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By Thomas Myler

It’s Wimbledon time again – strawberries, cream, blue skies hopefully, and all that tennis. Third of the four Grand Slams of the year, following the Australian and French Opens and before the US Open, Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, having started in 1877.

Opening on July 1st and continuing until July 14th at the All-England Club in south-west London, it is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious and glamorous events in the sporting calendar, up there with the Derby and the FA Cup Final in popularity. Since the Australian Open shifted to hardcourt in 1988, Wimbledon is also the only major still played on grass.

Tennis is arguably the sport where women have had more success than in any other activity. The list of female tennis greats is a long one. Legends like Billie Jean King, Maureen Connolly, Chris Evert, Maria Sharapova, Margaret Court, Helen Wills Moody, Maria Bueno and modern greats like the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus spring to mind. Then there was the brilliant Evonne Goolagong, whose birthday happens to be this month.

The Australian great is 68 on July 31st, and will celebrate the occasion with her family in Queensland, where she has been living for the past 27 years.

A right-hander, she is a two-time winner at Wimbledon, taking the ladies singles championship in 1971 and 1980.
Wimbledon always had a love affair with Goolagong, with journalists calling her the ‘Sunshine Supergirl’.

Of her two wins on the famous court, she has always maintained that the crowning moment in her career came in 1980 when she defeated Chris Evert in the final to become the first mother since Dorothea Lambert Chambers achieved that feat in 1914.
The nine years between Evonne’s championship victories matched Bill Tilden for the longest gap between titles in history.
Goolagong was graceful, almost poetic in how beautifully she played the game.

Not only did tennis fans marvel in her smooth and effortless movements, but her opponents could also get caught in the ballet that was on the other side of the net.

“She was like a panther compared to me,” said Billie Jean King after losing to Goolagong in the semi-finals of the 1974 Virginia Slims Championship at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. “She had more mobility and she played beautifully. I started watching her in that match, and then I’d remember all of a sudden that I had to hit the ball.”

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Shane Daly tells the story of the Irishwoman who married Hitler’s older brother…and what happened next.


Having read the title of this piece, I can say with some confidence that the first word ‘Swastika’ brought immediately to your mind’s eye, was the stereotypical swastika that Hitler used for his Nazi Party.

The swastika that represented hate, discrimination and evokes revulsion today in the 21st century.

The swastika now is possibly the most powerful and universal symbol of hate known to man. However, what is often forgotten is that the swastika was a symbol of peace and tranquillity until Hitler appropriated it.

The earliest known depiction of a swastika dates back to over 15,000 years ago. It was first discovered where current day Ukraine is now. It was a depiction of a bird carved out of the tusk of a mammoth with various designs also etched onto the tusk, including the swastika. This means that Palaeolithic humans were carving them onto the tusks of what is now an extinct animal.

Swastikas are found on Ogham stones in Ireland. Native Americans with no contact outside of Native America had swastikas present on their native designs; they used them to decorate personal items.

Buddhism uses them. In Buddhism a swastika represents eternity and reincarnation.
The Swastika is ubiquitous as a design, in pretty much every country in the world.

Hitler came to power in Germany and realised the swastika was sufficiently iconic for him to use, and irrevocably changed the outlook and perception of the swastika forever.

Interestingly, most swastikas around the world look the same. There have been fifteen millennia of carvings, etchings, drawings and paintings and all, for the most part are very similar. All easily identifiable. All instantly recognisable as a swastika.
Hitler’s version too, was instantly recognisable. However, Hitler’s was different. Hitler’s was more striking. It was more imposing. The reason for this was that his version was on a blood-red background with a jet-black swastika laid on top of a snow-white disk.

For 15,000 years every single swastika was uniform, until Hitler adopted his design in 1925 for his Nazi Party. You can travel anywhere in the world, search every nook and every cranny. You will not find any other swastika that resembles Hitler’s version, except for one place. Dublin.

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Irish author Maeve Binchy looking at a photo album as she sits in a chair while her husband, writer Gordon Snell, looks on over her shoulder, at home. (Photo by Ian Cook/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Mary Sheerin pays tribute to one of Ireland’s most loved authors on the seventh anniversary of her death

A few months ago I attended the opening night of Light a Penny Candle in the Gaiety Theatre. Gordon Snell, the husband, of the late iconic writer kindly invited lots of Maeve’s friends and family to what was a most enjoyable theatrical evening.
The play, based on Maeve’s first book of the same name, was adapted for the stage by Shay Linehan and directed by Peter Sheridan. The theatre was packed to the brim and the play got a standing ovation.

As so often happens with stage adaptations, I preferred the actual book to the play. I felt a lot of Maeve’ wry humour; her attention to the tiny day-to-day detail of people’s lives and her trademark warmth, was somewhat lost. That said, however, it must be remembered that Maeve’s first book was all of 540 pages, so it was a brave and noble attempt to dramatise the complexities and the social history of Maeve’s book.

