Saturday, June 27, 2020

Update 27th June

Last Week I asked assistance regarding below;
** I wonder if anyone ever came across a book called ‘The Brookham Mysteries’ by Edward McMorrow who was a Solicitor in Boyle many decades ago. His son Art and daughter Angela lived in The Warren later. I asked about the book, as a question in a quiz, decades ago. I remember the title was an amalgam of the names of Frybrook and Rockingham. Mister MacMurrough wrote under a pen name.  (Please give me ring on 086 8163399 if you have any information.)
[I occasionally ask for information here regarding x or y but I regret to say that I rarely get a response! Indeed, I began this blog hoping it would be interactive but that too did not emerge. So I am wondering am I writing to or for myself? This is true to an extent also of course but it would be nice to feel one had company! I acknowledge the encouragement of say a half dozen indicators.]   

New Government???
So it has come to pass. It took the powers that be just 7 days to create the universe but it has taken 140 days for the Irish political system to cobble together a government. While I think that it will last for approximately 18 months it gets us past ‘Go’ for that period of time. Today Friday, as I write and tomorrow Saturday, will be a pretty interesting political theatre. I imagine there will be a flurry of activity with the media trying to anticipate the ministerial appointments and all that. The appointment of Micheál Martin as Taoiseach will fulfil his long-held dream. While I do not feel that it is a good idea to change captains in mid-stream of the Covid 19 disaster it could be a lot worse as Micheál is a decent man and a pretty safe pair of hands with a lot of political experience now. Also, the ‘confidence and supply arrangement’ will have kept him abreast of the machinations of Government over the past number of years. The fact that his family from Cork will not actually witness live Micheál’s elevation. It will be a pretty poignant witness to the times we live in. 
On his passing of the baton, one has to commend the outstanding performance of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach in his performance through the pandemic to date. 
Saturday sees the filling of the ministerial portfolios and that will be worth watching as there is a loaves and fishes’ element in it all. While those who get the nod will be chuffed there will be quite a number who will not be pleased. Some heavyweights will have to bite the dust and do so with public good grace. 
The Green representatives in the cabinet will be the new kids on the block and they will have a tough time as they will be the lettuce in the sandwich. I wish them well but those members who object to the acceptance of the proposed agreement will need to recognise the realities and pressures of the political climate of these times and hope to survive with a reputation not too damaged by it all. Had they not participated on this occasion would have set them back a decade or so in my humble opinion. But then again what do I know. 
*This is a hugely significant historic agreement as the two parties Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil with their origins in the opposing sides in the Civil War coalesce for the first time since 1921/’22. 

A Chink of Enlightenment
The apology by the U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represented an unusual but ‘brave’ action and a crack between Mr. Trump and the military establishment in the U.S.  The country’s highest-ranking military officer said that he was wrong to appear with President Trump for a photo opportunity at a church near the White House. This was held after peaceful protestors were forcibly cleared from the area by a collage of police, national guard and other security. 
I have seen military present at some of Trump’s briefings some time ago also. There is, of course, a great regard for the military in the U.S. and they are a regular part of the introductions to N.F.L. games. Personally (but again what do I know?) I think these displays of militarism are to say the least, odd in a democratic country.
Road Safety
I drove to Roscommon last Sunday morning and a shorter distance early this week. Driving again basically requires some adjusting from the almost automatic responses of pre-Covid regular driving. On Sunday morning I encountered quite a number of cyclists. Irish roads present issue for all users. It is great to see the emergence of cycling again from its near-death position some 20 years ago. An issue I had last Sunday was when one comes on a cycling group where they are two abreast. A relation of mine from Boston used to come to Ireland regularly say 25 years ago. His mode of transport was his sturdy bicycle on which Jim traversed the whole of the country. He came to mind on Sunday morning when I wondered if the cyclists were conscious of my presence. Jim had adapted a dentist’s mirror and it was attached strategically to his bicycle or around his head as a rearview mirror. Perhaps I am not properly tuned in but do such devices exist now? Over the successive 25 years, his idea should have advanced in flexibility  
On the shorter journey, I encountered the machinery of the silage season, balers and trailers going at speed and then taking to the fields. There was a feeling of urgency as opposed to calm in their driving.  
Every day we see evidence in the news media of accidents on the roads so a more considered approach is necessary. 
Not long ago many accidents were caused by drink driving but now that this has declined greatly the problem now is certainly speed. In fairness, the death rates on Irish roads has been progressively declining with odd spikes. The profile of Gay Byrne as Road safety guru was a factor in that. If one looks at the records from the 1960s’ it is incredible how high the numbers were in those years.  
In summary. This is a particularly dangerous time of year on the roads and we all should be conscious of that. While the vast majority of people are courteous and considerate there is a small minority for whom speed is of the essence and that they are invincible as in all things.    

The Slave Trade…
The slave trade and its legacy are very frontline issues at this time. Most of us are aware of the Slave trade to the United States and the implications of that which is so front and centre in the U.S. A civil War was fought there in the 1860s with the Slave Trade, the rights to slave ownership and the inequality of particular sections of society being at its heart.  Some of you will have seen a very powerful film called ‘12 Years a Slave’ Kerry actor Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor in the lead roles of the Steve McQueen directed film. There are many films dealing with the treatment of the black population of the States, as a result of the Slave Trade, being the central theme. The killing of George Floyd some weeks ago has brought the whole issue of discrimination to a boiling surface. It is hard to believe that we are remembering the 55th anniversary of the Selma Civil Rights Marches of early 1965 with Martin Luther King. The leaders would not have anticipated that 55 years later that the issues of then would be a long one. I suppose that seeing the antipathy between communities in Northern Ireland, especially in Belfast, that we should know different. 

Slave Trade Irish Alert
On looking through Sean’s Public Facebook page of Sunday, June 21st I came across a post by Daniel Wissert on the ‘Irish Slave Trade’ in the sense that back in time, in particular periods of our history, many Irish were uprooted and transported as slaves to the Caribbean islands and to the southern states of the U.S. He begins in 1625 and then 1641 and then the Cromwellian period circa 1650 and so on. There is a statement as follows “…but if anyone, black or white, believes that slavery was only an African (origin) experience then they’ve got it completely wrong”. I have to say, as a former history teacher that I had never come across the subject before. I was aware of convicts being ‘transported’ to various detention centres in Australia and even the benign transportation of young girls from Boyle Workhouse, as referenced in Barry Feely’s book, ‘We are the Survivors’. 
It is obviously a subject that is only now emerging. There are many threads to it and I suppose it comes up to modern times and the policies of nunneries and laundries.           
The Poetry of Jane Clarke, My long-ago neighbour 
Being as I am from Castlecoote (Fuerty) the river almost encircled my home. While it was taken for granted by us it was a very significant part of our young lives. We fished there, we swam there we spent nights ‘shooting’ out along its banks which were populated by duck and mallard. Sheep were dipped in its waters and during the odd drought, it provided water for animals and freshly sown plants. The swollen timber of cartwheels was tightened by its coolness. 
I nearly drowned while swimming in it once. I foolishly walked across it during the big freeze of ‘62/’63. 
During the occasional droughts the river contracted and became shallow and big cattle from Charlie Clarke’s farmland beyond found it easy to cross to ours. It took a posse to execute their return across the river border. There was no animosity. It was rare and amicable. They were good neighbours. It is only now as I write this note that I realise how important the Suck river was to my young life. 
At last summer’s Arts Festival, a daughter of Charlie, Jane Clarke, was in Boyle talking of her poetry but I was elsewhere. Recently a friend of mine in Dublin asked me about a poem by a Roscommon poet and I was puzzled and then he asked me about Jane Clarke. “Is she not from your neck of the woods?” I was embarrassed by my lack of awareness. I have since begun to set that to rights and I include here Jane’s poem about her river which is also, very much, my river. This has become her metaphor and title for her first collection of poems.               

