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    JIM REES remembers the man responsible for the Ordnance Survey Field Name Books and the O’Donovan topographical letters. The former are parish-by-parish alphabetical listings of the place-names that were to become the standardised English versions on the first Ordnance Survey maps in the 1830s

    Polymath is a lovely word. Comprised of two Greek words, ‘poly’ (meaning ‘many’ or ‘much’) and ‘mathes’ relating to learning), it was used to describe a multi-talented individual. It is seldom heard nowadays, which is a pity.

    In this age of specialisms – yes, that apparently is the current buzz-word for expertise – we find it hard to accept that some people can be good in several fields of endeavour.

    We seem to have become less generous in our acknowledgement of multi-skilled people. The nearest we get is to damn them with faint praise. ‘He’s a jack of all trades’, we say, always implying and often adding, ‘and master of none’.
    Whether we admit it or not, polymaths do exist and always have. John O’Donovan is a perfect example.
    O’Donovan was born in the County Kilkenny townland of Atateemore on 9 July, 1806, and received his first taste of education in a local hedge school. Both his father, a farmer, and his uncle were interested in local lore and particularly in Gaelic traditions and language.

    There was the touch of the seanchaí about them, instilling a love for Irish heritage and culture that would remain with John all his life.

    When John was eight, his father died and the family was dispersed. His older brother brought him to Dublin and ensured that John was given the best education their limited budget allowed.

    The youngster made the best of his opportunities, but was curtailed by the restrictions imposed on a Catholic living under the Penal Laws.

    Nevertheless, in 1826 he joined the staff of the Irish Records Office where his knowledge of Latin and Irish allowed him to translate ancient manuscripts and law documents. Three years later, he transferred to the Placenames and Antiquities Division of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland.

    This was an exciting time in the OSI. Plans were already in place to map Ireland in far more detail than had ever been done anywhere in the world.

    Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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      Can it be Hollywood’s charm that’s responsible for the multiple mate-swapping that movie stars indulge in, asks Tom Mc Parland.

      Prediction is part of being alive (even incarcerated serial killers can safely predict breakfast). Yet, why is it famous movie stars couldn’t predict – say after one divorce – that there might be just the teeny-weenie chance that it could happen again?

      Most of us mortals are only made aware by the occasional bereavement that we’re mere replaceable waves on sand. But when thwarted romantic ambition turns nuptial necrosis, movie stars behave as though they’re hapless victims of a tsunami. Even though we know from Oscar night strutting hunks and overdressed leg-showing divas, that they do both triumph and lachrymose humility equally. These kids have been around more than a few blocks.

      They’ve been walking the walk and talking the talk since before we could write our names. And yet, when the farcical announcement emanates from respective lawyers that, Derby and Joan would ask you to respect their privacy at this sad time. We know that privacy means being left alone to determine to the last soupçon, who keeps the pet skunk and who gets the deodorant.

      Celebrity comments on their breakups sound like saints self-martyrdom: ‘It cracks you open’ – 2-spouse Jennifer Anniston. ‘I didn’t understand what marriage was’ – 2-spouse Kevin Hart. ‘It’s a nightmare – 3-spouse Nicole Kidman (whose first role was as a bleating sheep in her kindergarten Nativity play).

      5ft 11ins Nicole made her nightmare comment after her split from 3-spouse, 5ft-4ins Tom Cruise. Perhaps the real nightmare was trying to find him in the dark. Or possibly enduring the 10-year trauma of being called Mrs Thomas Cruise Mapother IV.
      But whether nightmare, frightmare or spitemare, movie stars adopt an unwitting tragic mode, while knowing that saying I do to someone who goes off the boil quicker than a boiled egg, carries a lunatic health risk. Or, even as in Kidman’s case, risking an ‘I thought I did last time but this time I really do’ less than 5 years after a first ‘career conflict’ nightmare, is taking the horns by the bull.

      As for liberated ex-seminarian Father Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, he’s since ascended into another monogamy with 1-spouse, 5ft 10in Katie Holmes (18 November 2006) and descended again (20 August 2012) into celibacy.

      Matching the gravity of these relationships, tinseltown journalists affect buttock-clenching combo names to keep tags on movie stars’ I do’s or I don’ts: TomKat (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes), Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) and Bennifer (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez). Although portmanteau names frequently tempt fidgety Cupid to strike his tent for elsewhere, their use was de rigueur even in old Hollywood.

      Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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        A defiant Bishop against British rule in Ireland is profiled by Joe Lonergan

        In May of 1916, Edward O’Dwyer, the Bishop of Limerick, became a hero for advanced nationalists in Ireland because of his spirited reply to a letter from General Maxwell.