And isn’t it a wonderful way to keep the memory and work of one of Ireland’s most beloved and popular writers alive?
She may not have been with us physically on the night but her spirit was well and truly there amongst us – not least by her beloved Gordon.

The audience loved it and I knew it would be a great success as we mark the seventh anniversary of her passing on July 30th.

LIGHT A PENNY CANDLE was published in 1982 and as already stated above was Maeve’s first novel. At the time she was London correspondent for the Irish Times and lived in Hammersmith with her husband, Gordon Snell.
She already had three books of short stories under her belt – Central Line; Victoria Line and Dublin 4.

She had also had plays performed at the Peacock Theatre – A Half Promised Land and End of Term. Her television play Deeply Regretted By …had won two Jacob’s Awards and the Best Script Award at the Prague Film Festival.

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Do you know a ‘Bear’ or a ‘Bull’ or even a ‘Horse’? John O’Connor takes a look the many Irish people given nicknames inspired by animals.

Two burly middle-aged men strode into the South Manchester public house shortly after it had re-opened for the Friday evening session. They each moved with a slightly stooped gait, which identified them immediately as Irishmen. Minutes later, pints in hand, they made their way to a table some distance from the thirsty building workers who stood in groups along the bar. From working on the same site I knew them as two ground work sub-contractors, widely known as “Mad Ass Connolly” from County Kerry and “The Donkey Joyce” from Galway.

With cigarette smoke floating lazily towards the nicotine-scarred ceiling, and Irish voices and hearty laughter getting louder, a strapping young fellow, dressed in muddy work clothes, strolled into the bar.
He nodded to a few acquaintances and in a thick, untamed, Mayo accent he ordered a pint of Boddingtons. Then, pointing to the two subbies, said to the barmaid, loudly enough for them to hear, “and give the two ould animals over there a bale of hay to keep them happy”.

For a few seconds the place went quiet and I was sure a skirmish might break out. But soon the chatter resumed and the young lad got away with nothing more threatening than icy glares from the two sub-contractors.

“That Young Pony Lavin is going to get himself into trouble one of these days,” said an older man next to me. “He can’t be talking to the Donkey and Mad Ass like that.”

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By Anthony F. Hughes

In late August, 2007, my then job of work took me to a townland called Drumsligo which is on the outskirts of of Mallow in North Cork. I subsequently worked there, on and off, for 18 months or so. To this day I hold very fond memories of that town and the people I made friends with in and around same.

One of those whom I met through the course of my work was a woman whom I shall call Helen Ashcroft….which is not her real name. Ms Ashcroft was big into period literature, especially the works of 18th century English novelists such as Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. Being as I, myself, am a fan of the aforementioned and Thomas Hardy (the novelist), also meant that Helen and I were never stuck for a conversation piece, so to speak.

One day the chat turned to the issues of fact and fiction. We agreed that the writings of Austen, Hardy etc. were works of fiction in one sense and yet not in another for their tales were a reflection of the happenings in English society back in those times.

Our discussion broadened and when it did an element of disagreement came into play with regards to the fact and fiction scenario as a whole. I remember saying that some books are completely factual to which my literary friend retorted “even the truest of true books are not true. They may be 90% true but they’re not 100%. There’s no such thing as a totally true book!” We agreed to disagree on that particular point.

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From dazzling audiences in her family’s travelling show to sharing a stage with such stars as Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, Sandy Kelly has enjoyed a rollecoaster ride through a life in music. She shares her story with Kay Doyle.

Sandy Kelly was sitting in a local radio station in Cavan on an ordinary day in 1989, when the telephone rang. The presenter, who had just aired her latest single, a cover version of Patsy Cline’s country classic Crazy, answered the call, then handed her the receiver. “There’s an American fella on the phone and he wants to speak to you,” he said.
Sandy put the phone to her ear and said, “Hello.”
“Hello,” boomed the voice at the other end of the line, “my name’s Johnny Cash.” Sandy, who didn’t believe the caller, replied, “Yeah, and I’m Dolly Parton, pull the other one, it has bells on it!”
But it really was Johnny Cash.

“He had been doing an Irish tour and was driving up the country with June (Carter) on his way to play a gig in Omagh,” says Sandy, as we catch up for a late-winter chat for Ireland’s Own.

“He asked me if I would like to come along and meet him. I said of course, so he told me to come back-stage and say hello when I got there. For a minute I thought I was dreaming!

“I immediately called my husband, Mike, and asked him to meet me with a change of fresh clothes, and I headed for Omagh. When I got there I saw one of my own fans standing outside with a camera. I asked him if he would stand by, and get ready to take a picture of me with Johnny as Johnny came through the stage door. I told him it might be my only chance to get a picture with him, and he said he would do his best.
“The stage door opened, out came Johnny and I jumped in for a picture. When I looked around my friend was after fainting, and was lying flat out on the ground with the camera on his chest. Johnny’s security guards came and lifted him up and put him lying on the bonnet of a car – it was all a bit crazy.