The River
What surprises me now is not that you’re gone
but how I go on without you, as if I’d lost
no more than a finger. My hand still strong,

perhaps stronger, can do what it must,
carving your name on a branch from the beech
by the Suck, letting the river take you,

so I can call myself free. Only sometimes,
like yesterday or the day before, last night or this morning,
the river flows backwards, uphill to my door.

Jane Clarke, from The River (Bloodaxe Books, 2015)
Errata Notes
In last week’s ‘Oblique View’ I mentioned John Healy’s Charlestown books ‘The Death of an Irish Town’ i.e. Charlestown and ’17 Acres’. I chopped a couple of acres from John with that title as it was correctly ‘19 Acres’. This was brought to my attention by one of my six advocates, another T.C. as it happens. As I said last week I had both of those books back when but I loaned them out and do not have them now and if anyone has one for sale I’d be interested with T&C applicable.
In conversation about the heinous murder of Garda Colm Hokan with Bill Corcoran, formerly from Corrigeenroe but now long-time resident in Dublin he mentioned a fine footballer from Charlestown who spent a short time in Boyle in the early fifties called Patsy Horkan. He was involved with or employed by a plumber. ‘A big young fellow and a great footballer” Bill suggested. I wonder if anyone knows if he was connected with the deceased Garda Colm?
While I was on the phone to Bill I was walking through the quiet town of Boyle and relaying that I was just passing Daly’s; “Ah Paddy Daly. We spent great times in Lowes” followed by ‘The Italian Warehouse’ and so on. When I mentioned the Marian Shrine he informed me that Boyle GAA members such as Charlie Feely, Paddy Leonard Peter Phelan et al ‘Dug out the foundation for that shrine in the early fifties under Canon Casey. There was no automation just sweat against a stubborn hill.” The Marian Year plaque nominates December 1954 if my memory is right. I also asked him about the badges, a little like Garda badges, that were to be seen over doorways. They too, may have a Marian Year connection. I am open to correction and illumination on that one.  
It was an accidental innovation of a phone call to a man who had the town of Boyle firmly on his heart and in his memory.
GAA Re-Opening ... a Mistake?
I hope the proposed, I’ll call it ‘re-opening’ of the GAA goes right but I haven’t confidence that it will.  I’d be very wary seeing evidence with the erosion of safety practises and a general feeling that the pandemic is on the way out. The message from numerous other countries shows that it is NOT. 
How the GAA can be optimistic that their games can be any different is very questionable. Some time ago some reservations within the G.P.A. were expressed about the safety of progressing with games. So will all the membership buy into returning with all that entails?
It is also proposed to reactivate the summer Cúl Camps. Social distancing is hardly credible in many if not all GAA games situations. I really think that it is a mistake as the regulations necessary and the risks do not merit opening.  Too many things have to go right for all this and one broken link in the chain or outbreak brings so much down with it and threatens all the good work we’ve all done already over the past four months. I am aware also that the logistics involved in rebooting are challenging. 
In summary I believe that the GAA should have called time on their year a good while ago.
I hope I’m wrong.
(I subscribe to Chris O’Dowd’s expression of caution as on the Home Page of realboyle.)    

Italia 90 Again!
If I hear the phrase, ‘A nation holds its breath’ many more times I just might do that. While I and everybody enjoyed it at the time 30 year later analysis should be a bit calmer. Ireland played 4 games to qualify for the quarter-finals and scored 2 goals in 6 hours of football and failed to score again in the quarter final v Italy. So we went 7 and a half hours scoring 2 goals from play. This resulted in the proverbial ticker tape reception when they came back from Italy to Dublin. As a friend of mine (P.K.) said to me at the time; “Two goals in over 7 hours and if you blinked in Thurles at the Munster hurling final you’d have missed a score!’

Rossie Day 
The above now takes place on Sunday July 5th. It was to have taken place on June 21st but was postponed because Garda Colm Hokan’s funeral took place on that day.

Boyle Tidy Towns 
A major clean-up in the town and environs will take place on Saturday July 11th. So let’s get behind that effort.
Sunny Turf 
When describing the fine turf I harvested last month an elderly acquaintance said; ‘It has to be good sure the sun is in it’. An old and accurate endorsement.   

The pictures surfacing from English beaches these days. 

T. V. ‘Hawks and Doves with presenter Michael Portillo
I have been watching a certain amount of television during recent times and I had thought I would reference those programmes here today but enough is enough. One RTE documentary, with an unlikely presenter, Michael Portillo, impressed me a good deal. So I recommend that programme to you if you can still source it.
Sin é for now 
Take care. We are not there yet

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Update 13th June

** I wonder if anyone ever came across a book called ‘The Brookham Mysteries’ by Edward McMorrow who was a Solicitor in Boyle many decades ago. His son Art and daughter Angela lived in The Warren later and some senior people will remember them. I remember asking about the book, as a question in a quiz decades ago, but people were not familiar with it. The name, I seem to remember, was an amalgam of the names of Frybrook and Rockingham i.e. …brook and …ham. I believe Mister MacMurrough wrote under a pen name or non de plume. Why I use the two spellings for Mr. MacMurrough is that in a 1910 Business Directory I have access to the name is given as Mc Morrow.   (Please give me ring on 086 8163399 if you have any information on this or any other book by Mister McMorrow.)


New Government???

The sentiments do not change and I know very well that I’m repeating myself, and repeating myself an re…. with it, but it is still valid if boring and unbelievable;

I referenced this in my post of three weeks ago, five weeks ago, seven weeks ago and nine weeks ago.  Keep in mind that the election took place on Saturday, February 8th …now Saturday June 13th 126 days ago. I wrote then and I repeat;

“I can only call the efforts to form a Government in this country as PATHETIC. There have been talks about talks, preliminary talks, kind of meaningful talks, meaningful talks, documents being drawn up, talk of a ‘government formation document’ but yet no real progress. It is a disgrace especially for the parties who are not part of the ‘Interim -Government’ as of now”. 

This week it was talk about plenary sessions. Then the Green Party decide to have a leadership contest and then Eamon Ryan (a decent man) goes and makes a significant faux pau in the Dáil which gives ammunition to his opponents in the party. Those of us who had leanings towards the Greens are just shaking our heads. Brendan Behan once famously proposed, at a meeting to form some union, “Let’s start with the split”.

All this for what? I repeat myself again in suggesting that I cannot see a Government constructed on such sand, lasting more than eighteen months?

Not long ago we were looking with puzzlement and a dismissiveness on Northern Ireland as they trundled along without a Government which collapsed because of something to do with fuel burning grants and ‘The Gaeilge’ question. Now we have a reflection of that here.

Note; Even if the parties agree this week-end, as is suggested, then they have to go to ‘their party constituencies’ to have it ratified which is not a given at all. This has to be completed by June 29th. It seems as if vital legislation is due to be ratified into law then and can only be done by a full legitimate Government.

Another thing that will happen is the probable replacement of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach by Micheál Martin. Mister seems a nice reasonable man with ability but is this the time to change the captain of the team? I think not. Then what genius can Fianna Fáil bring to the Cabinet? The only stand out person there, that I can see, is Michael McGrath. Just Google the Fianna Fáil panel. Not many all-stars there!     


Declan Mullaney R.I.P.

Every season brings its tragedies and sadness and no district is immune to them. We hear of them nationally nearly every day. The death of young person is especially sad. Boyle has had more than its share in recent times. This week we laid Declan- Mullaney- to rest in Assylinn cemetery. He was approaching his 40th birthday. I have known Declan since he was a boy and his dad Tom before that. Declan was part of a very good under-age football team in Boyle GAA club in the nineties. I remember those times clearly when the sun seemed to shine immeasurably. I was the coach with assistance from a brains-trust of advisors which included Owen Garvin, Martin Henry, Nicholas Feighan, Michael Brennan and Tom Mullaney himself. On balance we won more times than we lost and captured a few county titles. We lost some big games too but that is part of it. The Abbey Park was our cathedral and Declan was an ever present. He was a good strong player and his position generally was wing back. After our wins and before entering Boyle we assembled at Egans opposite the Golf club and began our victory parade through the streets of the town with the theme tune/song of ‘Simply the Best’. Those were the days.

