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    By Arthur Flynn

    In 1996 a film was to emerge with little fanfare from Australia with an unknown leading man and a first time film director. It was Shine a bittersweet biography dealing with the pianist and real life character Peter Helfgott. It was to sweep the boards in awards from the Academy Awards to the BAFTAs and got extremely positive reviews.

    On reading the script or the biography of Peter Helfgott the story line sounded depressing. It included Nazi oppression, strained paternal relations and prolonged bouts of mental breakdowns and periods in institutions. It had all the ingredients of a gloomy evening at the cinema, but when the tale was eventually portrayed on the screen it was a story of triumph over adversity and made an amazing impact.

    5fb0b680732797df12ed5b0e38cd450cThe screenplay by Jan Sardi was based on a story by Scott Hicks who also directed the film, his first assignment as a film director. Hicks had been born in Uganda and had worked for two decades in Australia on documentaries, shorts and television.

    The British actor, Bob Hoskins was the first choice to play the role of Peter Helfgott, but he declined it. Dustin Hoffman also expressed an interest in playing Helfgott, as his music and life story had both moved him.

    Finally, after all the speculation and the names of numerous other actors, the Australian actor, Geoffrey Rush was selected for the coveted role. In reality he had learned the piano as a child up until the age of fourteen. He then took up piano lessons again thirty years later specifically for the film.

    He also acted as his own hand double for the scenes. Normally in films an actor would give the impression of playing and the close up of hands would be a real pianist.
    The young Helfgott was played by the gawky looking Noah Taylor. There was a strong supporting cast headed by Googie Withers, Lynn Redgrave as Gillian, Sir John Gielgud as the crusty Cecil Parkes.

    The film was shot on a budget of $5.5 million on location in Sydney, Adelaide, South Africa and London over a two-month period. The early stages of the film were based on fact.

    The story told of child piano prodigy, David Helfgott whose musical ambitions generate friction with his overbearing father, Peter, who was a concentration camp victim. When Helfgott travels to London on a musical scholarship, his career as a pianist blossoms.

    However, the pressure of his newfound fame, coupled with the echoes of his tumultuous childhood, conspire to bring Helfgott’s latent schizophrenia boiling to the surface.

    He spends the next twenty years in and out of a number of mental institutions and in various stages of depression. He receives electric shock treatment and is banned from having any contact with a piano. Then, in later life, a visit to a wine bar accidently brings him into the limelight once again. He is introduced to the owner Gillian. They fall in love and with her support he stages a well-received comeback concert.
    The film made a compelling, powerful evenings viewing, with no emotion untouched.
    The reviews were overwhelming positive. The following are a sample: ‘Shine has a story to reckon with and a powerful performance.’ ‘Intense, gripping mental-illness music drama.’ ‘I declare Shine to be the best film of the year.’ ‘Inspiring, memorable cinema.’

    The plaudits for Geoffrey Rush flowed in including ‘one of the best actors working to-day undoubtedly delivering a powerful worth watching performance.’

    Rush won the Academy Award and BAFTA for Best Actor for his powerful portrayal. He also won a Golden Globe as Best Drama Actor. This was the start of an impressive film career for Rush. In 1998 he appeared in three films – Les Miserable, Elizabeth and Shakespeare in Love for which he won his second Academy Award for Best Actor.

    Following on from the success of Shine director Scott Hicks was offered many big projects. His first Hollywood film was Snow Falling on Cedars (1999). This was followed by Hearts of Atlantis two years later.

      0 11

      John Corbett with a selection of memories of April in the Irish countryside

      April was expected to be mild but, as most Irish people will know, warmth cannot be taken for granted at this or at any other time of year. If the previous month obliged, landowners could relax and prepare to plant grain crops. However, if February and March proved unsuitable, there could be quite a scramble to get the work done.
      In the early fifties machinery was scarce so most of the work was done manually with the aid of horses. In fact people relied on them so much that many felt that they would be the mainstay of farm work for the foreseeable future.

      I’m told that this is one of the reasons why the Pierce Manufacturing Company in Wexford didn’t attempt to make ploughs and other implements for tractors. Apparently they felt that this was just a passing phase.

      Before this time nearly all farm machinery in our part of the world was made by Pierces and the quality of their products was first class.

      It took some time for the changeover to become noticeable. One of the main tractor dealers in Co. Galway sold only three of them in a period of twelve months. It’s no exaggeration to say that many individual farmers have that number of tractors on their own holdings in modern times.

