Saturday, July 23, 2016


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Dublin Canvas is an effort to brighten up the city, and its environs, by giving a new life to some of those old grey or green boxes you see sticking up out of the ground all over the place. Most of them turn out to be traffic light control boxes, and Raheny has one for every set of traffic lights in the village, of which there are many.

This is what you start with - a nondescript grey box on the inside of the pavement.

First you need an idea of what to decorate it with. In Raheny's case there is no shortage of heritage objects: the millennium clock, the old church and graveyard, the old parish pump, and so on.

Then you need an artist to do the job, and that's where local man Michael Gaffney steps up to the plate.

Then you need to get the whole plan agreed by the City Council who will then supply the materials for the job.

First on goes the base, and the thing is already looking the better for it. But you don't want to leave it too long like that as a possible source of temptation to the local creative youth.

So it's on with the first draft of the Millennium Clock.

Details of the clock are left aside for the moment while the background is filled in. This is the old church and graveyard which is to be seen behind the clock as you look down Station Road.

The site is said to have housed the old fort of Raheny and the location of a church there may go back to the 12th century or even way beyond. In any event it became the local Protestant church at the Reformation and remained in use until the "new" All Saints church was build by Lord Ardilaun in 1889. The graveyard is still full of lots of interesting people, but that's a story for another day.

In the interest of simplicity, Michael has left out a load of modern clutter such as the traffic lights themselves, lamp posts, railings, and so on.

The clock itself is the tricky bit and Michael has made up some stencils to ensure he gets the lines and dimensions right.

Pure freehand here would be in danger of producing a slightly wonky result and squares, polygons, circles and ovals can be unforgiving.

Having laid the foundations, Michael now sets about carefully filling in the clock in black and white and gold.

Et voila, the final result, a wonder to behold encapsulating a millennium, and possibly more, of "village" life.

And the time on the clock? Nearly ten past ten.

I asked Michael about that and he said as far as he could see that was the time which most frequently appeared in ads for clocks and watches.

I subsequently looked it up and he was right. The reasons given were that it looked like a smile and also allowed the manufacturer's name to be clearly seen.

Michael's name, however, is proudly displayed on the side of the box. And it will be the first of many. Next comes the parish pump and who knows what after that.

Well done Michael.

Incidentally you may have noticed a slight difference in the location of the first two photos above and you'd be right. The first is at the Catholic church and is as yet untouched while the second is in front of the Watermill pub. The reason is simple. I only noticed the box which ended up with the clock when it was already half done and no way was I going to ask Micheal to start over from scratch !

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Where is it ? No. 48

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This is a very special one and solving it requires a little more brainpower, and knowledge of history, than usual.

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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


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This (19/7/2016) was my second hedge school. The first, also in the National Library of Ireland, was on Nelson's Pillar and I have done a blog post on that.

This one was on the Somme, which anniversary we are also in the middle of commemorating. The Pillar was only fifty years ago but the Somme was a full hundred years ago.

While we awaited the arrival of the hedge school master and his panelists the screen was showing the propaganda film of the Somme made in August 1916 and which is getting a showing around the place at this time.

The team finally arrived not long after we had all trouped back into the room following a brief evacuation at the sounding of the house alarm. What you might call a fairly dramatic entrance in the circumstances.

The team consisted of Tommy Graham (The Master), David Murphy (Maynooth), Lar Joye (National Museum), Jennifer Wellington (UCD), and Tom Burke (Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association).

You can see them taking last sips of water and getting mic'd up above.

Tommy Graham & David Murphy

The discussion flowed dynamically round the panel as Tommy dipped into his carefully prepared list of provocative questions. So I won't attribute remarks but simply record such items as particularly caught my attention.

The envelope, so to speak, had already been set out in the advance publicity for the school.
Fought between 1 July and 1 November 1916 the Somme Offensive was one of the bloodiest battles in history, costing the lives of more than 1.5 million men. On the first day alone the British Army suffered c. 60,000 casualties, many of them members of the 36th (Ulster) Division, and later soldiers of the 16th (Irish) Division were involved. While the involvement of the former continues to be extensively commemorated (especially in the North), Southern nationalist involvement has left a more ambiguous legacy.
One of the most interesting new (for me) bits to emerge was the contrast between how the two armies (British and German) were structured. The Germans had a team approach. They all knew what they had to do including in contingencies such as losing their commanding officers. It had all been rehearsed ad nauseam. And the men were party to the rationale behind what was being done. They had been doing this for decades and it was very effective.

The British, on the other hand, had a strictly hierarchical system which ran on an excessively tight need to know basis. The officers more or less knew what they were supposed to be doing but most of it was kept secret from the men. So, when the officers were taken out the men were running around like headless chickens.

