‘Six Degrees of Separation’
‘Six Degrees of Separation’ is a book which suggests that people are, at most, disconnected by six steps of separation and that they are ultimately connected in some way or other.
About nine months ago I got an email from a Mister John McLoughlin living abroad who had strong generational roots in Corrigeenroe. He was enquiring about connections of his who once lived there. They were musicians called the McNiffs. I was a little aware of the McNiffs because of their traditional music background. I made enquires here and there and after a short time was put in touch with someone who knew plenty about the McNiffs. I talked to that person and was delighted with the resulting information that I was able to pass on to John. Apart from the musicians I was told that a member of the McNiff family had been in the Irish army and had died young and little was known of him other than that he may have some connection to Strokestown. There was a suggestion that he had a son who had been the U.S. army and had died in the Korean War in the fifties. I got in touch with a local history contact in Strokestown as to the possibility of the Irish army having a base in Strokestown during ‘The Emergency’ or W.W. 2 as it was . The army idea for Strokestown was not valid but he then went up the local history knowledge chain to another Strokestown person in Dublin. Very shortly I was emailed information on the date and place of death-Roscommon town- of the senior McNiff. This was followed by more information on his son who had indeed been in an army but not of the U.S. but the British army and being killed in the Middle East in the late fifties. With this there was a reference to a brother, John, whose name really aroused my curiosity. Anyway I forwarded all this information to Mister McLoughlin and referred to the young brother John of the fifties and of the remote possibility of he having some connection to myself. Very shortly after, I had a return email from John McLouglin to say he had, via facebook, discovered John on the outskirts of London and of my connection theory having some merit. The connection being that he was fellow classmate of my brother when attending Roscommon C.B.S. secondary school in the late fifties early sixties.
Subsequently John McNiff himself contacted me and we talked of my brother and his old classmates and I mentioned a connection with myself. A few years ago my leaving cert. class held a re-union and I had done up a slight booklet for it. I had adapted an earlier article from a previous CBS publication as it related to the school and its environment of the time very well. It was written by John McNiff. He confirmed this and then I went further to say that I actually had a sports picture connecting both of us. He felt that this was very unlikely as he was not really a sporting person. I emailed the picture to him and ‘lo and behold’, as the saying goes, there was the senior McNiff with me a very junior member of a CBS athletic team.
So what started out as a search for people I knew nothing really of ended up with clear evidence of very tangible personal connections.
Letters and Letter Writing.
I have on a few occasions referred to the now dying tradition of letter writing here. The Sunday Independent has a challenging competition running titled ‘The Letter I Wished I’d Sent’. They say that the response has been ‘overwhelming’. I can understand that as there are sure to be many who have that regret and now in a cleansing way they are doing it by being involved in the project.
A writer, whose name I forget, once wrote and I paraphrase him here ‘I regret three of the letters I have written in my life and three hundred of those that I have not’. That was in a time when letter writing was the established practise and often reached art form. Senior people, and I feel if I have a constituency there are a few senior people present, will remember when the hand-written letter was a regular visitor to one’s house. Many people then took great care with their penmanship which was one of the relics of national school with its lined landscape copies. These were used to cement the correct range of letter heights. My mother was a lovely writer and took pride in it. I wish I had managed to retain samples of her letters for their penmanship as well as their sentiments. A number of family members emigrated to England and the regular letters from there were a treat for those of us at home. Being abroad or in boarding school the letter from home was an even greater prize.
It is much easier with today’s technology to respond almost immediately of course and that is a plus. No real need now for the oft used opening; “ I received your letter some time ago and I am sorry for not responding sooner. But you know me!”
The letters series in the Sunday Independent has been running now for four weeks. I have them ‘cut out’ for reading but I did read last Sunday’s page with a varied and impressive cross section of nine letters. The subject matter ranged from a mother ‘lighting a candle’ for a life-saving gesture by a person on the evening of the Dublin Bombings in 1974. The second reflected on a lost friend from his student days of over fifty years ago. Inevitably there was the expression of love from a mother for her son going to Australia and of a mother to her estranged daughter seeking reconciliation on the birth of her first grand-child by that daughter. The last one I will refer to is by a troubled young lodger who found solace in a home where the landlady became his surrogate mother. “You always showed me kindness, which unnerved me very much at the beginning” he wrote from a now concrete position in life.
Very recently I got a family letter from John McLoughlin (referred to above) that his Corrigeenroe grandad had written to his own daughter then in the U.S. in 1941. I hope to show you that letter next week as it too is worthy of regard.