      One of the priorities in April was to plant the potatoes. In our parish most growers settled for an acre or so – enough to feed themselves, their families, and livestock. Kerr’s Pinks was the most popular choice for human consumption and Aran Banners were fed to animals.

      Those growing them for export would sow much larger amounts and this involved a great deal of effort. Progressive farmers tended to purchase new seed but others were happy to use surplus stock from their own stores.

      Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5596)

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        There are few sporting events that can equal the Grand National for its atmosphere and excitement. It is a supreme test of courage and horsemanship and all who take part can rightly consider themselves champions in the sport of kings, writes Gerry Breen.

        The Grand National is said to be the world’s toughest race for horse and rider in the world. It is a handicap steeplechase over 4 miles and 514 yards, with horses jumping 30 fearsome fences over two laps.

        Sport, Horse Racing, Newmarket Spring Meeting, pic: 4th May 1984, Vincent O'Brien, Irish race horse trainer, one of the great trainers, who won 3 Grand Nationals at Aintree and 5 English Derbys at Epsom  (Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)
        Sport, Horse Racing, Newmarket Spring Meeting, pic: 4th May 1984, Vincent O’Brien, Irish race horse trainer, one of the great trainers, who won 3 Grand Nationals at Aintree and 5 English Derbys at Epsom (Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)

        It is the most valuable jump race in Europe, and since it was first run in 1839 it has provided more than its share of thrills and heroes.

        By the time the field comes under starter’s orders at the famous Aintree course in Liverpool on 8th April, it is expected that between 500 and 600 million people from 140 countries will be tuned in to their television sets to watch the drama unfold. Along with those watching from the comfort of their homes, it is expected that there will be a 70,000-strong attendance at Aintree racecourse to cheer on their favourites. In just under ten minutes of dramatic action, up to forty horses will battle it out in what is generally regarded as the most dangerous event in the racing calendar.

        Although the Grand National is famous for its unpredictable nature, it is the one big race of the year when even the most unsophisticated punters are convinced they can pick the winner and they are ready to put their money on a horse because they like its name or because they like the jockey or the colours he is wearing. In any event, everyone wants to be part of the excitement.

        First run in 1839, the Grand National had a prize fund of £1 million in 2016, and the race enjoys enormous popularity even amongst those who do not normally watch or bet on horse racing at other times of the year.



        The course over which the race is run features much larger fences than those found on conventional National Hunt tracks. Many of these, particularly Becher’s Brook, The Chair and the Canal Turn, have become part of racing lore and, combined with the distance of the event, create what has been described as ‘the ultimate test of horse and rider’.

        Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5596)

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          Mary Ignatia Gavin, C.S.A., was an Irish-born American Religious Sister, better known as Sister Ignatia, belonging to the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, who served as a nurse. In the course of her work she became involved in the care of those suffering from alcoholism, working with Dr. Bob Smith, a co-founder of what became Alcoholics Anonymous. In this work she became known as the alcoholic’s ‘Angel of Hope’, writes MARGARET SMITH.

          One day during the 1930’s, a nun, Sister Ignatia Gavin, received a phone call from ‘Bill’ who told her that he was going to have to return his Sacred Heart badge because “I’ve had a rough morning and I’m going out to get a drink.” The Sister sighed then told him, “Don’t do it. Wait until you finish work at 5 o’clock and then call me again. I’ll pray for you. Whatever you do, don’t send that badge back.”

          At 5 o’clock, Bill rang back. “It’s OK, Sister. I never took that drink, I think I’m going to be alright now thanks to the Sacred Heart and you.”

          Such telephone calls were not uncommon because Sister Ignatia had ministered to thousands of men and women who had succumbed to alcoholism for many years. Many now regard her as one of the founders of America’s Alcoholics Anonymous. She wasn’t an American though, she was Irish, born Della Mary Gavin on 1 January 1889, to Barbara Neary and her husband who lived on a small parcel of farmland called Gavin’s Field, in Shanvalley, Burren, Co. Mayo.

          In the spring of 1896 her parents and other family members left Ireland in the hope of a better life in America, eventually settling in Cleveland, Ohio. Della was a talented musician who gave private lessons to help bolster the family income.

          Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5596)

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            To date the United States of America has had 45 presidents, but only 12 of them had cats in the White House. ‘First Cats’ may not receive as much press as the ‘First Dogs’, but they have a long history in the nation’s capital,
            writes PAULINE MURPHY

            Since George Washington‘s time, every President of the United States have had pets of all sorts. James Madison had a Macaw, Andrew Johnson had white mice, Warren G Harding owned a squirrel and nearly every president had a dog – but only ten have had cats take the title of ‘presidential pet.’

            Abraham Lincoln became the first U.S. president to bring cats into the White House. Upon election to the highest office in the land, Lincoln was gifted two kittens by Secretary of State William Seward. He named them Tabby and Dixie and they became an integral part of family life in the White House.

            Lincoln was known to have a strong affection for felines and during the American Civil War while on a visit to the HQ of General Ulysses Grant, the president came across three near frozen to death kittens in a telegraph hut in the camp.

            When the President enquired of their mother and was told she had died, he ordered a colonel to take care of the orphaned kittens.

            Ruthford B. Hayes is reported to have had the first Siamese cat in America. The president’s wife received a gift of the cat, which she named Siam, from the American Consul in Bangkok.

            A diplomat there by the name of David B Sickels had written to the first lady to inform her that he was sending her a Siamese cat as she had a fondness for felines. Two months after receiving the letter, a Wells Fargo crate arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with what was the first Siamese cat in America.

            Siam became a well-loved fixture of White House life but in 1879 Siam became seriously ill. The president’s physician tried to help the cat but five days after first falling ill, the much-loved feline passed away. It left the first family heart broken, none more so than Mrs Hayes who instructed that Siam be preserved.

            Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5596)

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              Sarah’s unused dancing shoes are symbolic of her marriage regrets…

              By Terri O’Mahony

              The evenings were getting dark outside, the shadows lengthening in the kitchen, the ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece adding to Sarah’s sense of unexplainable agitation. She had cleaned the house from top to bottom, had scrubbed the kitchen floor with carbolic soap until her hands were raw and red, had prepared a nice stew, the one he liked, a nice bit of mutton with plenty of potatoes and carrots.

              The dog had looked at her, padding about the house in her footsteps, her head cocked to one side as if trying to understand her restlessness, yawning every now and then in her wake, as if the whole process was a human trait not meant to be understood by her, but accepted as a human idiocy, and so she spent the hours in Sarah’s company, observing, but uncomprehending.

              the-dancing-shoesFinally, Sarah had sat, her hands clasped in front of her at the kitchen table, the piece of paper, folded and refolded, soiled from the meal’s preparations, remnants of peeled vegetables adhering to the edges. She read it over and over again, muttering the words under her breath.


              It had come through the letterbox three days ago, and she had seen Maura Davis going back out the front gate, looking over her shoulder at the house, pausing for a moment, then continuing on her way. Sarah knew she wouldn’t knock. She had no friends left in the village, because Seamus had seen to that.

              He had made a show of her at the last dance at Christmas. He had ridiculed her dancing, her intrepid little steps, deft and nimble on the floor, addressing each beat of the music with impeccable precision, the men lining up to dance with her because she was so light on her feet and good fun too. Her smile was infectious, she always smiled when she danced, she forgot all her troubles the minute she heard the music start up, lost in another world where there was no husband to criticise her. He had danced one or two dances with her, but he had kept up a continuous flow of mocking banter about the other dancers, so that she felt uncomfortable and the enjoyment gone from her usual sense of elation as she waltzed around the floor.

              Seamus Lovett was a hard man. A good working man, his large frame suited to his job at the sawmills, cutting timber planks to size, carting loads from one end of the timber yard to the other, his big muscular frame not afraid of hard work. People in the village had wondered why little Sarah Minihan had ever married him. A small, timid woman, with a lovely smile and the voice of an angel, because she sang in the local choir and everybody liked her for her quiet nature, never saying a bad word about anybody.
              But Seamus was a different kettle of fish. He had domineered Sarah since their marriage. He had put a stop to her dancing, because she used to go every month to the parish hall for the church dance, and she had been in much demand as a dancing partner. Before their marriage he had gone to a few of them reluctantly, but afterwards he had refused to go, saying dancing was a ‘cissy’ occupation, and not worth the effort.

              Gradually she had stopped going, had distanced herself from her friends in the village, and with her parents dead since before she had married Seamus, she felt isolated in the small cottage at the foot of the mountain overlooking the small village community.

