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    0 22

    By Noel Carney

    “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Famous words and most of us would attribute them to the late and much-loved American president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who used them in his inauguration speech on January 20th, 1961. However, the question is far from original as it was also posed by Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis, a man better known to scholars of ancient Rome and its history, as Juvenal.

    It is only one of several quotations that have stood the test of time as they have been handed down from generation to generation without ever becoming dated or out of fashion. Indeed Juvenal himself can claim the credit for many others including “our prayers should be for a sound mind in a healthy body” and “revenge is always the weak pleasure of a little and narrow mind”.

    One could be forgiven for assuming that the advice “make hay while the sun shines” was coined by small farmers in the west of Ireland during bad weather but it comes from the Greek comic writer, Aristophanes, who was actually pointing out to women that the time allotted to them for getting a husband is surprisingly short and should not be wasted.
    A clever satirist, he was referring to Socrates whom he greatly admired when he commented that “the old are in a second childhood” and he also produced the theory that “under every stone there lurks a politician”.

    It was another Greek philosopher Plato who declared that “it is right to give every man his due” and “all men are by nature equal”.

    The sayings “necessity…the mother of invention” and “never discourage anyone…who continually makes progress, no matter how slow” were also first used by Plato who lived from 427 to 347 BC.

    aesop_r“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Good thinking and it came from Lao Tzu in China nearly 2,500 years ago. The man in question would gain respect by being able to fish instead of having to rely on the charity of others. He also told us to “be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are”. He is also credited with the old adage “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”.

    Incredibly the idea that “familiarity breeds contempt” is even older as it came from Aesop (pictured) whose famous Fables were written during his c.620- c.560 BC lifetime. He can also be said to have given us “appearances often are deceiving”, “one man’s meat is another man’s poison” and the phrase “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. To this day Aesop’s Fables are still worth perusing, regardless of the reader’s age.

    Most of us will remember Pythagoras with mixed feelings from our days studying Mathematics and his famous Theorem, a squared + b squared = c squared, is embedded in our brains. He was not just a dull mathematician, however.

    He would be very popular with vegans and vegetarians as he is said to have stated that “as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other” and also that “all have the ability to advance in knowledge”. He was also a philosopher as might be gauged from his assertion that “there is geometry in the humming of strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres”.

    Aeschylus, the “Father of Tragedy” and wonderful writer of plays in ancient Greece told us that “God loves to help him who strives to help himself” and that “in war, truth is the first casualty” while his compatriot Pindar declared that “words live longer down the years than deeds”. Another Athenian dramatist, Euripides, left us “leave no stone unturned” and “events will take their course, it is no good being angry at them”.

    We have all heard the claim that “he who f(l)ights and runs away will live to fight another day” and it is based on the opinion of Demosthenes who wisely decided on that course of action on seeing 3,000 of his Athenian brothers being slain by their enemy, the Macedonians. His actual writing stated that “the man who runs away may fight again”.
    Among many sayings attributed to the Assyrian Publilius Syrus who is said to have started life as a slave is “a rolling stone gathers no moss”, “practice is the best of all instructors”, “everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it”, “we are all equal in the presence of death” and “there are some remedies worse than the disease”.

    Finally, on a lighter note, a quote from the Roman Judge Petronius who said “you see a louse on someone else, but not a tick on yourself” while he could be referring to most modern governments when he felt that reorganising was a “wonderful method for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation”.
    Pliny the Younger commented on “the indolent but agreeable condition of doing nothing” and declared that “an object in possession seldom retains the same charm that it had in pursuit”. Finally many drinkers would propose a toast to Plato who claimed that “he was a wise man who invented beer”.

    Arthur Guinness would agree.


      0 56

      When Douglas Fairbanks starred in The Mark of Zorro in 1920, it was the template for what was eventually recognised as the swashbuckling movie. Many more would follow and the audiences lapped them up, writes Tom McParland.


      When the American song The Old Rustic Bridge by the Mill (1882) was published, the sentimental objects weren’t the bridge or the mill but the fact that they were rustic, old and unwanted, and would never be used again.

