Ireland

All Ireland Senior Hurling Final

Sunday, 18 August, 2019

Kilkenny have won the trophy 36 times and Tipperary 27 times, and yet they keep coming back for more. Today’s installment of this classic between Tipperary and Kilkenny will be a physical affair with more emphasis on fitness and brawn rather than the fine arts of the game but the traditionalist will be pleased with that.

hurling

Cashman: Summing up the state of the game in the year 2000, the laureate critic of hurling, the great Cork hurling writer, Kevin Cashman, put it thus: “In Kilkenny they very notably think long and hard about the game of hurling sometimes to the extent of outsmarting themselves. In Cork we think long and hard, too, except that much of what we think is complacency or cliché; in Tipp it is self-delusion; in Clare paranoia; in Wexford nostalgia; and in Limerick grudgery.”

RESULT: Tipperary 3-25 – Kilkenny 0-20. It ended in a rout for Tipp and the fateful decision was taken by the referee, James Owens, just before half-time, when he red-carded Richie Hogan for an alleged high challenge on Tipperary’s Cathal Barrett. It was a critical moment that ended the game as a contest. Referees need to be very, very sure when showing a red card.


Which strange creature, once upon a time…

Saturday, 17 August, 2019

… passed this way? This way was established tens of millions of years before the Ice Age, and the Alien-like results can be seen today in the Mitchelstown Caves.

Mitchelstown Caves


It’s the Pattern Day

Thursday, 15 August, 2019

The “drawing in” of the hay was a typical activity around the Pattern Day and a trip to the meadow on the horse-drawn “float” was a really big adventure. On board (right to left): Madeleine, Jacqueline, Helen, Mary, Eamonn and Michael John. Head and shoulders above us all is Father, in his prime.

On the float

Background: Ireland has thousands of “holy” or “blessed” wells. These ancient water sources were attributed mystical powers in pagan times and the related customs and beliefs were incorporated by Christianity when it arrived on the island some 1,600 years ago. The converts assigned a “patron saint” to each well and thus began the custom of the “Pattern Day” (from the pronunciation of the Irish Pátrún, “patron”). The “Pattern Day”, then, is the feast day of a parish’s patron saint and entails a pilgrimage to the sacred well and the saying of specific prayers in a certain sequence. Bottles are filled with the “miraculous” water, which is often applied to wounds or sprinkled on children, visitors, travellers and animals for their well-being.

Ethnologists describe patterns as “community generated festivals”. In 1810, Crofton-Croker counted up to 15,000 people at the Pattern of St. Declan, which is still held annually on the 24th of July in Ardmore, County Waterford. This tradition of vernacular religious practice and the carnivalesque continues in Ballylanders, County Limerick, where the 15th of August, the Feast of the Assumption, is the local Pattern Day.


The Irish Unionist’s Farewell to Greta Hellstrom

Sunday, 11 August, 2019

The poem, The Irish Unionist’s Farewell to Greta Hellstrom in 1922, by Sir John Betjeman, is set in west County Waterford, with each stanza closing with the line “Dungarvan in the rain.” Dungarvan is a coastal town and harbour in Waterford and it’s also the administrative centre of the county.

The work recounts the story of Betjeman’s unrequited love for a woman called Greta Hellstrom, but the woman in the poem is, in fact, Emily Sears, a great beauty who later married Ion Villiers-Stuart. Betjeman knew them both. He used to visit them on Helvick Head and stay at The Yellow House fishing lodge, which was then owned by the Villiers-Stuarts. The poet tries to hide the identity of the woman by describing her as Swedish when, in fact, she was American, and by setting the poem in 1922. He was at school aged 16 in that year, and he only got to know the Villiers-Stuart couple in the early 1940s. The final lines of the poem show the poet’s acceptance of Emily’s decision to remain friends and never to be lovers: “You were right to keep us parted:/ Bound and parted we remain,/Aching, if unbroken hearted-/ Oh! Dungarvan in the rain.”

The Irish Unionist’s Farewell to Greta Hellstrom in 1922

Slanting eyes of blue, unweeping,
Stands my Swedish beauty where
Gusts of Irish rain are sweeping
Round the statue in the square;
Corner boys against the walling
Watch us furtively in vain,
And the Angelus is calling
Through Dungarvan in the rain.

Gales along the Comeragh Mountains,
Beating sleet on creaking signs,
Iron gutters turned to fountains,
And the windscreen laced with lines,
And the evening getting later,
And the ache-increased again,
As the distance grows the greater
From Dungarvan in the rain.

There is no one now to wonder
What eccentric sits in state
While the beech trees rock and thunder
Round his gate-lodge and his gate.
Gone – the ornamental plaster,
Gone – the overgrown demesne
And the car goes fast, and faster,
From Dungarvan in the rain.

