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By Patrick O’Sullivan

“You do a good line in nostalgia,” a reader said one time. “Do I?” I asked in reply, not knowing if this was meant as a compliment or otherwise. “You do, and do you know what it is, I’m always the better for reading it,” my companion told me with a smile so that I felt like smiling too.

There are very few topics, very few themes, that have not been the subject of some scientific investigation and nostalgia is no exception. There was a time apparently, centuries ago, when it was very much frowned upon. It must be borne in mind, however, that it had a very different meaning then, describing as it did, a condition which would now be thought of as some form of melancholy or depression.

Today, nostalgia generally refers to remembrance of times past: reminiscences of family and friends, home and holidays, songs and stories and so much more besides. These memories are generally light and positive, though not universally so.

Sometimes they are tinged with some bittersweet emotion of their own, but even then, say researchers, they have the capacity to make life more meaningful for us still.
“When people speak wistfully about the past, they become more optimistic about the future. Nostalgia makes us a bit more human.” This is the latest theory, or one of them at least.

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With Aileen Acheson

August is dahlia month. Remember they need staking. Trying to raise a dahlia with a lot of heavy foliage and succulent stems from the horizontal to the vertical is a horrible job. And one rarely successful. You will hear a snap and be left with a lot of cut flowers.
 Vaseline the stems well and if you have them in tubs or window boxes Vaseline the outsides of these too. This stops the ear wigs in their tracks a bit. If your phlox is showing signs of mildew it may revive if you water it well. Cans of water sloshed round it are more effective than sprinkling. Get the roots well wet.

The stems of lavatera need shortening towards the end of the month. Then again in spring another trim. This makes for sturdy stems able for the wind.

Plant Russian sage ‘Blue Spire’ in full sun. They like rocky, open places, where they will be baked, like in their natural habitat, Afghanistan. If you want a cool looking spot in your garden in this dusty looking month, plant Itea Ilicifolia. Glossy dark green leaves, with prickles. Tiny lime green flowers, fragrant but a big shrub. It needs a bit of space.
At the seaside recently I saw the loveliest thrift sea pinks in bloom. Laburnums were growing within a few feet of a sea wall. No sign of wind damage to their leaves, mind you. Roses were marvellous, very healthy looking, campanula seeding into the walls and alyssum was romping everywhere.

Globe thistles in light blue abounded in several gardens. A jewel of a sea holly, about three feet tall, in shimmering, silvery blue was growing in sandy soil, in a very sunny spot. I don’t think it would do well in any other type of soil or in shade.

If you want a few extra cut flowers in your August garden, plant Achillea Summer berries. This perennial is easy enough to grow from seed and usually flowers the first year. It will put up with dry conditions and flowers for months usually.

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Seventy-five-year-old Lily Devin was in a terrible state. Overnight, everything of value had been taken from the garage at the side of her house – all the gardening equipment that her recently-deceased husband, Bob, had owned, from ride-on lawnmower to strimmer to sprayer to chainsaw and more.

It was quite a haul, Miss Flanagan knew, at this time of year when there was a market for ‘fell off the back of a lorry’ gardening equipment. She arrived at Lily’s before the Gardai did. After making Lily comfortable she quickly went outside to survey the area.

Taking care to touch nothing, she took photographs of the scene from garage shelves to floor to the ground outside all the way to the road gate.

On her bike now she cycled up the road. She had seen no marks of a vehicle having pulled into a gateway as she cycled up but perhaps there was something in the other direction?  A hundred yards away there was a wide grass margin, she saw.  Something had pulled in there overnight, she noted, from the marks.

Again her phone camera was out and used to capture the images.

It wouldn’t have taken thieves long to carry the items to the boot of a car and return for more if necessary, she decided. They’d have been able to see approaching lights from a long distance so would have known that they’d have time for their dishonest activity or not.  

Satisfied that she had her preliminary evidence gathering done she went back into the house where Lily was sitting near the heater, a blanket round her shoulders, to help with the shock.

“I never heard a thing, Brigid,” she said. “My hearing’s not the best lately with this ear infection I have.”

Maybe it’s as well Lily hadn’t seen or heard anything, she thought.

