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    Paul Swift continues his series on the Rivers of Ireland

    The river Aille rises on the slopes of Slieve Elva in the Burren, County Clare, and flows through the small town of Lisdoonvarna and the village of Doolin before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean close to the Cliffs of Moher.

    In Lisdoonvarna the Aille is joined by the river Gowlaun and Kilmoon stream. Flowing through Lisdoonvarna, it gives rise to sulphur, iron, and magnesium wells there. In summer, the river often disappears into the limestone cave system in Doolin.

    Were the Aille and Gowlaun rivers meet in Lisdoonvarna is where the sulphur springs were discovered in the early 1700s. They were discovered by a man out hunting who observed the strong smell of rotten eggs. Analysis of the water as far back as 1713 (over 300 years ago) indicated that the waters contained large quantities of sulphur and iron.

    The first bath house was built here in 1875 and just three years later in 1878 over 5,000 visitors were recorded. The existing bath house was built between 1939 and 1945.

    Near the bathhouses on the north bank of the river can be found ‘the Pavilion’. It was built in 1913 at a cost of £1114. Steel from Harland and Wolff in Belfast was used in its construction. It had seating for a 1,000 people. During his election campaign in July 1917 Eamon de Valera addressed 3,000 people in the Pavilion. Today the pavilion is used as a centre for various activities.

    As the river leaves Lisdoonvarna it is met by the Kilmoon stream. This area is deep and has descending steps were the ‘Twin Wells’ are located. Discovered in the mid-1700s, these wells are a source of chalybeate and magnesia and unusually the two separate wells spring from the same rock. Due to the popularity of the wells in the 1800s, steps were made down from the road above in 1870. An attendant working at the Twin Wells in 1908 earned 10 shillings (60 cent) a week.

    The river continues to flow west and on the outskirts of Lisdoonvarna can be found an amazing structure known as the Spectacle Bridge. This is one of the most unusual bridges in Ireland. Clare County Surveyor John Hill designed the bridge around 1850. It is located across a deep gorge on the Lisdoonvarna to Ennistymon Road.

    Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5613)

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      You can bet your mortgage that somewhere in the world there is a film buff who can tell you how many actors have portrayed Sherlock Holmes on the silver screen. That same impeccable source might well add how many more have played him on television and on stage.

      But it’s not quantity that matters, it’s quality, and for me that means one man – Basil Rathbone.

      Now before you all reach for pen-and-paper or keyboard to argue the case for your particular favourite Holmes, let me qualify the above statement. Peter Cushing was good, Benedict Cumberbatch also brings something to the role. Jeremy Brett was wonderful. But for me, it has to be Rathbone.

      Brett, I think, was the truest to Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation, but Rathbone brought an elegance to the role that all the others lacked.

      He was born in South Africa on 13 June 1892, where his father was a mining engineer. Throughout the decade, political tensions were boiling over as Boers, descended from Dutch settlers, tried to break South Africa’s links with Britain.

      Both European groups believed that they had exclusive rights to exploit the indigenous people, and the level of distrust between the settlers became so intense that the Rathbones fled to England in 1898.

      After attending private schools, Basil took a job with an insurance firm in Liverpool, mainly to please his father. To say that his heart wasn’t in it is an understatement.
      His cousin Frank Benson, an actor with a travelling theatre company, had something more attractive to offer. Basil made his stage debut in The Taming of the Shrew at the age of eighteen. The following year, 1912, they toured America, performing several other Shakespearean plays.

      On his return to London, he remained with the Benson company, making several appearances in some of London’s top theatres.

      The First World War brought an abrupt end to his fledgling career. He was drafted first as a private, but his education – and no doubt his family background – saw him transferred to a cadetship from which he emerged as a lieutenant.

      Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5613)

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        On the one hundredth anniversary of his death, John Donohoe recalls the Co. Meath poet who was only thirty when he was killed in France during World War One.

        Around 11 million young men met their deaths on the battlefields of France and Belgium in World War I. “A whole generation that was butchered and damned” as the line in the famous song The Green Fields of France describes them.

        ledwidgecoverUp to 50,000 of these needless deaths were of Irishmen. Young men who, for various reasons, were fighting for ‘King and Country’. Some of them mere teenagers, thousands in their twenties, lie beneath white headstones in numerous graveyards and war cemeteries in Flanders fields. Men who, had they lived, had so much to offer.
        One of these men lies in Artillery Wood Cemetery, about three miles north of the town of Ypres in Belgium. Francis Ledwidge, from Slane in county Meath, a member of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was killed just a few weeks short of his 30th birthday while road building with fellow soldiers near the village of Boesinghe. It was ironic that he was killed while working on the road, a role he had so often carried out at home in his native Meath as an employee of Meath County Council.

