Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Trip to Sligo / Recycling Depot times / Sports Review

A Trip to Sligo... Fleadh in Sligo

For those who follow traditional music this was a great opportunity to immerse oneself in its greatest festival i.e. The All-Ireland Fleadh which was held in Sligo over the past week or more. The Fleadhs have been going on now for over sixty years which in itself must be a record for a festival of this size. While there have been a few which are remembered as not being successful the general theme at the conclusion of most Fleadhs is that it was ‘the best one ever’. This is, like so many comparisons, impossible to judge of course. In any event Sligo and its organisers can be very happy with their Fleadh. It ticked nearly all the boxes. 
The atmosphere at Fleadhs for me is akin to that before a big game or probably better, after your team has won that big game.  It is where many musicians meet on an annual basis not necessarily by arrangement but something like the annual return of salmon to their spawning grounds or the annual cycle of birds making their pilgrimage to a welcoming, nurturing, reinvigorating  place.
I could actually watch through my window as the volume of traffic swelled on the Sligo Road at Tawnytaskin. We joined that traffic on Friday afternoon and once parked in the Cathedral car park quickly encountered the strains of the music as we moved towards the heart of the town. There the atmosphere began and it became infectious.
Early I met Bernard Flaherty and Gerard O’Daly promoting Bernard’s book ‘A Trip to Sligo’. Then it was down to the ‘Gig Rig’ where we met a Morris Martin who now lives in Sligo and thus was well conditioned by that stage. He was clearly enjoying it all while waiting the turn of his group, The Innisfree Ceili Band, to perform on the ‘Gig Rig’. Another former St. Mary’s College student, Kevin Brehony, was also in the band. From there tunes like ‘The Sligo Maid’ and the ‘Boys of Ballisodare’  cascaded into the afternoon air. While all the principals were present or on the television coverage the person who represented the Fleadh condition best for me was Joanie Madden leader of the Irish/U.S. traditional group ‘Cherish the Ladies’.  
Fleadhs thrive on ‘atmosphere’ and the enjoyment and camaraderie that prevails. On retiring to Martin Foley’s bar my musician colleagues joined the ‘session’ and I, not a musician, had to improvise. One is never alone in these environments. The result is that I spent a most enjoyable period talking to a Sligo town man and a couple from Derry, respecting of course, the driving tunes and heartfelt songs from the totally committed growing group. The Sligo fiddles were out in abundance and the tunes came tumbling like the Glencar waterfall.
Fulfilled we returned to Boyle until the following afternoon. On Saturday we quickly became immersed again just as if we hadn’t left at all. The casual meetings continued with the unsolicited advice about a ‘great tune’ or ‘great session’ in Shoot the Crows or McHugh’s, The Glass House or The Riverside. Then arriving at one to find that the session was just breaking up and continuing to search for that slightly elusive ‘tune’ that can happen when a group of top musicians meet accidentally on purpose, as it were, and you are in a small group at the initiation. Of course great sessions do not stay the domain of the lucky few for long anymore, as in the days of Listowel or Buncrana, in this age of the mobile communication.
While I was otherwise engaged on Sunday I was represented at what is now the Blue Riband event of these Fleadhs i.e. The Ceili Bands competition. Still I was able to engage with it all in  tuning in to the marathon television coverage each night on TG4. I am self-conscious that I am in no way doing justice to this remarkable festival but I suggest you attend yourself to see, hear and feel what I am trying to convey. It is hard to imagine the post-Fleadh mood swing  as Sligo gets back to normal this week. This will be soothed somewhat in the knowledge that it will return to Sligo next year. With the experience and confidence gained this time it can only be better which is really something to look forward to even at this remove.

Recycling Depot times

I hear that the opening times of the County Council’s recycling depot in Boyle are being reduced significantly. The facility on Station Road is an excellent one and it is a pity that constraints are now coming into play. Over a decade or more ago we were aware of recycling being a huge part of best practise in European mainland countries. It was thought that it  would be difficult to introduce that level in this country. While I would not know the statistics in this regard the Irish have taken it on board pretty well and fine facilities like the one in Boyle have played a key role in developing that enlightened mind-set.

