Thursday, February 27, 2020

Update 27th February

Monday of next week – March 2nd- will be the first anniversary of the death of Liam Gilmartin at the age of 97. Liam captained the first Roscommon team ever to win an All-Ireland which was the minor team of 1939. I had hoped this would have been noted last September but that was not the case. Anyway I put together the following article on that campaign keeping in mind particularly the role of a great free-taker from Elphin named Joe Tiernan and also Liam Gilmartin 

Roscommon’s First All-Ireland Win … The Minors of Sept. ’39.

In Europe it was a time of War and tumult but in Roscommon it was a time of sporting excellence and triumph. First came the county minors of ’39. A number of the pieces were coming together then for Roscommon’s great era of success in Gaelic football. Two of them were the administration duo of Dan O’Rourke and John Joe Fahey as Chairman and Secretary of the County Board the second was the establishment of Roscommon Christian Brothers School (C.B.S.) in 1937. Roscommon were concentrating their efforts on their Junior team which got to the All-Ireland Final of ’39 where they were defeated by Dublin by 3 points before a large crowd in Croke Park for the replay of the Kerry v Mayo All-Ireland Semi-Final which Kerry won. 
The minors began their campaign in an unheralded first round v Leitrim at Elphin. It has to be borne in mind that collective training for early rounds did not exist and many of the players did not even know many of their playing colleagues apart from the C.B.S. cohort.  Leitrim were favourites as they had defeated reigning All-Ireland champions Galway. However Roscommon defeated Leitrim in a downpour on the score of Roscommon 1.8 Leitrim 1.6. The outstanding feature of the game and indeed of the teams campaign was the indispensable free-taking of Elphin’s Joe Tiernan. In this game he scored 5 points and maybe more as the other scorers are not nominated in the sparse newspaper mention.
In a double-header minor and junior contests at Castlerea on August 6th Roscommon had a good day with both teams winning. Roscommon (minors) 1.11 Mayo 1.3. A Cathal O’Beirne goal sealed the win. Tiernan scored 4 points, Winston & Kilduff 1 point each,  Bambrick 2, Beirne a point with his goal leaving 2 points uncredited. “Lavin and Lynch excelled at midfield, the defence of Carlos, Cummins, Gilmartin and Murray were sound with Donnelly a tower of strength and the forwards Beirne, Bambrick, Winston and Tiernan most effective. 
I have not resurrected a really informative account (yet) of the Semi-final which was v Cork. Roscommon won out with 10 points to Cork’s 1.4 in a ‘dour struggle’. Joe Tiernan’s contribution was again pivotal with 6 of the winning total of 10 points.  
So a Roscommon minor team had qualified for an All-Ireland final. They underwent a special period of training under former Galway footballer Tom Molloy. Molloy in this period trained senior, junior and minor Roscommon teams. The game took place in Croke Park on Sept. 29 before the senior final of Meath v Kerry. Their opponents in the final, Monaghan, were seen as favourites and they led by 5 points at the break. Monaghan 1.5 Roscommon 0.3. Both teams exchanged points early in the second half but a drought set in for 20 minutes before Roscommon came with a late surge. “Again Tiernan proved the winner”. Monaghan committed a number of fouls which was poor practise with an opposing fee-taker like Tiernan.               
With his 9 free kicks he converted 7 one was saved as he ‘went for a goal’ and 1 went narrowly wide. Tom Cox of Boyle had the 9th and insurance point after a strong run from half back. G. Kilduff had the team’s goal. 

The win made the front page of The Roscommon Herald of September the 30th with the headline; “Roscommon on the Roll of Honour”. 

There is a legend that Joe Tiernan converted all the free kicks he took in those four games. My assessment is that he scored 22 points from his 23 frees. He may have scored more as a number are uncredited. So there is very little wrong in continuing with the legend. He was the Dean Rock of that year. 
His total in the 4 games  are as follows; v Leitrim 5/ v Mayo 4/ v Cork 6/ v Monaghan 7… that is 22 points in 4 games i.e. 5.5 average. Near 60% of the 38 points scored.  

