Sunday, March 29, 2020


Investiture of the Prince of Wales
Click on any image for a slightly larger version

I rarely watch television or films these days, but it was recently suggested to me that I watch The Crown on Netflix. And I'm glad I did, well, that I am, I've just got to 1969.

It has been very interesting seeing events from a Palace perspective. Things were clearly more complex than I would have realised at the time following them from the outside.

In general, the series is very good and they seem to have made a big effort to make it authentic. I was impressed, for example, by the genuine Welshness of the portrayal of the Aberfan disaster of 1966.

From The Crown

Which brings me to the main topic of this post - the Investiture of the Prince of Wales in Caernarfon Castle on 1 July 1969. I have a particular interest in this event, having watched it live on telly from my home in Ballybrack and taken some photos off the tv screen at the time. You can see a wee montage of some of these at the top of this post.

It was following a visit to the Welsh National Eisteddfod a month after the Investiture that I started to take an interest in the Welsh language, and retrospectively in the Prince's speech in Welsh, on which I have already blogged.

The Palace Script

It was a brief OK speech, and, given where he was coming from, he made a fair fist of it.

However, watching The Crown's version of it pulled me up short. The actual speech, a Palace script, carefully made the usual genuflections to Welsh culture etc. Restraint was the order of the day. You can hear it in my earlier blog post and read it here.

In the picture above from The Crown you can see the Prince reading the script as passed by the Palace. Note the crested paper.

The Prince's Addition

But the, in the middle of the Welsh version, the Prince inserts some text of his own as translated by his tutor, Tedi Millward. This he does not repeat in the English language version which follows.

The idea in the film is that, following his coming to Wales to prepare himself for the Investiture, he began to see things from a Welsh perspective and included, off his own bat, material worthy of a member of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the radical Welsh Language Society, in his speech.

Here's an English translation of what he's depicted as adding:
It was a great honour to be welcomed to Wales, and to have my eyes opened to the Welsh perspective. Wales has a history to be proud of and it is completely understandable that the Welsh wish to hold on to their heritage, their native culture, their identity, their disposition and their personality as a nation. It is important we respect that. Wales has her own identity. Her own character. Her own will. Her own voice.

Now, this never happened and I really don't know what the film is up to here. It is a blatant piece of historical revisionism the like of which I haven't seen to date.

As portrayed elsewhere in the film, the sad truth appears to be that the Prime Minister thought up this investiture gimmick to defuse emerging nationalist sentiments in Wales.

And the cynicism of the whole thing is shown up by the Prince's lack of use of Welsh since then.

You can get some idea of the frequency of his use of Welsh, then and since (to 2014), here,.

Of the 10 speeches I found which had some Welsh in them, all but 2 consisted of a speech in English with a short intro and short sign off in Welsh. The exceptions are the Investiture speech from July 1969 (half in Welsh/half in English, published February 1970) and one on the opening of the Welsh Assembly (published in May 1999 and all in Welsh).


Friday, March 27, 2020


Former RIC Barracks, Gowran, Co. Kilkenny

I was thinking about my family history recently and wondering if there were any themes running through it that I could work up into a talk.

Needless to say I had, unsurprisingly, quite a lot of deaths, some more interesting than others.

I had three infant deaths, including from infant cholera and teething, the latter descriptor being applied, I gather, in cases where they hadn't a clue about the cause of death.

I had four drownings, in India, Dublin, Ballinasloe and Jutland.

I had four deaths from tuberculosis, all in Dublin.

And so on.

My plan was to tell these people's stories, particularly of their deaths, against a backdrop of the incidence of these causes in the wider society, and then invite people to think about patterns in their own families.

It was only when Ida Milne published her book, Stacking the Coffins, on the 1918 flu epidemic that it occurred to me that I had not come across any flu deaths in the family.

But there had been a reference to flu, which I now realise was to the 1918 epidemic, though death was not involved in this case.

In 1920, Larry Medlar, from Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny, was before a British military court, accused of having taken part in an unsuccessful attack on Gowran RIC barracks. His defence didn't do him any good as he had been caught almost red handed, and he got the death penalty.

His three pronged defence consisted of an alibi, force majeure, and not being the full shilling since having the flu two years earlier.

