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seahorsecoverTwo 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.

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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. ■

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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.

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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!”                

                          
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“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!

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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.

Read Cassidy every week in Ireland’s Own

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Despite contributing handsomely to the economy, to public life and to sport and entertainment, there are very few memorials to the Irish in Britain. Steve Coyne went about locating some of them.

The highly successful state visit to the UK by President Michael D Higgins in 2014 was significant in many ways, not in the least in reaching out to the Irish in Britain community. Has it really taken centuries of emigration before the Irish in Britain have been officially acknowledged?


It had occurred to me that there are very few statues, monuments or memorials to Irish men and women in Britain despite contributing to the economy, to public life and to sport and entertainment. I set out to find some examples.


The earliest example must surely be St. Aidan who came to Holy Island in Northumberland in the year 635AD to form his bishopric at Lindisfarne. A son of Lugair of Eochaidh Finn lineage, he spoke only Irish and was described as a man of outstanding gentleness, holiness and moderation, with a special interest in the needs of the poor.
Today a fine statue in the grounds of the Priory ruins stands as a fitting memorial.


Another man of the cloth remembered in the north of England is the Rev. Patrick Bronte, head of the famous Victorian literary family and a native of County Down. His name is listed on a wall tablet denoting the incumbents of Haworth Parish Church, while opposite a blue plaque on the School building states that “Patrick Bronte 1777-1860 built this school for the children of Haworth.”


Memorials in the south are harder to find. In the small town of Heronsgate off the M25 is a plaque on which is written “In proud memory of O’Connorsville” – all that remains of the work of Chartist leader Feargus O’Connor, born in West Cork in 1794.
O’Connor was the fiery editor of the Northern Star newspaper and a Member of Parliament who spoke at great rallies, agitating for reform and improvement in the lives of the workers.


O’Connorsville was set up in 1847 as a pioneering venture in land reform which did not survive. The Chartists did however succeed with many of their aims later. O’Connor died in 1855 and is buried in London’s Kensal Green Cemetery.

The south coast town of Hastings also remembers an Irish literary connection. Dublin-born Robert Noonan was a house painter by trade who famously wrote the Edwardian novel, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, under the name of Robert Tressell.


Focusing on the lives of building workers in the town it is referred to by some as a ‘socialist bible’. Two house wall plaques – at 115 Millward Road and 241 London Road – mark where the author lived in the first decade of the last century.


The town also periodically holds a Robert Tressell Festival. This brings us to Liverpool where Noonan died in February 1911 and where he was buried in a pauper’s grave – a later headstone paid for by local trade unionists now provides a more fitting memorial.
The great sea port of Liverpool’s connections with Ireland are well documented. In 1995, a wall plaque positioned on the Clarence Dock gate, recognised the emigrants of the Great Famine who passed through it’s gates. Elsewhere in the city, in Toxteth, Jim Larkin was born in Combermere Street in 1876 to Irish parents.


The nearby Globe pub announces that “Jim Larkin 1876-1947 renowned trade union leader was born in this street.”

Liverpool also has one very unusual Irish monument. Known as the Dandy Pat Memorial Fountain it has had three locations in the Scotland Road district where it stands in honour of one Patrick Byrne, an Irish-born Victorian city councillor, publican and philanthropist who was known as ‘Dandy Pat’ on account of his fashionable clothes.


Byrne was born in Ferns, Co. Wexford, in 1845, and did not move to Liverpool until 1862. He became the publican of the Morning Star pub, Scotland Place, one of a number of properties he owned. Renowned for talking politics and drinking whiskey, he died aged forty five.


At his funeral thousands followed his coffin. He was buried in Ireland but such was his popularity a memorial fountain was erected outside his former pub paid for by donations from the local community.


The fountain was originally bedecked with marble pillars when it had to be relocated in 1983, but following vandalism in has since found a permanent home (albeit without the missing pillars) in the grounds of St. Anthony’s Church.


Thirty miles to the east Manchester also marks it’s Irish heritage in a number of locations. Just south of Oxford Road station is a wall plaque marking the location of ‘Little Ireland’ an infamous ghetto of insanitary housing from the nineteenth century.


Better known, however, in the district of Moston a celtic cross was erected in 1897 in St Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery as the memorial to the Manchester Martyrs, unjustly executed at the height of Fenian activity in the city in 1868.

