Thursday, October 29, 2015

Update 29th October

The Great Poems of John Keats

My reflection, a couple of weeks ago, on the John Keats poem ‘To Autumn’ prompted the following nice paragraph from Christy Wynne who has written some lovely essays on elements of Boyle life down the years. 

Having sparked the poetic streak in me after reading John Keats’s ‘To Autumn,’ I automatically moved on to ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ written by the same man. It is one of my favourite poems for a variety of reasons, notwithstanding the vein of sadness that runs through it. We had three stanzas to learn for Leaving Cert but I opted to learn all eight of them. A search for Happiness, a dissertation on life and death, they are all there. Keats’s short life was an aesthetic love affair with valley glades, quiet streams, plots of beechen green and winding mossy ways, ‘Beakers full of the warm south with beaded bubbles winking at the brim and purple stained mouth’. He died of T.B. at the tragically young age of twenty six years. At the end of the poem the man simply asks the question, ‘was it a vision or a waking dream’
Goethe the great German dramatist once said, 
One ought, every day hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture and if it were possible to speak a few reasonable words.
One could start with ‘Ode to a Nightingale’.
Christy Wynne.”   

So here are the opening two verses of another great poem of Keats which Christy learned at St. Mel’s College, in Longford some time ago now.  

Ode to a Nightingale

By  John Keats   

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains 
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk, 
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains 
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk: 
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, 
 But being too happy in thine happiness,— 
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees 
 In some melodious plot 
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless, 
Singest of summer in full-throated ease. 

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been 
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved earth, 
Tasting of Flora and the country green, 
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth! 
O for a beaker full of the warm South, 
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene, 
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim, 
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen, 
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

I might as well end my treatment of Keats by making a short reference to his other poem ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ with lines that may echo with some senior readers. Like so many pieces of classical writing people will remember the opening lines or remember them when prompted to do so. Thus these are the opening four lines with the famous final lines and the message therein.  

Ode on a Grecian Urn 
THOU still unravish'd bride of quietness,   
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,   
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express   
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all   
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'

(If anyone wishes to comment on the content here, or, as Christy has so nobly done, add their own three halfpence worth you may forward your thoughts to me for consideration
at Thanking you in advance. Terms and conditions apply of course !) 

Knock Airport Thirty Years, On a Wing and a Prayer

The encounter between R.T.E.’s Western Correspondent, Jim Fahey and Monsignor James Horan at a huge building site on a hill near Charlestown in County Mayo over thirty years ago regularly crops up on television be it ‘Reeling in the Years’ or whatever.
Jim Fahey “What are you doing here?” Monsignor Horan “We’re building an airport, but don’t tell anybody”. My memory of the disparaging reference to that area was as ‘a foggy, boggy hill’ in Mayo but it seems that it was “foggy boggy site” uttered by Jim Mitchell of Fine Gael. What matter.
It was looked on by many and especially the Dublin establishment as the height of madness. It was however supported, to a degree, by the Fianna Fail government of the Castlebar-born Taoiseach Charlie Haughey. Monsignor Horan who was parish priest of Knock was responsible for the invitation of Pope John Paul 11 to Knock having built a huge Basilica there. 

(As an aside I remember vividly being there ‘stewarding’ for the Pope’s visit. The GAA as an organisation was mobilised to help with that element of things and Micheal O’Callaghan, Chairman of Roscommon County Board rallied the Roscommon GAA. So we identified ourselves with our yellow caps et al and the Boyle company ‘stewarded’ under the direction of Miko Finneran. There was a huge crowd of course. However things must have run a bit late and the Pope was unable to do his usual tour of the grounds in the Pope mobile to the great disappointment of the people. He did wave down to them from the helicopter taking him away. Then the serried ranks of the stewards were really tested as people broke to return to their modes of transport and despite the best efforts of Miko and company we were unable to hold back the tide. God indulged us all and no one got hurt. I’ll return to the Monsignor).