Lar Joye & Jennifer Wellington

The Germans also operated deep defence, which meant if they were pushed back they already had further defensive positions prepared into which they could retreat. This system operated up to around five kilometers and could in some cases extend even to ten.

As it turned out the whole battle of the Somme, from June to November 1916, for all the slaughter, was limited to a front line which only advanced six miles in all.

In fact the Germans were almost happy enough to retreat if the price they could exact from British forces in the meantime remained high enough.

Verdun and the Somme had not been chosen for their strategic value. The Germans chose to attack Verdun because of its symbolic value since the time of Charlemagne. The British chose the Somme because it was at the point where the British and French armies came together. But it was only a bit of land and not particularly important in itself, one way or another. Haig had apparently wanted to fight in Flanders and finally got his way later in the war.

Tom Burke

The value, or otherwise, of commemorating major events, such as the Somme, was discussed and the general feeling was that this was worthwhile if properly done. People should be aware of all aspects of their past and as well as this giving them a sense of identity they might actually learn some lessons from it. Reference was made to the value of recent North/South cooperation on the Somme project as having broken down some previouly existing barriers.

There was, however, a warning note sounded about commemoration unjustifiably turning into excessive celebration. The example quoted was Gallipoli which was an unmitigated disaster but was apparently commemorated in Australia, with a degree of national fervour and a high public spend, as though they had won and not lost that one.

Tommy invited the audience to pitch in at various points in the discussion. Interventions were substantive and one that stayed with me was the degree of intelligence (military not intellectual) available to both sides. They almost knew the names of the guys opposite (warning: poetic licence!).

David Murphy

I should mention in passing that David and I nearly shared a platform at the Alliance Français's Café Historique on the Martello Towers but it was not to be. So the Hedge School gave me an opportunity to say hello.

The panel were excellent and no one was in the least fazed by any of Tommy's googlies.

The above is only a small flavour of what went on at the Hedge School. The audio is now up here where you can catch up with the whole thing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


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It must have been around 2008, just when it came on the market, or soon thereafter, that I got a present of one of these lovely little voice recorders. I had chosen it myself and had specifically requested one from which the files could be digitally transferred to the computer.

The software was quite sophisticated and flexible and I had some fun with it.

All went well, until my computer crashed in 2011 and I got a new one. The original was on Windows XP, but that was going out of fashion at that stage and the new one came with Windows 7 as an operating system.

As you can see from the above illustration that shouldn't have been a problem as Sony had a downloadable driver for that.

Unfortunately that didn't work, any more than it does now with Windows 10 which Microsoft foisted on me when I wasn't paying attention.

So what's the problem. Even where drivers have not been fully updated Windows has an option to download them and run the software in a form compatible with the earlier versions.

The trap was that both the Windows 7 and 10 on my machine were 64 bit versions and Sony only catered for 32 bit versions. So, short of copying the recordings onto the computer via an analogue cable (out the earphone and in the mic) and risk losing quality, my recorder is now effectively useless.

There is a note covering this in the manual if you have your microscope handy (above).

And just to nail their colours to the mast, Sony have the files stored in proprietary (ie their own) format, and anyway, the recorder can only speak to the computer via their software which doesn't now recognise it.

No question of simply having the recorder treatable like a straight external drive/USB stick. Not on your nanny.

Such contempt for the customer is a disgrace and that is why Sony sucks.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Who is it ? No. 1

Courtesy RHA
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I have been running a "Where is it?" series on this blog for some time now and the other day I had a thought to complement it with a "Who is it?" series, of which this is the first. Answers in a comment to this post please.

You can see the full "where" series by clicking on the "Where?" tag at the bottom of this post, and the remaining unsolved ones by clicking on the "unsolved" tag in the latest post in the resulting series, if there is one.

For the current "who" series, when it gets into its stride you will be able to see the full series by clicking on the "Who?" tag at the bottom of the post and the remaining unsolved ones by clicking on the "WhoUnknown" tag.

Good luck.

Update 24/7/2016

I can see I'm going to have to give a clue here.

The piece below is a detail from one of his creations.

Sunday, July 10, 2016


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In 1973/4 I was working on Northern Ireland affairs, among other things, in the Southern administration.

In the course of my work I regularly got the Belfast Telegraph. While this was strictly speaking for the economic and financial news it contained, there were other aspects of the paper which caught my eye and I occasionally cut them out to keep.

You can check out a few of these below.

While today's Belfast Telegraph has a more cosmopolitan air about it, it was in those days a very provincial paper and the headline on the above item has always seemed to me to be a very good illustration of this.

Then there was the religious stuff which we in the South took with a pinch of salt. I mean you really can't take heretics too seriously, can you now. Nevertheless we did expect a certain amount of consistency and if a fortune teller can't tell their own fortune, never mind anyone else's, well, really.

In times of adversity it is always nice to know you have the better class of reader.

