Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Das Andenken


Click on any image for a larger version

It was 50 years ago this year that Silke came over from Neustadt to stay with my cousins, the Hegartys.

That family organised a remembrance get together this weekend to which Silke returned with her husband, Wilfred, and her niece, Svea.

It was a great family occasion, and I came away with a physical souvenir as well as great memories.


A rainbow loom Irish/German friendship bracelet. These were woven by Paul and Andrew Watson (first cousins twice removed, if you must know.)

To be carefully treasured and worn when I next visit Germany.

This is the home site for the bracelets and this his how you make them.

Thanks to Thérèse for conceiving the event and to Brian and Carmel for hosting it.


Photo: Brian Kelly

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rose Festival 2014


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So I set off for the Rose Festival in St. Anne's Park and, as you can see, not a rose in sight. Now, I have been to the Rose Festival before and know that it is not just roses, roses all the way. It is a much wider based family outing with all sorts of entertainment for young and old. So, what's with the picture?

Well, I had a two hour window to check out the festival, but as parking would be a major hassle I decided to go on foot. And, not surprisingly I got distracted along the way. This to the point that I had barely a half an hour on the premises.

The first distraction was Dublin's two iconic ESB chimneys, which were unsuccessfully trying to hide behind a bush. While there is a lobby campaigning for their retention, and I gather the Council has now listed them, there is a vociferous lobby out there that wants them pulled down. So they are effectively an endangered species and entitled to some protection in the nature reserve in the photo above.


The next distraction was a pair of ducks making hay in the pond, or lake, or whatever Lord Ardilaun called it in his day.


And then there was this Greek folly. A mini Ozymandias close to home.


And if all that wasn't enough, what did I come across but my family tree with a profusion of roots to keep me busy up to next Christmas.


So it was with a half an hour or less to go that I finally hit the festival. My first priority was the Heritage Tent, and in this year of Brian Boru, I made for the Clontarf stand. Collette Gill was busy discussing Brian Boru's well with a client. I have dealt with the well's gate on Castle Avenue elsewhere. Collette has done trojan work during the year, and in the run up to it, bringing loads of threads together for the 1014 celebrations locally.


Just one of these projects has been the Battle of Clontarf Heritage Trail along the shoreline walkway at Clontarf (example of one of the panels above). I have reported elsewhere on the very high quality lecture series organised by the Clontarf and Raheny Historicals, and on other aspects of local commemorations, including the reconstruction of the Battle itself.


Madeleine and Brian

Next came the Raheny Heritage Society stand. The society has been working over the years researching and presenting the history of Raheny to the public and they have amassed a wonderful set of thematic displays.

The work is ongoing and their latest project is The Howth Road, exploring all sorts of aspects of the road from Fairview to Blackbanks. These include famous residents, house styles, historic sites and so on. It is the sort of project that just swallows you up if you don't call a halt at some stage. They have been reporting progress along the way in some of these displays and I hope to see a definitive book in the near future.


Before my half hour runs out, I want to come back to the Clontarf Historical Society display. It is an open question who won the Battle of Clontarf. I learned in school that Brian Boru was the decisive victor but nobody bothered to point out to me that Sitric was still King of Dublin twenty years later. Come to think of it, a lot of things were glossed over in my schooldays, like, for example, Gormlaith's romps between the sheets with at least three kings. No doubt the teaching of history has improved significantly since my day. As it happens, I'm a late comer to this sort of exciting stuff.


If the Isle of Man's 1014 exuberance is anything to go by the Vikings won by a mile. They have issued a beautiful series of stamps commemorating The Battle of Clontarf and the original artwork (on loan), along with many other aspects of the issue, were on display at the stand.


These are just two of the set of six stamps, a general battle scene and Brian with his sword and cross (yes, he had Vikings fighting on his side too and they were Christians, as were many of the opposing Vikings).


This cover for the set gives an idea of the quality of the artwork, really beautiful stuff.


