Friday, May 27, 2016

Update 27th May

Summer days and the turf campaign

Of course the recurring topic of conversation consistently in this country is ‘the weather’. ‘Grand day, great day, lovely day. I hope it lasts. It looks as if it will for a few days anyway. Wouldn’t that be great. It makes such a difference and people can get so much work done especially the famers. It really dries up the land, maybe Hyde Park will become playable. There’s a great burst of growth these last few days. Yes you can see that with the lawns. Everything, everyplace, looks so well.  It’s still a bit cold though. The forecast is for rain tomorrow’.
Note to self: I must go see if the turf is cut and what the prospects are there. In the days of the Tuam beet factory there used to be what was called then ‘the beet campaign’, like one of those WW1 plans on the Western Front. For generations there has been ‘the turf campaign’. While some of us query whether it is worth the work and trouble it seems to be part of our DNA, ‘you can take the man out of the bog but not the bog out of the man’ and all that. I wrote an essay about the ‘turf cutting process of my youth’ here last year which may be out there in some cloud. That process is no  more. It’s all machinery nowadays. 
Anyway I checked out ‘the bog’ in the last few days and it is in pretty good shape. A good number of people have begun their turf saving ‘campaign’ and so as not to be paddy last I got stuck in. A few weeks ago it would have taken some imagination to envisage the trail of dust on the Tonroe Bog road but it has re-emerged as we rush to the front. We are a couple of weeks ahead of last year it seems so that is re-assuring. I once asked the following question in a Winter quiz in The Ceili House Bar quiz; ‘what product cannot be burned?’ The answer I was looking for was ‘asbestos’ but Mick Murphy proffered, ‘last summer’s turf’. The prospects look a bit brighter than that as of now. Things can change and maybe we are having our summer now! Pessimism.
Because of the summer campaigns and the long bright evenings when one needs to address the ‘gate and low wall painting’ it may lead to more truncated ‘Oblique Views’. Which might not be such a bad thing on two fronts.

The death of a Warrior of the West, Joe McDonagh aged 62.

I attended the funeral of Galway’s Joe McDonagh on Tuesday last. I got know Joe in his early days, and my latter days, at UCG in the early seventies. Father Liam Devine gives a good deal of detail regarding Joe life and achievements in his popular column in this week’s Roscommon Herald. He was a man of many talents. He was a fine hurler and won a famous All-Ireland  final with Galway in 1980 when he, after Joe Connolly’s rousing speech, added the rallying song ‘The West’s Awake’. I mentioned this event just a week or so ago here when talking of great post All-Ireland victory speeches. I did not know that Joe was ill then. ‘Coming events cast their shadows’ it is said. As well as being a fine hurler Joe was also a top footballer and it was in my association with the UCG Gaelic football team that I met him first. He was a member of both the college’s Sigerson Cup football team then as well as the Fitzgibbon hurling side. I met a number of that team on Tuesday including Oran’s and Roscommon’s footballer Tony Regan who gave decades of service to UCG as ‘Director of Sport’ there.
Joe McDonagh became a very young President of the Connacht Council and subsequently President of the GAA from 1997 to 2000. During his term as President he toured many schools and came to St. Joseph’s  B
Boys National School and St. Mary’s College in Boyle when President. He was a great advocate of Gaelic culture in terms of sport, language and in all its other facets. He was great speaker and a great personality, a really a larger than life character who endeared himself to the many people who got to know and admire him. The regard in which he was held was in evidence in the numbers of people who attended his funeral to Rahoon Cemetery in Galway City on Tuesday. May he rest in peace.

Two  Nonagenarians

If Joe McDonagh died a relatively young man I see that two men of widely differing life experiences are celebrating becoming ninety years of age. One is a Ballinlough, Roscommon man with connections to Boyle and the other is an English man who has a legacy in his interpretation of ‘the natural world’ might be regarded as akin to that of Shakespeare with the English language.
If you look up the name Michael Fitzmaurice you are swamped by entries for the T.D. Michael but long before the Glinsk man came to the attention of the public there was a gentleman from Ballinlough, Michael Fitzmaurice, married to a lady from Boyle, Attracta Drury, daughter of the postmaster who supported him in his Roscommon cause. The Michael I am speaking of has been at the core of the Dublin Roscommon Association activities for over sixty years. Dublin in the forties was a considerable distance from Roscommon and many older people would never have gone there. Anyway the Roscommon Association had its genesis in the organising of receptions for Roscommon teams in the forties. In September 2014, in the Gresham Hotel, I was at the 75th Anniversary of the first one which celebrated the 1939 All-Ireland minor victory. From 1939 on the Roscommon Association in Dublin supported the home county in many of its endeavours especially the senior teams appearances in the Croke Park. Michael Fitzmaurice was the dynamo with a dedicated committee that included Boyle’s Bill Corcoran, Mike Lennon from Strokestown and an irrepressible lady, Rita Dorr.
For over twenty years Michael was Editor of the Association’s Roscommon Annual Magazine which dealt with numerous facets of the county’s life cycle. These are now precious records of events and an important collection of local lore and history. So Michael Fitzmaurice 0f Ballinlough you have retained your Roscommon citizenship and kept the county’s flag flying for such a long time and we are indebted to you for your loyalty.