Sports Review

Boyle seniors went down to a good Padraig Pearse's in Ballinasloe on Sunday. Boyle really missed the presence of Roch Hanmore in the middle of the field and also Tadgh Lowe. Both were out injured. The team is very inconsistent in its performances this summer. We all got a bit carried away perhaps with the fine win and performance against Elphin in the first round of the Championship in Croghan. They also had good games against Brigid’s in the League and for forty minutes in the Championship and also against St. Faithleach’s in the League. Boyle will now play Castlerea in a Championship play-off to see who goes into the quarter finals. While Castlerea are a pretty good side, Boyle, playing well, should be well able to compete with them. This game will take place on the final week-end of the month.
This coming weekend the team have probably a more important game when they play Strokestown in the Division One O’Rourke Cup League. The game is in the Abbey Park at 6.30 on Saturday evening. Boyle need a win or maybe more than one to ensure that they continue playing in Division One football next year.
This game will be followed by the unveiling of a commemorative seat in memory of Eoin Lavin who died tragically in a car accident two years ago.
Those who have indicated that they wished to be associated with this should contact any club officer or myself.
The big game next week-end is the clash of Mayo v Kerry. My good prediction run was derailed by Cork’s poor hurling display allied to Tipp’s good performance on Sunday last. Next Sunday’s big game is Mayo v Kerry. While I would always wish that Mayo would win and hopefully go all the way it is hard to call against Kerry. A bit like Cork hurlers Kerry might not be just there yet especially without Gooch Cooper and Mayo are trying to get to a third final.
A Lyndon Johnson once said, about a contentious decision; ‘My answer is yes but my judgement is no’ if I say Mayo. It just depends on the day. or 086 816 33 99 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

‘Trip to Sligo’ / Maureen O’Sullivan material / Sports Review:

‘Trip to Sligo’ by Bernard Flaherty.

“On the 26th of January 1986 I was sitting in Mrs. Kathleen Morris’s Ceili House Bar in Boyle. It was a Saturday night and the session had just ended. Suddenly Kathleen came down the stairs visibly shocked. ‘You’ll never guess what I’m after hearing,’ she said, ‘Fred Finn is dead’ ”……….. 
“As I walked away from the graveyard (in Gurteen after Fred’s burial) I realised that I must do something for the South Sligo tradition (of music) which is greater than all of us. Hopefully the inspiration prompted by that incident is realised in this book”. 
These are the opening and closing sentences to Bernard Flaherty’s insightful introductory essay to his fine and very important book, ‘A Trip to Sligo’, on the traditional music of South Sligo which was first published in 1990. The printed number of that edition have long since been sold and it is really great to see that Bernard has republished his ‘Trip to Sligo’ again in time for the All-Ireland Fleadh which is taking part in Sligo this week. While I am no expert in Irish traditional music I have heard a good deal of it and I am very aware of its importance and its place as one of the pillars of Irish culture.
Bernard’s book is seen as a uniquely significant production and has placed on the written record the contribution of a number-not all-  of the finest of traditional musicians in the South Sligo, North Roscommon area. Many of those have gone to their eternal reward since the book’s first publication but their memory and legacy lives on and that it will ever be so is a testament to Bernard’s contribution here. And what musical names there are. Accompanying Fred Finn there are his friend and colleague Peter Horan, Harry McGowan, Andrew Davey and Kathleen Morris with the younger group Tommy Finn, Pat Meehan and Colm O’Donnell amongst others.  
I have good reason to remember Bernard’s time in preparing the material for the book at Purcell Print as I was engaged myself then in ‘A History of the GAA in Roscommon’. So we had the collegiality of brothers engaged in similar struggles. 
Bernard comes from a family steeped in traditional music and he continues to pass on the legacy through his music teaching. He is acknowledged as a fine traditional musician himself and what is understated is that he is also a fine singer enriching many a session down the years and currently, from time to time, in Dodd’s bar in Boyle.
‘A Trip to Sligo’ is a gem of a book and an heirloom reference for present and future lovers of Irish traditional music and the clear style that is unique to the region straddling the Roscommon Sligo ‘boundary’. Fred would be pleased with your effort, Bernard. 