The Fianna Fail defeat in the ’82 election meant a different and less supportive Government. A great appeal went out to the people of the region and particularly the diaspora especially those from Mayo and the money flowed in with the bold Monsignor travelling to the U.S. and various places seeking financial assistance. The project had captured the imagination of the country as evidenced in a song by Christy Moore; “

‘From Fatima to Bethlehem, from Lourdes to Kiltimagh,
There’s never been a miracle like the airport up in Knock’

The first passenger flight took place on October the 25th 1985 for a pilgrimage group to Rome and the Vatican. Despite the smiling public image of Monsignor Horan the whole project took its toll on him and he died less than a year later on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. The return of his remains was the first funeral to come to Knock Airport. It was later named after the Monsignor but is now known as Ireland West Airport Knock, the fourth busiest airport in the country with 700,000 passengers in 2014. A statue of the good Monsignor stands proudly on the once ‘foggy boggy hill’. Those of us who have travelled via Knock owe a huge debt of gratitude to Monsignor James Horan. He certainly adopted the phrase famously uttered by Robert Kennedy, adapted from a sentence of George Bernard Shaw; ‘Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?”    
‘Streets of London”

Last week-end I attended a concert in the Hawks Well Theatre in Sligo performed by Ralph McTell. It was a very pleasant and enjoyable evening with the singer accompanying himself with excellent guitar playing. Ralph McTell is known for two songs especially, ‘Streets of London’ and ‘From Clare to Here’. I have to confess that I have not listened to Ralph enough down the years. A song I was not aware of titled ‘Mister Connaughton’ really impressed me. The singer who is now seventy continues to tour and talked of being in Sligo in the past and referred to The Venue Bar in Strandhill as a venue. The then proprietor of The Venue and a former manager of Planxty, Kevin Flynn, was there to meet Ralph again. I used to think that the singer was from Scotland, or the North East of England when in fact he is from Croydon, London and he has been an influential figure in English folk music for decades.



Boyle Juniors take the Cup. Boyle 0.12 Kilglass 0.11.

Back; A.Lavin/B.Shannon/ G.Gilmartin/ J.Suffin/ T.McGarty/ L.Casey/ J.Cox/ D.Mattimoe/ P.Goldrick/ C.McKeon/ GaryGoldrick/ B.Kerins/ T.Halligan/ P.Lavin/ C. Cox/ A.Sharkey/ D.O’Connor/ B.Goldrick.
Front; M.McGovern/ C.Flanagan/ C.Horan/ K.Kelly/ M.Goldrick/ C.Beirne Capt./ D.East/ C.Goldrick/ L.Conroy/ S.Tonra/ C.Deery. (26 players, three management).


Boyle Junior team defeated Kilglass Gaels ‘B’ by the narrowest of margins in Kilglass on Saturday evening last in the King & Moffatt Division 5 final. While it was not pretty at times, as possession was gifted to either side and the ending was somewhat nail-biting the victory was just reward for the management and players who ‘turned out’ at times during the summer when it may have been easier to fold. The object of the exercise was to give extended members of the club’s football group, game- time which it did. But it was not always easy to get a full team. This was not the case on this final day.
The late arrival of the referee on Saturday pushed the ending to the twilight hour. At half time the score stood at Kilglass 0.5 Boyle 0.4. Mid-way in the second half Boyle led by 9 points to 5 but Kilglass rallied and reeled of four unanswered points to level affairs by the 20th minute. Both sides traded points but Cian McKeon scored a fine point from a free to give Boyle the win close to full time. The introduction of veteran players Liam Conroy, Mark McGovern, Aaron Sharkey, Jim Suffin and Steve Tonra tilted the result in Boyle’s favour eventually. So well done to all involved.

Seamus Nugent Representing the County Board presents the cup to Boyle Capt. Ciaran Beirne. In the background are, P.Lavin/A. Sharkey / K.Kelly/ S. Tonra/ P. Goldrick/ T. Halligan. On the right are, C. Goldrick/ M. Dolan/ D. O’Connor

Boyle are now involved in the U 21 championship with a game v Padraig Pearse's on Saturday at Woodmount. There are some very good players on this panel as evidenced down the years in the various under-age competitions but again it hinges on the question of who makes themselves available.

