Saturday, March 28, 2020

Update 28th March

*First of all can I re-echo the applause of last night at 8, from the Dáil through the streets of many towns in the country and assuredly in the hearts and minds of us all, for those on ‘the front line’ in hospitals, local health facilities, ambulances, pharmacies, care homes and the myriad of other fronts who are the ‘HEROES’ in the current battle to help us emerge from this virus pandemic. When the battle is over, as it must, I expect that they will be remembered and respected all the more and appropriately recognised for their sacrifices and courage. The return of some 60 doctors from Perth Western Australia yesterday was emotional even at a distance and it must be something special for their families. Those of us brought up on cowboy films will remember the climax of the many times the cavalry arrived just in the nick of time to save the threatened and how we felt relief and left the cinema as willing suspension of outside reality evaporated. 
It was ironic that Leo Varadkar reached for a Churchillian quote in his fine declaration last week; "Never in the field of human conflict has so much owed by so many to so few" was a wartime speech made by the British prime Churchill on 20 August 1940. It was said as a tribute to the Royal Air Force’s successful efforts in the aerial Battle of Britain.
Speaking of Varadkar, our leadership too has to be commended with Varadkar, Coveney and Harris to the fore ably assisted by the many expert medical officers led by Tony Holohan.  
I will not dwell long on Covid 19 other than a few comments. It seems as if New York is now going to be the major hot spot in the United States. It is an ongoing frustration with me that such a great country is remiss in some basic ways. At this time every country needs clear and decisive leadership. President Trump hasn’t the capacity to provide that though I hear that his ‘rating’ is going up rather than down! Incredible. His daily press conferences illustrate some of the simple errors and thoughtlessness of his approach. He is surrounded by a group of ‘advisors’ in a way that would alarm us here in terms of ‘physical distancing’ which has been one of the weapons of resolve in this country. His constant play on the source of the virus coming from CHINA is juvenile at this time. Would he allow assistance from China in helping confront the crisis as might need to happen in a global survival strategic way? Trump’s messaging has been ‘all over the place’. The most recent being the desire to have the churches full for Easter. What’s that about?
I was in the States for three summers as a student and loved the experience of it as did so many students. I have met thousands of Americans down the years and have found them to be ‘normal’ reasonable, bright people. They have given so much to science, the arts, sport and all the ways that humanity exists and progresses BUT (it was coming) while we ‘Love America’ we cannot understand those illogical behaviours that come to a head in a Trump leadership. I think in terms of Obama being in office at this time. How different would the tone of that leadership be?  In my mind too is the large number of Irish people, including friends of mine from Boyle and elsewhere, in New York and throughout the States. Their undocumented status could possibly pose problems for them now with layoffs in the hospitality industry where there are many Irish.  So we remember them and hope for them. A good news story is that Irish backpackers stranded in Peru are in the process of being brought home through government intervention.      

Here … Errata      
In case you are unlucky enough to contract the virus it might be an idea to keep a track of people you have been -for whatever reason-in contact with. A success story is the reduction in the number of contacts from around 20 down to 5. 
Be extra careful in work that you do around your house these days especially when going up that ladder. You don’t need to be the one to be heading to Roscommon/Sligo with an injury acquired by some carelessness. 
Take care also of your glasses as I am learning to do. This reminds me of one of the early television series that I remember vividly from the sixties called ‘The Twilight Zone’. There was one episode where there was a bank clerk for whom book-reading consumed his life. At one lunch break he had entered the bank security vault to pursue his reading treat. Then there was a nuclear war (this was close to happening in the early sixties during the Cuban Missile Crisis and thus was credible to an extent). When my subject exited his secure vault he did so to a devastated environment. He made his way to the remains of a nearby library and secured a life’s reading requirement. He was totally happy with this …BUT…in his euphoria he managed to dislodge his strong glasses and they fell on the rough debris and the eye lens broke into fragments to his immense distress. Maybe it was a life metaphor but it is still a vivid memory of an ‘oh no!’ moment. So maybe you should be totally visually prepared by resurrecting the redundant glasses which your current ones replaced!!  
What day is it?
There is a sense that the usual markers of time are redundant at this time as one day merges into the next. Still as I wrote last time a structure/routine is important. A diversion of a memory comes into my head. It was the actor Eamon Morrissey in some James Joyce interpretation where he had a week end of drinking and as he finally began to emerge from the haze of the week end and walked down the Dublin Street he wondered as to the what day it was, muttering to himself ‘You can ask a passer-by what time is it but it is a different message if you ask them; “What Day is it?”.
I heard on radio this am of Maggie Smith’s character in Downtown Abbey asking “What is a week-end?” which clues into what I am relaying here.
* While it is a very sombre worrying time there are some flickers of amusement too with a number of amusing videos and posts online these weeks. It started for me with one in which the Mexicans were urging Trump to hurry up with his wall. 
One cannot do the good ones’ justice in writing but if you can source them these are three of my favourites; 
3. say…a husband in a kitchen kicking a ball and his wife’s positive response to the ball going askew.
2. A pink muppet and a driving instructor. Q. Driving instructor; If you were driving down the road and an old man and a young man were crossing the road what would you hit? Student driver……. 
1. Survey question; “If you were to be quarantined which of the following would you prefer to be quarantined with? A ‘Your wife and your ten –year- old son or ‘B’……. 

A Poem I heard om radio this am.
Everything is Going to be All Right by Derek Mahon.
How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.

[On reading the title of the poem I seem to remember a song of the same name.]

The Letter
While we are all hugely appreciative of modern communication at this time when we have to remain isolated Maybe this would be an opportunity to write a family member or close friend an actual letter which has been the staple mode of communication for a very long time until recently. Hearing a reference to ‘the letter’ on radio during the week I thought I might use a piece I wrote on that subject five years ago!  
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 who lived some three hundred years ago.
My reflections on the ‘humble letter’ are prompted by a few recent references. On Mairead O’Shea’s, Roscommon Herald page in the Roscommon Herald there 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 into the record 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. I know of a 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 long ago 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 especially in the first half of the 1900s’. 
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 with the brown or formal envelopes being secondary.  I can identify the source of most of them by the writing of my address. A lot of them are GAA related which will not come as surprise to most of you. The wide sweeps and tails of Christy Hannon’s brushstrokes are mirrored by the earnest functionality of Colm Dannell’s steady bid.    
Of course the era of the handwritten letter is on the wane if not gone. A friend told me recently, that in a wide conversation with his adult son, his son told him that he did not remember having ever sending 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 and in it you can record your deeper feelings for loved ones, especially those on far-flung shores. Believe me it will be regularly referenced as a touchstone of love, caring and mindfulness.   