Archives/Collections Where to Now?

The Maureen O’Sullivan material of mine that was being used in the recent Maureen O’Sullivan ‘Full Circle Commemoration’ has been returned. I just wonder what to do with it now. Few people will see it in my attic! I have been a ‘collector’ of material relating to a number of specific areas. Trying now to get to grips with these collections is an issue. Apart from Maureen there is (2) a St. Mary’s College ‘box’ of photographs and other material. Of course there is considerable material relating to (3) Boyle GAA club and (4) Roscommon GAA and a lesser ‘box’ relating to Fuerty ! In 1983 Boyle Community Radio, promoted by R.T.E., broadcast for a week in the town and I ‘happened’ to tape most of that (5). Then there is the lesser collection (6) fifty or so in number, of a lovely magazine series called ‘Ireland of the Welcomes’, from the eighties and early nineties. There are three Roscommon publications (7) The Roscommon Association Annual, Roscommon GAA year Books and The Roscommon Historical and Archaeological Magazine. Then there is of course the accumulation of  a half- life of (8) quiz material. I do not know what relevance Stevie Smith’s poem, ‘Not Waving but Drowning’,  has to all this but it comes into my mind when I review these boxes.   

Sports Review:

It was a fine  event at the Abbey Park on Saturday evening though the result went against Boyle, after an excellent first half of football against St. Brigid’s. There was a great effort made in preparation for the significant double-header. Boyle have another big game on Sunday next when they visit Padraig Pease's in the last championship game of this group stage. This is a fifty –fifty game and any support willing to make the long trip to Ballinasloe will, I’m sure, be appreciated. 
Boyle minor girls came up against a very good Shannon Gaels side on Tuesday evening in the park. Still progress in the game continues apace in Boyle.
This Wednesday evening the Boyle U 12 team defeated a gallant St. Michael’s to reach the final of the Keenan Cup. This is a very talented side which overcame St. Brigid’s in the U 12 ‘A’ League final just a few weeks ago. 
Watching Rory McIlroy’s win in the U.S. golf, deep into last Sunday night/Monday morning, was a real treat. After a wobble that seemed to damage his chances he recovered with one magnificent long drive which resulted in an eagle and the game was in the melting pot again. He held his nerve and saw it out for another great win in a great year for him. Rory comes from Holywood but his status now is moving to that of one of the icons of Hollywood.
The Kilkenny Cats are into another final. Limerick gave it their all in appalling conditions at Croke Park on Sunday but the introduction of Power especially (a bit belatedly by Coady’s standards) tilted the balance at the end. Next Sunday it is Cork v Tipperary. I fancy Cork and maybe they could go all the way and win the All-Ireland final itself. My game results predictions have been pretty good this summer though I did forecast a draw between Armagh and Donegal.                     

Friday, August 8, 2014

Maureen O’Sullivan / Summer Visitors / Errata / Ireland v New Zealand / McGovern Directional Drilling / The GAA Games Nationally

Maureen O’Sullivan Full Circle

I was involved a little in last Sunday’s event remembering the visit to Boyle in 1988 by Maureen O’Sullivan. It was most enjoyable and very well organised by Helen and Patricia of Una Bhan. As I may have said before amongst the highlights was the concert in the Royal Hotel with Miss O’Sullivan and her husband in attendance and really enjoying it all. It is great to have so many stalwarts of Boyle singing and music on the record such as May Conroy, Aggie Devine-Conlon, Josie McDermott, Jim Casserly and so on. Mary Ryan played a key role in making the event such a success. Maybe we could now U tube some of the highlights which I imagine would be popular and give the town and Maureen O’Sullivan’s connection to it extra recognition.