      Around the end of the 19th century there were dozens of mill songs published: The Old Mill, Old Stone Mill, Grist Mill, Old Saw, Brown, Red, Mossy and Water Mills. These mawkish outpourings reflected an industrialised generation yearning for imagined simpler times and loves that never were. Akin to weeping buckets over an unknown deceased aunt who’d left you everything.

      A similar female fashion for romantic novels typified the 1880-1890’s. They were usually set in a sanitised Regency age when blooming passion flowers were impulsively overcome by the power of swarthy heroes.

      “Pray, unhand me sire, else I shall swoon!” the heroine would beseech. Even though praying was the last thing on the mutual agenda. Like songs, hundreds of these trashy novels were avidly consumed. But few, unlike Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Hardy’s Tess of the D’Ubervilles and R. C Blackmore’s Lorna Doone, are known today.

      It’s heartwarming to read that in 1842’s Hannibal Missouri, long before movies were heard of, Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and his friends were doing what schoolboys in the 1950’s did. Trying a cat for murder or re-enacting scenes from Alexandre Dumas’ novels The Three Musketeers or The Count of Monte Cristo.

      It’s unlikely that Tom or his one-schoolroom hick friends would’ve tackled Dumas’ respective 750 and 1,100 page novels. More likely they remembered the swashbuckling bits that interested them from serialised magazines – as we did with movies – then extemporised those in their play.

      Unlike movies, child play is unstructured. No children ever announce that they’re going to enact a scene from the 18th century. Or warn whoever played Cap’n Hook to be careful not to use the wrong hand in the loo. If they did it wouldn’t be play, the most vital of all skills children learn: That of pretending to be (job interview) or being someone else (bride).

      Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5591)

        0 26

        By Shane Cochrane

        At 6pm on 13 February 2001, a small plane crashed on Benaughlin Mountain in County Fermanagh. There were many witnesses to the crash, witnesses who had watched in horror as the burning craft fell out of the sky.

        But when the emergency services arrived at the scene, they found no sign of a plane – crashed or otherwise. And a three-day search of the mountain failed to uncover any evidence that a plane – or anything else for that matter – had crashed.

        When the authorities were able to establish that all aircraft were accounted for, the search was called off. But what had caused people to believe they had seen a plane crash?

        According to an astronomer at the Armagh Observatory, there was a very simple solution to the mystery: it was a shooting star. “It’s a simple illusion,” he said at the time. “These things will cross the sky quickly and to the uninitiated they look like some sort of falling aircraft.”

        But was the astronomer right – or was something else going on?
        Just over seventy years earlier, a very similar incident happened in Kilkeel, on the coast of County Down.

        Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5591)

          0 32

          Mary Sheerin continues her series marking the 90th anniversary of Ireland’s broadcasting service

          On 3rd September, 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany. In Ireland, as we are aware, it was always known as ‘The Emergency’.

           That evening at 7.00 pm , Taoiseach, Eamon de Valera, gave a broadcast to the nation affirming Ireland’s neutrality:
           “With our history, with our experience of the last war and with part of our country unjustly severed from us, we felt that no  other decision and no other policy was available to us.”
           Needless to remark Britain was not pleased but de Valera held firm.

           The Emergency Powers Bill was immediately passed. This gave the Government new powers to retain Ireland’s neutrality.  The Emergency was a challenging time for Radio Éireann. Strict censorship laws were imposed and rigorously enforced on all Irish media between 1939 and 1945.

           Frank Gallagher, a seasoned newsman, was appointed Head of the Government Information Bureau. All news items – and these were mere snippets from official communiqués without any comment – had to be read over the telephone to Frank Gallagher for his approval.

           Ironically, Gallagher had been Assistant Director at Radio Éireann. Now he held the position of their censor.

           Even weather forecasts were prohibited – this was tough on farmers and fisherman naturally, but it left Radio Éireann in the position that even if a sports commentator was covering a match he couldn’t say something as simple as: “It’s a fine day here in Croke Park …”.

          Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5591)

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            Peter Smith examines the background and history of one of the world’s most famous paintings, Jan Van Eyck’s Adoration of the Mystic Lamb or Ghent Alarpiece

            In 1420, Joos Vijd, Churchwarden an Alderman of the Belgian city of Ghent, along with his wife Elisabeth, commissioned an altarpiece for their private chapel in St. John’s church, which later became St. Bavo’s Cathedral.

            Its correct title is ‘The Adoration of The Mystic Lamb’ but it is normally referred to as the ‘Ghent Altarpiece’ and it consists of 24 different panels showing 284 figures.

            Such is its beauty that Albrecht Durer described it as ‘a splendid, deeply reasoned painting’ and Phillip II of Spain was so impressed by it that he attempted to buy it for his own private collection and, when this failed, he had a full scale copy made.

            The picture was placed in St. Bavo’s in 1432 and since then has had a chequered history. In the 1560’s, Calvinists used tree trunks as battering rams in an attempt to break the cathedral doors down to get at the picture, but were thwarted by the Bishop who managed to hide the panels in the belfry.

            Just over 250 years later, Emperor Joseph had the panels showing a naked Adam and Eve (said to have been the first known nudes in Flemish painting) altered by having clothing strategically placed over the ‘offending’ areas.

            Napoleon took it to Paris during the French Revolution and although it was returned later, one of the cathedral officials then sold it to an unscrupulous German art dealer and it wasn’t returned to Belgium until 1919 under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.

            Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5591)

              0 33

              By Gerry Moran

              Don’t know what exotic places you have ever visited, but recently I headed off to IKEA, a small ‘country’ just south of Ballymun. I filled the car with diesel, headed for the airport, took the turn off for Naul/Ballymun, veered right and there it was – this small ‘country’, ‘continent’ almost, stretched out before me.

              You don‘t need your passport to enter IKEA, just your wallet, lots of stamina, plenty of patience and an avid interest in household fittings and paraphernalia. Oh, and a compass if, like me, your sense of direction isn’t what it used to be, although what it used to be was never what it should have been.

              Now, in fairness, it’s hard to get lost in IKEA; all you do is follow, not the yellow brick road, but the arrows on the floor, which I did for a while but then I got side-tracked, literally, and, not for the first time in my life, found myself going backwards instead of forwards.
              I should have stayed with the missus, but I was only slowing her down, and so she left me otherwise, as she said herself: “We’ll be here ‘till the cows come home.”

              And so, we went our separate ways, she following the arrows, me following my nose and watching the shoppers shopping in IKEA, which is a fascination in itself. All of human life is there – yummy mummies, dapper daddies, two-year olds, twenty-two year olds, eighty-two year olds, and the likes of me, a country man ‘up for the day’.

              Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5591)

                0 47

                We went to the wake of an old farmer, ninety years of age. He had signed over the land thirty years before, but lived in his own house until he died.

                cassidyThe son, who inherited, and his wife, had treated the old man reverently, and when he got ill, treated him like a favourite child, reversing the roles and making sure the old man had a good life among his own.

                None of your removal to the old folks home for your own good in this house. (I say this without prejudice to situations where the nursing home option is the right one).

                As happens at a wake of an old person who had buried most of his contemporaries, friends and enemies, the gathering was mainly of the children, now in their sixties, of the next generation.

                There was more an atmosphere of celebration than sadness. Then, without any preamble, didn’t a sing-song break out, starting with ‘The Fields of Athenry’. It was about 10.00 pm and it seemed the most natural thing in the world, and what happened next was the ‘noble call’.

                Jim called on Alice, who sang ‘One Day at a Time’, who then called Joe, who sang ‘Cill Cais – Cad a dhéanamid fasta gan adhmaid’, and who was prevailed upon to sing ‘The Last Rose of Summer’, before Monica was coaxed to give us the ‘Connemara Cradle Song’.

                The hearts of those grieving was softened. We didn’t leave in a hurry, but we did leave at midnight, and heard the following day that the last song was sung about 3.00 am.
                There is something liberating about spontaneous, non-competitive singing in an environment where people just love to sing. There are gatherings everywhere, but you need to know where to find them. If you want a session you can go to Jack Meade’s in East Waterford. The Deise Boys, admirably accompanied by Mary O’Mahony on vocals and guitar, whip up a grand stave and anybody there is invited to sing a song.