              The clock ticked away the seconds, and she knew he would be in soon for his tea. It was their anniversary on the Friday night, the night of the dance, and she hoped she could convince him to go with her, for the night that was in it, ten years married, surely it merited some recognition, a little dance for the two of them, sure what harm was in it?

              She bent down and pulled out the box from beneath the bed. Her hands shook as she lifted the lid carefully, unfolding the tissue paper slowly, to reveal the shoes, dancing shoes, in all their glory, red velvet with a tiny crystal jewel glistening on the front of each, little narrow straps dotted with sequins. She had saved her housekeeping money for weeks for those shoes. She had put it away carefully in her jewellery box her mother had left her, hidden at the back of the wardrobe, so that he couldn’t find it.
              She had gone into the city on the bus when she had enough saved, and almost ran to the shoe shop on the bridge where she had seen the shoes holding a place of supremacy in the window. They had not been displayed in the window and her heart had sank, but she hadn’t given up. The assistant had looked at the woman standing in front of her, small and an anxious look on her thin face. Sarah’s cheeks were flushed with concern and asked in a small voice – “The shoes, the red shoes, dancing shoes they were – are they gone, are they sold?” The assistant went to the back of the shop and brought out a box, taking the lid off, showing the contents to Sarah.

              “Is it this pair you’re talking about – they’re a size 5 – the only size we have in them, I’m afraid – will you try them on?” Sarah had tried on the shoes, had walked about the carpeted floor as if she was floating on air, could just imagine herself twirling about the dance floor in a quickstep, wheeling and turning, her eyes closed….

              “I’ll take them!” She had blurted out, watched the assistant placing them into the box, had handed over her precious savings, and left the shop feeling elated, and yet somehow apprehensive, thinking what Seamus would say….

              “Whatever possessed you to spend my hard-earned money on such nonsense!” He had come home, had sat and eaten his meal in silence, and when Sarah had produced the shoes with trembling hands, he had stood up, pushing back his chair angrily, towering over her menacingly. Sarah backed away, the shoes falling to the floor, the dance notice crumpled in her hands behind her back.

              “I thought it would be a nice thing for both of us, Seamus – on our anniversary – to go dancing together, you holding me in your arms, me loving you as I’ve always loved you, the two of us, together Seamus!” She was crying as she spoke, looking up into his angry face, not recognising the man in front of her any more.

              She had made a mistake in marrying him, had been taken in by his courting ways, and his roguish smile, and the silly words of love that had never been uttered since then. He turned from her then, walking out into the night, whistling for the dog to follow him. The dog got up slowly from the mat in front of the fire, looking back at Sarah before following her master out the door for her evening walk through the woods by the river. Sarah stood in the empty kitchen.

              She picked up the shoes, the straps hanging loosely from her fingers. She replaced them in the box, then went to the small, hollowed out compartment at the side of the fireplace. She placed the shoes in there, putting a small log of turf over the opening, drawing the whitewashed stone in front of it. Her dreams were shattered forever. She would never have a life, no more dancing, no more notions of beautiful dancing shoes sparkling with tiny diamante stones….

              “I don’t care what you say, Alan – I’m keeping that fireplace – it’s so in keeping with this place, it would be a pity to replace it with a modern one!” The young couple stood looking at the smoke stained fireplace, the grate rusted, pieces of moss falling from the chimney, remnants of birds nesting there.

              They had been lucky to get the place so cheap, every house they had seen had been far above their budget, but this place had suited them perfectly.

              “We’re not far from the city – only a short commute – and the motorway is very handy, no bottlenecks, no traffic hold ups – sure, it’s made for us, Alan!” Kate had looked at him adoringly, putting her hand in his while he pulled her close to him.
              They had taken out a mortgage on the place, and now were in the process of renovating it, modernising the kitchen, putting in a shower unit in the bathroom, central heating throughout. It had been a long time since anybody had lived there.

              The owners had died, the villagers not giving much information, the estate agents non committal except to say that the couple who had lived there had kept very much to themselves, the woman disappearing, nobody knew where she had gone to, years later they had discovered she had died in a hostel in London, the man living out his life on his own until the postman had found him lying face down in a field, the dog sitting expectantly by his side, instinctively knowing his master was dead….

