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    Clairvoyant Arachnids. Shane Cochrane spins the extraordinary tale of the spiders who could tell the future!

    By Shane Cochrane

    In the run up to the 1916 presidential election in the United States, a Mr Brewbaker, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, found a spider’s web with the letters “W-L-N” woven into it. And a few days later, the initials “WW” were found woven into another web.
    While this could have meant anything – or nothing – it was interpreted by many US newspapers as a prediction: Woodrow Wilson would win a second term as president of the United States.

    This seemed to be confirmed when another web was found, this time in Philadelphia, with the message “W WILSON” woven into it. And in October 1916, a gold bug spider on a farm in Huntington, West Virginia, appeared to dispel all doubt by weaving the words “WOODROW WILSON” into its web.

    “This spider weaving is just too much for me,” said one political pundit. “I do not see but one meaning – and that is the re-election of Wilson.” And he was right. Though the 1916 presidential election was a close one, one of the closest in US history, Wilson won his second term as president by defeating Republican candidate Charles Hughes.

    All spiders produce silk. And while many spiders spin that silk into webs to catch prey and escape from predators, some use their silk in really novel ways.

    The diving bell spider, for example, uses its silk to build a dome to store air in so that it can live underwater. While some orb-web spiders create elaborate and beautiful decorations inside their webs called stabilimenta.
    And a few male spiders use their silk to gift wrap dead flies to give to the females as presents.
    But can some spiders use their webs to tell us about the future?
    It seems so unlikely. Yet, the spiders had certainly got the 1916 election result right.

    But their predictions didn’t stop there.

    Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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      Victorian society was scandalised in 1854 when the most extraordinary romantic abduction of the century took place in Tipperary. Forty-one year old John Rutter Carden fell hopelessly in love with Miss Eleanor Arbuthnot (age 18). He was determined to have her as his wife at any cost, fair or foul, and so he decided to kidnap her while returning home from church. He organised relay-teams of horses to be posted along the road to Galway where his yacht was moored. This would take them to Skye to the house of his close friend, writes Bernadette Lowry

      In the year 1854 the most extraordinary romantic abduction of the century took place in Tipperary which scandalised Victorian society.

      John Rutter Carden (1811-1866) of Barnane Castle known by the nickname ‘Woodcock’, because he was so adept at avoiding the various attempt by his tenants to shoot him, was still single at the age of 41, even though he was considered very attractive and had had many love affairs.

      Eleanor Arbuthnot, her parents being dead and aged only eighteen, had come from Surrey to live with her married sister, Laura Gough at Rathronan House, Clonmel. When Woodcock met her, he was instantly smitten. He began a romantic pursuit which quickly spiralled into a form of obsessional, frenzied stalking.

      Woodcock Carden was determined to marry Eleanor and the more he was rejected, the more it cemented his resolve to win her hand. He followed her everywhere, turned up at every party or social event she attended and twice stalked her all the way to Paris and Inverness.

      After several rejections he convinced himself that she was secretly pining for him and that it was her family who stood in the way of their happiness. In her heart, Woodcock believed, Eleanor was dying of love for him.

      In Victorian times, it was protocol to apply for the hand of a girl in marriage and Carden applied to Mrs Gough as Eleaner’s guardian, but he was rejected. He then wrote Eleanor a passionate note asking her to elope with him and when she wrote back saying she was deeply insulted, he convinced himself that her family were imprisoning her.

      The Goughs, with whom he had been friendly, then cut off all contact with John Rutter Carden. Eventually, he resolved to abduct Eleanor by snatching her after church. He put an elaborate plan in place to spirit her off to the Isle of Sky in Scotland from his waiting yacht in Galway bay, and implemented several relays of horses and carriages from Clonmel to Galway to complete the plan. This highly costly affair cost millions in today’s money.

      Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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        Waterford is the oldest continuous urban settlement on the island of Ireland. Older than most European capital cities (except for London and Paris) Waterford can trace its history from Vikings through to Victorians and its story encompasses English Kings and Irish rebels, from religious scholars to soccer players, writes Cian Manning.


        Vedrafjordr: Viking Waterford
        Waterford is the only Irish city to retain a link to its Viking name. The Vikings used the Norse Vedrafjordr which we now believe to mean ‘Winter Haven’. It is believed that the city was established by the Viking Ragnall or Reginald in 914 AD. Vedrafjordr was a triangular shaped settlement located on a tidal inlet at the confluence of the Suir and St. John’s rivers.
        A fort named Dundory was located in the area where Reginald’s Tower stands today. The Irish patriot Thomas Francis Meagher later described the tower as “a massive hinge of stone connecting the two great outspread wings, the Quay and the Mall, within which lay the body of the city.”

