Tuesday, September 13, 2016


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Doing the right thing by the national flag is no small thing, though there is clearly less respect around now than there used to be.

There are no legal restraints on the use of the flag, but the Taoiseach's Department has set out a series of guidelines which it strongly recommends be followed if the flag is to get its due.

The illustration above from the guidelines shows how to drape the flag over a coffin. However, without the help of the text it is not at all clear. The green is to go over the head of the coffin (and presumably the corpse) and the orange at the other end.

The specific colours of the flag are set out in detail. It is green (pms 347), white and orange (pms 151). None of this gold stuff, though there is a lot of that around too.

The flag should normally be taken down at sunset. When I worked in a government department on the top floor, a soldier would come through at sunset to take down the flag. Right order.

If it is to be flown beyond sunset it should be specifically illuminated, preferably by a spotlight, as set out in the guideline above.

Sad then to see Sinn Féin fly the flag without illumination some three quarters of an hour after sunset. I understand that there is a spotlight option here but they just haven't bothered to turn it on. Didn't stop them turning on the main lights for the ad for the show though.

Clearly the flag should not be left up when it is worn to flithers.

The photo above was taken in Limerick a few years ago and it's not like the pub was out of business. You'd also wonder if that had ever been orange.

This one was definitely orange but half of that end of it has flithered away. And where do you think this might be? Well, it's opposite the GPO on O'Connell Street in Dublin city centre. Pretty insulting that and in the 1916 centenary year to boot.

But the message here is loud and clear. This is flying over Clerys where company manipulations in the middle of the night left the staff on the street and the new owners' pockets overflowing. There could be no better symbol of runaway capitalism cocking a snook at the nation than the national flag in flithers over this iconic building and just across the street from the GPO.

If you have any interest in further reading on how to respect the flag, it's all in here.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016


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(if you dare)

I was in a neighbour's garden yesterday when I spotted a spider patiently waiting for his dinner to turn up. I didn't have the time to hang around and see how it all turned out so I left him to his waiting.

For him read her if appropriate. Neither my knowledge nor experience stretches far enough for me to solve that one on the fly, as it were.

This morning, when I came out of the house to bring my car to the car doctor, I noticed a spider, right in the centre of a web he had spun between the car and the nearby hedge.

It was early morning and neither the light nor the position were as good as yesterday, on top of which I found it damnably hard to get an auto focus camera to focus on a spider. So the quality from here on is not all that it might be.

I wondered if this the same fella as yesterday? If so he has clearly been in the wars, losing limbs and bits thereof. However breakfast had arrived and been duly cocooned.

I couldn't say whether he was in the course of eating it or, like the Donnelly's skinless sausages of old, just double-wrapping it for double-protection. So I went round the other side for a better view.

That didn't really help much.

And then, I don't know if he saw me coming and decided to try and protect his prey from a new intruder, or if he just got overcome with hunger for his breakfast, but he immediately embarked on a flurry of activity, encircling the food bank with his remaining limbs.

Following which, he kindly posed for the above trophy photograph.

Whether it was his last or not, and whether he got to eat the rest of his breakfast or not, I do not know.

I had to drive out to the car doctor and I've no idea whether I took him with me or left him behind.

In any event he gets his five minutes of fame and a crack at relative immortality on the real web.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016


John Amos Comenius
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My first contact with Comenius (1592-1671) was during the (academic) year I spent in the College of Europe in Brugge (Bruges).

Each year's class, or promotion as it was called, was named after some well known figure from the past, preferably one who had contributed to European civilisation in some way. Comenius, who gave his name to my promotion, was one such person, a teacher ahead of his time who introduced many modern methods into teaching, including systematic illustrations in books for teaching children.

I just came across a link to a post on one of his books, Orbis Sensualium Pictus or Visible World.

Originally written in Latin and High Dutch in 1658, it was designed to teach Dutch children Latin. The format is parallel text and the content covers much of human existence. The Dutch part was translated into many languages with an English translation appearing in 1705. Quite apart from its linguistic aspect it is like a mini encyclopedia, and just like the Grave Matters book it provoked many resonances with people and trades I came across in following up my family history.

My godmother's people from way back were blacksmiths from Kilkenny. And yes, she's family as she's also my mother's cousin. There was a time when Dubin was crawling with blacksmiths/farriers in the age of the horse, before the advent of the internal combustion engine put most of them out of business.

Her father, PJ Medlar was an undertaker in James's street and I have another undertaker on my father's side of the family in East Limerick.