The Nightmare Phone Call
The nightmare phone call for parents is of course that which relays that their child/boy/girl/adult has been in an accident. We see the subject of this in the news from time to time. One of the most tragic examples being from June 2015 with the balcony collapse at Berkeley California in which six Irish students lost their lives and a number more were very seriously injured. I am reminded of this in reading of the death of David Gavin aged 26 who lost his life in a drowning accident in Canada over the week-end. A group of Gaelic footballers interrupted their journey near a sports camp looking to have a freshening dip in a nearby river but apparently choose to dive or jump from a nearby bridge. David from Breaffy outside Castlebar drowned as a result. How indiscriminate is the incidence of such tragic heartbreaking consequences especially for parents and loved ones.
Connacht Final Sunday
So for the second successive year we travel to Salthill for a Connacht Final against Galway. The memories of last year are pretty vivid in many of our minds. I remember it not for the quality of the football or the drawn result but for the rain and the gridlock. I was attached to the Roscommon 1966 All-Ireland winning under 21 team who had defeated Kildare for a celebratory day. They were being honoured by the Connacht Council by being introduced to the crowd and later treated at a reception in The Galway Bay Hotel. However the rain, the result and most especially the traffic dampened things somewhat. Hopefully next Sunday the sun will shine. Galway is a favourite city for me going back to student days. Having connections living almost beside Pearse Stadium helps in attending big games there with parking and tea and groceries at the games conclusion allowing the swollen impatient traffic to subside.
While Galway are clear favourites on Sunday next the Roscommon supporter always carries in his soul that exaggerated hope that this year things will be positive at least up to a point. Sometimes the gods smile and this is why we ensure being there when that happens. This season there have been a number of upsets probably the most relevant being that of Down’s victory over firm favourites Monaghan.
So the advice is make sure you allow serious time to make the venue well before the 2 o’clock start time thus eliminating the frantic trot towards the sound of the crowd telling you the game is in progress and Roscommon has scored a goal. I imagine there will be parking maps and recommendations towards avoiding the worst traffic jams like diverting from the Tuam Road five miles or so out at Loughgeorge and crossing to a parallel N84 road via Corrundulla. This should bring you out near Menlo Park Hotel. (Check that out for yourself as I am not fully tuned into it).
Very best wishes to the Roscommon team and management and particularly the Boyle members Enda and Donie Smith and Cian McKeon.
‘Super’ Sports Weekends.
On soccer Sunday broadcasting during the English football season they regularly announce ‘Super Sunday’ but with the GAA summer season we have regular ‘Super Week Ends’ of GAA games. Last week-end we had a poor Kerry v Cork and a good win for Galway over Wexford.
This week’s fixtures are as follows as I see them. On Sunday you have the provincial finals Galway v Roscommon and Clare V Cork in hurling both on RTE at 2 and 4.
On Saturday Cavan v Tipp./ Carlow v Leitrim/ Wexford v Monaghan/ Clare v Mayo @ 5/ Meath v Donegal/ and W’meath v Armagh @7 and in hurling Tipp. v Dublin @5 and Kilkenny v Waterford @7. I am not tuned into the television arrangements for Saturday. I presume they are mostly on sky which I don’t subscribe to………yet anyway. The deal between the GAA and Sky came in for a negative reaction at the Boyle GAA Night last Friday.
So if last Sunday was a long day on the couch watching sport this coming week-end will be pretty arduous as well.
The Road to Croker last Friday night.
Congratulations to all involved, especially James O’Boyle and Tom Morley, in a very entertaining night at St. Joseph’s Hall with the ‘seminar’ with ‘GAA decision makers, change makers and trouble makers’. While the star of the show was Joe Brolly all of the panellists played their part. The contributions of Brolly and Curran meant that Collie Moran, Prenty and Carney were more restricted in their contributions. I mentioned last week that the GAA is such a broad and organic organisation that it might merit an annual ‘summer school’ of its own. There would be plenty of subject matter and personalities to populate such an event. It was evident that the audience on Friday was diverse and very interested and entertained by the event.
The energy and sparkle of Brolly was a necessary catalyst and without him it would have been a very different event. Michael O’Brien has a very good summary account of the night in this week’s Roscommon Herald on page 25 with Supervalu Sam also on page 19. Michael quotes Brolly referring to the relevance of such pre-season tournaments like the McKenna Cup with “Even the McKennas don’t go to IT anymore!” For Joe Brolly it seems “All the world’s a stage”.