as to how it might be done was at a top Galway double header in Pearse Stadium. After the first game was over stewards tried to get the spectators for the first game to exit while the quota for the second game entered. How that worked is hard to know but the spirit of compliance was in place.

I have not seen much o.t.t. celebration in Roscommon. St. Brigid’s responded with a body language that suggested that they were confident of victory and were looking to the future. Their Intermediate ladies did however show an unhealthy exuberance in their celebrations after they defeated Boyle in Ballyforan. Recently in passing the Abbey Park where a junior game was in progress the number of cars in the neighbourhood suggested a ‘crowd’ exceeding the acceptable.

So it seems as if you just cannot play team games like these and pretend that ‘social-distancing’ exists and that the mantra of health guidelines is adhered to.

An odd contradiction emerged for me when watching a rugby match on television Leinster v Saracens. A couple of medics attended to an injured player all masked up and covered in protocol. Then, after the stoppage, the thirty players ripped into each other as if it was an experiment in Covid 19 distribution. As Doctor Spock used say ‘Not logical’.   

Shane Curran struck a blow for the concerned when he, the manager, absented himself from the Offaly County ‘B’ Final in which his team Durrow was involved and there were some Covid issue connections to his team. This was a small personal strike for individual care. An early rule was if you find yourself uncomfortable in a particular environment then get out of there.

It is a big pity as the streaming and Television coverage of games this summer was a great success for the cocooned and there many examples of great games with plenty of drama. It is all a learning process I guess.

The recent highlights came from Galway and Queens University in Belfast. The numbers in the 26 counties is very unnerving but those in Northern Ireland they are alarming. That cursed border, in so many ways, seems to be a penance from history for this small island.

So follow the rule if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck it is a ……. Get out of there.     

President Trump and that circus.
I’m back with my oft used exclamation of Victor Meldrew “I dooon’t believe it!”. The cliché with this is; ‘It would be mad funny if it wasn’t so serious’.

Well the past couple of weeks in Washington have been pure theatre. It is hard to have an appropriate title for the kind of ‘theatre’ it was, Macabre perhaps! Trump strode through as the cameras clicked and spectators watched open mouthed. Many applauding the ringmaster and many more just open-mouthed in disbelief.

I stayed up for a time for the debate but just couldn’t take any more. You may recall times when you are watching someone to whom you have no earthly connection but you get embarrassed for them. That whole debate as a unit was an embarrassment to the level of discourse in the United States and many of its citizens must have sensed that. As I have said before; how a great country, which has achieved so much and produced so many branches of arts and culture, cannot consistently have top grade candidates for the primary position in the country i.e. President, just depresses me. This, in fairness, isn’t that hard to do right now!

Trump, for reasonable people, by my code, is just their worst nightmare. Joe Biden looks like a weak opponent and a percentage of the U.S. electorate will reluctantly vote for him because they just cannot vote for Trump. I watched Mister Biden giving an address at Gettysburg (location of one of the great battles of the American Civil War and a famous speech by President Lincoln) yesterday (earlier this week) and he gave a good speech calling for unity of purpose and healing. There were many quotes from the classic original Abraham Lincoln speech so that had to be a big help. 

For my education I have tuned into the competing news channel the pro Trump Fox News and the opposing CNN. They show the polarised state of play there. The drama of Trump being hospitalised, giving his video messages, the outrageous motorcade to salute his supporters, his theatrical exit from the hospital …just incredible stuff. Then the comments about Coved and downplaying it with utterances not to be afraid of it (after 200,000 plus U.S. deaths) and so on. ‘Unbelievable’.

I presume that Rd. Sean Conley cannot be as dumb as the utterances at the ‘press briefings’. He sounds more like a ‘spin doctor’ than a top specialist.   A question; why does it take up to nine other doctors to accompany the one spokesperson at those briefings?

While supporters of Biden wear furrowed brows all of Trump’s spokespeople, many of them quite young, carry a visage of smugness and overbearing confidence with a ‘bring it on’ attitude. Many of them have brought it –Coved illness- on themselves and their boss has to take a lot of the blame for that. While all this was unbelievable drama, the probability is that it will continue for the next month and maybe more. The test will be November 3rd. But whatever way it goes it is not guaranteed to be written in stone either. So take an ‘abundance of caution’ in how you anticipate the great U.S.A. negotiating this strange time for their country. A country that impinges on us all which is why I am so engrossed with it.   

Television Watch and ‘University Challenge’
I presume I am not alone in watching more television than normal. What do I watch? You may not have asked but I’ll mention a few programmes. The one show I consistently make time for is ‘University Challenge’. It is not that I can answer many of the questions but it has a structure and lightness that appeals to me. It is also a team challenge which distributes the responsibility. The original quizmaster was named Bomber Gascoigne while today it is Jeremy Paxman. From early days it achieved cult status. From time to time an Irish student turns up on teams as with a Wicklow girl, Miss Clarke, last Monday night (Oct. 5th) for Edinburgh and one’s curiosity and support anchors there. Last April a Conor Mc Mel from Dublin was on the winning team, Imperial College London, which defeated a Cambridge College. The classic intro of ‘Starter for Ten’ was the title of a film which illustrated the prestige and background to the quiz-with a twist- and its participants. For students it is a real prestige C.V. reference.    

The Chase is now hugely popular as is ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’, 15 to 1 with Anne Robinson and finally the General Knowledge section of Mastermind is worth a shot if you are ‘into’ quizzes to a decent degree. A few days ago Ray D’Arcy had Shaun Williamson as a guest and he is a quiz anorak with his book ‘A matter of Facts’. While they can be addictive they are a great source of general knowledge. I always remember my great friend John Mac Nama when I reference quizzes. He was a master. It is odd that RTE does not have a regular quiz show. Years ago it had ones like ‘Rapid Roulette’, ‘Where in the World’ and for schools a very popular one called ‘Blackboard Jungle’ which a very good team from St. Mary’s College gave good shots at in the 80s’.   

Ray D’Arcy Show and Recording Grandparents
Whilst I do not listen to Ray much I did yesterday for a time while walking and he popped in a decent idea which came his way. It came from a listener who regretted not being able to hear his grandfather’s voice and stories. The listener suggested that people might record their grandparents (even their parents!) for posterity. Everyone has a unique voice and when that is stilled it cannot be replicated like photographs and such. I have experience of this in that I ‘taped’ my own mother in the early 80s’ (she died in 1984). The reason I taped her was to send the tape to my brother in Perth, Western Australia. I prepared for the task by writing a ‘script’ for her to speak into my microphone and this she did clearly. Following this I talked to her for a good length of time about whatever with her not knowing that I was still taping. I sent the tape top my brother in Oz and he was delighted with it. But …I made a mistake…I did not keep a copy of it! I regret that of course and when I asked my brother about it subsequently the regret was enhanced it was lost with him.    

Documentaries …Notorious RBG.
One could watch any strain of television programming all day if one wished but I am not an addict and I am a night owl in watching respect. Netflix is a pretty recent outlet for me. The early days of Covid cocooning was signposted in T.V. terms for me by a classic sports series involving the great American basketball player Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls. I seem to remember that I mentioned and recommended ‘The Last Dance’ documentary at the time.

