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    Ahead of Valentine’s Day, Verdun Ball shares his thoughts on love and marriage

    n The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret. But each couple has to find their own way of being together.

    n True love isn’t something that your mind can understand. Follow your heart. It knows the right answer.

    n To love someone is to allow them to be themselves.

    n A wedding is about making a lifetime commitment and a promise. The origin of this word dates back to the old German ‘wathjam’ meaning a promise.

    n Our word Bridegroom comes from the old word ‘brydguma’ meaning ‘bride’s man’.  In the 16th century this changed to bridegroom, based on the addition of the word ‘groom’ – a man or a male servant.

    n Bride comes from another dated word ‘byrd’. It’s also related to the old German word ‘braut’ and the Dutch ‘bruid’.

    n Did you know that the best day for writing a love letter is Friday?  This is because Friday is the day belonging to Venus, the Goddess of Love.

    n It’s a good sign if your hand trembles when writing a love letter, as it means the recipient loves you too.

    n When you receive a love letter you should look carefully at the envelope. If the flap has fallen open, or the stamp isn’t the correct value, then all isn’t well.

    n Strange as it may seem, to test the other’s love, you should set fire to a love letter!

    n There is cause for concern if the letter burns with a tall, bright flame; if it gutters and burns blue, then sadly the relationship is doomed.

    n But for any reason you want to destroy a love letter, it’s best to tear it up, rather than burn it.

    n And, curiously, you should never propose by letter. This will greatly reduce the chances of a happy marriage.

    Read Verdun every week in Ireland’s Own

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      “It’s a gentleman. He is wearing a blue suit and a red tie. He has white hair and glasses with gold rims. He has a white flower in his buttonhole and in his hand is a rolled-up newspaper…”

      As the ten year-old girl gave this description of a man standing nearby, the packed audience in London’s Seymour Hall was stunned into silence. And with good reason. For Ellen McGarry was claimed to be totally blind.

      In the autumn of l949, Ellen McGarry, a Canadian orphan said to have supernatural powers, was making a five-week tour of Britain which, not surprisingly, made headline news where ever she went.

      Her supporters said she was a psychical phenomenon, while her detractors, and there were many, regarded her as little more than a human conjuring trick. What made them even angrier was that no one could prove she was a fake.

      Hugh Morrison, of the London Daily Herald newspaper, was one of the few journalists allowed to interview Ellen McGarry. He later wrote of the encounter: “I saw her at London’s Imperial Hotel in a suite thronged by admirers, managers and curious disbelievers.”

      According to Hugh Morrison, Ellen was a small dark-haired child wearing a simple blue dress and sitting near the window. “She didn’t turn to look at me as I was introduced but continued to turn her head towards the far corner of the room. “How kind of you to come,” she said with quaint formality. “I do hope your arm is nothing serious.”

      “I was wearing a sling to support my arm injured in a minor car accident. No one in the room knew of it before I arrived and nobody had had time to mention it to her.”

      To continue reading please pick up a copy of Ireland’s Own


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        Waterford author Karen Power tells Ireland’s Own about her debut novel “Butterfly Barn”

        butterflybarnSet between Ireland and New York, “Butterfly Barn” follows the lives of three women who discover they share the same dream. The book is about love, life, loss and the ability of the human spirit to endure.

        I was born in Waterford City where I spent many years working in the travel industry.
        In 1995, I married a farmer and moved to the countryside. We were blessed with our beautiful baby daughter and life was wonderful.

        When I became pregnant for the second time with twins, the joy we experienced was incredible. But then things went horribly wrong.

        Also around this time our daughter was six years old and after many years of going from one professional to the next, we discovered she had a learning difficult called dyspraxia.
        Some days the heartache was too much but having Aisling led me on a journey of discovery.

        While searching for answers and ways to help, I took a course in Adlerian Psychology. I was required to keep a journal and so I began to write. I loved it and before long I was writing fiction.