        Reginald’s Tower is the oldest urban civic building of any Irish city. It is named after the founder of the Viking settlement. The structure was built in two stages, the ground and first floor completed by the late twelfth century while the upper floors were erected in the fifteenth century.

        The tower has served as a fortification, a mint and later a prison in the 19th century. It later became the official residence of the High Constable of Waterford, the last person to hold this position was James O’Mahony who died in the tower in 1901. Reginald’s Tower is now a museum which houses numerous artefacts related to the Viking history of the city.
        One such object is the Kite Brooch – the finest example of Viking Age metalwork. Weighing 20.6g the brooch was crafted around 1090 and is made from silver adorned with gold foil and amethyst glass studs. It was uncovered over the course of excavations that coincided with the development of City Square Shopping Centre.

        The Kite Brooch is a perfect example of Hiberno-Norse design, a fusion of Irish and Scandinavian traditions an d a beautifully crafted piece of personal jewellery.

        A Royal City: Anglo-Norman Waterford
        Waterford was transformed after the Anglo-Norman invasion of the island of Ireland. This signalled a complete end of the Viking Age and, with the marriage of Strongbow and Aoife taking place in Christ Church Cathedral in Waterford, marked the entwining of the stories of Britain and Ireland for the centuries that followed.

        The city grew organically, leading to an extension of the city and its quays. It was conferred a charter by King John in 1215 which the Director of Waterford Museum of Treasures Eamonn McEneaney describes as ‘the Birth Certificate of the city’. The same monarch strengthened the city’s defences prior to conferring the charter.

        The city has the largest collection of medieval urban defences in Ireland. During the medieval period Waterford was enclosed by stone and could boast up to thirty towers along its fortifications. Today we can see the remains of eight such towers.
        Some of the most notable are Reginald’s Tower, the Beach Tower (located at Jenkins Lane with 15th century Irish crenellations), and the cylindrically shaped Watch Tower at Manor Street, which dates to the 13th century.

        Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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          By Calvin Jones

          The jay is one of Ireland’s most striking birds with its brightly coloured pink, black, white and blue plumage. Although they are the most colourful member of the crow family, jays can be surprisingly difficult to see. They are shy, and secretive woodland birds that rarely venture far from cover.

          If there are jays in the neighbourhood, however, you will invariably hear them. They are noisy birds and their distinctive harsh screeching, usually given when they’re on the move, tends to betray their presence. When you hear the call look out for a colourful medium-sized bird on the wing through the trees, and particularly the flash of a distinctive white rump. Once you spot a jay there really is no mistaking it for anything else.

          The adult bird is generally a pinkish-brown colour with a black tail, white throat and rump and a conspicuous blue patch on each of its black and white wings. A broad black “moustache” extends from the base of the bill down both sides of a white bib, and the white crown is streaked with black. Sexes are similar, and juvenile birds resemble the adults but tend to be fluffier in appearance and are generally redder in colour.

          Jays are found in most parts of Ireland wherever there is suitable woodland habitat and are resident all year round. Although they are secretive birds they do tend to become more conspicuous in the autumn, when they often make repeated trips to collect acorns from one area and carry them to cache them elsewhere. The jay’s fondness of acorns and its habit of caching food in this way mean that jays play a vital role in the establishment and maintenance of the few native oak woodlands still left in Ireland. A single bird can bury several thousand acorns each autumn – many of which will be left to germinate.

          Although acorns form the bulk of a typical jay’s diet, they are also known to feed on grains, invertebrates, beech nuts and sweet chestnuts. Jays also raid other birds’ nests during the summer if they get the opportunity, taking eggs and young.

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            David Mullen casts an eye over the mighty Mini’s big brother, the Austin/Morris 1100

            There were many families, certainly, for whom the little Mini was their main car. It was, after all, designed to carry four people and their luggage. That said, with just two doors, a small boot and rather cramped interior dimensions, it wasn’t ideal for families, especially in Ireland.

            In the early-Sixties, Irish family buyers tended to prefer larger, four-door cars like the Ford Prefect and Austin Cambridge, and when the Ford Cortina arrived in 1962, it was a popular choice too. Nevertheless, the British Motor Corporation (BMC) had a trick up its sleeve, and, in 1962, also launched a car which would do very well not only in Britain and Ireland, but around the world—the Morris 1100.

            It’s hard to believe now, but, at first, the Mini wasn’t a great success. It was too small, too complicated, too unreliable and didn’t make dealers nearly enough profit. What BMC needed was a bigger car to replace its 1.0-litre range (the Austin A40 and Morris Minor), and to fit between the Mini and the larger 1.5-litre Farina saloons.

            The company’s boss, Leonard Lord, was keen to establish BMC as a world-leader in technologically-advanced cars and had a huge amount of faith in chief-designer Alec Issigonis, the man behind the Minor and Mini.

