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    Actor, musician and writer Patrick Bergin shares highlights of his Hollywood career and tells Kay Doyle about his newly released song The Tipperary Waltz in which he pays homage to his great-uncle who fought in WWI.

    From his unforgettable portrayal of a terrifying and abusive husband in one of Hollywood’s most memorable thrillers, to lighting up the small screen on the BBC’s popular soap opera Eastenders, Patrick Bergin has enjoyed an acting career that spans over thirty years, and the cameras are still rolling.

    Born in Dublin’s Holles Street in 1951, and raised in Carlow town, he was the son of hard-working and aspirational parents. Drawn to Carlow as his grandfather was a stationmaster in the town, his mother ran a café there called The Sugarbowl; indeed ‘sugar’ would go on to have a prominent place in his family’s history.

    His father, also Patrick, was the national campaign organiser for the Labour Party, eventually becoming a senator from 1954 to 1957. Patrick Senior led the famous sugar strike in Carlow, despite being threatened with twenty years in jail, and which ultimately led to the closure of the sugar factory.

    After the conclusion of World War II, sugar was hot property in Ireland. Experts from Czechoslovakia were brought over to show the Irish labourers how to cook the sugar, which was a finely skilled process. Patrick Snr had cut a deal with Major General Costello that once the Irish workers were trained up to the same level as the Czech workers, they would be paid similar wages. When they reneged on this deal, he led them to strike.

    “One day, when my father went to Leinster House to present a case for the sugar workers on equal pay to the Minister, he was sitting in the tea room waiting to be called when the tea lady brought him and his colleagues a cup of tea,” recalls Patrick Junior. “She apologised that she only had saccharine, and no sugar.

    “’That’s because of those bowsies down in Carlow,’ my father said, testing her for a reaction. She snapped back, ‘Don’t you run down those fine men and what they are trying to do!’ It was his way of gauging the opinion of the general public, and it was a boost for their cause.”

    In his spare time, away from politics, Patrick’s father founded a Little Theatre in Carlow town, the goal being to teach the workers to walk and talk more proudly. After the bitter strike, they moved to a place called Jerusalem in Co. Kildare, situated between Carlow and Athy, and then to Dublin. The Bergins lived for years above the Labour Party offices on Earlsfort Terrace, before moving to Drimnagh where they would eventually settle.

    “I had three brothers and one sister,” says Patrick. “When I was four years old I turned to my mother and said, ‘Ma, I want to go to school.’ I had a good teacher called Mr. Muldoon in Our Lady of Good Counsel on Mourne Road, who encouraged us to put on plays and musicals which we acted out in the Bosco Club.

    “My mother worked in the Gaiety Theatre and the first production I became involved was Brian Friel’s Philadelphia Here I Come. Literature ran through the household, and we were always encouraged to read the classics. My older brother, Emmet, also went into acting, many people would know him for his role as the scheming Dick Moran in Glenroe.”

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      ‘The Queen of the May’, sung by that great Scottish tenor, Canon Sydney MacEwan, is broadcast on the wireless at the beginning of May. That fine tribute, based I believe on a hymn from the 13th century, never fails to halt me in my tracks.

      I stop whatever I’m doing and take a moment of quiet, as that immortal tenor voice urges us to:
      Bring flowers of the rarest,
      Bring blossoms the fairest
      From garden and woodland
      And hillside and dale.

      The first week of May also brings the memory of my parents alive for me. That evening my father sprinkled the land with Easter water to ward off evil and ensure growth and a good yield in the year ahead.

      May was the official beginning of summer and a time when the forces of the ‘other world’ were particularly active. In the West of Ireland, fire was used as a purifying ritual, as cattle, their horns or tails decorated with the lovely flowers of May, were driven between two bonfires to bring good luck.

      Continue reading Cassidy in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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        FRANCIS KAYE recalls a healthy, cheap and innocent pastime of the 1950s

        A healthy, innocent and cheap pastime when we were growing up in the 1950s was boulie racing. A ‘boulie’ (rhyming with the surname Howley) was simply an old bicycle tyre. No need to buy a cartridge or to download an app on your phone back in those days, all you had to do was find an abandoned bicycle tyre and a strong stick, about 12” (30 cm.) long.

        Boys would gather, usually on either a flat stretch of a quiet road (weren’t all roads quiet in those days!), or a slight incline. They would line up beside each other, holding the boulie with one hand and the stick in the other, touching the boulie low down so that a swift, upright movement of the stick would send it rolling at speed, hopefully in a straight line.

