After 20 years fronting the nation’s flagship news bulletin, Bryan Dobson has witnessed many historic happenings, from the election of Nelson Mandela as the President of South Africa to the election of Barack Obama as the first black President of the Unites States, while closer to home the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and the visit by Queen Elizabeth – the first by a reigning British monarch in over 100 years – were stand-out moments in a career doing what he loves. He talks to Thomas MylerIt’s coming up to 20 years since popular RTE newscaster Bryan Dobson first presented the station’s Six One News. It was in September 1996 that he sat before the cameras in Studio 3 for his debut on the channel’s flagship early evening news bulletin, formerly called Newstime which was co-hosted by Ann Doyle and Sean Duignan. Fast forward to 2016 and Bryan presents the programme with Sharon Ní Bheoláin, who came on board nearly three years ago. He has brought viewers major stories over the years including Queen Elizabeth 11’s visit here in the summer of 2011, the IRA ceasefire in 1994, the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and Nelson Mandela becoming president of South Africa in 1994 after 46 years of apartheid. “The election of Mandela would have to be high among my favourite memories, probably the No 1,” he says over coffees in the RTE canteen. “Here he was, head of the African National Congress, the ANC, as the country’s first black chief executive, having spent 27 years as a political prisoner on Robben Island. “I had worked in RTE for a number of years and it was a great honour to travel to South Africa and cover the occasion. Around 60 world leaders were there – presidents, prime ministers, princes and so on. “it was quite exceptional and a moment when you see the pages of history turning one of those rare moments when you could really feel optimistic about the human condition. No question about that. It was very emotional to see such huge numbers of people, black Africans, queuing in the hot sun, in some cases for days. “The counting of votes took three days as Mandela swept to power. April 27 is now a public holiday in South Africa, and the occasion was something I will never forget. “While in South Africa I had the opportunity, too, of interviewing Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, and got his views on the Middle East situation. “The Good Friday Agreement was another historic occasion. It was such a long time coming and involved so many false starts and difficult negotiations that people thought it would never happen. Then, there was that final push in the early spring of 1998 that it all happened. Continue reading in our April Spring Special
Two hundred years ago this month the picturesque bay of Tramore in Co. Waterford was to be the scene of one of the worst ever maritime disasters Ireland has ever witnessed, when 363 people lost their lives as the transport ship Sea Horse foundered in stormy seas, writes Ray Cleere
Tramore Bay is the delight of all who love to sojourn on its gold-carpeted expanse of strand. Yet, like the black, gnarled rocks upon its shore, it has a dark and evil side to its nature and the tragedy of the Sea Horse bears witness to the Jekyll and Hyde personality of that bay.
On Friday, January 30, 1816 – 200 years ago – the transport ship the Sea Horse foundered in Tramore Bay with the loss of 363 lives. The unexpected storm force conditions at the time, along with a substandard ship which was overcrowded and which had an inexperienced crew, ensured that the tragedy was recorded as one of Ireland’s worst maritime disasters in the 19th century.
In the 200 years since it happened the Sea Horse was and still remains the only maritime disaster in history which was never commemorated. The catastrophe of the Sea Horse was the greatest tragedy of any description and the greatest loss of life which was ever experienced in the history of Tramore.
The Sea Horse was adopted as a symbol by the town. It has been used as a logo for Waterford Crystal for 60 years since 1955. It became the symbol for many clubs and organisations in Waterford, which is Ireland’s oldest city. It is used on the crest of Tramore Golf Club. It is also used on the crest of Tramore National School.
The story of the tragic loss of the Sea Horse opens a door into a forgotten part of Irish history. It is a story which places at its centre the 363 lives which were lost and the tragic events which led to such a disastrous outcome.
The Sea Horse was a transport ship of 350 tons. It was well-built of Irish oak near or in London in 1782; the Hudson Bay Company were recorded as the owners in 1789. It was originally a three deck, three masted fighting vessel which was commanded by Admiral Horatio Nelson in 1799. In 1801 the Sea Horse was acquired by Folder and Company in England and was used as a transport ship until 1803.
