Thursday, December 15, 2016

Update 16th December

Launch of Roscommon GAA Book
      (Supporting Pieta House)

The Great Roscommon Team of the Seventies
As you can imagine I, with many more Roscommon supporters, would be very interested in a book which deals with a period of Roscommon GAA History. So thanks to Richard Canny we have a quite original one which was launched in the sumptuous surrounds of Kilronan Castle last Sunday night by Dermot Earley Jnr. ‘Roscommon Football Legends’ is ‘The Story of the Great Roscommon Team ‘77/’80’. It is not just a straight line narrative of the teams successes and disappointments during that period but it tries through the contributions of its players, opponents and supporters to get to heart and soul of that particular period from varied angles. Of course the progress of the team will be dealt with from the early seventies to becoming the power team in Connacht winning four Connacht finals in a row, contesting 5 All-Ireland Semi-Finals (’77 draw and replay), winning the League in ’79, doing a double over Kerry in Hyde Park in ’78 when winning the U 21 final and the Ceannáras Cup (that was a competition to help finance development of office structures at Croke Park). The book is laced with illustrations from teams and supporters, team lists, player profiles but most notably the deep feelings of many great days but also of the huge disappointments crowned by the defeat in 1980 in the All-Ireland Final to Kerry. It was unlucky that a great Roscommon team came up against probably the greatest Gaelic football team in the history of the game. That’s the hand that fate deals much of the time.

I have only begun to read the book since Sunday naturally enough so a snapshot of the contents shows the diversity of the contributions. They include the experiences of radio followers in London and the struggle to get decent reception by improvisation. It opens with an essay from Paul Healy, proprietor of the Roscommon People, titled; ‘Growing Up in the Company of Giants’. Liam Devine, columnist with the Roscommon Herald, provided the narrative outline of the various campaigns.
I wrote an essay for it also, beginning with the Connacht Final of July 15th 1979. It is easy to remember that date as I got married the previous day and we headed to Castlebar for the final!
There is a picture of Boyle National School students outside their school with their banner emblazoned ‘Roscommon are the Greatest’. Close but not fully accurate. Just for emphasis the picture turns up again on page 65.
The main thrust of my piece however was the journey to and especially home from that 1980 final. Patsy McGarry of The Irish Times has a piece  ‘Ballaghaderreen: where football can take away any little sense we had’. I’ve seen that happen regularly!
Martin Wynne from Boyle has his piece headed ‘The Heartbeat of Roscommon Football’. There are profiles/interviews with nearly every member of the team and what a team they were. Gay Sheeran in goals; a powerful full back line of Keegan, Lindsay and Connellan; Danny Murray the captain, a lovely footballer who drove forward with Donnellan and Fitzmaurice at half back; Earley the figurehead with the powerful Hayden in midfield.
The half forward line with probably the most talented Roscommon player I ever saw, Michael Finneran from Ballinagare; John O’Gara in the middle and Dooley from Pearses. At full forward was Tony Mac with his brother Eamon and the rock star of the team John ‘Jigger’ O’Connor in the corner. This was the a team which was to field without a substitute we all know well, the mercurial Gerry Emmett.  
There are profiles of most of them and also their manager Tom Heneghan who was a classmate of my own in Roscommon C.B.S.
Seamus Duke probably summed those years up best for us with his contributions headline, ‘A Truly Magical time for Roscommon Football’.

I was accompanied to the launch by Gerry Emmett, a substitute in ’80 and an All-Ireland U 21 winner in ’78 and John Kelly another U 21 winner, in ’66, and a great senior with Roscommon in the late sixties and early to mid -seventies. Phil Emmett was the nominated driver! At first it seemed as if there was only going to be a small group present but we were early. Soon it filled up as Gerry would extol the allegiance of the true supporters of North, North, Roscommon and the usual suspects were there of course. The Sheerans, Gay, Mary, Seamus and Stephen; (Dermot was marked absent) stalwarts Gerry Guihan, Alan Benson, Declan Killoran, Coxie as Emmett always referred to him with his partner and Sean Martin casting a knowing quiet eye on proceedings. A lady from Rooskey, Rita Bennett, was slightly apologising because she had missed one of the three county launches! The team was represented by Sheeran, Lindsay, Connellan and Emmett with apologies from O’Connor in Donegal. Rita Bennett assiduously did the rounds getting her autographs and I thought about the varied manifestations of Roscommon supporter, indeed county supporters everywhere. A gentleman who had written a poem, which is included on page 78, had driven up from Portlaoise for the occasion. There were the regular football heads there from various clubs which I have seen many times and nodded to down the years, occasionally getting their names only to forget them again when winter came. Also present was former County Board Secretary Tom Mullaney now of this parish as the old books used to announce. Tom was a big contributor and important motivator to the publication of the original Roscommon GAA County History in 1990 in which I was involved.        