The final team was; S. Naughton/Larry Cummins/ Bill Carlos/ D. Boyd/ P. Sweeney/ Liam Gilmartin Capt./ A. Murray/ S. Lavin/ T. Lynch/ C. O’ Beirne/ J. Tiernan/ J. J. McDermott/ J. Bambrick/ G. Kilduff/ H. Winston. Subs. used to good effect  W. Penny for H. Winston injured and Tom Cox. 
Other substitutes as pictured on the day; P. Donnelly (inj.)/ T. J. Leonard/P. Murray while J. Manton/Ml. Bruen and J..J. Nerney are on the programme of the day. (John Joe never really confirmed that he was part of this team). There is a reference to a J. Connaughton in the note on the Connacht final and a slight reference to Eddie McDermott being linked to the panel. 

A note on those players;
*Sean Naughton, C.B.S. goalie Four Roads and Mt. Talbot./ *Larry ‘Pop’ Cummins, Curraghboy and Tarmon C’rea/ *‘Bill’ (W.) Carlos, C. B. S, Ballintubber, C’rea and New York/ *Des Boyd, Croghan/ Tom Cox, Boyle noted athlete died a very young man in August ‘44/ *Liam Gilmartin C.B.S., team Captain, Ballymurray/Knockcroghery. Liam died in March 2019 being the very last of those great players of the forties./ Tony Murray, C.B.S. Knockcroghery/ *Seamus Lavin, Frenchpark also played with Mantua/ Tim Lynch, Ballinaheglish, Oran, brother of Brendan & ‘Batt’/ *Cathal O’Beirne brother of Gerry, Strokestown/ Joe Tiernan, Elphin, indispensable match-winning free-taker. Gave up football early. Developed a successful business in Rathmines, Dublin/ *John Joe McDermott, Oran/ *Joe Bambrick, Kilmore and later N.C. F. Ballaghderreen/ Gerry Kilduff C.B.S. Roscommon Town; Garda.. He was just 16 in ’39 as was Bill Carlos and both won a second minor All-Ireland in ’41/ *Henry Winston, St. Jarlath’s, Ballinlough. A cousin of the legendry Kevin Winston’/ ‘Wilson’ Liam Penny, Roscommon town/ P. Sweeney, C’Rea/ *Paddy Donnelly, Rahara/ T. J. Leonard later a business man in Donamon/ Phelim Murray, C.B.S. Knockcroghery and engineer in Dublin/ John Joe Nerney, Croghan, Ballinameen and Boyle, Postman/ Michéal Bruen, Summerhill College, Knockvicar, St. Michael’s Club/ J. Menton from the St. Brigid’s area with a connection to Wicklow t.b.c.     
The team were guests of honour at the launch of the Roscommon County GAA History in April 1990 in the Abbey Hotel. *Those from the team who were present on that occasion. 

A number of that panel became an integral part of the great senior team of the forties with Cummins, Carlos, Gilmartin, Nerney, Phelim Murray, Des Boyd and Joe Bambrick amongst them. 
Roscommon went on to win 2 minor/1 junior/ and 2 All-Ireland senior titles in the 5 years from ’39 to ’43. Michéal O’Callaghan encapsulated all this in his lovely account of those football times for Roscommon titled ‘ 6 Glorious Years’ published in 1944. Had he waited he would have seen the Roscommon senior team contest the ’46 final and replay; and in the Polo Grounds final year the semi-final where they lost to the eventual finalists Cavan.
Anyway it was the Liam Gilmartin captained minors of ’39 ably assisted by the golden boot of Joe Tiernan that laid the foundation for that golden age of Roscommon football. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Update 19th February

Oblique View - Wednesday, February 19th

Congratulations to; Louise Fitzpatrick, General Manager, and the staff of Lough Key Forest Park on their prestigious LAMA (Local Authorities Members Awards! As Michael Caine titled his biography …’Not a Lot of People Know That’)) Award for Best National Park. I visit the park regularly with often taking visitors and the sentiment regularly expressed is, ‘How lucky you are to have this on your doorstep’. I fully realise that and the incremental additions in recent years have enlarged its appeal. So well done to all and especially the energetic dynamo that is its general manager Louise.  