        Even though so young, he had already fitted a lot into his short life, and held so much promise. He was a published poet, a trade unionist, local politician, Irish language enthusiast, and even found time for sport.

        Apart from his famous Lament for Thomas McDonagh, written following the death of his friend and fellow poet in the Easter 1916 Rising, he has been largely forgotten. However, interest in Ireland’s soldier poet has been revived as the centenary of his death on 31st July 2017 is being commemorated.

        The fact that Ledwidge joined the British war effort at all is one of the major contradictions in his life story. A founder of a branch of the Irish Volunteers in Slane, he was secretary of the corp. The Volunteers had been established in Dublin in 1913 as a response to the Ulster Volunteers founded in the north by Edward Carson to resist Home Rule in Ireland.

        When war broke out, and with the Home Rule Bill shelved, John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, in a famous speech at Woodenbridge, Co Wicklow, called on Volunteers to “go on drilling and make yourselves efficient for the work, and then account yourselves as men, not only in Ireland itself, but wherever the firing line extends, in the defence of right, of freedom and religion in this war.” It was, in effect, a rallying recruitment cry which split the Volunteers.

        Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5613)

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          Mary Sheerin pays tribute to environmentalist and broadcaster Dick Warner following his recent death

          It is true to say that the late Dick Warner died as he lived; on his beloved waterways of Ireland. He took ill while sailing along the river Shannon and died almost instantly.
           When news of his death broke tributes poured into all media outlets, led by President Michael D. Higgins who described him as a “dedicated environmentalist and a wonderful filmmaker, his beautiful work on the canals of Ireland was outstanding.”

           Through my work, I once – many decades ago – had the privilege of meeting with Dick Warner. He was the producer on a radio programme about our natural heritage and the interview took place in the Geological Survey of Ireland. Dick was the producer and I was immediately struck by his beautiful voice – velvet, serene and so distinctive.
           I cannot now recall who the actual interviewer was; they made no impression and have long faded from my mind. I do remember wondering, at the time, that it was a pity that it was not Dick’s voice on the air – albeit acknowledging how important is the work of a radio producer.

           Well, my concerns were needles because over the last four decades I’ve had ample opportunity to listen to the mellifluous tones of Dick Warner.

           Like his myriad of followers I loved his programmes and my favourite was Waterways. He knew every inch of the Royal and Grand Canals and indeed all our rivers.

           Indeed as recently as last May he was present at an event celebrating the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Royal Canal. And isn’t it heartening to know he was there. He, who knew more about the Royal Canal than anyone else.

           He had a wonderful way of presenting his programmes. His narrative descriptive, informative and so inviting. You could feel that you were right there with Mr Warner in the old barge that used sail along slowly and surely at a walking pace.

          Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5613)

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            By Arthur Flynn

            In 1967 a controversial film entitled Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was released. The film dealt with the sensitive subject of a positive representation of the inter-racial marriage in America. Historically it had been illegal in most states of the United States for inter-marriage. In fact, it was still illegal in 17 states, mostly Southern states, until June 1967, six months before the film was released.

            guess-whos-coming-to-dinner-movie-poster-1967-1010267936The film was produced and directed by leading film maker Stanley Kramer for Columbia Films on a budget of $4 million. Kramer and screenwriter William Rose completed the script in the remarkably short period of five weeks.

            The film was intentionally structured to debunk ethnic stereotypes and took chances. The young black doctor was purposely created perfect and likeable, so that the only possible objection to his marriage was his race.

            The film was billed in 1967 as Hollywood’s first serious film about interracial marriage and was resented by many.

            A strong production team was gathered, headed by director of photography Sam Leavitt. Musical director Frank De Vol and film editor Robert C. Jones.
            A top rate cast was assembled headed by the veteran Spencer Tracy as Matt Drayton, Katherine Hepburn as his wife Christina, Katharine Houghton as Joanna, Cecil Kellaway as Monsignor Ryan. Sidney Poitier making one of his early appearances as Dr. John Prentice Jr.

            Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5613)

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            The Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award 2017.

            Closing date extended to Friday, 11th August 2017.


            The Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award for a first unpublished collection of poems in English is open to poets, born in the island of Ireland, or of Irish nationality, or long term resident in Ireland. 

            The award is now in its 46th year. Previous winners include Eileán Ni Chuilleanáin, Paul Durcan, Thomas McCarthy,

            Peter Sirr, Sinead Morrissey, Conor O’Callaghan,

            Celia de Freine and Joseph Woods.


            The winner of this year’s award will receive €1,000.


            Closing date for entries has been extended to Friday 11th August 2017.