The Beauty of Nature 
With the time change on Sunday am we are into a particularly vibrant time in the world of nature which is all around us here in Boyle. Today the sun is shining on the Curlieu Hills out my back window with the daffodils dancing on the green out front. The sullen skies (for the most part) are taking a break. From time to time I copy and paste to the blog a poem which illustrates all this much better than I can. Probably the most popular poem in the English language is William, Wordsworth’s  

“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”
I wandered lonely as a Cloud
   That floats on high o'er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
   A host of golden Daffodils;
Beside the Lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
   And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
   Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
   Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:—
A Poet could not but be gay
   In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the shew to me had brought:

For oft when on my couch I lie
   In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
   Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.

Hundreds and Thousands
I used to ask about the above in quizzes but in our current challenging times there were a few of the above this week for me.
1. Was the arrival of the Irish doctors and the interview with one of them at Dublin airport.
2. On a personal level was the ‘Whats Apping’  (spelling) of special people in my life.
3. The finding of a ‘note’ in an old pants which was about to be discarded!
There is a hierarchy there of course! 
*What are the distances in the Olympic Games walking competitions?
Take great care of yourselves. Do not let your guard down.

t. c.


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Update 18th March

The National (International) Emergency

We are being urged to do the following:

1.       Wash Our Hands. Perhaps we have been traditionally remiss in doing this in our annual flu seasons. Sneezes and coughs deserve a rigorous discipline. 
2.       Stay as isolated as possible.
3.       Try and keep well with whatever activity that you can and which is of course appropriate. We are so lucky in BOYLE that we have such a variety of refreshing walks and cycle tracks. One flicker of light is that the weather forecast suggests better weather towards the end of the week. So the civilising of the garden comes into play.
4.        Communicate and stay in regular contact with friends and family via the phone. While modern communication systems can be abused by its use to spread false information etc. It is a wonderful and very valuable tool. We have face timed/Skyped family members especially the young ones, which, like so many grandparents we miss at this time. It is a time for solidarity and particularly family solidarity.
5.       There is much advice being repeated, including the above, which if we adopt it can have huge positive effects in reducing the numerical spread of this threat. 
6.       A piece of advice that resonated with me from a T.V. doctor was; ‘Develop or keep a ROUTINE/STRUCTURE in your day if possible’. This takes in getting up/going to bedtimes; eating times, in-house projects that have been long-fingered for some time, etc. Maybe I’ll be motivated to bring order to books, photographs, history pieces especially GAA ‘stuff’ and the environmental garden. 
7.       Would it be an exaggeration to ask people who are ‘out and about’ of necessity to keep a log of the people they encounter in case they become involved in the tracing process?  
I was going to use as a headline today ‘And the Country Holds its Breath’ but I’ve relegated it to here not wanting to be a smart ass. While I, of course, have little or no competence in commentating on what is happening in the world and our country now I cannot but do so.  A word that has cropped up a number of times is SURREAL. It is just like one of those poor shock contagion films which one starts to watch but abandons. There is no escape here, however.
While it is early in the war one applauds those in the front lines of this enormous battle, the doctors, nurses, hospital workers in all areas, ambulance drivers and all who, like firemen and firewomen are working in a most hazardous environment.
Tonight the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, addressed the nation and encapsulated in a fine speech the many strands of this emergency. In Belgium, they have established a six-month emergency government with ‘extraordinary’ powers to face this extraordinary emergency. Just a couple of days ago I would have suggested that a version of that (say a two-year Government embracing all parties) should happen here. However, it would be disruptive and unsettling to change the ‘team’ that has done so well up to this. Varadkar, Coveney, Harris and the supporting panel of experts led by Dr. Tony Holohan who have the challenge of analysing when to adopt critical strategies. I hope they are getting the support they need as it must be hugely stressful and tiring, showing in some of the principals.
Last but not least I remember the many people from our town of Boyle, the region and country, who are scattered throughout the world and are anxious in their own environments and worried about their families and friends here. I would recommend that they track down the Taoiseach’s rallying address to the country from tonight. It will be a historic document into the future. What an irony it is that it issued on St. Patrick’s Day.


Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Epic Emigration Experience

Oblique View Sept/Oct. 2019,

An EPIC trip to Dublin

The Epic Emigration Experience

On Friday September 27th I took a trip to the capital. I often think that I would have liked to have spent a real wedge of time there to familiarise myself with what Dublin has to offer. That will hardly happen now so it will have to be explored as per usual in short visits. The most recent visit was motivated by two things in no particular order. One was for the launch of Mossie Martin’s CD in the Cobblestone and the other one was to follow up on the very positive reports emanating from friends who had visited the EPIC Irish Emigration Museum.
   EPIC in Dublin's Docklands and covers the history of the Irish diaspora and emigration to other countries. Its founder is Downpatrick born, South Africa raised Coca Cola supremo E. Neville Isdell and it was designed by a London-based design firm. It was voted as "Europe's Leading Tourist Attraction" at the 2019 World Travel Awards. This is an outstanding achievement for a tourist destination in its very short existence having come on stream in 2016. It is now challenging for world recognition through a voting system. 
It is located on Custom House Quay about 7/8 minutes from Connolly Station. It was formerly a bonded wine warehouse and this is evident with the series of vaulted-ceilings like’ caverns which house the broad range of emigration themes on display.
The varied themes celebrate the millions of Irish people who have emigrated to the various parts of the globe and how many of them and their descendants achieved great things and made enduring impacts on their adopted countries. I was not taking any notes during my three-hour tour as I soon realised that I would need to revisit the EPIC Centre again to get a better evaluation of it. There are many connections with Roscommon noted such as Margaret Cousins of Boyle and her work in India also the painter Roderic O’Connor. It was in the traditional music area, however, that Roscommon came alive and was best represented. First there was a stirring display of a music session in a traditional pub in London, The Auld Triangle, and playing there were James Carty Jnr. and his uncle James. Minutes later in that same vault we heard more traditional musicians and were introduced to John Carty and Matt Molloy. Nearby were the McNulty family originally from Kilteevan who were prominent entertainers in New York up to the 1950s’. This area had a hugely impressive tribute to Riverdance and Roscommon was represented by Michael (?) Donnellan from Ennis the son of Michael from Ciaran’s Park in Roscommon town.
There was also a fine representation of the GAA with team pictures from clubs around the world. In the one for Perth, Australia, a friend of ours, Sean Casey, just visible in the background. Sean is married to Joan O’Gara of Boyle. I figured he might be visible in any GAA representation so Joan/Séan if you read this you are in there in the EPIC. As James Cagney’s character, Coady Jarrett, exclaims in the film ‘White Heat’…” Made it Ma! Top of the world”. I’m forcing that in there Sean!
Anyway as General McArthur said, ‘I will return’ to the aptly named Epic. If anyone else visits it, who reads this, please let me know what you think of it. As part of my China watch I noticed in the queuing area near the reception area A 4 sized laminated pages with the flag of China top left corner. I did not investigate it further after a guide told me they hadn’t noticed it before or knew anything of it!
 The guides are very helpful and would like a stamp of approval in the evaluation area at the end. *There is also a process where you can nominate a person who you feel should be considered for the exhibition. As an example, I nominated Maureen O’Sullivan.
On a practical level there are lockers for your goods if you have already done some shopping etc. Also there are numerous eating and coffee locations in the mall of which it is the basement. You may exit from the Epic for refreshments and return to it with your day pass. All this information is online of course and as seasoned travellers will know to avoid queues in mid- summer etc. etc.
I really recommend the EPIC Emigration Experience and of course I am not doing justice to it here just alerting you to it. 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Update 5th March

Blog March 5 2020.

