Saturday, March 28, 2020

Update 28th March

*First of all can I re-echo the applause of last night at 8, from the Dáil through the streets of many towns in the country and assuredly in the hearts and minds of us all, for those on ‘the front line’ in hospitals, local health facilities, ambulances, pharmacies, care homes and the myriad of other fronts who are the ‘HEROES’ in the current battle to help us emerge from this virus pandemic. When the battle is over, as it must, I expect that they will be remembered and respected all the more and appropriately recognised for their sacrifices and courage. The return of some 60 doctors from Perth Western Australia yesterday was emotional even at a distance and it must be something special for their families. Those of us brought up on cowboy films will remember the climax of the many times the cavalry arrived just in the nick of time to save the threatened and how we felt relief and left the cinema as willing suspension of outside reality evaporated. 
It was ironic that Leo Varadkar reached for a Churchillian quote in his fine declaration last week; "Never in the field of human conflict has so much owed by so many to so few" was a wartime speech made by the British prime Churchill on 20 August 1940. It was said as a tribute to the Royal Air Force’s successful efforts in the aerial Battle of Britain.
Speaking of Varadkar, our leadership too has to be commended with Varadkar, Coveney and Harris to the fore ably assisted by the many expert medical officers led by Tony Holohan.  
I will not dwell long on Covid 19 other than a few comments. It seems as if New York is now going to be the major hot spot in the United States. It is an ongoing frustration with me that such a great country is remiss in some basic ways. At this time every country needs clear and decisive leadership. President Trump hasn’t the capacity to provide that though I hear that his ‘rating’ is going up rather than down! Incredible. His daily press conferences illustrate some of the simple errors and thoughtlessness of his approach. He is surrounded by a group of ‘advisors’ in a way that would alarm us here in terms of ‘physical distancing’ which has been one of the weapons of resolve in this country. His constant play on the source of the virus coming from CHINA is juvenile at this time. Would he allow assistance from China in helping confront the crisis as might need to happen in a global survival strategic way? Trump’s messaging has been ‘all over the place’. The most recent being the desire to have the churches full for Easter. What’s that about?
I was in the States for three summers as a student and loved the experience of it as did so many students. I have met thousands of Americans down the years and have found them to be ‘normal’ reasonable, bright people. They have given so much to science, the arts, sport and all the ways that humanity exists and progresses BUT (it was coming) while we ‘Love America’ we cannot understand those illogical behaviours that come to a head in a Trump leadership. I think in terms of Obama being in office at this time. How different would the tone of that leadership be?  In my mind too is the large number of Irish people, including friends of mine from Boyle and elsewhere, in New York and throughout the States. Their undocumented status could possibly pose problems for them now with layoffs in the hospitality industry where there are many Irish.  So we remember them and hope for them. A good news story is that Irish backpackers stranded in Peru are in the process of being brought home through government intervention.      

Here … Errata      
In case you are unlucky enough to contract the virus it might be an idea to keep a track of people you have been -for whatever reason-in contact with. A success story is the reduction in the number of contacts from around 20 down to 5. 
Be extra careful in work that you do around your house these days especially when going up that ladder. You don’t need to be the one to be heading to Roscommon/Sligo with an injury acquired by some carelessness. 
Take care also of your glasses as I am learning to do. This reminds me of one of the early television series that I remember vividly from the sixties called ‘The Twilight Zone’. There was one episode where there was a bank clerk for whom book-reading consumed his life. At one lunch break he had entered the bank security vault to pursue his reading treat. Then there was a nuclear war (this was close to happening in the early sixties during the Cuban Missile Crisis and thus was credible to an extent). When my subject exited his secure vault he did so to a devastated environment. He made his way to the remains of a nearby library and secured a life’s reading requirement. He was totally happy with this …BUT…in his euphoria he managed to dislodge his strong glasses and they fell on the rough debris and the eye lens broke into fragments to his immense distress. Maybe it was a life metaphor but it is still a vivid memory of an ‘oh no!’ moment. So maybe you should be totally visually prepared by resurrecting the redundant glasses which your current ones replaced!!  
What day is it?
There is a sense that the usual markers of time are redundant at this time as one day merges into the next. Still as I wrote last time a structure/routine is important. A diversion of a memory comes into my head. It was the actor Eamon Morrissey in some James Joyce interpretation where he had a week end of drinking and as he finally began to emerge from the haze of the week end and walked down the Dublin Street he wondered as to the what day it was, muttering to himself ‘You can ask a passer-by what time is it but it is a different message if you ask them; “What Day is it?”.
I heard on radio this am of Maggie Smith’s character in Downtown Abbey asking “What is a week-end?” which clues into what I am relaying here.
* While it is a very sombre worrying time there are some flickers of amusement too with a number of amusing videos and posts online these weeks. It started for me with one in which the Mexicans were urging Trump to hurry up with his wall. 
One cannot do the good ones’ justice in writing but if you can source them these are three of my favourites; 
3. say…a husband in a kitchen kicking a ball and his wife’s positive response to the ball going askew.
2. A pink muppet and a driving instructor. Q. Driving instructor; If you were driving down the road and an old man and a young man were crossing the road what would you hit? Student driver……. 
1. Survey question; “If you were to be quarantined which of the following would you prefer to be quarantined with? A ‘Your wife and your ten –year- old son or ‘B’……. 