And the back of the cover even has the Irish Battle of Clontarf logo on the sets at the festival, done by the IOM postal authorities. Pity An Post didn't rise to the specific occasion of the Battle's millennium celebration in this sort of style.


And what did I spot, just as my phone alarm went off to tell me to go home, but a real live version of Collette's Twitter avatar.

Enjoy.

Material from 2011 & 2013 Rose Festivals

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Friday, July 18, 2014

When buses had sex


Once upon a time, when we were all relatively poor, when you had to brave the elements to even get to the toilet, when the daily newspaper could end up in small squares on a piece of string on the wall, when we didn't have cars and traveled by shank's mare or bus, and when double decker buses didn't have rear doors, there was this bus queue outside Clery's across from the Pillar.

At the end of what was a fairly long queue was this typical Dubliner.

He was resigned to a fairly long wait, but consoled himself from time to time as the next bus came along and he moved slowly up the queue.

Each time a bus pulled up, his heart rose, but fell again when it became clear the bus was nearly full and took on only a few passengers, the conductors arm cutting off access with the familiar refrain “Bus full, another car coming along behind”.

However, he finally reached what he thought was as near the top of the queue as was needed to be taken on by the next bus.

When it came, he moved up slowly, counting the diminishing few people in front of him until it was his turn to mount the bus.

But no. The conductors arm came down in front of him with the by now annoyingly familiar refrain: “Bus full, another car coming along behind”.

After his long wait and rising hopes, this was just too much.

“Tell me” says he to the conductor “this next bus, will it be a male or a female bus?"

The conductor, when he got over his puzzlement was not amused.

“Step back now, there'll be another car along in a minute”

“Yes, but tell me, will it be a male or a female bus?”

This goes on for a few more rounds and finally the conductor asks, in exasperation: “What do you mean by that? All the buses are the same.”

“Well” said our friend “I mean will it have a great big bollix like you at the end of it”.

It has not been recorded what happened next, and now the driver operates the air powered doors and the question is moot.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tá sé fear


Joe McHugh TD

Is this the nail in the coffin of the Irish language, or just a statement of the obvious, or both?

The Government has now appointed a junior minister, Joe McHugh, with responsibility for the Irish language, whose Irish is not up to scratch.

The Taoiseach tells us that Joe's first priority is a "refresher" course in Irish but it is not clear how much will be refreshment and how much new learning. He must, at least, have school Irish, which is a sort of a block to build on. But one would have expected him to be beyond the refreshment stage by now as he was already Fine Gael Seanad Spokesperson on Gaeltacht Affairs between 2002 and 2007.

He lives in Carrigart, which is described in Wikipedia as a Gaeltacht village, and it does seem to be part of the official Gaeltacht, though Scoil Eoin Baiste is described as "ar imeall na Gaeltachta". In any event a significant proportion of the area represented by Joe McHugh is Gaeltacht.

As the Taoiseach seemed unprepared for the onslaught that has now hit him, is it possible he was not aware of the Deputy's lack of fluent Irish, given that he was appointing him principally for geographical reasons (to counter Sinn Féin in Donegal)?

In any event it does not say much for the Government's, and in particular Fine Gael's, respect for, or interest in, the Irish language.

Needless to say, the opposition are in a steam and Éamon Ó Cuív was reported to be apoplectic. No shortage of baying hounds there.

Raidió na Life reported that the Government refused to supply a participant for their programme today, Beo@2, which covered the street protest and had contributions from Conradh na Gaeilge, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin. The programme's being in Irish can't have helped and the Government could hardly have expected Dinny McGinley,who had just lost the job, to do the needful.

And Fianna Fáil needn't crow either. I remember when a crew from BBC Alba (TV) were in town doing a programme in Irish on the banking collapse, the best Fianna Fáil, then in Government, could do on the day was field Martin Mansergh who did his section in English.

You get an increasing smell of tokenism these days in almost everything to do with the Irish language. For example, Newstalk puts out little shorts in Irish where the reader (very obviously reading) seems to think the quality of Irish is gauged by the frequency of séimhiús and the amount of spittle going into them. His grammar (what's that?) is also atrocious.