What could she have done anyway and confronting thieves, at her age or any age for that matter, wouldn’t be a good idea.

Neighbours had gathered by the time the Gardai had arrived – the Allens, Finns and young Caitlin Moore from up the road. Everyone was shocked that Lily had been robbed.
“Whose property is safe if Lily has been robbed?” Jimmy Allen said. “No one’s – that’s what.”

“I’ll call in on my way home from work,” Caitlin was telling Lil now, “and I can sleep here tonight if you’d like that. I don’t want you on your own…”
“Thanks love, you’re very good.”

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By Arthur Flynn

The 1979 film Manhattan could be regarded as literally a one man show from the brain, skill and pen of Woody Allen. He starred as the central character Isaac Davis, directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Marshall Brickman. Allen described the film as a combination of his previous two films, Annie Hall and Interiors.

In Manhattan, Allen played a television writer, Isaac Davis, based in New York. In reality Allen himself had been a television comedy writer during the 1950s.

For the 1970s it was unusual for a film to be shot in black-and-white and widescreen but Allen always broke the rules. He never followed set patterns. The film also featured the melodious music of George Gershwin, including Rhapsody in Blue that inspired the idea behind the film.

As usual with Allen’s films he assembled a strong production team headed by cinematographer Gordon Willis and editor Susan E. Morse. The film was shot on a budget of $9 million for United Artists.

The other leading members of the cast included Diane Keaton as Mary Wilke, Michael Murphy as Yale, Mariel Hemingway as Tracy, Anne Byrne as Emily, Wallace Shawn as Jeremiah, Karen Ludwig as Connie and Meryl Streep as Jill.

Meryl Streep, then an emerging star, shot her scenes for the film during the breaks in filming of Kramer vs. Kramer.

The plot for Manhattan centred on Isaac Davis, a twice-divorced, 42-year-old television comedy writer dealing with the women in his life and quitting his unfulfilling job. He is dating Tracy, a 17-year-old girl who is still attending school.

His best friend, college professor Yale Pollack, married to Emily, is having an affair with Mary Wilkie. Mary’s ex-husband and former teacher, Jeremiah, also appears.

Isaac’s ex-wife Jill is writing a confessional book about their marriage. Jill has also since come out of the closet as a lesbian and lives with her partner, Connie.  

When Isaac meets Mary, her cultural snobbery rubs him up the wrong way. In spite of his growing attraction for Mary, Isaac still continues his relationship with Tracy. Isaac has to try and come to terms with his complicated life style and career and bring some order to it.

In the film Isaac has surrounded himself with a circle of friends, all of whom are writers. Yale is writing a biography of Eugene O’Neill and Mary is a critic. The script is littered with references to creative artists from Strindberg to Bergman, Fellini to Groucho Marx.
The film was like a travelogue of Manhattan cultural landmarks and those included in the film were Central Park, Broadway, Park Avenue, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Greenwich Village, Bloomingdales, Madison Avenue and the Upper East Side. One elaborate shot is of dawn coming up over the skyscrapers of the Big Apple.

It was Allen’s tribute to New York as was Orson Welles’s The Lady from Shanghai and La Dolce Vita, Vittorio De Sica’s tribute to Rome. When Allen saw the rough cut of Manhattan he was totally disappointed and stressed. He asked the producers if they would consider destroying every frame of it if he did his next film for them for free.
They thoroughly disagreed with him. Thankfully to editor Sandy Morse, this tribute to his home town emerged as his most highly regarded film by cinemagoers.

For Manhattan Woody Allen got some of his best reviews. The following are a sample: ‘A masterpiece that has become a film for the ages by not seeking to be a film of the moment.’ ‘Woody Allen’s great leap forward into character development and dramatic integrity.’

As expected the film was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress for Mariel Hemingway and Best Writing, Screenplay written directly for the Screen for Allen and Marshall Brickman.

Despite Allen’s misgivings many critics and cinemagoers classed it as being his best film. Allen himself regarded it as being his least favourite of the films he directed but yet it was the most commercially successful.