Laurel and Hardy
A standard line with the iconic comedy duo Laurel and Hardy was one of them issuing ‘Another fine mess you’ve got us into’ (approx.).
It seems as if we (the Irish Electorate ) have left a very complicated government-building site post-election. It looks as Mary Lou McDonald is finding it well-nigh impossible to coalesce the fragmented ‘Left’ and that shouldn’t be hard to grasp. Fianna Fáil might have seemed the closest to Sinn Féin ideologically but Michéal Martin has been strongly denying any possibility (until recently at least) in this happening. The ‘Grand Coalition’ between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is hardly a runner due to, history, tradition, arrogance, future possibilities, the danger of further decline. The reality is that there is very little between them really apart from the above! 
A big issue with the ‘Grand Coalition’ is that it would be a national alley wall for huge criticism starting with; ‘This is not what the country voted for’. Well if a coalition can put together a government then they become what the people voted for! This is an international thing and in many countries parties with lesser voting numbers become Government. We only have to look at the U.K. where the single vote system has enabled two major parties to dominate for aeons. Brexit is also happening despite 48% of the people having voted against it.

Congratulations Are Due to;
Here in Boyle the success of Frank Feighan in winning a seat in the Sligo/Leitrim/Roscommon/Donegal Constituency. He certainly pulled out all the stops and by winning such votes in all areas such Leitrim, Donegal, North Roscommon and a load of transfer from Mister Walshe at the end demonstrated his credibility and popularity across the constituency. In this week’s The Roscommon Herald on pages 32/33 Darragh Kelly deals with a number of facets of Frank’s career, present and future. Under the headline ‘I closed down on myself. I was hurt’  he gives an insight into a traumatic time when the A & E. at Roscommon Hospital was closed. It showed how an important issue can become so difficult and corrosive and the toll a decision can have on a public representative from heavy-handed criticism.

Congratulations also to… 
Claire Kerrane on her great victory for Sinn Féin in Roscommon East Galway. She too got the double spread in The Roscommon Herald in one instance holding a famous historic campaign picture from the 1917 Count Plunkett Election declaring ‘The West’s Awake’.
Indeed, I was somewhat surprised that commentators made hardly any reference to the Sinn Féin victory of 1918 when they swept the old Home Rule Party out of existence. While Sinn Féin did not do that to the ‘Grand’ old parties of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil it was a major shock to their comfortable ‘entitlement’ duopoly system. 
Both were products of the War of Independence and are rooted in Arthur Griffith’s tree of Sinn Fein. The Free State government governed with the whip through the Civil War and the decade after. De Valera saw the futility of abstention and formed his own party Fianna Fáil in the late twenties and went into government in ’32 and was left there for 16 years using the whip also on dissidents during WW2. In ’48 a different ‘Grand Coalition’ was put in place with the basic mantra of ‘We have the shift de Valera’. This comprised of Fine Gael/the Labour Party/ the National Labour Party, Clann na Poblachta (Clann na Poblachtha was led by Sean McBride former IRA Chief, with Roscommon footballer and political radical Jack McQuillan as a T.D. /Clann na Talúin a farmers’ party plus independents. This was led by Taoiseach John Costello because the leader of Fine Gael, Richard (Dick) Mulcahy, was unacceptable to McBride and his party. That Government ironically declared the 26 counties a Republic having being a ‘Dominion’ and part of ‘The Commonwealth’.
It is now 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement and there is legitimacy in Sinn Féin being in government here and they should not be regarded as pariahs. There is a consensus that a single party will not dominate again and that even two parties will struggle to do so either. While the past should not be forgotten (and will not be) we no longer live there. (Even the colossal damage inflicted on the country by the BANKERS, so-called REGULATORS, and the Fianna Fáil Governments of the time are still there with Fine Gael coming on the inside with unsolved crises in Housing and Health plus etc.  It is however impossible to predict what will emerge.    