I must say I was tickled by the text. There's really no folks like dead folks. They used to burn them but now they bury them. Reminded me of the Church taking against cremation in the Middle Ages, initially because they felt it disrespected the sacramental body and later as a reaction against those who promoted cremation as a denial of the afterlife.

Nicholas P Fleming, a grand uncle, was a cooper. They were the gentlemen of the brewing trade. Nicholas married three women, including two of my granny's sisters, thus bequeathing his grandson Gerry four grannies when you add in the mere one on the other side of his family.

One maternal great grandfather was a master bootmaker in James's Street, and there were a number of shoemakers scattered around on the mother's side.

The other great grandfather on the mother's side was a carpenter. Married a girl half his age and having begot a family went and died of septicemia, whether from a rusty nail or a burst appendix is not recorded.

One of the great failures of my family history research has been the inability to come up with a single ODC (Ordinary Decent Criminal) though I do have a suspect but, so far, no evidence.

The punishments reserved for criminals were varied. I don't see any drownings among the listed penalties on the above page or its continuation. So maybe that one was introduced at a later stage and meted out informally.

Finally, I couldn't resist the printer, though I am the only one in my family, having invested in an Adana handpress in my student days. Not very profitable but a great insight into the old world of printing.

And if you haven't already done so check out Comenius, a fascinating guy. And don't forget to have a look at the book.

Saturday, September 03, 2016


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I grew up in a bipolar world.

There were the Catholics, who might eventually get to Heaven if they successfully jumped the many hurdles of life, a lot of which were put in their way by their own church.

And there were the others, who ended up elsewhere, unless they somehow managed to contrive a deathbed conversion, accompanied by repentance for the perverse life they had lived and a firm purpose of amendment. This last bit would not, by then, be partcularly relevant.

The Protestants next door, while admittedly very nice people, were heading in the wrong direction. Adherents of the heretic Luther and followers of the serial adulterer Henry VIII, on whose bollix their church had been founded. Nice people but delusional.

As for the Jews. Well they crucified Christ so what could they reasonably expect in the next life.

And the rest of the world which worshipped false gods or none. Well, the less said the better.

And within the Catholic church it was the "sacrament" of confession which kept you morally afloat in this sea of troubles called life. The slate had to be periodically wiped clean of your horrendous crimes like missing mass or taking pleasure in the odd dirty thought, not to mention the other thing.

Looking back on it all, it is hard to believe it ever existed in all its perversity. You could not explain it to the present generation of youth, though I'll grant you they have their own hurdles to jump, but not these particular ones.

The greatest scandal was probably the rift within Christianity. Bitter spiritual enmity between neighbours, sustained by adherence to outdated and misunderstood medieval theological concepts.

As a Catholic, you could not even enter a Protestant church lest your faith be contaminated. As for attending their services, God forbid. And marrying one of them, Jesus wept, though you might get permission from the Bishop in an emergency.

"Outside the Church there is no salvation".

Now, if I am losing your attention at this point, let me give you a concrete example which will keep you on your toes.

Bob Hewson and Iris Rankin on one of their wedding days

I was recently accused of being related to Bono, perish the thought. But it led me to chasing up his ancestors in a frantic rush to put down this calumny before it took root. This involved looking into births, marriages and deaths and carefully examining all sorts of certificates. I had to find out "who were his people?" and, more importantly, were they also my people.

In the course of pursuing this investigation I took a look at a few U2 websites and quickly realised that there had been some controversy over where and when his parents had married. Not that they hadn't, just the where and the when. The online discussion was finally put to bed by the production of a letter from the Rector saying that they had been married on the 19th of August 1950 in the Protestant church in Drumcondra.

In chasing up this particular marriage through the civil registration system I came across a serious anomaly. The Drumcondra marriage had only been their first. There was yet more to come.

Six months later they remarried in the Catholic church in Dolphin's Barn, on 20th December 1950.

So what does this tell you about the bipolar world of my formative years. I was six at the time and just approaching the age of reason.

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Let's see what we can learn from the relevant marriage certs.

But first a bit of background. Both the Hewsons (Bono's father's family) and the Rankins (his mother's family) lived on the Oxmantown estate off Aughrim St. in Dublin's north inner city. The Hewsons were Catholic, the Rankins Protestant.

My own family, whose forbears had also lived on the estate, tell me that Iris was a looker but the boys were told to stay away from her because she was a Protestant. Clearly Bob Hewson took no notice of this edict and they ended up getting married.