Summer Visitors

Summer is a traditional time for visitors and last week I met up with Father Tony Conry who was home from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Tony contributes a regular column now to the Roscommon People newspaper having done so for the Roscommon Herald previously. His native place is Killina and proud he is of it. He has been in Brazil for forty five years. Tony was a mine of information on the history, past and present, of South America and the travails of that continent with the machinations of the United States and its vested interests there. I know little of the history of South America and its countries or even its current social and political story. Perhaps when Tony visits again I will organise that he give a talk in Boyle on part of it.
On a genealogy visit to what I regard as a lovely graveyard, Eastersnow/Estersnow, I met another pioneering priest, by accident this time. That was Father Gerry Shanley. I know his brother P.J. who was a great quiz enthusiast and having retired from quizzes took up the game of Bridge. Anyway Gerry having ministered in the States transferred to the Mexican border city of  Matamoros. He spoke of his work there and the issues of drugs, murders, corruption and social deprivation. While it may be regarded as in the film ‘No Country For Old Men’ yet he was able to say he liked it and his work there. Of course there are and have been heroic figures like Tony and Gerry on the front lines for decades it is so interesting to meet them and hear their stories.   


Two topics of the moment in this country are; the drugs issue in Roscrea and The Water Problem in Roscommon. Indeed I feel that the water problem and charges in Roscommon will be a battleground for the foreseeable future with the suggested average charges of €240 a myth.
The All-Ireland Fleadh gets into gear next week with its multitude of music schools leading to the week-end highlights through from the 15th. to the 17th. Of course Boyle was the venue for two great Fleadhs in 1960 and 1966 which are still remembered by the older generation in the town and those who visited Boyle then. Recent Fleadhs in Derry and Cavan have been hugely successful so it is great challenge to Sligo who have hosted the festival before of course in 1990 and 1991.     

Sports Review

Ireland 17 New Zealand ‘All Blacks’ 14

I am nearly sure that this is the first victory for an Irish national team over the almost invincible All Blacks ladies team. I happened to tune into the game in the second half as the Irish ladies defended stoutly. The game seemed to be moving  towards its inevitable New Zealand victory if a narrow one this time. Then the Irish ladies broke clear to score a fine try and conversion to take the lead. New Zealand drew level with a penalty but this was negated by an Irish penalty. It was Ireland who were on the offensive as the game drew to a conclusion. Their achievement was evident in the joy and celebration at the game’s end. This victory is up there with the cricket team’s defeat of Pakistan and England a few years ago

McGovern Directional Drilling Boyle Senior Team
Boyle Senior team take on St. Brigid’s in the Championship at Boyle on Saturday evening in Boyle at 7.30. This is part of a worthy double-header with Kilmore v Castlerea at 6. Boyle had a good win over St. Aidan’s in the League on Friday evening of last week. On Monday they were well beaten by an impressive Roscommon Gaels also in the League leaving them with two remaining games there. Boyle ran St. Brigid’s to one point in an early league game but St. Brigid’s are going for five in a row county titles. So for followers of the game Saturday evening should provide a good selection of domestic fare.
(I wish Tadgh Lowe all the best in terms of recovery from a shoulder injury in the game. His loss for next Saturday was one of the deficits of having an important league game in the same week as a very challenging championship fixture). 
Boyle Ladies had a convincing win over Roscommon Gaels on Monday and will be contesting the ‘business end’ of their Intermediate championships with optimism.

The GAA Games Nationally

Nationally things went as expected with Kerry defeating Galway and Mayo falling over the line against Cork having been in dominating positions earlier. Amongst the armoury that Kerry possess is the twenty to thirty yard kicked pass perfectly placed for the receiver.  Galway on the other hand fist-passed to shoelaces. Had Mayo lost out to Cork it would have been a real disaster for them. They have quite a number of good players and the O’Sheas, particularly Seamus, did well on Sunday. Still they have a number of weaknesses and the management decisions are not ‘A’ standard either. Mayo now meet Kerry and their emerging star O’Donoghue. In semi-finals suggesting who might come through should be getting more difficult. While I would of course like very much to be wrong I think the Kerry naturals will prevail. 
This week end Dublin take on Monaghan. While Monaghan are an improving side they could face a blitzkrieg of power and pace which could result in a heavy defeat. Armagh, also on an upward curve, play a talented Donegal side. The natural inclination is to say Donegal who seem to have more aces in the pack but Armagh can adapt and smother as Roscommon found out. A draw here is an outside possibility.