“I introduced myself to Johnny, and he brought me back-stage. He called in his band and asked if I wanted to sing some Patsy Cline songs on stage with him that night. I sang four songs with him including Crazy and I Fall To Pieces. Afterwards he asked if I had any plans to go to Nashville. I told him that I had visited there in 1984, and had plans to go back soon. He told me to get I touch when I arrived. I went over that same year, and I looked him up. He invited me out to the house to meet his family, and production team. And then he asked me to record Woodcarver with him. It was such a wonderful experience.”

Sandy has had many remarkable moments in her lengthy musical career. Born Philomena Ellis, in Sligo, in 1954, she had one younger sister, Barbara, and her baby brother, Francis, who died when he was five months old. Her family business was a ‘fit-up’ roadshow which travelled the country entertaining people long before cinema came to rural Ireland.

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By Paul Craven

THE FEW UNDISPUTED facts about Patrick James Whelan can be outlined as follows…it is generally agreed that he was born in Galway around 1840. At the age of fourteen, he was apprenticed to a tailor, but, shortly afterwards, emigrated to Canada and settled in Quebec City.

He was skilled at his trade, and, in his spare time he was known to be fond of horses, shooting, dancing and drink. However, he also found time to enlist in the local Cavalry Volunteers, and, in February, 1867, he married.

Then, late in the evening of the 7th of April, 1868, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, a member of the Canadian House of Commons, was shot and killed in Ottawa. Within twenty hours, Patrick James Whelan was arrested.

He was then tried and convicted for this murder, and hanged in public on the 11th of February, 1869.

As for the murder victim, more is known for certain!

Thomas D’Arcy McGee was born in Carlingford, County Louth, 1825. He emigrated to the United States, and earned his living as a journalist, before returning to Ireland in 1845.But he had to clear out of Ireland three years later because of his involvement with the Young Ireland Rising of 1848.

He returned to the United States, and, later, moved to Canada. Here, he changed his political opinions, and advocated self-government for Canada – and Ireland! – within the British Empire.

This was the direct opposite of the Fenian position which called for an independent Irish Republic. Then, starting in 1866, Fenians based in the United States invaded Canada.

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Gerry Breen shares love stories from Irish history

It is often said that the course of true love never runs smooth. There could hardly be a more concise description of some of Ireland’s legendary love stories, which all too often seem to contain an explosive mixture of romance and tragedy.

Valentine’s Day, the most romantic day of the year, provides the ideal opportunity to take a look at some of these amazing love stories that had the most profound effects not only on the lives of those immediately involved, but on the hearts and minds of the Irish people. These stories provide tantalising glimpses into the hopes and dreams of some of Ireland’s most iconic figures.

Robert Emmet & Sarah Curran

The romance between the young United Irishman and passionate patriot Robert Emmet and the sixteen-year-old nationalist heroine, Sarah Curran (pictured above), has been the subject of song and story since the failed Irish revolution of 1803. Young Robert Emmet was arrested and found guilty of treason. His speech from the dock has set Irish hearts ablaze for generations and is considered one of the greatest and most powerful courtroom orations in Irish history.

Sarah Curran was the daughter of the lawyer John Philpot Curran. She met Emmet when she was only sixteen and became engaged to him against the wishes of her father. They were passionately in love, but there was to be no happy ending. Robert Emmet was hanged and beheaded on 20th September, 1803, in Thomas Street, Dublin. His youthful romance with Sarah Curran, his idealistic nature, his extraordinary patriotism and his rousing speech from the dock touched the hearts of the Irish people and made him a national hero. Sarah Curran married Captain R. H. Sturgeon in 1805, and she died of tuberculosis three years later at Hythe in Kent.

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By Denis J. Hickey


Born on 13th August, 1860, in Drake County, Ohio, Annie was the sixth of nine children of Quaker parents Jacob Mosey and Susan Wise.
Her father’s death in 1866 impacted not only on family finance, but also on Annie’s education and she had little basic schooling.

Annie’s Mother sent her to Dark County Infirmary in 1869 where she was well treated. In 1870, Annie was sent as a type of indentured servant to a local farming family who treated her cruelly. She ran away after two years, and lived with the Edrington family, returning home around 1875.

Annie had been introduced to guns at an early age and supported her family by supplying game to local businesses. Her appeal to suppliers stemmed from shooting game through the head – particularly pheasant and quail – which left the carcass entirely free of buckshot.

Annie’s success enabled her to pay off the mortgage on the family farm. She now embarked on a career involving displays of marksmanship skills. On Thanksgiving Day, 1875, we find Annie in Cincinnati witnessing a Frank Butler shooting act.

Francis Butler, was born in Co. Longford, in January, 1847, at the height of the Great Famine the oldest of five children to Michael and Catherine (née Whelan) Butler.

The family emigrated to the United States in 1860. In 1870, Butler married Henrietta Saunders with whom he had two children prior to their separation a few years later. Having worked at a variety of jobs, Frank developed a sharp-shooting act, a highlight of which was the issue of a challenge to a shooting contest.

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