  Declan was also a good student of mine in St. Mary’s College and I remember him as Prefect of the Student Council which was endorsement of the respect he was held in by his colleagues, the school principal and staff. 

Declan will leave a legacy of many happy memories. Those memories will not grow old now. Declan too showed courage in his struggle with illness and a confidence in his faith as represented in his regard for Knock.

As he passed the Abbey Park for the last three flags hung at half- mast limply as if representing our sorrow. They were those of Roscommon, Boyle and Shannon Gaels showing the diversity of places which are so dear to Declan and the Mullaney family.

On a personal note I was so sorry that I could not be a closer support to my good friends because of the issues of these times.  

Declan you have certainly fought the good fight and you can rest in peace now.


The Death of Canon Kevin Earley

I have just heard of the death of Canon (Father in my knowing) of Kevin Earley. All people have the nuances of difference and Kevin was different. He was a big man with a big heart who drove a small car. He came to St. Mary’s College as Principal a period after Canon Lavin became parish priest in Boyle. Like many smart intelligent men, he might have seemed causal and earthy but the reality was that he was very aware of what was happening in his domain. This of course is a necessary quality in a School Principal! He seemed to ‘amble’ in gait, was affable, generous and good company. I remember a Jubilee celebration of his ordination with mass in Ballymoe after which we all retired to the lovely Forest Park Hotel in Boyle for ‘refreshments’. The refreshments were the full menu and it turned into the real celebration that he wished for and enjoyed. He wasn’t long in Boyle, coming from a long stint in Summerhill. Then he was posted to various parishes and we lost contact for the most part. I did come upon him on a long walk in Lough Key Forest Park afterwards and he made in-depth enquiries about Boyle, its people, students and staff. It was like I was ‘briefing’ a field commander. In remembering Father Earley in St. Mary’s I smile at the memory of slight misunderstanding between him and my friend James Woods. I remember Canon Kevin as perhaps a link between the ‘old school’ parish priest and the new and I’m sure he will have many friends who will echo his many positive qualities and be grateful for his guidance and generosity. He was a sound man by me.  


Global Rossie Day Sunday June 21st

I know very little about this but I saw it referred to in Canon Liam Devine’s column last week. I presume that this idea was put in motion a good while before the Covid tragedy and will be a muted affair now.

I remember the very successful ‘Back to Boyle’ event in the town on August 2nd 2008. There was a great social in St. Joseph’s Hall with many families having their re-unions as part of the greater re-union.  I remember the McDermott family in particular and Austin Biesty and his daughter being there from New York. As it transpired James Drury aka ‘The Virginian’ was in Boyle’s Royal Hotel that Saturday evening also which added to the whole razz mates.

Ireland took on board a national re-union called ‘The Gathering’ in 2013 which was very, very successful. Forest View had its own very pleasant and enjoyable re-union on September 14th of that year with some visitors from New York synchronising their holidays to be part of it. 

On one of the few fine days in the summer of 1988 in August we had a memorable event with the return of the actress Maureen O’Sullivan to Boyle. This turned out to be a major success and was liberally documented on national media, papers, magazines, radio and television. It added an extra string to the bow as it were of people and places associated with Boyle. The recent June 9th edition of ‘Irelands Own’ magazine published a decent article on that visit indicating that the interest is still there.       


The Pandemic Covid19.

I will not say much about this as I have not the competence to do so.

There are a couple of things that confuse me though.

1.       There was an early mantra regarding its containment and in the primary list was ‘test and trace’. I remember a picture, in the first days, of army cadets around a big table ready and waiting to ‘track and trace’ those who might have been in contact with someone who was tested as positive. This programme seems (I could be wrong of course) to have stumbled on with varying pronouncements on its evaluation.

2.       Regarding face masks the advising authorities need to come down more clearly on what they think the practise should be here. Mandatory v best voluntary practise. It seems as if it is kinda mandatory (Ireland you know) on public transport and in shopping and enclosed business premises. Do you wear them generally out and about as it were? Maybe!

The recent marches (legitimate as they have been) will test the Covid picture and its possible spread. The idea of ‘social distancing’ was certainly strained and regularly ignored there.

You know that exclamatory puzzled phrase; ‘What was that all that about? “. Well I have a nagging in my head regarding a scene from over a month ago. In Minneapolis there was a rally putting pressure on the authorities to ‘open up’ the state, forget this lockdown, that is unnecessary. O.K. On the steps of a civic building a couple a men were out front and centre with ‘flak’ jackets and what appeared to me as sub machine guns or some such genre. Now I ask you; ‘What was that all that about?’ 

I rarely mention President Donald Trump much here but it is hard to resist and he gives scribblers so much here so I decided to give him a break this time. He’ll be happy with that. I haven’t the energy.


The Bog Essays

There was nice response to my two essays on my adventures on the plains of Tonroe, in the bog. A very compelling one came from my friend John Austin Biesty formerly of Carrick Road now New York.  It has a lovely nostalgic paragraph including a phrase that I will store. I trust that he does not mind me quoting it here

Tony.   “You raised my melancholic level as I read about your turf-saving endeavors.  You rekindled many happy memories of my bog days.  In my boyhood days, I would spend four or five weeks with my aunts and uncles in Ballyhaunis during the summer.  There, I spent many carefree, happy days working alongside my cousins and their neighbors, all of whom have passed on.  Precious memories, how they linger, how they touch and flood my soul.  The late John Healy, of Western People fame wrote a book, I believe it was titled "Seventeen Acres.'  In it, he has some great and funny stories about his turf cutting days in Mayo. The book itself is a great read”. (Thanks for that Austin. 

I have, as you can gather, highlighted the powerful sentence.

John Healy was also a contributor to The Irish Times. There is an iconic scene in the coverage of Italia 90 after David O’Leary scores the deciding penalty v Romania. It is of John Healy sobbing with joy in a crowded tent (I think). This was replicated by John (the) Bull Hayes before the historic Ireland v England rugby match in Croke Park in February 2007. 

John Healy wrote two telling books one as Austin writes and the second ‘Nobody shouted Stop’. The death of an Irish town. The town in question was Charlestown. I had both of these books a long time ago but I gave the loan of them and I don’t have them anymore!   


The Business Emperors make inroads in the Second and Fourth Estates.

A writer before the French Revolution framed society in The Ancién Regime of France as divided into three sections or estates, they being; 1. Clergy. 2. Nobility and 3. Commoners. These have been updated as four estates currently, as 1. Executive. 2. Legislature. 3. Judiciary. 4. Media.   

Pat McDonagh regularly injects himself into the 4th estate. Recently I heard him wax lyrical about ending some Government supports so that his employees ‘can’ return to work. To work especially in his low wage economy to bolster his gung ho business. (Pat forgot that there was a way of doing this by himself paying his employees a tad or more than the Government supports.) But maybe we should just pass on that. If you read this Pat take a break as these are shaky times and your statue could easily come into the sights of the emerging anarchists which are such a force in the U.S.

Add in the facts that people are now getting on their bicycles and weighing scales and going through a period called ‘Operation Transformation’ and questioning a phenomena called DIET. And Pat if Diet becomes populist and the anarchists look around for targets then Supermac’s may need to rebrand to ‘Superman’s’ to fend off the jokers. Take a few months in isolation from the 4th estate in your own estate. It is also called cocooning and maybe you could emerge as a butterfly.

While I’m at It

Another Estate i.e. number 2 -the Legislature- also had an incision from the ‘Emperors of Business’ or their Bismarck. Lazily looking at some discussion in the Dáil who do I see, comfortable and very much at home, in the Taoiseach’s seat only Daniel McCoy? Who? I hear you ask. Maybe you’ve mistaken him and it is Micheál Martin. No I reassure you it was the real McCoy. Well Daniel felt as much at home as he might be in the Horseshoe Bar in the Shelbourne. I was there once for educational purposes. I walked in pre rugby match as smartly as the throng allowed, hung a left took a kind of forced twirl and out again.