Last Sunday saw a host of county finals and inter-provincial club games. There was a double scenario where two brothers faced each other being on opposing sides. In the Kilkenny senior hurling final Keith Hogan was on the winning Clara side while his brother Brian was with the defeated O’Loughlin Gaels team. In Castlebar Tommy O’Reilly was on the Breaffy team defeated emphatically by the Castlebar Mitchell’s side which included his brother Eoghan. There is the standard quiz question there so bank that for the Boyle GAA Christmas Quiz which will take place on Sunday December the 27th in St. Joseph’s Hall. 

Rugby World Cup Final
So it has come down to a kind of Kerry v Dublin World Rugby Cup Final between New Zealand v Australia. N.Z. always looked like they were going to be in the final and probably win it. Australia had to get the rub of the referee in the Scotland game to get there. It is pretty unusual that these two sides have not met before in a final. I thought that N.Z. were unbeatable but they had to struggle against South Africa and the champagne rugby had to be put in the ice bucket. N.Z. have beaten Oz eleven times in the last 12 games but the Australian win was the second last game in Sydney and they put out a very different team for the last game. No team has won back-to-back world Cups and N.Z. have not a World Cup outside N.Z. If they are to be beaten then it is quite possible that Australia is the team to do it as no other team could be as motivated to beat N.Z. other than Australia. On reading the reviews the Australian back row pairing of Pocock and Hooper could be the difference. 
It is a great pairing for the final and could be the icing on the cake of a pretty remarkable tournament. 
(South Africa play Argentina on Friday night at 8 in the plate. While the final is on Saturday at 4.)    

I mention the Seminar below, which is organised by John Scally from South Roscommon, author of the biography of Dermot Earley. I expect to go myself as there is a very interesting broad programme and notable speakers. 

Interdisciplinary Ethics in Sport Conference Programme 

Date: Saturday November 7, 2015.

Venue: The Long Room Hub, Trinity College.

10.00 Welcome and Introduction: Dr. John Scally Department of Religions and Theology
10.15 Ethics and Sport: A Personal Perspective George Hook, Broadcaster and Rugby Journalist
11.00 Mind Matters: Gareth O’Callaghan, Broadcaster, Therapist and Mental Health Campaigner
11.45 Mind Matters:  The GAA Response Colin Regan, GAA Community and Health Manager
12.15 Sponsorship of Sport by Alcohol Brands: Suzanne Costello, CEO Alcohol Action Ireland 
12.45 Special Guests: Emma Spence and Ollie Campbell

1.00 Break 

2.00 Keeping Children Safe: Dr. Gary O’Toole: Swimming Champion and Whistleblower
2.30 The Concussion Crisis?: Karol Mannion, Roscommon footballer.
3.00 Ethics and the GAA: Joe Brolly, GAA Legend 

Admission is Free. Places are limited so early booking is advised.

For further information and for registration contact John Scally at:

Slán ... comments and email welcome ...


Friday, October 23, 2015

Update 23rd October

Prologue: I hope to write a note on say three prominent historical figures with Boyle connections from the early decades of the 1900s. They are Frank McDermott T.D. below; Count Plunkett of the 1917 election and Jasper Tully also of the 1917 election and as proprietor of The Roscommon Herald among other things. 

Frank McDermott of Coolavin

We are all aware of that iconic scenic picture of McDermott Castle in Lough Key. The McDermott Clan were, for centuries, one of the sub-chiefs to the O’Connors in this region. Their final McDermott abode has been Coolavin near Monasteradden some twelve miles or so from Boyle. One of the last of the family was Felicity McDermott. Local historian Mister Frank Tivnan was a friend of theirs and very knowledgeable on the history of the family. A couple of weeks ago I attended a lecture on a family member called Frank McDermott (1886-1975) who was briefly prominent in Irish politics in the thirties. This politician journalist was born in Dublin, the youngest son of twelve children of the right Honourable The Mac Dermott, K.C. of Coolavin, Co.Sligo.

Frank too became a barrister and a champion of Home Rule. He served in the British army during W.W. 1 after which he joined a banking company for some years. He became interested in Irish politics and stood in West Belfast as a Nationalist in 1929. He won a seat in Roscommon in 1932 as an independent T.D. This was the year that Fianna Fail, with Eamon de Valera, first came to power. The Roscommon T.D.s’ in ’32 were Dan O’Rourke F.F., Gerry Boland F.F., Martin Conlon and McDermott who then founded The Centre Party hoping to steer politics away from the imprint of the Civil War winning eleven seats in the snap election of ’33. The Centre Party aligned with Cumann na nGaedheal to form the United Ireland Party/Fine Gael and appointed the recently deposed chief of the Garda, Eoin O’Duffy as leader. Due to the erratic leadership of O’Duffy, McDermott resigned from his own party remaining in the Dail as an independent until ’37. He spent much of his subsequent life as a reporter in New York, London and Paris.