The cross commemorates the three local Irishmen, Allen, O’Brien and Larkin, whose triple execution aroused worldwide condemnation.


Still within Lancashire, in the small cotton town of Haslingden, they remember the times of the great nineteenth century political activist, Michael Davitt – active not just on both sides of the Irish Sea but also in America and Australia such were his range of interests.
Davitt lost an arm in a childhood accident in a Haslingden mill. The original house in which the Davitts lived after being uprooted from Straide, County Mayo, during the Famine no longer exists, but a wall structure housing a plaque has been built in Wilkinson Street acknowledging the Davitt home.


Finally there are two memorials in Scotland we can note – one each in the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. In the capital, another plaque marks the birthplace of  James Connolly in 1868. Fixed to the wall by the George IV Bridge it is close to what was once 107 Cowgate, then the home of the Connollys.


Finally there is one outstanding statue to an Irishman in Scotland. Standing resplendent outside Celtic Park in Glasgow is a fine bronze statue to Andrew Kerins, born in Ballymote, County Sligo in 1840. He is better known however among Celtic followers around the world as the club’s founder, Brother Walfrid.


This is quite a varied group, with something of a radical streak, but evidence nonetheless of some acknowledgement of the contributions of the Irish to life ‘across the water’.

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By Arthur Flynn

The Leopard was hailed by the critics as Luchino Visconti’s masterpiece and took many years to bring to the screen.


In the early stages of casting Luchino Visconti initially planned to cast Nikolia Cherkasov, a favourite of Sergi Eisenstein in the leading role of Prince Don Fabrizio. Commercial interests intervened as Cherkasov was not known outside Italy and would not sell the film. Next they considered some Russian actors but it did not materialise.  Laurence Olivier was considered but he was too busy.  Many other leading stars including Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn and Spencer Tracey were considered for the important role.


Finally the producers chose Burt Lancaster without informing Visconti. To many Italians it was insulting to have a former circus performer and Elmer Gantry presiding over Italy’s noble past was an insult. Reluctantly Visconti had to accept the decision but dismissed the star foisted on him as ‘an American gangster.’


Alain Delon who was cast as Tancredi, the second leading role received more privileges including his own dressing room. Lancaster had to sweat in the sun.


Soon the other leading roles were filled by Claudia Cardinale as Angelica Sedara, Rena Morelli as Maria Stella and Paolo Stoppa as Don Calogero Sedara.


Along with Visconti there were four other screenwriters adapting the novel II Gallopardo by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa for the screen. Giuseppe Rotunno was director of photography and musical director was Nino Rota.

The story was laid out in a relaxed fashion and the original running time was 205 minutes. It was later cut to 195 minutes and later 185 minutes.


The story chronicles the fortunes of aging Prince Fabrizio Salina and his family during the unification of Italy in the 1860s. He looks back with nostalgic regret at the decline of his class. The story opens as Salina learns that Garibaldi’s troops have embarked in Sicily. The focal point is Garibaldi’s expedition to unite Sicily with Italy by deposing King Francis II. Salina is hurt by the fact that his son is to marry a parvenu, a daughter of the local mayor. He sees change and decay all around him with the end of the aristocrats and the rise of the masses. The spectacular climax is the marriage ball, at which for the first time the classes mingle freely.

Many critics failed to accept Burt Lancaster as an Italian prince. Some stated that he could not be a prince as he was better known as a cowboy. Gradually Lancaster and Visconti drew closer as the director came to understand the American actor’s commitment to the role and his mastery of the film business.  Later Lancaster admitted that The Leopard was the best work of his career.


The film was shot in Sicily over eleven of the hottest weeks of the year. Towards the end of the schedule, Lancaster took time off to collect his Best Actor Prize for his magnificent performance in The Birdman of Alcatraz at the Venice Film Festival.


On its origin release the film was panned by the critics. Time Magazine praised the character of the titular Leopard as solid and controversial.

In 1963 The Leopard was an amazing hit at the Cannes Film Festival and won the Palme D’Or. Not surprisingly the film was not such a hit in the United States. The painful study of Lancaster’s fading prince in 1860’s Sicily and the epic battle scenes reminded Italian audiences of an Italian version of Gone with the Wind. Instead American audiences flocked to see Cleopatra.