Well I did not linger with McCoy who now has a story to tell of his day in the Dáil. I expected to see Tom Parlon but he was probably out enforcing social distancing on building sites. Anyway being in the Dáil wouldn’t be news to Tom, just another brick in the wall. 


The View’s Poem Selection for this time.

The birds seem to be having a decent time as they have pretty audible these past months. While on the bog the call of the cuckoo resonated. It reminded me of another of the great nature poems of Wordsworth and I add it here. It is a bit long (I get paid by the word) but you do not have to read it all!

  To the Cuckoo

O blithe New-comer! I have heard,

I hear thee and rejoice.

O Cuckoo! shall I call thee Bird,

Or but a wandering Voice?


While I am lying on the grass

Thy twofold shout I hear;

From hill to hill it seems to pass,

At once far off, and near.


Though babbling only to the Vale

Of sunshine and of flowers,

Thou bringest unto me a tale

Of visionary hours.


Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring!

Even yet thou art to me

No bird, but an invisible thing,

A voice, a mystery;


The same whom in my school-boy days

I listened to; that Cry

Which made me look a thousand ways

In bush, and tree, and sky.


To seek thee did I often rove

Through woods and on the green;

And thou wert still a hope, a love;

Still longed for, never seen.


And I can listen to thee yet;

Can lie upon the plain

And listen, till I do beget

That golden time again.


O blessèd Bird! the earth we pace

Again appears to be

An unsubstantial, faery place;

That is fit home for Thee!


Take care and may your gods go with you.





Thursday, June 4, 2020

Update 5th June

The Successful Turf Campaign of 2020
In the environs of Athleague, close to my home place of Castlecoote, a number of farmers used to grow beet/sugar beet for the Sugar factory in Tuam. The harvesting and delivery of the beet to the factory was referred to as ‘the beet campaign’ by its participants.
I referred to the traditional turf cutting ‘campaign’ of the fifties here last time with some references to the struggle to get the product out of the bog and home.

 I’ll treat here of part two of that campaign:  saving and bringing home the turf in these modern times.

I got three runs of turf this year. I know that many people refer to ‘hoppers’ of turf as a standard imperial measurement and I could probably translate my ‘runs’ into ‘hoppers’ but why bother?
My Commissar for turf has been my link to the turf mines for a good few years now. The turf was spread in my designated patch around Easter time. The weather through April was really perfect for advancing the drying process which it did. So after an inspection of the possibilities in late April, a concentrated attack was made on ‘footing’ the turf on Sunday, May 3rd. Covid social distancing was easily introduced to the bog for the duration, with our small retinue. Indeed, the Covid19 trauma was not a significant issue in this project apart from reducing the accessible labour force. They were there for the initiation day of ‘footing’ the turf. I really thought that this would be a stressful day of hand digging the individual sods (sads) with the hands but no, it responded well and was just properly cooked to facilitate the construction of decent ‘footings’. There are different styles of ‘footings’. One style just puts the long sods on their end and creating a rough tepee shape. The classic style in this region is a kind of Jenga with two on two on two until the structure reaches just short of being unstable. This can be strengthened by supporting long sods placed vertically on each side.

In the fifties/sixties, we used to toss/turn the turf and maybe turn it a second time. In good weather then, one could just put clumps of turf in a small heap tiling it with sods to ensure that rain ran off the heap. Then these small heaps were put into clamps especially if there was a danger that the turf might not be taken off the bog for a considerable period. In these clamps turf kinda seasoned better.  The best place to dry turf is, of course, ‘on the bog’. Turf once clamped was regarded as safe.

Recently a senior man told me that some years ago he had taken the first two loads of three home in early June and that he took the third load home in October. By that stage, it might have become ‘green’ turf with the green coming from the colour that emerged from the moss algae that had attached to it due to the wet weather. In a pub quiz in the winter of the 80s’ I asked the question; ‘What product cannot be burned?” The prescribed answer was aluminium which melts as opposed to burns. One answer that returned was; ‘Last summer’s turf”
I digress. I was pleasantly surprised we completed the ‘footing’ element of the ‘turf-saving’ that Sunday afternoon.
With the weather being so good I began to feel that an assessment trip was sensible in the middle of May, just two weeks later. The five-mile restriction was elasticised and the possibility that turf saving qualified as an ‘essential’ labour was posited as a defence. Anyway, the assessment showed that the turf needed some more time on the oven before the wheels of taking away were put in motion. A second assessment, nearly a week later, demonstrated the weakness of the Jenga technique as the bottom sods were proving very stubborn along with a sprinkling of batch loaf style sods. This required the bottom to the top restructuring in ray or re-footing a certain amount of the crop. Some brittle material was cherry-picked into heaps for self-preservation.
Then it was trailer-on–the-bog-time. When my haulier announced that he had ‘dropped’ a trailer on my bank I knew that I had to get a body part into motion. I was quick to realise that the time was nigh. This was reinforced with a weather forecast of wind and rain. So that carriage was filled with low hanging sods and roughly covered to confront the coming rain.

The slight storm passed and some remedial adjustments were again made to the crop and the first load was deposited in Forest View. The turf store had been prepared by removal of debris from last season and it was the fate of some large un-split blocks to be buried for another year.

The real test was a big trailer which was a tough filling job but knocked a real hole on the quantity of turf remaining. If the summer turned sour when that was home the winter fuel requirement was, for the most part, in credit. That was a Saturday, May 30th.

That day Tonroe bog looked like a scene from Dunkirk with tractors and trailers, horse and cattle boxes, small car trailers, a dumper or two, front-loading forks for ‘bales’ of turf and digger buckets. All modes of conveyance were brought to bear on the turf banks with small groups filling them with serious intent as if to escape some pending hurricane. The sight of cars on the turf bank highlighted the top condition of the terrain. It was no John Hinde picture card of a donkey with balancing creels and a red-headed Connemara Collen and her freckled-faced brother. The weather continued and the turf loads raised the dust on the narrow bog road as the traffic lined up as if competing for flight slots. It has to be said also that the camaraderie, goodwill and consideration on the narrow exit road were of the highest order.
The ‘big’ trailer was home and its cargo deposited in its store. This left just a third, final and lesser trip. There was no discrimination this time as the loaf style and stubborn ‘bottom’ sods were hand-shovelled onto the transporter. This was topped off with the ragged timber pallets that had expedited the process around depressions on the bank. The neighbour now had a full runway to work with as the Conboy bank was clear and clean.

The turf campaign of 2020 was over. This year it was short, sharp and successful. It was just the first days of June and the December fires were secure. 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Update 23rd May

Lá ar an bPortach… (Dedicated to B.C. who expressed surprise that I had not referred to the bog in my last post)
The recent long stretch of lovely weather has set the scene for and accelerated the annual bog campaign. I have been involved in these, off and on, for decades. In our national school days, there were a number of essays which were hardy annuals and ‘A Day on the Bog’ tri Gaeilge or English was a regular title around then. It was easy as we followed a rule -that emerged much later-write about what you know.  
The farming year was a cycle. It started with the lambing season, followed by ploughing and planting with ‘the bog’ campaign beginning in May or early June. Nearly everyone on the country-farms had his area of bog. The first task was to survey the possible locations where the turf would be cut. This would naturally be a follow-on from the previous years.  Some bogs were pretty well organised with regular banks, drains and spreading grounds. However, others were less so or a mix of both. The banks or bog holes needed to be cleaned of the top layers or more recent soft residue growth. It was a bit of a debate as to when to start the cutting of the turf proper as the top layers, even after the ground was ‘cleaned’, did not make for really worthwhile fuel.

The turf-cutting instrument was called the ‘sleán’ a type of sharp spade with a particular shape of wing. This had to be designed to facilitate the left-footed or right-footed user. I never graduated to the sleán. The expert here was my father assisted by my older brother. I and my immediate older brothers were wheelbarrow boys. The spreading ground could be limited around some of the bog holes or might entail a fairly long run with the barrow to maximise the return from the particular bank being cut. Local carpenters or handymen were the makers of the wheelbarrow.

