Monday, April 29, 2019

The Passing of Sandra

The community of Boyle has been deeply saddened by the passing of one of it's greatest activists Sandra McCrann. That community had been shocked when they first heard the news of her illness and displayed their concern at a communal prayer service in early March. I have used the word ‘community’ three, now four, times in a couple of lines, something one should not do. But Sandra was THE great community person. This has been referred to many times in recent weeks and especially in recent days. Sandra was always for the underdog. There were no boundaries. 

I’ll retreat to a well-known verse from a Kipling poem that highlights those qualities. 

“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it”   

Boyle Golf Club in its tribute to her spoke appropriately thus; 
“The feeling around the club this week is one of great sorrow, we have been left bereft by the loss of one of our finest members, Sandra Mc Crann. Sandra was a former committee member and Lady Captain of the club, and was the co-author of the book produced to commemorate Boyle Golf Club's centenary in 2011. She also gave of her time to the club in many other ways, including helping out with both events in the clubhouse and maintenance on the course. However, none of this quite touches on the most important thing Sandra brought to the club, which was Sandra herself. Her easy-going, selfless, inclusive and generous nature were what set Sandra apart - from small acts such as her welcome and support for new members of our club to such significant ones as acting as carer for loved ones who needed her help”

These sentiments are re-echoed by the various organisations Sandra was involved with. And when she was involved it was not in a casual way, it was real involvement. Still while her mind might be playing with ideas, a deal of the time, the outward demeanour was calm, calm.

Apart from a very productive period with the Golf Club she has had a lengthy association with Boyle Celtic. Circa 2006 she explored the role of linking soccer with advancing education possibilities. In this she and a number of Celtic officials visited Sunderland then under the direction of Niall Quinn where this was in train. Niall welcomed them and they explored their ideas. 
Twice young Celtic teams were brought to England once to Reading and then to Sunderland for tournaments. I asked one of the officials if Sandra was with them “If she wasn’t there we wouldn’t have been there either” was the confident reply. “She was a brilliant organiser and had everything down to a tee”. These were totally financed by fund-raising campaigns one involved the production of St. Brigid’s crosses from Corrnameeltha.
Two of her boys Brian and Jake are fine footballers and she supported them diligently and calmly. In more recent times she provided the half time refreshments during Boyle Celtic games. ‘Provided’ is not just a right word there, ‘presented’ might be more appropriate. For someone like me with a very sweet tooth it was special every time. Visitors were awe struck by the ‘spread’ at those games. If you showed a particular fondness for a certain variety you could even get to take it home! I felt ok in doing same as I was not alone in that. She had a hand too in the impressive Sporting Mural on Celtic’s Clubhouse gable.    

Apart from her culinary expertise she assembled a very impressive pictorial history  of Boyle Celtic some of which adorns its clubhouse walls while the remainder is included in large files. These were used to advance the club's status when in the final grouping for National Junior Club of the Year in Kilkenny in 2017. She certainly contributed to raising Boyle Celtic to a new level of achievement and possibility.  

With Boyle GAA I remember her when the young Boyle team, including Brian, went all the way to Mosney and the finals of the Community games. While her boys were more into soccer Sandra did her bit with a number of years on that tough gig of the weekend GAA Club Lotto.

There was also her interest in local history as with her important project in numerating the names on the headstones in The Church of Ireland graveyard at the top of Green Street. In this I was told she was assisted by her mother.
Sometimes Sandra would come across some items of interest and pass it on to me such as the newspaper accounts of Sir Alan Cobham’s Air Display near Grange, Boyle in 1933.  
She spent a number of years working with David O’Connor Auctioneering Boyle where her manner, disposition and work ethic shone through. In asking a few people of their memories of Sandra the recurring theme is of a woman who treated everyone the same with courtesy and consideration.

Boyle GAA Club in extending its sympathy to the Mc Crann family on the sad passing of Sandra referenced her thus;

“Sandra was  a dedicated member of a lotto team for many years and an avid supporter of Brian and Jake’s teams. Her friendship, lively wit and can do attitude  will be remembered with great fondness.”