Kilkenny still calling on some long-term veterans such as Shevlin, Delaney, Larkin, Tyrell, Walshe and  take on a fresh Limerick team buoyed by their demolition of Wexford. This will almost certainly be Henry’s last season and perhaps others such as Delaney who Brian Coady rates as one of the greatest Kilkenny defenders ever. The conveyor belt in Kilkenny has slowed considerably and that is why the old hands are still on duty. The next few years promises to be a much more open one in terms of hurling winners.
Well done to Roscommon minors who made a fine late rally that ‘nearly’ got them past a highly rated Donegal side on Saturday in Sligo. Boyle’s Evan McGrath put in a great shift especially as he drove forward in the latter stages and he might have proved the hero but for a finger-tip Donegal save of a goal-bound shot towards the end.   

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Long War in Palestine / Maureen O’Sullivan Re-Visited / Micheal O Suilleabhain Concert on Friday in the Church of Ireland / Sports Review / All-Ireland Quarter Finals

The Long War in Palestine

As I write, the news is reporting an Israeli attack on a U.N. school in Gaza in its war against the Hamas organisation. There are reports of the deaths of 19 people including many children as a consequence. One always has in the mind the journey of the Jewish people to where they are now and especially the horrors of W.W.2. However  their  present campaign, while enveloped in the fog of war, shows a country which is willing to go to and beyond the extremes to achieve its objectives. The Israeli/Palestine problem is perhaps the most intractable issue in modern history and in origin is a created one. In history there was once a War titled ‘The Hundred Years War’  a misnomer since it lasted from 1337 to 1453.  In simple terms it was between Royal Houses of France and England. In historic terms all wars end but it seems as if a change in attitudes and aspirations of seismic  proportions will be needed to resolve the conflict in this region. The move towards the creation of an Israeli-Jewish state began in the 1870s’ as part of the Zionist movement of Herzl. This was accelerated by the Balfour Declaration of 1917 as displaced and oppressed Jews moved towards their ‘Promised Land’. It became a flood after the Second world War. This mass movement  of Jews into the region of Palestine led to the displacement of large numbers of the existing Arab population and hence the conflict. Since that conflict basically began post World War 2 it is now active or simmering for nearly seventy years and is a cockpit for the clash of Middle Eastern and European style-including the United States- culture and interests since then. The influence and support of the United States is pre-eminent with Israel because of the influence of the Jewish community in the U.S. Ireland’s policy on the matter is tied to that of the E.U. initially, and of course it would not want to be too outspoken, if it so desired, in case it caused problems with the U.S.       
Last Tuesday night I tripped across the I.T.N. television news summary being read by Mark Austen and the subjects dealt with were; President Obama announcing more embargos on Russian oligarchs and institutions; the Gaza horror; the Ukraine tragedy; the gradual descent of Libya into civil strife; and the introduction of the chlorine gas in World War 1. The distraught demeanour of Mister Austen reflected this list of terrible news stories. 
It is said that there are more refugees from conflict at the moment than at any time since World War 2. World War 1 was to be ‘The War To End All War’ but a hundred years on, in a world that has the capacity to achieve so much, it is far removed from that. Gaza is a tragic example of an intractable knot of one long conflict. 