        “Butterfly Barn” came from blending my travel and tourism background with country living.
        Grace Fitzgerald, my lead character, brings cruise liners into a pretty, fictitious town called Bayrush, in Ireland. I love romance, especially the ‘will they, won’t they get together’ kind. And so Jack Leslie, a handsome vet, arrives back from Dubai. Life would be dull without a best friend, and Grace has one.

        “Butterfly Barn” is also available to download on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and iBooks.

        To continue reading and to win a copy of Karen’s book please pick up a copy of Ireland’s Own

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          By Sam Connolly

          It may well come as a shock to some people, but there has been a huge debate among historians and archaeologists as to whether or not the famous St. Brigid was in fact an invention of the clergy. Was she originally the pre-Christian Celtic goddess named Brigid? It has been argued the cult of the Celtic goddess Brigid was too strong in Ireland for the missionaries to break its power, so instead, in either the 5th or 6th century, the early church made her a saint and thereby subjugated her worship into that of the church.

          All of this is very exciting and intriguing, a genuine Da Vinci Code style of mystery.

          Traditionally the seat of St. Brigid’s power and the location of her abbey was Kildare. However, I was intrigued by Kilranelagh Cemetery, a little-known ancient Irish Christian site overlooking Brigid’s traditional lands of Kildare, but actually located in west Wicklow, in the western foothills of the mountains.

          To continue reading please pick up a copy of Ireland’s Own

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            By Colm Power

            Father Abram Joseph Ryan, whose parents came from Clogheen in Co. Tipperary, was an influential figure in the American Civil War. He became known as the ‘Poet of the Confederacy’ and the ‘Tom Moore of Dixie’.

            One of the noted characteristics of the Confederate Army was their readiness to sing and it was said of them that if battles could be won by song, the Confederates would be invincible.

            Father Ryan was born in Hagerstown, Maryland, on 5th February, 1838, the fourth child of Matthew Ryan and his wife, Mary Coughlin, and he was the first of the family to be born in the U.S..

            He studied for the priesthood in New York and during the winter of 1860, when he was aged 22 years, he gave a series of lectures which marked him out as a speaker of great promise. Later, following a preaching tour of rural parishes, his abilities as a preacher received wide recognition, and his superiors decided to have him ordained a priest earlier than was the normal age. After permission was obtained from the Vatican, he was ordained on 12th September, 1860, in his then home parish of St. Louis. This was just before the beginning of the Civil War.

            In spite of his Irish heritage and the fact he was brought up mainly in the north, he regarded himself as a Southerner to the core, and there was never any doubt as to where his sympathies would lie when the Civil War broke out. There is a question as to whether he formally enlisted in the Confederate Army, but he served as chaplain throughout the conflict, helping to carry the wounded to safety and performing the last rites on the battlefield. He became, without a shadow of doubt, the most famous chaplain of the C.S.A. (Confederate States of America).

            His poem ‘The Conquered Banner’ was the most popular poem in the aftermath of the Civil War. With it, Father Ryan captured the heart of the entire South. It was first published on 24th June, 1865, in the ‘New York Freeman’, and it was memorised by generations of Southern schoolchildren. ‘The Conquered Banner’ was read or sung in almost every Southern home, and no poet was more popular at that time than Father Ryan.
            The final verse of ‘The Conquered Banner’ reads:
            Furl that banner, softly, slowly!
            Treat it gently – it is holy –
            For it droops above the dead.
            Touch it not – unfold it never,
            Let it droop there, furled forever,
            For its people’s hopes are dead!

            To continue reading please pick up a copy of Ireland’s Own

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              By Eddie Ryan

              Ken Doherty was born on the 17 September, 1969. The Dubliner is the only player to have been world amateur (1989) and world professional champion (1997). Doherty was also World Under-21 champion in 1989. Doherty’s snooker career began in Jason’s of Ranelagh, Dublin. He fell in love with the green baize and competed in handicap snooker tournaments on Saturday mornings.

              His local club closed in 2006, but long after it proved the launch pad for Ken to go on and become one of Ireland’s greatest ever snooker champions.