              “Look at all this plaster – we’re going to have to scrape away the flaking bits, get down to the stone – .” Kate scraped at the plaster, her hands covered with white dust, until suddenly one of the bricks dislodged, and she stepped back quickly, watching it fall to the floor with a resounding thud. They both looked at the gaping hole left behind, and Alan tentatively put his hand inside, feeling something hard and crumbling his fingers grasping the battered shoe box as he pulled it towards them. Kate looked at it curiously as he opened the lid, the cardboard disintegrating in his hands, to reveal the shoes, the red velvet faded, the little diamond clasps still giving out a dull glow, as though their emergence into the light brought out a final surge of pride in their appearance.

              “Oh Alan – aren’t they pretty – somebody must have loved them so much that they hid them in there – all those years ago….” Kate felt tears in her eyes. They belonged to a woman who obviously had the joy of living in her once. A woman who loved those shoes so much that she was reluctant to part with them, even if she had never worn them, they had been part of a dream…

              “I wonder what happened Alan – these are such lovely dancing shoes…” Kate kicked off her ankle boots, stepping into the shoes gingerly. She tied the straps, and when she straightened up she felt a sudden urge to dance about the room, twirling and spinning until Alan caught her and joined in, both of them waltzing in time, the night shadows catching them in a kaleidoscope of colour, the red shoes tapping time in a frenzied motion of unrequited dreams, now finally satisfied.

                0 236

                This Mother’s Day, Philomena Hearne pays tribute to her centenarian mother who has lived through some remarkable times in Irish history.

                These were historic times: this era marked the end of the haemorrhaging of young Irishmen to France, ie: the battle of the Somme. Foreign fields – a senseless cause.
                It was in this epoch that Catherine was born into a comfortable family home in Ballymcquinn, in Ardfert Parish.

                catherine-stackShe was the eldest of seven children. Her parents, Patrick and Margaret, worked a small farm which was well stocked with animals and fowl of many kinds. They were an industrious twosome. Her father had a hobby in bees, taking care of fifteen hives daily.
                About this time, a number of engineers from Newcastle-on-Tyne came to the area. They set up a wireless station beside her father’s home and were hiring suitable people for this work. Catherine’s father was given the position of accounts clerk for this Company, The Wireless Telegraph Company.

                There were other branches of the company in Killmoyley, and Ballinskelligs. The main one was on Valentia Island – the Trans-Atlantic Cable Station. Catherine’s father worked there later on, when after few years it wound up its operations. Radio came in, and there was no further need for these pioneer stations. Her father was the caretaker for some time until the land was sold and distributed, among local farmers.
                The country was poor at the time, trying to recover from the aftermath of the lean years and the Civil War which split many families.

                At the age of eight, Catherine attended the local school at Banna along with her sister, Ellen. Their father would not allow his children to begin school until it was reasonably safe to do so. They were troubled times, and the roads were cut and damaged.
                In 1924, the Free State Soldiers were trying to set up and maintain a system of Order in the Country.Order born from chaos. There were skirmishing groups of Auxiliaries prowling occasionally, even though they were supposedly gone at that stage. This group replaced the ‘Tans’.

                They did their worst from 1919 to 1921. Catherine was placed in first class in her school because she was knowledgeable, and fast at learning.
                She and her sister were one month at school when some soldiers of the Free State Army came to search the school, possibly for fugitives.
                They promised the teachers that they would not harm anybody. The children were scared, as indeed were the teachers. Nothing was found.

                Catherine remembers many events which took place. There was one event during the Civil War, when her parents pulled the children from their beds, after midnight, and placed them lying on the floor beneath the windows (which were high) for safety from the bullets. The rebels had picked on a few houses in the neighbourhood. Gunfire was heard, though distant.

                Their father was protecting his family, after some hours gunfire ceased. The walls of their house were strong and secure.
                Some years later, reconstruction work was done on the roof of their dwelling house, and spent bullets were found there.

                On a previous occassion, Catherine’s uncle was digging potatoes in his garden at the rear of their house when he heard a sound. Something whizzed past his ear. He hid in the furrow between the drills of potatoes, and managed to crawl snake-like to the bottom of the garden, and thankfully to safety.

                This story was related to Catherine some time later. She was three years old when these events occurred circa 1919.
                We have a few stories that are associated with those times also.
                While standing at the front door of her home, she witnessed an army vehicle moving slowly past her home, going toward Ardfert. Her father raised her up on his arm, and said, “That is an army vehicle. There is a soldier in front with the driver both were standing.”