Other issues from these years include the Army Comrade Association (ACA) who morphed into the ‘Blueshirts’ led by O’Duffy; The Farmers and Ratepayers League, which I had never heard of. The 30s’ was the time of the Land Annuities and Economic War and it is something that de Valera was able to carry this on and retain the support he did as the farming income collapsed. But you have to realise that de Valera was regarded as a near God- like- personality by many of his supporters.  While Fianna Fail developed a real machine of a political party Fine Gael showed its ineptitude in terms of organisatio
There are parallels between the position Sinn Fein today and of Fianna Fail founded in 1926 entering the Dail in ’27, some T.D.s’ possibly having guns in their pockets. The great victory for democracy came just five years later with the smooth changeover in ’32 from Cumann na nGaedheal to Fianna Fail in power. So Frank McDermott’s (slighted by opponents as the Paris Farmer) effort to veer away from Civil War politics was brief and a failure in that grey and turbulent area of Irish history..      

Former President Mary Mc Aleese Stunning Collection on Display 

I was present at the unveiling of the Mary McAleese collection last week in King House. It was a celebratory  occasion on Friday night where the former president demonstrated her affection for her adopted county, the county of her paternal forbears. We are so lucky that this is so. This is just a stunning collection from many different countries and cultures. So I strongly recommend that you hurry along to view this exhibition while King House is open to the end of October. Tributes were paid to those who made this possible, Frank Feighan who has been engaged in its procurement for nearly four years, Tommy Egan of King House, Roscommon County Council Arts personnel Mary Mullins and Clodagh Kelly, the OPW and most importantly Mary McAleese herself. So congratulations to all. The exhibition is titled ‘Intertwined’ so while it has a short window of opportunity for viewing at this time, it will continue for five years or so and will certainly be a fantastic showpiece for King House in the forthcoming tourist seasons.  Sean has a selection of fine pictures online here on which shows the articles on display.

Ireland of the Welcomes

In September I came through Dublin airport after a holiday abroad (obviously!). Many times going through passport controls in other jurisdictions the passport officers have been gruff, intimidating and mostly far from courteous. Anyway presenting my passport to the Garda at the control office at Dublin airport it was returned by the officer saying ‘Thank you, Tony’. For whatever reason I was pretty surprised but I applaud the officer involved. Certainly for visitors to this country to get this first taste of Irish hospitality would make a big impression.

Anne Sheerin meets Daniel O’Donnell

UTV Ireland launch the first programme of a harmless sounding television series called ‘Daniel and Majella’s B&B road Trip’ on Monday night next the 26th at 8 pm . Anne and Noel Sheerin ( formerly of St. Patrick’s Street, Boyle) are the initial B&B proprietors and they are in business in Tulsk. A snip from the show has ‘gone viral’ during the week showing an emotional Anne viewing the arrival of Daniel through her curtained window while her husband Noel looks on bemused. Anne is obviously a very big Daniel fan. Noel is a brother of Geraldine Beirne of St. Patrick’s Street and Maple Drive. I know Anne and Noel well for many years.

The Graham Norton Irish Night

Last weekend’s Graham Norton show could have been transmitted for a St. Patrick’s Day such was the Irish presence. Mister Norton is from Cork, two of his guests were our own Chris O’Dowd and Colin Farrell. Even Scot Rod Stewart pitched in with a very Celtic musical arrangement for his song. Then in the ‘red chair’ up popped another familiar face John from the West of Ireland with a story which punch-lined Chris O’Dowd. The ‘red chair’ story teller from the West was John Harrington from Boyle. He told his story well and it capped a great Irish show by the Irish. 
As a post script, there are many YouTube pieces with Chris but my favourite one is; ‘Chris O’Dowd’s acceptance speech at the ‘Spirit of Ireland Awards’, New York, St. Patrick’s Day 2013.