About a week ago, on Netflex, I happened on another very different icon the Notorious RBJ (Ruth Bader Ginsburg). You may remember her death a few weeks ago on Sept. 18th in Washington and of her being the first lady to lie in state in the Capitol. She was a member of the U.S. Supreme Court and was only the second lady to achieve this accolade. She was a brilliant law student and a liberal member in a generally conservative and hugely influential branch the U.S. Government. The three branches of which are The Legislature comprising the Congress and Senate; second is the Executive comprising the President and his ‘ministers’ and the Courts, especially The Supreme Court. These branches are meant to act as a balance on each other but often they hobble the work of each other. Two years ago a Brett Kavanagh was nominated (after a struggle) to the Supreme Court and Trump hopes to have a second nominee Amy Coney Barrett –a Catholic- nominated before the election. This will reinforce the conservative numbers in the Supreme Court. It was in the Rose Garden of the White House for an introduction of Coney Barrett by Trump to his foremost supporters that the Covid allegedly took off. You may have seen (especially from U.S. news shows) a picture and nomination of up to a dozen who got the Coved then.

If you are a Netflix person you could do worse than tuning into the documentary on RBG as I can in no way do justice to her here.

Censorship in the Free (!) State
RTE 1 Tuesday Nights at 7 ‘Cosc’ which translates along the lines of ‘BAN’.

Well ‘Cosc’ focuses on morality in Ireland and the strident efforts to enforce a Catholic ethos in how people lived their lives. A big plank in all this were laws which introduced a broad raft of censorship on various forms of public diversion. These covered Books, Newspapers, Music and Cinema. It also extended into the ‘Ban’ on material of a very personal nature.

  The first programme in the series dealt with the extraordinary effort of a priest in Mohill, County Leitrim to Ban… Jazz. Now it was Jazz in a broad sense which would have included other music and dance. On Tuesday last the show dealt with censorship which had been introduced in the Free (!) State circa 1927. Many of Irelands greatest books were ‘banned’ as a result. Most people will be familiar with the notification of films being for various age groups ‘A’ etc. and the film censor’s names being scribbled at the bottom.  The film censorship Act came into being at the beginning of the State in 1922. The idea behind all this censorship is that Irish people would not be contaminated by film or written material especially if it were of a sexual nature.  A great promoter of this was Archbishop McQuaid of Dublin from 1940 until 1972. Mc Quaid had enormous political influence in his time and sexual material was a special taboo with the Cavan born cleric. Was it Gay Byrne himself who suggested that there was no sex in Ireland before ‘The Late Late Show’.    


One of my favourite songs;
These can change from time to time. A while ago it was Linda Ronstadt and ‘Across the Border’ but recently it has been ‘Forever Young’ written by the great Bob Dylan. There are many fine interpretations of the song including Bob himself. My favourite interpretation is by another of my favourite singers Joan Baez. One of my regrets is that I did not go to Dublin to hear Joanie (as Dylan used to call her) about four years ago. Anyway I regularly have her singing this song from my laptop You Tube. I have some very good reasons to link into the lyrics also. So I recommend you listen to it a few times to absorb the sentiments. 


Forever Young written by Bob Dylan sung by Joan Baez

May God's blessing keep you always

May your wishes all come true

May you always do for others

And let others do for you

May you build a ladder to the stars

And climb on every rung

May you stay

Forever young

May you grow up to be righteous

May you grow up to be true

May you always know the truth

And see the lights surrounding you

May you always be courageous

Stand upright and be strong

And may you stay

Forever young

Forever young

Forever young

May you stay

Forever young

May your hands always be busy

May your feet always be swift

May you have a strong foundation

When the winds of changes shift

May your heart always be joyful

May your song always be sung

And may you stay

Forever young

Forever young

Forever young

May you stay

Forever young

One should not leave a reference to great songs this week-end without mentioning that if John Lennon was alive now he would be aged 80 as he born on October 9 1940. He was shot on December 8th 1980 nearly forty years ago by a Mark David Chapman. It was one of those great artistic tragedies and with it surfaces the eternal question, ‘What if?’

John was responsible for the song which was voted at some stage as ‘the greatest of all (popular) songs’ i.e. ‘Imagine’.                                      


End Note
It has been a number of weeks since I posted to the blog. A good deal has happened since then and there were a number of items that I meant to mention here but looking at the word count in the bottom corner I better adjourn for now. You are taxed enough especially if you have reached HERE.

Take extra care at this dangerous time and if you are not comfortable in an environment …walk away.


t. c.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Update 20th August

‘A Nation Holds Its Breath’

A few weeks ago I felt that I had heard this sentence much too many times as the television gurus rehashed for the umpteenth time the Italia 90 soccer story. 

These last few days we can issue the phrase in a very different context. That is in relation to the upsurge of the Covid 19 virus again. Another phrase comes to mind that of… 'I haven’t gone away you know'. We were getting kinda smug with ourselves when looking at the numbers as some people do and Roscommon was doing pretty well after the debacle at the Kepak meat plant was apparently controlled. Now though we see major outbreaks again at meat plants in Kildare et al but also the disconcerting sprinkling of cases throughout the country.

I really feel that an air of complacency had set in. I believe too that the loss of Dr. Holohan has been significant. He had the tone and presence of a headmaster about him and he was highly regarded and influential. His successor Dr. Glynn seems much too polite when assertiveness is needed. 

Another key element was the political changes. Varadkar and Harris were a very effective duo. Varadkar always seemed to ensure that a clear -all in block capitals- messages were expounded. Michéal Martin has dithered and not been decisive. While a coalition of three parties is certainly a very difficult team to manage, the Taoiseach has contributed to his own lack of authority with a number of mistakes from the off.  

Also, the messages on certain elements have been muddled. These include a policy regarding holidaying abroad. The infamous ‘Green List’ did not help in this. One day when listening to a radio discussion on this topic (in the background) I got really cheesed off with people wondering could they go abroad or not. In all this, the Government/HSE policy was enunciated as advising people pretty strongly not to go abroad but to staycation at home. Callers found this simple yet profound message hard to take on board and a certain number travelled etc.

Now if I advised someone clearly not to do something and they asked me to clarify it again and again I might get annoyed!  

THEN I read of a Glasgow Celtic player taking a night trip (it seemed like) to Spain in contravention of all the guidelines set out by his club and HSE Scotland and Prime Minister Sturgeon. I put this down to a good overpaid footballer who just lacked a good deal of brain matter for delicate off-field decisions. And then, lo and behold, as they say, this weekend, I read of the Chairman of Fáilte Ireland no less, Michael Cawley had returned from a trip to Italy. I sent a tweet apology to the Celtic player. Then in the last day or so Mister Cawley gets a vocal ally saying;  

“The reputation of former Fáilte Ireland chair Michael Cawley has been “traversed” and Ireland is entering a “period of hysteria”, the chair of the Oireachtas Covid-19 committee has said. Independent TD Michael McNamara said it appeared to him that Mr. Cawley did not breach travel advice. (?)

Mr. Cawley resigned his position on Saturday after he admitted to holidaying in Italy at a time when Fáilte Ireland is strongly encouraging Irish people to stay in Ireland for their holidays.

“I read the travel advice three times yesterday and it’s very unclear to me whether he breached the travel advice or whether he didn’t,” Mr. McNamara said.