        General Sir John Maxwell had arrived in Dublin on Friday 28 April as military governor with ‘plenary powers’ under Martial law. This new commander of the British forces in Ireland, boasted: “When I am finished, there will not be a whisper of sedition in Ireland for another 100 years.” Maxwell promptly set about achieving this.

        During the week of 2–9 May, Maxwell was in sole charge of trials and sentences by ‘field general court martial’, in which trials were conducted without defence counsel or jury members and ‘in camera’. He had 3,400 people arrested and 183 civilians tried, 90 of whom were sentenced to death. Fifteen were shot between 3 and 12 May.

        General Maxwell also took the time to write to various Bishops around the country directing them to remove suspect priests from the active ministry. However, he picked the wrong man to write to when he penned a letter to Bishop O’Dwyer in Limerick.
        Edward Thomas O’Dwyer was born in Lattin, Co. Tipperary, the only son of John Keating O’Dwyer, on the 22 of January 1842. His father was a member of the historic Tipperary sept ‘The O’Dwyers of Kilnamanagh’ three of whom were Abbots of Holy Cross Abbey during the 15th and 16th centuries.

        Shortly after Edward’s birth the family moved to Limerick. The future Bishop was educated at the Christian Brothers School on Sexton Street, and at the Crescent College, Limerick. In 1860, after a year’s study at St Munchin’s College, he entered the National Seminary at Maynooth College, and he was ordained a priest in 1867.

        As a curate in St Michael’s Parish in Limerick O’Dwyer was actively involved in the temperance movement. He also established the Catholic Literary Society. At the relatively young age of 44, he was appointed Bishop of Limerick. While Bishop of Limerick he helped establish Mary Immaculate teacher training college and St. John’s Hospital.

        Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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          Oradour-sur-Glane (87)

          Liam Power describes a visit to the scene of one of the biggest atrocities of WW2

          In July 2017, we arrived in Roscoff port. After the best part of the day travelling with our caravan in tow, we camped overnight in Nantiat, west central France. Next day we took a short drive to a village located about fifteen miles from Limoges, in which my friend Gerry thought I’d find it interesting.

          Since he’d been here before he was going to do his own thing, we’d meet up later. In the scorching sun of around 30 degrees, my immediate impression was how new and bright the buildings looked. It wasn’t long before I came across a spectacular huge ornate plaque made of black marble with gold inscriptions, headed up, Oradour-sur-Glane. Although in French, it was obvious it was a memorial to 642 people.

          After visiting the nearby Memorial Centre Museum, I was soon to learn some of the history, the horrific story behind this village which dampened my earlier excitement and enthusiasm. On my return home, I was fascinated to learn more.

          On 10 June, 1944, just four days after D-Day, the original village of Oradour-sur-Glane, in Nazi-occupied France was destroyed, when the majority of its inhabitants, including women and children, were massacred by a German SS Panzer Division, under the command of Adolf Diekmann, Sylvester Stadler and his designated successor Otto Weidinger.

          Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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            By Gemma Grant

            Situated in the Royal County of Meath, Castle Ross occupies some fifty-five acres on the shores of Lough Sheelin, famous among anglers for its trout, perch and pike. Today’s guests can enjoy B & B in modern day medieval splendour in the sixteenth century Ross castle.

            The castle still retains many of its original features and for antique connoisseurs, furnishings dating back some three hundred years is sure to please. Those, seeking the paranormal, won’t be disappointed. Castle Ross has the distinction of being one of the most haunted places in the world.

            The castle is built on ancient Celtic land, evident from the remains of ring forts and dolmens. Overlooking it all is the Hill of Tara, where the High Kings of Ireland were crowned and had their seat of power.

            The castle saw its fair share of excitement, when native and newcomer fought for dominance over an ancient land. The English, eager to maintain control over lands taken from the Irish, encouraged their faithful lords to build strong fortifications against the local chieftains.

            So it was in the early 1500s, the Crown granted the sum of 10 Pounds Sterling for every castle and tower house erected on land given to their subjects.

            One such lord was of the family de Nogent of French stock, whose name was anglicised to Nugent. In 1533, loyal to the Crown, he began the construction of Ross Castle. The tower he completed in 1537, with the great hall and further extensions completed in 1539.

            The castle itself was unable to keep its inhabitants in splendid isolation. Over time, the Nugents allied with the O’Reilly clan, one of several major Irish clans in the region. The castle stood its ground until 1644 when Myles ‘the Slasher’ O’Reilly, spent a night there before joining forces to fight against Cromwellian and Scottish troops at the battle of Feinnaugha, The Hounds Ford, later shortened to Finea.