The old argument for holding onto, or reviving Irish, was that it gave you access to much of your background which would otherwise be inaccessible and it represented a different way of looking at things.

The current pidgin Irish that I hear around me does nothing for anybody. It degrades any true Irish that might remain and is nothing more than a bad transliteration of the speaker's native English.

Go bhfóire Dia orainn.


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Monday, July 14, 2014

WHODUNNIT?


Alan Dukes

I am still absolutely staggered at the incompetence of the guy who set the charges at the abortive attempt to blow The Pillar on 1 March 1966. How anyone who didn't understand the 12 hour clock, as alarm clocks were in those days, how they were let near explosives just beggars belief.

However, every cloud has a silver lining, and Liam Sutcliffe's story reminded me of the manuscript of a whodunnit submitted to the editor of the Shanganagh Valley News, some seven years earlier in February 1959.

If the author, who was then about fourteen years of age, understood the 12 hour clock and expected his readers to, then there is clearly no excuse for a supposed explosives expert.

The editor of the Shanganagh Valley News in February 1959 was me and the contributor was Alan Dukes.

Enjoy the story.


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Friday, July 11, 2014

Pillar - a very close call


Liam Sutcliffe
Click image for a larger version

I have long had an interest in The Pillar, not least because I observed and photographed its dismantling after Nelson was blown off it in 1966. However, I never really took very much notice of who was supposed to have blown it up. The all encompassing term "The IRA" served the purpose very well.

It was only in very recent times, with the publication of Donal Fallon's new book, The Pillar, that I realised the IRA had condemned the explosion on the grounds that this sort of thing distracted attention from their main mission which was to change the system itself and not just its cosmetic aspects.

The only person so far to have come forward, in 2000, and claim/admit to having been involved is Liam Sutcliffe. He was at the launch of Donal's book the other evening and I went Googling for a caption to a photo I was blogging when I came across an hour long interview with him on Youtube, some ten minutes of which were devoted to the Pillar operation.

Believe you me, it was scary, really scary.

According to his account he took his three and a half year old child up the Pillar with him when he was helping out the man setting the explosives. As if that wasn't enough, the man setting the explosives was clearly an incompetent idiot who could easily have blown them all to kingdom come.

In the first place, the explosive device was a complete mess - miswired and with an unreliable type of battery. In the second place, the timing device (an alarm clock - very popular in those days) had been set to go off at four in the morning, except it was now around half two in the afternoon and this was a twelve hour clock.

When the trio came down from the Pillar, Liam and his son went to see "the funnies" in a picture house in Grafton St. The other man went back to report success in laying the charge to Joe Christle, the nominal boss of the operation. When Christle pointed out that the bomb would not go off at four in the morning, when presumably there would be nobody around, but at four in the afternoon, in about an hour's time when town would be packed, the man who laid the charge wanted to call the Special Branch to get in the army to dismantle it. Christle would hear none of it and decreed that it be left to go off as set.

As Liam later said, when he learned of this, "there would have been mayhem".

Fortunately, the bomb did not go off and it would be another week before the real explosion blew at half one in the morning. In the course of that week Liam had redesigned the package and it didn't let them down second time round.

Really scary.

Have a listen.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Pillar launch 2




Donal Fallon
Click any picture for a larger version

It felt very odd to be at one of these things, with my camera along, but not taking photos. I have done a substantive post on the occasion and am grateful to New Island Books, publishers of The Pillar, for these photos. You can see more on their facebook page. The photo above is of Donal speaking to the book and in the course of which he paid tribute to Shane.




Pól Ó Duibhir

This is me at my formal best. New Island says that I launched The Pillar "with a hilarious speech replete with anecdotes." So someone out there was listening.


Manus O'Riordan

Manus clearly can't get enough of it. No wonder the books are leaping off the shelves and a second edition may be needed soon.


