Thursday, July 4, 2019

Update 5th July

Old Glory and I remember a Summer in The Bronx.

I begin to write this on Thursday the 4th of July and I cannot let the date pass without  paying attention to its significance in the U.S. Sean has referenced it on the Home Page with its great flag. The flag is held in much regard by nearly all the people of the United States. Though I think that it is somewhat over the top (OTT).  In Ireland we have a more subdued regard for the flag and haven’t (yet!) begun to hold our hands across our hearts when the anthem is sung at matches or events. Our neighbour has the U.S. flag flying today.

I spent three great summers in the States in ’68, ’69 and ’70. Two were spent in New York and one in Philadelphia. In New York in ’68 I spent most of that summer working in the Catholic Church block which encompassed St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the residence of the Archbishop of New York. I worked for a construction company called Mitchells who did most of the Diocesan work. I acquired the job through the good offices of my Fuerty neighbour Brian Mulhern after whom –with his wife-Mulhern Park is named in Fuerty parish. Brian’s uncle Mister Mullen was the Clerk of Works for Mitchells and our project then was a building reconstruction facilitating the installation of a lift into the Archbishop’s residence. The incumbent then was Archbishop or Cardinal Cooke. He had Galway connections and had succeeded a more famous name, it being Cardinal Spellman. As far as I remember Brian Mulhern had done a tour of duty in Vietnam and on retuning in training army recruits.

I thought St. Patrick’s was/is a beautiful Cathedral and I spent some time in the crypt under the high altar when it was being enhanced. All the bishops of New York were buried there from the 1840s’. During that summer a caller to the residence we were working on was Richard Nixon so it must have been an election cycle. I could exaggerate and say that he sought my hand and made a fuss of me but I was just in the background. Security was tame then. On another occasion I was very politely ushered from the main office of the house on an occasion when Cardinal Cooke was on the phone. I seem to remember it being to his boss in Rome such was the fuss made by his Monsignors. Monsignors were/are the political gurus of the church.

Nearby were many of the iconic buildings of New York such as Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden or ‘The Garden’ as it is known by locals also The Empire State Building of which experience I still retain a picture. A venue I regret not entering was a ‘Tavern’ bar-restaurant with a green neon sign with the name of boxer Jack Dempsey’s appended. Whether he was the owner or just a ‘greeter’ I wouldn’t know.  My father was a follower of boxing and had I the spark of inspiration to go in there and shake ‘The Manassa Mauler’s’ hand it would have been something to tell my dad. Gaelic Park  was part and parcel of most Sunday’s interrupted only by trips to Rockaway Beach on Long Island. A dance hall called  ‘The Red Mill’ run by the Moynihans of Kerry was another regular venue. It was in the lower Bronx not far from Yankee Stadium. I was in Yankee stadium once but it was for a soccer game Santos of Brazil with Pele played a great Portuguese team Benefice with Eusebio.
On one week-end Brian Mulhern took me in a red Mustang to Boston to meet a fellow Fuerty man who we both knew well, Marty Featherstone. It was my only time in Boston and maybe I might get back there for a reason. On the way back to New York we went off track to attend Sunday Mass. Coming out of the church an old-timer overheard me talking and asked me; “Where are you from young fellow?” I responded by saying “New York” and he responded “Naah where in the old country are you from?” My New York accent hadn’t rooted well. I remember one town on that route-way down from Boston was called Woonsocket and it took us quite a while to get away from it as it acted like a magnet for an hour or so.
My job was a good paying one so that was a fruitful and memorable summer in a number of ways and I remember much of it clearly.

( P.S.-A. Returning to the flag issue I have just returned from the Abbeytown shop with some items. While there I noticed a paper of North of Ireland origin and on the front page a local Deputy Mayor from near Portadown stands with her husband in the forefront of one of those July Orange bonfires. On the very top of the bonfire is the Irish flag. When asked about the appropriateness of being pictured in front of the bonfire with the Irish flag burning she saw no issue with it. She, a town mayor, probably thought it was a cultural thing.

B. As I write a second 4th of July parade is taking place in Washington at the behest of President Trump. I saw on the 6 o’clock News tanks being brought into the city. President Tump will give a speech from the Lincoln Memorial. I wonder what Abe would think of it all. Still Abe had reviewed the aftermath of Gettysburg! Tanks on parade is not a Western Democracy thing is it ? More Red Square, Tiananmen Square etc. Tump might, like many historic leaders, like the trappings of militarism though he never served in the U.S. military proper himself that I know of.)       