              In his first national snooker event, an U16 ranking tournament, Doherty lost in the final.
              He turned professional in 1990, and reached his first major final in 1992. There he faced the “Whirlwind” Jimmy White, and lost out after an epic battle (10-9).

              He again reached the Grand Prix Final the following season, but again came up short as an in-form Peter Ebdon, landed the spoils by a nine frames to six margin.

              He did not have to wait long for a first ever professional tournament win, hWowever, when he claimed the 1993 Welsh Open. In 1994, Doherty reached the final of the UK Open Championship against Stephen Hendry. Doherty was unfortunate to come up against an inspired opponent.

              The Scot was in irresistible form and racked up seven century breaks on the way to a 10-5 victory. The two would lock horns again in the final of the World Snooker Championship, in 1997, at the iconic Crucible theatre in Sheffield.

              To continue reading please pick up a copy of Ireland’s Own

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                When most Irish people hear the name Charles followed by Stewart there is an expectation that ‘Parnell’ must come next.

                Parnell was proud of the fact that he was called after his grandfather, Admiral Charles Stewart, who distinguished himself during the war of 1812-1815 against Britain. It was a pride fostered by his mother Delia, the admiral’s daughter.

                Charles Stewart was born in Philadelphia on 28 July 1778, the youngest of eight siblings. His parents, Charles and Sarah (née Ford), were emigrants from Belfast. Their American dream was short-lived when Charles died in 1780, leaving Sarah with the four youngest children to rear. Under such circumstances, it’s not surprising she remarried and Commander Britton of George Washington’s personal bodyguard became the children’s stepfather.

                Young Charles developed a love of the sea, a career frowned on by his parents, so he ran away at the age of thirteen. When he was brought back, his parents relented and gave their blessing.

                Throughout his teens, Charles worked his way up in commercial shipping from cabin boy to captain, but it lacked adventure. So, at nineteen he transferred to the U.S. navy and was commissioned as lieutenant on the frigate USS United States, under the command of Wexfordman John Barry.

                This was a time when American ships needed protection from Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean and French naval ships in the Atlantic. Charles was soon given his own command, a promotion he justified within a few months when he captured the French schooner Diana.

                Other successes followed, but it was at the siege of Tripoli, which the Barbary pirates used as a base, that he made his name, not only for his courage but also for his diplomatic handling of subsequent talks. President Thomas Jefferson made particular reference to his skill as a negotiator.

                Ten years later, when James Madison was president, the United States declared war on Britain because British navy ships were boarding American vessels and taking men from them, accusing them of desertion from the royal navy.

                Stewart was given command of the USS Constitution, so sturdy that she had been nicknamed ‘Old Ironsides’. Over the next three years, the ship and her commander became so conjoined in the public imagination that the nickname was also applied to Stewart.

                It was in November 1813, just as Stewart was enhancing an already respectable reputation, that he married Delia Tudor. Her family had been one of the leading families in Boston society, but in recent years, her parents had severely dented the family finances by their extravagant lifestyle and extended trips to Europe. Although they felt that Stewart was a social inferior, they could no longer afford to give Delia a dowry and reluctantly accepted him as son-in-law.

                Within a short time of the wedding, he was back at sea, engaging British warships, running up a remarkable series of victories that made him into a household name.
                By February 1815, both sides in the conflict decided the time had come to pursue peace terms. The Treaty of Ghent, in Belgium, brought an end to hostilities, but it would be four months before all combatants could be informed with the result that engagements still took place.

                It was on the 19th, two hundred years ago this month, that Stewart’s Constitution attacked the Cyane and the Levant unaware that peace had been agreed. He captured them both. For this engagement he was awarded the freedom of Philadelphia and a gold medal was struck for him, his officers and men.

                Now a man of wealth, he bought an estate in New Jersey, but his ex-socialite wife found it boring, especially as he was away for many months at a time, and their marriage was not a happy one. Even his further promotion to commodore did little to please her.
                His posting to the Pacific squadron based in Lima was more to her liking and she accompanied him with their daughter Delia. While there she caused a major diplomatic incident for which he was tried by court martial. When called upon to testify in his defence, she refused. The prosecution failed to prove its case, but he never forgave her for not testifying on his behalf. The marriage was over.