As her funeral cortege passed by the Abbey Park and Boyle Celtic Park a guard of honour from the Golf, GAA, and Celtic clubs with community groups lined the roadway for a distance. It was a telling testament to the regard, recognition and respect for a very special, unique person, who leaves a legacy of ‘communal’ achievement and a treasury of memories     

Ar dheis De go raibh a h-anam dilis.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Update April 17th

Some Week-End Events
  1. The Boyle Angling Community will be busy with their annual Fishing Festival on Lough Key. With the promise of fine weather it should be helpful whether it applies to the fish being cooperative I do not know. I missed the Angling Club from their regular participation of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Perhaps they passed on this year to give others a winning chance!
  2. Boyle Seniors play Clann na nGael  on Saturday away. The team have 4 points from their first three games so something from this game would be very helpful towards retention of O’Rourke Cup status.(The minors play Pearse's in the Abbey Park on Thursday at 7).
  3. The Annual Roscommon Fleadh Cheoil takes in Ballaghaderreen this Easter week-end. It is quite some time since it has been there but being the home town of Matt Molloy and with a top traditional pub called ‘Spells’ should help in attracting the crowd. This is the first of the county fleadhs and I remember fondly a number of them being in Boyle in the seventies.
  4. Boyle Tidy Towns Committee continue their litter picking endeavours especially on the roads into the town each Tuesday at 7. Hopefully the public will come out in their own areas to help with the effort.        

The Burning of Notre Dame ... A Universal Cultural Tragedy.

"Notre Dame is our history, our imagination, where we've lived all our great moments, and is the epicentre of our lives," said Emmanuel Macron the President of France last evening, continuing

"It's the story of our books, our paintings. It's the cathedral for all French people, even if they have never been. But it is burning and I know this sadness will be felt by all of our citizens."

The sadness goes well beyond the state frontiers of France, it is felt universally including of course in our own country. Regrettably I have never been to Paris though I have had the thought with me from time to time. I would certainly have visited Notre Dame had I done so. It is the major jewel in the crown of European Cathedrals. It became famous in literature with Victor Hugo’s ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ which was late adapted as a musical.

I have been to a good number of magnificent churches such as those in Barcelona, Rome, Venice, Florence and so on. During the summer of 1968 I ‘worked’ in New York diocesan block in Manhattan including St. Patrick’s Cathedral. 
We in Boyle know only too well about the economic and emotional cost of fires in our town with the fire in the fine Gothic Parish Church in 1977. Before that there were the fires at Rockingham in the 50s’, The Roscommon Herald in the ‘60s’ and a number of commercial buildings within the town. 

It is just so sad. It will be rebuilt which will take a long time but the provenance of the original building will be compromised for decades. Notre Dame (which kind of translates as ‘Our Lady of Paris’) was obviously having work being done to it with the scaffolding around it. The fire seems to have been accidental and due to the wooden roof of centuries the fire spread rapidly.  However the wall structure is said to be still intact and rebuilding will pursued. Perhaps this disaster will be a warning to similar buildings.
For Parisians, irrespective of religion, being a building of such beauty it is akin to a bereavement.       