GAA World
It seems like quite a while ago when we celebrating Roscommon’s victory over Galway in the rain in Salthill. We still have to wait and watch as Mayo travelled first to Down on a Saturday evening and then just got past Armagh at McHale Park an extra match for Mayo with another one to come v Galway.  The back door entry is fraught with traps and team damage in terms of injuries to players as seen with Lee Keegan. Roscommon has got a reasonable draw where the first game is vital. It will be against the winners of the Cavan v Tyrone match of this week-end. While Roscommon had a bad day in Croke Park against Tyrone on July 14th of last year they were unlucky not to get a draw in the league in Roscommon in February. Tyrone are not the force they were and Mickey Harte’s tenure must be near its end.  Cavan would be welcome visitors to Roscommon as it would revive echoes of a once traditional rivalry.
This week-end Mayo meet Galway in LIMERICK. Whether Galway and Mayo failed to agree to toss for venue is in debate. That the fixtures committee saw fit to play the game in Limerick is to my mind absurd. Maybe the great Mayo support continues or there is a weariness with them being asked to travel here and there with little consideration is to be seen. In Galway, support for football was rarely at such a low ebb. Roscommon was the appropriate venue but deemed unfit for a number of reasons; no turnstiles, poor dressing rooms and toilet facilities and an umbrella of ‘health and safety’ and capacity issues. That Roscommon ‘lost’ this fixture is a blow to local business and they are rightly annoyed about that.  That two Connacht teams are pushed out of the province for a fixture in LIMERICK is not right. Provincial solidarity must be in short supply. This with say admission over-pricing of Connacht Championship fixtures might just corrode the ‘goodwill’ of the supporting class. Of course twitter or maybe it is YouTube has its own slant on that Limerick game!  

Féile Organising Triumph

I have often referred to the fine facility that is The Abbey Park. In the last few weeks it has been at its best. On a Tuesday the local national school had their total cohort there for a very well organised and varied school pre-summer sports day.  
(Congratulations are in order to Scoil na nAingeal Naomha  for a recent GAA win in the girls Cumann na mBunscoil county tournament which final took place at St. Faithleach’s ground in Lanesboro).
That there was huge detailed preparation for the Féile tournament in Boyle was in evidence last week-end. It was one of the most atmospheric couple of days that I have witnessed in the Abbey Park. The grounds were looking their very best. A great committee looked for and received assistance from many different strands of helps. They were to prepare the grounds and building a week beforehand and in the more immediate days. When the guest team Gaultier from Waterford arrived on Friday afternoon they immediately became aware of the welcome and how the town of Boyle had prepared for their visit. The games between Boyle, Gaultier, Whitehall Colmcilles and neighbours Western Gaels produced much fine football with Whitehall looking particularly impressive. Just as impressive was the off-field food provision. I’ll be economical in naming people but the food provided by the McLoughlin family was sublime.  A young Gaultier player when asked referenced it as ‘gorgeous’. It was a nice touch that the Boyle Roscommon players were present and talked to the home and guest teams after their game.
A number of the Waterford people had not been in the North-West before but this experience will certainly encourage them to return. The weather too played its part. So well done to all (and there were many) involved. It was a special week-end for visitor, the Boyle community and especially the GAA community. This was replicated throughout Connacht which hosted Féile 2019.   

Patsy McGarry and Michael Harding in conversation with Christina McHugh Editor of The Roscommon Herald.
I attended the above in St. Nathy’s College on Wednesday evening. Michael Harding has had an interesting career and tells of his trials and tribulations with humour and good grace. He was tied down by Christina to say that he actually lived in a Roscommon if bordered on three sides Leitrim. She also asked Michael if he read The Roscommon Herald which unsettled him a little. Patsy McGarry was of course in his home town. He talked of his influences and the considerable role of his father the former Roscommon County Councillor known as ‘the Haw' McGarry. The most memorable vocal contribution of Cllr. McGarry came when he was advocating for a swimming pool and its benefits. He said a reason Ballaghaderreen needed a pool was "because there are people in the town who haven't had a bath since the midwife rubbed them down with the sponge”. This did not go down too well in Ballagh. Perhaps Patsy’s most memorable essay of local content was for The Irish Times in 2007 describing electioneering with his father. Anyway Patsy is a very popular columnist with The Irish Times which now owns The Roscommon Herald. After that I visited an old teaching colleague friend of mine, Tom Colleran, now an adopted Ballaghaderreen man. He was, as always, full of fun, projects and ideas for projects.  

Ladies World Cup Final
The Women’s World Cup Final takes place on Sunday in Lyon, France and will be available to watch on T.V. The teams in the final are defending champions the United States and European champions Netherlands. The U.S. defeated a very good English team in an incident filled semi-final. The English had a goal disallowed for a razor blade width off-side and then a (poor) penalty saved. It was a great and fiercely competitive game. Netherlands defeated Sweden in the second semi-final which was a stale uneventful game which Netherlands won by the only goal of the game in extra time.
The U.S. are seen as huge favourites to retain the title and it would be deemed a miracle if Netherlands upset the odds. Overall the tournament has generated considerable interest and will advance the profile of women’s soccer internationally. I enjoyed a certain amount of it.   

A Busy July
By the time I return here in two weeks’ time a good deal will have happened. Boyle Arts Festival will be coming towards a close. I will be reprising a ‘Town Walk- Insights into the Streets of Boyle’ on Saturday July 27th at 2p.m.
Roscommon will have played 2 of their three games in the Super 8’ and so on. Boris may be Prime Minister of the U.K. or maybe not, as some cracks appear (in the flat’s walls) and Ireland will have played England in a historic first full test series at Lords!    

So until then … organise your selection of Arts Festival events to attend and enjoy Boyle in July.  Even The Royal Hotel is getting a facelick.                 


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