The Leopard was nominated for a Best Costume Design Oscar for Piero Tosi.
The failure of the American version was not helped when Fox complicated matters by not releasing it in Technicolor like the Italian version, but in the inferior, but cheaper, Deluxe colour process.


Despite early critics and audience’s reactions in America the film received outstanding reviews. They included: ‘Is this the most beautiful film ever made?’ ‘A magnificent film munificently outfitted and splendidly acted by a large cast dominated by Lancaster’s standout stint in the title role.’ ‘Stately, elegiac, ruminative, the film truly does now feel seamlessly all of a piece – and looks glorious.’ ‘The film is one of the most sumptuous ever made in Europe.’


The director Martin Scorsese considered it as one of the greatest films ever made.

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By Dave Devereux

It might be difficult for the youth of today to envisage, but there was once a time when the The X Factor didn’t have a vice-like stranglehold on the Christmas number one spot.
For at least four decades getting to the top of the charts during the festive season really meant something and it was a highly coveted prize that artists would be eyeing for months in advance.


Nowadays the predictably of it all, powered by the music industry’s money-making machine, means that it has lost its charm entirely, which would make more seasoned listeners yearn for a time when a Christmas classic could come out of the blue to light up the yuletide season.


The Irish Singles Chart was compiled for the first time in 1962, with Elvis Presley’s ‘Return to Sender’ achieving the accolade of Ireland’s first Christmas number one.
A host of international stars have filled the top spot since then, including classics like ‘Day Tripper’ by The Beatles, Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ or festive favourites like Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ and ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ by Cliff Richard.


Throughout the last five decades of so there’s also been a number of Irish acts that have sat proudly at the top of the Christmas tree at the most wonderful time of the year and a mere mention of those tunes will take you on a fond trip down memory lane.

1963 – No More by Brendan Bowyer
Just a year after the formation of the Irish charts Brendan Bowyer and the Royal Showband became the first Irish act to claim the Christmas number one spot.
Earlier that year the Waterford man had become the first homegrown artist to top the fledgling charts with ‘Kiss Me Quick’ and he later went on to have his greatest success with in 1965 with ‘The Hucklebuck’, which topped the Irish charts for seven weeks.

1967 – Treat my Daughter Kindly by The Airchords and Pat Lynch
Treat My Daughter Kindly was the first number one for The Airchords and Pat Lynch and what a time of year to get it. The band, formed by members of the Irish Air Corps, came together in 1960 but Corkman Lynch didn’t come on board until 1965 when he replaced Joe Fitzmaurice as lead vocalist. Lynch proved to a major success and the band claimed the coveted Christmas number one spot in 1967.

1971 – Oh Holy Night by Tommy Drennan
Singer and pianist, Tommy Drennan was an 11-year-old boy soprano in 1953 when his rendition of ‘Oh, Holy Night’ was recorded at Mount St. Alphonsus Church. The recording was stored in a old suitcase for nearly 20 years before being restored.
After hearing the demo, executives as EMI in Dublin got Drennan into the studio to record a new verse with an orchestra. The old and new recordings were then combined and it was released as a single in time for the Christmas market and shot to the top of the charts, where it remained for five weeks.

1972 – Whiskey in the Jar by Thin Lizzy
A well-known Irish traditional song about a highwayman who was betrayed by his lover, ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ gained international exposure when it was regularly performed by the Dubliners, but it wasn’t until the Phil Lynott fronted Thin Lizzy recorded a rock version of the song that it took the charts by storm.
Not a traditional Christmas tune by any means, but a mighty fine song nonetheless.

1984, 1989 and 2004 – Do They Know It’s Christmas by Band Aid
There was a massive Irish influence in supergroup Band Aid as Dubliner Bob Geldof, along with Midge Ure, was the driving force behind the charity single.
The original was written in reaction to the famine in Africa and led to the Live Aid concert which took place in July, 1985.
Geldof’s fellow Dubliner Bono contributed to three Band Aid recordings.

1985 – Thank You Very Much Mr Eastwood by Dermot Morgan
‘Thank You Very Much Mr Eastwood’ by the late, great Dermot Morgan of Father Ted fame was an unlikely Christmas number one.
The song was a parody of world champion featherweight boxer Barry McGuigan’s habit of thanking his manager Barney Eastwood after every victory.
The comedy single featured impersonations of McGuigan, Ronald Reagan, Bob Geldof and Pope John Paul II.