Following the huge success of Annie Hall and Manhattan, the United Artists executives told Allen’s producers: “From now on, make whatever you want.” He followed their advice and is still producing, directing and starring in first class films to day. ÷


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RÓNÁN GEARÓID O DOMHNAILL looks at some of the traditions associated with Irish wakes, funerals and burials

People were deeply superstitious in times gone by and nowhere was this more obvious than at funerals and wakes. The old Irish families, those with ‘O’ and ‘Mac’ in their names, had a banshee attached to them, whose wail foretold a death within the family and belief in this persisted into the 1970s.

Another form of death messenger who collected the souls of the dead was the cóiste bodhar, the silent coach, driven by a headless coachman called a dullahan, whose whip was a human spinal cord.

Omens of death were also present in nature. Four magpies together signalled death, as indeed did a robin knocking on your window or entering the house. It was believed that cats could interfere with the souls of the dead and there were never let into a wake house. If they did jump over the corpse, the cat would be killed the next day.

The mirrors in the house of the deceased were turned around or covered, in case the soul of the deceased became trapped inside. Clocks were stopped at the time of death as many would ask what time the death occurred. Once the person died, the windows were opened to let the deceased soul out. The window remained open, albeit with the curtains closed, until the corpse was removed for burial.

The corpse was first washed by the women a few hours after death and laid out in a brown woollen habit for males, and a blue one for females and placed on the bed in white sheets. The coffin was often made of straw. The room was lit by candles, holy water shaken over the corpse and the full rosary recited.

 In some places there was a table used specially for the corpse, the so-called wake table. There is an example of one at Glenveagh Castle in Donegal. The eyes were closed in case the deceased chose someone to go with them and pennies were placed over the eyelids to keep them down.

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By Gerry Breen

The Fourth of July is celebrated by Americans everywhere as Independence Day, commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on 4th July, 1776, declaring independence from Great Britain.

Strangely enough, Ireland’s population was twice as big as America’s during the War for Independence. Today, the population of America is about sixty times greater than that of Ireland.

However, it is reckoned that forty million Americans are Irish or have Irish ancestors, and many people believe that the Irish have a lot of reasons for being allowed to share in the celebrations on the National Day of the United States. Here are just a few of them:
The Declaration of Independence was written in the hand of an Irish-born patriot, Charles Thomson. It was first read to the people, outside the hall where it was drafted by another native of Ireland, John Nixon. It was first printed by an Irish-born Philadephian, John Dunlap, and signed by at least three Americans of Irish birth.

At least eighteen presidents of the United States can claim Irish ancestry and an Irishman, James Hoban, who was born in Kilkenny, designed and built the White House. Hoban studied architecture in Dublin, and it is believed that he modelled the White House on Leinster House, now the home of Dáil Eireann.

The first American general to die during the War for Independence was an Irishman, Brigadier General Richard Montgomery, who was born near Swords, Co. Dublin, in December, 1738, and was educated in Trinity College, Dublin. He first served in the British Army, but later took up the American revolutionary cause.

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The first female doctor died 150 years ago writes Paul Craven

PRECISE INFORMATION regarding the origins of the person who became known as ‘James Barry’ is not available.

However, the best evidence suggests the ‘he’ was born Margaret Bulkley. ‘His’ (or her) place of birth is usually given as Cork, and ‘his’ date of birth is variously given as 1792 and 1799 (as her University and Army records do not agree).

Her mother was Mrs. Mary Ann Bulkley, whose maiden name was Barry and whose family were well known shipbuilders in Cork City.

As for the name of her father, that is still the subject of speculation.

However, it is certain, that in the early 1800s, Mrs. Mary Ann Bulkley arrived in London with her two daughters. She complained to her brother, James, that she had been thrown out of the family home, in Cork, by her husband and son.

James refused to help his sister and nieces, but when he died shortly afterwards, Mrs. Bulkley benefitted from her brother’s estate.

She also benefitted from the patronage of two of her deceased brother’s acquaintances – David Stuart, the Eleventh Earl of Buchan, and a South American exile, General Francisco de Miranda.

These two men were radicals by the standards of the day as they advocated female education!

It was they who noticed how clever and bright young Margaret was, and probably suggested that she should disguise herself as a man to enjoy an education normally prohibited to women.

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