From 1803 to 1807 the Sea Horse was used for trading voyages to the South Seas and was referred to at the time as a “constant trader” which sailed around the British Isles until 1813 when she reverted once more to a transport ship.
On her last fateful voyage from Ramsgate to Cork she was packed with almost 400 men, women and children. The passengers included 16 officers, 16 crew members, 287 soldiers, 33 women and 38 children, many of whom were infants. Captain James Gibbs was in charge of the 16 crew members. It was Captain Gibbs first voyage on board the Sea Horse.
The first mate was an Irishman named John Sullivan who was a native of Cork City. He had unfortunately taken passage on the ill-fated ship in order to join his own ship, the Tonnant, in Cork. The officers and soldiers were members of the 2nd Battalion of the 59th Regiment who were also known as the Lilywhites. They saw much action in the Peninsular War from 1808 until the Occupation of Paris. On December 6, 1815, they returned to England and spent Christmas at home before they were assigned to garrison duty in Cork.
The Sea Horse was not the only ship which was travelling to Ireland carrying soldiers and their families. Two other transport ships, the Lord Melville and the Boadicea were also bringing British troops from Ramsgate to Cork for garrison duty.
The voyage went according to plan for the first few days, so well in fact that a band played practically all day on deck on January 28. The voyage was uneventful until the unexpected and the unthinkable happened. A series of disastrous consequences led to the fateful outcome. The three-ship convoy were victims of the same storm and never made it to their final destination.
The Lord Melville and the Boadicea were wrecked off Kinsale in County Cork. In total, the tragedy claimed the lives of 612 people of whom 510 alone were members of the 2nd Battalion of the 59th Regiment, more than ever fell on a single day on any battlefield in the Regiment’s long history.
Thursday morning, January 29, was the start of the poor weather conditions which led to the misfortunes of the hapless inmates on board the Sea Horse. The weather had changed rapidly when a strong breeze sprung up from the South East. As the day progressed, the wind became even stronger.
By 4pm the ship had passed Ballycotton Island, off the Cork Coast. Unfortunately for the inmates of the Sea Horse, the first mate, John Sullivan, the only sailor who was acquainted with the approaching Irish coast, climbed up the forerigging to survey the land. Tragically he fell down on the forecastle, broke both his legs and his arms and suffered catastrophic internal injuries.
He never spoke following the incident and he died three hours later in his wife’s arms. His death was a loss of local knowledge which had tragic consequences for the ship.
As night fell, the gale force winds increased and it became very hazy and dark. Captain Gibbs, just as the Masters of the Lord Melville and the Boadicea had before him, decided to head towards the lighthouse at the Old Head of Kinsale, which was one of the major lights on the south coast.
Captain Gibbs intended to run down the coastline to the entrance at Cork Harbour. However, having not seen the light for two hours and as the weather conditions worsened, Gibbs decided not to proceed any further. He therefore close-reefed his top sails and hauled close to the howling wind which forced the ship inshore.
At 4am on Friday morning, January 30, 1816, Dungarvan Bay was sighted and the ship drifted very quickly to leeward. By 10.30am the gale had reached storm force. The fore top mast was ripped overboard and the mainsail was torn to ribbons. The lifeboats were washed away and a seaman broke his back and one of his thighs. Although Hook Head was now visible, the ship was unable to navigate around Brownstown Head to arrive in Waterford Harbour.
As the waves breached the ship from stem to stern, Captain Gibbs ordered the anchors to be thrown out and the sails clewed up. The ship was brought up under Brownstown Head in 42 feet of water and with almost 1,800 feet of cable.