            The Award will be presented on the evening of

            Friday 29th September 2017 at the opening of the

            Annual Patrick Kavanagh Weekend in Inniskeen.


            Sponsored by the Institute of Education, Ireland’s leading school for exam focused tuition.                                                                                                              


            Rules and entry form are available on our website or from the

            Patrick Kavanagh Centre, Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan.

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              By Arthur Flynn

              Many directors and actors believed that it would be impossible to work with child actors. Many refused to take on such assignments. An extreme exception to this rule was Bugsy Malone with all the parts played by children. Not a single adult appeared on the screen.

              The 1976 British film was written and directed by Alan Parker. Although it featured a background of gangsters, Parker lightened the subject matter considerably for the children’s market. In the United States the film received a G rating.

              Parker took a big chance and chose to direct several unknown young faces in the film. To find Fat Sam, Parker visited a Brooklyn school and asked for ‘the naughtiest boy’ in the class. The teachers were unanimous in selecting John Cassisi. Parker spoke to him and immediately gave him the role.

              The film introduced actor Scott Baio as Bugsy Malone. It also featured 13 year old, Jodie Foster as Tallulah. Some of the roles were played by child actors, many had never acted before. These included Florrie Dugger as Blousey Brown, Martin Lev as Danny Dan, Paul Murphy as Leroy Smith and Sheridan Russell as Knuckles. At the time of filming all the cast were under 17.

              The £575,000 film for the Rank Organisation was produced by Alan Marshall and David Puttnam. The production team was headed by cinematographers Peter Biziou and Michael Seresin, editor Gerry Hambling and musical director Paul Williams who composed a lively set of songs.

              Bugsy Malone was Alan Parker’s first feature film. The idea for the film indirectly came from his own children. When he travelled with his own four children to a cottage in Derbyshire at weekends, he began telling them a story called Bugsy Malone. When the idea for a film emerged his eldest son suggested children should be cast as the ‘heroes.’ All the children’s guns shoot cream.

              The story was set in New York City and loosely based on events in New York and Chicago from the early 1920s to 1931 during Prohibition. It covered the exploits of real-life gangsters like Al Capone and Bugsy Moran as dramatised in the cinema.

              Freewheeling hero Bugsy Malone finds himself in the middle of a gang war between Fat Sam and Dandy Dan. As things hot up, Bugsy corals a bunch of down-and-outs to fight the cause, while trying to impress Blousey Brown, a new girl in town desperate to make it as a singer.

              The film was a huge hit at the box-office particularly with children. The following are a sample of the reviews: ‘Parker’s script is as sharp as a wise guy’s suit, his attention to period and general detail a constant joke. He coaxes scarily poised performances from young performers.’

              ‘The songs and set pieces are still fresh and infectious and most of the child cast are mesmerizingly good.’ ‘One of a kind, totally clever gangster parody with music and kids.’ ‘A minor masterpiece of its time.’
              ‘I only wish the British could make adult movies as intelligent as this one.’

              This was to be the start of a lucrative career in cinema for Alan Parker. Clearly he had a good eye but also a good ear as he successfully blended in the musical numbers such as ‘My Name is Tallulah’, So You Wanna Be A Boxer’ and ‘Down and Out’, all served with gusto.

              Amongst the children Jodie Foster was to go onto a successful career as a child and adult actor.

              The film was nominated for a number of BAFTA including Best Newcomer for Jodie Foster, Best Supporting Actress for Jodie Foster, Best Screenplay for Alan Parker, Best Production Design and Best Soundtrack.

              In later years Alan Parker directed two highly successful films in Ireland The Commitments, based on Roddy Doyle’s book, and Angela’s Ashes.

              As he had displayed with Bugsy Malone he had a knack of splicing youth and music as he would utilise with Fame and The Commitments. Following this impressive start with children, Parker became a director of full-blooded dramas.

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                The first Irish win in the British Open Golf Championship took place seventy years ago this month, writes Noel Coogan

                The British Open Golf Championship is one of the sporting highlights of July and seventy years ago this month there was a first Irish triumph in the famous event, with Fred Daly from Co. Antrim taking the coveted title.

                The history of the prestigious tournament dates back to October, 1860, when Willie Park Senior was the first winner at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland.

                Just eight players participated in the inaugural test over three rounds of 12 holes with the victor having two strokes to spare over the legendary Old Tom Morris.
                Since those distant days many great golfers have tasted glory in The Open and it took 76 renewals of the championship before the coveted Claret Jug was won by a player from the island of Ireland.

                The Royal Liverpool Club was the venue in 1947, and Fred Daly’s achievement paved the way for a number of triumphs by other Irish golfers in major tournaments. The man from Portrush became the first of three players from the Emerald Isle to land the British Open.

