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Early reminders – Five Points for Perfect Posting this Christmas

Online festive flurry underway

An Post’s Christmas countdown has begun

 

1.‘Early does it’  is An Post’s advice this year with Early Planning, Early Shopping and Early Posting all part of the mix for a happy, stress-free Christmas: The number of parcels in and out of Ireland and across the globe is rising steadily every day as shoppers chase high street and online bargains.  An Post advises online shoppers and anyone planning to send presents by post this Christmas is to get organised early so as to avoid last minute panic or weather-related delays around the world.

2: Make it personal: A personal message in a Christmas card or letter is the very centre of Christmas; there’s pleasure in both sending and receiving them.   Colourful Christmas stamp booklets (€25 for 26 stamps) and international stamps are now on sale at all post offices.     An Post handles between 3 and 7 million mail items each day during the Christmas lead-up. Mail volumes more than double as the holiday approaches with Christmas shopping, presents and greetings forming the bulk of the extra seasonal mail.

  1. Give yourself time: Be sure to factor in the time for any online purchases to be delivered and for posting them onwards to family and friends.  With so many Irish people now living abroad, we know there’ll be parcels of all shapes and sizes carrying special Christmas wishes this year.  While writing cards and addressing envelopes is the perfect time to reflect and think back over the year just passed – make sure to give yourself time to enjoy sending Christmas wishes at home and abroad.
  2. Don’t miss out: AddressPal.ie is the handy new service from An Post which gives shoppers their own UK or US address so that they can order from websites that don’t deliver to Ireland, or charge steep shipping fees for doing so, and your shopping will be delivered back to your local post office, your home or wherever suits you.
  3. Pack it properly: Make sure to wrap and seal cards and parcels well;  check the address and postage and always include the sender’s details too.  It means we can get the package safely back to you if it can’t be delivered.   Use bubblewrap or extra paper to cover sharp corners and don’t spare the tape.  Good packaging keeps your precious parcel safe all the way to its destination.

 

Date Alert for Far Far Away:  December 7 is the latest guaranteed date for regular parcel services to far-off places such as Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.   See anpost.ie/Christmas for all you need to know about Christmas posting.

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    By David Flynn

    ‘Hey, Hey, We’re The Monkees’ is a catchphrase from the theme song of both the Monkees pop band and a hit 1960s television series, that became even more popular in the following decades.


    It was a tv sitcom about four lads who became the band members of the Monkees. The chosen four were musicians and had acting experience when they joined the 400 wannabes who applied to the audition to become the Monkees.


    Davy Jones had appeared in Britain on ‘Coronation Street’ as Ena Sharples grandson, and went to USA to play the Artful Dodger in the Broadway musical, ‘Oliver’. Mike Nesmith was a singer/songwriter when he answered the advert to join the tv series/band. Peter Tork was a folk musician when he auditioned. Micky Dolenz was probably the most experienced in acting, because he had starred as a child on the 1950s series, ‘Circus Boy’.


    The series was about the four young musicians (they were all around 20 years of age), living in a house together, and trying to develop their band in Los Angeles. The producers struck gold with the four actors, because they had good chemistry, and were the ingredients of a very successful 1960s band, which wasn’t too dissimilar to the Beatles which were beginning to take the world by storm.

    Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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      Fifty years since his death, the poet’s life, in all its many facets, makes for celebration, reflection and an eagerness to explore, highlight and re-evaluate his contribution to both Irish and international literature, writes Eileen Casey.

      It’s now fifty years since the passing of one of Ireland’s most iconic writers. This significant date will not go unmarked. Indeed, many events have taken place throughout the past year and many more are planned for the anniversary weekend itself (30th November) not least at Kavanagh’s graveside in Inniskeen, where acclaimed Monaghan writers will read a selection of Kavanagh poems.


      Clearly, the poet’s appeal endures. When in 2000, The Irish Times listed the nation’s favourite Irish poems, ten of Kavanagh’s poems were in the top 50. Screen actor Russell Crowe is known to be a big fan of Kavanagh, commenting that he admires “how he combines the kind of mystic into really clear, evocative work that can make you glad you are alive.”


      Anyone who’s ever walked down Dublin’s Grand Canal will have seen (if not sat upon) the bench with a dedication to Kavanagh, complete with a sculpture of the poet sitting in silent meditation (perhaps contemplating his roots, the Stony Grey Soil of Monaghan).


      Thanks to The Patrick Kavanagh Rural & Literary Resource Centre, there’s an ongoing ‘living’ memorial to the achievements of the great poet. Where better to house such a valuable resource than in a beautiful, atmospheric building (dating back to 1820) nestled among rolling hills in the poet’s Drumlin Parish homeland.