Richard Canny’s book was launched by Dermot Earley Jnr. He spoke of his time as a boy when he and other members of the family accompanied their dad Dermot Snr. to training and games with Roscommon and the pull Roscommon had on them then and still has. Paddy Kenny gave a brief explanation of the work of Pieta House and the need for it.

Richard Canny and family were busy and they could be proud as it is a pretty big thing to produce a book of any kind. He dedicated his book to three people Dermot Earley; his father-in-law and to his own dad. Indeed a number of the memories relayed, by adult people now, included references to being at the matches then with their dad. I can empathise with that memory legacy.  
 You might consider looking up and purchasing the book for itself and for the cause it supports.   

**Proceeds of the book sales go to supporting the work of Pieta House. The books should be available at local outlets but if anyone has difficulty getting one they can do so by contacting me at 086 816 3399 as I have a number for sale, price €20.
There will be a Dublin ‘Launch’ of the book in the Palace Bar in central Dublin on Monday night. Apparently The Palace Bar is now a popular meeting place for young Roscommon people domiciled in the capital. So spread the word on that please.    

Aleppo, Syria; An Outpost of Hell on Earth
Why is it that ‘Man’s inhumanity to Man’ never ends and is constantly manifested in the wars, famines, prejudice that permeates this world of ours. In the recent past it has been Ethiopia, Rwanda,  Bosnia, Cambodia, Northern Ireland, Srebrenica, the Jewish Holocaust, the pogroms of Stalin in the 1930s’, the Turkish Armenian massacres and the endless list of similar atrocities. I saw the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Powers, nearly crack when talking about the crisis there and about the Russian delegate’s ‘lies’ as she saw them. (Miss Powers was born in Ireland of Irish parents but went with her mother to the U.S. aged nine. She has written on and is an expert in ‘genocide’ throughout the world.)
When I look at the pictures of Aleppo it reminds me of the Post-World War Two  pictures in the scale of the destruction.
I remember as a boy being in a school library and on a high shelf was a book of drawings by Dante, the subject being Hell. We as boys were forbidden to view it for its traumatic impact. It seems as if, for the seekers of power and influence, creating a hell on earth is a valid price to extract from those who oppose them. As this proceeds the world body that had been established in the aftermath of W.W.2 with such hope and possibility, the United Nations, meet in ‘emergency session’ on a regular basis on the Aleppo tragedy, wring their hands but the short cease fires end and the slaughtering resumes.   As the variation on the biblical saying goes;  'An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind’.   

St. Stephen’s Day Match Abbey Park
I got a post to tell me that Aaron Sharkey, Darren O Connor and Mark O’Donohoe are organising an over 30s’ V under 30's match on Stephen’s Day. These lads are trying to raise some ‘coin’ to enhance facilities and the environment of the gym with a donation going to Brothers of Charity from whatever proceeds accrue.

Well Done
To Mikey McGrath, a very visible presence in the Abbey Park, who represented Ireland recently in a soccer friendly v Northern Ireland for a second time as part of the Cerebral Palsy development squad. The result was a nil to nil draw.

Don’t mention the weather in case we alert the gods. We might get away with over the Christmas. I really felt I heard the jingle of an ice-cream van a few days ago and I certainly saw tables and chairs outside the ‘Open Table’ restaurant on the Crescent yesterday. Al Fresco dining in mid-December in Boyle now that is something for the brochure.    

Hello To
Michael and Maria Kelly and their family of Mario, Olivia baby and three soon. 
**I hope to gather the names that I’ve published here for one big shout in the middle of next week for the final blog for Christmas.

The Quiz
Boyle GAA Annual Quiz and Meet takes place on Wednesday Dec. 28th in the hall, time 7.30 for 7.45 finishing shortly after 10.

FBD Game in Boyle
Also another pretty significant occasion for the club takes place on January 8th at the Abbey Park when Roscommon begin their competitive season in the FBD League against Sligo I.T.

Railway Cup Sat. Carrick
On this Saturday Connacht, with quite a number of Roscommon players including Enda Smith of Boyle, take on Ulster in the Railway Cup Final in Carrick-on-Shannon at 2.

