Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Update 12th March

National Anthems ...Sentiments Therein

I was talking to a person at Abbey Community College’s fine production of “Oliver” last week. However it came up in our conversation she advocated that all young people should learn the National Anthem. I know that on many sporting occasions it is sung with passion. One of the most memorable occasions was when Ireland played England in a rugby international at Croke Park in February 2007. 
Anyway I decided to look up the Irish National Anthem in both Irish and in the English and I include the dominant verse here. Many people bluff somewhat by mouthing through some of the lines at least. It is like the person who has not been to confession for a long time having to take a run at saying ‘The Act of Contrition’! In GAA terms we are helped by it being on the big screen in Croke Park and it is usually included in match programmes.       

Amhrán na bhFiann

"The Soldiers' Song". The music was composed by Peadar Kearney and Patrick Heeney, the original English lyrics by Kearney, and the Irish language translation by Liam Ó Rinn. The song has three verses, but nearly always the shortened version is all that is sung.

Sinne Fianna Fáil,
 atá faoi gheall ag Éirinn,
 Buíon dár slua
 thar toinn do ráinig chughainn,
 Faoi mhóid bheith saor
 Seantír ár sinsear feasta,
 Ní fhágfar faoin tíorán ná faoin tráill.
 Anocht a théam sa bhearna baoil,
 Le gean ar Ghaeil, chun báis nó saoil,
 Le gunna scréach faoi lámhach na bpiléar,
 Seo libh canaig Amhrán na bhFiann

Soldiers are we,
 whose lives are pledged to Ireland,
 Some have come
 from a land beyond the wave,
 Sworn to be free,
 no more our ancient sireland,
 Shall shelter the despot or the slave.
 Tonight we man the "bearna baoil",
 In Erin’s cause, come woe or weal,
’Mid cannon’s roar and rifles’ peal,
 We’ll chant a soldier's song

Many National Anthems have their origin in strife and violence. In studying the words of the Irish National Anthem there are a number of sentiments in the verse above that I would not be very comfortable with. So the question is; do you submerge these reservations for the overall symbolism of the expression of Irishness?  
“Land of My Fathers”  “La Marseillaise” and “Star Spangled Banner”
One of the highlights of watching rugby is often the listening to the National Anthems of a number of countries. I think that the Welsh Anthem, ‘Land of My Fathers’, is a magnificent song to listen to especially the uplifting bars towards the end.  
The French anthem “La Marseillaise” is regarded as one of the great anthems of the world. A short review of it suggested; 
“As a proud part-French person, I choose the French National Anthem and for me it is the best (of all) anthems. It is such a powerful anthem. It is about courage, glory and about patriotism towards France. It also defies the tyrannies or Kings”.
It was born out of the violence of the French Revolution. Listening to it may be uplifting. Not knowing what the words mean, many of which are violent, gives you licence to allow that. The French singer would of course know what is involved. 
Scotland’s anthem ‘Flower of Scotland’ is another born out of violence in a victory over England. There is in the words a genuflection to all this being in the past but the chorus continues the historical sentiment. I wonder would many English players know the words but they obviously take it in their stride if they do. The recent referendum result is a kind of contradiction in terms of the sentiments in this anthem.  
While the anthem of the United States “The Star Spangled Banner” was born out of a battle scene it does not indulge violence. It became the country’s official anthem in 1931.
A review went as follows; “The anthem of the United States is truly beautiful. Our country has come so far and these poetic moving words cause us to recall the beginning of our country's history. By listening to this blissful melody, the patriotism in me and fellow proud Americans bursts out”. 
Honourable mention must be given to ‘Advance Australia Fair’ a modern anthem. 
So are some traditional anthems fit for purpose in these times or are they reservoirs of past divisions which we punch out thoughtlessly?    

The Death of Dave McKay of Spurs Evokes Memories

The death of the great Scottish soccer player Dave McKay revived some boyhood memories of my early days in London. Through Pathe news clips in the Royal cinema in Roscommon town I saw some soccer circa 1960. Indeed my first full soccer game to see on television was a European Cup win for Real Madrid over Entrechat Frankfurt at Hampden around 1960. I then became aware of Tottenham Hotspurs and its great team. They won the English First Division League and F.A. Cup double which had not been achieved for a very long time previously in 1961. They had a great team where Danny Blanchflower was a real captain and Bill Nicholson a great a manager. There were other great players such as Bobby Smith, John White, Cliff Jones and Dave McKay. One my favourite players was to join them in December 1961 Jimmy Greaves for £99, 999. I was a ‘boy’ migrant in London in the mid-sixties and was staying in Ealing. So it was that I got the Central Line from Ealing Broadway and took the long tube odyssey, on my own, to White Hart Lane to see ‘my’ team. I was rewarded with a win which included a classic Jimmy Greaves goal. Later I was working for Clare man McInerney in Bethnal Green and a slight head encounter with a nail necessitated a turban of a bandage. This resulted being the subject of some amusing verbal attention at a later Spurs game. A have a myriad of such memories of that decade in my life.
There is a time in our lives when we feel we would remain as the Bob Dylan song title goes ‘Forever Young’.      