Death of Notable Irish -American Writer with strong Corrigeenroe connections 

A lady by the name of Mary Higgins Clark passed away in New York at the end of January. I had been made aware of it by Hillary Beirne (formerly of Boyle) organiser of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York. The lady has significant connections with this area as her father Luke Higgins emigrated from Corrigeenroe circa 1915.He became the proprietor of some Bars/Taverns in New York through the twenties with his daughter being born on Christmas Eve 1927 in the Bronx, New York. That was the period of the Wall Street Crash and this caused challenging issues for him and his business interests. Her father was to die in ’37 when she was ten with two brothers. One of those died in the war and her second brother died a young man aged 42.    
On February 16 last The Sunday Independent paid Mary Higgins Clark a generous tribute which originated in the Telegraph newspaper. It opens with; ‘Mary Higgins Clark was America’s answer to Agatha Christie, a queen of suspense who wrote more than fifty bestselling mystery novels with some being adapted into films. One of those was “Where are the Children?” which won her a million -dollar contract and set her on the path that would end in her becoming the highest-paid female author in the world” She became the highest paid author in 2000 with a 59-million-dollar contract from publishers Simon and Schuster for a series of five books. Her last book was published just last year. Earlier in life she had a number of jobs and married Warren Clark in ’49. In ’96 she married for the 3rd time to John Conheeney.   
Her closest relation in Ireland is her first cousin Bill Corcoran formerly of Corrigeenroe but long-time resident in Dublin and great supporter of Roscommon and Boyle. Bill told me that Mary Higgins was a great friend of the Bush presidential family and was a regular visitor to the White House in their time there. She visited Ireland a number of times staying with Bill on occasion in Corrigeenroe. He remembers a particular visit when she showed her support for the Mayo Roscommon Hospice at a Gala function in Castlebar which had a notable U.S. support group. 
On another occasion they were hosted by Roscommon County Council in The Abbey Hotel with Liam Naughten as lead of the political reception party. Bill remembers this as Mary Higgins relayed to him something that Mister Naughten referred to as an upset in the Government of the day being in the offing. It was possibly the time, in Jan. 1992 of Sean Doherty’s revelations on the Nighthawks television programme of Shay Healy, in Browne’s Bar, in Castlerea, that Taoiseach Charlie Haughey knew and acquiesced with phone tapping of journalists by the state law agencies a decade or so earlier. This led to the fall from grace of Charlie Haughey.  Miss Higgins as a mystery writer of plots and counter plots would have been attuned to this type of drama and obviously identified this in Mister Naughten’s comments.      
On Corrigeenroe National School there is a plaque with the caption ‘Higgins Memorial School 1961’. Mary would have been but 34. How this Higgins endowment to the school happened is to be confirmed? 
Mary Higgins Clark was Grand Marshall of the St. Patricks Day in 2011. She would have been 83 then. Hillary Beirne Chair. Of the N.Y. City St. Patrick’s Day foundation and Chief Administrator of the parade, as I have noted already, said of her; “Mary Higgins Clarke was one of the most gracious ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. We will miss her as she has been the staple in the Irish American community for the last eight decades. She has made a tremendous impact on the American and Irish culture. Like so many we will forever remember her literary contribution. She was proud of her roots in Ireland and North Roscommon”.  
So Mary Higgins Clarke, rooted as she was in Corrigeenroe, made a real name for herself In New York and in the United States and her readership must have been broad and with that her contribution to the Irish American diaspora in New York was very significant. 

Chris Patten also with Boyle roots.

I have been told by someone a while ago that Chris Patten has Boyle roots. The name of the person who relayed to this to me is close to the surface of my recall but just playing with my memory. Mister Patten returned to my memory file again very recently as he was in Dublin and also on radio with Sean O’Rourke. I just heard the end of that interview as I did not know who was being interviewed. He was interesting on a number of issues but he also enunciated one of the ‘spakes’ I like to collect. When Sean O’Rourke mentioned that he was a member of ‘The House of Lords’, Mister Patten replied “The House of Lords is there as evidence that there IS life after death”.    
Christopher Patten is a British politician who served as the 28th and last Governor of Hong Kong from 1992 to 1997. He officiated at the ‘hand over’ of Hong Kong to the Honk Kong Government/ China State. There is some label such as ‘One Government –two States’ (approx.) that covers that uneasy arrangement which is being tested by agitation all through last year. Patten was Chairman of the Conservative Party from 1990 to 1992. He was involved in the establishment of the PSNI in Northern Ireland if my memory serves me well.  He was made a life peer in 2005 and has been Chancellor of the University of Oxford since 2003. It was in the latter role that he was in Dublin. He would certainly be a man of notable status who might be considered for an invite the Boyle of his ancestry (quite a long time ago I admit) by some agency or other perhaps The Arts Festival!

Christy Coghlan RIP

Christy Coghlan was buried on Tuesday in Aughanagh cemetery. He was 92 years of age. Many times I had it in my head to go out to Corrigeenroe to talk to him and of course I regret not doing that now. Christy was a member of the Boyle team in the early 50s’ and Michéal Shivnan, from St. Michaels, remembers him as a formidable midfielder with John Joe Nerney. His son John in his light- hearted funeral Mass eulogy referenced a number of elements of his dad’s life and especially his love of football. This spanned from travelling to nearby Nicolson’s to listen to games on the radio powered by the memorable wet and dry batteries. These were possibly during Roscommon’s great period in the 40s’. In recent times he embraced Sky coverage of games on weekends. He relayed Christy’s very early memory of playing for a Boyle juvenile team before the Roscommon v Sligo championship game in The Abbey Park which was in ‘44. The main treat that day is that the young teams could remain inside the crowd cordon for the main match where he was able to see All-Ireland winning legends like Murray, Boland, Gilmartin, Carlos and Kinlough. He spoke also of his dad’s first trip to Croke Park and Dublin in 1948 when Christy had other things competing for his attention.
John also referenced the other strands of his life which were so important to him such as farming, politics and family.    
I did have a chat with Christy once after I attended Mass in Corrigeenroe on a sunny Sunday 3/4 years or so ago. It may be a tradition there as there was a marque, with old time after -Mass conversation, tea and hospitality. I was there really to meet my friend Bill Corcoran who was also in attendance. 
So I missed a lengthy meeting with Christy through the lack of my own initiative but I did get a sense of a bright, sincere and much loved man in John’s short summary of a long and full life in Corrigeenroe.  