Had I kissed and drawn you to me,
Had you yielded warm for cold,
What a power had pounded through me
As I stroked your streaming gold!
You were right to keep us parted:
Bound and parted we remain,
Aching, if unbroken hearted –
Oh! Dungarvan in the rain!

Sir John Betjeman


Choose your picture framers carefully

Wednesday, 31 July, 2019

Fermoy


Reek Sunday

Sunday, 28 July, 2019

Thousands of people, young and old, some in their bare feet, made the arduous climb of the 764-metre Croagh Patrick in County Mayo today. According to local belief, Saint Patrick fasted for forty days and nights on the summit during Lent in the year 441 AD, and on the last Sunday in July every year (“Reek Sunday”), pilgrims from near and far climb the mountain in honour of Saint Patrick. Ireland’s holiest mountain is five miles from the town of Westport and overlooks Clew Bay.

The great Magnum photographer Josef Koudelka climbed Croagh Patrick in 1972 and captured the quintessence of rural Irish Catholicism in one iconic image. The kneeling pilgrims pictured are, from left to right, Sean Pheat Mannion, Paddy Kenny and Martin Mannion from Connemara. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anam.

Croagh Patrick


The scandalously naked Burren

Monday, 15 July, 2019

The name means “stony place” and it is one of the strangest landscapes in Europe. What’s called The Burren occupies most of the top western corner of County Clare and this region of solid rock, which looks like a desert, is quite the opposite. Cattle are fattened by its limey grass and Arctic flowers blossom beside Mediterranean perennials between the niches of the limestone slabs. Emily Lawless (1845 – 1913) set her novel Hurrish (1886) in what she called this “Iron Land”. Snippet:

“Wilder regions there are few to be found, even in the wildest West of Ireland, than that portion of north Clare known to its inhabitants as the Burren. Seen from the Atlantic, which washes its western base, it presents to the eye a succession of low hills, singularly grey in tone — deepening often, towards evening, into violet or dull reddish plum colour — sometimes, after sunset, to a pale ghostly iridescence.

You picture them dotted over with flocks to sheep, which nibble on the sweet grass… But these Burren hills are literally not clothed at all. They are startlingly, I may say, scandalously naked.”


The Orange Order

Friday, 12 July, 2019

On 1 July 1689, the Dutch-born Protestant King William III defeated the last Roman Catholic monarch of England, Scotland and Ireland, King James II, at the Battle of the Boyne in County Meath. The victory of William of Orange is celebrated each year by the Orange Order on the Twelfth of July, when marching bands from Orange lodges all over Northern Ireland parade through villages, towns and cities. The Orange Order was formed near Loughgall in County Armagh in 1795, when its founding members pledged their loyalty to the British royal family and swore to defend the Protestant faith.

The Orange Order

Photo: Michal Pudelka


Yay, Team America! From China and Ireland via Apple

Wednesday, 10 July, 2019

Apple celebrated the Women’s World Cup win by the USA with an all-female red, white and blue graphic. How very woke and patriotic. Up to a point. The same Apple announced at the end of June that its new Mac Pro will be assembled in China, not the USA, and the very same Apple uses Ireland as a haven to pay minimal taxes on the profits it makes on those Mac Pros. So much for patriotic bit. As regards the wokeness, the company’s Inclusion & Diversity page shows that 67 percent of Apple’s workforce self-identifies as “not women”, which allows lots of women lots of time to hone their dribbling skills in the run up to the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Think different indeed.

Apple wokeness


Family photo taken by my mother in 1948

Wednesday, 3 July, 2019

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.” — C.S. Lewis

Home from home


The blind leading the blind from Ballybunion

Friday, 21 June, 2019

We’re haven’t reached the end of June yet so it’s still a bit early in the year to be talking of the Pattern Day but this story by the late Kerry writer John B. Keane on the Pattern Day in Ballybunion, County Kerry, is worth sharing today. John B. never missed the 15th of August festivities when “the nine miles of road between Listowel and Ballybunion [were] black with a stream of several thousand bicycles.” What impressed the young writer most were the “scenes of humour near the Castle Green on the afternoon of the Pattern.” Example:

“It must be forty years ago now since we sat listening to a blind gorsoon singing This Poor Blind Boy while his equal innocent looking companion went around with a long collection sock explaining that the singer had been abandoned by his parents at the age of two and had been reared by asses. After he had cleared out what was cleanable from one party of onlookers he led the blind boy away to pastures new. I saw the pair later that night in Listowel and they staving drunk. The blind boy, now miraculously with sight recovered, was leading his companion who was now also blind drunk.”

He could tell them.