At midday the anchors dragged and the wind and the sea still increased. The remaining masts were cut away, the rudder broke, and at ten minutes past midday, the Sea Horse, now battered and helpless, dramatically met its end at the Rinneshark channel following several harrowing hours having clung close to the coast but accidentally and catastrophically entered Tramore Bay.
At that time, many vessels mistook Tramore Bay as the entrance to Waterford harbour and once inside the bay, were unable to turn around and foundered on the rocks.
The ill-fated ship was less than a mile from the shore and from safety and people were washed overboard with every mountainous wave which struck it. The Sea Horse cracked in half and plunged out of sight to her doom into the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
At 1pm the ship had completely broken up and all were thrown into the raging sea.
About 30 people clung to the forerigging but within half an hour they were also swept into the raging sea. Many people were swept out to sea and were never recovered.
Because of the mountainous waves, no assistance whatever could be afforded to the hapless inmates of the doomed vessel by the numerous spectators who lined the shore and hoped for a lull in the merciless gale. The people of Tramore at the time watched for several hours in horror as rescue attempts were impossible.
It must be remembered that all on board the Sea Horse were crammed below deck like sardines during the storm. It was dark and very cold in those cramped conditions. The ship rocked constantly to and fro. Passengers and crew suffered from sleep deprivation.
The turbulence of the sea was frightening and it poured into the ship through every possible opening. Hypothermia had set in. Fear and anxiety contributed to the wretchedness of the situation.
By tragic coincidence a second ship was wrecked in Tramore Bay on that fateful night. A galleon, the Apollonia, which was en route from London to Cork with a cargo of clothes, tea and sugar, was dragged into the bay that night with a crew of seven on board. Because of the emergency of the Sea Horse, local people were on Tramore beach. Although the ship was wrecked in the bay, the crew and part of her cargo was saved.
The actions of those on board the Sea Horse, most of whom were forced to accept their fate, make for difficult reading.
Mothers held their children close. One father, who was in a state of extreme agitation, returned to the deck continuously in the hope of saving his family. A young girl, who was 11 years old, was in a terrified state and begged every officer who approached her to remain with her. Lieutenant Scott heard her cries and died with her when the vessel was engulfed.
Many bodies of children were found in trunks in which their parents had placed them in the hope of safety. The bodies of four small children were found in one large trunk. The body of a solider floated to the shore with his child clasped to his breast.
One woman who died with her child had forced her husband to abandon ship. Another woman, Mrs. Sullivan, the wife of the unfortunate first mate, John Sullivan, who was killed two days previously, never left his side and she died beside his body.
Many stories were collected in relation to the bravery and heroism of the crew and the rescuers from the shore. Some of the rescuers waded into the raging sea and dragged in anybody within distance.
All those who reached the shore were brought to the only small cottage which was located in the Burrow not far from the beach. It was the habitation of a humane and worthy peasant named Dunn.
Tramore was far less populated in 1816 than it is in 2016, 200 years later, but every able-bodied person in the area at the time assisted in some way in the rescue operation.
Some of those who clung to the wreck until it went to pieces had providential escapes and two men in particular, who, against all impossible odds, between them bravely and heroically saved the lives of 12 men.
Lieutenant McPherson, who had been buffeted for sometime in the waves, fortunately caught a rope which was fastened to some planks of the quarter deck which had held together. He was washed off the planks several times, sunk to the bottom three times, but somehow he managed to hold on to the rope. A local man at the time named Thomas Kirwan rushed into the sea and saved him. Thomas Kirwan also saved Captain James Gibbs and nine other men.
Lieutenant Cowper, who was first swept from a single plank and then from those who had helped McPherson, was swept near the shore by part of a mast. His situation was extremely perilous, but for the courage of another local man, a Mr. A.P. Hunt, who, although he was in ill health at the time, rushed through the foaming surf up to his neck and saved him from certain death.
A third Lieutenant, Henry Hartford, was a native of Kilkenny City, the Medieval Capital of Ireland. He was born and reared in Tennypark House, which is situated just outside the city on the main road from Kilkenny to Clonmel, Henry Hartford’s escape was truly remarkable. He clasped his arms and legs around a plank which was full of spikes.