1987 – Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl
Fairytale of New York is widely regarded as one of, if not the, best Christmas song ever, an all-time classic which never grows old.
The song tells a bitter-sweet tale of an Irish immigrant’s relationship that was blighted by drugs and alcohol addiction. The late Kirsty MacColl’s harmonious singing provides a beautiful contrast to Shane MacGowan’s husky tones, resulting in a timeless classic.

1990 – Christmas No. 1 by Zig and Zag
It takes a lot of confidence to call your debut single ‘Christmas No. 1’ but that’s exactly what puppet duo Zig and Zag did, and their faith proved to be well founded.
The furry extra-terrestrials from the planet Zog made their television debut in 1987 on RTE’s Dempsey’s Den, taking the country by storm.
‘Christmas No. 1’ stayed at the summit for five weeks and they went on to top the charts with their album ‘Never Mind the Zogabongs…Here’s Zig and Zag’ and their follow up single ‘Zig Zaggin Around’.

1995 – Father and Son by Boyzone
Boyzone made it to the top of the charts with their cover version of the Cat Stevens classic ‘Father and Son’. The song focuses on a father who can’t quite grasp his son’s desire to make a new life for himself and a son who finds it hard to put his exact reasons into words but know that the time has come for him to make it on his own.

1999 – I Have A Dream/Seasons in the Sun by Westlife
Westlife’s double A-side reached the top of the charts at the turn of the millennium.
‘I Have A Dream’ was originally recorded by Abba, while ‘Seasons in the Sun’ had been a worldwide hit for Canadian singer Terry Jacks in 1974.
The single was also the Christmas number one in the UK, and it spent 17 weeks in the charts across the water.

2005 – Leave Right Now by Mario Rosenstock
The original version of ‘Leave Right Now’ by Will Young was the Irish Christmas number one two years earlier and Mario Rosenstock brought it firmly back into the limelight with his Gift Grub version.
The parody which related to the circumstances surrounding Roy Keane’s departure from Manchester United was released as a charity single and until last year, when ‘Uptown Funk’ by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars topped the charts, it was the last Christmas number one that wasn’t a winner of The X Factor.

2011 – Cannonball by Little Mix
(Written by Damien Rice)
‘Cannonball’ originally featured on Damien Rice’s 2002 album ‘O’ but the song came to worldwide prominence when it was The X Factor’s winner’s single in 2011.
British girl group Little Mix reached the number one spot in both the UK and Ireland with their debut single, but Rice’s beautifully haunting original version remains head and shoulders above their effort.

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Dec 3, 2015: 25 years since MARY ROBINSON was inaugurated as President of Ireland, writes Cathal Coyle

This month celebrates the 25th anniversary of Mary Robinson’s inauguration as the seventh President of Ireland, on 3rd December, 1990.

It was hugely symbolic for Irish society as she was the first female Irish President; another milestone was that she was the first person elected to the position that wasn’t nominated by the Fianna Fáil party. Mary Robinson had a background as a lawyer and a politician before being elected President.

Born Mary Bourke in 1944 in Ballina, County Mayo, she was educated at Trinity College and King’s Inns in Dublin, and at Harvard University in the United States. In 1969 at the age of 25, she became Ireland’s youngest Law professor when she was appointed the Reid Professor of Constitutional Law at Trinity College, Dublin.

She later lectured in European Community law from 1975 to 1990. In 1988 she established the Irish Centre for European Law (with her husband Nick) at Trinity College.

As a politician, she sat in the upper chamber of parliament – Seanad Éireann – for the Trinity College constituency from 1969 to 1989, initially as an independent – although she was a member of the Labour Party for several years during the late 70s and early 80s.

She quickly gained a reputation as a strong advocate for human rights, one such campaign sought to eliminate discrimination against women in Irish society. She was also elected to Dublin City Council in 1979, and served there until 1983. She was nominated by the Labour Party, and supported by the Green Party, the Workers’ Party and independent senators, to seek election to become Ireland’s first female president.