                The vehicle moved slowly. Their patient was a severely wounded soldier. His bare feet were visible and bloody. Catherine was scared and deeply saddened at this. He was an Army Officer who was shot at the Clashmaolcan Caves, at the time.

                Catherine stayed for a time with her grandparents in Ardfert, and attended school there. Her grandmother was a widow. Her brother came to stay with her from time to time. He retired from his work in America where he was a librarian. He liked reading, writing and arithmetic. He especially liked Euclid.

                Catherine was still attending primary school in Ardfert. Her grand-uncle organised some lines per day for her to memorise from the epic The Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith. He gave her a half-crown, at the end of a number of lines, until she knew them well. There were many epics.

                She also memorised the Gettysburg Address. All the American Presidents etc. Catherine was a great storyteller. She loved to read history and she read widely.
                In her latter years, she needed stronger lens, that hasn’t stopped her – just slowed her somewhat. She likes to wander down memory lane often. We were informed that there were no white weddings at that time. People getting married, wore clothes of their own choice. They dressed very neatly, in their new clothes.

                Recently she informed us that she was not dressed up in a beautiful white dress for her First Holy Communion, like the children have in our generations. There were no formalities.

                The children then were obliged to know and answer certain questions, from the penny Catechism, and prayers, and if they did not know these, they were not given a ticket. and could not receive their first Holy Communion.
                The children were dressed in their ordinary clothing.

                Catherine attended Domestic Science Classes, which were organised in neighbouring towns at the time. This involved basket-making, lace-making, needlecraft and cookery.

                This is but a mere sample of her life and times.


                I include here, some lines from Oliver Goldsmith’s famous poem.

                The Deserted Village

                In all my wanderings round this world of care,
                In all my griefs – and God has given my share –
                I still had hopes, my latest hours to crown,
                Amidst these humble bowers to lay me down;
                To husband out life’s taper at the close,
                And keep the flame from wasting, by repose;
                And as a hare, whom hounds and horns pursue
                Pants to the place from whence at first she flew,
                I still had hopes, my long vexations past,
                Here to return – to die at home at last.

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                  The ‘Gentle Giant’ of Country Music is celebrating thirty years in showbusiness. Con McGrath met recently with the star.


                  This year is shaping up to be a busy one for Mick Flavin as he celebrates thirty years performing in Country Music. Over that time Mick has become a household name not only in Ireland but all over the world, entertaining audiences with this rich voice and hit songs such as Wildflowers, Maria’s Heading Out To California, Never Too Old To Feel Young At Heart and I love Ireland best of all.

                  mickflavinnewIn 2005, the Longfordman was nominated for the Country Music Association Global Artist Award. This was the first time that an Irish Country Artist was nominated for this prestigious international award and is an indication of the significance of Mick’s contribution to Country Music in Ireland and beyond. More recently, in May 2016, Mick received the first ever Irish Country Music Hall of Fame Living Legend award.

                  Intending to interview this great star of country music, I made my way to the picturesque town of Drumlish, Co. Longford (which is also home to that other great star of Country Music – Declan Nerney). Following the directions given to me by Mick (as he prefers to be known) I drove a little ways out from Drumlish and quickly caught sight of his home. “You will know my house when you see it,” the singing star had told me, “the van marked ‘Travellin to Flavin’ is parked outside.” Sure enough it was.

                  For 30 years now, folks have been ‘Travelling to Flavin’ to enjoy a night’s entertainment, be it a sit down concert or a night of dancing. Oft times it will be both.

                  The songs they enjoy are those well known singles, now firm favourites on the Irish country music scene. Great hits like I’m Gonna Make It After All, The Old School Yard and the rousing Someday You’ll Love Me. These songs have made Mick a household name not just here in Ireland but all over the world.
                  Arriving at his home, I was greeted by Mick’s wife, the former Mary Doyle, a native of Enaughan, near Moyne, Co. Longford. Escorted into the front sitting room, I awaited his arrival. Dotted around the room, the whole house in fact, are many trophies, awards and mementoes, from his incredibly successful singing career.
                  Suddenly he appears. The great Mick Flavin himself, standing an impressive 6 foot 4. Immediately Mick, by his very modest nature, puts one at ease.

                  In fact as I set up the video camera to record his life story, I happened to mention that today was my birthday, upon which Mick Flavin immediately bursts into a rendition of Happy Birthday to You. (I am proud to say I captured this moment on camera – what a memento of my own to have).