        Girls weren’t left out either – they were allowed to shout “Ready, steady . . . GO!” and the boys and their boulies were off!

        Controlling the boulie at speed required a fair amount of concentration, dexterity and co-ordination so inevitably, there were crashes and pile-ups. This usually ended up with some poor unfortunate being blamed for being the cause of the ‘favourite’ falling and choice words would be exchanged.

        I never saw any blows been thrown though as before long, the second race on the day’s card would be under way.

        The races usually ran for about 80 yards, depending on the setting and the hope that a bicycle, a pony and cart or (God forbid!) a car didn’t come around the corner soon after the start. Two or more girls might be dispatched to the finish to record the winner and runner-up and to keep an eye on any possible cause of disruption.

        Occasionally, the girls might have their own race accompanied by loud jeers from the boys if they all lost control of the boulie in the first 10 yards of the race!

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          May – Planting & Weeding Time

          With Aileen Atcheson

          Now that May has come, we hope we are free from frost so tender vegetables like marrows, sweet corn and cucumbers can be planted in the open without protection. The bush marrow is the better one for small gardens.

          Leeks can be planted now. Make holes with a dibber and drop a leek plant into each hole. They do not need earthing up. Try to have them about nine inches apart.

          There is much thinning of vegetables needed now. Turnips, kale, radishes do not thrive if grown too closely together. Parsnips should be six inches apart, and carrots four. Eat the thinnings and they are lovely.

          Carrot fly is dreadful now. Alternate rows of carrots and onions help keep them down and a few garlic mixed in. Cauliflower and curly kale should be planted now and your globe beetroot would like a light dressing of salt.

          Roses must be sprayed with soap and water regularly to get rid of green fly which sucks the sap and destroys the bush.

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            A series by Martyn Baguley

            Imagine for a moment that the year is 1735 and you are in the German City of Leipzig. (You haven’t been to Leipzig? I did say ‘imagine’). As you stroll along, Cather Strasse Bach-like orchestral music comes from a cafe. The music fades, replaced by an angry tuneless baritone voice – ‘You wicked child, you disobedient girl! When will I get my way; give up coffee!’

            The music is ‘Bach-like’ because it is his. The words were by the poet and librettist Christian Henrici. You are near Zimmerman’s Coffee House and listening to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Coffee Cantata which he and Henrici wrote for The Collegium Musicum, a small musical group based there. It was the nearest Bach ever got to writing music for an opera.

            Bach loved his coffee, as did most of the fashionable and literary set in the 18th century. Its popularity had started earlier – much earlier. Travellers, including Marco Polo, are credited with bringing coffee to Europe from the Near East in the 17th century.

            Like most new things, especially anything coming from the Orient, initially it was treated with suspicion. When it first arrived in Venice in 1615 the clergy condemned it as being the ‘bitter invention of Satan’. Opposition to it was so intense that Pope Clement VIII was asked to adjudicate. After sampling a mug of Java coffee he said ‘This devil’s drink is delicious. We should cheat the devil by baptizing it’.

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              Partick O’Sullivan champions the merits of having a laugh


              After last Mass on Sunday morning, the old parish priest at the door of the church was quizzing parishioners as to what they made of the missioner’s sermon. “Twasn’t great, Father,” said the affable Kate Ann, a homely woman in her fifties, “but at least he cut it short the way we’ll be home in time for Maureen Potter.” The latter, one of the best-loved comedians of her day had a radio show of her own on Sunday afternoon.
              The old priest was not in the least offended by Kate Ann’s riposte, however; if anything it struck a chord with him. She was a woman after his own heart, he said, for there was nothing like a good laugh to lift the spirit and make it strong.

              There were many old sayings which advocated a similar point of view, among them: ‘A good laugh and a long sleep: the two best cures in the doctor’s book.’

              The great thing about the likes of Maureen Potter and her contemporaries, most notably Jimmy O’Dea, was that while they could be quiet sharp and incisive at times, they never strayed into anything coarse or crude or immoderate. They seemed to think there was enough in the English language to make people laugh without having recourse to crudity of any kind.

              Then there are the interminable soap operas that seem to present to many of their characters in the most negative way possible. I remember a letter-writer complaining in the newspapers one time that his favourite soap had turned into ‘a right old moanfest,’ as he put it.

              There was so much misery and calamity in the storylines then that he wondered if anyone in the place ever had a laugh anymore.