(Diversion: This reminds me of Barry Feely’s story of a man boasting about a wheelbarrow he had made saying to his unimpressed listener, regarding his creation “I made that wheelbarrow out of my own head” to which the unimpressed listener replied “And I’d say there is the makings of another one there too”) 

If the ‘run’ was a long one, then the single sleán turf cutter could use two barrow boys to spread the turf. There was a particular way for loading the sads (sods was a much later pronunciation) onto the barrow so that when it was keeled over the sods would not break up. The catching of the sods from the sleán developed a kind of rhythm. Very occasionally one might take the sod from too near the sleán and get a nick from it. This was during your apprenticeship. As the bank lowered to water level the challenge began of bottoming out without the water encroaching over or into the bog hole. This necessitated the allowance of keeping a wall of uncut turf between the sunken part and the water outside. These we called ‘corries’. The really good or ‘stone’ turf was at the lowest levels so every effort was made to maximise the return from there. From time to time the corries might not be able to keep the water out and they would break like a dam burst and the remaining spits were lost. If one ever got to the white gravel bottom, one had got the full bounty of that particular bank. As the water threatened there was a scurry of activity as the corries themselves were cut and just dumped on the high ground or the ‘cutaway’ mounds.  The barrow was abandoned and it was like a ship rescue as the remaining turf was salvaged.

As he cut each spit, the work of the cutter grew progressively harder as he had to throw the sods higher and higher to clear the bank. Furthermore, as the cutter descended one spit at a time, the quality of the turf increased and the blacker and more compressed it became. By contrast, the burden eased for the spreaders as the earlier spits had to be spread further out than the later ones.
One of the treats of the day on the bog was the tea break where we would be joined by colleagues from neighbouring banks. The tea seemed to have absorbed the flavour of our environment. Eggs were boiled in pea tins on the turf and bramble fire and small boxes of Galtee or Calvita cheese were treats. 
We boys did not have the luxury of watches in the early years but the Dublin to Westport ‘up and down’ evening trains, which ran close to our bog, were our markers for the day’s end.  By evening time both cutter and spreader were well and truly exhausted. The cutting element of the campaign could last well over a week. The ‘saving’ took much longer and of course, the weather played a key role in that. While the turf today is cut in a commercial/industrial way it still has to be saved in the traditional time consuming and back-wearing way. Early in the year, this topic must have been a subject for discussion on Dodd’s Bar and I suggested to a local wit (P.C.) that it was a wonder how someone had not invented the machine for ‘footing’ turf. He replied; ‘Of course there is a machine for footing turf”. ” How so?” I asked. “Your hands” he replied.    
The recent long stretch of great weather with extra people being available in this Covid19 era has meant a short sharp saving campaign. Socially distancing was easily adhered to on the wide expanse of the bog where nature prevails and the call cuckoo resonates in the silence.  
Yesterday evening-Thursday- I loaded a trailer and covered it as best I could. I wonder now, as the wind blows energetically outside my window if the covering survived. The next process is ‘bringing it home’. In those early fifties, it was by horse and cart with tall side crates. In some bogs, it was difficult as the runs out of the bog were poor where the narrow wheels of the cart would sink easily or ‘keashs’ would collapse. Later the introduction of the rubber-wheeled cart was a big help and then it was the tractor and trailer which could compress the time of the task. Recently I read in a local ‘history’ by an Athleague man that they tied plastic bags over the hooves and socks of the horses to assist in traction! I had never heard of that even though Athleague was but ‘a stone’s throw’ from where I lived.  
While some of us regularly 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. The environmental movement may bring it all to a close within the next decade and the centuries of working on the bogs will be no more.
Anyway, next winter’s fires are now provided for and in May 2021 we will address the same issues again and return to another bog campaign as the elders used to say, God willing. Maybe.

New Government???
The sentiments do not change and I know very well that I’m repeating myself with it but it is still valid if boring, unbelievable;
I referenced this in my post of two weeks ago and four weeks ago and six weeks ago.  Keep in mind that the election took place on Saturday, February 8th …now 104 days ago. I wrote then and I repeat; 
“I can only call the efforts to form a Government in this country as PATHETIC. There have been talks about talks, preliminary talks, kind of meaningful talks, meaningful talks, documents being drawn up, talk of a ‘government formation document’ but yet no real progress. It is a disgrace especially for the parties who are not part of the ‘Interim -Government’ as of now”.  
Richard Starkey of the Beatles going on 80
Richard Starkey is nearly 80 (July) being born in 1940 and looks pretty well for it. As Gerry Emmett sometimes flatters people by saying “He is wearing very even”. Anyway enough of the Richard Starkey. He is of course universally known as Ringo Starr the drummer with the Beatles, probably the most famous pop band in the history of the genre. For people of my generation, The Beatles were THE band. While I was a great admirer and loved many of their songs I am not an expert on their lives and music. Ringo with Paul McCartney (born 1942) are the two surviving members of the band the other two being George Harrison and John Lennon who was shot in New York in December 1980.

The Beatles lit up our lives in the sixties and led to it being referred to as ‘the Swinging Sixties’. It was a time when English pop music ruled the universal airwaves with the exception of the King i.e. Elvis Presley. The Beatles are of course a Liverpool creation and after some time in Hamburg, they returned to The Cavern Club in the city under the management of Brian Epstein. Ringo Starr had replaced Stuart Sutcliffe as the drummer. Every song released subsequently turned to gold.  The band prompted frenetic popular support which became referred to as Beatle mania. This led to the band abandoning live performances apart from a memorable roof concert at Abbey Road, recording studio. 