            Whereas in the late-Fifties all of BMC’s fare was very traditionally engineered (mostly rear-drive saloons), Issigonis’ Mini, with its front-wheel-drive and gearbox-in-sump transverse engine was a bolt from the blue.

            Lord wanted to continue along the same advanced lines as the Mini and create the family car of the future to last the company into the Seventies. So, before the Mini was launched, he instructed Issigonis to develop BMC’s new small/medium car using the same engine and gearbox set-up, same clever packaging and new smooth-riding Hydrolastic suspension. The project was codenamed ADO16.

            Lord insisted that ADO16 (which stood for Amalgamated Drawing Office, Project 16) have the sharp looks to match its forward-thinking design, so BMC called on the services of Italian stylist Sergio Pininfarina, who had been working with the company around that time on the successful Austin A40 and eponymous ‘Farina’ saloons.

            The car would also feature Hydrolastic suspension. Issigonis had been working with suspension-designer Alex Moulton for some years to create a pliant, comfortable system which still allowed for flat, predictable handling.

            Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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              By Brian McCabe

              When I stood in our parish church in Kill, Co Kildare, last year at the funeral of the famous piper Liam Óg O’Flynn, and watched the great and good of Irish society fill our little church, to be filmed by RTÉ and to feature on the national evening news that night, I little thought that they would be back there again so soon to mark the passing of another towering figure in Irish life, the broadcaster Marian Finucane.

              ‘Marian’, as she was simply known, was one of the best known and best loved voices in Irish broadcasting and had become, over 40 years, an integral part of the lives of radio listeners across the country. Indeed it is no exaggeration to say that, over that time, she had truly become part of the background sound track to the life of the nation.

              Marian was born in May 1950 and grew up in Glasnevin in Dublin. One of six children of Cork parents, she attended secondary school at the all-Irish Scoil Caitríona in Glasnevin and did her Leaving Certificate at the young age of 16. Her mother considered her too young to go to university at that stage, and so she was sent as a boarder to St Louis Convent school in Monaghan.

              After secondary school she began studying architecture in Bolton Street in Dublin and we are all probably familiar with that TV clip of her being interviewed, as a student, occupying a Georgian house in Hume Street in protest at their potential destruction.

              In 1971, representing Bolton Street, she became the first woman to take the best individual speaker title in the annual ‘Irish Times’ debating competition – the start of many firsts which she was to achieve in her life time.
              A chance meeting with the broadcaster John O’Donoghue, at a party, led to a dramatic change in direction from her course of study. He suggested she might apply for a position in RTÉ and she was accordingly hired as a continuity announcer there in 1974.

              In 1976 she became a programme presenter, working mainly on programmes concerned with contemporary social issues, especially those concerning women, The best known of these was Women Today and, in 1979, she was the recipient of a ‘Jacob’s Award’ for her work on that ground breaking show. In 1980, she won the prestigious international ‘Prix Italia’ award for a documentary entitled “Abortion: the Lonely Crisis.” The ‘Radio journalist of the Year’ award followed in 1988.

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                By Anthony F. Hughes

                Movies come and go on a regular basis. Some, originally targeted at cinema audiences, never see the inside of an auditorium simply because the finished productions don’t have what it takes – box office appeal.

                It costs money to make a movie and then there are the expenditure add-ons – media promotions, distribution and so on. Rather than spend ‘good’ money after ‘bad’ some film makers, in a bid to cut their losses, offload their ‘dead ducks’ on television land – I’ve endured a share of them!

                Down through the years a goodly amount of ‘dead ducks’ have been served up in the cinemas too of course. A fairly decent percentage of movies do make it however, prove popular with film goers, but a lot of them are forgotten about as soon as their cinema runs are over.

                On the other hand a minority of films remain enduringly popular. I can think of a goodly number of cowboy offerings that are permanently etched in a lot of ‘Western’ fans’ memories. One such movie is the ‘The Magnificent Seven’ (128 mins). Directed by John Sturges the first ‘shoots’ were done on March 1st 1960 – the finished product was in the cinemas the following October! The production’s overall expenditure amounted to $2 million.

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                  Dia is Muire dhaoibh uile. I am delighted to join the Ireland’s Own family to write some musings once a month. When the editor asked me to be part of the magazine, I was thrilled. The ethos sits very nicely with me and Ireland’s Own is a part of our culture and heritage that has certainly stood the test of time. A publication that began in 1902 and is still being read almost 118 years later is definitely getting things right.

                  I have to admit I was resigned to the fact that I would be talking to an older reader, like myself, but when my thirty-year-old son in Melbourne asked me to send him some copies, I had to rethink that perception.

                  Eoin is a big fan of the magazine, and now he’ll have the added pleasure of keeping up-to-date with what his Mam has been up to during the month!

                  I’m really pleased that the first contribution I’m making to Ireland’s Own is for this February issue, because I love this month.