A Netflex Must See Classic for Sports Fans.

Maradona the documentary is the what I refer to above. I had missed it I the cinemas but caught up with it last week on Netflex and it is an outstanding documentary. The larger than life figure of Diego Maradona makes it magnetic viewing.  I will not in these short paragraphs do any justice to the programme of course but it has so many ingredients that make it compelling viewing. 
Maradona was born into poverty in Buenos Aires but it emerged when as a boy he had a gift. That gift was as a footballer. He played for a local club and progressed to the better club as is the way of football prodigious. Early he achieved one of his goals which was to provide a house for his family parents and sisters. Eventually he was seen for the great player he was and transferred to Barcelona. This was not a happy time for him and there is a short and violent on-field melee with an opposition team. Then the President of the Naples Club staked all he had on getting Maradona to Italy. Naples were not a strong club just surviving in Seria A. The mandate for Maradona was to ensure that Napoli remained in the top division. This he enabled them to do in years one and two. Gradually they climbed the table and became contenders. This was unheard of as Naples was seen as a pigsty club as were its people. The aristocrats were the northern Italy clubs like Inter Milan and 
AC Milan and Juventus. They dominated and looked with contempt on Napoli. It is a broad social distinction between the ‘haves’ of Northern Italy and the ‘have nots’ of Italy’s peninsula and the further south the worse that taboo got. 
Then the impossible happened and Napoli won the league and topped Seria ‘A’ in ’87 and again in ’90 with Maradona carrying the team on his back. In ’89 they won the UEFA Cup which was unthinkable to its supporters. Hardly ever, covering all sporting genres, could a team’s supporters have celebrated to the extent that the Napoli supporters did with the ’87 Seria ‘A’ win. This was replicated with the EUFA win and the second championship win in ’89. To Napoli supporters Maradona was regarded as a sporting GOD. 
There was a dark side in that Maradona was vulnerable to the outside world and was preyed on by the vultures who exist there. Naples is dominated by its Mafia equivalent, the Camorra and of course Maradona was a pretty vulnerable target for them. This led to dug issues and a wild lifestyle which was eventually his downfall. 
There was another great achievement though and that was enabling Argentina to win the World Cup in Mexico in 1986. Two notable incidents taken from the game against England where Maradona scored with his hand ‘the hand of God’ goal followed by one of the greatest individual goals seen at a World Cup.  
Argentina got to the 1990 World Cup Final to be beaten by Germany. However, a huge irony for Maradona was that in the semi-final, their opposition was…Italy… played in…Napoli!  (Italy had beaten Ireland in the quarter final Schillaci and all that). This heralded the end of Maradona’s love affair in Italy and the supporters love affair with their God.  
The documentary ends with Maradona, now a bloated huge man, in a park touching a ball around as he struggled and perhaps dreamed of past glories. 
The doc. is directed by Asif Kapadia who also produced an equivalent classic about Ayrton Senna the great Brazilian Grand Prix driver. 
Anyway I can only recommend this documentary as best I can. I would regard it as one of the best documentaries I may ever have watched. So you can take it from there.  

Roscommon Headstone Iconography by Mary Timoney.

You know this thing about passing something and paying little or no heed on it other than it’s a bit odd maybe. Well a place that has a wealth of material to ponder over are to be found in graveyards. I do not say that in a macabre or disrespectful sense but the opposite. It is best to visit them on a sunny day in case pessimism flows over the senses. Anyway in graveyards one can visit the resting places of relations, friends and non-friends. One headstone draws one on to the next. One can ponder on the exotic headstones which extoll the message; ‘We are X and we were something in the world, in our day.’ 
Last Monday night I attended a talk by Mary Timoney a resident of Keash. Mary and her husband Martin are both archaeologists. I know Martin from U.C.G. days and a bright student he was then. He was to spend some years teaching in Castlerea but local history was always his strong hobby. I remember a talk of his on Castlerea a long time ago titled ‘Castlerea the Moving Town’. Moving meant that the centre of importance within the town changed over decent segments of time as happens occasionally.   
On Monday night Mary talked of headstones and the decoration of those stones. The first slide illustration I saw was that of the fine Celtic cross in the priests’ graveyard beside Boyle church. If you look at it you will see all the elements of the Crucifixion, the spear, the ladder, nails, sponge and so on. The stone has of course the curved line art interlace and the cross with its lights. These are modern copies of the classic Celtic crosses of which Monasterboice in Louth is the king. 
These elements are repeated on many crosses. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was common to see representations of the trade of the family buried there. The most common one was that of a blacksmith with the bellows, anvil and of course a variety of hammers. 
There was also the shepherd with the crook, shears and sheep maybe. On the cover of the book is a lovely representation of a spinning wheel on an 1804 headstone in Ballintobber Graveyard. Free- Mason symbols too are there.
Mary has encompassed years of research work into a mighty tome titled “Ballintober (Roscommon) Old Graveyard & the Grave Memorials of Co. Roscommon”. Roscommon has a wealth of finely decorated headstones and most of them I imagine are recorded in Mary’s book. 
It was intriguing to listen as like a detective she matched headstones from one graveyard to a more distant one by the style of the lettering or even the posture of the figure 7. She followed the path of various carvers and was able to identify families of carvers by their work. An interesting comment was that a number of carvers were in fact present in that location because they were involved in building the great houses of the time there. 
Very intriguing in its own way.
I’ll adjourn without mentioning the great topic of the moment.
Slán for now.       

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Update 27th February

Monday of next week – March 2nd- will be the first anniversary of the death of Liam Gilmartin at the age of 97. Liam captained the first Roscommon team ever to win an All-Ireland which was the minor team of 1939. I had hoped this would have been noted last September but that was not the case. Anyway I put together the following article on that campaign keeping in mind particularly the role of a great free-taker from Elphin named Joe Tiernan and also Liam Gilmartin 

Roscommon’s First All-Ireland Win … The Minors of Sept. ’39.