            Myles, one source claims, fell at the battle defending Ireland against the Cromwellian onslaught. Another source cites that he survived the battle and returned to the castle where he stayed another night before leaving.

            In 1913, a memorial was unveiled in the village of Finea, to the memory of the O’Reilly. Whether Myles survived or not may be uncertain, but the fate of Ross Castle was not. The English army reduced much of it to ruins.

            The castle came back to some of its former glory in the 19th century, when the tower and some outbuildings were rebuilt. In 1864, Ann Marie O’Reilly installed a large plaque in honour of her historic ancestor, Slasher, in the tower hall. A century following, David Nugent turned the historic castle into a family estate, complete with modern conveniences.

            Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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              I remember reading an article years ago that made me sad. It was about the last  Great Auk and how it was clubbed to death on a small island by hunters. Much like the killing of the seal pups, I think, only much worse, given the  known scarcety of the Great Auk.  

              I feel the same whenever I hear or read about, or see on television, about the plight of the elephant. I’m sure it’s the African elephant to which they refer.

              The sight of a dead elephant with a bloody hole where its tusks should be, is sickening beyond words; and most certainly beyond words one would use in a family magazine.  There would surely be bleeps  were a BBC or RTE cameraman and crew to come upon these elephant-killers, caught in the act.  I wonder if there would be bleeps for the elephant’s screams.  Yes, elephants do scream when in extreme pain.

              Read Dan Conway every week in Ireland’s Own

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                From SBB Ina Shuí to Scaoil Amach an Bobailín to delivering the best in Irish sports coverage on Radio na Gaeltachta, Connacht man Seán Bán Breathnach has been a much-loved mainstay of Irish broadcasting for the past fifty years. He shared some career highlights with Kay Doyle.

                It may be difficult to believe due to his youthful spirit and effervescent personality, but one of the West’s most instantly recognisable television presenters, Seán Bán Breathnach, has been electrifying our airwaves and lighting up our TV screens for just over fifty years.

                Last April saw the famous Galwayman pass the half-century milestone, and he remains as enthusiastic about his job, and as passionate about our native language, as ever.

                Seán was born in Inbhear, in Connemara, the youngest of four children. His father had lived in America during the Great Depression but found it difficult to settle, and returned home.

                He took up various jobs to make ends meet working as a coast watchman, postman and farmer, “or as much as a farmer as it is possible to be in Connemara”, says his son with a laugh, as we catch up for a chat to mark his special broadcasting anniversary.

                Seán left school at 14. In those days, as free education wasn’t introduced until 1966, it wasn’t unusual for children not to go on to secondary school, and more irregular still to proceed to college. At 16, he took the boat to London with his older brother, Pádraig, who was an engineer. Their eldest brother, Mairtín, had departed three years earlier and wrote home about the great jobs, and great money, that was going across the water.

                Seán’s dad had inspired his interest in broadcasting. His father was very well read, and Seán himself was leafing through The Reader’s Digest by the age of nine.

                As a family, they would listen to the BBC radio boxing broadcasts – in fact, broadcasts of all sports from soccer to rugby to horse racing. His dad was sports mad too, bringing them off to Railway Cup matches and instilling a love for sport that would last a lifetime.

                Seán still remembers getting up in the middle of the night to listen to famous fights on the radio. One of the boys would be in charge of the radio, the other the cups of tae, and another stoked the fire. In particular, he recalls listening to Ingemar Johansson knocking out Floyd Patterson on the wireless back in June, 1959. He loved listening to Eamonn Andrews too, and he was another early inspiration for the would-be broadcaster.

                And then there was Radio Luxembourg. Though it wasn’t the Irish Requests show on a Saturday night that caught his attention, Seán’s heart was in ‘the pops’. He wanted to hear Elvis. And Buddy Holly. And Sam Cooke.
                In England, his uncle, Cole, lived thirteen miles north of London, in a place called Potter’s Bar. Cole’s first wife and children had been tragically killed when a bomb was dropped on their home during World War II. He remarried, a woman from Tubbercurry in Sligo, who was a singer and dancer. They had three daughters, and Seán lived with them. His uncle got him work on the buildings.

                Seán was no stranger to hard work due to his grafting in the bogs back home. But it was when the weekend came, and Seán was brought to the local Youth Club, that his life behind the microphone took off.

                Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                  By Eamonn Duggan – part of our Ireland in 1919 series

                  When Dáil Éireann decided to seek funding from the public in 1919 to cover its own costs and the cost of implementing policies the elected members had campaigned on in the general election of December 1918, there was a very positive reaction from those who supported the counter-state and wished to see the end of the British administration in the country.

                  On the other hand, the reaction of the authorities in Dublin Castle and that of the government in London was, initially, one of indifference which quickly became one of alarm once the realisation dawned on them the majority of Irish people were embracing the National Loan campaign with a zeal and vigour that reflected the changing political situation in the country.

                  In the early months of 1919, the government in London, led by Lloyd George, was pre-occupied with the aftermath of the ‘Great War’ and the Paris Peace Conference. Lloyd George was determined to attain the best possible settlement for Britain at the conference and, in his pursuance of that goal, he largely ignored what was happening in Ireland.

                  The 1918 general election result was a seismic one which changed the political landscape forever and heralded the arrival of Sinn Féin as the major party in the country.

                  Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                    By Gerry Moran

                    Shopping, grocery shopping, is a man’s job. A REAL man’s job. I know. I do the grocery shopping in our house. And it’s a REAL man’s job, not just because I do it (God forbid) but because it’s in Man’s chromosomes, Man’s genes; ‘shopping’ is our lineage, our legacy.

                    Ever since Man got up off all fours and sat down in the cave he has been foraging, hunting, scavenging, call it what you will but it’s still ‘shopping’; it’s about going out there and bringing home the bacon.

                    And cabbage. And organic spuds. And cauliflowers and carrots and parsnips and maybe a creamy, lemon cheesecake for dessert. All of which Homo Erectus would have brought home, along with a small mammoth, if they’d been available back then.
                    Whereas my ancestors went out with a spear in one hand and a small slab of stone (the shopping list) in the other, yours truly goes out with a Euro in one hand (for the trolley) and a credit card in the other. And so the foraging, the hunting, the ‘shopping’ begins.

                    Veteran hunter (shopper) that I am I know the lie of the land like the back of my hand. I know exactly where the ripest fruit, freshest fish and plumpest fowl can be found. And the bacon. And the alcohol.

                    Indeed a fellow-hunter (another REAL man) tapped me on the shoulder recently as I was stalking a nice bottle of red and says: ‘Couldn’t help but notice that you’re spending a lot more time over the wine than you did over the vegetables’.

                    Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                      GEMMA GRANT continues her series on the castles of Ireland

                      Housed within the battlements of Blarney Castle, Co. Cork, is possibly one of the most famous stones in history. The Stone of Scone or Destiny, would become more popularly known in Ireland as the ‘Blarney Stone’.

                      Half of the original Stone of Scone, used for the crowning of Scottish kings, was bequeathed to the McCarthy clan of Munster by Robert the Bruce, for their help in defeating the English at the Battle of Bannockburn, Scotland in 1314.

                      The McCarthys put some five thousand men into the field of battle to fight alongside the Bruce. The Stone, like the castle, is steeped in history and has lived to see many a skirmish.

                      The popular, uninhabited Blarney Castle, complete with Stone, that attracts thousands of visitors per year, is in fact the third structure to occupy the site. The original wooden building was constructed in the tenth century followed by a more solid stone edifice in the early thirteenth century. The stone structure eventually gave way to the more solid Blarney Castle constructed in 1446, by Cormac McCarthy, The Strong, King of Munster. The McCarthy’s fought long and hard to live up to the adage, ‘What we have, we hold’.

                      Warring with their neighbours and trying to resist the onslaught of the English, the McCarthy’s were at the forefront of battle while a the same time trying desperately hard to avoid it. By the 1600s, the McCarthy’s were believed to be plotting against Elizabeth l of England.

                      Worried that some of her latest subjects may be planning rebellion, Queen Bess ordered McCarthy to prove allegiance to the Crown by handing over legal tenure of his lands. Walking a tight rope between compliance and resistance, the chieftain played for time.

                      He would invite Elizabeth’s loyal deputies to a banquet, where they were wined, dined and bedazzled. He assured them of his undying loyalty to the Crown, spoke eloquently of the queen and, for the time being, managed to keep possession of his castle.

                      Elizabeth became so frustrated at the lack of results and the run-around the McCarthy’s were giving her advisers, that she concluded, it was all Blarney. The McCarthy’s she knew, said one thing, yet did the opposite.
                      The McCarthy clan, like Ireland, fared less well under the Cromwellian onslaught of Ireland. By the mid-1600s, Cromwell’s army and the plague decimated the Irish population and part of Blarney Castle. Irish lands were confiscated and given to the victors.

                      Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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