So what do the certs tell us of the world they lived in? The first cert tells us that Bob was living at home but Iris wasn't. She gave her address as Melrose Avenue, in Fairview, a good walk from Oxmantown. Whether she was living there connected with her work or whether she had to leave home because of the impending marriage is not clear.

What is clear is that there do not appear to have been any Hewsons at the wedding. The normal practice would be for the best man and bridesmaid, witnesses to the marriage, to come one each from either side of the family. In this case it is Rankins only, Iris's siblings. I had originally thought that this signified Iris's rejection by the Hewson family but I was reminded of what I said earlier, that Catholics were not allowed inside Protestant churches and in any event might not have been welcome in those days.

Anyway, the happy couple moved in together in Haroldsville Avenue, Rialto, where they seem to have been discovered cohabiting by the local curate who recommended they regularise their relationship in the eyes of Mother Church as soon as possible. At least that's my take on it. There is no disputing the next step, however, and they were duly married, again, in the run up to Christmas in Dolphin's Barn church..

This time there don't appear to have been any Rankins present and the priest was so strapped for witnesses that he had to press his housekeeper into service.

But he did more than that. In those days the churches were authorised civil marriers and you simply signed the civil register in the vestry. So Father Muleady followed the normal practice and the marriage was duly civilly registered.

But it had already been registered via the Protestant church six month's earlier, and Bob and Iris were no longer bachelor and spinster respectively. So we have a false declaration and the same people married twice within the year.

I haven't yet found a single word to describe this. It's not bigamy, which requires a change of partner, but it must be bi- something, a shining example of the unintended consequences of the bipolar world I grew up in.

And, no, I'm not related to Bono, DG.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Where is it ? No. 50

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Answers in a comment below please.

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.

Monday, August 29, 2016


With all the 1916 commemorations going on this year and all the talk of the path to sovereignty, or whatever you want to call it, I was reminded of a line from the protest song EEC:
Déanfaimís dearmad ar Pearse agus Connolly
The song was written by Aodh Ó Domhnaill and sung by Na hUaisle.

In the course of the referendum campaign on Ireland joining the EEC in 1972 it blared from loudspeakers on top of the vans of those campaigning against our joining the Common Market and it opened many a protest meeting around the country.

It is a good song and has worn well through the years. It has a particular resonance in more recent times as the EU has lost its way and the arrogance of its élites becomes more insufferable by the day.

The song opens by pointing out that we really had no choice in the matter as we always follow the Brits. Ag sodar i ndiaidh na nUasal is a familiar version in Irish of this process. And here we are with the Brits supposed now to be pulling out and what are we going to do?

The chorus mentions Sicco Mansholt, who was the Agriculture Commissioner of the day, running the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which was the only actual policy the EEC had been able to cobble together in its 14 year existence up to then. Needless to say this policy appeared very attractive to Irish farmers as a way of escaping from England's Cheap Food Policy which had been limiting the expansion of Irish agriculture and denying a fair return to its producers for decades. In fact the then Irish Foreign Minister, Paddy Hillery, was campaigning for a YES vote on the basis of The CAP and the Long Runs the latter being the expected opportunities for Irish manufacturing in niche corners of the enormous EEC market.

The song goes on to take a poke at our TDs (parliamentarians) who are portrayed as already addicted to dinners of frogs and spaghetti, and who now speak Irish with a French accent. The farmers will be leaving the land for jobs in industry when full employment kicks in, by which time the Germans will have bought up all the land. Let's forget about Pearse and Connolly and all this national sovereignty lark and sell our souls for the thirty pieces of silver on offer. Sure aren't we all Europeans now.

Well I'll leave you to figure out for yourself how prophetic or otherwise the song is proving. You can hear the original below.

EEC sung by Na hUaisle

Saturday, August 27, 2016


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Photo: Clara Rose Thornton

I have to jump straight in here with a declaration of interest. I was at the above event with one job only, to take photographs, and that's me at the window. But, really, you can't be at something like this and just let it go over your head.

A really great evening all round, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Workman's Club: The Vintage Room

The location was the Vintage Room in the Workman's Club on Wellington Quay, right next door to Bono's Hotel.

Well, vintage was the polite version, as you can see above. Now I know we are in the WORKMAN'S Club and the male of the species is not always the tidiest or most house proud, but this was male vintage with a vengeance.

I am tempted to say "you're in your granny's" but there is no room like this in your granny's.

And then there are the posters. Male to the core, though not a Pirelli calendar in sight, which was probably just as well.