                Born on October 11th, 1911, Daly was 35 years old when achieving the most notable success of his career.

                A plus five total of 293 – 73, 70, 78 and 72 – was sufficient to land the title, one stroke ahead of joint runners-up Reg Horne and United States amateur Frank Stranahan.
                These years, players from many countries around the world take part in The Open, but seventy years ago the visiting contingent consisted of just three competitors from America. The Ulster player went on to finish finished second in the 1948 Open to Henry Cotton, tied for third place in 1950, was fourth in ‘51 and third again in ‘52.

                Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5612)

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                  From a legendary curse to a mysterious crystal ball, Kay Doyle examines the rich history of Curraghmore House in Co. Waterford.

                  All wedding anniversaries are special, but this July will mark the union of one of Waterford’s most significant family pairings – the de la Poers and the Beresfords. The Power-Beresford lineage is synonymous with Curraghmore House, seat of the Marquis of Waterford which nestles on the outskirts of Portlaw in the the Deise city.
                  Curraghmore House is a real gem in the jewel of Waterford’s crown. Only a few minutes drive outside the city itself, it operates tours for the public to come and enjoy the splendour of its magnificent formal gardens, grazing fields and woodland (the estate is over 2,500 acres), some of the reception rooms in the main house and the very special Shell House.

                  Curraghmore is the largest private demesne in Ireland. It also boasts King John’s Bridge – the oldest bridge in Ireland (built across the river Clodagh in 1205 for King John’s anticipated visit to Ireland, although he never came) and a 180ft Sitka Spruce, one of the tallest trees in Ireland and wonderfully detailed Japanese Gardens.

                  On July 16th 1717, Sir Marcus Beresford married his cousin, Lady Catherine Power of Curraghmore, Co Waterford. Three hundred years on and the family line still holds, with Henry de la Poer Beresford, the 9th Marquis of Waterford now residing there. The significance of that pairing 300 years ago has brought its own story to Curraghmore, but the history of the estate dates back even further.

                  Curraghmore was originally a castle built by the Power family in the 12th Century. They had come to Ireland from Normandy after a 100-year stopover in Wales around 1170. The estate was part of a grant of land made to Sir Roger la Poer by Henry II in 1177 after the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland.

                  Local historian Julian Walton has an in-depth knowledge of the Curraghmore story.
                  “The Curraghmore Powers soon came to dominate east Waterford,” he details., “and for over a century either they or their nominees served as sheriffs of the county, despite an act of parliament banning them from the office. In 1535 Sir Richard Power of Curraghmore was granted the title Baron le Power and Coroghmore.

                  Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5612)

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                    He had a dream that every child could be a productive citizen if given love, a home, an education and a trade, writes GEMMA GRANT

                    “There’s no such thing as a bad boy,” states Spencer Tracey in his academy winning role as Fr. Flanagan in the 1938 movie Boys’ Town. The film, based on the real life of Fr Flanagan, featured a young Mickey Rooney, playing the role of the cocky Boys’ Town kid. The movie raised awareness of the homeless children of America and brought to greater prominence the sterling work of Irish born priest, Fr. Flanagan.

                    Fr. Flanagan, unlike those he cared for, came from a stable background, the eighth of eleven children born to John and Nora Flanagan. On his birth in 1886 in the village of Ballymoe, Co. Roscommon, Edward was considered delicate, possibly premature.
                    Fearing he would not survive, his grandfather Patrick, wrapped him in a blanket, nursing him for hours in front of the fire. Edward survived his childhood, but struggled with bad health throughout his life.

                    In a letter to a friend, he light-heartily described himself as the delicate, little shepherd boy, good for nothing only caring for the sheep. Great training for the day when he would care for the homeless flock of America.

                    His religious upbringing of family rosaries and honest, hard work formed the character of the young boy. His father’s stories of the Irish struggle for independence and heroic tales of patriots and Saints found willing ears. It was from St. Benedict, that Fr. Flanagan took his rule of life; ‘pray and work’.

                    In 1904, along with his sister Nellie, he arrived in New York and began his studies for the priesthood. However, double pneumonia halted his studies for a year. To recuperate, he made his way to Omaha, to stay with his brother, Fr. Patrick. Nellie, housekeeper to Fr. Patrick, nursed her younger brother back to health. Due to reoccurring health problems, it would be eight years, before he was ordained to the priesthood in 1912, in Austria.

                    One of his first assignments on returning to America, led him down a path of social reformer and father to the homeless. On Easter Sunday, 1913, Omaha suffered a devastating tornado that destroyed one third of the city and left 155 people dead with hundreds more homeless.

                    Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5612)

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