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    The Dubliner was regarded as one of the greats in the Irish folk music world, writes Maolsheachlann O Ceallaigh

    “The Fields of Athenry”, the melancholy ballad commemorating the Great Irish Famine, has become such a standard in both concert hall and sports stadium that many people assume it’s a traditional number that has been around forever. However, the song (written by Pete St. John) is a relative newcomer, first released in 1979.

    Its original singer was Danny Doyle, a giant of the Irish folk and ballad revival, who died in August of this year at the age of seventy-nine.

    It was only one of many hits that Danny Doyle enjoyed here in the sixties and seventies; he topped the Irish charts on three occasions.

    Perhaps Doyle’s most frequently cited achievement was to knock Abba, who were at the height of their success, from the number one spot in the Irish charts – “Take a Chance on Me” was replaced by “Dublin in the Rare Auld Times” (also written by Pete St. John) in 1978.

    His other number one hits were “Whiskey on a Sunday”, (which recalls a famous street performer in Liverpool), and the touching “A Daisy a Day”, a song about the enduring love of a husband for his wife.

    Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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      As the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks approaches, Ibar Quirke examines the life of the first official casualty, New York City Fire Department chaplain and Franciscan priest Mychal Judge, a figure many believe to be a candidate for canonisation.

      Fr Mychal Judge OFM was born as Robert Emmett Judge on 11th May, 1933, in Brooklyn to Michael Judge and Mary Fallon, immigrants from Keshcarrigan and Drumkeerin, Co Leitrim.

      In order to make ends meet financially for his parents and sisters, Dymphna and Erin, shone shoes at Penn Station, around the corner from St Francis of Assisi Church, from the age of six.

      He admired the work and simple life-style of the friars whom he knew there. Despite his mother’s opposition, he began training for the Franciscans in 1948 and was professed in 1958. Ordained as a priest in 1961, he spelled his religious name ‘Mychal’ to distinguish himself from all the other ‘Father Michaels’ in the Order.

      Fr. Mychal served throughout the USA and in 1986 returned to the location that first inspired his vocation. He remained attached to that friary until his death.

      The clergyman was beloved of the poor. He served all those in need regardless of gender, race and ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and religious persuasion.

      A famous anecdote recounts how during a visit to Carlstadt he intervened as a distraught man held his wife and child at gunpoint.

      Holding his habit in one hand, the priest scaled a ladder to intervene. Fr .Mychal gently called the man to the window and invited him for coffee. His intervention saved the lives of all involved.

      His involvement with the New York City Fire Department commenced in 1992 when he was appointed Chaplain there and assigned to serve the boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island.

      As a Fire Department chaplain, he was a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Often working for 16 hours daily, he offered prayers at fires and rescues and counselled fire-fighters and their families.
      He visited sick and injured people in local hospitals and consoled those who were bereaved. His power to console was legendary.

      Fr. Mychal was first official casualty of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. On the morning of 11th September 2001, on hearing of the disaster, he changed out of his habit into his FDNY uniform and drove to the scene. As he rushed into the North Tower with fire-fighters, Mayor Rudy Giuliani called out “Fr. Mike, please pray for us”.

      Continue reading in this week’s issue of Ireland’s Own

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        The first Dublin Arts and Human Rights festival to showcase and highlight the extraordinary work of human rights defenders, past and present, in Ireland and around the world will take place in Dublin in mid-to-late September. Here Freda Manweiler focuses on the courageous Irishwomen active during WWII including Katherine Anne McCarthy, Mary Cummins, Catherine Crean, and Margaret Kelly, all who will be featured in the Escape Routes and Freedom Trails – European Solidarity between Nations event which takes place on September 19th.


        Katherine (Kate) Anne McCarthy, also known as Sr Marie-Laurence, was originally from Drimoleague in County Cork.
        Aged 18, Kate joined the Franciscan religious order as a nun. This is where she received the name Sir Marie-Laurence.
        She was transferred to the market town of Béthune, in Northern France, where she worked as a religious nurse and was there when the first World War broke out.