The Affirmation of Sport

Tiger Back from the Death

For a certain constituency sport does not play a significant part in their lives and that is their right. For those of us for whom sport plays a significant role in their lives it colours our lives immeasurably. Since last Thursday I’ve been able to watch portions of the U.S. Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia in the U.S. Like so many things there are deficits with The Masters and the golf club there in terms of sexual discrimination and the overplay of deference to its membership and traditions and the idea of ‘the Green Jacket’ and so on. It is still a unique sporting event though. It has had its heroes and high drama over the decades. It has broken hearts and elevated some humble players. And in recent times the Irish players have played a small part in this.
The headlines of today’s newspapers and all media platforms are elevated by the victory of Tiger Woods. ‘ Back from the Death’, ‘Glory Day’ and so on. This was his 5th Masters win and was probably the greatest sporting comeback, for an individual, in sporting history. I used to play a little golf some years ago but felt it was a ’luxury’ in terms of time allocation. The win last night may rescue a declining game. It will certainly be welcomed by Golf internationally and by Augusta in particular. The response of the crowd to his win was evidence of something special happening. His own reaction was also evidence of having overcome many demons in overcoming ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’.
One had to feel for the Italian golfer Molinari and the person I would like to have won Ian Poulter but their diversion into water drowned their chances of golf coronation. All in all, it was, with all its twists and retrospective inevitability, like a Shakespearian drama.
Later this summer the British Open Golf Championship comes to Northern Ireland and the Royal Portrush golf club from July 18th to 21st with a prize fund of over 10 million dollars. This is just the second time for the Open to visit Northern Ireland with the last being in 1951 at the same course with the winner being Max Faulkner with Irishman Fred Daly coming fourth. Fred Daly was the first Irish man to win the Open which he did in ’47 at Hoylake near Liverpool.

Another… Different Tiger
A couple of weeks ago being flued out I watched a deal of Cheltenham racing and say a Willie Mullins trained horse, ‘Al Boum Photo’ finally win for his trainer who had horses second for six times.  While I am not a gambler at all it too was a tapestry of drama in victory. There was tragedy also with a number of horses dying through injury.  Then came the English  ‘Grand National’ and another Tiger rolling home for the second year in succession. The horse was a ‘guest’ on Friday night’s 'Late Late Show' illustrating its status. Ireland or a certain part of it has a love affair with racing horses.  

Back to Basics … GAA

CBS Roscommon at Croke Park
At a more mundane level on Grand National Day, Saturday April 6th , I was in Croke Park as the secondary school I attended, Roscommon C.B.S., won the All-Ireland Senior ‘B’ football championship versus Rathmore of Kerry. It too had its twists, seemed won, saw a generous lead seep away, was level going towards extra time but saw a great winning point scored by my side over our Kerry opponents. It was not overwhelming just a nice one.

Boyle Club Games
On a very local level I have been impressed with Boyle senior GAA team in the last few weeks. They should have got a draw in their opening game against St. Brigid’s, struggled too much to get scores in their win over St. Croan’s and I am told (as I was otherwise engaged) Boyle were very impressive on Sunday last in a high- scoring game against Roscommon Gaels. Boyle 3. 9 Roscommon Gaels 1.14. While Boyle have a number of county names now, an emerging star is their goalkeeper Rob Kearney who has been excellent in the games to date. This Saturday there is big challenge when the travel for the first time to their fourth game v Clan na nGael on Saturday evening next.
On Tuesday evening I caught most of the second half of an under 16 game v Roscommon Gaels again. It was a fine narrow win for Boyle and a great game of football with skills a plenty and some stars for the future of both clubs.  
I am aware that Boyle ladies at under-age and senior are also doing well and also have members contributing to county teams. Alas I am not as tuned in to the ladies game as I might be. That is the price the sports anorak pays sometimes.

Hurling Vibes!
I heard a whisper that there were some gentlemen suggesting starting to introduce ‘hurling’ again to Boyle. It is one of my regrets that I did not do this or get engaged with those who did since I came to Boyle in ’72. I have heard that there was tentative hurling in Boyle in the late forties. Then an Offaly man, Bob Carr, who had a saw mill near Ardcarne Church,  made some effort with the schools in the mid-sixties. Bob became very involved with hurling at County level during the sixties. In the early seventies Limerick army man and former Limerick and Munster hurler P. J. Keane had another go at it. He had some very good under –age players with two notable players in Martin Candon and T.P. Toolan. Perhaps the last shot at it was a Galway gentleman who had come back to Boyle from England. A Mister O’Dowd if I am not mistaken. He had all the gear, helmets and hurleys of course but it too ran out of steam. It would certainly be a challenge and a ten yea project as the camogie seems to be taking hold with the young ladies right now.           