James Shivnan R.I.P.

I was very saddened by the untimely death of a former student James Shivnan of Ballyfarnon. He had been ill for just a short time. I had it on my ‘to do’ list to visit or communicate with him but I didn’t and regret that now of course. 
 I remember calling to Shivnan’s Bar a small number of times down the years, once with John Keenehan when we were promoting the St. Mary’s College re-union of 1985. James, when asked if he would support it, willingly took a pair of tickets and then asked us to leave another eight or so which he also disposed of and he enjoyed the event. He told me a little anecdote of his father, Tom, once which stayed with me. His dad dutifully wore a tie and when asked of his commitment to this appendage replied ‘A man should take a couple of minutes to don a tie in the morning and it makes him a gentleman for the day’. I imagine many people will have very positive memories of James as a jovial, bright and endearing gentleman. My deepest sympathy to the Shivnan family who have been and are such a part of the fabric of Ballyfarnon and its community.       

Ted McGowan, Gurteen

Ted McGowan who was buried in Culfadda this week was an ever-present at traditional music gatherings the length and breadth of the country. We would meet him especially at All-Ireland Fleadhs in Listowel, Clonmel, Enniscorthy and of course Sligo. He was known everywhere and by everybody. His bar ‘The Roisin Dubh’ in Gurteen was a mecca for traditional musicians from all over the country and beyond. Ted had spent time in London and returned to Gurteen around 1970 and the great music of that area found a spiritual home. I was there many times from the late seventies and there were many mighty sessions to be heard with Ted mingling, welcoming, overseeing his business and above all showing enjoyment and empathy for the great music which reverberated from the rafters. Amongst the great musicians who were regulars there were his brother Tom, Peter Horan, Fred Finn, P.J. Hernon, Patsy Hanley, John Carty and a whole galaxy of the very best musicians and singers consistently over the years. With the photographs adorning the walls ‘The Roisin Dubh’ was a tribute gallery to the great Sligo musical tradition. That tradition has lost one of its greatest advocates with the death of the unique and generous man that was Ted McGowan.  



Hyped Expectation v Reality 

So Ireland’s Rugby World Cup dream has come to a shattering conclusion. The hype of expectation was over-inflated. The view of our own team’s ability was seen through rose tinted glasses. Our view of the weakness of other teams eg. Argentina was similar. It is something how we can get carried away and see things the way we want to see them. This obtains perhaps to a greater degree in sport but also as the Celtic Tiger proved economically. House speculation and expectation was/is another example. A perfect storm can be created and we are in its eye. I felt once that if ever I started to bet I would do so on Gaelic games, something I would feel I knew something about  but this summer I would not have done too well there either.

Returning to the rugby, in the run up to the France game Gordan D’Arcy wrote in the Irish Times “I don’t want them to play the game of their lives-keep that for the final-but this has to be an eight out of 10” performance”! While Ireland did well against France the subsequent demolition of France by New Zealand showed them up also. Still the Irish casualty toll in the French game was very influential. The loss of the leadership of O’Connell, O’Mahoney, O’Brien and Sexton could not be compensated for. The squad strength was not as all-embracing as was propagated. 

Of the four ‘home’ countries Scotland was the one which was thought to have little or no chance. Yet they were cruelly denied a place in the semi-finals in the most heart-rending way. So next Saturday a majestic looking New Zealand team play South Africa who have the strength and tradition to cause them problems. On Sunday Argentina play the pretty lucky Australia. I know nothing about the evolution of Argentina as a rugby nation and their rise has been pretty spectacular but against Ireland they had the key components in place. They were sublime, especially in the opening twenty minutes with Ireland caught in the headlights. As Neil Francis says in today’s Independent “ We need to learn to play at pace. The truth is they (New Zealand) just do the simple things well - really well. Their passing is unmatched. They seem to be able to pass effortlessly and seamlessly under intense pressure. They do in Test competition what other teams can only do in unopposed training sessions”.   
While I really enjoyed many of the games or portions of them I still think that rugby has a major question mark over it as a sports game in terms of participant safety. The injury rate at this competition illustrates that. It will not be easy to arrive at an appropriate resolution.