So now we've set the context of a vintage male environment for this event which is all about female empowerment in one way or another. All the makings of an interesting evening.

Maria Ortega Garcia

The occasion is Maria's brainchild. She told us how she had become aware over the years of the absence of opportunities for women to share their personal experiences, be they of discrimination or empowerment, and this evening's event was one such sharing opportunity. Each of the participants, including the hosts and presenters, would hopefully take away inspiration from the experience of others, and an integral part of the event was the networking and chat that came before and after the presentations.

By the time the presentations themselves were to start, about three quarters of an hour into the event, the volume of chatter was reminiscent of that in a pub much later into the night. Clearly people were networking like mad and enjoying it.

Clara Rose Thornton

Clara Rose was the MC (note the gender neutral acronym) for the night and she also had her own contribution to make by way of explaining her background and sharing some of her very assertive poetry. She made it clear that, as both a woman and a person of colour, she had many walls to climb in empowering herself and it is clear that she surmounted them all so far.

A major theme with her was how women are defined by reference to men and most often in some second class or dependent role.

She made a great job of introducing the presenters, most of whom already had a public/online profile of one sort or another. But Clara Rose really gave them something to live up to in her introductions.

Fiona O'Meara

Fiona's theme was success and the enormous gap between what the world in general sees as success and what this means in terms of personal empowerment and serenity.

She is also talking from the perspective of having overcome an illness which had her bed-bound for years. Something like that puts proper order on your priorities but it can also dent your confidence in recovery. Enough to say she is now a Toastmaster and public speaking teacher.

Wendy Stephens

Wendy found inspiration looking back over some of her old diaries and she gave us some very impassioned poetry to prove she has something to say about women's empowerment.

Caroline Ryan

As soon as Caroline mentioned her humble Ballybrack origins she had me. She had me again when she mentioned DCU which I always figured a great university. The fact that her academic career is based on feminism and pornography was insignificant compared with the first two mentions above :)

As an aside, I should explain the lighting. As the evening wore on and the light faded I had to resort exclusively to using flash. However, I couldn't resist at least one shot in natural (electric coloured) light to give you a better idea of what the audience really saw between the flashes.

Caroline Ryan

While her pornography research is in an academic context she is approaching it bottom up so to speak rather than the usual top down approach adopted by most academics. And she has a speaker slot lined up at the prestigious Catalyst Con conference in LA next month.

Vanessa Marsh

Vanessa's preferred medium of expression is fine art and she has some stuff hanging in prestigious places as well as copies in many homes around the country. An NCAD graduate of 20 years, she has only more recently found her métier in art as self expression.

Shawna Scott

Shawna is a ticket and a very successful ticket. She has what she describes as a small business, Sex Siopa. This shop sells sex toys but confines itself to those which are safe to enter the human body. I'm not by any means a specialist in these matters, not knowing one end of a dildo from another, but you can educate yourself on her very natty website.

I was interested to see that she had already got herself into a dispute with my favourite porn magazine which implied she was selling unproven material. Hopefully they'll make it up to her and give her proper exposure in their (hopefully) second issue.

She had an interesting point to make about the difference between trading and manufacturing. Running a shop would remind you of the cows - you're never off duty. So she is hoping to switch to her own manufacturing and move down the country to preserve her quality of life. This link will give you a good idea of where she's at.

Lisa de Jong

Lisa is a teacher, poet and facilitator of women’s circles, which focus on the energies of the menstrual cycle. This evening she read us some of her poetry.

In contrast to some of the other presentations hers had a gentleness and sense of vulnerability about it.

Shirley Graham

Shirley's interest is in creating a space for women to find their true selves. She got into this area through her own personal quest and then being asked by others to facilitate them in their journey.

Julie Le Carrer

Julie traveled over from Brussels for this session. She is a healer, performer and intuitive artist and her presentation was by way of a performance, well, three mini-performances.

She demonstrated some intuitive body dance movements designed to unite body and soul and in one section relaxed those of the audience who were paying attention into somnolence with the aid of soft words and a little tinkle thing. It was at that point that I figured flashing the camera would have been totally out of place and disruptive so I can't actually prove that this bit took place.

Maria takes a bow

Full marks to Maria for organising this inspirational evening. Feminist it may have been but it was all positive stuff and I didn't feel the least out of place as one of only two males in attendance.


The two hosts and the presenters winding up a very successful and enjoyable night.

Check out the event at the
Awakened Creatress Website