                Stewart continued to live on his New Jersey estate, which many people now referred to as ‘Old Ironsides’, the nickname now used for the man, his ship and his home. By the time he died on 6 November 1869, he was 91 years old and had risen to Rear-Admiral, the highest ranking in the U.S. It was conferred on him by Abraham Lincoln.
                Throughout her life, his estranged daughter Delia idolised him. He approved of her marriage to Wicklow landowner John Henry Parnell, who met her while holidaying in America. She instilled in her children the importance of fighting for a cause, and she was convinced that it was from her father that her son Charles Stewart Parnell inherited his principles, courage and eloquence.

                To read more historical articles like this please subscribe to Ireland’s Own

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                  By Gaby Roughneen

                  I once read that play is really children’s work. That’s how they develop learning skills, solve problems, create, and work out peer relationships, skills that are now usually associated with the classroom. If that’s the case we certainly worked hard in the ‘40s and ‘50s!  

                  Play was intense, close to home and unsupervised. It was mainly outdoors, because that’s where many of our playthings and the space we needed for them could be found.

                  Pristine cleanliness was not a fixation then, so clambering over fences, racing around lanes and fields, climbing trees, sloshing through  water or leaves, getting drenched  or muddied didn’t really matter. Washing could fix it all. Falls, cuts and bumps were accepted as occupational hazards.

                  Sometimes we went home bawling, but mostly, the grazes and bruises were dealt with when play ended for the day. There was even the occasional competition to see whose knee was the bloodiest.

                  So with all outdoors as our playground, it’s not surprising that our games, like nature, had seasons. Spring and summer were the richest. After winter, we had the mild weather and dry ground necessary for marbles. It was tough enough, played in a bent position, with knuckles permanently on the ground, and the first thumb joint, used repeatedly to shoot the marble.  

                  The game had its own vocabulary shouted at high volume and top speed – taws, allies, aggies, mibs, dubs and keepsies. We didn’t know it, but we were developing hand/eye coordination, concentration and memorisation.

                  Then without anybody actually deciding it, the next game was already making its presence felt. Diagrams were chalked on any flat surfaces, and Beddies was underway.

                  One diagram was simply two columns divided into five numbered boxes each. We had to pitch a chaney into each box in turn and hop on one foot through each box to retrieve it without touching a line.

                  The other diagram was a big square, with a wide box top and bottom and a big X joining all the corners. We had to jump while turning in this one, and both diagrams taught us something of judging distance and balance.

                  As Beddies faded, the skipping ropes came out, and someone always seemed to make it more challenging –the footwork, the number of ropes, participants or speed, and it was usually done to a chant.

                  As Spring moved on into summer, we heard the sound of small rubber balls being bounced off the walls and it was time for the game called ‘Alera’ . The chant went ‘One Alera, two Alera,..’ as the bouncing, catching, twirling and hopping  went on to as high a number as possible.

                  Sometimes, more than one ball was used, and intense concentration and coordination were needed for juggling two or even three balls bouncing back off the wall, while timing twirls and jumps and keeping count.

                  Then we’d hear the noise of wheels, and small gangs  would run by, with sticks, walloping blazes out of old tires, bicycle wheels, or some kind of hoop, while avoiding collisions and obstacles – and fights – and gauging distances, judging  direction, force and pressure.

                  In the summer holidays, when we had the long days to make things, we used tin cans and twine to make telephones, or  we looped the twine though two holes in the top of a can, and made  mini- stilts to walk on, irritating the neighbours with the clattering, and howling when we crashed and fell. But we got up, and kept going.

                  The summer also gave us piles of cut hay out on the green and we used it to build forts, cars and ships – time machines of magic to take us far away. We created the stories, developed the scripts and acted them out, sometimes battling for being ‘the boss’.  
                  When the game ended, there were no orders from grown-ups to tidy up; we just followed nature’s way, leaving the hay lying around. Next day, we re-built, and entered the world of make-believe once more, our imaginations creating the magic.