Now it is on to the bread and butter ‘Six Nations Championships’, a distance from the champagne rugby and drama of the past month. The cheerleaders will be more challenged there but I imagine it will not take us long to adjust and tune in. There will be some hangover from the lessons of the World Cup. The southern hemisphere’s teams are on another planet or half planet.

Boyle Juniors in Final
• Boyle Juniors play Kilglass in their Junior final on Saturday next at 4.30. I wish them and their management the best.
• Boyle U 10s’ I’m sure will enjoy their trip to Dublin club Clontarf and Croke Park on Saturday in the exotic Roscommon GAA Bus. 
• Congratulations to Diarmuid Sutton who has been making his mark in swimming arenas recently. Diarmuid and his dad Leonard are active members of Boyle GAA Club.  
• The Boyle GAA ‘Get Active’ initiative continues apace. The dawn walkers continue to enjoy the lovely autumn weather and the Pilates session on Thursday night could open a whole new fitness and wellbeing horizon.

P.S. I received a very interesting piece from Christy Wynne reflecting on my mention last week of the Keats’s poem ‘To Autumn’. I will ‘treat of’ Christy’s piece next week.  


Friday, October 16, 2015

Update 16th October

To Autumn by John Keats.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinéd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barréd clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

The present period of beautiful end of autumn weather prompted me to source again the great poem of the English Romantic poet John Keats (1795 -1821) applauding the Autumn season.   The work was composed in September 1819 and published in 1820. "To Autumn" is the final work in a group of poems known as Keats's "Odes".  The work marks the end of his poetic career, as he needed to earn money and could no longer devote himself to the lifestyle of a poet. A little over a year following the publication of "To Autumn", Keats died in Rome.

The poem has three eleven-line verses which describe a progression through the season, from the late maturing of the crops, to the harvest and to the last days of autumn when winter is approaching. The personification of Autumn, and the description of its bounty, its sights and sounds are rich in imagery something like a picture by one of the English landscape artists of the period. While some of the words and language are of their time the overall story is embracing.

The poem has been interpreted in various ways; 1. As a meditation on death;  2. As Keats's response to the Peterloo Massacre, which took place in the same year; and 3. As an expression of nationalist sentiment.

This poem is one of the most popular poems in English poetry collections. "To Autumn" has been regarded by critics as one of the most perfect short poems in the English language.

(Keats is always spoken of in parallel with Shelley 1792-1822 both being part of the group referred to as Romantic poets “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought” and “O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?”

Shelley too died in Italy at the height of his powers).

Shakespeare also treated of Autumn in sonnet number 73

“That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang”.

While the present weather is such a surprising treat to us this is the type of climate that is experienced for a period in the Eastern New England States of the United States. There it is referred there as ‘The Fall’  depicting the fall of the leaves.

Ireland would be a really lovely country, seasonally without extremes, if we could have some reliability and less rain but I guess that is not in our gift. So enjoy this brief ‘Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness’.

Saddler’s Inn
Boyle Church of Ireland ‘Supper Social’ will be held in the Saddler’s Inn, Kingsland on this Friday the 16th. The music is by Sean Brennan with admission being €10.

President McAleese Collection
On this Friday evening also the president McAleese collection will officially go on display in King House as is flagged on

Grehan Sisters Award
It is nice to see the Grehan sisters being awarded with the Annie McNulty award on Thursday October the 22nd by the South Roscommon Singers Circle in Hannon’s Hotel, Roscommon. Donie O’Connor will be one of the guest singers on the night.

Dublin Train
On Wednesday I took the 11.33 train to Dublin. When it arrived at the platform in Boyle from Sligo I got a real surprise as it was covered for its full length, windows and all, by graffiti. It was done, in my quick viewing as I entered, in a pretty organised and I might even extend to ‘artistic’ way though I do not have any photographic record. When sitting in the train one could only see out the other side windows. One might have felt like Lenin who when allowed to pass through Germany to St. Petersburg  pre. 1917 did so on a sealed train.
I had tuned into The Late Late Show on Friday and heard Brent Pope, who I like, extolling the virtues of an art genre called ‘Outside Art’. The train could have been an example of that and could easily travel to exhibitions! Actually on that Late Late there were three examples of ‘Outside Art’ by people who had issues at one time or other in their lives which were very interesting especially a very large mural (perhaps)by a lady from Dundalk.
Also on the show was David Walsh talking about a film ‘The Program’ based on his book ‘Seven Deadly Sins My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong’. The ‘Program’ I presume is the performance enhancing drug program carried on by Lance Armstrong in the pursuit of cycling glory. Chris O’Dowd plays the part of David Walsh and I look forward to seeing it.  

