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    Eugene Daly continues his series on various aspects of Irish folklore and customs

    ‘Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it’ is a witticism attributed to the American writer Mark Twain.

    Irish people certainly talk about the weather a lot.

    This is not surprising as we have such a changeable climate; it has been often said that in Ireland one can experience the four seasons in one day.

    Weather affects our lives in many different ways – the clothes we wear, the type of houses we build, our recreations, sports and pastimes.

    There can be no doubt that the weather is part of what we are. For example, there is sound scientific evidence that the profusion of red hair and freckles in the Irish results from our sun-starved climate.

    Farmers and fishermen, particularly, are very dependent on the right weather. This is true even today when most fish are caught by large trawlers. Combine harvesters and other modern machinery make it easier for farmers to sow and harvest their crops.

    However, last year farmers were badly affected by a long cold wet spring.

    Of course, our fathers and their forbears had it harder, when all of the work was done by hand and later by horse-drawn machinery. For example, ‘saving’ the hay was very difficult when there were unsettled summers.

    Our forefathers, particularly farmers and fishermen, were adept at predicting the weather from the signs of nature, animals and birds. My father, who grew up on Cape Clear Island, learned to ‘read’ the weather from the signs of nature and from the lore passed down to him by his ancestors.

    Being a fishing community, they were always watching the sea, the sky, their environment. The following are a few examples I learned from him, all in Irish as that was the language of the island. ‘Cosa gaoithe ar maidin, cosa calma um thráthnóna’ – Legs (rays) from the sun in the morning is a portent of windy weather; legs from the sun in the evening is a sign of calm weather. Súil circe na ré (Hen’s eye of the moon): this is a circle around the moon and a certain sign of ‘broken’ weather; Saotrún brothaill – this is when the wind follows the sun all day and calms completely at sunset.This is a sign of very good ‘settled’ weather.

    Droch-aimsir má thagann an rón isteach i mbeál an trá – bad weather is coming if the seal comes into the strand; Droch-chomartha ar muir an léargas a bheith go maith – If there is good visibility at sea and places appear to be nearer, bad weather is coming; Glaonn an crotach nuair a bhíonn múrbháin sa spear – the curlew cries when there are rain clouds in the sky.

    The following is a selection of weather proverbs derived from the behaviour of animals, birds and insects: Rain is due when a herd of cows lie down together in the middle of a field, reluctant to rise; bad weather is coming when a dog eats grass; when a robin sits on the highest branch, the day will be fine; the cry of the snipe will bring frost at night; when the hen picks her plumage a downpour is coming; when flies gather on the water of a well, good weather is coming; spiders in the crannies of walls signed sweltering days to come.

    Donegal postman Michael Gallagher is Ireland’s best known amateur weather forecaster.

    As man and boy he has absorbed the weather wisdom of the natives of the Bluestack Mountains.

    He says: “All along the western seaboard the people never forget how to read the signs. When I was a child, my mother would always wonder why I took so long going to the shop for messages, but I was stopping to observe nature and to ask older people how they knew what the weather was going to do. “What I learned early on is that animals are more intelligent than people when it comes to reading the weather signs. We can learn a lot from observing them.”

    Here are some of the creatures that Michael looks for guidance on the weather to come: When autumn comes, if the badger stockpiles leaves and branches at the mouth of his sett, this can be taken as a sign that winter will arrive early.

    If spiders weave their webs in the shelter of doorways and windowsills, expect bad weather; if they spin their web on the tops of bushes in the early spring, good weather is due. When midges gather in large numbers, rain is on the way.

    Sensing that the weather is going to stay fair and settled for a spell, hens will stray further than normal from their roosts, foraging in open meadows. If bad weather is due, they stay near their roosts. The horse shares a bad-weather homing instinct with hens. If it’s going to stay fine the horse will venture to higher ground to graze, but if the weather is about to take a turn for the worse, it will stick close to home. 

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      Singer and songwriter, P. J. Murrihy, looks back on a music career stretching over 40 years and still going strong. The artist took time out to discuss his career with Con McGrath.

      The list of people P. J. Murrihy has written songs for reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the Irish country music scene, names like TR Dallas, Mick Flavin, Larry Cunningham, John Hogan, Kathy Durkin, The Duets (Tommy & Kathleen Moran), Brendan Shine, Seamus Moore, Margo, Patrick O’Sullivan, Foster and Allen, Nathan Carter, Michael English and Daniel O’Donnell.