***However, the Department of Foreign Affairs continues to advise against non-essential travel overseas.

Regarding the word “traversed” the deputy seems to have found a new role for it. My Google dictionary has the usual suggestion of; moving in a particular direction 

My attention has also been distracted by the goings-on at a Bar called Berlin D2 where a video has gone viral, as they say. Apparently, it is not licensed as a bar perhaps a restaurant. All the relevant organisations have responded, as they say again, ‘appropriately’. Their vintner business took a hit there. It was pretty crazy and how a venue, even if for self-preservation, did not see the dangers of it is mind-boggling. 

Simple lesson; alcohol and social-distancing are not compatible. 

There is now a suggestion that stiffer restrictions will be introduced maybe more so on the elderly. As far as I can see the elderly seem to be playing by the rules as the stats are beginning to show. It is now down to a much younger age cohort. They will be much more difficult to keep housebound unless they are going to a ‘house party’. 

It seems as if the senior people are now made pay for the sins of others.    I’ll leave it at that. I could go on, and on and… 


Boyle through to Quarter Finals with Sparkling Display 

Boyle has had three games to date in the Senior championship. In the first game, they were both lucky and unlucky in their game against Padraig Pearse’s. There they let a 12 (?) point lead be eroded and the game ended in a draw. There were many fine performances in that game and getting a draw there was still a good result. 

The less said the better of a ragged performance versus Tulsk in their second game. It prompted Ian Cooney Sports Editor of the Roscommon Herald to ask, prior to the third game; ‘Will the real Boyle stand up?’. And boy did they do that on Saturday last with a scintillating display against Michael Glavey’s. It was a beautiful evening and conditions were perfect and Boyle played champagne football for most of the game. It was the most relaxing I have been watching Boyle for some time. The last time I was that comfortable was when Boyle defeated Clann na nGael in St. Faile’s ground  by a big margin last year.

On Saturday the team played with great pace, great variety in their passing. The passes were crisp and fast. The All Blacks backline couldn’t have passed better. They looked really fit and Glavey’s were mesmerised by the speed and supporting play of the Boyle team. 

In terms of suggesting who played well that is difficult as no one played in any way poorly. Man of the Match for me was Donie Smith with a magical display of all the skills which was a joy to watch. The opposition could not cope with him. The backs as a unit were excellent and drove forward with determination, ball control, cohesion, and speed. Roch Hanmore turned back the clock somewhat with a fine display of top-class fielding. Sean Purcell was his usual self, hoovering up so much ball. It was great to see the spread of scorers with nice points, two from Mark O’Donohoe, -including a fisted point which I always like to see- and Tadgh Lowe. There was the starting introduction of a young player who will, I believe, be a real asset to Boyle for many years to come. Cathal Feely looked like a veteran with a fine mobile and assured contribution. 

I am not certain who Boyle will now play in the quarter-finals but it looks like a team from one of; Clann na nGael, St. Croan’s, or Elphin if they defeat Ml. Glavey’s. That game I hear is listed for Boyle this weekend and it is also to be streamed. Streaming is a real positive innovation and the quality is top-notch so if you have not tuned into this you are really missing out. Set it up also for senior family members who might not be masters of modern technology. Tune into Roscommon GAA on the laptop and take it from there. I presume former Boyle players abroad like Seamie Gallagher and Ciaran Conlon in Oz, Tadgh Egan in Canada and Darren Dockery in The Gulf area are tuning in. Let me know what you think lads!  

 Boyle will now be touted as one of a very narrow number of favourites. While Pearse’s might improve to something like last year’s form the side that is making the real waves is Western Gaels. 

Anyway for now the Boyle performance of last Saturday is one to dwell on and savour in the memory bank.

P.S. The current Covid trajectory might have a say yet though if the GAA does not play by the rules. I am told that the ‘crowds’ at some games look well in excess of the mandatory quotas. This kind of creep could be the undoing of the process. Also at games, the social-distancing rule is not getting the respect it deserves. Face masks at games….hello!  

World Championship Snooker

It must be more than twenty years ago since I last really watched snooker on television. Late last week I began to watch snippets and I was hooked. There were two really edge of the seat semi-finals.

The first one was between Kyren Wilson and the Scot, Anthony McGill. Both were on level terms with 16 frames each going into a deciding frame. I’ve copied and pasted a sports account of that final frame here;     

      “The frame lasted 62 minutes and set a new record for the most combined points in a single frame at the Crucible, 103–83. After fluking the match-winning ball, Wilson became emotional, and apologised to McGill. He later commented, "I didn't want it to end that way, I have dreamed of this situation and I didn't want to win the match on a fluke." McGill commented, "I feel as if the match was stolen from me – not by Kyren [Wilson] but by the snooker gods". The 1991 champion John Parrott commented on the deciding frame, saying "I have never, in 44 years of playing this wonderful game, seen a frame of snooker like that. It was unbelievable”.

The second semi-final between Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Selby was not quite so dramatic but had a brilliant ending. Selby led by 16 frames to 14 with O’Sullivan cracking the ball around the table with his last shot of that session as if to say that he just had enough of it all. He came back and ran off the 3 great frames necessary to win with magical snooker.

So the 5 times world champion O’Sullivan (the ‘pocket rocket’) faced Wilson in the final. It started with O’Sullivan looking like he was going to win easily but Wilson came back to leave the half time just 10 to 7 for O’Sullivan. Wilson came back on Sunday afternoon taking the first frame so 10 to 8. But a re-energised O’Sullivan then ran off the following 8 frames to win convincingly by 18 to 8. He thus joined Steve Davis and Ray Reardon on 6 World Final wins with only Stephen Hendry on 7 on his own. The commentators could not enthuse more about the quality of O’ Sullivan’s win and put him out as the greatest snooker player ever.

Interestingly two Irish men were doing the commentary of the final, Dennis Taylor and Ken Doherty. Tyrone’s Taylor won his title in a memorable black ball finale, 18 v 17 match over Steve Davis in 1985. I still remember watching that in the Ceili House Bar a good deal after closing time! Ken Doherty defeated the great Stephen Hendry 18 v 12 in ’97. Hendry was going for his 7th final win and six on the trot but Ken scored a convincing victory. Hendry did get his record 7th win a few years later.   

Television Documentaries

Shoulder to Shoulder with Brian O Driscoll

I watched this last night - Monday. It was a repeat showing and while I imagined that it might be a bit saccharine it dealt with a complex interesting topic which was an All-Ireland team and its survival. The team in question is the Irish rugby team. The team down the decades has been inclusive of players from the whole island of Ireland. It has included all religions and none. It has encapsulated all political persuasions from nationalists to died-in-the-wool unionists. Through the programme Brian interviewed quite a number of former internationals and household names from down the years. He particularly honed in on the dual, almost triple, nationality of many Ulster players and examined how they felt playing for Ireland. This entailed standing regularly for the Irish National Anthem in Lansdowne Road now the Aviva stadium. A number of the Ulster players were members of the R.U.C. and one an officer in the British army. The general sentiment with them was that their love for rugby trumped all else on the days of international games. Politics was hardly ever touched on. The great rugby captain Willie John McBride gave considerable time to Brian and brought him into the centre of Belfast and showed him his banking place of work. He spoke of the many bombings and of having to escape his work building as the bombs went off in the immediate vicinity.