RTE Sports Awards Saturday 17th at 9pm.

Roscommon GAA Convention in Ballinameen Friday Night
The Roscommon GAA Convention is a significant event when it goes out to a club venue from Roscommon town. We had it in Boyle a number of times. I remember it being in St. Joseph’s Hall on a very snowy evening with Michael O’Callaghan in the Chair. That was in 1984. Was it later in The Forest Park Hotel? Anyway it was back to the hall in 2009. It is hard to believe that it is 7 years ago. Last year it was in Kilmore. It was very hard to actually find out in the media that it will be in Ballinameen on  Friday 16th. Even the Ballinameen GAA notes do not mention it. 

Sunday Independent Sports Attack
The slashing of Joe Brolly by The Sunday Independent columnist Tommy Conlon last Sunday was bizarre in its intensity. It was in response to Joe’s valid questioning of the GAA President’s suggestion that the national Flag and Anthem could be dispensed with as tokens of appeasement at some future time. Tommy Conlon would want to query his prescription.
Columnist Neil Francis will not be impressed either by the sympathetic suspension of England rugby captain, the karate kid, Dylan Hartley.

Sunday Independent’s Eamon Sweeney’s Critique on the RTE Sports Awards
Eamon Sweeney had a very critical look at the nominees for this year’s RTE’s Irish Sports Person of the Year awards and I agree with his analysis. He focuses mainly on the illogical omission of Gary O’Donovan and the relegation of his role in the Olympic silver win with his brother Paul. He talks of the restricted environment of GAA nominees in football, hurling, camogie and ladies football and the superior claims of Irish sports people who reach the heights against international opposition. He suggests a division in the awards between Irish National v Irish International achievements. I seem to remember the embarrassment of Henry Shevlin when he won the overall sports person award relegating international achievers. Eamon mentions the ‘senseless omission of McIlroy, Gary O’Donovan and Thomas Barr’. And rightly so, concluding with (if you vote) ‘vote for Paul O’Donovan you’ll be voting for Gary too’           

I paste to here the list of nominees;

“The nominees for the RTÉ Sport Awards Sportsperson of the Year in association with Sport Ireland were announced on RTÉ Radio One.

Voting is now open to the public to choose who they want to win the top gong ahead of the awards ceremony presented by Darragh Maloney on RTÉ One at 9pm on Saturday December 17.

The full list of nominees is;
1.         Seamus Callanan – The Sunday Game Hurler of the Year capped an incredible year by scoring 13 points to ensure Tipperary’s All Ireland victory.
2.         Eoghan Clifford – Claimed a road cycling Gold and a track cycling bronze at his first Paralympic Games
3.         Katie George Dunlevy & Eve McCrystal - Won Paralympic tandem cycling gold and silver medals
4.         Brian Fenton – Dublin’s midfield general continued his phenomenal record of being unbeaten in a Dublin jersey
5.         Carl Frampton – Became just the second ever Irishman ever to have held World Titles in two different weight classes
6.         Denise Gaule – Denise added the Camogie Player of the Year Award to her first O’Duffy Cup
7.         Jamie Heaslip – The World Rugby Player of the Year nominee was a colossus in Ireland’s victories over South Africa, New Zealand and Australia
8.         Daryl Horgan – Dundalk’s magic man was the outstanding player in a truly outstanding team
9.         Conor McGregor – The Notorious furthered his claim as Ireland’s most famous sportsman by stepping down a weight to claim his second UFC title
10.       Annalise Murphy – Annalise came back from her London 2012 heartbreak to claim an Olympic Sailing Silver Medal in Rio
11.       Paul O’Donovan – Added a World Championship Gold to the Olympic Silver he picked up with his brother (GARY) in Rio.
12.      Bríd  Stack – Bríd was named ladies footballer of the Year after picking up her 11th All Ireland medal.

You can vote online at or by text. Voting will close on Monday December 12, at 10am.  (Not the charges on those tv texts. t.c.)

Nominees and voting details for both the Team of the Year and Manager of the Year awards will be announced later.

Slan for now …..any comments etc.


Friday, December 9, 2016

Update 10th December

Boyle GAA AGM Sunday December 4th.

After the Annual AGM on Sunday a number of people met for the traditional post-meeting analysis. A ‘La na gClub’ game from May 2009 was referenced and it was suggested that I post again my account then of that game which I do here now. (I will refer to the AGM and other items that have backed up next week hopefully).  