      With ten albums to his own name, P. J. has most recently penned a song dedicated to the memory of Donal Walsh, the Kerry teenager whose anti-suicide message touched the hearts and minds of the nation.

      The song entitled ‘Don’t Leave Behind a Broken Heart’, went to No 1 in the Irish Country on iTunes 12 hours after being released. It remained at the number one spot throughout the Christmas season.

      The song, written by P.J., also features Nathan Carter and Cherish the Ladies, with backing vocals from P.J’s daughters, Moira and Maeve Murrihy. Another song written by P.J., currently making waves in the charts is, ‘The Band is Back in Town’, brilliantly performed by singing star Michael English.

      P. J. says of his career: “I am still living on the home farm with my family.”

      Humbly ignoring his many musical accomplishments since his birth on the ocean side at Shandrum, Mullagh, Co. Clare.

      Discussing his childhood in Clare, P.J. said: “I’m back in the West where they used to say that ‘if you threw a stone, you’d hit a musician’. My mother and father loved music, but they never played. My mother was a good singer, so were my uncles, and I had relations that played. You know, I often thought that if they had come up in a different time, they’d probably be singing and playing themselves.”

      A lover of Gaelic football, P.J. played minor and Under-21 for Clare, as well as playing for 17 years with his own GAA Club Kilmurray-Ibrickane. P.J. is a farmer, who has introduced a Japanese breed of cattle known as Wagyu.

      This breed of cattle is now becoming the most popular breed in the world because of it’s tender marbled meat. For such an established performer P. J.’s music career began so simply, as he says himself: “I got interested in music from listening to the radio, to the Clancy Brothers, The Dubliners and other folk bands.”

      When he was asked to join the Kilfenora Band, he put all the songs he had learned to good use and never looked back. Some years later he formed a new band with Michael Sexton and Jimmy Ward and played all over County Clare. P.J. came to national attention in 1989 when he recorded ‘Pat Murphy’s Meadow’.

      The song spent many weeks in the Irish charts and as a result he became a household name in Ireland and beyond. After many years playing with the Bannermen, P.J. joined up with Roscommon’s own Seamus Shannon. Having first met in 1993, the pair have since played venues all over the world, and have collaborated on two albums together.

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        Margaret Smith profiles the pioneer of hospice care

        When Rose Hawthorne was born on 20th May 1851, the third, and some say favourite, daughter of the famous American author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, she seemed destined for a life of luxury.

        Even when she had lost both her parents, her only son and her alcoholic husband and she was only forty-five, she could still have looked forward to a comfortable life.

        But she spent her remaining years caring for those worse off than she was and her life became more of a ‘riches to rags’ story than one of ‘rags to riches’.

        Her childhood years were spent travelling around Europe. Her father served as American Consul in Liverpool and from England the family moved on to Italy, where Rose was fascinated by the “scruffy looking Friars” she saw walking through the streets of Rome. One story claims that one day she literally ‘ran into’ Pope Pius IX in the Vatican gardens.

        The family had only been back in New England four years when her father died and her mother decided to take the children to live in Germany. In Dresden, the Hawthornes met another American family, the Lathrops, and Rose quickly became very friendly with one of their sons, George.

        The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war forced them to leave Germany, but no sooner had they arrived back in England than her mother died of typhoid in 1871.

        After burying her mother, Rose decided to marry George Lathrop, much against the wishes of her remaining family. Not only did George appear to be mentally unstable, he also had what one magazine described as “problems with intemperance”. The family’s misgivings proved to be correct. It was a tempestuous marriage, George may have been a talented writer, but he suffered frequent illnesses, no doubt brought on by his addiction to alcohol.

        The birth of their son, Francis, did seem to bring the couple closer for a while and their future looked bright. Sadly, Francis died at the age of five, but, somewhat surprisingly, both Rose and her husband were attracted to Catholicism and their conversion in 1891 was an act, which, it was said, “scandalised Protestant America.”

        The couple may have agreed on their faith but unfortunately this wasn’t enough to keep them together. By 1895 they had separated and George died three years later from cirrhosis. Finding herself alone and with no responsibilities, Rose embarked on a life of selfless service to those cast out by society – cancer sufferers.

        A friend, Emma Lazarus, author of the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, suffered from cancer and, whilst she had been well cared for until her death, there were so many others who were not so fortunate. Many believed that the illness was contagious and sufferers weren’t allowed to stay in New York’s hospitals. 

