Friday, April 24, 2020

Update 25th April

 Some Memories of Canon Peadar Lavin
I worked with Father Lavin at St. Mary’s College when he was Principal there from 1980 to 1989.  Canon Peadar had been a teacher in Summerhill for a number of decades. He had gone there for his secondary education in the 40s’. His core subject was Irish and he became an ardent Gaelgoir refreshing his core knowledge by visiting Inishmaan, one of the Aran islands, for many summers. In the late seventies he was a curate in Ballymoe for a short period. When Father Dodd left St. Mary’s College to become parish priest of Boyle, after the fire that destroyed the church, Father Tonra - a brilliant academic man - took charge there for two or so years. Father Lavin came to St. Mary’s in 1980 and made his mark there with ‘smacht’ or discipline on students and staff(!) alike with an emphasis on results.
In that period the College had two major re-unions, one in 1985 in the College gym and the second in Highgate London with both Fathers Lavin and Dodd present.
Canon Lavin was a rock in whatever enterprise he engaged with. After the death of Canon Dodd in 1986 Canon Peadar became Parish Priest of Boyle. He was later to become a parish priest in Knockcroghery. He was held in high regard there also and he really embraced the village and parish. It being the heartbeat of GAA in county Roscommon would have significance in that regard.
He met his brother priests regularly in the Abbey Hotel for lunch and I feel they shared the issues of the day as it concerned them. There was collective support there.
In 1983 RTE brought Community Radio to Boyle for a week and Father Lavin presented a series of local history programmes.
His heart though was always with his home village Ballyfarnon and its football team St. Ronan’s. Significant wins by the team made him happy while underperformance got little sympathy. ‘Blame not where you want to blame but rather lay the blame where it rightly lies’. 
Canon Peadar had a deep interest in and had amassed a deep record of his own area. Hopefully some of that knowledge is on record. It reminds me of an occasion once when I sympathised with a lady whose husband had died and she replied ‘Yes and all that history knowledge gone’.
I visited the Canon a few times in recent years in Roscommon. With Gerry Emmett and Gaye Sheeran we visited him in The Sacred Heart Hospital recently enough. It was a great visit that went on for a considerable time. The three Ballyfarnon men covered, in-depth, a whole range of topics and people of their parish. I was a lesser contributor but very much engaged with it all. It is the kind of visit that you reflect on afterwards and say to yourself “I’m glad I did that”. 
Canon Peadar was a considerable force for good and lived a long life which enabled him to disperse the elements of that life experience. These included his county, his schools and the parishes he served so well. In parallel to these were his priestly calling, his extended family and the Ballyfarnon community. May he rest in peace.      

New Government???
I referenced this in my post two weeks ago. Keep in mind that the election took place on Saturday February 8th …76 days ago. I wrote then;
“I can only call the efforts to form a Government in this country as PATHETIC. There have been talks about talks, preliminary talks, kind of meaningful talks, meaningful talks, documents being drawn up, talk of a ‘government formation document’ but yet no real progress. It is a disgrace especially for the parties who are not part of the ‘Interim -Government’ as of now”.    
P.S. There seems to be a little movement this Friday evening. Hurrah …after 76 days. Now there are three variable groups …. with little or no cohesion. Look through the lists below if you can cope with getting more depressed. At least one substantial group from these is necessary to the formation of a cohesive and lasting government with F.F/F.G./ and the Green Party!
Regional Group
Party     Name    Constituency
Independent (8)              
Cathal Berry                       Kildare South (Never heard of him….NH from here)
Seán Canney                      Galway East
Peter Fitzpatrick               Louth (nh politically)
Noel Grealish                   Galway West
***Michael Lowry         Tipperary (I HAVE heard about him)
Verona Murphy              Wexford  ( Maybe)
Denis Naughten             Roscommon–Galway
Matt Shanahan              Waterford (nh)
Aontú (1)            
Peadar Tóibín                 Meath West

Rural Group!
Party     Name    Constituency
Independent (6)               Michael Collins  Cork South-West
Danny Healy-Rae              Kerry
Michael Healy-Rae          Kerry
Mattie McGrath                Tipperary
Carol Nolan                        Laois–Offaly (nh)
Richard O'Donoghue      Limerick County (nh)

Independent Group
Party     Name    Constituency
Independent (5)              
Catherine Connolly          Galway West
Michael Fitzmaurice        Roscommon–Galway
Marian Harkin                  Sligo–Leitrim
Michael McNamara         Clare (nh)
Thomas Pringle               Donegal