(Wednesday, February 10, 2010)

La na gClub May 10th 2009 …..’Veterans’ V ‘Apprentice Boys’ game in the Abbey Park.

Experience of Veterans key to Historic Victory:

The ‘Veterans’ team, captained with great skill and guile, by Jnr. Smith and coached by the evergreen Sean Young saw off a determined challenge from the ‘Apprentice Boys’ during the ‘Blue Riband’ event at La na gClub. The Veterans employed some novel and effective tactics in pursuit of glory. These included the ‘weighting’ of the left wing by playing two contrasting players in that key strategic position, Kit O’Connor and ‘Lightening’ Michael Gilmartin, a scratch player. The quiet disguising of their players as umpires and linesmen created considerable confusion in the ‘Apprentice’ ranks with Coach Young making a Kamikaze intervention at one stage. Tom Kearney was coolness personified in goals, at one stage taking time batting the ball onto the upright before clearing effectively, always finding a team mate and so initiating those sweeping downfield attacks which became a feature of their play. The cleverness of John McLoughlin, at midfield, in pretending to go for the ball but waving it on to a better placed colleague was most interesting and visually, in a sort of ballet way, disarming. The scoring threat for the 'Veterans' came from the twin tubs (towers) up front Jnr. Smith and Bernard Shannon. Bernard had an intriguing duel with ‘Apprentice’ Conor Tivnan. The score of the game was a cracking Kevin O’Connor goal which sealed victory and this afforded the luxury of a penalty miss for the ‘Veterans’ as the ball boggled on the uneven ground. In an analysis of performances suffice to say that all contributed in their own unique way and as per pre-match coaching etc. Billy Hanmore, greying hair streaming in the wind of his slipstream as he confronted opposition raids, did well, Fergal O’Donnell scored one majestic point, Vinnie Flanagan was a rock at centre back, Pat Goldrick showed he was willing to learn from the tough tackling rugby he has seen recently in Croke Park, Aidan Lavin laid aside the demands of high office when called upon, like Obama going to Burger Queen. This demonstrates that the generals can also be formidable in ‘no man’s land’. Charlie Candon was flawless, towards the end, as referee, and, after the initial resistance, showed willingness to adapt to the advice of the ‘Veteran’ spokesmen on the interpretation of rules, of which there were a few. His initial reliance on rules reminded me of what Dominick Connolly of Fuerty said to me once: "The trouble with some young referees nowadays is that they don't seem to care who wins the game!"

Returning to the game; Stephen Bohan was the subject of some very robust tackling and the tapes are being reviewed to see if any further action will be taken. Paul Beirne and Gerry Cregg basically came from nowhere to create confusion. Paul was suitably attired for the sunshine. Paul Duignan, who cost so much on the transfer market earlier in the year, is adapting nicely and Brendan Tiernan really revels on these big occasions, though both of the latter missed the important team photograph. This may have to be reorganised at one of the functions. The Veterans led from start to finish by four points and their escape to victory was greeted with prolonged celebrations which demonstrated how much it all meant to these experienced players. (Indeed Martin Purcell was seen later proudly wearing the winner’s medal pinned to his lapel a la a GAA President). However the captain, Jnr. Smith and Vice-Captain Kit O’Connor, graciously, did visit the losing dressing room with words of encouragement and advice to the ‘Apprentices’ who were visibly shaken by the result.

A small group met afterwards in 'The Showboat Inn' and an ad hoc committee was formed to organise appropriate recognition for the achievement of the ‘Veterans’. The committee is conscious that some, though not all of the veterans, would not want an extravagant display in these straitened times. There is the possibility that members of the team will be visiting local schools and institutions, in the coming weeks, with the cup. Perhaps something like the 2006 All-Ireland winning minors. There may be a short trip through the town at some appropriate time to the sound of ‘Simply the Best’. Other possibilities include exhibition matches on other high profile days, acting as radio or T.V. analyists. Members will also be available for medal presentation ceremonies and such like (note: on a strict rota basis, as it a full panel effort, ‘one for all and all for one' kind of mantra) and of course they are now bound to be guests of honour at the Annual Dinner Dance. So we look forward to that. I know that people in New York, London and various Australian cities involved in GAA affairs read these notes religiously at mass times, so perhaps panel members might volunteer to do some promotional work, for the expansion of the games, in places like Dubai, Hong Kong, New York or Sydney. If this is a requirement all contacts are to be made through their accompanying liaison officer at:

T.K Whitaker Centenarian

The hugely important role of T. K. Whitaker in the establishment of a modern Ireland may have receded in recent times but that would be sad. Mister Whitaker has reached the venerable age of 100 today December the 8th.  An RTÉ television audience voted TK Whitaker “Irishman of the 20th Century” in 2001 ahead of such major figures as Michael Collins and I presume W.B. Yeats. People who are reading this can access the biographical background of Mister Whitaker for themselves I just give my slant on his role and the times in which he achieved what he did. Senior people today will have clear memories of the post war Ireland. We had avoided the war declaring ourselves ‘neutral’ generally because it was felt by the government of day that an alliance with G.B. then ‘occupying’ 6 counties would lead to potential chaos of opposition. When with the overall realisation of what the Nazi regime perpetuated in the Holocaust and other atrocities the morality of that stance stood starkly bare. Hindsight brings wisdom. Even if the Government of the day had they been more aware of the excesses of Nazism would they adopted a different policy? It is questionable.
The de Valera economic sentiment was that of an insular ‘self-sufficient’ state of ‘cosy homesteads’ protected by tariffs. This had emanated from the 30s’ and the Economic War with Britain involving Land Annuities and trade embargos
After the war most countries were impoverished with the exception of the United States which, despite the huge cost of the war and their decisive part in it, boomed economically for decades..
The U.S. post war helped rebuild Europe by forwarding finance under a scheme called ‘The Marshall Plan’. Ireland though not an ally of the allies got significant aid from this scheme also which was very generous indeed. The U.S. initiative to rebuild Europe was in large part to create a buffer to Communist expansion.
Ireland in the fifties was a bleak place. We may look at it with rose tinted glasses at times but when gauged on all the barometers of social provision we were in a bad place in terms of health, education, employment, industrial development and probably all the other markers. We complain today of some of those issues but we are for the most part a wealthy country with many progressive services.
I’ve wandered around the place here so back to T.K.
Mister Whitaker was appointed Secretary of the Department of Finance in 1956 and he established an economic plan for the development of the country. Eamon de Valera eventually stepped down, years late, from being Taoiseach and went to a large house in the Phoenix Park in a symbolic way. The new Taoiseach, Sean Lemass, though nearly withering in the waiting room was a progressive leader and formed a ‘dream team’ with Whitaker. Social programmes such as rural electrification, water schemes and eventually ‘free education’, opportunities for employment rather than the ‘boat’ to Holyhead, led to a new confidence emerging. While the EEC, especially Charles de Gaulle, resisted the inclusion of GB and by association Ireland, this was finally overcome when they both with Denmark joined the EEC in 1973. The sixties was a very good, bright, energetic, decade to be involved in and I enjoyed its many variations. All this was against the backdrop of the grey, bleak heart-breaking fifties.
The seventies are less memorable with strikes, inflation, depression and of course the terrible war in Northern Ireland. This continued until the mid-90s’ when the first stirrings of the ‘boom’ began.
I have said before that a small country like ours should be able to sort out the issues that obtain in a better and in more socially just way. It appears as if we have not got the guile or generosity of spirit to achieve that and the roller coaster will continue. Is there no TK Whitaker for our age?   

Connie Fallon

I’d like to endorse the tribute paid by John Mulligan to Connie Fallon in his piece in this week’s Roscommon Herald. Connie was a community worker and an advocate for social equality. She contributed generously with her time, effort and talents to her adopted town. This was recognised in a small way when a number of people gathered at the Community Information office in Elphin Street a short while ago to pay tribute to Connie and have a plaque symbol to remember her by, placed in the office. Connie was a founding member of the Community Information Centre in Boyle. In a very democratic and informal way anyone who wished to say a few words were welcome to do so. Present also were her husband Jack and son Oliver. It was one of those understated but heartfelt events laced with sincerity and respect for a generous woman. A tangible tribute that people could pay Connie and her colleagues is to use the Community Information Service when expertise or advice is needed in this world of forms and disguised entitlements. As John Mulligan alluded to ‘knowledge is power’ in getting those entitlements.   

Saint Vincent de Paul Collection This Weekend
Having referred to one group who help with information the activists in St. Vincent de Paul also contribute hugely to those in real need. They do this in a quiet most confidential way and their efforts are to applauded. Ireland is a great ‘community’  country. I do not know if there are other countries in which community groups contribute so much to the general well-being of society. This week-end we have a chance to contribute to St. Vincent de Paul and in the spirit of Christmas I am confident that many will.  

Greetings to
I had a couple of very positive communications from Matthew Scott recently. Mattie as he may be known to many of you has been resident in England for quite a while now but also spends a lot of time in sunny Portugal. So keep chipping away at the golf handicap Mattie.