The spikes impaled his hands and his legs but he refused to let go despite the unbearable pain. He was eventually washed ashore, firmly fixed to the plank, and somehow but miraculously, he was still alive. In 1860, 44 years later, Henry Hartford’s sword, complete with scabbard, was washed ashore.
Many people who were involved in the rescue attempts have descendants who are living in Tramore in 2016, 200 years after the disaster. Their surnames include Burke, Dunn, Dunphy, Kelly, Kennedy, Keoghan, Kirwan, Hunt, Lane, Morrissey, Phelan, Power, Reilly, Sinnott and Walsh.
Over the days and weeks following the disaster, bodies were washed up on the beach in Tramore, as was wreckage from the ship. Six months after the disaster more skeletal remains were washed up.
On one day alone 60 bodies, some of them the remains of women and children, were washed up in less than one hour. The remains were so badly decomposed that they were never identified.
As the sea raged, as the wind howled and as dark clouds hovered in the sky, the eerie and spine chilling sight of so many bodies and skeletal remains which were strewn along the shore were a horrifying sight. The remains were quickly buried in three mass graves on the beach and the courageous people who did that work must have found it very distressing.
A number of officers were buried in the old graveyard at Drumcannon Church. The officers were all young men who were aged between 19 and 29. According to Church records, 82 men, women and children were buried in the old graveyard at Drumcannon Church and a further 29 were buried on the beach in Tramore. Drumcannon Church is situated near Church Road in Tramore.
After the disaster a mausoleum lid was carved with the names of the officers. Sadly it remained unclaimed and unpaid for in a stonemason’s yard in Waterford for 60 years. When it was eventually paid for by means of a charitable donation, the stone monument was erected in their memories on the beach in Tramore.
Because of erosion the monument was relocated to the Doneraile Walk in 1912 where it remains today, 104 years later. The monument was restored 60 years ago in 1955. The Doneraile Walk affords a spectacular view of Tramore Bay, where the 363 souls lost their lives to the cold ugly sea on that dreadful day 200 years ago, Friday, January 30, 1816.
An obelisk marks one of the largest burial plots to the disaster in the Drumcannon Church graveyard. Plaques which were taken from the wreck of the Sea Horse are erected on the walls at Cliff Grange, in Tramore.
The total number of people who were on board the Sea Horse when the terrible disaster happened was 393 men, women and children, of whom only 30, all men who included the Master and two sailors, survived. The survivors were:
◆ Lieutenants John Cowper, A. McPherson and Henry Hartford.
◆ Ensign W. Seward.
◆ Corporals Nicholas Ball and Michael Malone.
◆ Drummer W. McNeill.
◆ Captain James Gibbs and two sailors.
◆ Privates John Armstrong, James Clayton, Joseph Clayton, Robert Colvey, Peter D’Arcy, Edward Donegan, Joseph Fitzpatrick, James McLoughlin, David Gailey, John Hames, James Kelly (1), James Kelly (2), John McKibben, Robert McKitterick, Henry Styles, John Tuntliffe, Robert Scott, James Huffin and Patrick Malone (who died shortly afterwards).
◆ Sergeant Thomas Curtis.
In the aftermath of the Sea Horse disaster, the eyes of the people in Tramore at the time were finally opened to the dangerous state of the bay. That led to the building of five pillars, two at Brownstown Head, and three in a field at Great Newtown Head. Each pillar is over 60 feet high and were built by the Waterford Ballast Board between 1821 and 1823. The building of the pillars was funded by Lloyds of London.
In 1823 a large cast iron statue which represents a sailor was positioned on the centre pillar of the three at Great Newtown Head. This ancient mariner is about 14 feet tall and was designed by Thomas Kirk, (1781 – 1845), who was a noted English sculptor. The Metal Man stands with his right arm pointing towards the sea.