      The Resource Centre at Inniskeen, formerly St Mary’s Catholic Church, is always a hive of activity, especially as Kavanagh’s grave (where he is buried with his wife Katherine) is just a stone’s throw away in the nearby cemetery.


      Thanks to arts funding (from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht) the Centre is now about to undergo refurbishment, which will upgrade facilities and update the technological elements of the exhibitions, making them more accessible to a contemporary audience.

      A warm welcome awaits all those who enter the building where original flagstones are still in place, together with stained glass windows which glow in sunlight. The Centre houses an archive of Kavanagh’s best known works, including footage from an interview with Kavanagh for RTÉ in 1962.


      The Centre contains permanent exhibitions such as a set of specially commissioned paintings depicting one of Kavanagh’s epic works, The Great Hunger, and also panels showing a firm favourite down through the decades, A Christmas Childhood.


      When The Great Hunger (a poem written from the perspective of a single individual, a bachelor farmer, set against the historical backdrop of famine) was published in 1942 (appearing in the London-based ‘Horizon’), it brought Kavanagh due respect. This epic poem set out to counter the sugary romanticising of the Irish literary establishment’s view of peasant life. Richard Murphy in The New York Times Book Review described it as “a great work.”


      The Great Hunger, through the lone voice of Paddy Maguire, explores the danger of being enslaved by the land (‘Clay is the word and clay is the flesh’) but also, it reveals the devastation and loneliness of a man who, because of circumstance, is forced to live with his elderly mother, eking out a living on a small holding.

      Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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        A new book by author Seamus Kelly focuses on the fascinating life and varied works of Maura Laverty (1905-1966). Laverty was an Irish author, journalist and broadcaster, best known for her cookery books and her work on Irish soap opera Tolka Row. She published several novels, short stories and critical pieces throughout her career.

         

        Maura Laverty was an Irish novelist, storyteller, poet, journalist, scriptwriter, playwright and broadcaster, advice columnist and, last but not least, a cookery book writer. Maura was the most versatile female writer in Ireland between 1940 and 1960.


        Though she did not publish a memoir, her four novels are deeply autobiographical. Maura was the subject of an excellent RTÉ Radio documentary by Sarah Binchy (2011). Admirers of her work included Brendan Behan, who wrote to her from his prison cell, and the late Maeve Binchy, who wrote the foreword to two of her novels that were re-published as part of the Virago Modern classics series in the 1980s.


        She was born Mary Kelly and was a native of Rathangan County Kildare. One of the motivations for writing the book was that I too am a Kelly from the same village. I first came across Maura’s life and work when I was researching my book called ‘A Ramble in Rathangan.’


        One of her novels ‘Never no More’ (1942) caused a stir in her native village as some people were hurt by personal descriptions of what they presumed were their relatives. Time is a great healer and there is now a monument to her memory in Rathangan and a decent locally produced book about her!

        Research for the book included tracing her relatives here and in America and reading everything that I could find by and about the writer. This included Ireland’s Own back issues. Two of her novels were serialised in this magazine in 1991 and 1992. We know that Maura was an avid reader and that may have got some of her recipes and stories from it. Over the years several Ireland’s Own articles have referred to Maura and ‘Tolka Row’. Maura was the first scriptwriter (1963-1966) for the ground-breaking RTÉ serial (1964-1968) in the early days of Irish television.

        Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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          Brendan Boylan remembers his encounters with legendary sports commentator the late, great Jimmy Magee

          One summer’s evening over a quarter century ago, whilst out for an evening stroll – my wonderful mother doing the walking, me observing from the cockpit – Brendan Reilly was encountered close to his family home. The Reilly homestead being close to St Peter’s GAA Club, enquiries were made as to why there was a big crowd up around the field.

          Brendan Boylan, author of this article, in wheelchair, pictured with Jimmy Magee, former Tour De France winner Stephen Roche and former local councillor, Noel Leonard, at the dinner dance of Inspiration Cycling Club in Dunboyne in 2012.

           

          The Jimmy Magee All-Stars were in town, I was told. Now, I’d no idea who they were, or what the whole idea was about, but once I heard the great man was in the vicinity the wheelchair wasn’t being pointed anywhere else.


          To this day, the only two participants I can recall from the hilarious fundraiser – proceeds from which went to the wonderful Sr Stan (Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy) to aid her efforts with the homeless – were ‘Brush’ Shiels and the late Noel Keating, founder of Kepak, and friend to Meath football and so much and many more.