The Englishman I refer to is David Attenborough the great interpreter of the wonders of nature to at first a British audience and later a world audience. Beginning with ‘Life on Earth’ in 1979, Attenborough set about creating a body of work which became a benchmark of quality in wildlife film-making and influenced a generation of documentary film-makers. Attenborough's contribution to broadcasting and wildlife film-making has brought him international recognition. He has been called "the great communicator, the peerless educator" and "the greatest broadcaster of our time." His programmes are often cited as an example of what public service broadcasting should be. While the quality of his programmes are consistently superb there are numerous memorable episodes including his interaction with the gorilla group in Rwanda and in the Galápagos Islands with the tortoise ’Lonesome George’. Of course Mister Attenborough was the head of a team which included many gifted cameramen and with the advances in this technology so the quality and innovation of the filming became stunning. Attenborough and his teams have compiled a huge body of incredible work which will, I imagine, stand as a record of the natural world of our time long into the future.            

Brendan Howlin as the new leader of the Labour Party

The decimated Labour Party have a huge task on hand to try and recover from the last general election. I do not think that Joan Burton was really to blame for all that. She contributed but there were many contributions including Mister Howlin himself. His appointment is hardly refreshing for a party in deep crisis. It is something that not one of those who could, wished to nominate the other contender for the leadership, Alan Kelly. It is ironic that Alan Kelly’s best Dail contribution was in defence of water charges and Irish Water Inc. as he was about to be beached by his ‘colleagues’. Labour is perhaps the oldest party in the state and it is needs a miracle now to reinstate itself as a party of numbers and consequence.


It appears as if the Brexit vote is going down to the wire. While I would have little competence to comment on the economic implications for such a result one haunting consequence could/would emerge. With the U.K. including Northern Ireland leaving the EU the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic could return in a number of its manifestations. This would also reintroduce the re-establishment of a presently dissolving wound and could reignite the sickness of the violence we have experienced for decades.

Garda Documentary

While the Gardaí  are under pressure at various levels a recent two part television programme on the work of the Dublin City Central Gardai in their fight against drug dealing was enlightening. The programme highlighted the almost impossible task facing the police. I have walked in Dublin streets and while I have not seen any ‘dealing’ per se I have seen  its consequences. I used to wonder how so much of this was so obvious in the centre of the city and why it could not be eradicated. The programme demonstrated the circular nature of the culture of drug use and abuse. Apparently many of the drug treatment clinics are located close to the city centre. These attract hundreds of drug users there each day which in turn attracts drug suppliers. The police do what they can and catch some dealers which forces other dealers to relocate to a different area and it all becomes a game of cat and mouse, an ongoing carousel with no end or resolution in sight. The term being used to describe this eternal campaign is ‘fire-fighting’. On top of this currently is a most violent gang war as represented by the recent unbelievable Regency Hotel attack and the morning shooting dead of a person in open view of the public. It’s a barely credible and a crazy scenario.             

Roscommon’s comfortable win over Leitrim

Despite taking twenty minutes or so to get going Roscommon ran out easy winners against Leitrim on Sunday last. Roscommon are lucky to have a regular gradient in terms of the quality of opposing teams though New York bucked that suggestion to a point. This was one of the poorest Leitrim teams that I have seen. After Mulligan  and Wrynne it is hard to nominate another Leitrim player who stood out. For Roscommon Donie Shine’s positioning at corner forward worked well and for the goal the wave of support that materialised was a throwback to the displays of earlier in the year. We all recognise the fact that Roscommon have numerous injuries which make things difficult especially with midfield. McDermott, did pretty well in the first half at midfield an area in which Leitrim were competitive and the Roscommon full back line was again impressive though it plays like a half back line. Which is ok if you can get away with it. In the next game against Sligo the memory of last year must be a huge motivating factor from the off. They have to be a good deal better than Leitrim. So on home soil in Hyde Park there is a sense, if an uneasy one, that we should scale the Sligo hurdle this time- forewarned is forearmed and all that-to reach the Connacht final probably against Mayo.  

PS. The €25 entrance charge which many people had to pay was too steep in my view and while it might have been just €15 the top limit should have been €20 for  a Connacht quarter final.

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