                  It was always a bit sad when as dusk fell, and the swallows skimmed low, we had to stop, say goodbye to comrades, and go home – dirty, tired and happy. We didn’t realise it, but while playing outdoors with all that freedom, unsupervised, we’d been in the nicest possible classroom in the world. ■

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                  By Joan Zambelli

                  It was one of those lovely sunny days when everyone usually feels happy, especially if you happen to be a duck. Overhead, fleecy clouds drifted along in the blue sky. Whilst below, the reeds swayed in the gentle breeze and ripples danced on the pond.

                  But, Dulcie Duckling was unaware of her beautiful surroundings. She was too busy preening herself and gazing at her reflection in the water.  She liked what she saw.
                  In fact, she liked what she saw very much indeed!

                  Then she shook herself and stretched out her webbed feet before gazing at her reflection again.   

                  The other ducks always invited Dulcie to play with them in the pond. But it seemed she preferred to gaze at her reflection, rather than go into the pond and have fun playing in the water with them. They couldn’t understand her at all.

                  But then, none of them knew that Dulcie had a BIG problem. You see, she couldn’t swim. Just imagine being a duck and not being able to swim!

                  “Come on now, Dulcie, dear!” Mummy Duck would encourage her.  “It’s time you could swim. You’re not a little duckling now. Danny is a strong swimmer already.”

                  Danny Duckling was Dulcie’s twin brother. He was always boasting what a brilliant swimmer he was, especially each time he won a race. And just like all the other ducks, he couldn’t understand Dulcie, either. Perhaps that is why he often teased her.  Luckily though, Dulcie didn’t really mind at all.

                  What nobody knew was that Dulcie was AFRAID of water.  She thought that if she went into the pond, she would sink right down to the bottom! And this was the reason why Dulcie just sat and watched the other ducks swimming on the pond, instead of playing in the water with them.  Of course, she looked at her reflection in the water every so often, too!

                  “If I had a face like yours,” Danny teased, “I’d never look at my reflection, in case it scared me.”

                  “Now, that wasn’t very nice,” Mummy Duck quacked sternly.  “Tell Dulcie you’re sorry.”
                  Danny didn’t hear her though.  Being such a quick swimmer, he had already swum right over to the other side of the pond.

                  One night, when the ducks were all fast asleep, there was a terrible storm. Luckily, the ducks slept so soundly they didn’t hear the wind howling, the thunder crashing, or see the lightning flashing.

                  Next morning, when Dulcie went down to the pond to see how pretty she was, she had such a shock, and wondered whatever had happened. There were small branches of trees, twigs, and leaves, floating on top of the pond. These made the water so dirty, that Dulcie’s reflection had disappeared completely!

                  “Oh dear!” Dulcie sighed, near to tears. “Perhaps I’ll never see myself again.”
                  Then she noticed a branch floating near the edge of the pond. If I jump on that, she thought, I can float around the pond looking for my reflection. So that is what she did!
                  “Look everyone – I’m on the pond!” Dulcie quacked excitedly. “I’m looking for my reflection.” All the ducks rushed down to the pond to have a look.

                  Soon Dulcie was blown into a clean part of the pond. She looked down into the water and – lo and behold – there was her reflection! She certainly wasn’t going to let it get away from her this time.

                  Without thinking, she dived head-first into the pond…SPLASH!

                  Of course, Dulcie didn’t catch her reflection, but suddenly that didn’t matter any more.
                  Now, for the first time in her life, she was swimming.

                  “Look at Dulcie!” the other ducks quacked excitedly, hardly able to believe what they were seeing. “She’s swimming. Bravo, bravo, Dulcie.”

                  Next day, Dulcie hurried to the pond. She was pleased to see that the water was crystal clear once more. When she looked down into the water, her reflection looked up at her. She couldn’t wait to swim and play in the water with her friends again, so she ran into the pond as fast as her little webbed feet could carry her.