Donal Fallon and Tom Stokes

I don't know how many books Donal signed. Must have run into the millions. I had a long chat with Tom myself outside The Duke afterwards.


Liam Sutcliffe and Las Fallon

Liam is still the only man to have publicly admitted involvement in blowing up Nelson and Las is Donal's father and a great supporter.



Donal Fallon and partner Aoife

Donal and Aoife had a well deserved evening basking in the limelight.


Ciarán, Donal and Sam

The team behind the iconic Dublin blog Come Here to Me!


Pól Ó Duibhir and Eoin Purcell

Myself and the publisher just about to start discussions on my own forthcoming book.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Pillar launch


Photo: Lisa-Marie Griffith
Click photo for a larger version

There I was, thinking I looked very impressive in my collar and tie.

Then, today, I saw Lisa-Marie's photo taken from the viewpoint of the audience and I realised that I looked more like a wonky version of the second coming.

The occasion was the formal launch of Donal Fallon's book on The Pillar on which I have already posted.

Donal had originally invited me to come along and say a few words, "just the two of us". Then a few days before the launch I got the formal invite, in which I was listed as the Guest Speaker and described as a Photographer. Very flattering but a bit scary.

Anyway I turned up, in collar and tie in keeping with my newly found self importance, and delivered my bit which I think people found interesting. At least that's what they said afterwards. Which was fine.

Then people came up to me asking me to sign their copy of the book, which, thankfully had already been signed by Donal, and in some cases, also by Liam Sutcliffe, who is credited in the book with having taken part in the dispatch of Nelson from his perch. Never signed a book before unless I was giving it to someone as a present. Weird feeling. But at least it's not like people screaming for your autograph. That could quickly lead to you losing the run of yourself.

I was reflecting on why people would have anyone other than the author sign their book when I recollected my own behaviour at the launch of Tim Carey's book, Hanged for Murder, where I not only got Tim to sign my copy, but persuaded Marie Cassidy, the State Pathologist, to sign as well.

And on this occasion I also got Liam's signature on my own copy of The Pillar.

It was an appropriate occasion to pay tribute to Shane Mac Thomáis to whom the book is dedicated and who, but for his tragic death earlier in the year, would have been launching the book in my place. Donal quoted the final verse from Donagh MacDonagh's poem Dublin Made Me:
I disclaim all fertile meadows, all tilled land
The evil that grows from it and the good,
But the Dublin of old statutes, this arrogant city
Stirs proudly and secretly in my blood.

While I had a few of my own plants in the audience (thank you lads and lady) I detected a sort of general air of "who is this guy" which made me feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle waking up out of a 1966 sleep."

But it was a great night. I met some old, and lots of new, people, and was even treated to a dissertation on aliens in The Duke afterwards. Saying that I knew a lady from Roswell, however, did not seem to impress my interlocuter who was more interested in persuading me of the planned role of The Spire in the next round of alien contacts.

I had done up a background web page for the launch, which I forgot to mention on the night, and which you can see here. Its main purpose is to bring together some few links relating to the book and beyond.

You can also see some photos from the New Island collection here and my "Guest Speech" here. As far as the latter is concerned, younger readers may need a little light cast on Des Fennell.



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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Where is it ? No. 33


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To see all the quiz items click on the "Where?" tag below.

To see all the unsolved quiz items click on the "unsolved" tag below.

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

What Nelson Saw


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Five views from the top of Nelson's Pillar will give you some idea what Nelson saw at the dawning of every day. While the camera was not of great quality the fact that they cannot be retaken may make them worth a look.

The first one above looks towards the Liffey as it flows past the relatively newly constructed Liberty Hall, the Custom House and the Gasometer. To the left you can see Michael Scott's Busáras.

I don't want to dwell too long on the first photo at the expense of the others, but. I gather there was fierce opposition to the construction of Busáras on the grounds that it would dominate the Custom House (front of, presumably). Nelson must have died laughing, from his vantage point, when he saw Dublin's first skyscraper rising on the west side of the custom house. Clearly a no contest in his eye.