The Metal Man and the pillars were built to differentiate Tramore Bay from Waterford Harbour. The five pillars operated as navigational markers and indicated a countdown system, three pillars at Great Newtown Head, two pillars at Brownstown Head and a single pillar at Hook Head. Legend had it that on stormy nights the Metal Man called aloud to mariners: “Keep out good ship, keep out from me, for I am the rock of misery”.
The Sea Horse Bar and Wreck licensed premises at 3 Strand Street, in Tramore, is named after the Sea Horse.
Saturday, January 30, 2016, will mark the 200th anniversary of the Sea Horse disaster. A series of events will take place to commemorate same. The bi-centenary remembrance will culminate on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, July 1, 2, 3, 2016 with a fitting service on the beach.
Ancestors of those who died are expected to travel to Tramore from many parts of the world including the U.S.A., Australia, Boston, Chicago, California, Canada, Connecticut, Germany, New York and New Zealand. ■
The House At The End of The Road
By Elle McMorrow (St Mary’s N.S. Leckaun) Co. Leitrim (Age 7-9 Category)
“No one has lived at the house at the end of the road for over thirty years,” my grandmother told me. Granny often told me stories about fairies, elves and pixies living in the old brick house. I used to believe her when I was smaller, but now I just laugh at the thought, but today it was different!
As I walked past the old house on my way to the bus stop, I saw a ray of silver sparkles through the broken downstairs window. I could also hear faint singing. I paused to take a closer look, but the next thing I heard was the beep, beep of the school bus.
I said “great timing” angrily to myself and ran on to get the bus.
When I got there I was out of breath. There were so many questions running through my mind. On the bus I told my friend about the sparkles and singing and she said, “No offence but I don’t believe you.” And I left it at that.
The school day couldn’t have gone any slower, I could hardly concentrate on my work.
The bell rang once for small break, the second time for big lunch, and finally, it rang a third time. HOMETIME.
I raced down to the bus. Finally it reached my stop, and I jumped off.
I got to the old house, threw my school bag off, and with heart racing climbed over the wall to get a closer look. There, in front of my eyes, were five sparkling fairies.
Oh Gosh. Granny was telling the truth!
One was playing a piano in a denim skirt and a green top, her long blonde hair flowing on her shoulders. She had little green diamond shoes, and green diamond earrings.
The second was wearing black tracksuit bottoms and a grey hoodie. She had black hair in a ponytail, and she was playing the drums.
A third fairy was wearing orange shorts and a blue top. She had short blonde hair in pigtails, and she had a lovely gold star necklace. She was playing the guitar.
The fourth was in a purple dress and a pink cardigan, she had a purple and pink bow in her hair. She had long brown hair, and she was singing.
The final was in a yellow t-shirt with blobs of paint on it, and dungarees. She had short brown hair and a big blob of green paint in her hair – she was painting a picture of them all.
I tried to stay still but I couldn’t control my excitement. I leaned to get a closer look, but my foot creaked on a piece of wood. Everything fell silent – the fairies were staring at me. I couldn’t move. I felt like I was frozen to the spot.
Next thing, the fairies flew out and magically lifted me through the broken window of the old house. I was scared. My hand was shivering, I tried to speak but nothing came out.
“What are you doing here?” asked one fairy.
“I’m very sorry but when I saw the sparkles I was very curious. Please don’t hurt me,” I replied.
“It’s ok, little girl, we’re not going to hurt you,” said another fairy. “We know your name, it’s Elle. We often watch you running for the bus”.
I nodded my head. “Only children who need our help can see us, what is bothering you?” asked the fairies. “I sort of said a lie today at school, just to get into the school Christmas concert,” I confessed.
“What sort of lie?” said a fairy.
“I told the teacher that I could play the piano, but I have no clue, and practice starts tomorrow.”