Maureen O’Sullivan Re-Visited

Considering the above paragraphs to write about anything else seems like trivia but life goes on in our tranquil world.  Next Sunday there is a remembering of the visit to Boyle of the actress Maureen O’Sullivan. While few of the younger generations will remember Maureen O’Sullivan from her screen appearances she will always be part of cinema history. She has become identified as the iconic Jane in the original series of Tarzan films around 1930. She also starred with a number of the great stars of that era. In the early 1980s’ I was responsible for a quiz in what was then The Ceili House Bar where Londis is now. I tried to include town questions as a matter of local interest. Once I asked; ‘What famous film actress was born in Boyle?’ I seem to remember the surprise at the question and I am not sure if it was answered on the night. I decided to follow up on Maureen O’Sullivan and with Frank Geelan came up with the idea of inviting Miss O’Sullivan to the town of her birth. With a very good committee, including the recently deceased Malachy Beirne,  it all came together on one of the few sunny days of that summer of 1998. It turned out to be a marvellous occasion with all the trappings. As R.T.E. reporter Joe Fahey relayed ‘Hollywood could hardly have done it better’. Maureen turned out to a very willing and deserving participant in it all and she was thrilled and really surprised at the great welcome she received. Among the many highlights was a concert by the best of local talent in the Royal Hotel on the Sunday evening. These included; Aggie Devine Conlon, Jim Casserly, May Conroy, Josie Mac Dermott and Kathleen Dwyer Morris and Mary Ryan amongst others. Luckily the whole two days were recorded and what a great record it is of that memorable week-end.
Current Boyle movie star Chris O’Dowd occasionally refers to this event as making an impression on him and perhaps having some influence on where he now is. On Sunday next Una Bhan have organised a detailed series of events, in the King House, recalling that day. So I suggest that you look up the programme of the day and call in at your leisure and recall a day when Boyle really shone and the Hollywood came to town.  

Micheal O Suilleabhain Concert on Friday in the Church of Ireland

The Arts Programme booklet outline note for this event has a number of interesting local references. The concert title, ‘The Plains of Boyle’, is obvious. There is reference to David Thompson’s lovely book ‘Woodbrook’. Then there is reference to a piece having been commissioned by Cormac O’Malley in memory of his father Ernie O’Malley. Ernie O’Malley was a prominent activist in the War of Independence and the Civil War. Subsequently he published a classic memoir of the war titled ‘On Another Man’s wound’.   I have met Cormac O’Malley a number of times. He is a cousin of Mary Nicholson of Sheegora  a stalwart of Clarke’s restaurant. Also taking part in the concert is The Carolan String Quartet which reminds one that the O’Carolan Festival is taking part in Keadue this week-end. Mister O Suilleabhain, originally from Clonmel, was at the forefront of introducing Traditional Music Studies and Participation to the University of Limerick. He has done this pillar of Irish culture a great service.    

Sports Review

Boyle Senior team drew with Elphin on Sunday in Division One League. A draw can always be seen as a point lost or a point won. For me, considering the second half it was a point won. On this Friday night they travel to Ballyforan to play St. Aidan’s. St. Aidan’s are doing too well at the moment so from Boyle’s point of view the two points here are a real requirement. Boyle still have to play Roscommon Gaels, Kilmore and Strokestown in the league and with three teams being relegated the issue is very much in the balance. Relegation would not be a healthy consequence. 

All-Ireland Quarter Finals  

At the week-end Galway play Kerry and Mayo take on Cork in the first two quarter finals. Kerry and Galway often have great tussles but the present Galway team seem limited enough. Still they do well in Croke Park. Cork blow hot and cold in  football which is the poor relation in that county to hurling. I fancy Mayo here. It seems to be consistently forgotten that Mayo ran Dublin to a couple of points in last year’s All-Ireland. So maybe in a year when they are not really considered to go the distance they might just do that! Armagh are gone on a talking to or not talking to the media ‘strike’ following the reportage of the bust up before the Cavan v Armagh game. I don’t know what’s going on there.
The two hurling games last Sunday were a big disappointment. Welford ran out of steam and Limerick’s goals around half time finished the contest. Tipp looked pretty good at the end but Dublin poor. So it is Tipp. V Cork and Kilkenny v Limerick. I suggest a Kilkenny v Cork final.