Roscommon People and William Trevor
I see that Paul Healy, Editor of the Roscommon People, tapped into some information on William Trevor’s North Roscommon connections, in this blog, for last week’s People edition. Paul is a reader of William Trevor but wasn’t fully aware of the strong connections he had with Roscommon. Paul was also complimentary of the blog which is nice coming from a member of the ‘fourth estate’. My attitude to information, especially local knowledge, is that I like to share it as there is no dividend in not doing so. I am a big supporter of the people with local knowledge and we are blessed with having quite a number of them in the county to call on when searching for information on a variety of topics. While many of these are pretty well known one occasionally comes across a person who has a store of knowledge on a particular topic as I did recently with John McLoughlin when looking for a headstone in Assylinn old graveyard. I will return to this topic anon. 



Sunday, December 4, 2016

Update 4th December

The passing of Fidel Castro / What now for Cuba?

The death of the Cuban leader Fidel Castro aged 90 has really divided opinion with the Irish President, Michael D. Higgins, praising Castro’s contribution to his country in suggesting that he was “a giant among global leaders whose view was not only one of freedom for his people but for all of the oppressed and excluded peoples on the planet”. These sentiments provoked a huge reaction much of it negative and in total disagreement with Michael D’s sentiments. Castro was the leader of a Cuban Revolution in 1959 which deposed a military leader called Batista. Castro established a socialist state which was anathema to its close neighbour the United States. The foreign policy of the United States at that time and possibly still was governed by what was called the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ and the region was unequivocally seen as ‘within the sphere of influence’ of the U.S. In the Cuban Revolution Castro was supported by an iconic figure called Che Guevara who was actually born in Argentina and is said to have Irish ancestry i.e. Ennis in Clare! The famous portrait of Guevara was produced by the Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick in 1968 based on a photograph by a famous photographer Korda.
The philosophy of Castro lead to huge concern in the United States and an invasion of Cuba by proxy took place at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in 1961. By proxy I mean that it was carried out mainly by Cuban post -revolution exiles from Cuba in the U.S. and supported by the C.I.A. It was a mess of a failure from their point of view.
The opposition to the new regime by the U.S. led to Cuba becoming an ally of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union and the U.S. were then engaged in what was called the ‘Cold War’. Russia thought that Cuba presented and ideal location for placing missiles that would threaten the nearby U.S. mainland and thus give the Soviet Union a key bargaining tool. This very nearly led to a nuclear holocaust in October ’62 when the U.S demanded the dismantling by the Russians of their existing missiles on Cuba. For a number of days the world watched as the prospect of nuclear war grew by the day. It was the ultimate in brinkmanship. Eventually the Russians acceded to the demands of the U.S. and the catastrophe was avoided. This was during the presidency of John F. Kennedy with Nikita Khrushchev being the Soviet leader of the time. The United States placed an embargo on Cuba and it was only last spring that relations between the two countries improved significantly with the visit of President Obama to Cuba.
Fidel Castro had stepped down as the country’s leader a number of years ago and was succeeded by his brother Raul.

Cuba as Observed by a Boyle Visitor.

Cuba is a country I would like to visit but then there are many countries I would like to visit. I asked a friend who had visited Cuba in 2012 for his observations and the following are a few of those .

“It is very friendly place for the visitor and one of the safest countries I’ve ever been, by a distance. It’s a country of kinda crazy contradictions. You get doctors or engineers driving taxis as there is more money to made that way! We stayed in a series of Casa Particulars’ the equivalent of B.& B.s’ here I suppose. The food in restaurants was poor but in the Casas it was brilliant in volume and quality. There are no chains as in McDonald’s, Starbucks and so on. It is ironic that one of the country’s top sports is baseball. There are some anti-U.S. wall murals especially in the base area of the Revolution in Santa Clara. Internet is available only in hotels not in private houses. As with the traditional view old U.S. cars abound. Petrol is a commodity to be harvested as when our drivers regularly turned off engines going downhills. The streets of Havana have changed little since ’59. The great icons of achievement in the country are the health service and education both of which are free and accessible. A lot of the older people still were very pro Fidel Castro while the younger generation are not so. Raul Castro is not as popular as Fidel was. The more obvious hero is Che Guevara a cult figure especially around Santiago de Cuba.  
It is a spectacular country, the largest island in the Caribbean, with stunning beaches and a unique feel. Tourists pay in their currency whereas locals have their own. Of course the U.S. dollar and Euro are prized.            
The visitors you meet are Canadians, Italian some Irish and some from the U.S. Some of the Americans are just surveying the country on the expectation that the country will ‘open up’ soon after the death of Fidel Castro. Though Raul and his group may delay it but it seems only a matter of time before the dam will burst. Then there will be a flood of American investment and buying in Cuba which will radically change the country. So if one wanted to visit Cuba and get a flavour of it as a society frozen in time then they had better do so soon because the Americans are coming. There is an inaccessible zone where there is a U.S. base at Guantanamo where ‘terrorist’ prisoners are held not being the U.S. per se. This is a kind of present day Gulag  which is far from being an exemplary legacy to the area”.  