Independents 4 Change (1)          Joan Collins         Dublin South-Central 

The World According to Dr. Trump
President Donald Trump has said some crazy things since we became aware of him but the ‘advice’ he dispensed last night has reached new …heights/lows… His references to the use of Dettol and ‘infra-red lights or some configuration of same to ‘kill’ the Covid 19 virus trumps all he has said before. It could have prompted some sane person to arrange some men in white coats to be waiting off stage or maybe even going on stage since it was so toxic. The danger is that some people might follow the dear leader and take his advice! While that seems absurd…these are different times and the Trump personality is something we haven’t seen before either. Something he has suggested recently had ‘a run’ on it subsequently. As Trump dug the hole deeper with these pronouncements the actual medical lady consultant doctor present sat in shock at what she was hearing. Why it did not suggest to her to just get up and walk away and thus disassociate herself from it all, she may look back on as a big mistake. That would have been a real statement and reality- check for Trump and his ‘advisors’.  
The terrible reality for this great country and for our world is that this man looks like he will be re-elected come next November.   
A British expert, on television, this evening commented that “It was one of the most dangerous and idiotic suggestions that I’ve ever heard”. 
The producers of Dettol quickly and strongly advised people not to follow these bizarre suggestions.
And this circus continues…    

Two Fine Singers Pass Away
It’s a couple of weeks now since John Prine and Mary McPartlan passed away. It seems a long time ago but that is the atmosphere of these times. Sean and others have spoken generously about John Prine. I just have a wee story which involves another kinda local musical hero Peter Horan from Killavil beyond Gurteen. Both John and Peter –a renowned flute player- were in Molloy’s bar in Westport. Peter was not really aware of John Prine and may have heard him singing that night. John Prine had heard that Peter was not just a musician but also a singer so he cajoled Peter into singing a song. He thought he was going to hear a classic Irish ballad or some such. But when Peter returned to sing he launched into…’Carry Me Back to Old Virginia’ which was kinda home for John. At the conclusion of Peter’s song John praised him as he would but Peter responded -not being too impressed by Prine’s earlier singing- ‘Not at all… sure there are none of us singers!’
The second singer I am referencing is Mary McPartlan from Drumkeeran in Leitrim. Leitrim for such a small county in terms of population has contributed many people to the arts and culture across various genres. I have a good friend from Drumkeeran and he is a sage in many respects but very passionate about his native county where he seems to know much of the population. I digress.
Mary’s mother came from Tyrone and passed on a store of songs. Mary McPartlan was creative director of NUI Galway’s Arts in Action programme and a Fulbright scholar. She researched American folk music from the Appalachian region and students come to NUIG from there on scholarship for further research. Amongst her CD collections of songs are ‘The Holland handkerchief’ in 2003 and ‘Mountain to Mountain’ in 2016. In these collection she is accompanied by many fine musicians from North Connacht with Seamie O’Dowd from Sligo being prominent.
I really like (I won’t say …love) her rendition of Shane McGowan’s classic ‘Rainy Night in Soho’ a location in London that I was aware of in my time there.

Leonard Cohen Remembered
I might mention here two concerts one of which I thought I had missed BUT it is being repeated on RTE 1 tomorrow Saturday at 10.30. That is ‘The Songs of Leonard Cohen’ with the RTE Orchestra and guests. While Leonard Cohen has his critics like everybody I find his tones and lyrics powerful. I will not forget his concert in the lawn of Lisadell House in Sligo in 2010 which I attended with my son Cianan. Cohen singing in the shadows of Ben Bulben, Yeats country, was a fitting coalescing of kindred genres of poetic magic.

A Woman’s Heart
One of the great Irish CD’s –a trilogy actually- has been ‘A Woman’s Heart’ starting in 1992 and then ’94 and then again 10 years later. They tried –unsuccessfully- to transmit the quality of that group of songs in an another RTE orchestra collaboration last week. Missing was a lady who I would submit as my favourite singer, over say five songs, and that is Dolores Keane.  