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          By Joan McGurk

          Jem, our coal delivery man in the Fifties, was a tall, thin, monosyllabic individual with a vacant stare in his eyes.

          Dressed in a threadbare jacket and trousers with a greasy tweed cap on his head, every exposed part of his body was ingrained with coal dust.

          His dumpy little wife, Molly, was the brains of the business. Not only did she help shovel the coal into the sacks and weigh them on the old rusty scales, she also “kept the books”.

          From a home-made cloth purse with drawstring around her neck, which she shoved down her ample bosom, she dealt with all their financial transactions without the aid of a bank or a Post Office. Jem was both illiterate and innumerate, but Molly more than made up for her husband’s shortcomings as she was a canny woman with a natural flair for business.

          Although Jem earned a good living, the couple lived frugally with Molly keeping every spare penny prisoner in her homemade purse. For many years, they lived happily together in a small terraced house with the coal yard at the rear.

          On Friday nights, after Jem had made his last delivery, Molly would give him his pocket money, which was just enough to cover the cost of two pints at the local pub. Molly’s own social life consisted of one-monthly outing to the women’s sodality.

          Walking at a slow stuttering pace with a horse and cart, Jem would arrive at our house looking as if he had come straight down the chimney. He would first remove the two steel pegs from the back of the cart, which caused the attached chains to jangle as the flap-board fell down. Jumping up into the cart, he would drag a sack of coal to the edge, jump down and load it onto his shoulders.

          As we had no back entrance, Jem would have to carry the heavy sacks through our house to the coal bunker in the back yard. On wet days, he would throw an empty sack around his shoulders to prevent the rain-soaked coal-sacks from seeping into his jacket. As soon as he arrived my mother would spread old newspapers on all the floors to keep them clean.

          Although Jem couldn’t count, it didn’t matter as most people had the exact change ready. Nobody ever tried to cheat him as ours was a God-fearing generation with respect for the Ten Commandments. One day, the locals were shocked to hear that Jem’s wife, Molly, had died suddenly at the age of 50 from a brain haemorrhage. Jem was devastated as not only was she his wife, she was also his best friend and business partner.

          People began to wonder if Jem would be able to carry on the business alone. After Molly’s death, Jem continued with his coal rounds as usual but said even less than he had before. “Yis, Mam” and “No, Mam” were the only words he uttered during this time. A few months later, the local gossips reported that Jem had “taken up” with a glamorous childless widow who lived locally. Within a short time, Jem’s life took a turn for the better.

          Now dressed in a new donkey jacket and cap, heavy trousers and strong leather boots, he carried out his coal deliveries from a small open-topped lorry; the three sides of which could be let down for easy access to the cargo.

          Very soon Jem was seen driving the widow around in a black second-hand Morris Minor and instead of going to the pub alone on Friday nights, Jem and his lady friend began to dine at the local hotel. Within a year of Molly’s death, Jem and the widow were married. Now scrubbed to within an inch of his life, and suitably dressed in a new grey suit, black shoes and an Anthony Eden hat, Jem looked every inch “the gent” as he drove his new wife to Sunday mass. In time Jem reduced his 6 day working week to a 5 day one with a two-week annual holiday every year spent in the Isle-of-Man.

          When he reached the age of 65, Jem and his second wife sold the house and the coal yard and bought a bungalow on the outskirts of the town. Overnight, he discovered a talent he never knew he had; gardening. Jem’s garden became a show-piece which regularly won the local gardening competition.

          Jem spent the last 10 years of his life in quiet contentment with his second wife, tending to his beloved garden, driving out into the countryside and eating out whenever the notion took them. He died a happy and contented man at the age of 75. It has often been said that behind every successful man there is a women. In Jem’s case there were two! 

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            Pete’s Pets – advice from our resident vet

            Buddy is a friendly little hamster, used to being handled. When he stopped eating, his owner was worried, and she brought him to see me for a check-up.

            When I opened Buddy’s mouth, the problem was immediately obvious. His lower front teeth had become very overgrown.

            They were pushing upwards against his hard palate, preventing his mouth from closing properly. If he could not close his mouth, he could not chew his food.

            There was no doubt that his overgrown teeth were severely affecting his ability to eat.

            Overgrown teeth are a common problem in the world of small pets. Rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils, mice and rats share the same type of dental problems for a simple reason: their teeth are continually growing.