In Europe it was a time of War and tumult but in Roscommon it was a time of sporting excellence and triumph. First came the county minors of ’39. A number of the pieces were coming together then for Roscommon’s great era of success in Gaelic football. Two of them were the administration duo of Dan O’Rourke and John Joe Fahey as Chairman and Secretary of the County Board the second was the establishment of Roscommon Christian Brothers School (C.B.S.) in 1937. Roscommon were concentrating their efforts on their Junior team which got to the All-Ireland Final of ’39 where they were defeated by Dublin by 3 points before a large crowd in Croke Park for the replay of the Kerry v Mayo All-Ireland Semi-Final which Kerry won. 
The minors began their campaign in an unheralded first round v Leitrim at Elphin. It has to be borne in mind that collective training for early rounds did not exist and many of the players did not even know many of their playing colleagues apart from the C.B.S. cohort.  Leitrim were favourites as they had defeated reigning All-Ireland champions Galway. However Roscommon defeated Leitrim in a downpour on the score of Roscommon 1.8 Leitrim 1.6. The outstanding feature of the game and indeed of the teams campaign was the indispensable free-taking of Elphin’s Joe Tiernan. In this game he scored 5 points and maybe more as the other scorers are not nominated in the sparse newspaper mention.
In a double-header minor and junior contests at Castlerea on August 6th Roscommon had a good day with both teams winning. Roscommon (minors) 1.11 Mayo 1.3. A Cathal O’Beirne goal sealed the win. Tiernan scored 4 points, Winston & Kilduff 1 point each,  Bambrick 2, Beirne a point with his goal leaving 2 points uncredited. “Lavin and Lynch excelled at midfield, the defence of Carlos, Cummins, Gilmartin and Murray were sound with Donnelly a tower of strength and the forwards Beirne, Bambrick, Winston and Tiernan most effective. 
I have not resurrected a really informative account (yet) of the Semi-final which was v Cork. Roscommon won out with 10 points to Cork’s 1.4 in a ‘dour struggle’. Joe Tiernan’s contribution was again pivotal with 6 of the winning total of 10 points.  
So a Roscommon minor team had qualified for an All-Ireland final. They underwent a special period of training under former Galway footballer Tom Molloy. Molloy in this period trained senior, junior and minor Roscommon teams. The game took place in Croke Park on Sept. 29 before the senior final of Meath v Kerry. Their opponents in the final, Monaghan, were seen as favourites and they led by 5 points at the break. Monaghan 1.5 Roscommon 0.3. Both teams exchanged points early in the second half but a drought set in for 20 minutes before Roscommon came with a late surge. “Again Tiernan proved the winner”. Monaghan committed a number of fouls which was poor practise with an opposing fee-taker like Tiernan.               
With his 9 free kicks he converted 7 one was saved as he ‘went for a goal’ and 1 went narrowly wide. Tom Cox of Boyle had the 9th and insurance point after a strong run from half back. G. Kilduff had the team’s goal. 

The win made the front page of The Roscommon Herald of September the 30th with the headline; “Roscommon on the Roll of Honour”. 

There is a legend that Joe Tiernan converted all the free kicks he took in those four games. My assessment is that he scored 22 points from his 23 frees. He may have scored more as a number are uncredited. So there is very little wrong in continuing with the legend. He was the Dean Rock of that year. 
His total in the 4 games  are as follows; v Leitrim 5/ v Mayo 4/ v Cork 6/ v Monaghan 7… that is 22 points in 4 games i.e. 5.5 average. Near 60% of the 38 points scored.  

The final team was; S. Naughton/Larry Cummins/ Bill Carlos/ D. Boyd/ P. Sweeney/ Liam Gilmartin Capt./ A. Murray/ S. Lavin/ T. Lynch/ C. O’ Beirne/ J. Tiernan/ J. J. McDermott/ J. Bambrick/ G. Kilduff/ H. Winston. Subs. used to good effect  W. Penny for H. Winston injured and Tom Cox. 
Other substitutes as pictured on the day; P. Donnelly (inj.)/ T. J. Leonard/P. Murray while J. Manton/Ml. Bruen and J..J. Nerney are on the programme of the day. (John Joe never really confirmed that he was part of this team). There is a reference to a J. Connaughton in the note on the Connacht final and a slight reference to Eddie McDermott being linked to the panel. 

A note on those players;
*Sean Naughton, C.B.S. goalie Four Roads and Mt. Talbot./ *Larry ‘Pop’ Cummins, Curraghboy and Tarmon C’rea/ *‘Bill’ (W.) Carlos, C. B. S, Ballintubber, C’rea and New York/ *Des Boyd, Croghan/ Tom Cox, Boyle noted athlete died a very young man in August ‘44/ *Liam Gilmartin C.B.S., team Captain, Ballymurray/Knockcroghery. Liam died in March 2019 being the very last of those great players of the forties./ Tony Murray, C.B.S. Knockcroghery/ *Seamus Lavin, Frenchpark also played with Mantua/ Tim Lynch, Ballinaheglish, Oran, brother of Brendan & ‘Batt’/ *Cathal O’Beirne brother of Gerry, Strokestown/ Joe Tiernan, Elphin, indispensable match-winning free-taker. Gave up football early. Developed a successful business in Rathmines, Dublin/ *John Joe McDermott, Oran/ *Joe Bambrick, Kilmore and later N.C. F. Ballaghderreen/ Gerry Kilduff C.B.S. Roscommon Town; Garda.. He was just 16 in ’39 as was Bill Carlos and both won a second minor All-Ireland in ’41/ *Henry Winston, St. Jarlath’s, Ballinlough. A cousin of the legendry Kevin Winston’/ ‘Wilson’ Liam Penny, Roscommon town/ P. Sweeney, C’Rea/ *Paddy Donnelly, Rahara/ T. J. Leonard later a business man in Donamon/ Phelim Murray, C.B.S. Knockcroghery and engineer in Dublin/ John Joe Nerney, Croghan, Ballinameen and Boyle, Postman/ Michéal Bruen, Summerhill College, Knockvicar, St. Michael’s Club/ J. Menton from the St. Brigid’s area with a connection to Wicklow t.b.c.     
The team were guests of honour at the launch of the Roscommon County GAA History in April 1990 in the Abbey Hotel. *Those from the team who were present on that occasion. 

A number of that panel became an integral part of the great senior team of the forties with Cummins, Carlos, Gilmartin, Nerney, Phelim Murray, Des Boyd and Joe Bambrick amongst them. 
Roscommon went on to win 2 minor/1 junior/ and 2 All-Ireland senior titles in the 5 years from ’39 to ’43. Michéal O’Callaghan encapsulated all this in his lovely account of those football times for Roscommon titled ‘ 6 Glorious Years’ published in 1944. Had he waited he would have seen the Roscommon senior team contest the ’46 final and replay; and in the Polo Grounds final year the semi-final where they lost to the eventual finalists Cavan.
Anyway it was the Liam Gilmartin captained minors of ’39 ably assisted by the golden boot of Joe Tiernan that laid the foundation for that golden age of Roscommon football. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Update 19th February

Oblique View - Wednesday, February 19th

Congratulations to; Louise Fitzpatrick, General Manager, and the staff of Lough Key Forest Park on their prestigious LAMA (Local Authorities Members Awards! As Michael Caine titled his biography …’Not a Lot of People Know That’)) Award for Best National Park. I visit the park regularly with often taking visitors and the sentiment regularly expressed is, ‘How lucky you are to have this on your doorstep’. I fully realise that and the incremental additions in recent years have enlarged its appeal. So well done to all and especially the energetic dynamo that is its general manager Louise.  