Even I, at this remove, and knowing what I know, could see the flimsiness of the defence and clearly the court didn't entertain any of it for a minute.

Given that the two non-flu grounds were blatant lies, we have to wonder about the flu.

And that's where the cuckoo's nest comes in.

Monday, March 23, 2020


Click on any image for a larger version

If you already know the answer to this puzzle, pass on, this post is not for you.

If not, let me explain the puzzle.

The boatman needs to get the fox, the goose, and the grain, across the river. He can only take one at a time in the boat. He cannot leave the fox and the goose together or the fox would eat the goose. He cannot leave the goose and the grain together or the goose would eat the grain.

The solution is at the bottom of this post and the intervening text is just so it's well off your screen at this point if you choose to take up the challenge.


These are difficult times and many people will be going stir crazy at home. When you're just trying to kill time it can be very difficult, for example, to read a book. You sort of know you're fooling yourself.

For me, the best example was when I was scared of flying & trying to read a book on a plane. I seldom got beyond the first page before the fear set in and I totally lost concentration. Despite starting over, I seldom got as far as figuring out what the page was about.

However, I found puzzles much more engaging & distracting, and it is in this spirit I am offering this post.

I knew this puzzle of old and it is one of my favourites for illustrating thinking outside the box.

To distract myself yesterday I just thought I'd try and illustrate the solution from scratch and this killed a morning for me.

I had first to think out how I'd present it, then scour the internet for appropriate images, and then whack them into shape. (And thanks to all from whom I "borrowed" them.)

That done I painstakingly constructed the full illustration of the solution below.

Saturday, March 07, 2020


Click on any image for a larger version

This is the dramatic setting in which I found myself last evening (6/3/2020) - Dublin's Smithfield.

It was once an open market but is now one of the jazzier sites on the Liffey's left bank. It boasts a LUAS stop, the Cobblestone pub, and most dramatically the chimney of the defunct Jameson Distillery (above), which is now a panoramic viewing tower with twice as many steps to climb as Admiral Nelson's blown up Pillar.

This is where The Spy Who Came in from the Cold was filmed. This was Checkpoint Charlie.

Unlike the real Checkpoint Charlie, today's Smithfield is a more dignified development.

But that's all by the way and not why I was here. Smithfield houses the Light House Cinema and this is currently one of the venues hosting the Dublin International Film Festival.

Click on image for a readable copy

I'm here for the shorts, appropriate enough in the vicinity of a distillery, but no, the cinematic shorts in the one and a half hour programme above.

My particular interest is in Shaun Dunne's Iarscoláire, in which I have an invisible part.

The film's idea is simple. It concerns Coláiste Mhuire in Parnell Square where I went to school. In more recent times the building became dangerous and the school had to move out in 2003.

The secondary section moved to Cabra where it is apparently thriving. The primary section is currently inadequately housed across the road in Parnell Square with a longstanding promise of a new building.

Meanwhile, the old building is falling apart while Dublin City Council is trying to figure out a way of funding it to host an expansive version of the City Library, currently located in the ILAC shopping centre.

The plan is part of a wider effort to develop the north city centre, and more particularly Parnell Square, as a cultural quarter and counterweight to the southside.

Shaun's short 11 minute film was selected for showing at this year's festival. He has another short in the night's programme, Coventry, but I'm not dealing with that here.

So, off we go with tonight's world premiere of Iarscoláire.

I was interested to see how it would turn out. I had been around for the shoot in the old school and had recorded some voice-overs (hence the invisibility), but I had no real idea of the shape of the thing or the final effect that Shaun was aiming at.

Hopefully you'll get to see the film sometime, but here's a shot off the cutting room floor - a carefully orchestrated charge by current primary pupils from the back lane gate into the main yard area.

While this sequence didn't make the final cut, it was just one more piece out of the vast amount of work that went into the making of an 11 minute short.

It will also show you the "cut of the place". This was a recurring theme in the film and was very sad for those of us past pupils from the 1960s in the audience.

This is literally where we did drill (glacaíocht) in the past under the watchful and demanding eye of our, retired soldier, drill master.