She said, “Don’t worry, we can help you with this, but I think it’s about time we introduced ourselves.
“I’m Selena, I’m the singer.
“I’m Melisa, I play the piano,”
“I’m Hannah, I play the drums.”
“I’m Ariana, I play the guitar.”
“And I’m Emma, I’m the arty one. Together, we’re the Sparkle sisters, but our band is called ‘The Sparkles’.”
“Wow, you’re all really sisters,” I said in astonishment.
“I can teach you piano,” said Melisa.
“Oh gosh. Mum will be looking for me. I have to go home but can I come back later,” I said. “That’s fine,” said Ariana.
I ran home and did my homework as quickly as possible. I grabbed some treats and my old doll’s house for my new fairy friends. Then I ran back to the old house. The fairies were waiting for me, and were delighted with my gifts. We all had a little tea party.
After tea, Melisa took out her little piano and with her wand made me smaller so I could learn it. It was wonderful. We practised lots of Christmas tunes and in no time I was playing like I was a pro. I gave Melisa a big hug – she was like my new best friend.
The next day at school, Mrs Dungan was very impressed and I got the part in the Christmas concert. I was so happy.
The day flew by after that, and before you know I was back at the old house. I thanked Melisa a million times, but even that wasn’t enough.
We all shared a big smile and that’s how my friendship with the fairies started.
Since then the fairies and I have had a lot of great adventures. But the best have yet to come.
And that’s the story of the house at the end of the road.
The House At The End of The Road
By Lauren Carroll (Our Lady of Mercy Primary School) Kells, Co. Meath
(Age 10-12 Category)
“We’re home again, Grandma,” yelled James, as they ambled through the door.
“Children, you must have been frozen to death out there,” worried the frail old lady. “Come sit by the fire and I’ll get you some hot chocolate.”
It was Hallowe’en night, and the dense fog hung low over the calm street. April sat on the deluxe cream couch that was placed just beside the roaring fire.
“Thank you, Granny,” she smiled, as she was handed a mug of hot chocolate.
“Dares?” smirked James, with a sly twinkle in his eye, as soon as his grandmother had left the room.
April nodded, and sat on the wooden floorboards beside him. “I dare you…” he grinned mischievously, pausing to take a tiny slurp from his beverage, “…to go in to the house at end of the road.”
“What?” exclaimed April, “are you insane?”
“Come on, April,” coaxed James.
“I heard that evil spirits live there and possess children!” hissed April.
“Has anyone come back out of the house to tell you that?” inquired James.
“Well, no,” April said quietly, “but…”
“Come on you big chicken,” teased Jenny.
“Fine!” April agreed, flinging on her lilac coat, “but you are doing my laundry for a month!”
“Hello?” April yelled hoarsely, as she crept through the mansion cautiously.
She scanned the dim room briefly, and saw the wood louse-infested staircase with the coarse ebony carpet. She staggered up it, and saw a huge balcony with its dark curtains swaying gently in the soft breeze.
She could see the amorphous image of a dreamy moon through the thick fog. She stood still, taking deep breaths of cool air into her lungs. Suddenly, she heard a sinister cackle boom from the dark sky.
The gentle breeze rose into a vexed storm that battered against the fringed window panes all around her.
April leaned over the balcony’s edge and saw swarms of broomsticks zooming through the air. “Witches,” thought April. She hear the great oak door burst off its hinges and a gang of witches barge into the room. April stood there, paralysed with a mixture of fear and excitement.
The witches gathered around a long table, helping themselves to spoonfuls of toad eyeballs and platypi liver, which according to the scrawny witch chef was the best meal she had cooked up in her cauldron.
“Quiet!” thundered an obstreperous witch, as she thrust her broom on to the cold floor.
“Being a witch sucks!” she screeched. “Everyone hates us. Have you ever heard a story where the witches win? No. I don’t know about you but I have had enough of this codology!” She then took a deep breath and sat down calmly.