Laurel and Hardy
A standard line with the iconic comedy duo Laurel and Hardy was one of them issuing ‘Another fine mess you’ve got us into’ (approx.).
It seems as if we (the Irish Electorate ) have left a very complicated government-building site post-election. It looks as Mary Lou McDonald is finding it well-nigh impossible to coalesce the fragmented ‘Left’ and that shouldn’t be hard to grasp. Fianna Fáil might have seemed the closest to Sinn Féin ideologically but Michéal Martin has been strongly denying any possibility (until recently at least) in this happening. The ‘Grand Coalition’ between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is hardly a runner due to, history, tradition, arrogance, future possibilities, the danger of further decline. The reality is that there is very little between them really apart from the above! 
A big issue with the ‘Grand Coalition’ is that it would be a national alley wall for huge criticism starting with; ‘This is not what the country voted for’. Well if a coalition can put together a government then they become what the people voted for! This is an international thing and in many countries parties with lesser voting numbers become Government. We only have to look at the U.K. where the single vote system has enabled two major parties to dominate for aeons. Brexit is also happening despite 48% of the people having voted against it.

Congratulations Are Due to;
Here in Boyle the success of Frank Feighan in winning a seat in the Sligo/Leitrim/Roscommon/Donegal Constituency. He certainly pulled out all the stops and by winning such votes in all areas such Leitrim, Donegal, North Roscommon and a load of transfer from Mister Walshe at the end demonstrated his credibility and popularity across the constituency. In this week’s The Roscommon Herald on pages 32/33 Darragh Kelly deals with a number of facets of Frank’s career, present and future. Under the headline ‘I closed down on myself. I was hurt’  he gives an insight into a traumatic time when the A & E. at Roscommon Hospital was closed. It showed how an important issue can become so difficult and corrosive and the toll a decision can have on a public representative from heavy-handed criticism.

Congratulations also to… 
Claire Kerrane on her great victory for Sinn Féin in Roscommon East Galway. She too got the double spread in The Roscommon Herald in one instance holding a famous historic campaign picture from the 1917 Count Plunkett Election declaring ‘The West’s Awake’.
Indeed, I was somewhat surprised that commentators made hardly any reference to the Sinn Féin victory of 1918 when they swept the old Home Rule Party out of existence. While Sinn Féin did not do that to the ‘Grand’ old parties of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil it was a major shock to their comfortable ‘entitlement’ duopoly system. 
Both were products of the War of Independence and are rooted in Arthur Griffith’s tree of Sinn Fein. The Free State government governed with the whip through the Civil War and the decade after. De Valera saw the futility of abstention and formed his own party Fianna Fáil in the late twenties and went into government in ’32 and was left there for 16 years using the whip also on dissidents during WW2. In ’48 a different ‘Grand Coalition’ was put in place with the basic mantra of ‘We have the shift de Valera’. This comprised of Fine Gael/the Labour Party/ the National Labour Party, Clann na Poblachta (Clann na Poblachtha was led by Sean McBride former IRA Chief, with Roscommon footballer and political radical Jack McQuillan as a T.D. /Clann na Talúin a farmers’ party plus independents. This was led by Taoiseach John Costello because the leader of Fine Gael, Richard (Dick) Mulcahy, was unacceptable to McBride and his party. That Government ironically declared the 26 counties a Republic having being a ‘Dominion’ and part of ‘The Commonwealth’.
It is now 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement and there is legitimacy in Sinn Féin being in government here and they should not be regarded as pariahs. There is a consensus that a single party will not dominate again and that even two parties will struggle to do so either. While the past should not be forgotten (and will not be) we no longer live there. (Even the colossal damage inflicted on the country by the BANKERS, so-called REGULATORS, and the Fianna Fáil Governments of the time are still there with Fine Gael coming on the inside with unsolved crises in Housing and Health plus etc.  It is however impossible to predict what will emerge.    

If there are political winners’ there are also losers of course and commiserations to Eugene Murphy in the Roscommon constituency. An affable individual as is Seamus Scanlon in our constituency.   
(and now for something very different)
The Death of Kirk Douglas
For an early part of my life –football and hurling apart- going to the cinema was a most regular treat. In Roscommon town, there were two cinemas, The Royal (still there, as of now a night club) and ‘The Blue Moon’ (a name used not long ago for a Boyle Bar). The Royal Cinema looked down somewhat on ‘The Blue Moon’. Anyway, on many Sunday nights, a carload of us would travel to Roscommon to the pictures. Amongst the stars of the screen then were John Wayne, James Stewart, Alan Ladd, Glenn Ford, Burt Lancaster, Audie Murphy, Jack Palace and Kirk Douglas. As can be seen from that cast the films/pictures were mainly westerns. The legendary film director was John Ford –of Irish extraction-who made a series of Western –U.S. Cavalry v Indians- in which John Wayne and Victor McLaughlin stared ‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, ‘Rio Grande’ and ‘Fort Apache’ and so on. I suppose you could put ‘The Quiet Man’ in there also. The theme music for many of those had the lift of Irish music.    
Alan Ladd and Jack Palance matched up in one of my favourite films, Shane. 
Returning to Kirk Douglas who died on Feb. 5th aged 103 he was one the giants of the Hollywood screen. He starred in two of my favourite westerns ‘Last Train from Gunhill’ against Anthony Quinn in ’59 and accompanied Burt Lancaster in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral’ as Doc Holiday. He is probably best remembered as Spartacus in the ‘sword and sandals’ film of that name about the rebellion of Roman slaves and the cry is still heard occasionally on T.V. ads. etc. ‘I’m Spartacus’. His best film, for me though, was the classic anti-war WW1 film ‘Paths of Glory’ a masterpiece about a labelled ‘mutiny’ when a French division was ordered into an inevitable suicide attack across ‘No man’s Land’. A number of soldiers are brought up on trial for cowardice and Kirk’s character, Col Dax, is the defence lawyer with a bitter French general as opposition.  
It was a golden age of cinema and was a social outlet in which we could glimpse in awe at the great world beyond the oceans especially the United States   

A Shared Home Place…Seamus Mallon
I’m repeating myself here but if you can access a ‘podcast’ of the documentary shown on RTE of the life of the late great Seamus Mallon called ‘A shared Home Place’ I recommend you try to do so. The title covers the work in which he strived all his life. It is a telling record of the bigotry and discrimination in Northern Ireland which has coloured its history to date.  As an aside when watching it Seamus refers to his boyhood highlight of visiting Croke for an All-Ireland final between Kerry and Roscommon. From my viewing, it would be 1946 when Roscommon leading by 6 points with 6 or so minutes remaining let Kerry in to score two goals and draw the match. (Kind of familiar!). They lost the replay in a great game. It was nice to see the short ‘action film’ of them and their preparation for the team picture and a short piece of the game. 
My tribute reference to Seamus in my last blog or so prompted my friend and regular reader Boyle native John Austin Biesty to forward the following comment;
Hello Tony,
“Just to let you know how much I enjoyed reading this weeks 'View'.  I was delighted you mentioned Seamus Mallon (R.I.P.) Ireland could do with a few more politicians like him.  'A society grows great and strong when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit under.'  Spoken by Seamus in the House of Commons.  Powerful stuff”

John Austin keeps a very keen eye on the happenings in Boyle the town he left in the early sixties for the States. Not long after he arrived there he was ‘called up’ for service in the U.S. Army and on demobilisation he has spent his life in the New York area. He was Secretary of Boyle GAA before he left for New York and keeps another eye on the fortunes of the Boyle club and Roscommon. John Austin has visited his native town a number of times down the years a memorable one being for his 75th birthday if I am not mistaken. That could have been the ‘Year of the Gathering’ 2013 as I met him in the hall for that great party there. (I’m straying but it was when The Virginian Drury was also in town). 
While John Austin lives in America it safe to suggest that Boyle, Roscommon and Ireland are constants in his heart. I wish you all the very best and thank you for your support, interest and communications.