          Blessedly, ‘Brush’ and I crossed paths several times over the years, but that was the only occasion on which the wonderful Clare man with the unforgettable sideburns was encountered in person. At the time, greatest angst centered on not being allowed venture to The County Club for the cabaret thereafter.

          The blow thereof, however, was softened considerably once another rendezvous with gentleman Jimmy was secured before being homeward bound. Yes, another. You see, through the kindness of my fourth class teacher, John Moriarty, yours truly was the recipient of a McDonald’s Child Of Achievement Award – actually earlier that year (1992).


          On arrival at Jury’s, Ballsbridge, Magee was the first celebrity spotted – and frankly the only one I’d any interest in. The way things were ran off ensured that each celebrity presented, say, a half dozen awards and then departed. My only wish was that these wheels would be pressed into action during the Louth man’s rota.
          It didn’t happen – Michael Sheridan, then of RTE, it had to be – but – and my big educator from Kerry wasn’t a man to be trifled with – there was no way I was leaving Dublin 4 without meeting the ‘Memory Man’.


          At this point, temptation was to express surprise that one of the most famous Irish-Americans there’s been remembered our interaction when we were reunited in Dunboyne later that year. But then, think of the title with which he affectionately and rightly became synonymous.


          He could probably remember what Ronnie Delany had for his breakfast before triumphing in Melbourne!
          In terms of writing, many will of course know that the late, lamented Con Houlihan was – and forever will be – my idol. However, equally, there’s no way attempts at scribing on such an array of topics could’ve been undertaken over the years without Jimmy as a reference point. Not in person, obviously, though we did meet several times over the years. No, mostly due to the amount of his videos, DVDs and written material accumulated over the years.


          It is not being fanciful to suggest that, without him, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today – which hopefully isn’t too bad! Soon after the Ballsbridge occasion, the man from Cooley released a quiz book – all sports of course – the proceeds from which went to the Irish Kidney Association. That acted as a ‘go to’ source for a long time.
          Indeed, it’s probably still somewhere in the vaults. Undoubtedly, though, and this will surely apply to many, it will be recollections of his television work that will resonate greatest.

          Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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            Kay Doyle meets Ireland’s most popular hotelier, Francis Brennan who tells her how he honed his business skills in his parents’ grocery shop, and how he carries a set of Rosary beads given to him by a famous pope in his briefcase everywhere he goes

            The brilliance of Francis Brennan’s business brain surfaced at a very young age.
            Reared ‘on the job’, he began honing his customer-service skills in his mother and father’s grocery shop in Stepaside, on Dublin’s south-side, while still in short trousers. Naturally comfortable when it came to chewing over events of the day with the locals, his father wisely stationed him to the front of the shop.


            Charming young Francis was ever courteous when helping people carry their boxes of groceries out to their cars, or further afield. But it was during one particularly harsh winter that the budding entrepreneur saw a silver-sprayed opportunity which presented him with a first taste of how satisfying it could be to make some cash of his own.


            “My father took his position as a shop owner very seriously and would never ever let anybody down,” says Francis as he unwinds after his return from his annual visit to Lourdes, in southwestern France.


            “He provided a delivery service for his loyal customers and one winter I remember the snow was absolutely bucketing it down, and we had to make a delivery to the scouts’ centre at Larch Hill, which is up in the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains.
            “We persevered through the elements with hundreds of sliced pans that had to feed these hundreds of scouts. While we were up in the mountains, my father used to collect logs to bring back for the fire. When they were cut up, I decided to take two or three of them for myself. I cut a little hole into the middle of them and stuck a bit of holly into them.


            “Then when it came to Christmas time I put them into a wheelbarrow and started to sell them to the neighbours as table pieces. The idea caught on and the following Christmas I had eighteen orders. Everyone knew who I was, and they would love seeing me coming along with the wheelbarrow. Then I had another idea.


            “I was passing by the Hector Grey shop in Dublin, and I saw cans of spray snow in the window. So I went in and bought two cans. By spraying the white snow over the holly on the log, I was able to put the price of the log up by fifty pence. So instead of charging a pound for my festive logs, I could now charge one pound fifty, and the profits were all mine. It was big money at the time!”

            Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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              GEMMA GRANT challenges the common perception that Pope Pius Xll was indifferent to German atrocities during WW2, arguing that the evidence points to a very different Pontiff

               

              “A Vicar of Christ who sees these things before his eyes and still remains silent because of state policies, who delays even one day…such a pope…is a criminal.”

              So spoke the young Jesuit, Fr. Fontana, the main protagonist in Rolf Hochhuth’s play, The Representative. The play aimed to destroy the good name and character of the saintly, Pope Pius Xll.