A Poem I heard om radio this am.
Everything is Going to be All Right by Derek Mahon.
How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.

[On reading the title of the poem I seem to remember a song of the same name.]

The Letter
While we are all hugely appreciative of modern communication at this time when we have to remain isolated Maybe this would be an opportunity to write a family member or close friend an actual letter which has been the staple mode of communication for a very long time until recently. Hearing a reference to ‘the letter’ on radio during the week I thought I might use a piece I wrote on that subject five years ago!  
The Demise of the Humble Letter
“I regret three of the letters I have written in my lifetime but I regret much more the three hundred that I have not written”. This has been attributed to the English writer Alexander Pope who lived some three hundred years ago.
My reflections on the ‘humble letter’ are prompted by a few recent references. On Mairead O’Shea’s, Roscommon Herald page in the Roscommon Herald there is a short article headed ‘Mayo Artist Launches an appeal for old letters’. In going through the ‘effects’ of a relative I came across some letters. These are from family members and friends of course. The usual formats apply. The first line usually opens with; ‘Thank you for kind letter of some time ago’ followed invariably by, ‘I am sorry for the delay in answering your letter but…’.
My mother used to make a real effort when writing to any of us who were away. It was probably the best time that she revealed herself. Regrettably I have not come across any of her letters which would have been nice. Indeed, not long before she died in 1984 I helped her send an ‘audio’ letter I suppose –by tape- to my brother in Australia. We put a bit of work into that, first her reading into the record from a written letter and then a casual interview/conversation. Unusually for me I did not make a copy of the tape and it has not survived. I would dearly like to have it now. When away, a letter from home was a joy. There are many backgrounds where the arrival of the letter brightened the day for the recipient. There may be some people reading this who will remember the distribution of the post in boarding school. Then sloping away to read quietly on one’s own and maybe the young student re-reading it and keeping it for a time under his pillow. 
Of course the letter was the constant link with emigrants all over the world. And those of us who have spent time abroad will remember that. I was not a great letter writer myself and I reflect on the rather irregular contact with home in those days. Indeed, some, men especially, never wrote home and went ‘off the radar’ as it were. For many this obtained for years. Sometimes through various happenings, such as weddings, deaths and searches by a brother or sister, communication was restored and the first letter from the ‘missing’ or long distance navvy was an awkward and apologetic one. 
The Christmas letter with perhaps an ‘enclosure’ was always a treat especially the American letter with the image of American presidents on the enclosure. The Mayo writer, John Healy, in one of his books, perhaps ‘Death of Irish Town’-Charlestown in his case- tells of the regular annual Christmas letter and card with dollars to the home family from aunts in New York. Later when John made his first visit to them he found that they were actually in poor circumstances themselves and had to save through the year to have anything respectable to put in the envelope endorsing the American dream. I know of a relation of my own who did not write home for years after he went to Chicago in the late twenties, because he could not afford to include some dollars.
This reminds me of some long ago emigrants who could not actually write at all and there being people who were kind of semi-professional letter writers in the great American cities in the late 1800s’ a little like tax consultants today who might get back some rebate for a student after a summer there or whatever. Returning to my mother she took great pride in her writing which was assiduously taught in the national schools especially in the first half of the 1900s’. 
People might remember the particular landscape copy book with the defining coloured lines which dictated the height of particular sets of letters. ‘Copperplate’ writing was the term for the expert practitioner. I am a poor enough writer myself and though I have sometimes tried to improve, the initial stumbling’s still obtain. I presume a good deal can be learned from a person’s writing but I haven’t the competence to do that. When a welcome handwritten letter arrives in today’s post it gets the first priority with the brown or formal envelopes being secondary.  I can identify the source of most of them by the writing of my address. A lot of them are GAA related which will not come as surprise to most of you. The wide sweeps and tails of Christy Hannon’s brushstrokes are mirrored by the earnest functionality of Colm Dannell’s steady bid.    
Of course the era of the handwritten letter is on the wane if not gone. A friend told me recently, that in a wide conversation with his adult son, his son told him that he did not remember having ever sending a handwritten letter. I imagine this is not unusual at all. It is indicative of the times we live in. The letter is referred to now, despairingly, as ‘Snail mail’! Today many of us just use the electronic mail in our social and business interaction. There is an immediacy about it all now and we have little reason to say ‘sorry for the delay in answering your letter’. 
Still the good, ennobled ‘humble letter’ is a rare treat and in it you can record your deeper feelings for loved ones, especially those on far-flung shores. Believe me it will be regularly referenced as a touchstone of love, caring and mindfulness.   

