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    By John Corbett

    Mild and sunny days are the strongest memories I have of July. It was a real bonus when mid-month arrived because we could ignore books for the rest of the summer. Looking at our behaviour, one might think that we had broken free from the academic world for good and not just for a measly six weeks, which was the length of school holidays at that time.

    There was lots of hard work in store but that didn’t bother us. Meadows weren’t mowed until well into the month but the bog and other tasks had to be dealt with, mainly footing turf and making it into ricks.

    But when all the chores had been done, we still had plenty of time for fun and frolicking. The same was true of grown-ups. Having worked hard in meadow, field and bog, they still had time to engage in games and attend dances, even though both normally necessitated long-distance spins on bicycles.

    It was as if we all acquired extra energy from the sun and from the environment because it was rare to hear of anyone to complain of being tired in June or July.

    Previous generations were equally energetic and a thirty mile round trip to an event wasn’t a problem even when it had to be done on ‘Shank’s Mare’. Pat Kenny from Cappalusk was a great walker and was known to have gone from Gurteen to Athenry on foot on many occasions. Even by going cross -country, he would have done more than twenty miles before reaching home.
    Of course the legendary Willie Morris from Newcastle, Athenry, was exceptional. Willie won many All-Ireland trophies for his racing and friends say that he used to run several miles to work each day. Then, after having engaged in physically demanding tasks, he would run home again in the evening. This outstanding athlete passed away in his nineties in 2018.

    Personal trainers didn’t feature then. Strength and determination enabled athletes like Willie to overcome whatever obstacles were in their way and their achievements are unlikely be matched now, or in the foreseeable future.

    There several other less well-known individuals, some of whom travelled by foot on pilgrimages to Knock Shrine. Walking bare-footed around holy wells was common enough at that time too.

    Men and animals travelled long distances to fairs and markets. Sometimes carts transported them, but more often than not their destinations were reached on foot.

    Tommie Brown from Colmanstown regularly did the 50 mile round trip to Galway on his bike and as with most of the cyclists of that period; it didn’t do him any harm because he lived to be a ripe old age.

    Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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      By Mary Sheerin

      Judith Kerr, acclaimed children’s writer and illustrator died recently at her home in London after a short illness. She was 96 years of age and had been working right up to the end.

      She had published over 35 books that sold millions of copies and were translated into more than thirty languages. Possibly her most famous one and, my own personal favourite, is The Tiger Who Came To Tea. It was her first book, published in 1968. It was an immediate best-seller and has never been out of print.

      It’s about a big Tiger who invites himself to tea in a suburban home; is welcomed in without any surprise; sits down at the table and scoffs everything in sight – even raiding the fridge (including the father’s beer) and drinks all the tap water – not even leaving enough water for the family to wash themselves.

      But it has a happy ending. The Tiger exits replete and happy and Daddy comes home from work and takes the family out into the dark night for sausages, chips and ice-cream. What more could you ask for? And the illustrations are brilliant!

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        A new project by the Headford Lace Project aims to commemorate the 139 young women who left Ballina Workhouse in mid nineteenth century Ireland and were transported to help regenerate and boost the population of Australia, writes Eileen Casey.

        Some weeks ago now, I had the pleasure of attending a sewing and embroidery session in Malahide, County Dublin. Hosted by Mary Ryan, who is prominent in many women’s groups nationwide, the morning was organised by The Headford Lace Project (HLP), a vibrant County Galway Community Organisation seeking to revive, reimagine and research the story of local lace-making.

        The HLP have embraced many interesting activities in their quest to highlight Headford lace, projects which connect them to events on a national and global stage. One such current connection is ‘Irish Roses, Bride Ship Lasses’, a project which aims to commemorate the 139 young women who left Ballina Workhouse in mid nineteenth century Ireland and were transported to help regenerate and boost the population of Australia.

        Focused specificially on the Ballina Workhouse, these single women emigrants are representative of what was happening in other counties at the time. Women who left workhouses and travelled under the Orphan Emigration Scheme (OES) which came about due to the demand for domestic female labour in mid-nineteenth century Australia.

        At the time, this demand – spurred by the rise of the middle classes – coincided with an overflow of female inmates in the workhouses in Ireland. The solution therefore seemed obvious, solving two problems in one fell swoop.

        The Colonial Secretary, Earl Grey, sent 4,114 girls between 14 and 20 years, from 117 workhouses to the ports of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide in the years 1848 to 1850. Some of these emigrants subsequently married and had families but they themselves never returned.