“I agree,” shouted a witch from the rear end of the table. “Do you know how many frogs I spent on plastic surgery since that wretched Dorothy dropped her house on me?”
“Yes,” screamed another, “that revolting prince took Rapunzel off me.”
“We should rebel,” roared the witches from ‘Hocus Pocus’. Sarah was now on the wooden table kicking and punching the air viciously.
“Too right,” bellowed the Witches of Eastwick.
“Maybe we could just try being nice?” squeaked the tiny voice of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. All eyes faced the pretty little girl.
“Be quiet, you silly princess,” spoke Jadis, the Witch of Narnia. “You shouldn’t even be here.”
“Wait, wait, that might actually work,” shouted the Wicked Witch of the West. “At midnight, grab your wands and broomsticks and throw them in the bonfire I will provide for you in the back yard. Finally, the whole world will like us! From now on, I am the Wonderful Witch of the West!”
The other witches stared at her with utter disbelief. April stood flabbergasted. “Witches turning good!” she thought. Anger bubbled up inside her, and all of a sudden she found herself scolding the witches for even suggesting such a vacuous idea.
“I know you didn’t win in every book or movie but without you there would be no story!” she exclaimed. April saw a nod of agreement spread like a virus through the lustreless room.
“Well, I suppose Mr. Shakespeare would have found himself in a right pickle if it weren’t for us,” the witches of MacBeth cackled.
“Yes,” smiled April. “Don’t let the likes of Dorothy, meddling children or princes bring you down.”
“The movie ‘Snow White’ would be a bore without me in it,” declared Queen Narissa.
“So let’s continue our wicked ways,” barked Malificent.
Soon the whole room was whooping and screaming with joy. “I knew you would understand,” smiled April. Then all eyes turned to her and grinned viciously…
…As April sat at the bottom of the cauldron with lumps of strange ingredients being dumped on her, she wondered if it was the best idea to help the witches after all!
I had to do the NCT this month. We drive relatively few miles in the year now, but we have to keep the car in proper shape. A reminder with a code and a pin number came in on the e.mail, but we’re only in the infant class with regard to the internet for business; in fact I bristle when I hear older people being bullied into conducting business ‘on line’, especially bank business. So I made the booking by phone.
The kind and professional human contact takes the nerves out of filling in forms. But forms are a feature of our modern life.
Herself wanted to renew the passports, on the half chance we might join a pilgrimage to Lourdes. Down to the barracks for the application form, over to the photographer in the chemists, back to the barracks to have these signed, down to the post office for the ‘express’ passport service.
Something less complicated was the doctor-only medical card. Renewing the car tax disk involves more filling in. And if you want the fuel allowance, you have to submit a means test, which involves more forms.
Many of these connections to our society require a PPS no. The various government departments can keep a good track of you and your tax affairs and much other business with this number, though I’m told by some who have to visit the dole office on a regular basis that these departments are a long way from having joined-up thinking.
I can imagine nothing as frustrating as getting different answers to queries from different counters in the dole office, or from different departments.
But I didn’t mean to get into a crib. I was just reflecting on how all the bits of information about us stored here and there, from the births and deaths registry, to the PPS number and everything in between, all add up to making us Joe (or Jo) Citizen.
We may laugh at this definition of our human place in the country, but imagine for one minute if you had no papers: no citizenship, no nationality, no person-hood in
the eyes of the bureaucrats.
I can see a poor Afghan swimming ashore on a Greek island, having lost all his possessions and his papers in the Mediterranean sea: the first question he will be asked is, ‘Where are you papers?’, and this makes him very vulnerable from the off.
When we welcome migrants, just as our forefathers and foremothers were welcomed into the US and UK, we supply them with papers, and to give them status as citizens of the world, and maybe later, citizens of Ireland.
Our State has done a reasonable job of looking out for us citizens. We are not unaware of its faults; today this Citizen is in the mood to affirm all the good it actually does.