The Beauty of Nature 
With the time change on Sunday am we are into a particularly vibrant time in the world of nature which is all around us here in Boyle. Today the sun is shining on the Curlieu Hills out my back window with the daffodils dancing on the green out front. The sullen skies (for the most part) are taking a break. From time to time I copy and paste to the blog a poem which illustrates all this much better than I can. Probably the most popular poem in the English language is William, Wordsworth’s  

“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”
I wandered lonely as a Cloud
   That floats on high o'er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
   A host of golden Daffodils;
Beside the Lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
   And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
   Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
   Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:—
A Poet could not but be gay
   In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the shew to me had brought:

For oft when on my couch I lie
   In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
   Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.

Hundreds and Thousands
I used to ask about the above in quizzes but in our current challenging times there were a few of the above this week for me.
1. Was the arrival of the Irish doctors and the interview with one of them at Dublin airport.
2. On a personal level was the ‘Whats Apping’  (spelling) of special people in my life.
3. The finding of a ‘note’ in an old pants which was about to be discarded!
There is a hierarchy there of course! 
*What are the distances in the Olympic Games walking competitions?
Take great care of yourselves. Do not let your guard down.

t. c.


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Update 18th March

The National (International) Emergency

We are being urged to do the following:

1.       Wash Our Hands. Perhaps we have been traditionally remiss in doing this in our annual flu seasons. Sneezes and coughs deserve a rigorous discipline. 
2.       Stay as isolated as possible.
3.       Try and keep well with whatever activity that you can and which is of course appropriate. We are so lucky in BOYLE that we have such a variety of refreshing walks and cycle tracks. One flicker of light is that the weather forecast suggests better weather towards the end of the week. So the civilising of the garden comes into play.
4.        Communicate and stay in regular contact with friends and family via the phone. While modern communication systems can be abused by its use to spread false information etc. It is a wonderful and very valuable tool. We have face timed/Skyped family members especially the young ones, which, like so many grandparents we miss at this time. It is a time for solidarity and particularly family solidarity.
5.       There is much advice being repeated, including the above, which if we adopt it can have huge positive effects in reducing the numerical spread of this threat. 
6.       A piece of advice that resonated with me from a T.V. doctor was; ‘Develop or keep a ROUTINE/STRUCTURE in your day if possible’. This takes in getting up/going to bedtimes; eating times, in-house projects that have been long-fingered for some time, etc. Maybe I’ll be motivated to bring order to books, photographs, history pieces especially GAA ‘stuff’ and the environmental garden. 
7.       Would it be an exaggeration to ask people who are ‘out and about’ of necessity to keep a log of the people they encounter in case they become involved in the tracing process?  
I was going to use as a headline today ‘And the Country Holds its Breath’ but I’ve relegated it to here not wanting to be a smart ass. While I, of course, have little or no competence in commentating on what is happening in the world and our country now I cannot but do so.  A word that has cropped up a number of times is SURREAL. It is just like one of those poor shock contagion films which one starts to watch but abandons. There is no escape here, however.
While it is early in the war one applauds those in the front lines of this enormous battle, the doctors, nurses, hospital workers in all areas, ambulance drivers and all who, like firemen and firewomen are working in a most hazardous environment.
Tonight the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, addressed the nation and encapsulated in a fine speech the many strands of this emergency. In Belgium, they have established a six-month emergency government with ‘extraordinary’ powers to face this extraordinary emergency. Just a couple of days ago I would have suggested that a version of that (say a two-year Government embracing all parties) should happen here. However, it would be disruptive and unsettling to change the ‘team’ that has done so well up to this. Varadkar, Coveney, Harris and the supporting panel of experts led by Dr. Tony Holohan who have the challenge of analysing when to adopt critical strategies. I hope they are getting the support they need as it must be hugely stressful and tiring, showing in some of the principals.
Last but not least I remember the many people from our town of Boyle, the region and country, who are scattered throughout the world and are anxious in their own environments and worried about their families and friends here. I would recommend that they track down the Taoiseach’s rallying address to the country from tonight. It will be a historic document into the future. What an irony it is that it issued on St. Patrick’s Day.


Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Epic Emigration Experience

Oblique View Sept/Oct. 2019,

An EPIC trip to Dublin

The Epic Emigration Experience

On Friday September 27th I took a trip to the capital. I often think that I would have liked to have spent a real wedge of time there to familiarise myself with what Dublin has to offer. That will hardly happen now so it will have to be explored as per usual in short visits. The most recent visit was motivated by two things in no particular order. One was for the launch of Mossie Martin’s CD in the Cobblestone and the other one was to follow up on the very positive reports emanating from friends who had visited the EPIC Irish Emigration Museum.
   EPIC in Dublin's Docklands and covers the history of the Irish diaspora and emigration to other countries. Its founder is Downpatrick born, South Africa raised Coca Cola supremo E. Neville Isdell and it was designed by a London-based design firm. It was voted as "Europe's Leading Tourist Attraction" at the 2019 World Travel Awards. This is an outstanding achievement for a tourist destination in its very short existence having come on stream in 2016. It is now challenging for world recognition through a voting system. 
It is located on Custom House Quay about 7/8 minutes from Connolly Station. It was formerly a bonded wine warehouse and this is evident with the series of vaulted-ceilings like’ caverns which house the broad range of emigration themes on display.
The varied themes celebrate the millions of Irish people who have emigrated to the various parts of the globe and how many of them and their descendants achieved great things and made enduring impacts on their adopted countries. I was not taking any notes during my three-hour tour as I soon realised that I would need to revisit the EPIC Centre again to get a better evaluation of it. There are many connections with Roscommon noted such as Margaret Cousins of Boyle and her work in India also the painter Roderic O’Connor. It was in the traditional music area, however, that Roscommon came alive and was best represented. First there was a stirring display of a music session in a traditional pub in London, The Auld Triangle, and playing there were James Carty Jnr. and his uncle James. Minutes later in that same vault we heard more traditional musicians and were introduced to John Carty and Matt Molloy. Nearby were the McNulty family originally from Kilteevan who were prominent entertainers in New York up to the 1950s’. This area had a hugely impressive tribute to Riverdance and Roscommon was represented by Michael (?) Donnellan from Ennis the son of Michael from Ciaran’s Park in Roscommon town.
There was also a fine representation of the GAA with team pictures from clubs around the world. In the one for Perth, Australia, a friend of ours, Sean Casey, just visible in the background. Sean is married to Joan O’Gara of Boyle. I figured he might be visible in any GAA representation so Joan/Séan if you read this you are in there in the EPIC. As James Cagney’s character, Coady Jarrett, exclaims in the film ‘White Heat’…” Made it Ma! Top of the world”. I’m forcing that in there Sean!
Anyway as General McArthur said, ‘I will return’ to the aptly named Epic. If anyone else visits it, who reads this, please let me know what you think of it. As part of my China watch I noticed in the queuing area near the reception area A 4 sized laminated pages with the flag of China top left corner. I did not investigate it further after a guide told me they hadn’t noticed it before or knew anything of it!
 The guides are very helpful and would like a stamp of approval in the evaluation area at the end. *There is also a process where you can nominate a person who you feel should be considered for the exhibition. As an example, I nominated Maureen O’Sullivan.
On a practical level there are lockers for your goods if you have already done some shopping etc. Also there are numerous eating and coffee locations in the mall of which it is the basement. You may exit from the Epic for refreshments and return to it with your day pass. All this information is online of course and as seasoned travellers will know to avoid queues in mid- summer etc. etc.
I really recommend the EPIC Emigration Experience and of course I am not doing justice to it here just alerting you to it. 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Update 5th March