Padraig Daly’s Radio Contribution
Once to be on national radio was a noticeable event but now even being on T.V. isn’t even so. Still, I am someone who notices such things. A couple of weeks ago amid the maelstrom of the impending election, I tuned into an RTE Radio One programme basically dealing with elements of the national infrastructure. The person being interviewed was Padraig Daly from Boyle.  Padraig is Business Development Manager for well- known construction company JJ Rhatigan & Company. 
With over 30 years' experience in the Construction Industry in Ireland, UK and mainland Europe, his role in JJ Rhatigan & Company is as Head of Recruitment enabling the company to attract the right calibre of staff to satisfy their requirements. 
He was asked a number of questions regarding the challenges facing the construction companies in recruitment currently. While I do not remember the detail I do remember the forthright manner in answering the questions. The fact that there were difficulties in getting trained and experienced tradespeople. The graph in the training of those had dipped so much during the crash. The number of those tradespeople who emigrated and even if they wished to return -as many do- the cost of living in Dublin the hub of the current construction boom is prohibitive if it can be accessed at all. Then the rates of pay are marked against the expensive environment. Also the lack of accommodation for returning emigrants and migrants.  
A phrase that I had not heard for some time surfaced and that was ‘wet trades’ which I presume is that of block layers and plasterers and concrete gangs. That Ireland a country that provided post-war England with a multitude for the ‘wet trades’ cannot now service its own demands is an irony.
Anyway, Padraig well done on that. To hear clear, telling and articulate answers to particular issues during an election campaign was refreshing.  

Driving Issues
Recently I have been driving a good deal more in darkness than usual and have adopted the Knock Airport/Ballindine/Milltown route to Galway. I have to say that the standard of driving and courtesy is very good. There is an issue though that I see too often. That is defective lighting. The worst case scenario here is an advancing car with a top inside light and little on the outside. At odd times it might seem as if it was a motorbike. I know that it is a defect that a person might not see automatically but it is a serious defect. In last Sunday's paper I saw in a travel article reference to French regulations which are very strict. There a driver must carry a warning triangle, high-vis vests, and a full set of light bulbs for all the vehicles lighting system. There is a fine auto supply premises on Boyle’s Green Street which will service these requirements.  
I see that there are a large number of new speed checkpoints hot spots. The almost total road from Boyle to Carrick is a given.  There are two nearer the town, one from the golf club access into the town and one I am very aware of and that is from the church to where the road connects with the N4. I walk that road often and the speeds I regularly encounter bear no resemblance to the nominated speed limits.   

A Favourite Song;
I have heard the song the “Isle of Innisfree” a couple of times recently after funeral masses and it always resonates with me. I was just a very young boy when I first heard it, possibly on a radio programme called ‘The Ballad Makers on Saturday Night” which my father tuned into religiously. Today having heard it again I decided to investigate its origins and share them here. 
(The song has no connection with the poem of W.B. Yeats, ‘Lake Isle of Innisfree”)
   “The "Isle of Innisfree" is a song composed by Dick Farrelly (Irish songwriter and policeman) who wrote both the music and lyrics. Farrelly got the inspiration for "Isle of Innisfree", the song for which he is best remembered, while on a bus journey from his native Kells, County Meath to Dublin. The song was published in 1950.

Farrelly’s "Isle of Innisfree" is a haunting melody with lyrics expressing the longing of an Irish emigrant for his native land. When film director John Ford heard the song, he loved it so much that he chose it as the principal theme of his film The Quiet Man. The composition received no mention in the screen credits. "The Isle of Innisfree" became a worldwide hit for Bing Crosby in 1952 and continues to feature in the repertoires of many artists”. 
It was a favoured song of a family friend, Tess Flaherty of Carrick Road 
"Isle of Innisfree"
I've met some folks who say that I'm a dreamer
And I've no doubt there's truth in what they say
But sure a body's bound to be a dreamer
When all the things he loves are far away
And precious things are dreams unto an exile
They take him o'er the land across the sea
Especially when it happens he's an exile
From that dear lovely Isle of Innisfree
And when the moonlight peeps across the rooftops
Of this great city, wondrous though it be,
I scarcely feel its wonder or its laughter
I'm once again back home in Innisfree

I wander o'er green hills through dreamy valleys
And find a peace no other land could know
I hear the birds make music fit for angels
And watch the rivers laughing as they flow
But dreams don't last
Though dreams are not forgotten
And soon I'm back to stern reality
But though they pave the footways here with gold dust
I still would choose the Isle of Innisfree.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Update 5th February

Request: If anyone has spare election canvassing leaflets they might keep them for me. I gather them for a collector friend of mine and he has been ‘gathering’ them for decades now. He refers to them as ‘Ephemera’. You could drop them into Dodd’s for me if you wished. Thanking you. 

We in Ireland are nearing the end game. But with the sad death of a Tipperary Independent candidate, Marese Skehan, of Thurles, there will be time added on. 
I have not heard much that would suggest that the landscape of the Sligo/Leitrim/Roscommon results will change radically. This gives Marian Harkins and Marc Mac Sharry a clear lead and if the Sinn Féin swing proves a real reality then Martin Kenny should be a winner of the third seat.
By me the final seat will rest between Frank Feighan and Eamon Scanlon unless my instinct is awry.
I would generally not disclose publically how I would vote but this time, with the changed unsatisfactory (to me) constituency alignment I have decided to ‘shop local’ for the Roscommon contender Frank Feighan, on a personal basis. There are quite a number of community initiatives coming down the line and it would seem logical to have someone in situ with local knowledge and awareness of those to ‘help them over the line. The Roscommon vote will be vital for him.
I have to keep the Green Party in mind also with Bláithin Gallagher the candidate here. The P.R. voting process can accommodate that. After the U.K. election I was very disappointed with the showing of the Green Party there so now that an opportunity to make a mark for them and what they stand for into the future it would be remiss of me not to put them in the frame.  
It promises to be an interesting weekend with so much sport and the drama of the Election and its Count taking centre stage.