The three-way battle to succeed Patrick Hillery (who had served two terms as the President of Ireland since December 1976) was intriguing. Mary Robinson finished first in the election, with almost 39% of the first preference vote, ahead of Austin Currie (nominated by Fine Gael) and Brian Lenihan (nominated by Fianna Fáil). The final count raised her total to 52% and she was duly elected, in what was a watershed moment for Irish politics and society.

Quite famously, RTÉ broadcast her election victory speech live rather than the Angelus.

As President, Mary Robinson did much to communicate a more modern image of Ireland and greatly raised the profile of the office of President. Strongly committed to human rights, she used her influence to draw attention to global humanitarian issues. In 1992, she was the first head of state to visit Somalia after it suffered from civil war and famine; she was also the first to visit Rwanda after the genocide in that country in 1994. When she visited Queen Elizabeth in London in 1993, it was the first such meeting between the heads of state of the two countries.

She also reached out to the Irish diaspora and famously put a symbolic light in the kitchen window in Áras an Uachtaráin, (the candle in the window is an old Irish custom) to remember those Irish emigrants around the world. She resigned from the office of President on 12 September, 1997, a few months before her term expired, to take up the appointment of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She was succeeded as President of Ireland by another female President, Mary McAleese, who served two terms.

As UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson was the first to visit China and she also helped to improve the monitoring of human rights in Kosovo. She held this post until 2002, after pressure from the United States led her to declare that she wasn’t able to continue her work. She had previously criticised the U.S. Government for its perceived violation of human rights in its war on terrorism.

After leaving her post at the United Nations, Mary Robinson founded the non-governmental organisation Realising Rights: The Ethical Globalisation Initiative. Its central concerns included equitable international trade, access to health care, migration, women’s leadership, and corporate responsibility.

She was also a founding member of the Council of Women World Leaders, served as honorary president of Oxfam International and was a member of the Club of Madrid (which promotes democracy).

Mary Robinson has received many honours from various organisations since she was elected the first female chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin in 1998.

Six years later, Amnesty International awarded her its ‘Ambassador of Conscience’ award for her Human Rights work.

Her other major honours to date include the prestigious U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian honour bestowed by the United States – presented to her by President Barack Obama in July 2009. In recent times, the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice, based in Dublin, is a centre for education and advocacy on the struggle to secure global justice for those people vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

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Activist Joe Hill was executed by a firing squad one hundred years ago. He is immortalised in that famous song, writes Jim Sheridanjoehill

The Labour Movement never forgets its heroes. A statue of Big Jim Larkin stands in Dublin’s O’Connell St. to commemorate his support for the Dublin workers in the 1913 lock-out. He is the only 20th century figure to be so honoured.


The Industrial Workers of the World, IWW, or Wobblies as they were sometimes called, was a trade union that organised workers in the United States in the early 1900s.  
Joe Hill, a Swedish emigrant born in 1879 became its troubadour and an activist. He was working on the docks in San Pedro, California in 1911 when the railroad workers, led by the IWW, were on strike.


The Railroad employed scab labour to run the trains and Joe wrote a song ‘Casey Jones the union scab’ which became a rallying anthem for the strikers. He said, “A pamphlet, no matter how good, is never read more than once, but a song is learned by heart and repeated over and over; and I maintain that if a person can put a few cold, common sense facts into a song, and dress them up in a cloak of humour, to take the dryness out of them, he will succeed in reaching a great many workers who will not read a pamphlet or an editorial on economic science.” Joe Hill gave an expression to the English language when he wrote his song ‘The Preacher and the Slave’, a parody on the Salvation Army hymn ‘In the Sweet Bye and Bye’. His version referred to heaven as ‘pie in the sky’.  Its chorus was as follows: ‘You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.’

Hill was charged with the murder of a shopkeeper in Salt Lake City in 1914. There was a lot of circumstantial evidence presented.  
The ‘beyond a shadow of a doubt test’ was disputed and the trial was considered very unsatisfactory.  


Nonetheless, he was found guilty and executed by a firing squad on November 19th 1915, in Salt Lake City. Many believed he was framed because he was a thorn in the side of the mine owners and other employers. Figures from President Wilson to Helen Keller entered pleas opposing his execution.