Here's a snuk shot of Shaun giving the team a pre-performance pep talk. I was watching very carefully and in the event they all did exactly as they were told.

Meanwhile, back on Stardeck at the epicentre of the shoot. Abandoned for the moment as all the members of the day's small film team are out the back doing the shoot itself.

It was certainly an appropriate room from which to run the shoot.

This, as you can see, is Seomra 1916 where what subsequently became the 1916 Rising was conceived and agreed by all parties present in September 1914.

England's difficulty was to be Ireland's opportunity.

On the night, there was just time for a very brief Q&A on the stage. This consisted of the MC quizzing the young directors on how they came to make their films.

It was a very positive and worthwhile exchange and boded well for the future of Irish film making.

That's our Shaun on the right.

Congratulations, Shaun, on your achievement. Hopefully your direct plea in the film for a decent new building for the bunscoil, and your implied plea for the worthy use of the old building, will bear fruit in the near future.

And this is invisible me. A still from the trailer though I didn't appear onscreen in the film itself. A wise artistic call.

Thanks Shaun for my first ever voice-over. I should mention that I first met Shaun early last year when he put out a call for iarscoláirí from The Ark who produced the film.

BREAKING: I've just learned that Iarscoláire has won the Audience Award for the shorts category. Comhghairdeachas Shaun.

A "colour shot" on the way out. There was a lot of buzz around the Festival and this, no doubt, is some very important person being interviewed by some well known commentator. Don't ask me.

Rounding off as we started with a reminder of our dramatic setting as we came out into the winter dark

Wednesday, March 04, 2020


Click on any image for a larger version

Ireland is now well past the midpoint of the decade of commemorations. The 1913 Lockout, the 1916 Rising, the 1918 General Election and the 1919 First Dáil are behind us. And we are facing into the tricky bits of the 1919-21 War of Independence and the 1922-24 Civil War.

One of the difficulties posed by the War of Independence is the large number of Irishmen on the opposing side, in the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC).

A recent effort by the Government to stage a remembrance ceremony for the RIC, and particularly those members who died during the War of Independence, had to be abandoned in the face of widespread protests.

Nature of the force

You could look on the RIC as an ordinary civil police force, and they did all the things that such a police force would do. But, over the years, they had also been the eyes and ears of the British administration and during the Land War had overseen evictions of the Irish from their homesteads. Also, they were an armed force.

They became the target of the IRA in the War of Independence, and attacks on rural barracks forced most of them to withdraw into the relative safety of the towns.

In the course of 1920, their numbers were augmented with British ex-servicemen: Black & Tans (ex-soldiers) and Auxiliaries (ex-officers). These additional members were specifically recruited to carry out reprisals, including against civilians, which they did on a large scale. They were subject to little if any discipline and created widespread havoc.

The Government's commemoration was aimed at the local bobby on the beat, so to speak, but there was no effective way of isolating this element of the force's activities and any ceremonials would end up commemorating the force as a whole. Hence the protests.


So on to my family, which can "boast" six RIC members, three blood-related and three inlaws.

For the sake of clarity I should point out that they were all out of the force by 1911.

I have set out their records below, but let me first make some comments of more general interest.

Out of County

There was a rule in the RIC that a member should not serve in his own county or that of his wife if he was married. Yet my grandfather and his brother in law both served in their wives' county, Mayo.

I think this may have happened due to my great-grandfather's influence. The wives were his daughters, both born in Mayo where he himself served. When he died in 1910 the force then attempted to transfer my grandfather out of the county. He resigned instead of moving but still lived on in the house in Barracks St. behind the RIC station.

Ongoing danger

Some measure of the animosity of Republicans to RIC men, including those who were retired, may be gathered from the fact that no mention was made of my grandfather in his son's death notice in the newspaper in 1920.

He was very much alive at the time and had been at the inquest in Ballinasloe, breathing fire against a local boatman whom he held responsible for his son's death.

However, RIC men were being taken out and shot in both Ballyhaunis & Ballinasloe at that time.

Our Lady of Knock

I have often wondered if my great-grandfather had been called on to write up a report on the Knock apparitions of 1879. He was stationed in Kiltimagh at the time and I understand that RIC from surrounding districts had been drafted in to report on these strange occurrences.