            These small herbivores survive by eating plant matter that needs to be ground down into a fine paste before it can be digested. As a result, their teeth become very worn down, compared to the teeth of bigger animals such as dogs or cats.

            To compensate for this, their teeth grow continually throughout their lives. In the wild, the natural diet and lifestyle of small herbivores ensures that their teeth remain healthy.

            Regular gnawing on grass, wood and other hard substances ensures that the teeth are kept short and sharp. In captivity, small pets tend to be given a very rich diet. They are given energy-rich nuts and grains in vast quantities compared to their wild cousins. As a result, they do not need to spend so much time gnawing on semi-digestible low-energy vegetation.

            The disadvantage of this comfortable lifestyle is that their teeth are under-used. The tips of the teeth are not worn down as much as they should be. Gradually, the teeth grow longer and longer, until, as in Buddy’s case, they may be two or three times as long as they should be.

            If you can imagine how your mouth would feel if your teeth were much longer than normal, you can get some sense of difficulties that can be caused by overgrown teeth. Treatment of overgrown teeth can be difficult. The front (or “incisor”) teeth are relatively easy to trim, but sometimes the back (“molar”) teeth are also overgrown, and these are much more difficult to reach. A general anaesthetic can be needed, with special rasps and files to reach back into the depths of the animal’s mouth. Even simply trimming the front teeth can be challenging. Traditionally, a simple clipping instrument is used, similar to a type of nail clipper. The teeth are trimmed while the animal is conscious, which can be stressful for the small animal, and there is a risk of the teeth or tongue being damaged while carrying out such a delicate procedure on a wriggling small animal.

            The latest recommended technique is to give the hamster a general anaesthetic, and the teeth can then be trimmed in a more controlled way using a high-speed dental cutting drill. However this involves the risk of anaesthesia for the animal, and considerably increased costs for the owner. Once the teeth have been trimmed, it is important for the hamster owner to take steps to try to prevent a recurrence of the problem.

            Pieces of wood should be placed in the cage, so that the hamster can keep his teeth trimmed by regular gnawing. Pet shops often sell special chews to be used for this purpose. As soon as I’d trimmed Buddy’s teeth, he was able to open and shut his mouth normally again. When he returned home, he ate a meal at once. Hamster mix looks unappetising to us, but to Buddy, this was a gourmet meal. 

            Read Pete’s Pets every week in Ireland’s Own

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            Although Ireland does not have a designated national dog, the common conception is that the Irish Wolfhound is the official canine symbol of Ireland, but if Michael Collins had dodged that assassin’s bullet in 1922, it would be the Kerry Blue Terrier that would hold that national status.

            Shortly before he met his death, Michael Collins had laid down plans to adopt the Kerry Blue Terrier as the officially recognised dog of the new Irish Free State.

            He tried to push an act through the Oireachtas to promote the Kerry Blue to a national symbol, but it was forgotten about after his death. Collins carried a great fondness for the small, yet sturdy, breed. The dog’s fierce, yet loyal, behaviour resulted in the ‘Big Fella’ becoming a keen follower of the breed and, during the dangerous years of the War of Independence, he risked blowing his cover in order to bring his own Kerry Blue terrier to a dog show.

            At that time all dog shows were held under licence from the English Kennel Club, but Collins and a few others, including Oliver St John Gogarty, founded the Dublin Blue Terrier Club and held its own show outside the English jurisdiction. It’s first show took place on October 16th, 1920, at Longrishe Place, Summerhill, Dublin. It was also the occasion of Michael Collin’s 30th birthday. He brought his dog, ‘Convict 224′ to compete in the show and the day proved to be a great birthday celebration for Collins when his beloved Kerry Blue terrier won first prize.

            Also at the dog show that day was British Captain, Wyndham Quinn, who resided at the Vice Regal Lodge in the Pheonix Park and presented the trophy bearing his name, while the Under Secretary for Ireland, Sir James McMahon, unknowingly brought his dog to compete alongside that of the most wanted man in Ireland.

            To this day the name of Michael Collins, along with the name of his dog, is still etched on the trophy which is now in the hands of the Irish Kennel Club which stemmed from the Dublin Blue Terrier Club. Today, under the Irish Kennel Club, the ‘Collins Cup’ is annually awarded to best of breed at Kerry Blue Terrier shows. The name of Collin’s prize winning Terrier supposedly originated from his time in Frongoch prison camp after the Easter Rising, but he is also to have said that he named his prized Terrier after Kerry man Austin Stack who served time in Lewes prison under the name ‘Convict 224.’