                What happens is that the music catches, nobody needs inviting, and as one song ends on a strong chord, another breaks out. I’ve seen it myself on a few occasions. One of the most memorable was when a professor in WIT, Mick Howlett, took to singing ‘You’re never too late to start livin’, and once the chorus was anchored there was no stopping the assembled revellers.

                As it turned out, most of the crowd that evening were oldies, so the song had a certain resonance. I was having a good night, and was unaware that I was humming Mollie Malone, so I was given the floor to get this song going and then it was taken over by the rest of the clientele, who added grace notes and a second line of melody. We sang till closing time.

                Sing when you can. If there was more of this, there would be less misery burdening the world.

                Read Cassidy Says every Tuesday in Ireland’s Own

                  0 48

                  PAUL SWIFT continues his series on the Rivers of Ireland

                  In the townland of Derrycloney can be found a standing stone on the north bank of the River Suir. This is also marked on the 1845 Ordnance Survey map as ‘Cloghnahenar’ which translated means ‘Stone on its Own’. It appears to mark a fording point in the river. This fording point is approximately 200m from where Kilmoyler Castle once stood.
                  There is a tradition in this area that a William Burke, who had twenty one sons, built castles for each of them along the River Suir from Ballygriffin to Ardfinnan, and that Kilmoyler is one of them.

                  Only two visible fragments from the castle survive. A portion of a limestone water spout which had been incorporated in a stone wall in the adjacent farmyard and a limestone block with a chamfered edge incorporated in the north face of the stone outbuilding.
                  Nearby the river Aherlow joins the Suir. It is at this point that Ballydrehid House looks down on the river. This detached seven-bay two-storey country house was built around 1780 and was once the seat of Viscount Lismore. It is a protected structure and is still in use as a domestic residence.

                  The nearby burial ground of Killaldriffe (also known as Killardrigh, or Church of the High King) is reputed to be the ancient burial place of the kings of Munster. It is said to be called after one of the High King of Munster, who met his death while bathing in the Suir.
                  The next stop for the river Suir is Cahir. The river flows right through the heart of the town and there are many mills, bridges and buildings located on its banks. The most interesting mill is known as Suir Mill and is located on the east bank of the river on the Cashel Road.

                  It was built around 1800 and is four storey’s high. In 1860 an interesting octagonal shaped buildings was added. The Going family, who once owned the mill, built a beautiful country residence beside the mill. Known as Alta Villa it still remains to this day.
                  The Limerick to Rosslare railway line is carried over the Suir on a triple span viaduct which was built in 1852 by William Dargan and William Le Fanu. This attractive railway viaduct exhibits very elaborate limestone detailing to the massive masonry piers and abutments. The contrast between the metal superstructure and the masonry substructure is very striking.

                  Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5590)

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                    By Mary Sheerin

                    The 31st International Eucharistic Congress, held in Dublin in June 1932, could be deemed one of the most remarkable public events hosted by Ireland in the early 20th Century.

                    Ireland was chosen as the venue, ostensibly at least, to commemorate the 1,500th anniversary of St. Patrick’s arrival in Ireland. I well remember, being taught in school that St Patrick came to Ireland in 432. It was drummed into us.

                    It is no exaggeration to say that for those five days of the Congress, the eyes of the world were upon Ireland. Key hierarchical prelates from America, Australia, Europe and further afield came to Dublin. International media crammed the city, including the renowned Catholic intellectual, G. K. Chesterton.

                    For 2RN this represented a broadcasting challenge they had never foreseen would happen. To their credit, and that of Seamus Clandillon and the Post Office engineers, they acquitted themselves extremely well; for the Congress was on a scale to test a far greater organisation than 2RN.

                    The ceremonies included a Men’s Mass held in the ‘fifteen acres’ of the Phoenix Park on 23 June; a Women’s Mass in the same location on 24 June; a Children’s Mass on 25 June. All were attended by hundreds of thousands, whilst the main pontifical High Mass in the Phoenix Park on 26 June was attended by more than a million people. There were large choirs of both children and adults and the renowned tenor, John McCormack sang Panis Angelicus.