                  It is worth pointing out that this spontaneous gesture by Mick Flavin at once reveals the man, a man who constantly thinks of other people, always putting other people’s stories above his own. It is these considerate qualities that make Mick so special, justifying completely his reputation as the ‘Gentle Giant’ of Country Music.

                  Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5595)

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                    Val O’Donnell has some ideas of how to utilise our former Look-Out Posts

                    I read recently that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport was recruiting Watch Officers for the Irish Coast Guard. The Watch Officers are located at Marine Rescue Centres at Valentia, Malin Head and Dublin, where they monitor the entire Irish coast on a 24 hour basis, as part of a national service responding to emergencies at sea.

                    Earlier generations of Irish coast-watchers included the inhabitants of the sturdy Martello Towers built in the early 19th century, in response to the threat of Napoleonic invasion. At least 50 Martello Towers were built along the Irish coast, with concentrations around Dublin, Wexford and Cork.

                    These formidable defensive structures were never tested in combat and became obsolete after the arrival of powerful rifled artillery. Many are still standing in varying states of repair. Some have been converted into homes, meeting places, museums and commercial outlets.

                    Probably the most famous is the Martello tower in Sandycove, near Dúnlaoghaire, which was occupied for a short time by James Joyce and Oliver Gogarty in the summer of 1904. Joyce’s brief tenancy is immortalised in the first episode of Ulysses and has become a museum, attracting thousands of visitors each year.

                    Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5595)

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                      Around the time that Christopher Columbus was preparing for the voyage that would change the history of the world forever, a young stranger appeared in Cork, swaggering around the streets dressed from head to toe in the finest silks.
                         With his plummy accent and aristocratic bearing, many suggested, including the Mayor and members of the City Council, that he was the living incarnation of the missing heir to the English Throne, Prince Richard, Duke of York. Such declarations would have dire consequences for all concerned. Pat Poland recalls the events surrounding this strange period in Irish and English history.

                      The re-burial in Leicester Cathedral on 26 March 2015 of the remains of King Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet kings of England, served to prompt renewed interest in a long-forgotten episode in the story of these islands.

                      In 1483 King Edward IV died, leaving an ‘heir and a spare’ to the throne, the Princes Edward (12) and Richard (9). Shortly before his demise, the king had named his brother, Richard, as Lord Protector. The young Prince Edward would become King Edward V.
                      Ostensibly, to prepare for the forthcoming coronation, Richard had the two young boys transferred to the Tower of London, then the principal royal residence in the city.  For a while, the two children were seen playing around the castle grounds, but then their appearances became fewer and fewer.

                      After the summer of 1483, there were no further sightings of them. It was as if they had disappeared from the face of the earth. There were whisperings that they were murdered on the orders of their uncle, Richard, a contention given credence, without the slightest evidence, by William Shakespeare, writing during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the last Tudor monarch, whose dynasty had deposed the Plantagenets.  

                      Richard of York, Lord Protector, was crowned King Richard III on 3 July 1483 but was soon challenged for the throne by Henry Tudor of Lancaster. The so-called ‘War of the Roses’ (the logo of the House of York was a white rose, while that of the House of Lancaster was a red rose) came to a head at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 which saw the 32-year-old Richard being slaughtered.

                      He was the last king of the House of York, the last king of England to die in battle, and the last of the Anglo-Norman Plantagenet dynasty which had ruled since the succession of King Henry II (invited to send a task force to Ireland by Diarmuid MacMurrough) in 1154. His death is regarded by many historians as marking the end of the Middle Ages in these islands. Henry Tudor now became King Henry VII.

                      Some years into Henry’s reign, there were rumours throughout the realm that Prince Richard, Duke of York, the younger of the little boys in the Tower, had somehow survived. It had not been the first time that such murmurings abounded.

                      In 1487, one Lambert Simnel had claimed to be Prince Richard but later admitted to being an imposter. King Henry, who appears to have been a tolerant man, forgave him and gave him a job as a ‘spit roaster’ in the royal kitchens.

                      However, this was an altogether different matter. Now the claimant came with the endorsement of Duchess Margaret of Burgundy, the aunt of the disappeared princes, and it was said that he had been presented at the courts of the King of France and of the Holy Roman Emperor whose approval he had received.

                      His name was Perkin Warbeck and he arrived in Cork City in the autumn of 1492.

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