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              By Arthur Flynn

              One of Steven Spielberg’s most challenging role as producer/ director was the historical drama Schinder’s List.

              The film was based on the Booker Prize winning novel Schinder’s Ark by Thomas Keneally, an Australian novelist.

              The film centred on the real life story of Oskar Schinder, a German business man who saved the lives of over a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories.

              The notion for a film about Schinder’s Jews was proposed as early as 1963. One of the survivors made it his life’s mission to tell the story of Schinder.

              When Spielberg received a review of the book he immediately became fascinated by the subject and it awakened feelings of his own Jewish heritage. He convinced Universal Pictures to buy the rights to the novel.

              He did not believe that he was mature enough to direct a film about the Holocaust and attempted to pass the project onto several other directors.

              Amongst the directors he approached were Roman Polanski, Sydney Pollack, Sidney Lumet, Martin Scorsese and Billy Wilder but they all rejected it.

              Finally Spielberg decided to direct the film himself on a budget of $22 million. He forewent a salary for the film believing that it would be ‘blood money’ and a flop.

              Several writers contributed to the screenplay including Thomas Keneally, Kurt Luedtke and Steven Zaillian.

              The strong production team included cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and Editor Michael Kahn.

              When Spielberg approached John Williams to compose the score he felt it would be a challenge. He said to Spielberg, ‘You need a better composer than I am for the film.’ Spielberg responded, ‘I know, but they’re all dead.’

              Itzhak Perlman performed the theme on the violin. He considered many leading actors for the leading role of Oskar Schinder including Warren Beatty, Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford, Stellan Skarsgard and Mel Gibson. Finally Spielberg cast relatively unknown Liam Neeson.

              The director had been impressed when he saw him perform in Anna Christie on Broadway. The other leading roles were then filled.

              Ralph Fiennes was cast as Amon Goeth, the camp commander. Ben Kingsley filled the role of Itzhak Ster, the factory manager. Caroline Goodall was Emilie, Schinder’s wife; Jonathan Sagall was Poldek Pfefferberg, Embeth Davidtz as Helen Hirsch, Mark Ivanir as Marcel Goldberg and Andrzej Seweryn as Julian Scherner.

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              0 2073

              Eugene Daly continues his series on various aspects of Irish folklore and customs

              I was sad this summer to see a decline in the number of swallows-in my part of west Cork at any rate.

              Just a handful, where in years past there were dozens soaring, gliding, swerving, making arcs and loops. I miss their effortless grace of movement, each wing-stroke a pleasure to watch. Their delightful twittering song is suggestive of running water and equally soothing. The swallows haven’t disappeared but this amateur bird-watcher has noticed a definite decline.

              Also in decline is the cuckoo; I haven’t heard his happy song for five or six years. Unlike Wordsworth, I can’t rejoice at his song: ‘O blithe new-comer I have heard/, I hear thee and rejoice/. O cuckoo! Shall I call thee bird/, Or but a wandering voice?’

              Changes in farming methods is probably the main cause for the disappearance of the corncrake pictured).

              In my childhood, it filled the summer evenings with its craking sound and often disturbed our sleep, with several of them going ‘crake crake’, repeated hundreds of times from early evening to late at night. The Scottish poet, Norman McCaig mourns the corncrake in his poem: ‘A Voice of Summer’; ‘In this one of all the fields I know the best/, All day and night, hoarse and melodious sounded/, A creeping corncrake, coloured like the ground.’ The last verse is sad: ‘Summer now is diminished, is less by him/. Something that it could say cannot be spoken/,As though the language of a subtle folk/ Had lost a word that had no synonym’.

              The corncrake, of course, still holds on in the north-west of the country and along the Shannon, but is long gone here in the south-west. So, the corncrake gone and the cuckoo and swallow diminished in number. Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t end there.

              BirdWatch Ireland has a Red List of birds whose population or range has declined by more than half in the last twenty-five years. These include the Barn Owl, Black-necked Grebe, Chough, Corn Bunting, Curlew, Lapwing, Nightjar, Quail, Yellowhammer and some others. It saddens me to learn this, especially those that were familiar to me in childhood. Of the above list I was very familiar with the waders, the curlew and lapwing, and the lovely yellow bunting, the yellowhammer.

              Rachel Carson, in her book, And No Birds Sings, images a world without birds. What an awful thought!