              One of the leading female characters was not only estranged from her husband, she had just dumped her boyfriend into the bargain. Someone else’s wedding plans had backfired at the last minute, while two more of the characters were so confrontational all the time they were like two dogs with the one bone.

              Now most people will accept that good drama sometimes involves a bit of tension, a bit of conflict now and then. The trouble with the soaps, though, is that the conflict is so relentless, so unrelieved, it is hardly likely to generate anything but stress on the part of the viewer.

              “God be with the days when Minnie Brennan raised a smile or two on ‘The Riordans’,” says the old neighbour, a wistful smile in his eyes. ‘The same again with Mrs Butler on ‘Tolka Row’, the way it wasn’t all fighting and screaming, it wasn’t all doom and gloom.’

              There were times when The Riordans had a gentle, meandering feel to it, the creation of character just as important as the development of plot, so that in very many ways it was genuinely reflective of rural life at the time. Or at least a good deal more reflective of real-life than the combative soaps of today.

              I remember meeting an Englishman one time, who told me of his dislike of an English soap for the very reason that it was not a faithful depiction of the people he knew and loved. “Don’t get me wrong. People do argue; they do get hot under the collar,” he said, with some conviction, “but there is a good deal of warmth and compassion and kindliness too, something that rarely if ever gets shown at all.”

              Of course there was nothing that we children liked better than Maureen Potter’s adventures with her son, the hapless ‘Christy’, some of her finest sketches inspired by the self-same Christy’s inventive approach to mathematics.

              The family’s attempt to empty a bath with a leaking bucket one of the best-loved sketches of all, the entire thing prompted by a desire to help Christy solve the riddle of the sum he had for homework.

              There was sure to be a twist in the tale however. It was only when the landing, the stairs and the hall were half submerged in water, then only then did Christy realise there was something amiss. They were doing the wrong sun!

              This was the era of course when sponsored programmes were very much to the fore in the radio schedule, the likes of Lyons Tea, Odearest and even Volkswagen with programmes of their own. Frankie Byrne, meanwhile, had advice on matters of the heart in the Jacob’s programme, while Paula Daly had plenty of hints and tips from the good food kitchen at McDonnells.

              Maureen Potter was still a firm favourite though with young and old alike. It was no great wonder then that the affable Kate Ann was in such a hurry home from Mass to hear her on the radio, the missioner duly obliging by cutting his sermon short.
              Someone once wrote that the earth laughs with flowers in summer. I think of it again when I see the old moss roses coming into bloom, their marvellous pinks beaded with dews in the early morning time, the old fashioned columbines stirring the memories too, the lazy grey Persian cat curled like a cushion there.

              It makes me think again that if the earth laughs with flowers in summer, then we can surely do the same.

              Read Patrick O’Sullivan every week in Ireland’s Own

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                The world’s first fully digital museum in the heart of Dublin’s Docklands, which tells the story of Ireland’s people and how they have influenced and changed the world, is fast becoming one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions, writes Cathal Coyle.

                EPIC – The Irish Emigration Museum – is an interactive experience located in Custom House Quay in the heart of Dublin’s docklands that tells the story of the 70 million people worldwide who claim Irish descent. Named one of Ireland’s Top Five museums in TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards in 2017, EPIC is a new – and very welcome – addition to the list of cultural sites in our capital city.

                Indeed, EPIC is an acronym for ‘Every Person is Connected’ and it is somewhat apt that EPIC is situated on Custom House Quay, as this was the departure point for so many of Ireland’s emigrants from the 1800s onwards. Many of those who left Ireland from this point would have travelled by ship to Britain.

                The Famine Memorial and Jeanie Johnston, a replica of the tall ship which made 16 journeys to America from 1847 to 1855, is also located on Custom House Quay, a stark reminder of the impact that the Famine had on Ireland and its people.

                EPIC is unique in that it is the world’s first fully digital museum, dedicated to the story of Ireland’s people and how they have influenced and changed the world.

                User-friendly technology brings visitors on a journey through the Irish emigration experience. The museum seeks to inspire and guide visitors on a journey to discover the stories of Irish emigration around the world, from early times to the modern day – and also – how those Irish emigrants shaped the world.

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                  SHEILA JOHNSTON takes a walk up Scrabo Hill to visit Scrabo Tower. The tower, which was built in 1857, is one of Northern Ireland’s best known landmarks and the views from the top – overlooking Strangford Lough and the whole of North Down – are spectacular.