If there are political winners’ there are also losers of course and commiserations to Eugene Murphy in the Roscommon constituency. An affable individual as is Seamus Scanlon in our constituency.   
(and now for something very different)
The Death of Kirk Douglas
For an early part of my life –football and hurling apart- going to the cinema was a most regular treat. In Roscommon town, there were two cinemas, The Royal (still there, as of now a night club) and ‘The Blue Moon’ (a name used not long ago for a Boyle Bar). The Royal Cinema looked down somewhat on ‘The Blue Moon’. Anyway, on many Sunday nights, a carload of us would travel to Roscommon to the pictures. Amongst the stars of the screen then were John Wayne, James Stewart, Alan Ladd, Glenn Ford, Burt Lancaster, Audie Murphy, Jack Palace and Kirk Douglas. As can be seen from that cast the films/pictures were mainly westerns. The legendary film director was John Ford –of Irish extraction-who made a series of Western –U.S. Cavalry v Indians- in which John Wayne and Victor McLaughlin stared ‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, ‘Rio Grande’ and ‘Fort Apache’ and so on. I suppose you could put ‘The Quiet Man’ in there also. The theme music for many of those had the lift of Irish music.    
Alan Ladd and Jack Palance matched up in one of my favourite films, Shane. 
Returning to Kirk Douglas who died on Feb. 5th aged 103 he was one the giants of the Hollywood screen. He starred in two of my favourite westerns ‘Last Train from Gunhill’ against Anthony Quinn in ’59 and accompanied Burt Lancaster in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral’ as Doc Holiday. He is probably best remembered as Spartacus in the ‘sword and sandals’ film of that name about the rebellion of Roman slaves and the cry is still heard occasionally on T.V. ads. etc. ‘I’m Spartacus’. His best film, for me though, was the classic anti-war WW1 film ‘Paths of Glory’ a masterpiece about a labelled ‘mutiny’ when a French division was ordered into an inevitable suicide attack across ‘No man’s Land’. A number of soldiers are brought up on trial for cowardice and Kirk’s character, Col Dax, is the defence lawyer with a bitter French general as opposition.  
It was a golden age of cinema and was a social outlet in which we could glimpse in awe at the great world beyond the oceans especially the United States   

A Shared Home Place…Seamus Mallon
I’m repeating myself here but if you can access a ‘podcast’ of the documentary shown on RTE of the life of the late great Seamus Mallon called ‘A shared Home Place’ I recommend you try to do so. The title covers the work in which he strived all his life. It is a telling record of the bigotry and discrimination in Northern Ireland which has coloured its history to date.  As an aside when watching it Seamus refers to his boyhood highlight of visiting Croke for an All-Ireland final between Kerry and Roscommon. From my viewing, it would be 1946 when Roscommon leading by 6 points with 6 or so minutes remaining let Kerry in to score two goals and draw the match. (Kind of familiar!). They lost the replay in a great game. It was nice to see the short ‘action film’ of them and their preparation for the team picture and a short piece of the game. 
My tribute reference to Seamus in my last blog or so prompted my friend and regular reader Boyle native John Austin Biesty to forward the following comment;
Hello Tony,
“Just to let you know how much I enjoyed reading this weeks 'View'.  I was delighted you mentioned Seamus Mallon (R.I.P.) Ireland could do with a few more politicians like him.  'A society grows great and strong when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit under.'  Spoken by Seamus in the House of Commons.  Powerful stuff”

John Austin keeps a very keen eye on the happenings in Boyle the town he left in the early sixties for the States. Not long after he arrived there he was ‘called up’ for service in the U.S. Army and on demobilisation he has spent his life in the New York area. He was Secretary of Boyle GAA before he left for New York and keeps another eye on the fortunes of the Boyle club and Roscommon. John Austin has visited his native town a number of times down the years a memorable one being for his 75th birthday if I am not mistaken. That could have been the ‘Year of the Gathering’ 2013 as I met him in the hall for that great party there. (I’m straying but it was when The Virginian Drury was also in town). 
While John Austin lives in America it safe to suggest that Boyle, Roscommon and Ireland are constants in his heart. I wish you all the very best and thank you for your support, interest and communications.