                  Each day, Dulcie practised swimming until she could swim further and faster. And then one day, she actually beat Danny in a race!

                  “Your swimming has improved a lot,” Danny praised her. But Danny couldn’t stop himself from teasing her as well.

                  “With a bit of luck, your face might improve one day, too!” he quacked, but not loud enough for Mummy Duck to hear! Now that Dulcie was able to swim well, too, she simply ignored Danny’s teasing.

                  After that, she could always be found swimming on the pond and having fun with her friends. In fact, she hasn’t felt sad since, not even when, at times, her reflection disappeared!

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                    Dr. Paul O’Callaghan, born in Co. Dublin in 1980, spent three years living and working with VMM (Volunteer Missionary Movement) in four countries in East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

                    ‘Haraka, haraka, haina baraka’ – there is no blessing in hurrying. This one maxim has come to epitomise for me the gift Africa has to offer the frenetic, tail-chasing world of the West. The continent that holds the cradle of humanity continues to teach us the art of stillness, through the beauty of its surrounding natural world and the emphasis its people place on spending time with others.

                    The gentle pace of life in Tanzania was thus a perfect location for a spiritual year of prayer, reflection and contemplation: a sacred space to discern the onward path of the beginning of the rest of my life.

                    Despite the panoply of religious options on offer and despite the natural competition that must exist between pastors, priests and sheikhs to hold onto their respective flocks, Tanzania is one of the most religiously tolerant and harmonious countries in the world.
                    Indeed, I believe that few countries would be able to emulate the level of respect for different religions that is so evident in this country. In this domain, I believe that Tanzania is a world leader and a shining example of how an officially secular state can also foster respect for all religions and the rights of people to freely gather, worship and choose for themselves what religion they would like to hold.

                    Long may this tolerance and respect continue.

                    The music here is rhythmically repetitive, choruses tend to be repeated many times over with different verses, but the singing is never tiresome or tedious. Instead, it is uplifting, even hypnotic, and certainly inspirational.

                    Faith is celebrated as an integral part of life, and the churches have achieved a seamless blend, mixing prayer with simply having a good time.

                    Take for example the New Year’s Eve midnight Mass, which began at the earlier time of 10.30pm so that Mass would finish at midnight. With the Mass finished an hour and a half later, the parish priest began the New Year countdown (in Swahili) from the altar: kumi, tisa, nane, saba, sita, tano, nne, tatu, mbili na MOJA.

                     Then, suddenly, the whole congregation erupted with spontaneous hugging, whooping, shouting, ululations and dancing. Aisles became impromptu dance floors as the blend of cultures and tribes got down to the serious business of dancing and having a good time.
                    Some of the young Masai men present removed their shukas (black and red shawls) and swung them in the air like revolving electric-fan blades, dancing with backs and shoulders perfectly straight, up and down, jumping higher and higher to the beat of the music.
                    Suddenly, amid the melee and general merrymaking, I looked down from the altar to see the parish priest crowd-surfing over the pews, supported on the hands of twenty people holding him completely horizontally and passing him down through the church!

                    It was a sight begging for a camera so I ran from the altar back to the parish house. By the time I returned, the crowd-surfing was over, but I discovered that my journey to the parish house had denied the fun-loving parishioners from carrying me around too, since the concelebrating priest and other novices also flew through the air, on wings of prayer and eager hands.

                    It was some party! The church was a perfect venue for dancing and singing and to cap it off, a trumpet player completed the festivities with the national anthem sung whole-heartedly and vigorously by the 500-strong congregation.

                    It would bring a tear to a glass eye just to see the pride and pleasure with which children as young as ten years of age sing their national hymn with such enthusiasm and enjoyment. ■


                    ■ These two stories are extracts from A Road Less Travelled: Tales of the Irish  Missionaries (edited by Aidan and Brendan Clerkin). It is available for the specially- reduced price of €5.35 on www.fourcourtspress.ie. It can also be ordered from the publisher Four Courts Press by writing to 7 Malpas Street, Dublin 8. The book is also available from all good bookshops, as well as by e-book.

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