O’Driscoll then visited the north around the 12th of July and went to the village of Loughgall. There he met many rugby supporters all dressed up in their Unionist marching attire and quizzed them on their allegiances and the seemingly contradictory support of a 32 county All-Ireland team. They were very hospitable and seemed to have no problem with putting the square peg in the round hole. They had no problem supporting trenchantly the Irish rugby even if they were playing England. They saw themselves as British/Northern Irish and also Irish on occasion. Then a test for Brian when he was invited to don a Lambeg Drum and give it a few lashes. He knew he was walking on ice with this.  

Another testing incident was when a number of Ulster players on their way to Dublin for training got caught up in a bomb ‘incident’ on the way down. The bomb killed a judge (the real target) and his wife but the three rugby players were injured and just lucky to be alive.  

Amongst the very positive elements to this documentary was the access to the Ulster players. 

It was also helped by the understandable confusion of O’Driscoll himself to the Ulster Protestant Unionist contradictory affiliation to an All-Ireland team of any sort.  

I presume you can stream it as it may not be aired again soon. It was top class, provocative and thought stimulating. One little glitch; how is it that the great Mike Gibson is never seen being interviewed. He was the gold standard for me in the sixties and early seventies when I played some rugby myself and was amongst those who founded East Connacht later the Carrick –on-Shannon rugby club. 

See O’Driscoll’s documentary if you can at all.  

P.S. On Tuesday night there was another good documentary on the soccer football life of John Giles who played for Manchester United and Leeds from the late sixties to the mid-seventies. The physicality of the time was something else especially with Leeds v Chelsea.   

The Great John Hume.

‘Some men are born great and others have greatness thrust upon them’. I feel that John Hume incorporates both sides of this equation. After his death, there was a considerable and understandable amount of material written about Mister Hume. I don’t feel competent to add anything of value to the discourse other than to say that he was one of my heroes. It is something that if I was to note down six of my ‘heroes’ that the majority of them would come from Northern Ireland. John Hume would probably be number one with the under-rated Seamus Mallon and  Seamus Heaney also present. It is something that two of those won the Nobel Prize, one for peace and one for literature with both going to the same secondary school St. Columb’s. I regret that I did not take or make the opportunity to meet John Hume. I could have gone out to Keadue in 2001 when he opened the O’Carolan festival there, but didn’t. There is a phrase that one should not meet their heroes. I disagree with that very much. When in Derry once around 2007 I called to his house but he was away in Donegal at that time. 

He went to Maynooth for a time. On his return to Derry, he got involved in bringing the Credit Union to Derry which began his community involvement. 

Derry was dominated politically by the minority Unionist political machine enabled by political gerrymandering of the most insidious kind. They regarded the Catholic nationalist community as not just a second class citizenry but much lower than that. Its parallels were South Africa and the southern states of the United States. If one wants to get a sense of the post-war Derry there is a Seamus Deane book called ‘Reading in the Dark’ which describes the appalling conditions large families had to live in through in those decades. This book was on the English leaving Cert. syllabus circa 2000 and I have my well-worn copy beside me as I write. I wonder does anyone remember that book? The reality is that people here in the south, whilst many were poor and there was institutional dominance, the people had no idea whatsoever as to what the nationalist people of the North of Ireland had to cope with under the apartheid regime there. The farther south from the border the fewer people knew of it.  

The old nationalist party of Eddie McAteer and such had to grovel for every concession doled out. Education transformed this. 

I’ve strayed from my subject John Hume but he emerged to the forefront of political activity and was a powerhouse.     

Was a founding member of the SDLP in 1970.  

He had written a far-seeing article for The Irish Times in 1964 about resolving the huge injustices between the two contending societies. This involved putting in place equality, justice, and all the necessary elements that are the bedrock of a just society. He never really deviated from that guiding treatise. And when the Good Friday Agreement emerged in 1998 they were still there also. Through the terrible decades of mayhem and violence, he was the towering pillar of hope that there might be another way. His way was of peace and reconciliation. In this, he was totally supported by his wife Pat. It was never easy and took a huge toll on his health. He was the man that the influential American politicians from Presidents down listened to. A tribute after his death suggested that there many people alive today that would have perished in ongoing violence. 

In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with David Trimble       

He was voted the Greatest Irishman in an RTE poll search in 2010. 

John Hume sits comfortably with O’Connell and Parnell as the great Irish political figures. As you can see they were all constitutional advocates as opposed to the advocates of violence. 


1. In the last blog, I wrote of an orphan, Shane Healy, with Tulsk, Roscommon connections, who was pursuing his dream to participate as an athlete in the Olympics and also seeking his mother and his sister who abandoned him as a child. Well, he did qualify for the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 with the last qualifying race in Madrid but at the time of the airing of Shane Healy’s podcast early this year, he had not made contact with his mother or sister.

2. I am currently trying to get to grips with a large and varied collection of books, magazines, and ephemera (odds and ends). I must have some of the strains of a hoarder! The following is an experiment. From time to time I will mention items here that I wish to dispose of and if anyone wishes to take them (free gratis of course) just give me a call. (A) A substantial box of QUIZ books. Some are relics and some are not.

(B) On a different level, I have about 10 volumes of a history publication called ‘Irish Historical Studies’, from some time ago. These are bi-annual publications with essays from the premier historians of the day on a wide range of topics.  Tony 086 8163399.   

Slán. Take care. It is a testing time. 





Monday, August 3, 2020

Oblique View Sunday August 2nd 2020.

Innovative Streaming of Championship Games

One of the real local innovations in GAA sport is the ‘streaming’ of the senior championship games that are taking place these week-ends. Last weekend it was St. Brigid’s v Clann na nGael and Boyle v Padraig Pearses. There was plenty of drama in both games to enthuse the viewers with both games ending in draws.

 Last Friday night the game streamed was Strokestown v St. Brigid’s again.

Tomorrow-Sunday- the games being streamed are Fuerty v Western Gaels and Ml. Glavey’s v Pearses I think. The quality of the feeds is good and Seamus Duke is knowledgeable if a little rusty as yet commentator. All this is great for those still reticent regarding being out and about in terms of going to the games or those who cannot get tickets and it most certainly is good for those away from home especially abroad. So hats off to those who have enabled this to happen.

One has to recognise also the club streaming of games. Colin Kearney is the videographer for Boyle games. The quality here is good also but the lack of commentary and detail in terms of who scores etc. reduces its overall appeal. There is an opportunity there for an upcoming club commentator to assist Colin and thereby enhance the presentation.

A kind of correction

In my essay on haymaking, after a conversation with a family connection, I seem to have mixed up the ‘buckrake’ name with another device. Maybe the device for bringing in the rows to the cock base was called a ‘tumbler’ which does not really resonate with me. So if anyone can clear that up I’d have a listening ear. Oddly in watching a Netflix film called ‘Searching’ which had a lot of online ‘stuff’ on it, last night, a ‘Tumbler’ also emerged. So we were well ahead with our hayfield ‘Tumbler’.

 Actor Brendan Gleeson as Trump

I see that Brendan Gleeson has taken on another beefy role portraying Donald Trump in a series dealing with the former FBI Director James Comey. It is based on Comey’s memoir ‘A Higher Loyalty’. So Brendan has ranged from his great run as Michael Collins maybe 25 years ago, via Winston Churchill in ‘Into the Storm’ for which he won an Emmy award and now the Donald himself. The series will begin airing in the U.S. in late September. So it is guaranteed a top audience in the run-up to the presidential election in November. Just to keep in mind while the character of Trump is writ large the film is more focussed on Comey and his interaction with Trump which got him ‘fired’.