The FAI & John Delaney Debacle

The John Delaney saga rolls on. The debate has mushroomed as the days lengthen. Last week’s appearance of a group of FAI officials at an Oireachtas Committee had large elements of farce attached to it. A number of the Oireachtas members were compromised by being ‘friends’ of John Delaney. Then there were the very uneven contributions of the personnel on both sides. John Delaney’s contribution in just reading a short statement and then claiming privilege in terms of avoiding further questions was surreal. While legally entitled to that course it was like Hamlet being there but not contributing…though he did make a few banal contributions. It took another twist when Padraig O’ Ceidigh of the Committee understandably confused by the personnel of the FAI delegation tried to get to grips with ‘who was who’ on the opposing benches.  Some were recent appointees and so many of their contributions were; “Leave it with me. I’ll get back to you on that one”. However he did come up with an interesting personage who turned out to be a legal eagle covering John Delaney. So it was a little like Tony Soprano, all lawyered up before (the very Irish version… Healy- Rae et al) of  some grand jury.     

The Chairman, Fergus O’Dowd, bent over backwards to be ‘fair’ to both sides constrained it seems by a previous court ruling involving Angela Kerins of Rehab and her appearance before this committee some years ago.
While the only real contributor was the President of the FAI Donal Conway as the other members present were pretty pathetic including the Honorary Treasurer 
It was odd that Ml. Healy Rae got to speak as he is not listed as being on the Committee. Michael obviously ‘crashed’ the party to praise of Delaney and of his contribution to Kerry soccer. I was down in Killarney when Boyle Celtic played in a national competition there during their great season of 2016/2017 and the evidence of  Killarney’s soccer was evidence of this.. They certainly had access to funding to put it all in place.
One of the most impressive interrogators on the committee was Jonathan O’Brien a Sinn Fein T.D. He was not of on the official list either. He seemed to be pursuing a particular line and it turned out that he was very involved with soccer in Cork City. 
T.D. Kevin O’Keefe from East Cork was just an embarrassment with his tentative questioning obviously knowing the soccer people present especially Delaney. However I see a colourful line quoted from him as follows; ”You (Delaney) could be regarded as the Tump of the F.A.I.”   (This could be along the lines of a classic reference which suggested that; ’This young man is capable of anything’!  

So the blazers took a big hit. Perhaps the green revolution could spread to places like the north west.  

Three Different Anniversaries

The Limerick Soviet
There have been documentaries detailing three very different historic events. The first was a short social experiment; the second a horrific Bloody event and the third the declaration of Ireland as a Republic.
The social experiment took place in Limerick in April 1919. After the shooting of a volunteer by the British Army there followed a number of protests by the united people of Limerick city coordinated for the most part by the Trade Union Movement. The committee involved set up a Free area within the city of Limerick where they administered their rules and provided for the people. The area was surrounded by the British Army and the stand- off lasted for a number of weeks. The hammer and sickle symbols were used on the red flag and it came to be known as ‘The Limerick Soviet’. One pretty unique facet of it was that it actually printed its own money in that short time. This like the next paragraph has a resonance in Derry.

The Amritsar Massacre
The Amritsar massacre, took place on 13 April 1919 in Northern India when troops of the British Indian Army under the command of Acting Brig-Gen Reginald Dyer fired rifles at a crowd of Indians, who had gathered in a compound for a protest meeting in Amritsar, Punjab. Nearly 400 hundred people were killed and some 1200 injured. It followed the death of a British soldier and happened in the background of racial contempt for the Indian people by section of their British colonists. I seem to remember that General Dyer had some Irish connections!

Ireland Declares a Republic
This only happened in April 1949 as prior to that Ireland was a weak member of the British commonwealth. The Irish Coalition Government of the time was led by Fine Gael’s John A. Costello with the aid of Sean McBride’s Clann na Poblachta party. Fianna Fail had been in government from ’32 to ’48 and Eamon de Valera accepted the Commonwealth arrangement out of some deference for the Northern unionist population in the hope of some future reconciliation of a kind. It is kind of replicated today by Micheal Martin v the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.  

While I had a couple of other ideas for paragraphs I’ll adjourn for now and hopefully get to them next time.

Good night and may your Gods go with you.