Blog March 5 2020.

Death of Notable Irish -American Writer with strong Corrigeenroe connections 

A lady by the name of Mary Higgins Clark passed away in New York at the end of January. I had been made aware of it by Hillary Beirne (formerly of Boyle) organiser of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York. The lady has significant connections with this area as her father Luke Higgins emigrated from Corrigeenroe circa 1915.He became the proprietor of some Bars/Taverns in New York through the twenties with his daughter being born on Christmas Eve 1927 in the Bronx, New York. That was the period of the Wall Street Crash and this caused challenging issues for him and his business interests. Her father was to die in ’37 when she was ten with two brothers. One of those died in the war and her second brother died a young man aged 42.    
On February 16 last The Sunday Independent paid Mary Higgins Clark a generous tribute which originated in the Telegraph newspaper. It opens with; ‘Mary Higgins Clark was America’s answer to Agatha Christie, a queen of suspense who wrote more than fifty bestselling mystery novels with some being adapted into films. One of those was “Where are the Children?” which won her a million -dollar contract and set her on the path that would end in her becoming the highest-paid female author in the world” She became the highest paid author in 2000 with a 59-million-dollar contract from publishers Simon and Schuster for a series of five books. Her last book was published just last year. Earlier in life she had a number of jobs and married Warren Clark in ’49. In ’96 she married for the 3rd time to John Conheeney.   
Her closest relation in Ireland is her first cousin Bill Corcoran formerly of Corrigeenroe but long-time resident in Dublin and great supporter of Roscommon and Boyle. Bill told me that Mary Higgins was a great friend of the Bush presidential family and was a regular visitor to the White House in their time there. She visited Ireland a number of times staying with Bill on occasion in Corrigeenroe. He remembers a particular visit when she showed her support for the Mayo Roscommon Hospice at a Gala function in Castlebar which had a notable U.S. support group. 
On another occasion they were hosted by Roscommon County Council in The Abbey Hotel with Liam Naughten as lead of the political reception party. Bill remembers this as Mary Higgins relayed to him something that Mister Naughten referred to as an upset in the Government of the day being in the offing. It was possibly the time, in Jan. 1992 of Sean Doherty’s revelations on the Nighthawks television programme of Shay Healy, in Browne’s Bar, in Castlerea, that Taoiseach Charlie Haughey knew and acquiesced with phone tapping of journalists by the state law agencies a decade or so earlier. This led to the fall from grace of Charlie Haughey.  Miss Higgins as a mystery writer of plots and counter plots would have been attuned to this type of drama and obviously identified this in Mister Naughten’s comments.      
On Corrigeenroe National School there is a plaque with the caption ‘Higgins Memorial School 1961’. Mary would have been but 34. How this Higgins endowment to the school happened is to be confirmed? 
Mary Higgins Clark was Grand Marshall of the St. Patricks Day in 2011. She would have been 83 then. Hillary Beirne Chair. Of the N.Y. City St. Patrick’s Day foundation and Chief Administrator of the parade, as I have noted already, said of her; “Mary Higgins Clarke was one of the most gracious ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. We will miss her as she has been the staple in the Irish American community for the last eight decades. She has made a tremendous impact on the American and Irish culture. Like so many we will forever remember her literary contribution. She was proud of her roots in Ireland and North Roscommon”.  
So Mary Higgins Clarke, rooted as she was in Corrigeenroe, made a real name for herself In New York and in the United States and her readership must have been broad and with that her contribution to the Irish American diaspora in New York was very significant. 

Chris Patten also with Boyle roots.