A truly amazing athletic story with a Roscommon connection 

I was just ‘in vacant or pensive mood’ in the kitchen at one o clock plus on Saturday when I heard a reference to a Roscommon athlete that I had never really heard of (I should have of course). His name was/is Shane Healy. I tuned into it as it was a programme in ‘The Doc on One’ Podcast. Shane Healy’s father apparently came from around Tulsk and while in England met Shanes’s mother. They returned to Ireland circa the early seventies. The marriage dissolved with his mother and a sister returning to England. Shane went through a difficult number of years going from care home to care home. Jumping forward with the story he eventually went to the U.S. After adventures there he got into athletics which came naturally to him. Coincidentally at a top Athletic College, he met another Roscommon man, Daniel Caulfield, brother of soccer player and manager John from Knockcroghery. Daniel was on an athletic scholarship there at the time. It was only two weeks ago when Daniel was referenced on the ‘Off the Ball’ series where John featured on their ‘Mount Rushmore’ segment and mentioned his brother Daniel.  I cannot relay the complete twists and turns of his life but his two dreams were of finding and meeting up with his mother again and going to the Olympics. This series has some marvellous o.t.t. stories and can be tuned into through the various devices. I’ll give you a chance to find out about how his dreams turned out. I will reveal same here in the next View. So that gives you plenty of time to search for yourself.

Another tale from ‘The Doc at One’ Podcast

Last Saturday-July 25th- I listened to another incredible story which was an account of the attempts by an unauthorised Irish cycling body to have their cyclists inserted into the Olympics in Munich. This was NOT the first time as it had been attempted also at Melbourne in 1956. For decades after Irish Independence, there were three bodies governing Irish cycling.

(A)    These were National Cycling Union representing Northern Ireland and linked to U.K.

(B)     The National Cycling Association (NCA) which was an all-island organisation and was by far the largest, but whose members were barred from UCI (international) events because of their adherence to the 32-county (Republican) ideology.

(C)     Cumann Rothaíochta na hÉireann (CRE) which was a 26-county organisation, strongest in the Leinster area, which was recognized by the UCI as the governing body for the Republic of Ireland and whose members could compete internationally in UCI events and in NCU-NI events in Northern Ireland.

This was very much in line with Brendan Behan’s call at the establishment of some organisation with ‘Let’s start with the split!’ 

It was group 2 which tried to get into the Olympics by inserting their team at the starting lines and have other members join some way from the starting line! A tragic event at Munich, the killing of the Israeli athletes nearly but not fully scuppered their attempt. Strange but true. It too, like the Shane Healy story, was a fascinating documentary from the same series. 

Sunday Miscellany Programme dedicated to Arigna mining

I may be wrong but the Sunday Miscellany programme of Sunday July 25th was totally engaged with the mining tradition of Arigna. It was a very interesting programme for those of us in this region. I did not take notes as I listened to it but I heard some lady from ‘The Plains of Boyle’ describing her father’s work in the mines. Brian Leyden had another very appealing contribution there. Brian certainly has a voice for radio and is a significant recorder in his writings of North Roscommon and Leitrim where I believe he lives.  I remember especially a radio programme of his called ‘No Meadows in Manhattan’.

If you have not visited the Arigna Mining Experience, then I recommend it highly. I have brought a number of visitors there over the years. On one occasion I took my London nephew who worked in some aspect of engineering. After the tour which outlined the really terrible, unhealthy and dangerous working conditions in those narrow seams he emerged exclaiming that “I will never complain about my job after seeing what went on there”.

Carrowkeel Needs Respect and Understanding.    

I was saddened by Marese McDonagh’s piece in ‘The Times’ recently on the damage to monuments in the Carrowkeel cemetery of passage graves. These go back millennia and are huge national treasures. To walk all over them and damage them is so thoughtless. The statistic regarding Sligo having such a majority of these Megalithic (huge stone) tombs is telling. Actually one of the finest ‘PORTAL DOLMENS’ in the country is just a few kilometers out of Boyle off the Gurteen road. I am nearly reticent to mention it; in case it gets the same treatment as Carrowkeel. On a fine day, a trip up to Carrowkeel is magic. I have been there a number of times, once with Philip James as part of Boyle Arts Week. If Sligo has the majority of Megaliths, then the area around Tulsk/Rathcroghan has a huge number of very important Raths. I’ve said this before also that in many advanced countries this area would be deemed so important as to be preserved as a national park. The era of the surge of slatted sheds etc. was a poor one for this area. If you are a passenger in a car sometime travelling from Ballinagare to Tulsk check out the number of invasive farm buildings in the area of the Rathcroghan monuments.       

Laying the Grounds for an Election Result Contest.

President Trump appears to be laying the foundations for contesting the legitimacy of the November Presidential election if it goes against him. He bases this on the suggestion that extensive voting by postal vote would be distorted or manipulated. He also suggests that the election should have be postponed because of the Covid 19 pandemic. Both have some merit but…It would seem that, accepting that the election takes place, there will be a long hiatus with count challenges etc. This happened after the election of 2000 Bush v Gore. Some may remember the checking of perforations and such on the ballot papers.

“Year 2000 United States presidential election recount in Florida. ... The Florida vote was ultimately settled in Bush's favor by a margin of 537 votes when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Bush v. Gore, stopped a recount that had been initiated upon a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court”.   

I have an idea for the U.S. election! Since so many of the states are cast iron red (Republican) or blue (Democratic) and there are about six states which can go either way why not just agree to have the election in those ‘SWING’ states as they call them.

The fact that a winning president can do so with the minority of votes is questionable by me. Even in England the single non- transferable vote can mean that a candidate can win an election on any % of votes. I firmly believe the Irish system of Proportional Representation even if a little drawn out at times, is a really sophisticated system.

While Joe Biden is the current favourite and seems like a nice reasonable man ‘he is no Jack Kennedy’. I have asked before and no one has answered me, how come such a great country like the U.S. can have such a dearth of really good candidates?

In Memoriam

When I was young the work of the grim reaper hardly impinged on my life. But as one grows older it becomes a regular visitor. Within the last month or so I have witnessed the passing of a number of people who I knew to varying degrees. Joey Mahon was a man I met shortly after coming to Boyle all those years ago. I met him regularly in their shop on the Crescent as I bought sporting gear for club and college teams. He was a gentleman to deal with and always a pleasure to meet. Sometimes, in those early days, the tab in ‘the book’ for goods got a bit tangled because Joe was not a man to send regular reminders or anything like that. I had to do the reminding and of course all would be resolved with good nature. We would also meet up in the back bar of Dodd’s which had a regular clientele of foresters, farmers’ teachers, and emerging businessmen. Mrs. Dodd kept us all in line. Joey and I were part of that group. He was great company. He was always interesting and interested in the best way. He had ‘the word’ for everyone. We were both involved with Community Games for a time and I have a fragmented memory of us in a crowded O’Rourke Park with a tent for our group of competitors when enjoyable chaos reigned. We both had some input into the placing of the Margaret Cousins Plaque on the Crescent. My brother, after a long sojourn in East London, adopted a phrase to describe a person of good standing there as ‘a diamond’.  He was such. He was highly regarded in the business of being an undertaker a task he carried out for me when my sister passed away in Boyle in the early nineties. I have never heard of other than understanding undertakers but Joe took it to a different level with compassion, understanding and as a real friend. He was just a friendly, kind and decent man. 