As he signed off on the procedure that November morning the Governor of Utah is reported to have said, “Some men are more dangerous dead than alive, and I’m afraid this guy is one of them.”


Joe Hill was a mixture of artist and activist. Mystique is a special ingredient in the making of a legend and martyrdom cements the mystique like nothing else can. His courage in facing the firing squad added to his reputation.


Joe is commemorated in the song ‘Joe Hill’ which was written some years after his death and has continued to surface at various times since then. The song was sung in the Civil War in Spain by the Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the International Brigade. It was recorded by Paul Robeson, the multi-talented African American singer, athlete and civil rights activist of the 1940s and 1950s. It surfaced again during the anti-Vietnam War struggle in the 1960s and 1970s sung by Joan Baez and Luke Kelly with the Dubliners.
The final verse of the song reaches out to workers on the picket line.
‘From San Diego Up to Maine
In every mine and mill
Where workers strike and organise
It’s there you’ll find Joe Hill
It’s there you’ll find Joe Hill’.
A poem of the era called ‘Joe Hill Listens to the Praying’ captures the rhythm and themes of that time. It tells about men travelling all over the country by jumping on freight trains, often covering long distances; sometimes they’d ride the rods under the carriages; that was very hazardous but men did it to get to somewhere they could get work.  
They lived around ‘Jungle Camps’ which were ad hoc camps usually close to rail stations.
They were called hobos but these men did this to survive in a time that was not sympathetic to them, economically or otherwise.  


It was estimated that in the years 1901 to 1903, 25,000 so called ‘trespassers’ were killed on America’s railroads and as many again were crippled or injured. The IWW produced a little ‘red book’ of songs, mostly written by Joe Hill, which were sung on picket lines right across the country and in bunk houses from Washington State to Maine. The hobos took them with them on their journeys across the continent. Joe Hill’s belief in the power of songs to reach people was borne out.


Jim Larkin was in Montana in the autumn of 1915 in support of striking miners, and made his way to Chicago for the funeral of Joe Hill. He was deeply affected by the execution and wrote in the International Socialist Review under the title ‘Murder Most Foul’.
“They shot him to death because he was a rebel, one of the disinherited, because he was the voice of the inarticulate downtrodden.”


Hill’s funeral in Chicago was a rallying point for Socialists. Larkin addressed a huge crowd of mourners and thundered, “Joe Hill’s last words were ‘don’t mourn for me: organise’.  The IWW movement has been sealed in the sweet blood of the poet radical. His callous, cold-blooded murder will do more to solidify the sentiment of the workers of the world than any other crime of the master class.”


 Joe Hill’s remains was cremated and his ashes were cast to the wind, as was his wish.

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By Thomas Myler

When Ian Fleming sat down at his typewriter one afternoon in February 1952 in the study of his Jamaican home, known as Goldeneye, and started on his first James Bond novel ‘Casino Royale’, he had not even the faintest idea of the phenomenal success his creation would become – particularly on cinema screens worldwide.


The Bond movies, produced by Eon Productions with financial backing by United Artists, comprise 23 productions with a combined gross of over $600,000 million, the highest of any film series with the exception of the Harry Potter movies, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe films.


The secret agent, who works for MI6, and known as 007, has been portrayed by, in turn, Sean Connery, David Niven, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, our own Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig.


Craig starred in the last three Bond films, a re-make of the 1967 spoof Casino Royale, followed by Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. He is now back again in Spectre, currently showing in Irish cinemas.

When Fleming showed the manuscript of his first novel Casino Royale to a friend, William Plomer, who later became his editor, he liked it. “William submitted it to the publishers Jonathan Cape but they didn’t like it very much,” said Fleming in an interview. “Then, a year later, on the advice of my elder brother, Peter, an established travel writer, they accepted it.”


Between 1953 and 1966, two years after his death, Fleming had completed 12 novels and two short story collections, with the last three Bond books The Man With The Golden Gun, Octopussy and The Living Daylights, published posthumously.


Once asked how he came upon the name James Bond, he explained: “It was the name of an American ornithologist, a keen birdwatcher like myself. He was a real expert in his field and the author of the definitive field guide ‘Birds of the West Indies’.


‘It struck me that my friend had a short, unromantic Anglo-Saxon yet very masculine name, and it was just what I needed for my character. So a second James Bond was born, the fictional one and the real one.


