Authors Posts by Shea Tomkins

Shea Tomkins


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    Melissa McCarthy takes a look at life around the famous Kerry landmark, and profiles some notable names that came from its surroundings.

    In the following article we read about some well-known names associated with Meentogues and the surrounding area which are part of Sliabh Luachra. The latter is a legendary name, famed in song and story, extending eastward from Killarney and on into North Cork.

    Having grown up in the picturesque townland of Meentogues, Joan Harrington (nee McCarthy) talked to me, Melissa McCarthy, about life there some time ago. She emphasised the fact that Meentogues and its surrounds are well known for a long-standing association with traditional music and song, and also the many links with distinguished names, historical and otherwise. The village of Gneeveguilla is often referred to as the ‘capital’ of Sliabh Luachra.

    Joan explained that, “Meentogues, with its popular school, is a quiet, post-card perfect rural setting, having as a backdrop the towering Killarney mountains and the glistening waters of the Abhainn Uí Chriaidh.”

    Such a scene provides an eye-catching idyllic appeal that would really make your heart want to smile.
    Sliabh Luachra is known as a place where “music flows in the traditional sense of the word” and in this context Meentogues and its surrounds play an important role.

    It was a joy to listen to that special brand of music played by Johnny O’Leary, the Doyles and others, to mention but a few – they are often referred to as ‘giants of the music of Sliabh Luachra,’ a title that rested lightly on their shoulders. A monument to the memory of Johnny has been erected near Killarney’s town centre.

    Sadly, Joan’s father, John, passed away suddenly in 1955 when Joan, one of seven siblings, was quite young; his death was a great shock to her mother, Ellen, and all the family. Joan recalled that her brother, Fr. Pat, was a seminarian at the time. He continued on the path to the priesthood and was ordained in Maynooth in 1962. Apart from spending seven years working in the Kerry mission in Kenya, Fr. Pat ministered in various parishes in the diocese of Kerry – always doing great work. Even now in his retirement he is working in Lixnaw parish.

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      By Gerry Breen

      4th August, 1962 – On this day, Nelson Mandela was arrested by security police in South Africa. He was subsequently tried and sentenced to five years in prison.

      Two years later, he was placed on trial for sabotage, high treason and conspiracy to overthrow the government and was sentenced to life in prison. Following a worldwide campaign to free him, he was eventually released on 11th February, 1990, at the age of 71 years after spending 27 years in prison.

      Mandela, who was a Xhosa, was born on 18th July, 1918, into the Thembu royal family in Myezo, British South Africa. He studied law at the University of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand before working as a lawyer in Johannesburg.
      There he became involved in politics, and was a courageous fighter against apartheid and the injustices suffered by black people. He served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

      He was the country’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election.
      His government was noted for its work in dismantling the legacy of apartheid and institutionalised racism and fostering racial reconciliation.

      In 1993, Nelson Mandela shared the Nobel Peace Prize with South Africa’s President F.W. de Klerk for their peaceful efforts to bring non-racial democracy to South Africa.
      He died on 5th December, 2013.

      12th August, 1908 – On this day, the first Model T car, which became known as the Tin Lizzie, rolled off the Ford production line. It is generally known as the first affordable automobile, the car that opened up travel to the ordinary middle-class American.

      The Model T was named the most influential car of the 20th century in the 1999 Car of the Century competition ahead of the BMC Mini, Citroen DS and Volkswagen Type 1. With 16.5 million sold, it stands eighth on the top ten list of most sold cars of all time as of 2012.

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        By June McDonnell

        It’s not everyone that gets ‘Get Well’ wishes from President Michael D. Higgins when they are ill, but that is exactly what happened to Philomena Begley after her heart surgery, and why not? After all she is known as the Queen of Country Music.

        It’s not only the President who wants to see Philomena make a complete and speedy recovery. The Post Office in County Tyrone must be on overtime delivering the hundreds of ‘Get Well’ cards, letters and Mass Cards that Philomena has received from all over the world. I spoke with her recently and I am happy to report she is making a good recovery. She can’t wait to get back on the circuit and meet her legion of fans who were so supportive during her illness.

        One of the songs that people immediately associate with Philomena is ‘Blanket on the Ground’ and it is 44 years since it entered the Irish charts on 14th August. It charted at No.5 and remained in the charts for three months.

        I asked her how she came across the song?