The passing of three very different people   

Joan Burke former Roscommon T.D. 
In Roscommon a former very popular T.D. Joan Burke of Tulsk passed away on Sunday last. She was born in February 1928 and became a T.D. in the summer of 1964 following the death of her husband James (Jimmy) Burke. Joan won the subsequent rugged by-election defeating Dr.Hugh Gibbons of Keadue and Fianna Fail. She repeated her win in the subsequent elections until she retired in the run up to the 1981 election. While she rarely contributed to debate in the Dail Chamber she was a very diligent, patient and effective advocate to the needs of her electorate, hence her consistent support at the ballot over her seventeen years.

Joe Lennon Down Football Star
The emergence of Down to win  two All-Irelands in ’60 and ’61 was a breakthrough in that it was the first time for the Sam McGuire Cup to brought in victory over the six county border. Joe Lennon was one the stars of an all-star team which included the McCartins, Doherty, Murphy, Mussen (Capt. in ’60), O’Neill and so on. They were like the Roscommon team of the forties. Growing up as a boy then I could name nearly all that Down team the. Joe Lennon was a teacher at Gormanstown College, County Meath and was a publisher of coaching books on Gaelic football. There are a number of former students of his around Boyle including I am nearly sure Lorcan and Tadgh Egan. He also visited our club here in Boyle on one occasion and is pictured with a young team in ‘the top field’ of St. Mary’s College with Sean Young and his acolytes. Joe went on to captain Down to a third victory in ’68. As Liam Devine noted in the Roscommon Herald this week he was a serious man and a serious footballer.

Andrew Sachs
Few people will instantly know who Andrew Sachs was but when you mention that he was the actor who played Manuel in Fawlty Towers then it will all be clear. Fawlty Towers is one of the great comedy shows in television history and Manuel was a very important element of that success. Manuel was the supposed Spanish waiter from Barcelona. When the series aired in Spain a city from a different country had to be dubbed in. His misadventures in Fawlty Towers and his bullying by the proprietor Basil Fawlty provided some of the magic television episodes. ‘I know nothing’ when covering for Basil who had gambled to his wife’s chagrin. Manuel’s fall-back position was always ‘I know nothing. I am from Barcelona’.  If you have not watched Fawlty Towers then you have missed a classic comedy series in which Andrew Sachs as Manuel was an integral part.  

Book Launches

Thomas J. Devine
I attended two book launches in the last week. The first one was on Sunday last in the lovely setting of St. George’s Heritage Centre in Carrick-on-Shannon. That was a book dealing with the 1917 Election in the Snows in North Roscommon which elected County Plunkett. The book focuses on the participation of Thomas J. Devine of St. Patrick’s Street, Boyle in that election. He has been the forgotten man of that historic event but that is now rectified by this book, by Rev. Tomás Flynn, which I am in the process of reading. Hopefully I will get back to it again soon. It’s been a busy week!

Christy Regan Photographs
Last Friday I attended the launch by the Regan family, of the second book of photographs by Christy Regan the wellknown and respected Boyle and Roscommon Herald photographer. A photograph is said to be better than a thousand words. The book includes pictures of many social events down the years, the Church fire of ’77, the Maureen O’Sullivan visit in ’88, Pleasure Grounds Soccer, Darts, retirements and visits by celebrities. It is a potpourri of the life of a rural area recorded in pictures through the years. The book was launched by a former student of mine and St. Mary’s, Harry Keaney now of Ocean FM in Sligo. Harry was/is a gentleman and a scholar who worked in the Roscommon Herald for a number of years from 1981 and thus got to know Christy very well. He thus gave us a clear and eloquent insight into working with Christy during that time. A descriptive line he used with regard to photography was; ‘When you photograph in colour you picture clothes but when you photograph in black and white you photograph the soul’.
A number of the pictures have name gaps in them as it would be a very big challenge to source them all before publication. Now that they are out there I am sure there are people who will be able to fill the gaps. I am a real advocate of having pictures named for future reference as some people will know. So if anyone wishes to forward me missing names I’d forward same to Mary.