        It should be noted that the OES was a completely different proposition to the flood of emigration heading to Northern American ports at the time. For one thing, the costs of free passage under the scheme was borne by the Australian Colonial Authorities, provided that the Boards of Guardians of each workhouse was willing to bear the cost of outfitting the girls and conveying them to either Dublin or Cork and from there to Plymouth. It was considered much cheaper to do this rather than feed the girls on an ongoing basis.

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          The Summer of 2019 will mark two milestones in cinematic history: the launch, eighty years ago, of the movie described as ‘one of the greatest films in cinema history’, and the death, thirty years later, of its star, writes PAT POLAND

          Frances Ethel Gumm was born on 10 June, 1922 in the upper mid-western US state of Minnesota to Frank and Ethel Gumm who ran the local picture house and regularly staged song-and-dance shows on the cinema stage.

          Frances had barely passed her second birthday when her mother had her captivating the audiences, emerging from a hat-box and doing a creditable impersonation of Al Jolson. Later, she joined her sisters, Mary Jane and Dorothy, on the vaudeville circuit, billed as the ‘Gumm Sisters’, with their mother accompanying them on the piano.

          When an impresario introduced them to an audience and was met with howls of laughter, and being billed erroneously as the ‘Glum Sisters’, they changed their stage-name to the ‘Garland Sisters’. Soon after, young Frances changed her name to ‘Judy’ after a Hoagy Carmichael song that she particularly liked.

          In 1935, a scout for MGM studios attended the sisters’ show and was impressed by Judy’s performance. Within days, Louis B. Mayer had contracted her on $100 a week without knowing quite what to do with her.

          At 13, she was too young for adult roles and too old for child ones. Standing at 4 feet 11ƒ inches and with her homely looks, she enrolled as a pupil at the MGM school with other actresses – including Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner and Ava Gardner, all ‘head turners’.

          Judy was made to wear uncomfortable caps on her teeth and rubber discs on her nose to give her a more elegant profile.
          When, one day, she overheard Mayer referring to her as his ‘little hunchback’, it triggered a lifetime of insecurity about her looks, and indeed, her talent. Henceforth, she required constant reassurance about her attractiveness and ability.
          Soon, Judy was starring in the first of over two dozen movies, cast in many different roles, that would make millions of dollars for MGM.

          One of her earliest was Every Sunday in which she was cast with the soprano Deanna Durbin; Deanna’s operatic style contrasting with Judy’s ‘swing’ style.

          Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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            GEMMA GRANT continues her series on the castles of Ireland

            Lying in the heartland of the beautiful Glenveagh Mountains of North West Co. Donegal, Glenveagh National Park, Ireland’s second largest park, first opened its doors to the public in 1984, with the castle opening two years later.
            The estate was bought by the Office of Public Works in 1975 from the third owner, Mr. Henry McIlhenny of Philadelphia. In 1983, McIlhenny bestowed the castle, gardens and much of the castle contents to the Irish nation.

            Situated on the rugged shores of Lough Veagh, its enchanting beauty was the very paradox that helped initially, to seal the fate of the local people.

            On visiting the area in 1857, John George Adair remarked that he was enchanted by the surpassing beauty of the scenery. So much so, that by 1859, he acquired over 11,000 hectares of land on which to build his castle, modelled on Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

            Adair, from Scottish descent, was a wealthy land speculator from Queenstown, Co. Laois. The relationship between Adair and the local people was anything but amicable.

            Taking possession of his new surroundings, Adair set up a police barracks for the Royal Irish Constabulary. Many of the tenants were too poor to afford fencing and any farm animals that strayed onto his land met with a fine for the owners. They also faced prosecution for alleged sheep stealing.

            To help with the maintenance of the estate, Adair preferred not to employ locally, but brought in Scotsmen, much to the annoyance of the populace. Adding to his acreage, the squire acquired the right to collect rents from the tenants – but not the right to own the land outright.

            Grievances grew between landowner and native. On one occasion, while out shooting fowl, the locals, angry at what they considered trespassing, interrupted the shoot by beating the bushes, frightening the fowl away.
            Angered, Adair threatened the locals, telling them they would pay dearly. In 1859, Adair acquired title to all of Derryveagh, placing the local people in a precarious position. The following year, tenants were informed that farm boundaries would be rearranged.

            The rearrangement resulted in evictions for the entire Derryveagh population of some forty-seven families. By April of 1861, Adair, with over two hundred constabulary and crowbar men, levelled the houses to the ground leaving over two hundred men, women and children destitute.

