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Read Anthony F. Hughes’s Classic Westerns Series every month in Ireland’s Own

Glen Ford starred in 27 Western movies including the Delmer Daves directed ‘3:10 to Yuma’.
Adapted from a story by Elmore Leonard, the movie has its setting in 1880’s Arizona.

To the film studios credit the shoots were done in Arizona. As such there is an element of realism to the production – a parched landscape, a cattleman losing his fight against nature, destitution staring him in the face.

An unexpected opportunity comes his way, however, one with enough money attached to turn the small rancher’s fortunes completely around.

‘Yuma’ (92 mins) focuses on two men who meet up by pure chance. One of the duo, Ben Wade (Glenn Ford), a callous killer, is the undisputed leader of a twelve-man outlaw gang whose members make a living from the proceeds of robberies.
Van Heflin (of ‘Shane’ fame) plays the role of the other protagonist in the equation – rancher Dan Evans. Given a choice, very few people, if any, would have opted to raise cattle in the Arizona of the 1880’s.

How Dan Evans acquired his spread on the edge of the desert is anyone’s guess but cattle ranching was certainly his line of business when he first crossed paths with the notorious Ben Wade.

Unlike many of the big ranchers in New Mexico and Texas who literally had cattle herds that numbered in the thousands, Evans had about sixty and….a few horses besides.

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One evening in February 1919, a group of twenty nurses and midwives filed into a small office at No. 20 South Anne Street, Dublin. Many of them were exhausted having finished long shifts, for low wages, at the city’s hospitals. The remainder were facing into a busy night delivering babies and caring for mothers at the city’s lying-in institutions, or, in the community. Commentary in the nursing press at the time referred to the need to establish “a society for the prevention of cruelty to nurses” and, those twenty pioneers who braved the cold night air one hundred years ago, had just such a society in mind, writes Mark Loughrey.


In 1919, unskilled men at the Ford car factory in County Cork earned £239 per year. In contrast, nurses at a particular Dublin hospital earned £52–£65 per year and received an allowance of 3/4lb of butter and one stone of potatoes per week as well as a 1/2pint of milk per day. They were also obliged to make up for any holidays or sick leave they took by working the time back.
Why were their conditions so poor?

Unlike men, working women such as nurses and midwives, were not seen as breadwinners. No, they were seen as wives in waiting and were to be paid just a few shillings to keep them in frocks and smocks until such time as they found a man. In addition, nursing and midwifery were regarded as vocations in which providing care to the sick and needy was seen as payment in itself.

Unfortunately, humanitarianism did not pay the rent or put food on tables however and, in response, the twenty nurses and midwives who gathered in Dublin that night decided to take matters into their own hands and establish a trade union: the first of its kind in the world. They christened their creation the Irish Nurses’ Union (INU).

On the surface, the nurses’/midwives’ decision appeared sensible. Post-war inflation was running high, eroding their small earnings, and, following the drubbing that trade unionism suffered in the 1913 Lockout, unions were again on the rise.
Added to this, women were campaigning on broader rights-based issues such as suffrage, and nurses and midwives took inspiration from this. But things are rarely as easy as they first appear.

The writer of a piece in The Irish Times frowned on nurses’ and midwives’ decision to unionise and reminded them that their role was not wholly about material gain but was about public service, and that such service was incompatible with strikes in which they would be compelled to ‘desert their patients’.

But nurses and their supporters were having none of it and responded defiantly: ‘That funny paper, The Irish Times … Comment would really spoil this gem … we are grateful to the newsboy who inadvertently slipped [it] into our letter-box: he enabled us to face a new day joyously.’

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By John Corbett

It was the thoughts of returning to the classroom that we liked least about September. The weather itself was usually mild and could be quite sunny. in spite of the fact that there are many songs that suggest that rain is widespread in the month.
At present there are festivals and races in September but back then there was only the Great Harvest Festival in Ballinasloe on the horizon and we’d have to wait until next month (four long weeks) for that.

Fires were lit in the country kitchens and oil lamps also began to be used for the first time in months. The lamps were only lit for late night visits and were considered unnecessary in the early part of the evening. Paraffin was used sparingly and this applied to most items that had to be purchased for cash.

Aladdin and Tilly lamps gave off a brighter light but few houses in our district had them. Single and double-wick burners were the main source of illumination for villagers at that time. Paraffin and wicks for the lamps could be got in the shops nearby.
Globes, which were fairly delicate, weren’t available locally, so special care was taken with them. Strong light could crack them and on a few occasions I saw Mam attach a hairpin to the globe to protect it. I don’t know whether or not this actually worked.
All the above mentioned forms of illumination were far less effective than the electric bulbs that were used from the mid-fifties onwards.

In the late forties and fifties, radio sets were owned by a minority of villagers. Two batteries were needed to operate them: a dry battery plus one that had to be charged every few weeks. The dry one was expensive and usually lasted about six months, depending on usage.

We brought our wet batteries to Mountbellew to be charged. Steel needles placed on positive and negative terminals gave an indication of the amount of current stored in them and a relatively strong “kick” from the needles could be expected from new or freshly charged batteries.

For the above reasons listening time was rationed by most users and it was rare to have the sets switched on during the day except for short periods and for programmes that were really popular.

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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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