        The town became a major hospital centre and Kate nursed ‘Allied and some German wounded’. After the war, Kate went to America to work, and returned to Béthune just before the beginning of WWII.

        She worked as a nurse and joined the Musée de l’Homme resistance group in Northern France, assisting Allied servicemen to escape. She was arrested by the Gestapo in June, 1941, and was tortured and spent over a year in solitary confinement.
        She was sentenced to death but instead, after time spent in several prisons, she was sent to the notorious Ravensbruck Concentration camp for women north of Berlin, where she nearly starved to death.

        Kate contracted typhus and was four times designated for the crematorium by the ‘huntsman’ who selected women unfit for hard labour.

        Kate witnessed women being beaten to death and recalled how she and others were forced to stand in silence for hours in rain and snow, as fellow prisoners collapsed around them from exhaustion and hunger.

        She was forced to do hard labour for 12 hours at a time – her only food a ladle of turnip. Dogs were unleashed on the prisoners if they were not working hard enough.

        Prisoners were also severely beaten, a fate Sr. Kate also suffered.

        Kate helped over 120 allied servicemen escape from German occupied France during the war.
        Sister Kate survived the war and returned to Ireland where she lived for the rest of her life becoming Mother Superior of the Honan Home Convent in Cork until her death in 1971.

        Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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          By Arthur Flynn

          ‘Into the West’ was one of several top-class films to come from Irish production teams during the 1990s. The other important films included The Crying Game and The Miracle from Neil Jordan, The Boxer, The Commitments, In the Name of the Father, War of the Buttons and The Playboys.

          Into the West, about Irish travellers, was a Channel Four production from a script by Jim Sheridan and David Keating and directed by Mike Newell. Jim Sheridan did not intend to write simply for children, although the film mainly follows two young children on the run, as the central characters.

          The cinematographer was Newton Thomas Sigel with music by Patrick Doyle and editing by Peter Boyle.
          The film had a veritable near all- Irish all-star cast. Gabriel Byrne who played Papa Reilly, King of the Travellers, stated that it was one of the best scripts he had ever read. His leading lady, Ellen Barkin, was also greatly impressed by the script and signed on.

          After much searching and interviewing the two boys were cast. They were played by six-year-old Ciarán Fitzgerald as Ossie and eleven-year-old, Rúaidhrí Conroy as Tayto. Gabriel Byrne and Ellen Barkin were married to each other when the film was made.

          The other leading members of the cast included David Kelly as Grandfather, Johnny Murphy as Tracker, Colm Meaney as Barreller, John Kavanagh as Hartnett, Brendan Gleeson as Inspector Bolger and Jim Norton as Super O’Mara.
          The name of the white horse is Tír na nÓg. This is the Irish for ‘Land of Eternal Youth.’ Some tricks of the trade were employed during filming, with six identical white horses, three Irish and three French, being used as Tír na nÓg.

          Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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            By Calvin Jones

            Ireland is considered to have the healthiest otter population in Europe. Surveys show that otters are present in more than ninety percent of our inland waterways and coastal waters. The species, already extinct over much of its former range, is listed as “vulnerable to extinction” by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and the thriving Irish otter population is of international importance in terms of otter conservation.

            Despite being widespread, and in some areas locally common, the otter is an elusive and secretive animal that is rarely seen. Superb eyesight, an acute sense of smell and exceptional hearing usually give the otter plenty of warning when people are around and it tends to stay out of sight. Even people studying otter populations rely heavily on the readily recognisable signs of their activity and consider themselves lucky to catch a glimpse of their subjects.

            Otters are between 55 and 130 centimetres (22 to 51 inches) long and typically weigh between 5 and 12 kilos (11 and 26 pounds), with dog otters slightly larger and heavier than the bitches. They are the only truly amphibious members of the weasel or mystelid family, and are superbly adapted to the aquatic life they lead.

            Their long, sleek bodies; short, powerful legs; webbing between the toes and strong, rudder-like tails combine to give otters tremendous propulsion and exceptional manoeuvrability in the water. When diving otters close their ears and nostrils to keep water out, and their coat keeps them dry and warm in even the coldest conditions. The coat is chestnut brown in colour and slightly lighter on the belly.

