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.