Amongst their great albums are Abbey Road, Revolver, The White Album and A Hard Day’s Night which was the soundtrack of a slight movie of theirs. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is regarded as the greatest album ever recorded. Ringo sang rarely but led the song ‘Yellow Submarine’ which first appeared on ‘The Revolver’ album. Donie O’Connor with his ‘Bubble’ song has resonances of ‘Yellow Submarine’ as it is a classic kid’s song. Ringo was later to be one of the voices in the popular children’s television series Thomas the Tank Engine. The Beatles went through many various incarnations in a short time. Ringo is married to Barbara Bach for over thirty-four years. He has stopped giving autographs and tries not to shake hands, anticipating our Covid19 necessary practise.    The Beatles and Ringo were part of a fun time of emerging possibilities in our yesterdays. Many of their songs will endure, some just pleasant sound bites and others with the depth of one of their greatest ‘Imagine’. 
I was reminded of all this when watching an excellent T.V. programme on Sunday, May 10th on T.G. 4 titled, ‘The Beatles—8 Days a Week’. In it the output of the Beatles in terms of song and musical composition was compared favourably to that of classical composers. 
 I’ve become smothered, in my mind, with all the material and achievements that I might refer to so recognising my own limitations I’ll just abandon that idea here.     
Some Television Programmes I’ve Thought Good
Television at this time is the proverbial mixed bag. I suppose you could say that at any time. I have not watched a lot of it even it seems otherwise. I ‘study’ the programme lists and make my choices and here are some that have impressed me.  
T.G. 4 comes out well in my list of programmes. By the end of this paragraph, I’ll know better about the other channels!
 1. Well known and regarded traditional musicians father and son, ‘The Begleys’, have taken to the Wild Atlantic Way in reverse in our minds. They have started from their native Kerry along the West Coast. Their first county was the music-rich county Clare. This was a great beginning other than their mobile home breaking down and needing to be replaced. They spent two episodes in Galway and managed to go to probably to my favourite place i.e. Innishboffin Island out from Creggan in Connemara. It was a very short session in Murrays Hotel there. After that, they moved to Westport House and Molloy’s Bar of course in Mayo. The musicians are a mix of pretty well know musicians and singers and those who are not so well known. They felt the love themselves. A feature of their interaction is that they allow their guests to play their piece and do not dominate in any way the programme. Next week it is into Sligo so I look forward to that. Roscommon is not featured in this series but hopefully, it will be slated for the next series. Sunday night TG4 at 9.30 is the usual transmission time.    
2. I am a history buff and I like to see programmes that deal with ‘surprise’ aspects of hidden history. A current short series is presented by the excellent- in all that he gets involved in- Andrew Marr on BBC 4 on Monday nights at 8. The series deals with ‘Post WW2 Britain’. The first episode dealt with the huge election shock of July 1945 when Winston Churchill the hero leader of Britain during the war lost out and the victory of Labour’s Clement Attlee. Some people might remember Churchill’s reply to the suggestion that Attlee was, ‘A very humble person’ to which he replied, ‘He had a lot to be humble about’. 
Another classic from the Christine Keeler affair of the 60s’ was also referenced with a Mandy Rice Davis put down of a ‘client’s’ disparaging reference in the simple; “He would say that wouldn’t he.”    
3. I mentioned Evan Boland last time but was re-educated by the documentary “Evan Boland: Is it Still the Same”. It turned out that President Mary Robinson was a best friend to Evan and vice versa. President Robinson quoted Evan when Mary was inaugurated as Ireland's first lady President.
4.   A BBC 4 series presented by the exotically named Simon Sebag Montefiore deals with the great cities of Europe. It is related at breath-taking pace by its presenter. The episode I caught on Tuesday, May 12th at 12 midnights, dealt with; ‘Vienna Empire Dynasty and Dream’   It really enticed one to visit that city and the others in the series.  
5. A sordid short series I stayed with was the near fall of the English Liberal Party Jeremy Thorpe. Hugh Grant was compellingly distasteful in his interpretation of Thorpe.  
6. A hugely popular Netflix series is titled ‘The Last Dance’ and gives a definitive account of Michael Jordan's basketball career and the 1990s Chicago Bulls. It is packed with new footage from the 1997-98 season. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Phil Jackson (Team Manager) and many others contribute to this look at a legendary team. It shows the heights Jordan reaches to the icon level of Mohamed Ali as the most recognised and thought of sportsperson in American sporting history. The series has its critics in that it is consumed by Jordan and that it is all about him. Still for us, on this side of the pond, it shows how brilliant a basketball player he was and how he highlighted the sport of basketball. I really recommend it.  

Epilogue; I see that David Brady is foremost in a social project where well-known sportspeople give a phone call to a senior person who is ‘into’ GAA or whatever sports. 
A friend of mine, a former college colleague, took a call from a person I recommended he talk to whom he too had known slightly at that time also. He came back to me with a text saying, “I have just finished a 50-minute enriching conversation with x…. absolutely brilliant”. 
So there is a power in mindfulness via the phone, especially in these challenging times.  

Take Care and
May Your Gods go with you. 

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Update 9th May

New Government???
I referenced this in my post two weeks ago and four weeks ago. Keep in mind that the election took place on Saturday, February 8th …now 90 days ago. I wrote then and I know I’m repeating myself with it but it is still valid; 
“I can only call the efforts to form a Government in this country as PATHETIC. There have been talks about talks, preliminary talks, kind of meaningful talks, meaningful talks, documents being drawn up, talk of a ‘government formation document’ but yet no real progress. It is a disgrace especially for the parties who are not part of the ‘Interim -Government’ as of now”.  
The Greens have agreed to join F.G and F. F. for more talks and someone has said, “The three leaders are confident that they will come to an agreement later this month or (early) next month” …or maybe after the summer recess!  

All this for a Government that will, in my view, last around eighteen months!  Unbelievable. If it was tenable the best option would be another election. John Mulligan, I see, is suggesting that the parties who enter the Government are putting themselves on the gallows with the advantage swinging to the major party in opposition i.e. Sinn Féin, in a protracted Government with the Tsunami of huge issues around the corner leading to a disaffected community. That is in the immediate future but we are living today….tomorrow is another day. 

 Centenary Commemorations;
There has been a lull in commemorations marking the various benchmarks of that major period in Irish history beginning with the 1916 Rebellion. The 1917 North Roscommon Election of Count Plunkett had a very good seminar organised by Sinn Féin in Boyle courthouse. I did not tune into the 1918 Election too much but the sitting of the First Dáil did get coverage. The thing is that a lot of the real recognition of these events takes place in Dublin and it is not that easy to be going there for all that. 
Now we are into the War of Independence period. I know that there are significant plans for the famous Bloody Sunday events in Tipperary and elsewhere from a friend involved there. 
In the last week I got a contact from Thomas Tormey of Trinity College as follows:     
“I am writing to you to highlight a historical event which I think should be commemorated or at least acknowledged by Roscommon County Council and the people of the county more broadly. 
This event was the first meeting of the Council following the local election of 1920. 
 It was at this meeting of 21 June 1920 that the council declared its allegiance to Dáil Éireann. It also removed from the minute book a motion from 1916 that condemned the Rising.

I am not sure how many other local authorities are marking their own centenaries of similar events but I note that Cork City Council did on January 30 prior to the Covid19 disaster. Local elections for urban areas were held earlier in the year in 1920.
I believe that the take-over of the council by the then Sinn Féin offers important context for the events that came later, such as the terror campaign by the RIC and British Army and the IRA's guerrilla war”.
Over the next three years, there will be a number of events from those times which are worthy of marking. The present incredible time will make the more immediate commemorations impossible to mark in the traditional manner. I wonder if there is any listing for Roscommon events that might be remembered?    
I imagine that Roscommon County Councillors and the Executive of the Council will take Mister Tormey’s call in hand and that some manner of commemoration will occur.
Of course, after the War of Independence, there is the Civil War period!  

Cocooning et al 
I have been following the rules diligently for around six weeks. With the hospitable weather and a programme of work which has been long-fingered for a considerable time, I have been fine. I continue to make progress with ‘the works’ programme. I was listening to Eamon Dunphy on T.V. last night and he too was comfortable that, his environment -as with myself- made cocooning no big issue. Of course, there are many people who are in very restricted environments and this is very different and difficult for them. 
There is a narrative regarding the emergence of a general attitude towards ‘senior’ people. I hope that when this time has abated that there will be a ‘discussion’ on that but there will be many discussions on many issues. A problem with imposing severe restrictions on a compliant section of society –which the senior segment is- is that when we see very blatant and significant breaches of generally accepted behaviour the question re-emerges, is there one rule for one section and another rule for others?
I am referring to the numbers coming and going through airports and ports. They sashay through the airport with a large number showing contempt rather than respect for the form-filling requirements of the present time. Why is there is no querying of this at passport control? Why could passports not be scanned as the basic solid information is all there? Even many of those who do fill in the forms cannot be contacted later. Contempt again. 
Why there are so many planes coming and going is also questionable.        
The experts tell us that the way forward after ‘flattening the curve’ is by ‘testing and tracing’/restricting inward travel/ social distancing and so on. 
The Northern open border is also a big issue. With the trauma of BREXIT coming down the track as Bud Abbot ‘Another fine mess’. While I should not say it I cannot see how there will not be a ‘hardish’ border reinstated.
Strawberry pickers??   
As the American philosopher Donald Rumsfeld stated: “Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know”.
A lot done, more to do.

The Death of the poet Evan Boland 
Evan Boland was one of the modern group of great Irish poets and a contemporary of Longley, Kennelly, and Mahon. Her first collection of poems was titled ‘War Horse’ in 1975. A favourite Evan Boland poem for me is the poem titled ‘Love’.  It is set in the United States where and when the family lived in Iowa. 

Eavan Boland
Dark falls on this mid-western town
where we once lived when myths collided.
Dusk has hidden the bridge in the river
which slides and deepens
to become the water
the hero crossed on his way to hell.

Not far from here is our old apartment.
We had a kitchen and an Amish table.
We had a view. And we discovered there
love had the feather and muscle of wings
and had come to live with us,
a brother of fire and air.
We had two infant children one of whom
was touched by death in this town
and spared: and when the hero
was hailed by his comrades in hell
their mouths opened and their voices failed and
there is no knowing what they would have asked
about a life they had shared and lost.