        “We were driving home from a gig one night and I heard it on the American Networks,” she says. “I was lucky enough to get permission to record it and would you believe that some time later I was in Nashville appearing at The Grand Ole Opry and met the composer, Roger Bowling.

        “I sang it during the Grand Ole Opry Concert and got a standing ovation and an encore. Me an unknown singer from Ireland!

        “When I was representing Ireland at the International City Music Festival in Wembley I was introduced to Billie Jo Spears. Her version had charted at No.11. We hit it off really well, we had the same sense of humour. She came over here for very many visits and we became firm friends. In fact we sang ‘Blanket on the Ground’ as a duet on the Late Late Show. Sadly she had been ill for some time and when she passed I was very upset. I still miss her and I’m still in contact with her family. It is still one of the most requested songs at my concerts.”

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          As The Sunday Game celebrates forty years on TV, Seán Creedon talks to its presenter of the last eleven years Des Cahill about his love of all things sporting and his life in broadcasting.

          The BBC’s Match of the Day programme, with its distinctive theme music, has been regular Saturday night viewing in many Irish homes for over 50 years. Meanwhile, for the past 40 years the strains of the James Last tune Jägerlatein has signalled the start of summer and RTE’s Sunday night GAA highlights programme, The Sunday Game.

          The Sunday Game made its debut on July 8th, 1979 when RTÉ2 showed just one game, the Munster hurling final at Semple Stadium, Thurles, where Cork beat Limerick 2-14 to 0-9.

          Galway-born Jim Carney and the late Bill O’Herlihy were co-presenters in the early years. The programme made the headlines when one of their analysts was former Camogie player, Liz Howard. Female analysts and female presenters are very common in 2019, but 40 years ago it was big news to have a woman on Irish television talking about sport.

          Seán Óg Ó Ceallacháin, who is fondly remembered for his long-running GAA results programme on Radio Éireann on Sunday nights, temporarily replaced Carney for two years, but then another Galway-man (via Waterford), Michael Lyster, took over from Carney in 1984, the GAA Centenary Year, when the programme got a revamp.

          When the programme later expanded to feature live games, the Ireland’s Own columnist presented both The Sunday Game Live and The Sunday Game highlights programme later the same evening.

          In 2004, when presentation of the afternoon programme moved from the RTÉ studios in Donnybrook to various venues around the country, Pat Spillane took over as presenter of the Sunday night highlights programme. Five years later the former Kerry footballer was replaced by Des Cahill.

          Now well into his 11th season as presenter of the hugely popular Sunday night programme, is Des happy with the way the programme is going?

          ‘‘I am enjoying it. You couldn’t call it hard work because I love sport, but I am certainly kept very busy as I still do a lot of radio work also. We have great viewing figures and I don’t want to sound boastful, but our audience figures compared to Sky are not an issue. I realise that a lot of GAA people cannot afford to purchase a Sky Sports package.’’

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            By Victor O’D Power

            Some people don’t pay any heed at all on stories about ghosts and fairies, but, for all that, why, the ghosts are there – aye, and the ‘good people’ too – and tis many a time I met them myself, in my rambles and I had a narrow escape one time, that I wasn’t carried away into a Lis.

            So let ye listen to me now for tis a true story ye’re going to hear tonight, every word of it.

            Away in the Co. Kilkenny it happened, many long years ago now; and the first part of the story was told to me by Peg Reilly, who was witness to it, and the other part of it I saw with my own two eyes for myself.

            Peg Reilly, at the time the queer event took place, why, was nursing a little baby belonging to one Mrs. Doherty, at a place called Ballycroney, in the parish of Glenmore; and Bid Doherty was laid up at this time, the poor craythur, with the pleurisy, so Peg was looking after the little child – a grand little girl of just thirteen months, she was, with big blue eyes and yella hair and a skin like milk, with a pink blush in each of her cheeks, for all the world as if she was painted.

            Little Minnie was Bid’s first child, and the poor mother, God help her, was cracked alive about the infant.

            Bid was after marrying a man old enough to be her grandfather; though, at the same time, mind you, she was mad in love with a cousin of her own – one Murtagh Walshe of Ballyreddy; but Murtagh’s people wouldn’t hear of him marrying Bid, as her fortune wasn’t big enough, and they were striving to force him to take another girl who had four hundred pounds to get.
            And, faith, the end of it was that Murtagh cleared out of the country and went away to England to work; and early in the next year, Bid’s people coaxed her to marry old Micky Doherty; and, when Murtagh heard this he got reckless like, and he picked up with an Irish girl in Swansea and he married her, and, for a year and a half after that, he never wrote a line to his own people at home.