Padraig Daly’s Radio Contribution
Once to be on national radio was a noticeable event but now even being on T.V. isn’t even so. Still, I am someone who notices such things. A couple of weeks ago amid the maelstrom of the impending election, I tuned into an RTE Radio One programme basically dealing with elements of the national infrastructure. The person being interviewed was Padraig Daly from Boyle.  Padraig is Business Development Manager for well- known construction company JJ Rhatigan & Company. 
With over 30 years' experience in the Construction Industry in Ireland, UK and mainland Europe, his role in JJ Rhatigan & Company is as Head of Recruitment enabling the company to attract the right calibre of staff to satisfy their requirements. 
He was asked a number of questions regarding the challenges facing the construction companies in recruitment currently. While I do not remember the detail I do remember the forthright manner in answering the questions. The fact that there were difficulties in getting trained and experienced tradespeople. The graph in the training of those had dipped so much during the crash. The number of those tradespeople who emigrated and even if they wished to return -as many do- the cost of living in Dublin the hub of the current construction boom is prohibitive if it can be accessed at all. Then the rates of pay are marked against the expensive environment. Also the lack of accommodation for returning emigrants and migrants.  
A phrase that I had not heard for some time surfaced and that was ‘wet trades’ which I presume is that of block layers and plasterers and concrete gangs. That Ireland a country that provided post-war England with a multitude for the ‘wet trades’ cannot now service its own demands is an irony.
Anyway, Padraig well done on that. To hear clear, telling and articulate answers to particular issues during an election campaign was refreshing.  

Driving Issues
Recently I have been driving a good deal more in darkness than usual and have adopted the Knock Airport/Ballindine/Milltown route to Galway. I have to say that the standard of driving and courtesy is very good. There is an issue though that I see too often. That is defective lighting. The worst case scenario here is an advancing car with a top inside light and little on the outside. At odd times it might seem as if it was a motorbike. I know that it is a defect that a person might not see automatically but it is a serious defect. In last Sunday's paper I saw in a travel article reference to French regulations which are very strict. There a driver must carry a warning triangle, high-vis vests, and a full set of light bulbs for all the vehicles lighting system. There is a fine auto supply premises on Boyle’s Green Street which will service these requirements.  
I see that there are a large number of new speed checkpoints hot spots. The almost total road from Boyle to Carrick is a given.  There are two nearer the town, one from the golf club access into the town and one I am very aware of and that is from the church to where the road connects with the N4. I walk that road often and the speeds I regularly encounter bear no resemblance to the nominated speed limits.   

A Favourite Song;
I have heard the song the “Isle of Innisfree” a couple of times recently after funeral masses and it always resonates with me. I was just a very young boy when I first heard it, possibly on a radio programme called ‘The Ballad Makers on Saturday Night” which my father tuned into religiously. Today having heard it again I decided to investigate its origins and share them here. 
(The song has no connection with the poem of W.B. Yeats, ‘Lake Isle of Innisfree”)
   “The "Isle of Innisfree" is a song composed by Dick Farrelly (Irish songwriter and policeman) who wrote both the music and lyrics. Farrelly got the inspiration for "Isle of Innisfree", the song for which he is best remembered, while on a bus journey from his native Kells, County Meath to Dublin. The song was published in 1950.

Farrelly’s "Isle of Innisfree" is a haunting melody with lyrics expressing the longing of an Irish emigrant for his native land. When film director John Ford heard the song, he loved it so much that he chose it as the principal theme of his film The Quiet Man. The composition received no mention in the screen credits. "The Isle of Innisfree" became a worldwide hit for Bing Crosby in 1952 and continues to feature in the repertoires of many artists”. 
It was a favoured song of a family friend, Tess Flaherty of Carrick Road 
"Isle of Innisfree"
I've met some folks who say that I'm a dreamer
And I've no doubt there's truth in what they say
But sure a body's bound to be a dreamer
When all the things he loves are far away
And precious things are dreams unto an exile
They take him o'er the land across the sea
Especially when it happens he's an exile
From that dear lovely Isle of Innisfree
And when the moonlight peeps across the rooftops
Of this great city, wondrous though it be,
I scarcely feel its wonder or its laughter
I'm once again back home in Innisfree

I wander o'er green hills through dreamy valleys
And find a peace no other land could know
I hear the birds make music fit for angels
And watch the rivers laughing as they flow
But dreams don't last
Though dreams are not forgotten
And soon I'm back to stern reality
But though they pave the footways here with gold dust
I still would choose the Isle of Innisfree.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Update 5th February

Request: If anyone has spare election canvassing leaflets they might keep them for me. I gather them for a collector friend of mine and he has been ‘gathering’ them for decades now. He refers to them as ‘Ephemera’. You could drop them into Dodd’s for me if you wished. Thanking you. 

