Friday, October 9, 2015

Update 9th September

The Demise of the Humble Letter
“I regret three of the letters I have written in my lifetime but I regret much more the three hundred that I have not written”. This has been attributed to the English writer Alexander Pope some three hundred years ago.
My reflections on the ‘humble letter’ are prompted by a few recent references. On Mairead O’Shea’s page-Arts 83- in the Roscommon Herald is a short article headed ‘Mayo Artist Launches an appeal for old letters’. In going through the ‘effects’ of a relative I came across some letters. These are from family members and friends of course. The usual formats apply. The first line usually opens with; ‘Thank you for kind letter of some time ago’ followed invariably by, ‘I am sorry for the delay in answering your letter but…’.
My mother used to make a real effort when  writing to any of us who were away. It was probably the best time that she revealed herself. Regrettably I have not come across any of her letters which would have been nice. Indeed not long before she died in 1984 I helped her send an ‘audio’ letter I suppose –by tape- to my brother in Australia. We put a bit of work into that, first her reading from a written letter and then a casual interview/conversation. Unusually for me I did not make a copy of the tape and it has not survived. I would  dearly like to have it now. When away, a letter from home was a joy. There are many backgrounds where the arrival of the letter brightened the day for the recipient. There may be some people reading this who will remember the distribution of the post in boarding school. Then sloping away to read quietly on one’s own and maybe the young student re-reading it and keeping it for a time under his pillow. 
Of course the letter was the constant link with emigrants all over the world. And those of us who have spent time abroad will remember that. I was not a great letter writer myself and I reflect on the rather irregular contact with home in those days. Indeed some, men especially, never wrote home and went ‘off the radar’ as it were. For many this obtained for years. Sometimes through various happenings, such as weddings, deaths and searches by a brother or sister, communication was restored and the first letter from the ‘missing’ or long distance navvy was an awkward and apologetic one. 
The Christmas letter with perhaps an ‘enclosure’ was always a treat especially the American letter with the image of American presidents on the enclosure. The Mayo writer, John Healy, in one of his books perhaps ‘Death of Irish Town’-Charlestown in his case- tells of the regular annual Christmas letter and card with dollars to the home family from aunts in New York. Later when John made his first visit to them he found that they were actually in poor circumstances themselves and had to save through the year to have anything respectable to put in the envelope endorsing the American dream. Indeed I know of a distant relation of my own who did not write home for years, after he went to Chicago in the late twenties, because he could not afford to include some dollars.
This reminds me of some to the emigrants who could not actually write at all and there being people who were kind of semi-professional letter writers in the great American cities in the late 1800s’ a little like tax consultants today who might get back some rebate for a student after a summer there or whatever. Returning to my mother she took great pride in her writing which was assiduously taught in the national schools.
People might remember the particular landscape copy book with the defining coloured lines which dictated the height of particular sets of letters. ‘Copperplate’ writing was the term for the expert practitioner. I am a poor enough writer myself and though I have sometimes tried to improve, the initial stumbling’s still obtain. I presume a good deal can be learned from a person’s writing but I haven’t the competence to do that. When a welcome handwritten letter arrives in today’s post it gets the first priority. I can identify the source of most of them by the writing. A lot of them are GAA related which will not come as surprise to most of you. The wide sweeps of Christy Hannon’s brushstrokes are mirrored by the earnest functionality of Colm Hannelly’s steady bic.    
Of course the era of the handwritten letter is on the wane. A friend told me recently that in a wide conversation with his adult son, his son told him that he could not remember having sent a handwritten letter. I imagine this is not unusual at all. It is indicative of the times we live in. The letter is referred to now, despairingly, as ‘Snail mail’! Today many of us just use the electronic mail in our social and business interaction. There is an immediacy about it all now and we have little reason to say ‘sorry for the delay in answering your letter’. Still the good, ennobled  ‘humble letter’ is a rare treat but it will struggle to survive. So if anyone has a collection of letters you might contact 