              The drama, first performed in Berlin in 1963, and later that year in London, was avidly received. Although Hochhuth was a young boy during the Nazi occupation of Rome, his critique led many writers, historians and literati to gladly mount the anti-Papal bandwagon.


              The severe criticism of Pope Pius Xll contained within the play, and expounded upon, saw the welcome publication of John Cornwell’s book, Hitler’s Pope, that crept its way onto the book shelves some thirty years later. The book, based mostly, as has been reported, on secondary sources rather than primary, presents not historical fact but rather anti-Catholic sentiments.


              Many Jews, gentiles, including Catholic clergy, heaped scorn and unsubstantiated allegations to the extent that it appeard as though the Vatican was solely responsible for the Holocaust.


              The Pope has been depicted by one Jewish critic as ‘coldly aloof and removed from the real world’. Even the German Ambassador to the Holy See commented on the fact that Pius seemed more interested in preserving Vatican neutrality than denouncing publically the deportation of the Jews of Rome.


              However, under closer scrutiny, a vastly different picture emerges. A diverse pletora of historical documents have been carefully studied. What they reveal is a humanitarian Pontiff walking a tightrope over turbulent waters threatening to drown not only Jewry, but all and any European country that stood in its way.


              To National Socialism, no mere pope would hinder their desires to conquer Europe or thwart their plans to implement what emerged as the ‘final solution’ – the extermination of the Jews.


              With the Nazi occupation of Rome in 1943, one of their first acts was to paint a demarcation line around the Vatican to remind the Pope of where his tenuous power ended.


              With diplomatic skills and keen intelligence, the courageous Pontiff played one of the most difficult poker games in history. How to win with a losing hand.
              One of his many acts, was to use the universal Church to help the persecuted in a thousand different ways. It has been verified by a Russian Jew and historian, Leon Poliakov that Pius hid Jews in convents, churches and his summer residence, Castle Gandolfo.


              Leading by example, this activity spread throughout the Catholic dioceses of Europe. Poliakov was in no doubt that Pius issued secret instructions urging the national churches in Hungary, Slovakia and elsewhere to intervene discretely on behalf of the Jews.


              Poliakov cites German diplomatic sources that claimed cessation of the deportation of Jews from Slovakia in the summer of 1942, was attributed to Vatican pressure. It is widely acknowledged that Pope John XXIII, in his role as Archbishop of Istanbul, helped rescue thousands of Jews from the Nazis.


              This, he confirmed, was done on the explicit orders from Pope Pius Xll.

              Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                By John Corbett

                It was one of the quietest times of the year for us. Once the first week or two had passed, the potatoes would have been dug, so in theory we should have had more time to enjoy our games. However, bad weather could put a damper on these, especially the outdoor ones, which were the ones that mattered to us.


                The cold didn’t bother us, but heavy rain or strong winds could interrupt our plans. Fortunately such things didn’t usually happen in November. Frost and fog were the features that I remember most about the month and we regarded them as bonuses, rather than handicaps.


                As children, we found it difficult to understand why seniors complained so much of the cold but of course as the years advance, we can appreciate their situation better. Like our ancestors, we wear warm winter woollies and spend much more time indoors than we did in childhood.


                Speaking of warm wear, reminds of a person that went into a shop recently and asked the assistant if they had any ‘terminal underwear’ in stock. One is tempted to ask if she had made ‘a grave error’ in her use of language?

                TERRIFYING TALES
                The long evenings meant big fires and a wide selection of stories, some of which we had heard so often that we almost knew them by heart. With the advent of Samhain, thoughts became somewhat macabre and many of the tales that we heard, related to haunted houses, poltergeists and the banshee.


                Even more frightening were stories about the Cóiste Bodhar and headless horsemen.
                Superstitious people seemed to have an inordinate dread of the fairies or ‘good people’, as some called them. Dire warnings were delivered about the dangers of demolishing lone blackthorn trees.


                Apparently misfortune might also follow anyone foolhardy enough to build an extension at the western end of a house. Even though we were familiar with many of the sagas, they still had the power to disturb us and we did our best to pretend that we were unaffected by them.


                Normally we wouldn’t be out alone late at night but even short distances could be intimidating if we had to do them on our own. Two of the scariest places that we had to pass were Creeraun Gate and the spring well on the Gurteen road, known as Tobar Geal.

                If we were to credit the storytellers, all kinds of spectral occurrences took place close to them. Apparently a mysterious lady could be seen combing her hair at midnight at Creeraun Gate and this boded no good to those that witnessed it.