            Then, one fine day, didn’t he come back to the old home, just to say goodbye to them all, as he was about to start for America – himself and his wife and their infant son. He didn’t bring the wife or the child with him, as he knew well enough that there wouldn’t be much welcome before them, why; and the day before he left his old home for America, didn’t he stroll over to Ballycroney to see his old sweetheart – Micky Doherty’s wife – once again and to bid her farewell, God help us.

            Of all other places, wasn’t it just alongside of the Ballycroney rath they chanced to meet on that August evening and Bid was nursing the infant daughter and she was sitting down on the green, grassy bank under the hawthorn bushes at the edge of the rath, and she was singing a little song to the baby as Murtagh, all of a sudden, came over straight to her through the field.

            And, if he did, when his eyes fell on Bid and the infant in her arms, he couldn’t keep back the tears, for the poor chap always loved her, and faith, sure poor Bid was just as bad about himself, every bit, and when she saw him crying, she took to cry too, and their hands clasped together, and not a word could they speak for fully five minutes.

            And, in the end, they got a bit easier in their minds, and, when Murtagh took notice of the infant and when he saw ‘twas the living image of Bid herself, a thought darted through his mind, like a flash of lightning, and, if it did, he made no delay to follow it up.

            And, “Bid girl,” says he, “since yourself and myself were disappointed about one another, the best thing we could do not is to plan out a match between your little girl here and my little son, when the two of them are of an age to get married.
            “Your little girl, God bless the craythur,” says he, “is the stamp of your own self and my little son, Dannie, is the image of his father, so they tell me anyway. And ‘twould be an ease to my mind, Bid,” says the poor chap, “to know that, that even though you and myself were parted, yet our two children would be happy together, in the years to come as husband and wife.”

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              By Anthony F. Hughes

              When I first lived in Swords back in 1970 some of its older residents occasionally referred to a spot on the Dublin side of the then village as ‘the Turnpike’. I didn’t know the origins of the term back then.

              As it so happens, a turnpike was the equivalent of a modern-day motorway toll booth. The first turnpike came into being in Ireland in the 1730s and the system quickly spread to many parts of the country.

              Private road developments enabled the stagecoach to ‘come into its own’; horse-drawn carriages were travelling to far-flung destinations that were previously out of the question.

              For the thousands of Irish immigrants who set foot in the American Old West from the mid 1800s onwards, the sight of a stagecoach was no big deal – they had seen plenty of similar contraptions east of the Mississippi if not back in their home country.

              Stagecoach travel was prohibitively expensive for the working-class. If, back in 1860, one wanted to travel from St. Louis (on the edge of the Prairie) to San Francisco (a 25-day journey), it would have cost $200 to do so. A ranch hand would be doing well to earn that much in six months. As for an ordinary U.S. Cavalryman, well, if he saved every cent of his pay for a year, he still wouldn’t have enough for the fare.

              In 1937, a short story entitled The Stagecoach to Lordsburg (Ernest Haycox) was published in Collier’s, an American magazine. John Ford bought the film rights to the story, expanded the contents of same and then went looking for John Wayne to play the Ringo Kid. Ford called the movie Stagecoach. Released in 1939, it has a run-time of 96 minutes and was Ford’s first ever ‘talkie’ Western.

              Ford, in his capacity as Director, did such a good job that when it came to Academy Award nominations the film received seven. It ultimately won out in two categories – Best Music Score and Best Supporting Actor; that Oscar going to Thomas Mitchell for his portrayal of the whiskey-loving Doc Boone.

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                By Martin Gleeson

                The great playwright Brian Friel, who died in October 2015, has been described as “one of the greatest English-language dramatists”.

                Originally from Knockmoyle, Co. Tyrone, Brian was the son of a primary school teacher and postmistress.

                The family moved to Derry when Brian was ten years old. He received his secondary education in St. Columb’s College, a Catholic Boys’ Grammar school in Derry. Other pupils of this school include Seamus Heaney, John Hume, Phil Coulter, Paul Brad, and Richie Kavanagh. Note that the first two of these were Nobel Prize Laureates.