                     At the Consecration of the Mass, Army Officers presented arms and in a brilliantly orchestrated sequence, thirty-six glinting sword blades were pointed towards the altar. The absolute silence amongst the congregation was broken by six trumpeters sounding a royal salute.

                    This was followed by the tolling of an ancient bell traditionally associated with St. Patrick and borrowed from the National Museum for the Mass.

                     Another significant highlight of this Mass was a live broadcast by Pope Pius Xl from the Vatican. It was the first time the Pope’s voice was heard in Ireland.

                    Apart from the solemnity of the occasion it was a spectacular performance organised with precision and detail. The broadcast was transmitted via an elaborate PA system with loudspeakers located in the Park, along the city quays and other key points. It would be true to say that Dublin became a virtual open-air cathedral.

                    All the programmes were broadcast from Athlone and the High Mass in the Phoenix Park was relayed by all stations of the BBC.

                    Following the High Mass there was an enormous procession from the Park, down the quays, culminating at O’Connell Bridge where solemn Benediction took place. The chief celebrant was the the papal legate, Cardinal Lorenzo Lauri.

                     There were also ceremonies in the Pro-Cathedral and State Receptions in Dublin Castle. Seamus Clandillon and his small staff succeeded in covering all events. It was a measure of their commitment and professionalism that they overcame the challenges posed.

                    For the people of Ireland it was an uplifting experience that gave them hope and confidence in their national identity. Ireland was a very religious country back then; the faith of the people was strong and fervent. Ireland was then a country where pictures of the Sacred Heart and the Pope were to be found in almost every home.

                    Religious practice was their touchstone; their enduring faith helped them survive those harsh and poverty stricken times back then.

                     Thus, the Eucharistic Congress presented a valuable snapshot of a period in modern Irish history when religious devotion and fervour were at an apex.

                     The Congress broadcasts brought the appeal of wireless into many homes that had hitherto been without it. People in rural Ireland felt that they were taking part in the great events in Dublin. They had followed all the ceremonies; they had heard John McCormack sing; and the crowning glory had been to hear the voice of the Pope himself right there in their own homes.

                     To say it was a great experience for them is an understatement. It was also a convincing manifestation of the power of broadcasting. For those who were suspect about the wireless that wonderful week of the Congress soon dispelled those doubts. Broadcasting had proved itself. 2RN was here to stay.

                     In political terms, for Eamon de Valera and his minority government, it was a triumph. Six months after the Congress, de Valera called a snap election. Fianna Fáil were returned with a majority. They were to stay in power until 1948.

                      0 49

                      By Gerry Breen

                      Exactly a hundred years ago, in 1917, Henry Ford registered his company, Henry Ford & Sons, in Cork, where he established a Ford factory that at one stage became the biggest producer of tractors in the world.

                      Henry Ford was one of the most important figures in the story of the automobile. It has been said that this son of an Irish emigrant put the world on wheels and, in doing so, ensured that his name would become one of the most recognisable in the world.
                      A burning ambition to make cars drove Henry Ford to become one of the legendary industrial giants of the 20th century and one of the richest men in the world.

                      His father, William, had emigrated to America from Ballinascarty, Co. Cork, in 1847 and Henry was born in Dearborn, Michigan, in 1863. He is often depicted as a poor farm boy whose inventive genius transformed him into an instant success.

                      That’s not the way it happened. First of all, his family wasn’t poor. They weren’t rich either, but they enjoyed a modest prosperity on their farm and they were an important family in their community.

                      The young Henry was passionately interested in engines and he worked hard to master mechanical objects. He was in his thirties before he had completed the two-cylinder car he had been working on in a shed behind his home.

                      It took three years before he succeeded in finding the backers he needed to form the Detroit Automobile Co. Sadly, the venture was not a success.

                      There were many other setbacks before Henry managed to put together a third company in 1903 to manufacture a new car he had been working on and which was to be known as the Model A. In fact, bankruptcy was staring him in the face when his luck changed dramatically.

                      Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5590)

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