Roscommon’s GAA Senior team have left themselves a lot to do after their first two games in the League. The hope of returning quickly to the premier division is on a lifeline. To lose one game after being six points up is unfortunate but to lose two (nearly) is careless. Next Sunday the visitors to the Hyde are Clare and they will pose a substantial threat. One of Roscommon’s most depressing losses, in recent times, was v Clare in Pearse Stadium, Galway in July 2016. The remaining games are versus Kildare (a), Westmeath (h) Armagh (a), and Cavan also (a). There are no ‘gimmes’ there. The real threat is demotion which has championship implications that I am not totally clear on as of now.
While the result against Fermanagh last Sunday was very disappointing a very nice thing to see was Boyle Club’s four-man representation on the starting team which was historic. They were Enda and Donie Smith, Cian McKeon and Evan McGrath. So very well done to them and hopefully the results will turn. (I remember Boyle having 3 seniors on a League team v Antrim at the Hyde. They were Jonathan Conroy, Gerry Cregg and Tom Ryan.  On a Connacht minor championship team of 1972 (?) there is the possibility of another four representatives with Sean Daly, Gerry Carty, James Dodd and Freddie Daly). 
Congratulations are merited also for the Abbey Community College girls team on reaching their final. I’m assuming that the team has big input from the local GAA club. A thing about that …. occasionally there are Abbey College games taking place that I might like to attend but I do not hear of them until it is too late. I imagine would readily publicise ‘headline’ games if the information was passed onto it. Boyle Celtic is also remiss in this. But c’est la vie.
Awards…The BAFTAS.
My Joker nominee is still going strong as Joachim Phoenix won here again after winning at the Golden Globes. The film 1917 was the big winner. But as at the Grammy Awards an Irish Lady singer, Kerry’s Jessie Buckley really wowed the crowd during one of the breaks with a song from her film ‘Wild Rose’. It was a stand-out act and certainly gave her career a major lift. Her song was titled ‘Glasgow (No Place Like Home). She appeared on the front of Monday’s Independent. Saoirse Ronan was again nominated but lost out to Renée Zellweger who won for her role portraying Judy Garland in the film ‘Judy’.  
  Performers from Cirque du Soleil were another mesmerising entertainment insert with its gymnastic act echoing the spirit of Judy Garland. 
Graham Norton was an amiable and entertaining host.  So the Irish were well represented at the Baftas. (Next week, of course, it is the top awards of the season with the Oscars. While the destination of the awards will be generally in line with what has happened in the two previous awards i.e. Golden Globes and BAFTAS. The Oscars is a circus in its own right but I hope to watch it).     

Daniel Sheeran … A Long Way from Ballyfarnon.
In The Roscommon Herald of January 14 (page 26) there was a significant article on the career of Daniel Sheeran from Ballyfarnon. Daniel is the son of well -known former Roscommon footballer Gay and Abbey Community College teacher Mary with his sister, Rena, being a Garda in Roscommon town currently. After St. Mary’s College Daniel joined the cadets and since then has been to an impressive number of troubled countries. First, he served with the Irish army as part of U. N. stabilisation forces in various countries. He is currently “Deputy Chief of the UN’s joint operations centre in the Congo in Central Africa”. This is one of the many dangerous hotspots in a troubled world. He has been involved in the ‘crisis management of the Ebola outbreak dealing with logistics and responses to outbreaks”.  He reports to the chain of ‘command and influence’ of the U.N. at its highest levels. He has had roles of security for Pope Francis visit in the Central African Republic and then switched to the World Health Organisation and then to Colombia as part of the U.N.’s peace initiatives there with FARC. During his sixteen-year stint with the Irish army he was involved in Liberia, Chad and also Lebanon. He acknowledges his training and experience with the Irish army being hugely beneficial. Dan is a committed Rossie supporter and keeps up with their fortunes always. He remembers his grandmother who passed away two years ago, herself a great Roscommon supporter and character in her own right. He commends the great work done by the Irish Defence Forces with the U.N. in so many places since that first began in the fifties. 
I’m sure that Daniel’s family is very proud of him and his achievements. As a former teacher of his, it is uplifting to see what some of those once innocent students and apprentice footballers can achieve in their lives. Daniel has certainly pushed the boundaries to their limits.   
Percy French the 100th Anniversary of his Death  
January 24 last was the 100th Anniversary of the death of one of Roscommon’s favourite sons Percy French who was born at Clooneyquinn near Tulsk in May 1854. He graduated as an engineer and travelled parts of the country as ‘an inspector of drains’. He was an entertainer and is remembered especially for a number of his many songs. Probably his most famous song is ‘The Mountains of Mourne’ a melancholy but sweeping lyric of emigration which is a cottage industry in Ireland. Another of these is ‘Come Back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff’. A number of his songs are wrapped in humour such as the parody of, ‘Are you right there Michael are You right’ about the travails of the Clare railway. 
In the 1950s there were a number of shows embracing the life and songs of Percy French. I remember being at one in The Harrison Hall (now the Bank of Ireland) in the middle of Roscommon town. The lead performers then were Milo O’Shea and Brendan O’Dowda who specialised in his songs. About 30 years ago a Father Beirne-originally from Elphin- established a festival and a Percy French Society. There is also a Society in County Down a county which he highlighted in his much-loved song. While his original house had been removed a commemorative arch was installed there. Percy’s daughters were present then.
In recent times Percy French is remembered in an annual ‘Summer School’ dealing with Percy French and associated issues. This takes place in Castlecoote House five miles west of Roscommon town each summer.
Percy French died at the age of 65 and is buried at Formby in the Merseyside area of England. His melodies, while victims of changing times, still resonate with a constituency and remain as the legacy of this Roscommon entertainer, song-writer and artist. 

Debates, Debates, and more Debates
Over my shoulders, one of the myriads of debates of the election cycle is in train. Tonight (Tuesday) it is the ‘Leaders Debate’ with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Michéal Martin and Mary Lou McDonald. It is not easy to get guidance as a result of these debates. A few years ago Vincent Browne and T.V. 3 did a gruelling circuit of most of the constituencies which I remember as impressive. Vincent Browne was the moderator and a very good one he was and he is missed during this election. Last week Ivan Yates adopted an aggressive approach which was o.t.t. in a bullying way with his ‘guests’. Miriam O’Callaghan moderated a harmless ‘debate’ in Castlerea. 
Still, we certainly get to hear the principals, so in that respect, it is up to us to learn from all the sound bites and do our best on Saturday. By and large we do reasonably well, historically.  
So I’ll leave it at that this week. The coming weekend should provide plenty of drama on numerous fronts especially in the political and sporting arenas. Fasten your seat belts.

(A CAUCUS is a meeting of supporters or members of a specific political party or movement. The term originated in the United States and is very important in kick- starting the Presidential campaign of candidates. That is a big story and it is late so I’ll retire it for now).

‘May your Gods go with you’ Dave Allen.