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Ireland

Before Nones

Friday, 18 January, 2019

The Cistercian monks at Mount Melleray Abbey in Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, begin their day with Vigils at 4.30 am and end at 8.00 pm with Compline. At 2.15 pm, they celebrate Nones, also known as None, from the Latin Nona (“Ninth”, the Ninth Hour). Their prayers consist mainly of psalms.

Nones


He died

Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Originally published in 1942, Bowen’s Court describes the history of one Anglo-Irish family in County Cork from the Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland in 1650 until 1959, when Elizabeth Bowen was forced to sell the family house she loved. Each page contains a gem. The demise of Robert Bowen in 1828 is a case in point. Note: Bowen uses Roman numerals to distinguish the principal male heirs to the estate.

“At the cost of puzzles and disappointments, and perhaps of ordeals in his intimate life, Robert attains to a dignity that does not yet make him seem out of scale with death. By the end of ten years at Bowen’s Court he had come to attach himself to the place; he could lean back and look round — this was his home. But while Henry IV was still driving around Bath, when Henry V had been back from Trinity College for only a year or two — in fact in 1828 — Robert was once more called to face a change and a move. He died.”

It is hard to top the mordant wit there of “Robert was once more called to face a change and a move. He died.”

Elizabeth Bowen


Brexit and backstop, Britain and Ireland

Tuesday, 15 January, 2019

“The misunderstandings are too many,” noted the Irish writer Frank O’Connor, and he was convinced of where the blame lay. “Ultimately, perhaps, all the misunderstandings can be traced to sixty miles of salt water which stretches between Britain and Ireland.”

O’Connor was writing in in Cork in 1940 and, one hundred years earlier, Mr and Mrs Samuel Hall embarked upon their three-volume opus Ireland, its Scenery, Character, etc. Their journey, as we say today, began with a purgatorial crossing to Cork, and their thoughts pre-echoed those of O’Connor:

“It was not alone the miserable paucity of accommodation and utter indifference to the comfort of the passengers that made the voyage an intolerable evil. It was once our lot to pass a month between the ports of Bristol and Cork; putting back, every now and then, to the wretched village of Pill, and not daring to leave it even for an hour, lest the wind should change and the packet weigh anchor.

Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that comparatively little intercourse existed between the two countries or that England and Ireland were almost as much strangers to each other as if the channel that divided them had been actually impassable.”

The “wretched village of Pill” mentioned by the Halls there is actually Pillgwenlly, which is now a parish in the Welsh city of Newport. And Wales, as we know, voted for Brexit. The misunderstandings are too many.


Limerick 2020

Thursday, 10 January, 2019

The so-called European Capitals of Culture for the year 2020 are Rijeka in Croatia and Galway in Ireland. One of the cities that didn’t make the final cut was Limerick, which made a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to become a European capital of culture.

“He knows how it is to leave Ireland, did it himself and never got over it. You live in Los Angeles with sun and palm trees day in day out and you ask God if there’s any chance He could give you one soft rainy Limerick day.” — Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

Limerick2020


The fifth post of pre-Christmas 2018: May

Monday, 17 December, 2018

Our review of the year has reached that month the Romans called Maius in honour of the Greek Goddess Maia, who was associated with the Roman era goddess of fertility, Bona Dea. Anyway, the day dawned bright on 26 May, but by the time the three alpinisti, as they say in Italy, had reached the peak, it was shrouded in a fog that was both numinous and perilous. Still, we lived to tell the tale.

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The translation of the Gaelic Seán Sa Cheo means “John in the Fog” and it’s the title of a famous reel. The John here is John O’Rourke and, along with Tom Breen, he summited Galtymore today. Despite the fog, the hikers returned safely to base.

Seán Sa Cheo

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Tomorrow, here, the sixth post of pre-Christmas 2018 is from June and it’s all about the consequences of Joachim Löw’s fateful decision to exclude Leroy Sané from the German World Cup squad.


The Shamrock Shore before the backstop

Wednesday, 31 October, 2018

How the Irish border backstop became Brexit’s defining issue” was the title on yesterday’s Financial Times Brexit feature by Alex Barker and Arthur Beesley. It’s a vexed matter, the backstop, and it has the potential to do significant harm to all the actors in this drama. Brussels is playing with fire here as it ignores the fact that the UK has long supported open borders with the Republic of Ireland and it continued to allow travel to and from Ireland without a passport, even when IRA terrorists were bombing British cities and murdering shoppers and commuters, police and politicians.

Whether a new border, patrolled on land by French gendarmes or by the German navy in the sea, will be set up in or around the “Shamrock Shore” in case of a “no deal” Brexit remains to be seen, but the issue highlights the never-ending debate about the rights and wrongs in the historic relationship between the islands. The Acts of Union 1800 are a case in point. The loss of the Irish Parliament was greeted with dismay in Dublin and most subsequent disasters were blamed on that pivotal legislation.

All of this was aired in April 1976 when Paul Brady sang a wonderful, unaccompanied version of The Shamrock Shore ballad in the village of Clondra in Longford. The verses are filled with poignancy and what’s especially poignant is that the person seated to Paul Brady’s right in this clip is the magisterial piper Liam O’Flynn who died of cancer on 14 March this year. Our grief at his loss remains unabated.

“John Bull, he boasts, he laughs with scorn
And he says that Irishman is born
To be always discontented for at home we cannot agree
But we’ll banish discord from our land
And in harmony like brothers stand
To demand the rights of Ireland, let us all united be
And our parliament in College Green
For to assemble, it will be seen
And happy days in Erin’s Isle we soon will have once more
And dear old Ireland soon will be
A great and glorious country
And peace and blessings soon will smile all round the Shamrock Shore”


Hay thoughts from abroad

Saturday, 4 August, 2018

“In my early teens, I acquired a kind of representative status: went on behalf of the family to wakes and funerals and so on. And I would be counted on as an adult contributor when it came to farm work – the hay in the summertime, for example.” — Seamus Heaney (1939 – 2013)

Hay


If on a summer’s night in Bansha a traveller

Wednesday, 27 June, 2018

Classical reference in the title to If on a winter’s night a traveller (Italian: Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore), a 1979 novel by Italo Calvino. The narrative is about a reader trying to read a book called If on a winter’s night a traveller.

Bansha (Irish: An Bháinseach, meaning “a grassy place”) is a village in County Tipperary strategically located on the eastern approaches to the Glen of Aherlow and the Galtee Mountains. There’s a neighbouring castle and one pub, the excellent Nellie’s.

Bansha


The Galtees and the Irish apostrophe

Sunday, 10 June, 2018

Today’s climb of the Galtees, the Munster mountain range that encompasses Tipperary and Limerick, is in aid of the Mercy University Hospital Foundation, which does good work for the people of Cork and neighbouring places.

The Galtees

Punctuation note: When referring to the Galtees, there is no need for an apostrophe. In Ireland, though, the fact that the apostrophe is seldom used to form a plural noun in English, is ignored, generally, and the general punctuation rule that the possessive of a singular noun is formed by adding an apostrophe and s, whether the singular noun ends in s or not, is applied arbitrarily.


Modern Ireland

Sunday, 27 May, 2018

Seen at the fortnightly car booth sale in Castletownroche, County Cork.


Seán Sa Cheo

Saturday, 26 May, 2018

The translation of the Gaelic Seán Sa Cheo means “John in the Fog” and it’s the title of a famous reel. The John here is John O’Rourke and, along with Tom Breen, he summited Galtymore today. Despite the fog, the hikers returned safely to base.

Seán Sa Cheo