Mrs. Hynes ‘Lourdes Villa’, Rahoon Road, Galway City.        

I attended, from a social distance regrettably as it had to be, at a funeral at Rahoon in Galway last Saturday the 25th. The funeral was of my former landlady Mrs. Hynes. I spent about two years as a student-lodger in her home at the top of Rahoon Road, then on the edge of Galway city. That was in the late sixties. I kept in contact and called on her from time to time down the decades. We were firm friends. She was originally from Geesala in west Mayo and never forgot her home place. In phoning her from time to time I had to be aware that I could not ring when the top news of the day or some of the top political programmes were being aired. During her late years she would laughingly ask the question “Tony do you think that I will make the hundred?” I always reassured her that she would and that we would make every effort, when that came to pass, that we would get the President, Ml. D. Higgins - who she supported as a Galway T.D.- to come down and present her with her Centenary cheque himself. Despite efforts, that did not happen but in February of 2019 we gathered to celebrate her achieving her goal and receiving her cheque. She took it all in her stride. In recent times she spent a good deal of time in her sunny porch saluting the world going by. That stream of humanity, many who did not know her at all, including children, returned her salute and it became a very local ritual. She passed away in her home of seventy-six years. I will remember her, always.

(Some former Convent of Mercy students may remember a Mairéad Hynes who was her daughter. She spent some time teaching in the convent in the early 80s’.) 

I would also like to mention Paddy Beirne from Ardmore, Boyle Parish on the Killaraght road. I used to meet Paddy first in the Ceili House Bar a little back the years, later in the Craobhin and then when visiting Sean Young in the Plunkett Home. Everyone who knew Paddy gave him the same reference that of being an absolute gentleman. He was a quiet man but loved to talk of times gone by of which he had great recall. He was very well looked after in The Plunkett Home where he was so highly regarded.

It was nice to see the salute to a great Boyle GAA supporter Tony McGovern with a minute’s silence before the Boyle v Padraig Pearses senior championship match at Woodmount on Sunday last July 26th. Tony has been a regular consistent supporter of the club for decades in every way than one could and he would have enjoyed the cut and thrust of that game no doubt.    


Television Documentaries of Note

Since I have watched some television (!) during this Covid time I have been meaning to ‘treat of’ the best of them here for some time. But I’ll divert to a bould businessman receiving an employee thus.

“Today is not your day and tomorrow doesn't look good either”   

Anyway, I’ll just mention two of them today and ‘treat of’ anon. Back in the early days of Covid, in March, I gorged on a series called ‘The Last Dance’. It told the story of the great basketball sportsperson Michael Jordan.  He was a super sportsman near the pedestal of Muhamad Ali.

If you can still get the chance to check in on ‘The Rise of Rupert Murdoch Dynasty’ do so and stay with it. It is the story of a driven man (Australian) who created a newspaper and t.v. owned empire. This gave him great power which he uses in political circles in Australia, the U.K. and now in the U.S. with his ownership of Fox News. The series is about the Rise and Rise near nosedive and Rise again of Murdoch. No British P.M could win an election in the last 30 years who did not have his backing. He was the man, through his newspapers especially The Sun who enabled Nigel Farage to win the Brexit Vote and he then hitched his wagon to Donald Trump. He is a loud advocate of denial of human influence in global warming. A destructive power. It would need a masters course of analysis to see why he has such a destructive nature. He is married to his fourth wife jerry hall who was once married to Mick Jagger. It suggests the question to her; “Apart from the fact that Rupert is a billionaire what other characteristics attracted you to him, Miss hall?”  (jerry hall all lower case it seems.) 


No Jane Clarke poem tonight. Sorry.      


May your Gods go with you. t.c.                  


Friday, July 31, 2020

Hay Making in Decades Past. 29th July


Hay Making in Decades Past.

This was one of the more favourable farming ‘campaigns’ of the yearly cycle of my youth. It was clean, the days were long, the weather while difficult at times was generally bright and amenable. One could also achieve a good deal in a day.

In the mid-fifties, the meadow was cut by a horse-pulled mowing machine. There was little drama in this task. The corncrakes were often victims of this chore. But nature was not seen in a studied way then and seemed eternally capable of being replenished. The only variable in the meadow mowing was the reverse run to ‘take out’ the ‘back swarth’ adjacent to the ditch or wall.

The cut meadow was left for a number of days and then the teasing started. If the weather was kind this could be a clear run of defined tasks. In my boyish days, the swarths were shaken out manually with hand forks but in my memory, this was short as we had a hay turner which raised and shook the meadow for proper drying. A kind of curing process. The only grass which caused some difficulty was the one nearest the ditch/wall/hedge, i.e. the ‘back swarth’. After a couple of days, the real action began when the process was advanced to a real saving stage. The big intimidating horse rake was introduced to rake the meadow into rows. This required authority and guile to execute well. When the rows were made and had some more sun in them the next instrument in action, having a medieval look about it and may not have been a general tool, was what we called a ‘buck rake’. One could hardly call this a machine, more a device, as it collected the rowed meadow and by tipping it after say thirty yards it formed a heap which, when done four or five times, provided the material for the advanced stage in the whole process. The ‘buck rake’ was an intimidating device and on an occasion, in the tipping of it, a handle nearly caught me under the chin which would have been a knock-out blow.

If there were enough people for a decent ‘meitheal’ a number of these activities went on in tandem. If the working number was small and when material for a small number of cocks was gathered into a ragged heap, putting this into a cock of hay was the priority. On reflection, I wonder now when the meadow became hay? Perhaps when it was in its cocks.  

All the above was straight forward while the gods smiled but when the weather gods saw fit and the rain fell it was a different game. The bane of hay saving was in having a big field of meadow ‘down’ and being dried out and on the brink of the final press of getting into cocks and the rain came! It necessitated the second turn of having it in the right condition to put into cocks again. I had a real dislike of the process of making little cocks called, with us, ‘hand cocks’. There was a problem with semi-dried hay being cocked and descending into a process called ‘heating’ which damaged it to varying degrees. Also, the extra work was a psychological hit. I don’t wish to dwell too much on the negatives as they are water under the bridge in the memory bank.

Making decent cocks was a reasonable skill. We never over-indulged in that like some neighbours did. My father used to say they are not here to stay that long so they got a short lease. In his later years he did certain jobs such as making the hay ropes with me turning the twister which made the rope strong enough to tie down the cock which could be a victim of the wind.

We had meadow in different locations and they each provide different pictures for me now. One was on an upland hill area and it was suggested that on a clear day we could see Croagh Patrick. I was never convinced of that. I used to lie on my back occasionally and feel that I was on the edge of the globe’s surface to such an extent that I would slip off it. Odd but true. This was my mother’s old homestead of Aughtygad. We would have the kettle boiled in her abandoned home. We should have retained that house with the fuchsia colouring the gable end and some rose bushes creeping up in a corner.  