This one always had a Laurel and Hardy air about it for me. Paving is one thing, but on your own initiative sounds to me a bit more like crazy paving.

This one is not funny, but it is interesting that one year's toll of smoking equals 30 years toll of troubles. Deaths in the troubles peaked in the period 1972-6, which this is slap bang in the middle of. I assume here that by Ulster they mean Northern Ireland.

Not surprising then that the hearse was in daily use at the time.

I know why I kept these, but I'd better hould me whisht for fear I'd get sued.

And, finally, things must be really going downhill when even the Information Officer bails out.


John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin, 1940-72

As well as educating the poor, I assume the Christian Brothers were also expected to instill some degree of Christianity into their pupils. As a pupil in a Christian Brothers' school, Coláiste Mhuire, however, I got very mixed messages. And the culprit here was the Diocesan Exam.

An Bráthair C. R. Ó Maitiú - Matty

To be fair we got the full range of "dos and don'ts". Do honour thy father and thy mother (and by extension the teacher in loco parentis). Do go regularly to Confession and confess ALL your sins, from dirty thoughts to the other thing. Don't let yourself fall victim to young ones who are only out to tempt you from the straight and narrow - that is before they grow into the holy mothers of Ireland. Be honest, and, by the way, honesty is not just the best policy, it is a principle. And so on.

Coláiste Mhuire. Chapel is behind granite frontage.

And then there was the diocesan exam.

Given that most of the religion classes during the year consisted of warnings about sexual predators (young girls from Scoil Caitríona) and the consequences of playing with yourself (blindness), we were usually ill prepared for this exam which covered catechetics, social ethics, church history and I'm sure a raft of other stuff I can't remember. So, during the two weeks immediately preceding the exam, most other subjects were abandoned and we sweated the religious stuff into our temporarily empty heads.

So far so good. And then came the day of the exam.

The priest from the Palace arrived with a big envelope stuffed with exam papers. He was welcomed most deferentially by the brothers, who may even have addressed him as your eminence for all I know. What I do know is that in the face of all this flattery and an invitation to come and see the beautiful chapel, the poor man failed to notice the brothers politely relieving him of his envelope.

Fast forward up three flights of stairs to the hall in the attic, where we are all assembled to take the exam. The brother extracts one exam paper from the envelope and proceeds to make sure we all understand the questions and the answers expected of us.

Even after this extensive briefing I was in some doubt about an ambiguity in one of the questions and approached the invigilating brother at the top of the hall. "Have you got your book in with you?" he enquired. "I have" sez I. "Well then, bring it up here". In handing me back my book he left his finger stuck in the page with the answer to the question.

We always got very good marks in the diocesan exam.

Mícheál Ó Doibhilín

There was once a black mark, however.

One of the questions one of the years read something like "What is wrong with the Welfare State?".

I should put this in context. The Roman Catholic (and Apostolic) Church, and Archbishop John Charles McQuaid in particular, were very wary of the State encroaching on what they saw as church matters. Their view of the Church's jurisdiction included education and virtually all of the social services, including any soup kitchens that might spring up (cf. the famine). This was also only a decade after the bruising conflict between Church and State over the Mother and Child Bill (qv.).

Pagan England's post war welfare state was, most definitely, anathema.

One pupil, above, replied to the question, pointing out that there was nothing wrong with the welfare state and that we could do with a bit more of it here. Well, all hell broke loose, and the rumour was that the Palace sought an apology from the school. Whether it got one or not is still unknown. What is known is that the pupil concerned was never asked by the school to apologise for his heretical writings. I suspect the school realised that this would be a waste of time and possibly escalate the dispute to even greater heights.

Remains of secularised and abandoned chapel

I am glad to say that, to this day, that pupil has remained a republican socialist, while the lovely school chapel is gone - turned into a classroom before the whole building had to be abandoned for health and safety reasons.

If, after reading this post, he confirms the story and allows his name to go forward for secular canonisation, I will name him. He deserves to be honoured. [Update: done]

Sic transit gloria ecclesiae.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Where is it ? No. 47

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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.


Morgan Costello, final year, 1951, Coláiste Mhuire

The occasion of this post is the death of Morgan Costello on 3 July 2016.

I have posted on him elsewhere shortly after discovering, in 2012, that he had been a child sex abuser in St. Catherine's parish in Meath St. in Dublin's Liberties in the mid-1960s. He was accused of buggering a young man there over a period of a few years.

Since I did that post in October 2012 it has become clear that his activities in Meath St. were only a part of a wider picture.

Comments left on my post revealed that he was a known abuser in Seán McDermott St. and in Portmarnock/Baldoyle at least.

One commenter blames him for his brother's suicide. Another describes how he was defended by the commenter's father from an attacking crowd in Seán McDermott St. While the father did not believe the rumours, the mother made sure that none of her children were ever left alone with Morgan Costello. She was not the only mother in the country who safeguarded her children in this way.