Marriage Bar

The RIC recruited single men and they were forbidden to marry for a period of seven years. I'm sure that this led to some degree of sexual tension in many cases.

Perusing the records, you can see a rash of marriages occurring just seven years after enlistment.

My grandfather is reputed to have stashed his bride-to-be in Liverpool for safekeeping during this period, though I'm sure this in itself must have been something of a gamble.

His brother, also in the RIC, resigned after five years in the force, ostensibly to emigrate, but really to get married. His granddaughter, Peig, later married a grandson of Eoin MacNeill.

The Records


Michael Dwyer
Life: 1860-1941 RIC: 1881-1911 Rank: Constable Service No.: 46669

Michael was my paternal grandfather.

He is recorded as joining the RIC in Limerick in 1881(he was from Cappanahanagh in East Limerick, near the Tipperary border). Prior to joining the RIC he was a farmer.

He was stationed initially in Kiltimagh, where he met my granny.

When Michael married, he was transferred to Longford, as RIC men were not stationed in either their county of origin or the county of origin of their spouse. Unusually, Michael was transferred back to Mayo, his wife's county, a year later. He remained in Mayo (mainly Ballyhaunis) until his retirement in 1911. There is a suggestion in the family that he retired because the force intended to transfer him out of Ballyhaunis. This would have been in the year following the death of his (RIC) father in law, Luke Reilly.

Michael was pensioned in 1911 so he was well retired when he went to Ballinasloe to reclaim his drowned son's body in 1922. There is no mention in any of the newspaper reports, or in his son's death notice, of the RIC connection. This was a dangerous time for former RIC men who were being taken out and shot (not always fatally) by the anti-Treaty IRA. He retired at the rank of Constable (post 1883 designation = no promotions)

Luke Reilly
Life: 1822[1829]-1910 RIC: 1853-1884 Rank: Constable Service No.:22161

Luke was my paternal granny's father.

He hailed originally from Sligo, as did his wife. He was stationed in Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo for a substantial part of his career and it was here that he raised his family. I am aware of at least four of a family, including my granny. He stayed on in Kiltimagh after his retirement and he is buried with his wife, two children and a grandchild in the local graveyard. He retired at the rank of Constable (post 1883 designation = no promotions)

Eoin MacNeill

William Dwyer
Life: 1858- ?? RIC: 1882-1887 Rank: Constable Service No.: 49205

William was an older sibling of my grandfather Michael.

He also joined the RIC in Limerick in 1882, a year after Michael.

For some reason, known only to himself he claimed to be 18½ when he was actually 24.

He had a short and not distinguished career in the force. He was fined twice, 15/- in 1884 (Galway West Riding) and 30/- in 1887 (Waterford), substantial amounts for the time. I have no idea what for.

He resigned from the force in 1887 claiming he was going to emigrate. In fact he got married in that year, two years before he would have been allowed to had he stayed in the force. He married Bridget from Co. Westmeath and they had two children, Mary (b. 1897) and William (b. 1900). Both children were born in Co. Tipperary so it's an open question whether William ever emigrated.

He ended up in Crowle, near Cloughjordan, in Co. Tipperary as a publican (1911 Census).

His grand-daughter Peig married Michael Tierney's son thereby relating us to Eoin MacNeill who was Tierney's father in law {and also to Michael and Moore McDowell, whose mother was a daughter of MacNeill).

When the 1911 census caught up with him in Crowle, he claimed to be a publican and RIC pensioner. It is hard to see how his short, and clearly not exemplary, career in the RIC would have entitled him to a pension and there is no indication in RIC records that he ever got one.

In laws

Edward Crosby
Life: 1857-?? RIC: 1879-1905 Rank: Sergeant Service No.: 45114

Edward was a farmer and originally from Kildare, where he joined the RIC in 1879. He was stationed in Kiltimagh, where he met and married my granny's sister, Jane. They moved to Ballina at some stage and Edward is recorded as living there after his retirement in 1905. In the course of his career Edward was promoted to Sergeant.