I am your wife.
It was years ago.
Our child was healed. We love each other still.
Across our day-to-day and ordinary distances,
we speak plainly. We hear each other clearly.

And yet I want to return to you
on the bridge of the Iowa river as you were,
with snow on the shoulders of your coat
and a car passing with its headlights on:

I see you as a hero in text--
the image blazing and the edges gilded--
and I long to cry out the epic question
my dear companion:
Will we ever live so intensely again?
Will love come to us again and be
so formidable at rest it offered us ascension
even to look at him?

But the words are shadows and you cannot hear me.
You walk away and I cannot follow

In much poetry and fine writing, there are sentences that arrest you and six lines from the end of this poem is one which does that for me. “Will we ever live so intensely again?”. Perhaps in this time, when we are living with the handbrake on, we might reflect on times in our lives and people in our lives that reflect that idea. 

Leaving Cert Debacle
‘I used to be indecisive but now I’m not so sure’ could be the mantra for the road towards finally deciding to abandon the Leaving Cert. It has been a long and winding road and must have caused much tension and anxiety for those affected by it. While the examination was the holy grail of fairness and legitimacy the logistics and waves of health considerations have eventually drowned that ship. How the authorities deal now with the flotsam of debris in the wake of the decision is a real conundrum. I certainly would not like to be the teacher who had to submit ‘predictive’ grades for students especially those who were on my football team, near neighbours or even my own household. 
‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall …’ comes to mind or maybe Rumsfeld’s philosophy is valid here also.

Lest We Forget
In the period of the Irish Famine, a group of people belonging to the Choctaw and Hopi tribes of American natives (referred to as Indians by the white man) heard of this Famine in a faraway island, Ireland. They made a collection and forwarded a donation, by whatever means, of $170 as a charitable bequest to help the starving people.  
In recent weeks the descendants of those tribes have found themselves in difficult straits themselves due to the Covid19. On becoming aware of that some Irish connections in the U.S. decided to help them, remembering as they did their 1847 gesture. So up to $100,000 has found its way to that Indian Community, to their great surprise, as an Irish bequest. So the goodwill shown 173 years ago has stood the test of time and is now being reciprocated.
It is a really nice thing to see.
I’ve been aware of the original story for some time and in 2017 the beautiful memorial of the event-below- was unveiled in Middletown, County Cork. 

Just a nugget of information. The ‘Indians’ were called such because Columbus and the early explorers were searching for a way to India and the East. Thinking that they had arrived in some extension of India led to the original natives being called…Indians. 
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!    

Enough stories for today. Not one mention of Dr. Trump!
Take very good care of ourselves. Play by the rules. 
This Covid19 has gone viral and it a real x,y,z.
I’ve used this before and Leo Varadkar used a version of it in his address to the nation so here goes;
 “Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”. Winston Churchill.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Update 25th April

 Some Memories of Canon Peadar Lavin
I worked with Father Lavin at St. Mary’s College when he was Principal there from 1980 to 1989.  Canon Peadar had been a teacher in Summerhill for a number of decades. He had gone there for his secondary education in the 40s’. His core subject was Irish and he became an ardent Gaelgoir refreshing his core knowledge by visiting Inishmaan, one of the Aran islands, for many summers. In the late seventies he was a curate in Ballymoe for a short period. When Father Dodd left St. Mary’s College to become parish priest of Boyle, after the fire that destroyed the church, Father Tonra - a brilliant academic man - took charge there for two or so years. Father Lavin came to St. Mary’s in 1980 and made his mark there with ‘smacht’ or discipline on students and staff(!) alike with an emphasis on results.
In that period the College had two major re-unions, one in 1985 in the College gym and the second in Highgate London with both Fathers Lavin and Dodd present.
Canon Lavin was a rock in whatever enterprise he engaged with. After the death of Canon Dodd in 1986 Canon Peadar became Parish Priest of Boyle. He was later to become a parish priest in Knockcroghery. He was held in high regard there also and he really embraced the village and parish. It being the heartbeat of GAA in county Roscommon would have significance in that regard.
He met his brother priests regularly in the Abbey Hotel for lunch and I feel they shared the issues of the day as it concerned them. There was collective support there.
In 1983 RTE brought Community Radio to Boyle for a week and Father Lavin presented a series of local history programmes.
His heart though was always with his home village Ballyfarnon and its football team St. Ronan’s. Significant wins by the team made him happy while underperformance got little sympathy. ‘Blame not where you want to blame but rather lay the blame where it rightly lies’. 
Canon Peadar had a deep interest in and had amassed a deep record of his own area. Hopefully some of that knowledge is on record. It reminds me of an occasion once when I sympathised with a lady whose husband had died and she replied ‘Yes and all that history knowledge gone’.
I visited the Canon a few times in recent years in Roscommon. With Gerry Emmett and Gaye Sheeran we visited him in The Sacred Heart Hospital recently enough. It was a great visit that went on for a considerable time. The three Ballyfarnon men covered, in-depth, a whole range of topics and people of their parish. I was a lesser contributor but very much engaged with it all. It is the kind of visit that you reflect on afterwards and say to yourself “I’m glad I did that”. 
Canon Peadar was a considerable force for good and lived a long life which enabled him to disperse the elements of that life experience. These included his county, his schools and the parishes he served so well. In parallel to these were his priestly calling, his extended family and the Ballyfarnon community. May he rest in peace.      

New Government???
I referenced this in my post two weeks ago. Keep in mind that the election took place on Saturday February 8th …76 days ago. I wrote then;
“I can only call the efforts to form a Government in this country as PATHETIC. There have been talks about talks, preliminary talks, kind of meaningful talks, meaningful talks, documents being drawn up, talk of a ‘government formation document’ but yet no real progress. It is a disgrace especially for the parties who are not part of the ‘Interim -Government’ as of now”.    
P.S. There seems to be a little movement this Friday evening. Hurrah …after 76 days. Now there are three variable groups …. with little or no cohesion. Look through the lists below if you can cope with getting more depressed. At least one substantial group from these is necessary to the formation of a cohesive and lasting government with F.F/F.G./ and the Green Party!
Regional Group
Party     Name    Constituency
Independent (8)              
Cathal Berry                       Kildare South (Never heard of him….NH from here)
Seán Canney                      Galway East
Peter Fitzpatrick               Louth (nh politically)
Noel Grealish                   Galway West
***Michael Lowry         Tipperary (I HAVE heard about him)
Verona Murphy              Wexford  ( Maybe)
Denis Naughten             Roscommon–Galway
Matt Shanahan              Waterford (nh)
Aontú (1)            
Peadar Tóibín                 Meath West

Rural Group!
Party     Name    Constituency
Independent (6)               Michael Collins  Cork South-West
Danny Healy-Rae              Kerry
Michael Healy-Rae          Kerry
Mattie McGrath                Tipperary
Carol Nolan                        Laois–Offaly (nh)
Richard O'Donoghue      Limerick County (nh)

Independent Group
Party     Name    Constituency
Independent (5)              
Catherine Connolly          Galway West
Michael Fitzmaurice        Roscommon–Galway
Marian Harkin                  Sligo–Leitrim
Michael McNamara         Clare (nh)
Thomas Pringle               Donegal

Independents 4 Change (1)          Joan Collins         Dublin South-Central 

The World According to Dr. Trump
President Donald Trump has said some crazy things since we became aware of him but the ‘advice’ he dispensed last night has reached new …heights/lows… His references to the use of Dettol and ‘infra-red lights or some configuration of same to ‘kill’ the Covid 19 virus trumps all he has said before. It could have prompted some sane person to arrange some men in white coats to be waiting off stage or maybe even going on stage since it was so toxic. The danger is that some people might follow the dear leader and take his advice! While that seems absurd…these are different times and the Trump personality is something we haven’t seen before either. Something he has suggested recently had ‘a run’ on it subsequently. As Trump dug the hole deeper with these pronouncements the actual medical lady consultant doctor present sat in shock at what she was hearing. Why it did not suggest to her to just get up and walk away and thus disassociate herself from it all, she may look back on as a big mistake. That would have been a real statement and reality- check for Trump and his ‘advisors’.  
The terrible reality for this great country and for our world is that this man looks like he will be re-elected come next November.   
A British expert, on television, this evening commented that “It was one of the most dangerous and idiotic suggestions that I’ve ever heard”. 
The producers of Dettol quickly and strongly advised people not to follow these bizarre suggestions.
And this circus continues…    