Zoom Quizzes
In these troubled times online quizzes have been popping up or mushrooming at a pace. I am very much a retired quiz aficionado but it is hard to be fully retired. (Sometimes I am asked about what I am doing now GAA wise and have developed a standard answer that being, ‘I am doing a bit of consultancy. That is better paid’).
I started with quizzes, maybe in Boyle Golf Club, with Father Tonra a very bright and lovely man. I then started to set and act as question-master for a number of seasons of quizzes in The Ceile House Bar through the 80s’. They were very enjoyable and successful for the bar as a business. We had our own travelling team then drawn from a broad panel of John Casey, Eamon Perry, Tom Mullaney, Gerry Whelehan, Liam Coyle, Bill Mannion, Sheila Tighe, Liam O’Callaghan bolstered by young gun Enda O’Boyle and much later by Cillian Doyle, Jarlath Tivnan and Lochlainn Conboy.
No I have not forgotten …our anchor quiz-man was my dear friend John Mac Nama. I used to say that when we went to a quiz with John present we were contenders but otherwise not so much. John loved the classic quiz material Greek and Roman Gods, History, Geography and Politics. He would snap out the answer or mull over it and then issue ‘I think it was x….’ I was already writing his answer down. Later he would dismiss some quizzes as trivial
There were RTE television quizzes like ‘Rapid Roulette’ and ‘Where in the World’ and on radio a decent one called ‘Top Score’. ‘Where in the World’ in its early run was a family quiz and I enlisted three Kilkenny nephews to join me on that occasion which we won. The Kilkenny boys were not really ‘into’ quizzes but got a number of calls subsequently to join teams but they respectfully declined getting out as it were ‘at the top’. Having been on a widely known television quiz was a very good reference item on their C.V.s’ on some occasions later.
Once Eamon Perry and I went as far as Belfast for a BBC Radio quiz the name of which is consigned to the vaults of forgotten facts.
Like all things if you do not practise you can embarrass yourself in making cameo appearances in quizzes in later times. So I generally avoid that.
I might mention also the schools quiz ‘Blackboard Jungle’. We had a very good team for a couple of years at St. Mary’s College and got to the All-Ireland Semi-Finals and might have been…..Oh what might have been. We could have won a bus! The members of those teams were; Enda O’Boyle, Dara Callaghan, Ciaran Beggan, Shane McGettrick. There was an earlier team with Enda, Conor McLoughlin and Michael Mullaney. 
I could write a long essay on that subject but my shoulder aches right now.  

Two Names in the News
I listen to Sean O’Rourke consistently on RTE Radio each morning. On listening to him during the week he announced that his time was running out being a presenter with RTE as he was fast approaching retiring age. This is in May when he is obliged to retire. He has been a real stalwart with his morning -10am to 12 noon- programme covering as it does the broad range of subjects. Apart from a fairly recent (to me) o.t.t. interrogation of Minster for Heath Simon Harris the quality of his work has been pretty outstanding. He was able to dismiss Joe Brolly who was on a roll with cementing the call for solidarity with best practise with the requirement; ‘That’s enough Joe. We’ve heard enough from you’.
RTE indeed has had a number of top class presenters down the years with ‘Morning Ireland’ with two of the greatest ever Morning Ireland interrogators - Cathal MacCoille and David Hanley.
My favourite in that genre is on T.V., Tommy Gorman. He has worked for RTÉ News and Current Affairs since 1980. He is currently the Northern Ireland correspondent for RTÉ since 2001. He is known for his personal interviews with figures such as Seán Quinn, Gerry Adams and Roy Keane, the latter following the 2002 Saipan incident. He was a speaker at Boyle Arts last year.
I have a slight connection with Brian O’Rourke as I did my teacher practise in Claddagh National School when his father was Principal there. 
While there are a range of reasons for people to be retired by a certain age there is surely a great loss of people with experience and talent also. Perhaps this will be adapted in the future. It is a major discussion subject which I am not too qualified to contribute to.

Starring on University Challenge
Another person, Conor McMeel, made a splash by being a member of the Imperial College London who swept to victory in the University Challenge Quiz final on Monday night with 275 points, defeating rivals Corpus Christi, Cambridge, who finished with 105 points. This is one of the most prestigious quizzes on television and has been running for around sixty years. Master McMeel was a significant contributor to this outstanding team’s performance in the final.
I’ll adjourn at that.

 Final Words…Take Care
**Take care and do not let the guard down now. I hope everyone does. It would be a real disaster if by our own impatience we undid the good that we have done in the last month and more. We owe it to ourselves but more importantly to those who have enabled us to avoid a real disaster with their commitment in such dangerous circumstances.
 So stick with it……please…for your own and your family’s sake.

May your Gods go with you...