In another location, we would actually go to and be welcomed into Delia Leonard’s thatched cottage to have the kettle boiled giving strong ‘tae’ with hairy bacon sandwiches or whatever for lunch though that term was hardly used then. Delia lived with her brother the tailor.

As in the bog the small boxes of Galtee or Calvita cheese were a treat and because it was warm the memorable drink of the hayfield was the flagon of Cidona. We would give it a shake and open the cork and let the fizz propel into the nose.

Off the road to Athleague, we had another ‘long meadow field’ which ended in bottoms as it fringed the Suck river. One late summer with the hay saved as cocks in that field the weather turned bad for a long time and ‘the bottoms’ flooded to such an extent that the cocks looked like the islands in Clew Bay on Reek Sunday.
The final and arduous process in the hay saving was making ‘pikes’ of hay in the outlying land and bringing home the residue to be stored in the lofts or made into a ‘pike’ in the haggard. In the early days, this was done by horse and cart.  A well-crafted load might take five or six cocks of hay. Building this load for public road travel was a real skill with tramping and rope tying and adjustments to avoid slippage. The item of horse harness attire called the ‘breeching’ was important in the role of a brake to control the loaded cart from forcing its speed down a particular hill on the route to home. There the hay-cart was parked under a loft opening and forked into the said loft while someone there forking it back to the sides and back wall. On reflection, the loft work would have required one of those masks that are so much to the fore in these times. In those long days, there would be something like four runs or so from source to loft.

The introduction of the blue and red Fordson Dexta tractor 7249 - on our farm in 1957- changed the pace of all those elements. The horses and the horse machines were side-lined. They are still to be seen, as if in a machinery graveyard, in a small field near farm sheds there today while the Dexta still survives in a hay shed with its age apparent.   

Speed was now the mantra though it took decades to arrive at the cut and wrap efficiency of today.  

That transformation saw the Weetabix bale, followed by the round bale, the intimidating silage heap with its molasses accelerant, the silage wrapped black bale with ‘Up Roscommon’ emblazoned on it near Fuerty and so on.

The haymaking of yore is now part of folklore and is illustrated through relics of related machines in museums such as Turlough Park near Castlebar and Kennedy’s in North Leitrim or in occasional farmyards reflecting sentimentality for the past.

For me, it was another segment of my youth which I remember with the nostalgia of age.                                  

Monday, July 13, 2020

Update 13th July

Jack Charlton a hugely deserving ‘Honorary Irishman’.

There is an outpouring of positive sentiment following the death of Jack Charlton. Jack and Bobby came from humble mining origins in the North East of England. Both became fine footballers Bobby being a contender as the greatest ever in England. It was something that two brothers would be members of a World Cup winning-team as they were in 1966. I was in London that summer when the sun seemed to shine all the time. Both were hugely loyal club men with Jack being with Leeds Utd. for a phenomenal number of games and Bobby at Manchester United for something similar. These were very contrasting clubs in many ways. These would include football style from the polished style of Manchester to the dogged fiercely competitive style of Leeds. The support following both clubs was totally diverse from the international cosmopolitan support of the one to the localised intense support and need of the other. Bobby and Jack were very representative of those differences. They had a very complicated relationship. Bobby was a survivor from the Man. UT. Munich aircraft disaster. Also, there was a rift as Bobby did not visit their mother when she was ill.  That both would reach the top of their profession is sociologically interesting. Perhaps that is why Jack found Ireland a kind of retreat to which he could dip into as a life in football but not be smothered by it.         

There have been many worthy tributes to Jack Charlton this week. Paul McGrath’s is my pick. So for those of you who might have missed it, I copy it as below.

McGrath played an integral role in Ireland’s three major tournaments under Charlton – Euro 88 and the 1990 and 1994 World Cups – and his performance in the 1-0 win over Italy in 1994 is regarded as one of the greatest ever of any Irish team player.

“Today, I am truly heartbroken at Jack’s passing,” McGrath said in a statement released through the FAI. It is difficult for me to articulate what Jack meant to me both on and off the football field. Throughout his ten years as manager of our International team, Jack backed me as a footballer and as a person - he became a father figure to me. He gave me his full support when I needed it most and for which I am forever grateful. He has been a hugely important person in my life. The Irish people warmed to him because of his big character and he gave us the belief in ourselves to compete in the big tournaments. I am very honoured to have been a part of Jack’s journey. Today is a sad day for the Irish football community and we all owe him huge gratitude for the joy and memories he has given us.
He is a man I genuinely loved.
My thoughts today are with Pat and the Charlton family.
Thank you Jack - sleep well.”

(Paul’s biography ‘Back from the Brink’ is amongst the great sporting books.)

Jack Charlton was part of a great time for many Irish people. I remember watching a number of those games in various houses in Forest View with all the young fellows of that time. Then when we got a result we went on parade around our estate to celebrate it all. This is remembered in a great picture of the youngsters during one of those campaigns.

In a recent Blog I mentioned John Healy crying after Ireland defeated Romania, I think. I was supervising the Matriculation Examination in McHale Park Gym, Castlebar and being allowed by my supervisor to watch snippets of a key match upstairs. I drove back to Boyle ‘quickly’ to become part of the celebration with the crew in The Craobhin but when I got there I was many gin and tonics behind the gathering there who were engaged in the conga or snake dance around the central supporting pillar.

Those were great games and celebrations and they gave the country a great lift. As someone said “I missed the Italia 90 World Cup as I was actually IN Italy”.

Jack Charlton enabled all that and the country began to come up off its knees after that. He was a unique man and a man for Ireland’s Mount Rushmore.

The 25th Anniversary of the Massacre at SREBRENICA in Bosnia

After the Allied victory in World War II, Yugoslavia was set up as a federation of six republics, with borders drawn roughly along ethnic and historical lines: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. Serbia was the dominant region comprising the capital of Belgrade. This was all held together by the war resistance leader Tito who became the dictator of the federation or Yugoslavia. After his death this fell apart as the ethnic regions strove to establish their own independent countries.  Serbia resisted much of this and in one of those campaigns Serb forces captured the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia on July 11, 1995, and killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in a few days.

The commanding officer of the Serb forces was a vile general maned Ratko Mladic who was eventually brought to trial as a war criminal in The Hague from 2012 to 2017. He had been supported by Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic who died in The Hague where he too was on trial. 

The audacity of the Serbs is represented by them taking 400 Dutch U.N. peacekeepers into their custody as a shield against threatened Western airstrikes.

Mladic’s demeanour during the trial was that of total contempt for the court in all its elements and also the witnesses present from the SREBRENICA massacre.

The massacre is regarded as the most appalling act of genocide in Europe of that nature since the World War 2 and the Nazis. (Rwanda should be kept in mind here).

Today Sunday the 12th of July we might remember SREBRENICA and the incredible loss of nearly 10 thousand of its people. 100,000 died in the war itself. The righteous attitude of another ethnic group who found that they should destroy and kill off this community is incredible. But man (a civilised species supposedly) has the capacity for such atrocious acts.

The collapse of Yougoslavia and its effects is a life study and I am not terribly tuned into the intricacies of it all.  I did visit Croatia and the beautiful city of Dubrovnik and went to Bosnia and Herzegovina on a couple of trips.

Seeing that I am on a theme of genocide and dislocation I will mention what happened when India became and Independent country in the late forties next time.              