I have been told by someone a while ago that Chris Patten has Boyle roots. The name of the person who relayed to this to me is close to the surface of my recall but just playing with my memory. Mister Patten returned to my memory file again very recently as he was in Dublin and also on radio with Sean O’Rourke. I just heard the end of that interview as I did not know who was being interviewed. He was interesting on a number of issues but he also enunciated one of the ‘spakes’ I like to collect. When Sean O’Rourke mentioned that he was a member of ‘The House of Lords’, Mister Patten replied “The House of Lords is there as evidence that there IS life after death”.    
Christopher Patten is a British politician who served as the 28th and last Governor of Hong Kong from 1992 to 1997. He officiated at the ‘hand over’ of Hong Kong to the Honk Kong Government/ China State. There is some label such as ‘One Government –two States’ (approx.) that covers that uneasy arrangement which is being tested by agitation all through last year. Patten was Chairman of the Conservative Party from 1990 to 1992. He was involved in the establishment of the PSNI in Northern Ireland if my memory serves me well.  He was made a life peer in 2005 and has been Chancellor of the University of Oxford since 2003. It was in the latter role that he was in Dublin. He would certainly be a man of notable status who might be considered for an invite the Boyle of his ancestry (quite a long time ago I admit) by some agency or other perhaps The Arts Festival!

Christy Coghlan RIP

Christy Coghlan was buried on Tuesday in Aughanagh cemetery. He was 92 years of age. Many times I had it in my head to go out to Corrigeenroe to talk to him and of course I regret not doing that now. Christy was a member of the Boyle team in the early 50s’ and Michéal Shivnan, from St. Michaels, remembers him as a formidable midfielder with John Joe Nerney. His son John in his light- hearted funeral Mass eulogy referenced a number of elements of his dad’s life and especially his love of football. This spanned from travelling to nearby Nicolson’s to listen to games on the radio powered by the memorable wet and dry batteries. These were possibly during Roscommon’s great period in the 40s’. In recent times he embraced Sky coverage of games on weekends. He relayed Christy’s very early memory of playing for a Boyle juvenile team before the Roscommon v Sligo championship game in The Abbey Park which was in ‘44. The main treat that day is that the young teams could remain inside the crowd cordon for the main match where he was able to see All-Ireland winning legends like Murray, Boland, Gilmartin, Carlos and Kinlough. He spoke also of his dad’s first trip to Croke Park and Dublin in 1948 when Christy had other things competing for his attention.
John also referenced the other strands of his life which were so important to him such as farming, politics and family.    
I did have a chat with Christy once after I attended Mass in Corrigeenroe on a sunny Sunday 3/4 years or so ago. It may be a tradition there as there was a marque, with old time after -Mass conversation, tea and hospitality. I was there really to meet my friend Bill Corcoran who was also in attendance. 
So I missed a lengthy meeting with Christy through the lack of my own initiative but I did get a sense of a bright, sincere and much loved man in John’s short summary of a long and full life in Corrigeenroe.  

A Netflex Must See Classic for Sports Fans.