We in Ireland are nearing the end game. But with the sad death of a Tipperary Independent candidate, Marese Skehan, of Thurles, there will be time added on. 
I have not heard much that would suggest that the landscape of the Sligo/Leitrim/Roscommon results will change radically. This gives Marian Harkins and Marc Mac Sharry a clear lead and if the Sinn Féin swing proves a real reality then Martin Kenny should be a winner of the third seat.
By me the final seat will rest between Frank Feighan and Eamon Scanlon unless my instinct is awry.
I would generally not disclose publically how I would vote but this time, with the changed unsatisfactory (to me) constituency alignment I have decided to ‘shop local’ for the Roscommon contender Frank Feighan, on a personal basis. There are quite a number of community initiatives coming down the line and it would seem logical to have someone in situ with local knowledge and awareness of those to ‘help them over the line. The Roscommon vote will be vital for him.
I have to keep the Green Party in mind also with Bláithin Gallagher the candidate here. The P.R. voting process can accommodate that. After the U.K. election I was very disappointed with the showing of the Green Party there so now that an opportunity to make a mark for them and what they stand for into the future it would be remiss of me not to put them in the frame.  
It promises to be an interesting weekend with so much sport and the drama of the Election and its Count taking centre stage.

Roscommon’s GAA Senior team have left themselves a lot to do after their first two games in the League. The hope of returning quickly to the premier division is on a lifeline. To lose one game after being six points up is unfortunate but to lose two (nearly) is careless. Next Sunday the visitors to the Hyde are Clare and they will pose a substantial threat. One of Roscommon’s most depressing losses, in recent times, was v Clare in Pearse Stadium, Galway in July 2016. The remaining games are versus Kildare (a), Westmeath (h) Armagh (a), and Cavan also (a). There are no ‘gimmes’ there. The real threat is demotion which has championship implications that I am not totally clear on as of now.
While the result against Fermanagh last Sunday was very disappointing a very nice thing to see was Boyle Club’s four-man representation on the starting team which was historic. They were Enda and Donie Smith, Cian McKeon and Evan McGrath. So very well done to them and hopefully the results will turn. (I remember Boyle having 3 seniors on a League team v Antrim at the Hyde. They were Jonathan Conroy, Gerry Cregg and Tom Ryan.  On a Connacht minor championship team of 1972 (?) there is the possibility of another four representatives with Sean Daly, Gerry Carty, James Dodd and Freddie Daly). 
Congratulations are merited also for the Abbey Community College girls team on reaching their final. I’m assuming that the team has big input from the local GAA club. A thing about that …. occasionally there are Abbey College games taking place that I might like to attend but I do not hear of them until it is too late. I imagine would readily publicise ‘headline’ games if the information was passed onto it. Boyle Celtic is also remiss in this. But c’est la vie.
Awards…The BAFTAS.
My Joker nominee is still going strong as Joachim Phoenix won here again after winning at the Golden Globes. The film 1917 was the big winner. But as at the Grammy Awards an Irish Lady singer, Kerry’s Jessie Buckley really wowed the crowd during one of the breaks with a song from her film ‘Wild Rose’. It was a stand-out act and certainly gave her career a major lift. Her song was titled ‘Glasgow (No Place Like Home). She appeared on the front of Monday’s Independent. Saoirse Ronan was again nominated but lost out to Renée Zellweger who won for her role portraying Judy Garland in the film ‘Judy’.  
  Performers from Cirque du Soleil were another mesmerising entertainment insert with its gymnastic act echoing the spirit of Judy Garland. 
Graham Norton was an amiable and entertaining host.  So the Irish were well represented at the Baftas. (Next week, of course, it is the top awards of the season with the Oscars. While the destination of the awards will be generally in line with what has happened in the two previous awards i.e. Golden Globes and BAFTAS. The Oscars is a circus in its own right but I hope to watch it).     