The second one looks across at the Pro-Cathedral and the Department of Education. For me, it emphasises the backstreet location of the cathedral, compared, for example, to Christ Church or St. Patrick's.


The third shows the buildings on the north-east side of O'Connell St. with the landmark spire of St. George's church and the back of the houses in Cathal Brugha St. Note the shadow of the Pillar itself which we might have used as a sundial instead of the Millennium Chime in the Slime had Admiral Nelson not taken his leave of us by then.


The fourth one looks straight up the middle of the street, clearly showing the public toilets and mid-street parking as well as bringing in Findlater's church and the Rotunda tower.


The final shot moves a bit westwards, retaining Findlater's but showing the full of Parnell Square, including the imposing frontage of the historic Georgian buildings where the Rising was planned and which subsequently housed Coláiste Mhuire where I went to school. You can see Phibsborough church and also the spire of the Black Church where legend had it that if you ran round it three times and then went in you'd meet Old Nick himself.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

How high was Nelson?


Since that fateful night of 8 March 1966, I have often wondered exactly how much of Nelson's Pillar was blown up. I went for years thinking that it was only the very top of the column. I was possibly influenced in this by the little bit of the plinth that remained perched on the top of the blown up column.

In more recent times I realised that a significant portion of the column itself had been blown away and figured that the explosion had been about two thirds the way up the column. Then I left it at that.

Today, via a link in a comment on the blog Come Here To Me!, I came across a video of the explosion, and have extracted the above still shot. Well it wasn't the actual explosion as I don't think there were still buses running up O'Connell Street at half past one in the morning in those days. Nightlink was still to come. However I was intrigued at where the video had put the point of explosion, about half way up the column. This may have more to do with the song than with any forensic analysis, so I thought it time to have a go at some of the latter.

The photo below shows an earlier shot of the pillar from Henry Street overlaid with one of my own photos from March 1966. It shows quite clearly that the point of explosion was almost two thirds (63%) up the column as I had already guessed from a previous crude measurement exercise.


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Friday, June 27, 2014

Ballybrack went to War


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Ken Kinsella wrote a book called Out of the Dark in which he presented the results of his extensive research into the South Dublin casualties at the front in WWI.


Marie Baker, Cathaoirleach, Tim Carey, Heritage Officer,
and Myles Dungan, Guest Speaker

When it came time to launch the book, his publisher, Conor Graham, MD of Irish Academic Press, approached Tim Carey, the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Heritage Officer, about a launch in the County (formerly Town) Hall. Tim told him that the Council were putting on a WWI exhibition at a later time which would be dealing with this theme also. So they agreed to combine the two events and last evening's launch was simultaneously of the book and the exhibition.


Marie Baker, Cathaoirleach
Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Co. Council

Marie has become Cathaoirleach of the Council after the recent local elections and she takes over from Carrie Smyth whom we met at another local occasion recently. While new to this session she is not new to the job having previously been Cathaoirleach in 2009-2010.



Capacity audience

She welcomed the capacity audience on behalf of the Council and introduced both the exhibition and the book. She recalled that those WWI participants who had been cast aside in the past were now being brought to the fore.


Tim Carey, Heritage Officer
Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Co. Council

Tim, still in jet-lag from the previous day's flight home from the USA and partly exhausted from setting out the chairs in this vast hall, filled us in on the background to the exhibition and its linking up with the book. Tim has been a very active promoter of heritage in the DLR area over the last number of years and it is good to see much of his hard work coming to fruition.


Conor Graham
Managing Director, Irish Academic Press

Conor's company have made a huge contribution to academic publishing over the years. Conor himself was educated in a hard school, but that's another story.

He thanked Ken Kinsella for providing him with a wonderful book to publish and he was very complimentary about how Ken handled his relationship with his publisher. He also thanked the Council for the opportunity to participate in the launching of this great exhibition



Marie Baker, Myles Dungan, Ken Kinsella

While Conor is speaking, Marie is listening attentively, Myles is doing a final check on his notes, while Ken, as the next speaker, is reaching deep into his inside pocket for his own script.