1. Best Wishes                                    

Best wishes to the Committee for a successful St. Patrick’s Day Parade next Tuesday.

2. Roscommon’s Reality Check

Last Sunday was a reality check for Roscommon in Portlaoise against Laois. They were deficient at midfield, did not have the zip –on the day-in collecting the breaks and seemed tired/drained or whatever. It has to be said Laois played very well and clearly deserved their win. Next Sunday will be another big challenge for Roscommon in Newbridge versus Kildare. 

3. Scoring Blitz

Abbey Community College qualified for the semi-final of their Connacht Colleges competition with a hard-earned win, after extra time, over St. Enda’s of Galway in the Connacht Centre of Excellence outside Ballyhaunis last Tuesday. The final score was Boyle 6.12 St. Enda’s 9.3 !!  

4. Warm Up Anecdote

The fine Kilkenny rugby player Willie Duggan is supposed to be linked to this story. A new and innovative coach arrived on the club scene. The team member was late for the game. The coach instructed him to ‘warm up’. Apparently this was unusual so the player responded; “I’ll do the ‘warm up’ or I’ll ‘play’ the game but I’ll not do both!  

5. Cricket

I actually caught up with the Irish Cricket team playing on U.T.V highlights on U.T.V. on Tuesday night. They have had great wins over The West Indies, U.A.E. and Namibia. But this time it was a bad night as they were hammered by India. They now meet Pakistan and the mountain is not any lower there.

6. Mother’s Day   

Next Sunday is Mother’s Day. Some time ago I wrote a satisfactory piece called “In Memory of My Father”. I have had it on my beads to attempt to do a similar piece on my mother. But I shy away from it. I’d have to do it pretty right so it will not be for this Mother’s Day. Still her memory is very present though she died thirty one years ago this month.


5. Over The Bar: A Personal Relationship with the GAA 

Breandán Ó hEithir (1984, Ward River Press)

I read this a long time ago and liked it a lot. Like a lot of great sports books it includes a social diary of the time.

A lovely book written to coincide with the Association’s Centenary Year. Full of lore and information on long-forgotten matches and incidents, it doubles as a snapshot of the Galway of the late 1940s, where Ó hEithir studied, and a vanished GAA world. “It is important that younger readers understand that these were times of great paternalism,” the author emphasises. “Various organisations and institutions tried to keep their members on the straight and narrow path of virtue, from conception to resurrection.”

He recalls his stint in the Irish Press and is enlightening on the paper’s role in covering the seminal 1931 All-Ireland three-part final; bemoans the trials and tribulations of following the Galway hurlers (okay, perhaps not an entirely vanished GAA world); and has a go at Micheál Ó Hehir, whose folksy commentary on the 1946 All-Ireland semi-final, in which Kerry reputedly horsed Antrim out of it, drove him “to the verge of apoplexy”.

This is one of the most loved GAA books ever, especially precious to those 45 or older who’ll always be grateful for and mindful of the first great GAA book they read and who’ll no doubt be surprised that it wasn’t ranked higher here. And maybe they’re right and smarter and hipper than a part of us who wonders if this mightn’t be so hip or relatable for younger readers. But even the kids would have to acknowledge how Ó hEithir’s writing is direct and shot through with a dry wit. “Long may it [the GAA] continue to entertain, exasperate and invigorate,” Ó hEithir declares. Sums it up perfectly. To be savoured on a winter’s night by the fireside with a glass of whiskey, if you are the appropriate age.

4. The Club (GAA)

Christy O’Connor (2010) 

Such a simple idea, so brilliantly executed. That the author was goalkeeper with the St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield senior hurling team and a member of the club’s committee was largely irrelevant; he could as easily have been corner-forward on a middling intermediate football team in, say, Cavan. Thus he quarries the universal from the local and particular: the machinations leading up to the appointment of a new manager; the lack of action for ordinary club players; the tensions and personality clashes that inevitably permeate every club; guys going drinking a couple of nights before a match; the delicate task of keeping Her Indoors onside.

All GAA life is here and there is absurdly premature death too, with the author’s baby daughter Roisín and Ger Hoey, spiritual leader of the St Joseph’s team that won the All-Ireland club title in 1999, passing away within a few days of each other. This chapter is all the more effective because O’Connor employs one violin instead of an entire string section. A safe prediction: The Club will be as fresh and relevant in 50 years’ time as it is today.

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