Daniel Sheeran … A Long Way from Ballyfarnon.
In The Roscommon Herald of January 14 (page 26) there was a significant article on the career of Daniel Sheeran from Ballyfarnon. Daniel is the son of well -known former Roscommon footballer Gay and Abbey Community College teacher Mary with his sister, Rena, being a Garda in Roscommon town currently. After St. Mary’s College Daniel joined the cadets and since then has been to an impressive number of troubled countries. First, he served with the Irish army as part of U. N. stabilisation forces in various countries. He is currently “Deputy Chief of the UN’s joint operations centre in the Congo in Central Africa”. This is one of the many dangerous hotspots in a troubled world. He has been involved in the ‘crisis management of the Ebola outbreak dealing with logistics and responses to outbreaks”.  He reports to the chain of ‘command and influence’ of the U.N. at its highest levels. He has had roles of security for Pope Francis visit in the Central African Republic and then switched to the World Health Organisation and then to Colombia as part of the U.N.’s peace initiatives there with FARC. During his sixteen-year stint with the Irish army he was involved in Liberia, Chad and also Lebanon. He acknowledges his training and experience with the Irish army being hugely beneficial. Dan is a committed Rossie supporter and keeps up with their fortunes always. He remembers his grandmother who passed away two years ago, herself a great Roscommon supporter and character in her own right. He commends the great work done by the Irish Defence Forces with the U.N. in so many places since that first began in the fifties. 
I’m sure that Daniel’s family is very proud of him and his achievements. As a former teacher of his, it is uplifting to see what some of those once innocent students and apprentice footballers can achieve in their lives. Daniel has certainly pushed the boundaries to their limits.   
Percy French the 100th Anniversary of his Death  
January 24 last was the 100th Anniversary of the death of one of Roscommon’s favourite sons Percy French who was born at Clooneyquinn near Tulsk in May 1854. He graduated as an engineer and travelled parts of the country as ‘an inspector of drains’. He was an entertainer and is remembered especially for a number of his many songs. Probably his most famous song is ‘The Mountains of Mourne’ a melancholy but sweeping lyric of emigration which is a cottage industry in Ireland. Another of these is ‘Come Back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff’. A number of his songs are wrapped in humour such as the parody of, ‘Are you right there Michael are You right’ about the travails of the Clare railway. 
In the 1950s there were a number of shows embracing the life and songs of Percy French. I remember being at one in The Harrison Hall (now the Bank of Ireland) in the middle of Roscommon town. The lead performers then were Milo O’Shea and Brendan O’Dowda who specialised in his songs. About 30 years ago a Father Beirne-originally from Elphin- established a festival and a Percy French Society. There is also a Society in County Down a county which he highlighted in his much-loved song. While his original house had been removed a commemorative arch was installed there. Percy’s daughters were present then.
In recent times Percy French is remembered in an annual ‘Summer School’ dealing with Percy French and associated issues. This takes place in Castlecoote House five miles west of Roscommon town each summer.
Percy French died at the age of 65 and is buried at Formby in the Merseyside area of England. His melodies, while victims of changing times, still resonate with a constituency and remain as the legacy of this Roscommon entertainer, song-writer and artist. 

Debates, Debates, and more Debates
Over my shoulders, one of the myriads of debates of the election cycle is in train. Tonight (Tuesday) it is the ‘Leaders Debate’ with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Michéal Martin and Mary Lou McDonald. It is not easy to get guidance as a result of these debates. A few years ago Vincent Browne and T.V. 3 did a gruelling circuit of most of the constituencies which I remember as impressive. Vincent Browne was the moderator and a very good one he was and he is missed during this election. Last week Ivan Yates adopted an aggressive approach which was o.t.t. in a bullying way with his ‘guests’. Miriam O’Callaghan moderated a harmless ‘debate’ in Castlerea. 
Still, we certainly get to hear the principals, so in that respect, it is up to us to learn from all the sound bites and do our best on Saturday. By and large we do reasonably well, historically.  
So I’ll leave it at that this week. The coming weekend should provide plenty of drama on numerous fronts especially in the political and sporting arenas. Fasten your seat belts.

(A CAUCUS is a meeting of supporters or members of a specific political party or movement. The term originated in the United States and is very important in kick- starting the Presidential campaign of candidates. That is a big story and it is late so I’ll retire it for now).

‘May your Gods go with you’ Dave Allen.