                After training in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth and St. Joseph’s Training College, Belfast, Brian taught Mathematics in Derry but took leave in 1960 to pursue a career as a writer. He moved to Co. Donegal, settling outside Greencastle

                Brian wrote 14 plays in all, many of them about the people from his fictional town of Ballybeg. He worked as a writer and journalist but his big breakthrough came in 1964 with his play Philadelphia Here I Come. This was followed by The Loves of Cass Maguire and then Lovers.

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                  By Seán Ua Cearnaigh

                  When the GAA was founded at Hayes’ Hotel, Thurles in 1884, Maurice Davin was appointed President (pictured). Davin, of Carrick-on-Suir, was a much acclaimed retired athlete, an unofficial world champion in his day.

                  The first All-Ireland senior hurling and football finals for the year 1887 were played in the late spring of 1888 and Tipperary emerged as hurling champions, while Limerick took the football honours. However, no finals were played for the year 1888.
                  This was due to what has been called the American invasion. Maurice Davin, believing that Irish athletes were second to none in the world and wishing also, to display the talents of Ireland’s hurlers to a wider public, selected 51 young men to travel with him and other officials to America. It was hoped that the expected large attendances at matches and athletic meetings would defray the costs of the tour. Sadly, this did not happen.

                  In October, 1888, the party left for New York. Of the 51 participants, some 45 were hurlers, drawn from Tipperary and other counties. Several of these hurlers, including Maurice Davin’s brother, Pat, were also splendid athletes. Pat Davin was widely acknowledged as the world’s greatest all-round athlete.

                  Unfortunately, the Irish tour, which included hurling matches and athletic meetings in New York, Chicago and other American cities, coincided with the 1888 Presidential Campaign, involving Grover Cleeveland and Benjamin Harrison. Millions of Americans were involved and this reacted badly on attendances at the Irish sporting events.

                  To make matters worse, more than half of the 51 Irishmen decided to remain in America for employment purposes, following the end of the tour.

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                    By Paula Redmond

                    On 3 July, 1918, the British Lord Lieutenant of Ireland declared the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) to be a ‘dangerous’ organisation. The next day a British Government order was released preventing all “meetings, assemblies and processions” in public places without prior permission by authorities.

                    This effectively meant that in order to play a match, the GAA would have to apply for a permit. On August 4th in defiance of the ruling, 54,000 members of the organisation took part in a programme of countrywide games at the pre-arranged time of 3pm. The day became known as ‘Gaelic Sunday’.

                    The new permit system caused immediate disruption to GAA activities. One of the largest events impacted was the Ulster senior football championship semi-final between Armagh and Cavan. The match was scheduled for four days after the permit arrangement was introduced.

                    Eoin O’Duffy, the GAA’s Provincial Secretary in Ulster, decided to ignore the new ruling. Three thousand spectators arrived in Cootehill, Co. Cavan to view the match but fearing the repercussions the teams refused O’Duffy’s request to take to the pitch.
                    RIC and British soldiers positioned themselves in the grounds – with bayonets at the ready – until the crowds dispersed without incident.

                    In July a number of Dublin club football league matches could not take place in Croke Park as the RIC blocked access to the grounds. The new regulations also led to ridiculous scenarios, such as schoolboys being arrested for playing Gaelic football in the Phoenix Park.

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                      EUGENE DALY continues his series on various aspects of Irish folklore and customs

                      I have written about the curlew on a few occasions for Ireland’s Own. I feel I have to write about this iconic Irish bird again and this time with great sorrow as it appears almost certain that very soon the curlew will be gone.

                      Back in the 1980s the eminent bird expert Clive Hutchinson wrote of the curlew ‘that it was widespread in Ireland at most times of the year.’ However, recent reports indicate a serious decline of this unusual, eccentric and shy coastal bird which nature fashioned to inhabit salt marshes and tidal inlets with its long legs for wading and incredible curved beak for probing deeply for food.

                      As a youth in the 1950s there used to be flocks of curlews along the shoreline of our small farm by the estuary of the Ilen River. The unique evening cry of the curlew was a time clock sound – such as the call of the rooster in the morning – that the outdoor working day was over.

                      High overhead, the birds were heading for night on offshore islands and wild scrubland. The lonesome cries indicated that darkness would soon fall and that it was time for us to go home.

                      Several reasons have been suggested for the fall in this species population (estimated at 5,000 pairs in 1991). It is estimated that only 150 breeding pairs or less are left now in Ireland but I heard a report on the radio recently that the number is only twenty five breeding pairs this year. The numbers increase in winter when we get an influx of migrant birds from Britain and the Continent.

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