Two Fine Singers Pass Away
It’s a couple of weeks now since John Prine and Mary McPartlan passed away. It seems a long time ago but that is the atmosphere of these times. Sean and others have spoken generously about John Prine. I just have a wee story which involves another kinda local musical hero Peter Horan from Killavil beyond Gurteen. Both John and Peter –a renowned flute player- were in Molloy’s bar in Westport. Peter was not really aware of John Prine and may have heard him singing that night. John Prine had heard that Peter was not just a musician but also a singer so he cajoled Peter into singing a song. He thought he was going to hear a classic Irish ballad or some such. But when Peter returned to sing he launched into…’Carry Me Back to Old Virginia’ which was kinda home for John. At the conclusion of Peter’s song John praised him as he would but Peter responded -not being too impressed by Prine’s earlier singing- ‘Not at all… sure there are none of us singers!’
The second singer I am referencing is Mary McPartlan from Drumkeeran in Leitrim. Leitrim for such a small county in terms of population has contributed many people to the arts and culture across various genres. I have a good friend from Drumkeeran and he is a sage in many respects but very passionate about his native county where he seems to know much of the population. I digress.
Mary’s mother came from Tyrone and passed on a store of songs. Mary McPartlan was creative director of NUI Galway’s Arts in Action programme and a Fulbright scholar. She researched American folk music from the Appalachian region and students come to NUIG from there on scholarship for further research. Amongst her CD collections of songs are ‘The Holland handkerchief’ in 2003 and ‘Mountain to Mountain’ in 2016. In these collection she is accompanied by many fine musicians from North Connacht with Seamie O’Dowd from Sligo being prominent.
I really like (I won’t say …love) her rendition of Shane McGowan’s classic ‘Rainy Night in Soho’ a location in London that I was aware of in my time there.

Leonard Cohen Remembered
I might mention here two concerts one of which I thought I had missed BUT it is being repeated on RTE 1 tomorrow Saturday at 10.30. That is ‘The Songs of Leonard Cohen’ with the RTE Orchestra and guests. While Leonard Cohen has his critics like everybody I find his tones and lyrics powerful. I will not forget his concert in the lawn of Lisadell House in Sligo in 2010 which I attended with my son Cianan. Cohen singing in the shadows of Ben Bulben, Yeats country, was a fitting coalescing of kindred genres of poetic magic.

A Woman’s Heart
One of the great Irish CD’s –a trilogy actually- has been ‘A Woman’s Heart’ starting in 1992 and then ’94 and then again 10 years later. They tried –unsuccessfully- to transmit the quality of that group of songs in an another RTE orchestra collaboration last week. Missing was a lady who I would submit as my favourite singer, over say five songs, and that is Dolores Keane.  

Zoom Quizzes
In these troubled times online quizzes have been popping up or mushrooming at a pace. I am very much a retired quiz aficionado but it is hard to be fully retired. (Sometimes I am asked about what I am doing now GAA wise and have developed a standard answer that being, ‘I am doing a bit of consultancy. That is better paid’).
I started with quizzes, maybe in Boyle Golf Club, with Father Tonra a very bright and lovely man. I then started to set and act as question-master for a number of seasons of quizzes in The Ceile House Bar through the 80s’. They were very enjoyable and successful for the bar as a business. We had our own travelling team then drawn from a broad panel of John Casey, Eamon Perry, Tom Mullaney, Gerry Whelehan, Liam Coyle, Bill Mannion, Sheila Tighe, Liam O’Callaghan bolstered by young gun Enda O’Boyle and much later by Cillian Doyle, Jarlath Tivnan and Lochlainn Conboy.
No I have not forgotten …our anchor quiz-man was my dear friend John Mac Nama. I used to say that when we went to a quiz with John present we were contenders but otherwise not so much. John loved the classic quiz material Greek and Roman Gods, History, Geography and Politics. He would snap out the answer or mull over it and then issue ‘I think it was x….’ I was already writing his answer down. Later he would dismiss some quizzes as trivial
There were RTE television quizzes like ‘Rapid Roulette’ and ‘Where in the World’ and on radio a decent one called ‘Top Score’. ‘Where in the World’ in its early run was a family quiz and I enlisted three Kilkenny nephews to join me on that occasion which we won. The Kilkenny boys were not really ‘into’ quizzes but got a number of calls subsequently to join teams but they respectfully declined getting out as it were ‘at the top’. Having been on a widely known television quiz was a very good reference item on their C.V.s’ on some occasions later.
Once Eamon Perry and I went as far as Belfast for a BBC Radio quiz the name of which is consigned to the vaults of forgotten facts.
Like all things if you do not practise you can embarrass yourself in making cameo appearances in quizzes in later times. So I generally avoid that.
I might mention also the schools quiz ‘Blackboard Jungle’. We had a very good team for a couple of years at St. Mary’s College and got to the All-Ireland Semi-Finals and might have been…..Oh what might have been. We could have won a bus! The members of those teams were; Enda O’Boyle, Dara Callaghan, Ciaran Beggan, Shane McGettrick. There was an earlier team with Enda, Conor McLoughlin and Michael Mullaney. 
I could write a long essay on that subject but my shoulder aches right now.  

Two Names in the News
I listen to Sean O’Rourke consistently on RTE Radio each morning. On listening to him during the week he announced that his time was running out being a presenter with RTE as he was fast approaching retiring age. This is in May when he is obliged to retire. He has been a real stalwart with his morning -10am to 12 noon- programme covering as it does the broad range of subjects. Apart from a fairly recent (to me) o.t.t. interrogation of Minster for Heath Simon Harris the quality of his work has been pretty outstanding. He was able to dismiss Joe Brolly who was on a roll with cementing the call for solidarity with best practise with the requirement; ‘That’s enough Joe. We’ve heard enough from you’.
RTE indeed has had a number of top class presenters down the years with ‘Morning Ireland’ with two of the greatest ever Morning Ireland interrogators - Cathal MacCoille and David Hanley.
My favourite in that genre is on T.V., Tommy Gorman. He has worked for RTÉ News and Current Affairs since 1980. He is currently the Northern Ireland correspondent for RTÉ since 2001. He is known for his personal interviews with figures such as Seán Quinn, Gerry Adams and Roy Keane, the latter following the 2002 Saipan incident. He was a speaker at Boyle Arts last year.
I have a slight connection with Brian O’Rourke as I did my teacher practise in Claddagh National School when his father was Principal there. 
While there are a range of reasons for people to be retired by a certain age there is surely a great loss of people with experience and talent also. Perhaps this will be adapted in the future. It is a major discussion subject which I am not too qualified to contribute to.

Starring on University Challenge
Another person, Conor McMeel, made a splash by being a member of the Imperial College London who swept to victory in the University Challenge Quiz final on Monday night with 275 points, defeating rivals Corpus Christi, Cambridge, who finished with 105 points. This is one of the most prestigious quizzes on television and has been running for around sixty years. Master McMeel was a significant contributor to this outstanding team’s performance in the final.
I’ll adjourn at that.

 Final Words…Take Care
**Take care and do not let the guard down now. I hope everyone does. It would be a real disaster if by our own impatience we undid the good that we have done in the last month and more. We owe it to ourselves but more importantly to those who have enabled us to avoid a real disaster with their commitment in such dangerous circumstances.
 So stick with it……please…for your own and your family’s sake.

May your Gods go with you...