                Even more disturbing was the description of the large dog that was liable to appear and pursue travellers as they passed An Tobar Geal.


                In spite of the aura of dread that accompanied the recitals, we were never informed of the consequences suffered by those that were unfortunate enough to have had first-hand experience of such fearful encounters.


                November appeared to be the favourite month for these strange apparitions. I don’t think that our parents paid too much attention to such tales but it’s natural to assume that the ghostly accounts were partly responsible for the occasional nightmares we experienced as children.

                Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                  Powerful Tornado - destroying property with lightning in the background

                  Stan McCormack reports on the first recording of a tornado in Europe. This was in Rosdella, Co. Westmeath, way back in 1054AD.

                  The history of Ireland from the 9th to the 12th century covers the first Viking raids up to the Norman invasion. The most significant event in the 11th century in Irish history was on the 23rd April, 1014, when, at the famous Battle of Clontarf, the Vikings and the men of North Leinster were defeated by King Brian Boru, who was murdered in his tent by Danish king, Brodar, after the victory.


                  Just 40 years later another significant event took place when the first ever recording of a tornado in Europe took place on 30th April 1054 at Rosdalla, Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath.


                  The story of the tornado was recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters, Chronicon Scotorum (Scottish Chronicles) and by Patrick W. Joyce (1827-1911) in his book ‘The Wonders of Ireland’ and his source was the ‘Book of Ballymote’ and a famous norse book called ‘Kongs Skuggio’.


                  Joyce was born in the Ballyhoura Mountains on the Limerick/Cork border and died in Dublin in 1914. He wrote many other books including ‘Origin & History of Irish Names of Places’ and ‘A Social History of Ancient Ireland’.

                  WRITTEN ACCOUNTS OF THE TORNADO
                  The Annals account of the event on 30th April, 1054, is as follows: “A steeple of fire was seen in the air over Ros-Deala, on the Sunday of the festival of George, for the space of five hours; innumerable black birds passing into and out of it, and one large bird in the middle of them; and the little birds went under his wings, when they went into the steeple.


                  “They came out, and raised up a greyhound, that was in the middle of the town, aloft in the air, and let it drop down again, so that it died immediately; and they took up three cloaks and two shirts, and let them drop down in the same manner. The wood on which these birds perched fell under them; and the oak tree upon which they perched shook with its roots in the earth.”
                  Joyce’s account is as follows: “On the feast day of St. George, the people of Rosdalla, near Kilbeggan in the present county of Westmeath, saw standing high up in the air, a great steeple of fire, in the exact shape of a circular belfry, or what we now call a round tower.


                  For nine hours it remained there in sight of all: and during the whole time, flocks of large dark-coloured birds without number kept flying in and out through the door and windows. There was among them one great jet-black bird of vast size; and while he remained outside the others flew round him in flocks; but whenever he entered the tower they nestled in thousands under his wings, remaining there till he returned to the open air, when they again came forth and flew round him as before.

                  Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                    Susie Kearley examines the history of ‘the most feared and hated institution ever established in Ireland’, where people sought refuge from the dire poverty which was the lot of so many Irish people in the nineteenth century.

                    The workhouse was introduced into Ireland as part of the English Paw Law system in 1838. The British government saw the system as the most cost-effective way of tackling the desperate state of poverty in Ireland. At that time the population of Ireland was approximately twice what it is today and many of those eight million inhabitants were suffering from disease and starvation.


                    By 1845, 123 workhouses had been built and the cost of poor relief was met by the payment of rates by owners of land and property in that district. Each union was overseen by a Board of Guardians which consisted of elected members, magistrates and justices of the peace. Conditions of entry into the workhouse were strict and entry was seen as the very last resort.


                    Visit an Irish workhouse and heritage centre and you’ll hear sad tales of poverty and desperate need, which drove a growing demand for workhouse places in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some of those historic buildings are now open to the public and provide a vivid reminder of Ireland’s bleak and troubled past.


                    Most of the workhouses in Ireland were erected in response to the Irish Poor Law Act of 1838, but there were a number of workhouses in Ireland before that.


                    In 1703 an Act of Irish Parliament was written to provide a ‘House of Industry’, which would give employment to the poor in Dublin. The workhouse was built and a board of governors managed admissions, enforced discipline and inflicted punishments, maintaining strict adherence to the rules.


                    The workhouse was home to orphans, the elderly, ‘sturdy beggars’ and ‘disorderly women’. They were crammed into dormitories, separated by class, and fed mostly, bread, milk and porridge. They must have had a source of vitamin C – probably potatoes – or they would have died of scurvy; perhaps some did.

                    Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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