St. Mary’s College/ Boyle Vocational School Staff Re-Union
As can be seen from the photograph on the home page of realboyle we had a very enjoyable get-together in King House on Thursday night last. It has contributed to my ‘late’ blog this week. King House is a fine venue for such a ‘party’ and Kieran Roddy formerly of Grange, now based in Sligo, provided an excellent food menu at a reasonable rate. Also as I’ve said before the staff at King House and especially the ‘Govenor’ there Tommy Egan were hugely supportive and could not have done more for us. I think this is my third such event there with that of Mrs. Cooney and May Morris. The added attraction was the opportunity of those who had not visited recently to view the splendid Mary McAleese collection. Well done to all involved.                        

Corofin Blitz St. Brigid’s
 What was expected to be an absorbing Connacht Club Final between St. Brigid’s and Corofin of Galway turned out to be a non-event in Carrick-on-Shannon on Sunday. Accepting that Corofin look an exceptional side and probable winners this year the collapse of St. Brigid’s was a puzzle. The pattern of the game was set from the beginning with Corofin creating a number of goal chances and then getting a cracking goal which suggested that this was not going to be St. Brigid’s day. Corofin played fine expansive, exhibition football and were given the freedom of the park to do so. They had a substantial lead at half time and when the expected early second half resurgence from Brigid’s did not materialise it was a stroll to the finish for the Galway champions. 
It is fair to say the St. Brigid’s are a team in transition and having swept up many of the under-age titles this summer they will in theory have the material to re-calibrate the side. However once a serious dip comes it is difficult to do that.
Recognising that Castlebar Mitchell’s ran Corofin close in the semi-final says that the gap at senior club level between the Roscommon title winners and that of Galway and Mayo has widened ominously from an overall county quality perspective. It is unlikely that the sparkling spring we (over) enjoyed this year will repeat itself in 2017. Still the darkest hours are said to be before the dawn. We haven’t long to wait now to see how that develops. The final score on Sunday Corofin 2.13 St. Brigid’s 0.05. Corofin now play the Gooch’s Dr. Croke's of Kerry in the semi-final in February.

Late Late Show Story
While I rarely watch the Late Late Show I was watching it last week-Nov. 25th- when a Norwegian lady married to an Irishman, told of her life with her totally disabled ‘child’ now aged 32. She told of her struggle to get the necessary supports from the health providers to avoid making her life a never ending struggle. This scenario is repeated in many and varied permutations throughout the country. The lady told her story with a disarming style of humour and stoicism. She talked of the constant repetitive and ‘boring’ nature of her life as a 24/7 carer for her ‘child’. An advocate for carers rights made the point of the state’s debt to the thousands of family carers throughout the country. The theme of supporting people with illness, disability or age in their own home was repeated. The ultimate way to do this is to support family carers of their own people. It is recognised that this is the preferred option, where practicable, of the vast majority of people. But they need to be supported in doing so. However as one  sees the expansion of the private homes model in recent decades in this country it is a contracting ideal.

Looking through  Saturday’s Irish Independent newspaper  

“103-year-old woman left waiting on trolley in hospital (Midland Regional Hospital Hospital, Tullamore) for 15 hours”. Certainly not the Cuban model (page 12)

Sarah Olney of the Liberal Democratic party in G.B. turned over a former huge 23,000 Conservative majority to win a by-election in London. The Lib-Dems finally have a raison deter as they said they would fight the next general election on the basis of ‘returning the U.K. to the EU!  ( p. 30)

I see Donald Trump has appointed as Defence Secretary, General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis who once suggested that war was ‘a hoot’. All very re-assuring… the N.R.A. (p. 28)

Boyle GAA Senior AGM
Sunday at 5 a cauldron of debate and intrigue. The Minor AGM takes place on Tuesday night. A Junior version of same. The County AGM takes place this year in Ballinameen. Santa Claus is coming, Santa Claus is coming Santa Cl……   

Well Done To
Miss Anna McGrath from Boyle who gave an assured performance with her Lego architecture on the Late Late Show last night.

Greetings To
Eliabeth Hemi Taute (Sweeney) and son Cian in N.Z.
Christine Marnell daughter of Marie Paul also in New Zealand.