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              Verdun Ball traces the life and literary career of the writer Helen Lyndon Goff


              P. L. Travers, author of the acclaimed children’s classic ‘Mary Poppins’ was the pen-name of Helen Lyndon Goff. She’d strong links with Ireland. In the 1960’s she lived in Upper Leeson Street, Dublin, in the house that had once been her father’s home.
              “I was brought up Irish, where there was room for my own private world,” Helen once remarked.

              Born on 9 August, 1899 in Marlborough, Queensland, Australia her mother was Margaret Agnes Goff; her father, Travers Robert Goff was of Irish descent. He’d often speak to her about his Irish childhood. Sadly he died of influenza when he was in his early forties.

              As a child Helen loved animals and reading fairy tales. When she was 17, using the stage name Pamela Lyndon Travers, she travelled throughout Australia and New Zealand, acting in Shakespearian plays. She’d poems published, some of which had Irish themes.

              In 1925 she visited Ireland where she met the well-known writer George William Russell, editor of ‘The Irish Statesman’ who published some of her poems. She was introduced to W.B. Yeats and Oliver St. John Gogarty who fostered her life-long interest in Irish mythology.

              In her twenties she went to London where she worked as a Fleet Street reporter. One winter she fell ill.

              Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                This year marks the centenary of one of the outstanding feats in the history of aviation, when two young airmen undertook the first ever successful attempt to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean, writes Gerry Breen.

                On Sunday, 15th June, 1919, two young airmen, John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Browne, landed in their Vickers-Vimy aircraft in a bog at Derrigimlagh, south of Clifden, Co. Galway, fulfilling what many considered would be an impossible dream. They had taken off from Lester’s Field in St. John’s, Newfoundland, the previous day, and had covered a distance of almost 1,900 miles in 16 hours and 28 minutes.

                The intrepid young airmen had succeeded in completing the first non-stop transatlantic flight, and their truly remarkable achievement earned them a prize of £10,000 and an honoured place in aviation history. In the course of their flight, they experienced atrocious weather, which included thick fog, snow and icy conditions, and at one point the turbulence was so severe, they almost plunged into the ocean. Their impossible dream had become a nasty nightmare, but they faced many life-threatening situations with remarkable calm and their relief can only be imagined as they arrived safely on Irish soil.

                Their average speed during the Atlantic crossing was 120 miles per hour. On take-off, their plane carried 865 gallons of petrol and 40 gallons of oil. When they landed at Derrigimlagh, they still had sufficient fuel to cover a further ten hours’ flying time.

                John Alcock and Arthur Brown received a hero’s welcome from admirers around the world. When the great American aviator Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris after his own record- breaking flight in 1927, he acknowledged the feat accomplished by the two airmen. Lindbergh told the crowd that had gathered to welcome him that ‘Alcock and Brown showed me the way!’

                Who were these fearless pioneers? John Alcock was born in 1892 in Basford House on Seymour Grove, Firstwood, Manchester. He was known to his family and friends as ‘Jack’, and from a young age, he was interested in flying. He gained his pilot’s licence in 1912 when he was just aged twenty.

                He had tons of natural ability as a pilot and shortly after receiving his licence, he entered and won his first race. During the next two years, Alcock spent as much time in the air as he could and he was a regular competitor in aircraft competitions at Hendon.

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                  ROBINSON CRUSOE – A hard man to work for – everything had to be done by Friday!


                  When a great writer discovers a great story the result is often – but not always – a great book. This year marks the 300th anniversary of the publication of one of the finest novels of all time – The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of Tork, Mariner.

                  The story tells how the main character – and for much of the book, the only character – was marooned on an island for twenty-eight years, miles from normal sea routes and with little chance of rescue.
                  The island would now feature in holiday brochures as ‘the truly get-away-from-it-all experience’, but Crusoe had no four-star hotel to rest in, no Michelin-rated restaurant to dine in, and no cocktail bar to unwind in. He had just his wits to help him survive.

                  Bear Grylls would have loved it.

                  The moral of the tale is man’s adaptability. Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention and we soon learn new skills when pushed to it. The body hardens up, we get fitter, and the debilitating lifestyle of pampered civilisation is replaced by healthy self-sufficiency.
                  Not all of Crusoe’s social conditioning is forgotten, however. The novel is a product of the time in which it was published (on 25 April, 1719, to be exact) and there is one major sticking point for most modern readers.

                  After many years of isolation, Crusoe finds fresh footprints on his usually pristine beach. This leads to his discovery of a young black sailor being chased by erstwhile shipmates with murderous intent. Crusoe saves the fugitive, but his Caucasian-centric way of looking at things does not allow him to believe that he now shares his home with an equal.