Ken Kinsella, Author

Ken outlines the labours of 13 years intensive research and contacts. You only have to read the acknowledgement pages in the book to see how widely his net had been cast. He is particularly concerned to humanise and localise the experience of those locals who fell in WWI and to set them in the context of their times and their families.

The book falls into two broad divisions. The first 23 pages form a series of mini chapters setting out the background and to some extent condensing the experience of the participants. The next 270 pages set out brief histories and/or descriptions of the geographical areas covered, each followed by a roll of honour which sets out details of those who fell, their family background and so on.

I understand, from reading Major-General David Nial Creagh's foreword to the book, that it concentrates on families who were, or became known, to the author. So, while it is not comprehensive it is representative of a wide range of the experiences of those from South County Dublin who were involved, one way or another, in WWI.


Myles Dungan, Guest Speaker

Myles praises both book and exhibition for continuing the process of bringing these soldiers down from the attic. He recounted his own experience of finding out how little he knew of the country's WWI heritage when confronted with the probing questions of two of the countries great historians, F X Martin and Kevin B Nowlan, in the course of applying for a scholarship to UCD's history department.


Ken Kinsella and Marie Baker

I snuk this picture from behind the shoulders of the official photographer so I am not sure if it's Marie trying to inveigle Ken into attending some more of the Council's heritage programme over the summer, or, whether that was supposed to be the book rather than the heritage programme. To be fair, though, the first item in the programme is the WWI commemoration. The programme also includes Martello Tower No.7 in Killiney, which will be open with guided tours each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon over the summer season.


Dr. T. K. Whitaker, former Secretary Department of Finance,
former Governor Central Bank

All of this was eclipsed for me by the opportunity to meet Dr. T. K. Whitaker ("one t") and have a chat. When I went into the Department of Finance, he was what is now called the Secretary General, or otherwise my boss's boss's boss's boss. However, he was also chairman of the National Industrial Economic Council (NIEC) and I was on the secretariat of the Council, so I got (slightly) closer to him then than our respective grades might imply.

I reminded him that, at that time, himself and Professor Louden Ryan were, in effect, running the country, and that memory seemed to cheer him up enormously. They were a lean and hungry team, those two Northerners, when they got together.

I am aware that the Ballybrack and Killiney UDC made no small contribution in manpower to the war effort. By October 1915 some 60 men had joined up. I think there is a plaque in St. Matthias's church to 14 or so from Ballybrack who died. I assume there would be further Catholic names to add to that list, but, as we all know, it was not the Catholic thing to recognise this particular sacrifice at that time. In addition to which, strictly speaking, I was not allowed to enter this Protestant church on pain of mortal sin. Enough to be accepting the delivery of milk from a Protestant dairy in them days.

Some of the Ballybrack casualties are shown below, as listed in the exhibition's roll of honour.


When we came to Ballybrack in 1954, Alec Horner had a cab business at this address. My mother availed of it from time to time and knew Alec well.



I have drawn attention to this address before.



Madden's cottages on Madden's lane between Daleview and the Wyatville Road.


Born in Ballybrack, resident in Loughlinstown. Not really as far away as it seems. Ballybrack, Killiney and Loughlinstown villages were inhabited by a lot of the same families. I remember my mother telling me that if I was on shop duty and a local came in to complain about someone from Killiney or Loughlinstown, to listen and say nothing, as complainer and complained were quite likely cousins at least.


For some, it appears that Ballybrack itself is enough of an address. When we arrived in 1954, everyone knew everyone else, not to mention what they might have known about each other.


I started with the book cover and I'll finish with it.

A South African nurse places a wreath on her brothers grave at Delville Wood in February 1918. My uncle died at the adjacent High Wood in September 1916 when they were going the other way. The curse of the Somme on Haig and his bloody useless tanks.

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