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              David Mullen takes a look back at when the British Motor Corporation decided to bring some Italian styles to its range

              For Britain’s car industry, the post-war years were grim. Many companies, having ceased development of new cars during the war years, were still selling lightly updated versions of what they’d been selling in 1938.

              Even if the bodies were new, much of what lay beneath the skin was distinctly old-hat. That said, the bodies were nothing to write home about with the kind of upright, worthy styling designed to appeal to buyers looking for something dignified and of good quality rather than any kind of style or excitement.

              In 1952, Austin of Birmingham merged with Morris Motors of Oxford to form the British Motor Corporation (BMC), the largest car company in Britain and one of the biggest in the world.

              Morris, in addition to being a successful company in its own right, producing cars like the famous Minor, also owned several other car-makers such as Wolseley, Riley and MG. Wolseley was known for its sedate, luxurious saloons while Riley and MG were hailed for their sportier models.

              Rather than merging all of the companies together and cutting-down on the vast numbers of models and dealers, BMC decided to leave everything as it was and Austin, Morris, Wolseley, MG and Riley remained distinct and separate companies, all producing different models.

              Whereas most British cars in the ‘50s were dull and restrained, the same could not be said for cars in other countries. In France in 1955, Citroen launched its DS a high-tech masterpiece that looks futuristic even today. That same year, Prince Philip visited the Austin plant at Longbridge in Birmingham.

              While taking a tour of the factory with Leonard Lord, the BMC supremo, viewing the prototypes in the styling studio, he is reported to have said: “Sir Leonard, I think you ought to have another look at things because I’m not sure these are up to the foreign competition.”

              Lord knew that Philip was right about this and the next day, he was on the phone to Italy to the offices of coachbuilders Pininfarina.

              Battista Farina, head of the Pininfarina company, was the most famous auto-stylist in the world, designing beautiful, rakish cars for the likes of Alfa Romeo and Ferrari.

              Leonard Lord knew that this kind of Italian style was exactly what BMC’s cars needed in order to remain appealing to an increasingly affluent public.

              Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                AROUND 260 MILES – or 419km – off the cost of Donegal, sits the small uninhabited island of Rockall, an outcrop that has long a generated fierce nationalist rivalries since the first British royal navy expedition scrambled ashore in 1810. The claim to ownership, however, has been disputed in the decades since by Iceland, Denmark (on behalf of the Faroe Islands) and Ireland – all of which reject the British territorial claim to the island, writes JIM REES


                When is a rock an island? And when is an island just a rock? Believe it or not, the answers to these two questions could yet lead to British gunboats attacking Irish fishing trawlers. Realistically, the chances of that happening are minimal, but stranger things have happened and old habits die hard.

                What am I talking about?
                There is a rock in the North Atlantic ocean. It is just eighty feet wide and fifty feet high. It is the barren remains of an extinct volcano and boasts no grass, no trees, no butterflies, no bees. It does, however, have seabirds and, judging by the amount of white covering on the stone, there are quite a few of them.

                This is Rockall and it has been a bone of contention for two hundred years. Now, old claims have resurfaced.
                In fact, if you haven’t heard of the latest diplomatic (and not-so-diplomatic) utterances regarding it, I can only assume that you have spent the last two months sitting on that aforementioned rock in perfect isolation.

                The latest episode in this long-running soap opera has seen the Scottish parliament threatening to board Irish trawlers if they venture within twelve miles of the lonesome outcrop. Not the actual SMPs themselves, you understand, but royal navy personnel on their behalf.

                Twelve miles is the distance a country can claim as territorial waters. So, because Britain claims Rockall as part of its territory, it also lays claim to the twelve miles of sea that surround it.

                The first recorded British interest in Rockall goes back to 1810, when the wealth of its fishing shoals was recognised. It wasn’t until fifty years later that renewed interest in Rockall’s rich waters was sparked by further reports of massive hauls.
                A century after that, on 18 September 1955, the British government decided that Rockall was theirs by simply landing two marines on it with a flag and a brass plaque.

                Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                  Mae Leonard traces the history of the rose and the role it played in ancient civilisations

                  The Queen of Egypt is hopelessly in love and not at all sure if her feelings are reciprocated. A high dose of seduction is required. She calls for her bath of ass’s milk, she calls for her jewels, she calls for her hairdresser and beautician.

                  She checks her image in her copper hand mirror and smiles. Yes. She looks wonderful. But is that enough? Perhaps something more is needed. But what? Roses. Ah yes, it has to be roses. Every rose in the gardens is plucked and Mark Anthony is lured into a room, knee deep in rose petals, where Cleopatra, Queen of The Nile, awaits his pleasure. And the rest, as the fella said, is history.

                  Legend tells us that the rose was born somewhere in the East. When God created the world the first rays of the sun to touch the earth brought forth a white rose. Legend continues to say that the white roses turned to red when a nightingale fell to the ground and its blood spilled on white roses turning them to red.

                  And once upon a time there was a Persian Princess at her wedding feast and on the table before her was a bowl of water with rose petals floating on top. The sun beamed down on the scene getting hot and hotter during the long ceremony and the water evaporated leaving the rose petals stuck to the bottom of the bowl.

                  Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                    By Liam Nolan

                    The last lines of an old Australian folk song are these:
                    And as he closed his mournful eyes, he bid the world adieu,
                    “Convicts all, pray for the soul of Bold Jack Donahue
                    So who was Jack Donahue? And what is a bushranger?
                    Let’s take the ‘who’ question first.

                    Jack Donahue, when he died, was a 5ft 4inch, freckle-faced, flaxen-haired, 24-year-old Dubliner who was orphaned as a child. The authorities recorded the facts that he had blue eyes and had a scar under his left nostril.
                    In Dublin he’d been convicted of “intent to commit a felony”, and they sentenced him to transportation for life. Transportation for life meant being sent in a convict ship to Australia, there to remain for as long as he lived. In his case, that’s the way it worked out. Not that he lived all that long.

                    Jack Donahue early in life had turned to pick-pocketing to get enough food to stay alive. After the sentence was passed on him in 1823, they eventually put him – and 200 other convicts – aboard the India-built Ann and Amelia, a 600-ton sailing ship.
                    The voyage down to the Antipodes via the gale-lashed ‘Roaring Forties’ started from Cork Harbour on 8 September 1824, and ended in Sydney Cove on the second day of January 1825. From the moment he stepped ashore, the clock was running down on Jack Donahoe’s short and violent life.

                    At Carter’s Barracks in Sydney, the place of his initial Australian incarceration, he was soon introduced to the brutal punishments meted out to prisoners who were deemed to have committed a breach of the jail’s rules. He was twice given, and received, 50 lashes. It focused his mind on the subject of escape. And escape he did.

                    At muster one evening the jailers discovered that Donahue and two other convicts were missing. A report of the escape described how, “at the risk of suffocation he [Donahue] passed from a closet into a sewer, and thence found an exit.” The two other convicts, Smith and Kilroy, joined him, and later formed the nucleus of a gang with Donahue as the leader.
                    Donahue broke into a house at Brickfields Hill and, by use of threats, got hold of a gun, gunpowder, cartridges, food, and a suit of clothes. He was on his way as a bushranger. But what is a bushranger?

                    A bushranger is, by definition, a person who lives by robbing travellers and isolated homesteads in the bush.
                    One of the first travellers Donahoe robbed was a mounted, armed and uniformed officer, who claimed to be the Governor’ s aide-de-camp. Donahue took this worthy’s horse, his diamond ring, his watch, and a purse containing a substantial sum of money. Donahue (who was to become known as ‘Bold Jack Donahoe’) christened the horse ‘Deliverer’.
                    A short time later the gang ambushed three men driving drays that were being used for the delivery of provisions to up-country stations. The men not only capitulated, they joined Donahue’s gang, now known as The Strippers. In time its numbers swelled to 17.