‘Drifting’ with Jarlath Tivnan

A short fifteen-minute film titled ‘Drifting’ has been making waves at Galway Film Festival. The waves have reached distant shores also. Amongst the reasons for this is that the lead role is played by Paul Mescal who is set to become a real star following his role in the television series ‘Normal People’. I have not watched ‘Normal People but will do so for educational purposes to see what all the talk is about.

The storyline in ‘Drifting’ is based on two lifelong friends in a small rural town find themselves at odds for the first time as their lifestyles begin to move in opposite directions. One of the two is a very quiet thoughtful person. The Mescal character is a more robust ‘out there’ personality. He gets into bother regularly and it does not seem to bother him. He uses his quiet friend as a prop, someone who looks out for him or as the phrase goes ‘has his back’. Jarlath plays a supporting role with his usual aplomb as a bar stool all-seeing eye who alerts the quiet character to pending issues.

The film's message is a regular one in Irish society. We often see a quiet inoffensive character swept along by a devil-may-care individual. This, from time to time, does not end up well for either of them.

It is a lovely moody short film with, helped by enhancing theme music and an identifiable and regular motif. My viewing was enabled by being able to rent it which was innovative.

‘Drifting’ will certainly expose all involved in it to a very large public audience and more importantly to people in the business and maybe it will see doors open for Jarlath.     

Some Errata Notes

We have a Government. Yippee. After x number of days. The Ministerial and Junior Ministerial accolades have been distributed. I heartily congratulate our own Frank Feighan on his appointment to the position of; ‘Minister of State of Public Health Well Being and National Drugs Strategy’. A somewhat long title!

One appointment that I find mind-boggling is that of the Green Party’s Catherine Martin who is vying for the leadership position of the Green Party just now. Take a deep breath, please.

Her portfolio is as follows: MINISTER FOR---MEDIA/TOURISM/ARTS &CULTURE/SPORT/ and THE GAELTACHT…I’ll use one of my oft used words here…. UNBELIEVABLE!

I have seen this department described, by top historian, Diarmaid Ferriter as follows; “This new department is surely indicative of both farce and folly in the administration and governance of vital areas of Irish life and society”.

This reminds of the final days of Brian Cowan as Taoiseach and as all around him was falling asunder he restructured his cabinet and asked a number of them to multi-task. Mary Coughlan may have been one of them. Speaking of Mary and if I really stretch it to the game of pulling down statues as in the U.S. and to a lesser degree the U.K. there is a significant rock with Mary’s name attached to it at the entrance to Lough Key Visitor Centre which could be relocated to the paddock of memorials in this region. One of the lesser populated islands in Lough Key for instance.  

I may be wrong but I seem to remember Ray Burke also multi-tasking in the mid- 90s’ around the time he was, with peacock chest out, drawing a line in the sand in front of Leinster House. There must have been some reconstruction on around there at the time.

Social Distancing a Game Changer

I have great faith in the directions of the many medical experts who populate our television screens at this time. We have a connection to one of them, the gentleman from Trinity College. They have become stars, part of the galaxy of caring people in our country over the past months.

There are various interpretations of social distancing and personally, I wish to adhere to the two-metre rule. Now, this is where I run into bother. Not everybody is on that wavelength. This makes it difficult when a person of the other church trespasses into your zone of two metres. It is hard to, as the lady in the ad for a television programme echoes; ‘two metres, two metres now’. So if you are a person who comes to chat with someone else do not make them uncomfortable by encroaching into their space. Just be mindful that everyone is not as optimistic as you are about the scene around you as pronounced in, ‘Sure there is no COVID around here’.

Many people will echo the sentiment that ‘God how would I feel if I am the person who passes it on to my grandmother, my family member with underlying issues or whoever?’

As I said in my last post I was hugely impressed by the RTE documentary from St. James’s hospital a few weeks ago. Amongst its many telling contributions, there was one of a mother who seemed to be going to extremes in cleaning/disinfecting her car etc. Her daughter was a day patient at St. James’s for a serious respiratory condition. The mother answered ‘I am protecting my daughter. There is nothing I would not do to protect her’.

So just be aware when approaching a friend that they may be keeping the bar higher than you think necessary. That is their prerogative.  

Barry Cowen and Driving

The formation of the new Government has struck some uncharted rocks since its announcement. The lack of senior ministerial appointments along the Wild Atlantic Way being one. The non-appointment of Dara Colleary was the obvious ‘ouch’ moment. I have mentioned the ridiculous agenda for Catherine Martin above. Over the last week, we have the toothache of Barry Cowen and his drink-driving issue from four years ago exacerbated by his lack of full licence then etc. Now there is a tangle with the Gardaí in terms of correctness and also who may have spilled the information to the media. There is also the fact that Michéal Martin was not aware of it before he appointed Barry to a top ministerial position. We certainly have more pressing problems at this time but it is stone in the shoe of the Taoiseach involving a very sensitive issue. There is the phrase as follows; ‘It is the small things that catch you out’.
How a senior (now 53 then 49) and very regarded politician could not have a full driving licence, the i s’ dotted and the ts’ crossed beats me, especially after the lessons given by Bertie some decades ago. 

The 72nd Anniversary of the National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K.

It is unusual to hear of an anniversary including the 2nd. It is probably because of the role the NHS is playing in the U.K. in its battle with Covid 19.

The regular notable anniversaries include; silver =25/ pearl =30/ ruby =40/ gold = 50/diamond (yellow)=60/ diamond (gold) =75.

Anyway, the NHS came into being in 1948. It was the result of the William Beveridge Report promoted by the politician Aneurin Bevan.   

It was a huge enterprise and became the envy of- one could say-the world. A huge number of Caribbean and other nationalities were recruited as nurses. Today it the Philippines and Indian nurses. There were also large numbers of Irish nurses also employed. My sister Carmel emigrated to London circa 1957 and trained to become a State Registered Nurse at West Middlesex Hospital I think near Twickenham.

I remember my own travails with poor dental care and wire-rimmed glasses as a boy. Amongst the first things I did when I went to England in the middle sixties was register with a doctor and get to a dentist and I owe the NHS a debt of gratitude that the care given then especially in the dental area has stood the test of time.

(If you see photographs of people from the forties/ fifties they can often expose terrible dental images. Then there were huge numbers with false teeth etc. I’ll adjourn there!)

It was a huge cost to the exchequer and was resisted of course but that was overcome.

The covering phrase for the all-inclusive system was that its care embraced ‘From the womb to the tomb’.          

I’ll finish today with another of Jane Clarke’s poems. (I spoke of my Castlecoote neighbour Jane in my last Blog.)

He stood at the top of the stairs

insisting he could go down himself

but, like a frightened bullock refusing

the crush, his body wouldn’t move

from the spot where I used to sit

in the dark listening to rows in the kitchen

when my mother showed him the bill

from the shop. He stood at the top

of the stairs in a fever that came on him

as fast as nightfall in winter,

steep, narrow steps between him

and the ambulance ticking

outside the back door.


He stood there in checked pyjamas

and thick Wellington socks,

in the house where he was born

and had sworn he would never leave.

I held him from behind

my brother in front

coaxing with a tenderness

I’d never seen between them,

come on Dad, just one step, one step.

Jane Clarke

from When the Tree Falls (Bloodaxe Books, 2019)


Slán for now. Take care. We’re not there yet.