Thomas O'Brien
Life: 1844-?? RIC: 1868-1900 Rank: Constable [Sergeant?] Service No.: 34353

Thomas O'Brien is the father of Mary Kate O'Brien who married Christopher Joseph Burgess, a granduncle on my mother's side.

In 1904 he was living in St. John's Terrace, in Mountbrown, Dublin. As Dublin City was policed by the DMP (Dublin Metropolitan Police) rather than the RIC, he would not have served there and probably moved to Dublin after his retirement.

He was appointed Sub Constable and promoted Assistant Constable and Constable, at which rank he retired in 1900. As these promotions predated the reorganisation of grades he would have been subsequently designated Sargeant (which title replaced the former three chevron grade of Constable in 1883).

He was recruited in Galway/Mayo in 1868 and served initially in Co. Kildare (Celbridge) but after he married Kate Condron from Sallins in 1876 he was shifted to Co. Roscommon (Boyle - he lived in Ballyfarnon).

John Medlar
Life: 1828-?? RIC: 1847-1849 Rank: Subconstable Service No.: 8556

John Medlar is either an ancestor of the Dublin Medlars, or is closely related to their ancestors.

His RIC career was a short one. He was recruited at 19 years of age in Kilkenny in 1847. His previous trade was a blacksmith in that county. He was assigned to Co. Cavan and his career initially looked promising as he was promoted to subconstable in 1848, but he was [subsequently] fined twice and was dismissed in September 1849.

RIC Records

You can check out their individual records here. This is just the ledger entries which I consulted at DCLA in Pearse St. I suspect there may be fuller reports on some aspects of these in Kew.

While I'm at it I would like to record my gratitude to, and admiration of, Jim Herlihy who has written what I have described as the most boring book in the world. Without it, none of this record tracing would have been possible.

And Finally, in Conclusion ...

I had three blood relatives in the British Army:

Thomas Mortimer, a granduncle, who drowned in Ranikhet. India, in 1892, in an unsuccessful attempt to save a drowning colleague, who also drowned.

John Dwyer, an uncle, who was killed on the Somme in September 1916 in the successful but costly, assault on High Wood.

John Burgess, a granduncle, whose father disinherited him when he enlisted in 1914/15, but who, despite being wounded, survived WWI.

And then there's the Medlars of Paulstown, cousins of cousins by marriage a few times removed.

The whole family was what I describe as mad republicans, and they constitute many separate stories in themselves.

There is also an RIC connection here. Larry Medlar was sentenced to death for an unsuccessful attack on Gowran RIC Barracks in 1921.

Friday, February 21, 2020


Click on any image for a larger version

I've already blogged here about this exhibition and competition.

Tonight's the night of the adjudication (19/2/2020), though the exhibition goes on till 2 March 2020.

By popular demand the exhibition has now been extended to 9 March 2020.

Let's start at the end, for once.

Having commented on the photos worth a commendation and those from 5th to 2nd prize, the co-adjudicator, Eamon O'Daly, announced the winning photo.

Mongolian Dancer

One of the elements, if not the main one, that appealed to Eamon was the choice of shutter speed which enabled the motion to be captured but retained the clear face of the musician in the background.

And the winning photographer, Liz Stowe from Raheny Camera Club.

Some of the other winners

[A point to bear in mind when looking at the pictures: I have taken these as photos of the exhibits on the wall. The room lighting, while good, is not ideal for this. While I've made every effort to avoid it, it has not always been possible to get a picture without some trace of light reflection even on matt surfaces. The camera is more sensitive to this than is the human eye.]

Not doin too well - Tony McCann - 2nd

Eamon was very taken with this photo, to which he awarded 2nd prize. He noted the contrast between how the busker, Martin McDonnell, is doing so badly in the street and his €15 admission gig in Whelans in aid of the Irish Cancer Society the previous night.

He also noted the composition of the photo, with the musician and his street audience.

Firestarter - Maurice Ward

Chinese Dancer - Gunita Zonberga 4th

Puc fada - Tony McCann

Backstage - Vivion Mulcahy

Non-winners I liked

A show of hardness - Birgit Kreischman

Are you listening to me? - Billy White

Delayed delivery - Jean Crowley

Watching you - Alan Shelley

Wind beneath my wings - Charlie O'Neill

I'm probably influenced in favour of this one as I think it is taken beside the current ruins of my old school in Parnell Square.