                  There is a sense of hope, of light, of growth returning after the dark, cold, wet days of winter. I’m not a fan of that fourth season of the year.

                  I can cope with it in the run up to Christmas when it offers a bit of anticipation, opportunities to gather indoors, light candles, sit around blazing fires and contemplate the Christmas festivities but after the 6th January, when it’s time to take down the decorations and get rid of the tree, I go into a decline.

                  The roaring fires and the glow of candles lose their former appeal, and I just want January to be over. Now it is over and February is upon us, traditionally the beginning of spring, a time when the snowdrops and crocuses pop up under the bare trees and let us know that colour will return and that we have daffodils, bluebells and tulips to look forward to as well.

                  Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                    Two couples who started out as penfriends tell Kay Doyle how love and marriage blossomed from the pages of this very magazine.

                    SARAH AND JOHN KELLY
                    Five years ago when Sarah Mahon was flicking through her weekly copy of Ireland’s Own, little did she know that the penfriend ad that caught her eye would change her life forever.

                    Sarah, from Tullow in Co. Carlow, an only child, was looking for companionship after both her parents died. In fact, she continued buying Ireland’s Own every week in their honour, keeping up a tradition she had grown up with.

                    “To be honest I never ever read the penfriends,” she recalls, “but this particular week, I don’t know what it was but on the last page I turned, on the top of it was a farmer looking for a woman. Just like that I wondered how I’d even reply.

                    “I remember ringing up the Ireland’s Own office and asking the girl what to do. She explained everything so I wrote a short brief note and that was a Wednesday. On the Monday evening I got a reply from him – John Kelly from Co. Wexford. From that day on, five years this August we have been together.”

                    Sarah’s mother came from New Ross, in Co. Wexford, and a month after writing to John, she was down in the area visiting an aunt. When John rang, as had become their routine, she happened to mention she was close by. And so for the first time, they agreed to meet in person.

                    “We spoke on the phone a lot and had been texting every day but that evening I met him for the very first time,” she recalls fondly. “I was so nervous when I went to meet him but after a few minutes I just knew he was the man for me. I wasn’t thinking of ever meeting a man to be honest and we clicked straight away.”

                    Just like that, the friendship had blossomed into love and within a year, John asked Sarah to marry him.
                    “Was it a romantic proposal?” she laughs. “No, it was the farmer’s way. He just asked me out straight would I stick by him and would he stick by me and that was it. I said yes.”

                    Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                      The recently enhanced red luminous cross of the Church of the Ascension overlooking Cork city draws renewed attention to the first of the magnificent Rosary churches of Bishop Cornelius Lucey. The cross is visible from all over Cork by night and the Gurranabraher parish church over which it presides is part of a story worth telling. The church is one of the five churches built in a short period of just seven years – between 1955 and 1962 – in the expanding suburbs of Cork.

                      The Cork Churches Project, five churches in the city and three in the county harnessed an enthusiasm which was all embracing and provided landmark churches on the hilltops of the north and the valley land on the south of the city.
                      Providing churches for the housing developments of the post war years was an early priority for Bishop Lucey. In 1953 he announced that five new churches would be built in the city; in Gurranabraher, Farranree, Mayfield, Wilton and Ballyphehane.

                      The Bishop stated his intention to have “the house of God in the midst of the houses of the people of God”; their number lent to naming the churches after the five glorious mysteries of the Rosary. The work remains an outstanding accomplishment in the annals of church building in Ireland, let alone in Cork itself.

                      The foundation stone of the Church of the Ascension was laid in December 1953 and its solemn opening was on Ascension Thursday, 19th May 1955. It was one of the four Rosary churches designed by James Rupert Boyd Barrett, the foremost ecclesiastical architect in Cork over many years.

                      Its tiled roof and tower blended with the hues of the hundreds of homes on the hillside dubbed the “red city” because of the myriad of crimson roofs.

                      Notable features of the church are the pendant canopy over the sanctuary and the exquisite marble altar. There are well-executed paintings of the Ascension scene and of the Baptism of Our Lord by Marshall C. Hutson who was Vice Principal of the Crawford School of Art. Nine steps, conveying the sense of height and ascent, lead from the nave to the tabernacle.

                      The materials for the tabernacle include jewels from rings and broaches generously donated in memory of loved ones.
                      The church provides a good example of how tasteful modifications can occur over the years; there is a large shrine of Our Lady of Fatima which was built in 1983 in the former mortuary chapel on the western side. The church’s main doors open to a panoramic view of the city while the church itself commands visibility for miles around.

                      Although it is hard to envisage by present day terms, the contract price for the church was £89,920, a sum which in the 1950s called for significant fundraising. By contrast, extensive reroofing and general renovations completed in 2018 cost in excess of €460,000.

                      Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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