                  His new companion is not a new-found friend; he is a servant, whom Crusoe names ‘Friday’, and at the risk of being flippant, Robinson Crusoe could now enjoy his weekends off as he made sure that, from now on, all work would be done by Friday.

                  The author was Daniel Foe, born in London around 1660, the son of a prosperous tallow maker. He added the ‘De’ prefix later as it sounded aristocratic. His own life story reads like a novel. He survived plague and the Great Fire of London, and narrowly escaped the attention of Hanging Judge Jeffries after he’d chosen the losing side in the Monmouth Rebellion.

                  He went on to spy for William of Orange, as well as managing to beat bankruptcy by a judicial marriage.
                  It was as a writer that he came to fame. He supposedly wrote 547 titles, but the true figure is probably half that and most of these were short political and religious pamphlets and poems. Still, it’s an impressive canon.

                  Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                    Sheila O’Kelly reveals why the third Sunday of June is traditionally FATHER’S DAY

                    On the 6th December 1907, a mining disaster occurred in the small town of Mononagh in West Virginia, killing 361 men, 250 of which were fathers leaving a thousand children fatherless.

                    Grace Golden Clayton (October 1875-March 1958) from West Virigina was deeply moved by this tragedy and she suggested to her pastor that a service be held to honour all men. Grace Clayton said at the time: “It was partly the explosion that got me thinking how important and loved most fathers are. How sad and frightening to have no father, no husband to turn to at such an awful time.”

                    Grace was a member of the William Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church and Robert Webb, her pastor, held a Father’s Day service there on the 5th July, 1908. The celebration was not promoted outside the town itself and there was no proclamation issued by the city council.

                    Two events overshadowed it: a massive celebration of Independence Day on the 4th July in Mononagh, and the death of a sixteen-year old girl there due to illness. The people of Mononagh were over-whelmed with grief and Grace felt it was not the time to promote Father’s Day and she never spoke of it.
                    In 1909, after listening to a sermon about Mother’s Day, Sonora Louise Smart Dodd (February 1882-March 1978), who lived with her husband, Bruce and their son Jack in Spokane, Washington wondered why there was no corresponding day to honour all fathers.

                    Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                      The forthcoming series will explore the history of the major castles of Ireland, those involved in their construction and destruction. The history of the castles is the history of medieval and modern Ireland. By giving the castles a voice, we learn of invasions, battles – lost and won – intrigue, betrayal, love, romance and, more importantly, the survival of Ireland, writes GEMMA GRANT


                      Perhaps you may like them, hate them or, are completely unaware of them. The fact of the matter is, there are some 3,000 scattered throughout the island of Ireland. Most of them in a serious state of disrepair, with little of the original edifices remaining. By the 1400s, Ireland’s medieval building boom, saw more Castles erected than any other European country.

                      Castle building arrived with the Normans, in the early 1100s. Diarmaid Mac Murchada, King of Leinster, needed outside help to reclaim lost territory. He approached the English, promising his daughter Aoife in marriage to Richard de Clare, better known as Strongbow. Aoife’s dowry came with a generous helping of land. Lots of land. Many view this period of history as the beginning of the end of Gaelic Ireland.

                      To protect what they had been given and what they would take, the Normans built massively, impressive castles on newly acquired Irish land. The Irish, used to the ring forts, had never witnessed the likes of the Norman castles. For many of the chieftains, they were a blot on the horizon, an encroachment on their homeland that would ensure continuous battles between native and newcomer, guaranteed to last for some eight hundred years.

                      One of the most impressive, Dublin castle, Norman fortress and seat of power, was build in 1204 on the orders of the unpopular King John. Built on an early Viking settlement, the castle would see its fair share of trouble. It also played host to many famous names from history.

                      The O’Neill, and the O’Donnell were ‘guests of the Nation’, as was St. Oliver Plunkett, imprisoned in Dublin Castle before his execution in Tyburn, England. James Connolly, one of the 1916 leaders, was taken from the castle to face a firing squad, for his part in the Uprising.

                      Ironically enough, it would also be the castle used for the transference of government, when General Michael Collins in 1922 saw the last Viceroy of Ireland hand over the keys of power.

                      Bunratty Castle, in Co. Clare, enjoys nothing better than offering a céad míle fáilte to all. A far cry from its war like past, when Irish clans fought over and give it in marriage. Today’s visitors can experience medieval Ireland in peaceful surroundings while wining and dining in the great hall and being entertained by Bunratty singers in period costumes.

                      Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own


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