                  Where in Ireland do you get a place associated with Druids, Sir Charles Lanyon, Vikings, roundhouses, prehistoric reptiles, the tusks of wild boar, the Great Famine, flint arrowheads — and the nephew of Napoleon?

                  It’s a place I’ve just come from, Scrabo Hill and Tower in north County Down. It takes a lot more puff to climb it now than it did when, as a child, I scampered up the hill and then ran up the 122 steps to the top of the Tower without stopping for breath.

                  Nowadays, the benches set beside the steep path are more appreciated!

                  The hill itself is a prominent feature of the landscape around the market town of Newtownards. Opinion varies as to where the name ‘Scrabo’ comes from. Some say it means ‘a rough or craggy hill’. Another possibility is that it means ‘a cow pasture’.

                  The latter doesn’t seem to be very likely as there are rocky outcrops and very poor grazing at the top. However, the land further down is certainly suitable pasture.
                  Scrabo Hill is indeed rough and craggy and the freestone underlying it makes a malleable but sturdy material for building so it is no wonder that quarries appeared on the hillside.

                  Not only was this stone used for the Tower itself, it was used centuries before in the monastery at Greyabbey, Co Down, in 1193. It was also used in the building of Queen’s College, now Queen’s University, and the Albert Memorial Clock Tower in Belfast.

                  Work on Scrabo Hill, for both the foundations of the Tower and for the golf course next to it, yielded valuable artefacts, such as stone axeheads and flint arrowheads. Lower down the slopes, footprints of reptiles from the Triassic era, 200 million years ago, have been found.

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                    Mary Sheerin continues her series on Irish broadcasting


                    When Sir Terry Wogan died just over two years’ ago, tributes flooded in from Prime Ministers to pop stars and not least, from his band of loyal listeners. He was one of the most loved broadcasters of the BBC and of RTÉ and was considered a national treasure and rightly so.

                    Indeed, as a tribute to the man whose voice and broadcasting style was revered by millions – including Queen Elizabeth – the BBC named one of their broadcasting houses after him – The Terry Wogan Studios.

                    It was but one of the many awards accorded to Terry during and after his lifetime. His native Limerick made him a Freeman of the City; Limerick University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Letters and Queen Elizabeth made him ‘Sir Terry’.

                    Terry Wogan was born into a comfortable Limerick family and educated by the Jesuits in Limerick and later in Belvedere College when the family moved to Dublin. Upon leaving school, he joined the Provincial Bank in Phibsborough, North Dublin.

                    A sunny natured individual, Terry was perfectly happy working in the bank but on seeing an advertisement for news readers in Radio Éireann in the Irish Independent he applied and was successful. Thus did Sir Terry start, what was to become his illustrious career in broadcasting, on both sides of the Irish Sea.

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                      By Brian McCabe

                      It was the day the President came to our parish.

                      We always knew ‘our’ Liam was well-known and respected in the field of traditional Irish music but, all the same, it was a bit strange to see the President of Ireland, all the great and good of the music world, and various media commentators and personalities all gathered for his funeral service in our little church in Kill, Co. Kildare.

                      Liam ‘Óg’ O’Flynn (so-called to distinguish him from his father, Liam) was born in the parish of Kill on 15th April, 1945, to musical parents. His father was the local primary school headmaster and fiddle player and a great lover (and collector) of traditional music. His mother, who came from a family of musicians from Clare, played and taught piano, and conducted the local church choir. Liam was one of three children.

                      From an early age, Liam Óg showed extraordinary musical talent. A local writer (and contemporary) remembered him as a young lad, dressed in a Fairisle ‘gansey’, brown corduroy trousers, grey socks and brown sandals, playing Irish tunes on the tin whistle, with one foot propped against an old stone trough in the yard.

                      At the age of 11, he began taking classes with the famous piper, Leo Rowsome. Liam himself recalled being brought to these lessons, in Dublin, in the sidecar of his father’s motorbike. This may have been the origin of Liam’s later lifelong interest in motorbikes!

                      Liam soon got to know – and learn from – other famous pipers such as Willie Clancy (probably through his mother’s connections) and Seamus Ennis, with whom he shared a rented house in Terenure for a few years.

                      Seamus passed on much of his piping knowledge and skill to Liam and, indeed, when he died, he expressly provided in his will that his own pipes were to go to Liam as “he was the only one who could play them properly”!

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