                    The authorities decided that the time had come to hunt down the band of bushrangers in an all-out campaign to crush the popular Jack Donahue. Police and soldiers were mobilised to carry out the manhunt.

                    Donahue and two of his gang (Kilroy and Smith) were captured, tried, and sentenced to death. Smith and Kilroy duly swung from the gallows — Donahue didn’t. Once again he escaped.
                    A reward of £20 was offered for his capture. Result — zilch.

                    But the pressure mounted relentlessly, and finally Donahue and his gang were cornered by a large group of soldiers and police. They engaged in a bloody shoot-out, during which Donahue repeatedly shouted insults and foul epithets at his massed attackers. A bullet to the head killed him. Trooper John Muckleston was the shooter.

                    The soldiers and police, far outnumbering the gang, killed most of them. The ones who survived were executed.
                    That wasn’t the end of the Jack Donahue story. Balladeers and songwriters, conscious that many people admired Donahue’s courage and his actions in stripping the powerful and the rich of their worldly goods, got down to commemorating his life and death.

                    One newspaper, describing his death, said, “And thus ended the career of as bold and popular a bushranger as ever was monarch of the highway.”
                    And he has been immortalised in the best-known Australian folksong ‘The Wild Colonial Boy’ with its fictional hero called, variously, Jack Dubbin/John Dowling/Jim Doolin et al, each preserving John Donahoe’s initials.

                    Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                      One hundred and forty years ago this month fifteen residents of the tiny Mayo village of Knock were witnesses to an extraordinary apparition which appeared on the wall of the local church. Ray Cleere recounts the events of the time and the testimonies of some of those who witnessed the apparition.

                      Knock, in County Mayo, could easily claim to have one of the most interesting histories of any place in Ireland. In the 19th century, it was typical of the villages dotted around the West of Ireland: a small collection of thatched houses and two school houses with the parish Church at its centre.

                      The story of Knock, as we know it today, began 140 years ago on the evening of Thursday, August 21st, 1879, when Our Lady appeared at the gable of the Church in the company of St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist. Unique to the Apparition at Knock is the representation of the Eucharist in the appearance of the Lamb on the altar, standing before a cross. The message at Knock was unspoken and each of us can take our own meaning from this complex Apparition which is both Marian and Eucharistic in dimension.

                      On that wet August evening 140 years ago, fifteen local people ranging in age from Bridget Trench, who was 74 years old, to a small boy, John Curry, who was just 5 years old at the time. Those 15 witnesses stood and prayed in the pouring rain for almost two hours and, although they were soaked, no rain fell on the gable wall of the Church or on the ground beneath it.
                      Shortly after the Apparition, those people gave their written testimonies to an official commission of enquiry and each gave details of what they saw that evening. By 1936, 57 years later, just two of the witnesses were still living in Knock and a second commission of enquiry was held to hear once again the testimonies of Mary Byrne (then Mary O’Connell) and Patrick Byrne.
                      By then both were elderly and Mary Byrne gave her testimony from her bed as she was too ill to leave it. At the time she said: “I am clear about everything that I have said, knowing that I am going to meet my God”. Mary died in October 1936.

                      John Curry had emigrated to the United States in his youth and when he read the papers about the second enquiry, he made contact with the priest who was in his home parish of Knock at the time. In July 1937, John Curry made his way to the offices of the Archdiocese of New York and gave his sworn testimony to a specially convened commission of enquiry.

                      The elderly gentleman who had seen such a wonderful vision with his neighbours almost 60 years earlier, said, when he was asked whether he could remember the night: “I remember the night of August 21st 1879, as well as I remember last night”.
                      In his old age, John found himself in the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor in New York and was buried in a plot owned by the Order. In 2017, the remains of John Curry were re-interred in the cemetery at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and 180 people from Ireland attended the ceremony.

                      News of the Knock Apparition spread very quickly and pilgrims began to visit the village very soon afterwards, firstly in small family groups but by 1880 the first organised pilgrimage came from Cork.

                      Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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