“You see, I wanted Bond to be an agent that exotic things would happen to, but he would always be a neutral figure, an anonymous, blunt instrument wielded by a government department. I based Bond on a number of individuals I came across during my time in the Royal Navy Intelligence Division during World War 2.


“Bond was a compound of all those secret agents I met, among them my brother Peter, who had been involved in operations behind the scenes in Norway and Greece.
“I also used the experiences of my espionage career and other aspects of my life as inspiration when writing, including using names of school friends, acquaintances and relatives though my books.”


Fleming recalled that when he wrote Casino Royale in 1953, he wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened. “I wanted him to be a blunt instrument but a bit like me too,” he said. “I loved gambling and so did Bond. I loved golf. So did Bond. How did the 007 arise? I played around with a few digits and 007 came up.”

In 1959, Albert R ‘Cubby’ Broccoli and Harry Salzman formed Econ Productions with the intention of making the first Bond movie. They planned to cast a young macho Scottish actor, Sean Connery, as Bond. Fleming rejected him as ‘unsuitable’ because he was not a big name.


Patrick McGoohan also got the thumbs down because Fleming felt he was “mainly a TV actor”. Cary Grant’s name came up but when the suave and debonair star was approached, he said he would only do one Bond film, as he was considering retirement.
Fleming was said to have favoured the Dublin-born actor Richard Todd, but Broccoli said no. Richard Johnson, an established movie star, turned down the Bond role and thoughts turned to a young Roger Moore but Broccoli said he was “too young and a shade too pretty”. As it happened, Moore would step into the Bond role in 1973 for Live and Let Die, and would star as the secret agent in six more films.


Meanwhile, after all the false starts in selecting the actor to play the first Bond, it was back to Connery. When first invited to meet Fleming, Broccoli and Salzman, Connery arrived in scruffy clothes and gave the impression of an arrogant, devil-may-care actor.
Broccoli and Salzman were impressed, but not so Fleming. “I’m looking for Commander Bond, not some overgrown stuntman who looks like he has just walked off the set,” the author said.


Connery had played small roles in films, including the Disney fantasy Darby O’Gill and the Little People, which starred Jimmy O’Dea. He was also in a Tarzan picture. A former bricklayer, he has represented Scotland in a Mr Universe competition, and was also a bodyguard as well as a coffin polisher, and a model for swimming trunks.
It took Fleming some time to go along with the views of Broccoli and Salzman who felt Connery would make an ideal Bond but he eventually agreed, if reluctantly.
Filming on Dr No got underway in Jamaica in January 1962, before moving on to Pinewood studios in England in late February.


Fleming would later agree that Connery had been a good choice, especially after the worldwide success of Dr No. In many people’s eyes, he was the best Bond. Connery played 007 seven times – becoming one of the screen’s most enduring stars and winning a Hollywood Oscar in 1987 for The Untouchables.


Sadly, Fleming would only live to see Connery star in two more Bond movies, from Russia With Love in 1963 and Goldfinger a year later. He died suddenly in 1965.

Pierce Brosnan came into the Bond role by accident. “An intended brief visit to the US in 1982 turned into a long stay when I was offered the TV series, Remington Steele,” the Navan-born actor said. “I played the role for four years before it was cancelled. I was announced as the screen’s next James Bond but the next thing it was decided to revive Remington Steele and as I was still under contract, I had to give up the Bond part – until it came around again in 1996 with Goldeneye.’


Brosnan would play 007 in three further films, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. “I think there is a physicality in playing Bond which has to be there and I don’t think I carry that in real life,” said Brosnan in an interview in 1999. “James is a naval commander and he has a commanding presence when he enters a room or is dealing with people.


“When I arrived at the studio in the morning, you became Bond. You come in, you put on the suit and you’re there. I’m usually in my own time zone and there’s a certain attitude and energy and formality to the body that comes into being without you even knowing. In the morning I was James Bond. In the evening it was back to Pierce Brosnan.”
When the producers decided in 2006 to give Bond both a more cutting edge and a new look, Daniel Craig got the part. In his fourth outing as 007 in the current film, Spectre, Craig’s co-stars include Ralph Fiennes who plays the new ‘M’ following the untimely death of Judy Dench’s character in the last Bond movie.

 

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