Saturday, April 11, 2020

Update 11th April

What cocoon means?
‘A cocoon is a silky web spun around the larvae of many insects. Caterpillars emerge from their cocoons as beautiful butterflies. The word cocoon can also refer to a form a self-protection for humans. For some people, their house is a cocoon, a cosy retreat from which they can escape the world’!

Anne Frank and The Diary of Anne Frank
As we ‘cocoon’ or self- isolate we might remember a young Jewish girl, Anne Frank who spent two years with members of her family ‘hidden’ from the occupying Germans in a disguised section of their home in Amsterdam. This was in from July 1942 until August 1944 during World War 2. Anne Frank kept a diary of her life during that period when they were unable to go out into the street and fretful that they would be discovered by the Gestapo at any time. Anne was actually born in Germany and then the family fled to Holland and she is more associated with there. She was born in 1929. She and her colleagues were discovered in August ’44 and sent first to Auschwitz and then to Bergen-Belsen where she died in early ’45 with her sister. Her father Otto Frank survived and returned to the house where a secretary had kept the Diary. A number of films have been made of her life in hiding and ‘The Anne Frank House’ illustrating her captivity was opened in 1960. Around one million people visit the house each year. At the end of the last Millennium in 1999 Time Magazine named Anne Frank amongst the heroes of the 1900s’. Its caption read;
‘With a Diary kept in a secret attic she braved the Nazis and lent a searing voice to the fight for human dignity’.
I read the book years ago and saw the film. It would be an appropriate read for the environment of this time especially for the young generations.

‘Return to Belsen’
The documentary ‘Return to Belsen’ has been aired a couple of times in recent nights the last being Wednesday. The narrator was Jonathan Dimbleby whose father Richard was with the first British troops to liberate the camps. Richard Dimbleby was a distinguished BBC war radio correspondent at the time and his reports echoed throughout the world giving an early first-hand account of the horrors of Belsen and the barbarity of the guards-men and women to the thousands of captives especially Jews though there were other factions also in those camps. Hardened by that time, British soldiers were shocked to the core by the scenes presented to them when they arrived at the camp complex. A number of those soldiers spoke of their lifetime experience and of its toll on them. A number of survivors also spoke including a man you may be familiar with, Tomi Reichental, an Irish resident who was a boy of ten or so when the camps were liberated. It was only in recent years that he began to talk of his experiences and has been on Irish television and radio and visits schools recounting those horrific years. It was in Belsen also that Anne Frank spent her final months.
The commanding officer of the British troops made sure that the residents or Burgomasters of the local town were paraded to see the remains of the camp to ensure that they witnessed the horrific crimes perpetrated by their army. They, with the remaining German guards, were made bury the many dead in huge graves. Afterwards the British burned the camp to the ground to destroy the diseases rampant in them. The guards including the Butcher of Belsen and his woman equivalent were put on trial with a defence team in the British style court. Their defence was that they were obeying orders while one woman-defendant said she did it for the Fuhrer. The documentary did not state its final outcome. 
A sad irony immediate to the liberation was that a big number of inmates died because the British army personnel provided too much food to the living skeletons which they could not cope with. The mistake was seen and then they had to alter their approach.
A Scottish soldier related that if they had any doubts what they were fighting for before this the scenes of Belsen confirmed their righteousness. It was said of The Holocaust’ that it was, ‘an expression of the power of HATRED’. 

Forming a Government (Election Saturday February 8th …62 days ago)
I can only call the efforts to form a Government in this country as PATHETIC. There have been talks about talks, preliminary talks, kind of meaningful talks, meaningful talks, documents being drawn up, talk of a ‘government formation document’ but yet no real progress. It is a disgrace especially for the parties who are not part of the ‘Intern -Government’ as of now.

RTE Report Today Friday       
“Leo Varadkar has said Fine Gael is ready to agree a joint government formation document this week - but that he cannot speak for Fianna Fáil.
He said if the document is agreed, they will then approach other parties to see if they are willing to form a new government.
Mr Varadkar said he does not envisage a second election and that he does not even know how an election would be conducted in the current circumstances.
He said Fine Gael had given other parties two months to form a government but he said they could not do that.
Mr Varadkar also said he would not expect a party to enter government unless their core agenda was part of the government's mission.
He said if an agreement is reached between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, they would then reach out to the Greens, Labour and the Social Democrats but he said no party would be bullied into going into government.

**Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are meeting again for further discussions on government formation.
The document will not be a programme for government, but will instead contain broad outlines of key policy areas.
Dealing with the Covid-19 emergency and stimulating economic recovery will be at its centre.
It will also cover housing, health and climate change.
Read more
Could a team of free-thinking Independents form part of next govt.? Alan Kelly (leader of the Labour Party) says other parties should form a 'stable government'. The intention is to share the agreed paper with the Green Party, Labour, the Social Democrats and independents to get their input”.

I’m back… what do you make of that then Joe Brolly?
I feel that the Green Party leadership has done itself considerable damage in their decision to abstain. Labour under Alan Kelly still has a chance’ The Independents show what they are… ‘Independents’. Fianna Fáil show that, while they have the most seats, they have not got the talent to make much of a contribution and if a coalition of F.G and F.F. means replacing Varadkar that would be a mistake. Micheál Martin seems to be a figure from the past now. Too much has happened in the last month.   
(Sinn Féin …well, their relevance is dissolving just now!)

62 DAYS AND COUNTING, COUNTING, counting, co……

Joe Biden for President?
‘I used to be indecisive but now I’m not so sure.’ Joe looks like a decent man but it will take a huge shift in the United States voter psyche to effect this result. Mister Biden reminds me a bit of Jimmy Carter or ‘Jimmy Who’ as he was referred to for a time. He was President from ’77 to ’81. Jimmy was, for a long time, a distant second in the race but he won. So that is some encouragement for Biden.  It would of course be a good thing for Ireland due to his connections here. I have said this before but why is that such a great country in so many ways cannot have a young, dynamic, bright and electable candidate regularly. As Jack Nicholson’s character says to the Tom Cruise character in the film ‘A Few Good Men’ ‘Please tell me you have more, (better) Lieutenant’
 Associated commentary. In recent days or nights, I have, for self-education purposes, tuned into a couple of President Trump’s daily briefings on Fox News. It is surreal whatever that means and really difficult to describe here. Even in the midst of the greatest challenge the world has faced seriousness struggles to surface. A White House news correspondent saw fit to ask a question about something called ‘Tiger King’ whatever that was. It was like asking Dr. Holahan during the nightly briefing about something that happened in Mrs. Brown’s Boys.
Another oddity on my watch of Fox News was the sudden appearance of Conor McGregor in an advertisement for something or other! Now I’ll give surreal another run.

 (I have done a ‘copy and paste’ job of half of a post this week by a writer named Harry Paterson with his view of Boris Johnson. It is well to be aware that Mister Paterson’s brother died recently of Covid 19. If you Google the title below, you can see the remainder)

Boris Johnson: A Life Less Honourable…by Harry Paterson
April 7,
“Boris Johnson; a man who has lived his entire life recklessly, selfishly, irresponsibly; without any regard for the consequences. Because he’s never needed to. His enormous privilege has protected him from any repercussions.
He is a proven pathological liar, swaggering through the years with no empathy or concern for anyone but himself. Indeed, recently bragging about shaking hands with Coronavirus patients. As if it was just another laugh; a jape; just another moment in a life less honourable.
There is a grim irony to him finally, in this manner, being confronted by the consequences of his behaviour. Even he can’t lie and bluster his way out of this mess.
One can only hope that the Prime Minister, as he languishes in intensive care, courtesy of the NHS that he and his party have done so much to destroy, deeply regrets the cheering & jeering doled out to nurses by him and his colleagues; when they voted down a pay-rise for those heroes. If he’s lucky he’ll now be finding out exactly how valuable these people are.
My brother, sadly, wasn’t lucky. On March 28th, Jas, 54, died of Covid-19 in Nottingham’s Queens Medical Centre. Unlike the Prime Minister, Jas was denied a ventilator. ‘Operation: Last Gasp’, right, Prime Minister?
I then stood on an empty street, shouting to be heard over the wind, no privacy, no dignity, to tell an old man (our father) on a doorstep his child had died. The most indescribably awful duty I’ve ever had to carry out.”

The Nobody Zone
This is a very interesting radio programme of the moment and also a Radio One Podcast. It involves an Irish serial killer in London between 1953 and 1983. Two episodes of the 6 episodes were aired yesterday, Friday, and 2 more are to get aired on Sat. at 2 pm. As is say ‘check it out’. Just Google the title and you can get it from there.

Stay safe. Play by the rules. Do not let your guard down.
‘May your Gods go with you’