Maradona the documentary is the what I refer to above. I had missed it I the cinemas but caught up with it last week on Netflex and it is an outstanding documentary. The larger than life figure of Diego Maradona makes it magnetic viewing.  I will not in these short paragraphs do any justice to the programme of course but it has so many ingredients that make it compelling viewing. 
Maradona was born into poverty in Buenos Aires but it emerged when as a boy he had a gift. That gift was as a footballer. He played for a local club and progressed to the better club as is the way of football prodigious. Early he achieved one of his goals which was to provide a house for his family parents and sisters. Eventually he was seen for the great player he was and transferred to Barcelona. This was not a happy time for him and there is a short and violent on-field melee with an opposition team. Then the President of the Naples Club staked all he had on getting Maradona to Italy. Naples were not a strong club just surviving in Seria A. The mandate for Maradona was to ensure that Napoli remained in the top division. This he enabled them to do in years one and two. Gradually they climbed the table and became contenders. This was unheard of as Naples was seen as a pigsty club as were its people. The aristocrats were the northern Italy clubs like Inter Milan and 
AC Milan and Juventus. They dominated and looked with contempt on Napoli. It is a broad social distinction between the ‘haves’ of Northern Italy and the ‘have nots’ of Italy’s peninsula and the further south the worse that taboo got. 
Then the impossible happened and Napoli won the league and topped Seria ‘A’ in ’87 and again in ’90 with Maradona carrying the team on his back. In ’89 they won the UEFA Cup which was unthinkable to its supporters. Hardly ever, covering all sporting genres, could a team’s supporters have celebrated to the extent that the Napoli supporters did with the ’87 Seria ‘A’ win. This was replicated with the EUFA win and the second championship win in ’89. To Napoli supporters Maradona was regarded as a sporting GOD. 
There was a dark side in that Maradona was vulnerable to the outside world and was preyed on by the vultures who exist there. Naples is dominated by its Mafia equivalent, the Camorra and of course Maradona was a pretty vulnerable target for them. This led to dug issues and a wild lifestyle which was eventually his downfall. 
There was another great achievement though and that was enabling Argentina to win the World Cup in Mexico in 1986. Two notable incidents taken from the game against England where Maradona scored with his hand ‘the hand of God’ goal followed by one of the greatest individual goals seen at a World Cup.  
Argentina got to the 1990 World Cup Final to be beaten by Germany. However, a huge irony for Maradona was that in the semi-final, their opposition was…Italy… played in…Napoli!  (Italy had beaten Ireland in the quarter final Schillaci and all that). This heralded the end of Maradona’s love affair in Italy and the supporters love affair with their God.  
The documentary ends with Maradona, now a bloated huge man, in a park touching a ball around as he struggled and perhaps dreamed of past glories. 
The doc. is directed by Asif Kapadia who also produced an equivalent classic about Ayrton Senna the great Brazilian Grand Prix driver. 
Anyway I can only recommend this documentary as best I can. I would regard it as one of the best documentaries I may ever have watched. So you can take it from there.  

Roscommon Headstone Iconography by Mary Timoney.

You know this thing about passing something and paying little or no heed on it other than it’s a bit odd maybe. Well a place that has a wealth of material to ponder over are to be found in graveyards. I do not say that in a macabre or disrespectful sense but the opposite. It is best to visit them on a sunny day in case pessimism flows over the senses. Anyway in graveyards one can visit the resting places of relations, friends and non-friends. One headstone draws one on to the next. One can ponder on the exotic headstones which extoll the message; ‘We are X and we were something in the world, in our day.’ 
Last Monday night I attended a talk by Mary Timoney a resident of Keash. Mary and her husband Martin are both archaeologists. I know Martin from U.C.G. days and a bright student he was then. He was to spend some years teaching in Castlerea but local history was always his strong hobby. I remember a talk of his on Castlerea a long time ago titled ‘Castlerea the Moving Town’. Moving meant that the centre of importance within the town changed over decent segments of time as happens occasionally.   
On Monday night Mary talked of headstones and the decoration of those stones. The first slide illustration I saw was that of the fine Celtic cross in the priests’ graveyard beside Boyle church. If you look at it you will see all the elements of the Crucifixion, the spear, the ladder, nails, sponge and so on. The stone has of course the curved line art interlace and the cross with its lights. These are modern copies of the classic Celtic crosses of which Monasterboice in Louth is the king. 
These elements are repeated on many crosses. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was common to see representations of the trade of the family buried there. The most common one was that of a blacksmith with the bellows, anvil and of course a variety of hammers. 
There was also the shepherd with the crook, shears and sheep maybe. On the cover of the book is a lovely representation of a spinning wheel on an 1804 headstone in Ballintobber Graveyard. Free- Mason symbols too are there.
Mary has encompassed years of research work into a mighty tome titled “Ballintober (Roscommon) Old Graveyard & the Grave Memorials of Co. Roscommon”. Roscommon has a wealth of finely decorated headstones and most of them I imagine are recorded in Mary’s book. 
It was intriguing to listen as like a detective she matched headstones from one graveyard to a more distant one by the style of the lettering or even the posture of the figure 7. She followed the path of various carvers and was able to identify families of carvers by their work. An interesting comment was that a number of carvers were in fact present in that location because they were involved in building the great houses of the time there. 
Very intriguing in its own way.
I’ll adjourn without mentioning the great topic of the moment.
Slán for now.