Lecture –The Centre Party and Frank McDermott, Tuesday, October 13th.
Frank McDermott of the McDermott Clan of Coolavin and of the region around Boyle was prominent for a time in Irish politics in the 30s’. He was elected a T.D. for Roscommon in 1932. He, with James Dillon of Ballaghaderreen, founded a political party then called ‘The Centre Party’. The idea behind it was to bridge the divide between the emerging Fianna Fail anti-treaty party and Cumann na nGaedheal the pro-treaty party. The Centre Party and  Cumann na nGaedheal with some of a group known as ‘The Blueshirts’ eventually formed Fine Gael. The twenties post -Civil War with the thirties remain a grey neglected period in Irish history. A certain amount was achieved but the trauma and tragedy of the Civil War with its bitter legacy persisted for a long time. Still 1932 saw the smooth handover of power from Cumann na nGaedheal to Fianna Fail. On Tuesday next October the 13th at 8.30, in The Percy French Hotel, Strokestown, Dr. Mel Farrell of St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra will outline Mister McDermott’s hopes for his initial, though short-lived, party of reconciliation. This is the first in a series of lectures hosted by Roscommon Historical and Archaeological Society.

The Connacht GAA Revolution
The Republic of Connaught was a short-lived affair in 1798. Its President was a John Moore of Moore Hall from near Ballinrobe in County Mayo. This was in tandem with the Wolfe Tone inspired Rebellion of 1798. 
The recent GAA Revolution sees a change of management emerging in Roscommon, Mayo and possibly in Galway hurling. In Mayo and Galway it is being led by player disaffection. I hope for the good of the GAA in those counties that the post- strike era with Cork and its lack of success is not visited on them. These player revolts have generally been badly handled and while the Galway situation is not yet resolved it would be fairly difficult for Anthony Cunningham to remain in place. Perhaps he will though and that might have further repercussions.  
Interestingly a GAA history of Mayo by Keith Duggan of 2007 was titled ‘House of Pain-through the Rooms of Mayo Football’.

Happily we in Roscommon are very pleased with the management team in place for the Roscommon senior team into the future. We wish them well. 

Boyle GAA
Congratulations to Boyle U 14 girls on their fine win over Padraig Pearse's on the score Boyle 4.6 Pearse’s 2.6 on Sunday last at Kilbride in their Championship final.
Boyle’s Junior ‘B’ team play Michael Glavey’s in Ballinlough on Saturday at 5pm in the Division 5 Semi-Final.  
Michael Glavey’s could be buzzing with their ‘last kick of the game’ win in the Intermediate Final v Fuerty at Strokestown on Sunday last. As a lot of people said it was a pity that it was not a draw as it was an excellent game with many twists and turns. Needless to say I was disappointed.
Boyle GAA’s ‘Get Active’ initiative has got off to a very enthusiastic start which I am confident will continue. If anyone still wishes to join I imagine they would be facilitated. So get in touch with any of the Club officers.

Club Delighted with Sports Grant.
Boyle GAA Club was delighted to hear that they were to benefit to the tune of €32,000 under the Sports Capital Programme Grant which was announced on Thursday 8th October. Congratulations to the committee who compiled the very comprehensive submission to support a possible grant and a special thanks to Deputy Frank Feighan who backed the submission to its fruition. 
November Election
I doubt if many of you will remember that I came down on a November election months ago!

The Death of Brian Friel
One of the great Irish writers of the past fifty years Brian Friel died last week . Probably his best known plays are ‘Philadelphia Here I Come’ and Dancing a Lughnasa. ‘Philadelphia Here I Come’ was a curriculum play which I taught to classes a number of times.  It had the ingenious device of the twin character of Gar (O’Donnell) Public and Gar Private. It was set in a townland called Ballybeg on the eve of Gar’s emigration to Philadelphia. Perhaps I will return to this great writer next week. 

Big National Games  
The Ireland soccer team had a historic and courageous win over World Cup Champions Germany on Thursday night. Their next and last game in this phase of the qualifiers is against Poland in Warsaw on Sunday next at 7.45. A win would see them qualify directly for the finals next year in France. A loss would see them in the qualifiers. 

The Irish rugby team have their big game versus France on Sunday afternoon also. It is timed for 4.45. A win sees them play Argentina in the quarter finals while a loss would see them play New Zealand. So another big day of sport for the anoraks.                    

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