One commenter tells that Morgan Costello was a prolific abuser and sadist in Portmarnock while another commenter tells how he was shifted from there after having being found to have abused a boy in the vestry.

Morgan Costello, first assignment, c.1959/60,
Chaplain, Cenacle Convent, Killiney

But it was before all of this that he came on his first priestly assignment to be Chaplain to the nuns in the Cenacle Convent, Killiney.

Morgan Costello, Celebrant, Cenacle Convent, Killiney

Myself and my friend Brian Reynolds along with a number of other neighbouring boys were altar boys there at that time.

That's me, on the left, in the picture above.

Morgan Costello, Court Appearance, 2010

It took till the year 2010 for him to be brought before the court for buggering the young man in Meath St., but the hearings kept being postponed and the case was finally abandoned by the DPP. I assume that this was due to either Morgan Costello's or the victim's health. So, while charged, after an intensive Garda investigation, he was never actually convicted by a court.

However, the fact that charges were brought after all these years, and after an intensive Garda investigation, combined with the comments referred to above leave me in no doubt what the outcome of the trial would have been had it been pursued to its conclusion.

I should make it clear that I was not abused by him and my anger comes from a wider sense of betrayal.

In keeping with current practice in these cases, the funeral was private, and I understand that known victims will be informed after the event. As there was no notice of the death in the papers, I don't know where the unknown victims will learn of his death other than on this blog.


Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Commemorating 1916

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This talk is one in a series under the 1916 banner. This particular one is actually dealing with how 1916 itself has been commemorated in the Republic down the years and it is the last in the series of 1916 talks. It was given in the Dublin Library and Archive on 23 June 2016.

Tara Doyle

The speaker was introduced by Tara Doyle who is one of the librarians working on the 1916 Commemorations for Dublin City Council.

Donal Fallon shuffling his notes.

This talk is being given by Donal Fallon who is a social historian with a great familiarity with this area. Donal is one of the team of three who produce the Dublin blog Come Here To Me! and he has written a great book on that other event which overshadowed the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Rising, the blowing up of Nelson's Pillar in March 1966.

Liberty Hall Banner 1917
"James Connolly Murdered May 12th 1916"

Straight into the first anniversary of the Rising in 1917. The Rising itself was commemorated at Easter, which in that year fell on 8th April (Sunday). The authorities were expecting trouble and banned public assemblies. Nevertheless, lots of people turned out to commemorate the Rising.

Later, on 12 May 1917, a banner made by Helena Moloney and some other ladies was put up on Liberty Hall reminding people of the murder of James Connolly the previous year. This was taken down by the police, an action which incensed the ladies who promptly made up a replacement banner. This was attached to the building higher up than the first one and remained there long enough to remind a good few passers by of the previous year's execution.

Eater Lily, introduced in 1926

The next big event was the tenth anniversary in 1926. This saw the introduction of the Easter Lily in opposition to the WWI poppy which was still widely worn on Armistice Day. The Lily got off to a slow start and tended to be worn by members of the then current republican movement as opposed to those who participated in the Rising.

Remembrance Sunday, Wellington Monument, Phoenix Park, 1926

By my day, there was little talk of commemorating WWI and even less about those who fought for the British Army. In fact, they did not "come down from the attic" until the 1990s and subsequently, in no small part due to the efforts of the two Marys (Robinson & McAleese) to restore those who fought, and those who died, to their rightful place in the memory of the nation. However, in earlier years, as the above photo shows, there were fairly massive turnouts on Remembrance Sunday.

Mrs Kathleen Clarke

The year 1926 also saw the formation of the National Graves Association, whose aim was to maintain the graves of republicans and erect appropriate plaques and headstones where these were lacking. This was a very widely based organisation, with, for example, Kathleen Clarke, widow of Tom Clarke and a founder member of Fianna Fáil, as its treasurer.

There was a certain amount of violence associated with commemorations through the 1920s and 1930s. While the earlier period saw conflicts based on Irish/British identities, those in the later period were more left versus right with the Catholics rooting out the Commies.

A last glimpse of Nelson from the viewing platform before the fall

The next major commemoration was the 50th anniversary in 1966. This saw an outpouring of patriotic fervour but was dominated by two events.

First the screening of the television series, Insurrection, which re-enacted the Rising. This was hugely popular and was populated with well known actors of the day.

But the event which stole the show was the toppling of Nelson from his pillar beside the GPO just as major preparations were under way for the big national march past at this iconic site.

Donal had good things to say about the current centenary commemorations which have attracted participation by a wide spectrum of factions and elements across society.

He ended with the hope that this community spirit carries on into the upcoming commemorations of the War of Independence, and more particularly the Civil War.

Hard to say, when the dead from that latter period still have their guns out of their holsters.

You can hear Donal's talk here in full.