The Humble Letter
My paragraphs on ‘The Humble Letter’ attracted some attention. A former student and friend Harry Keaney from the Riverstown area now working- apparently- with Ocean FM in Sligo brought it to the attention of the producers of Niall Delaney’s programme which called me to discuss the topic on Monday morning. Amongst the letters I did not get around to mentioning were a number of very encouraging notes from the author Brian Friel to the Glenties Drama Group as they were preparing to stage his play Dancing at Lughnasa. They were published just last Sunday in the letters page of the Sunday Independent. Harry was a diligent student at St. Mary’s College, spent some time in New York where he was awarded the Sligo person of the year. On returning to Sligo he did a stint with the Sligo Champion some years as Editor. So Harry if you trip across this warmest regards.  
  If anyone has letters of interest they could contact Nicky Dowd in Westport on or call her at 0044797413928. She would be most interested.    

Sports Review

A huge percentage of Irish eyes will be on Cardiff when Ireland take on Argentina in the Rugby World Cup Quarter Finals on Sunday next at 1 pm. (note). The courageous and well deserved win over France came at a huge cost with the injuries to Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahoney with collateral damage to Johnny Sexton and to fill in the hand the suspension of Sean O’Brien. It will really test the panel resources of the Irish squad. Certainly the substitutes Henderson and Madigan did exceptionally well against France. Apparently O’Connell roused the troops in the dressing room at half time. While now is not the time, but when this tournament is over there will certainly have to be huge study of the game of rugby in terms of injury numbers as it is reported that 33 players have had to retire due to injury by the end of the pool stages and with seven more matches to go who can predict the final number.

The Quarter Final fixtures are as follows:

Saturday 4 pm South Africa v Wales and at 8 pm New Zealand v France.
Sunday    1 pm (note) Ireland v Argentina at Cardiff and at 4 pm Australia v Scotland at Twickenham


Ireland were poor against Poland and getting into the qualifiers is about what they deserved. While the win against Germany was pretty heroic the Sunday performance was some dip not helped perhaps by the team selection and poor on-field performances. One must also credit that Poland have an outstanding player in Robert Lewandowski who scored an outstanding headed goal. Friday we should know who Ireland plays in the qualifiers. Eamon Dunphy was wearisome in his championing of Wes Holohan who it is suggested,  had oddly informed the manager that he might not start the second game. I think that the panel has had its day and a change is necessary.

Paul Healy, Editor of the Roscommon People wrote, in his diary column of the week, on Sunday’s soccer, as follows:
“Sunday/Monday. The soccer fans were beaming on Sunday evening in Roscommon town as they poured out of the pubs, waved their flags in celebration and beamed as motorists honked their horns.
It was no surprise that on Monday morning outside the local schools the soccer fans were still celebrating the big win on Sunday and automatic qualification for Euro 2016.
What a day it had been. The unfashionable soccer team had done it., had made it to France without any play-off. The final moments had been tense, but the soccer team had hung on and all over Roscommon, the fans were rightly celebrating.
Congratulations to the sizeable Polish community…”


2016 Connacht Championship Draw

Group One: Roscommon V New York (set by rota earlier)/ winners Ros.v New York v Leitrim/ winners of this trio v Sligo in Connacht semi-final.

Group Two: Mayo v London with winner v Galway.

Connacht Final Winner Group One v Winner Group Two.

From a Roscommon perspective it looks a good draw but remember Sligo this year.

While the county Hurling final replay is on Saturday the football final takes place on Sunday with Padraig Parse’s managed by Shane Curran playing Clan na Gael managed by Paul Curran. This is a hard game to call. Hopefully Pearse’s will win as they have not won a senior championship though being competitive at senior level for the past 60 years or so.  



Friday, October 9, 2015

Update 9th September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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