And then there's this one

Bono - Paul Rainey

I have a blind spot when it comes to Bono. No offence to the photographer who appears to have got a very impressive shot. To me it's Bono as Jesus Christ and the Edge as the Mannekin Pis. Used to sing with the Edge's Da in a choir.

The Independents

There were ten entries in all from independents (ie non-club members) of which six are shown above. In other years these were judged in a separate category of their own. This year they went into the general pot and Vivion (middle top, referred to above) was among the prizewinners.

Checking out the independents

And there seemed to be quite a bit of interest in this category among the audience.

Cheeky photo

Hanging on every word - Sam Keegan

This cheeky photo includes both Michael Edwards, who started and ran the competition up to this year, speaking on the left, and the current adjudicator, Eamon, listening on the right.

I mentioned that I thought it was a cheeky photo to the man I was talking to at the time, only to figure out later that he was the photographer.


Barry Crowley

Barry, as well as taking on a role in organising this year's competition, also acted as MC on the night. In the course of thanking the sponsors, he graciously acknowledged the role of Michael Edwards and his team, Siobhán, Dermot and Vanessa, both as the local photo shop and in running the competition over the years.

Michael sent his apologies for his unavoidable absence on the night.

Eamon & Christine

There were actually two adjudicators, both Eamon and his wife Christine. While Eamon did all the talking, he made it clear that Christine had to share any credit - or blame - for the decisions made!

Pat McCabe

Pat is the manager of the Donaghmede Shopping Centre and he provided both the exhibition space and the catering from Kay's.

Aileen, left, & Elaine from DCC

Dublin City Council (DCC) have been a major sponsor in the past and thanks to Pat Carey for keeping them on board in the post-Edwardian dispensation. Pat is also responsible for the poster at the head of my earlier post.

The Council have provided 10 very nice awards (placed, from 1st to 5th, and 5 Highly Commended). I've included photos from both categories under winners above but specified a placing where relevant.

Brian Whelan

Brian is Bermingham Cameras on Burgh Quay. I think I remember that this was where Michael Edwards started out on his photo career. But Michael now tells me he started out in Hurson's of Talbot St with Paddy Bermingham ( 1965 ) and it was another 8 years before he joined him again in Burgh Quay. (See his comment below)

Bermingham's have been associated with and supported the competition from the outset and this year again provided prizes for the top three winners.

Brian & Gunita

Three former Benedictines
Pat Carey, Martin Ryan & Maurice Ward

I got to know them via St. Benedict's Camera Club, which now rejoices under the title North Dublin Camera Club.

Brian & Jean Crowley

An independent victory (mentioned above}. Jean Crowley accepting his prize for Vivion, who did turn up but was unavoidably absent for this stage of the proceedings.

Christine is “debriefing” Tony McCann with his wife, Margaret, watching. I should mention that the adjudicators seemed quite willing to discuss their entries with the photographers.

I didn't dare ask.

My Entries

Now that the adjudication is done and there is no further need for anonymity, I'd like to comment on my own two entries, neither of which attracted the adjudicator's attention on the night.


This the stage door of the Olympia Theatre. It is an invitation to go onstage but at the same time a reminder that all playacting is playing with fire. What might the act trigger in a member of the audience?

I am reminded of Edward Ball in the Gate Theatre at a performance of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment where Roskolnikov kills an old woman with an axe. Shortly afterwards Edward meted out the same fate to his mother.

Equally, of course, the theatre itself could go on fire, as it did in the film Only Two Can Play.


This was a bit of a mind-blower, to be frank. Cecelia Hartsell, heself an African American, talking about former slave and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, under his watchful eye.

Photo: Sam Keegan, Howth Camera Club

It's not often I'm on this side of the camera, so I thought I'd take a bow.

Thanks Sam.

The entries shown above are just a a very small selection from what's on show. Always remember that no adjudication is the only one possible, as Eamon freely admits. So do drop in to see the exhibition before it closes and see what you'd have picked as winners. There's a lot of serious quality on show.

By popular demand the exhibition has now been extended to 9 March 2020.