              Yellowhammers were plentiful in the rough farmland of Turkhead when I was young. The poet John Clare describes them well in his poem, ‘The Yellowhammer’. ‘In early Spring when winds blow chilly cold/The yellowhammer trailing grass will come/To fix a place and choose an early home/With yellow breast and head of solid gold’.

              Lonely bird of the bogs and the seashore, the curlew is a beautiful bird, with a haunting call. Norman McCaig describes his voice: ‘trailing bubbles of music over the squelchy hillside’. He describes the curlew’s song thus: ‘Music as desolate, as beautiful as your loved places, mountainy marshes and glistening mudflats by the stealthy sea’.

              The draining of our bogs is given as the main reason for their rapid decline. It is in the bogs they nest, though it is on the shore that most people see them.

              Lapwings, those beautiful green plovers, known for their acrobatic flying and ‘peewit’ call, were plentiful in our fields and on the shore when I was young especially in cold wintry weather.

              Exotic birds with radiant green plumage above, snow white below and its unique turned- up crest, they have alternative names – Peewit, Green Plover, Pie-wipe, etc. One small bird, the Corn Bunting, cousin of the Yellowhammer, is almost definitely extinct in Ireland. The Corn Bunting was once one of the classic birds of open farmland. It depended almost entirely on human agriculture. The switch from hay to silage and the absence of winter stubbles has made it extinct in all of Ireland and most of Britain. It still survives in the Orkneys. A little brown bird with streaks of gold, it is not as handsome as the yellowhammer.

              Donnchadh Ó Drisceoil, the late Cape Clear writer, in one of his essays published in The Irish Times, mourns the disappearance of the ‘gearra-goirt’ (small bird of the field) which is one of its names. It has (had) many alternative names – Barley Bunting, Briar Bunting and the delightful Corn Dumpling was used in Ulster. In Irish it is Gealóg Bhuacair, which translates as ‘bright cow-dung bird’; it is also known as Gealbhán Coirce (oat’s sparrow).

              The intensive removal of agricultural ‘weeds’ and the global drop in insect numbers has contributed to its decline. Another little bird, the Twite, a member of the finch family, has almost disappeared. They are found only in the far west and north-west in mountainy areas. The word ‘twite’ describes their call. In Irish they have a wonderful name Gleoiseach Sléibhe (mountain linnet). In summer they have a beautiful pink flash at the base of the tail. They are also known as Heatherlings, Heather-Grey, Twitty, etc. 

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                When war broke out in August 1914 one of the great rallying calls of the politicians and the Catholic Church in Ireland was that Irishmen should enlist to fight on behalf of Belgium, a small catholic country being terrorised by Germany.

                It was not uncommon in those early days of the war for Belgium to be likened to Ireland in terms of how it was being made to suffer for its catholic faith and the politicians who favoured the war were quick to use the analogy in their efforts to persuade young catholic Irishmen to enlist in the British army.

                In general, the war also found favour within the Catholic Church in Ireland which was aghast at the early reports coming out of Belgium suggesting, rightly or wrongly, that the population there was being persecuted because of its strong catholic faith.

                So, in those early weeks and months of the war the Catholic Church in Ireland was to the forefront in the condemnation of Germany’s actions but as the conflict dragged on the very obvious support from the pulpit for it waned especially when the number of casualties mounted and the tales of horror emerging from the trenches began to make an impact on the Irish people.

                In 1914 the Catholic Church had real authority in Ireland and so the Irish people listened to and obeyed what was being preached from pulpits across the country. Many priests were quick to claim that Belgian Catholics were at the mercy of an unforgiving and monstrous Germany and that it was the duty of Catholics everywhere in Europe to go to the aid of Belgium.

                Ireland of 1914 listened to its priests and it was no surprise that thousands of loyal Catholic Irishmen answered the call to arms by their church. While many Catholic priests preached in favour of the war and openly encouraged their male parishioners to enlist some of the clergymen were prepared to lead by example and joined up as soon as war was declared.

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                0 2087

                By John Corbett

                November is a month in which many historical events took place.

                Michelangelo’s paintings of the Sistine Chapel were shown to the public for the first time on November 1st. 1512.

                The first Protestant minister to take an interest in the religious affairs of Native Americans, Reverend John Eliot, began his attempts to convert the Indians in this month in 1846. He came to be known as ‘The Apostle of The Indians.’

                November also saw the entrance to King Tutankhamen’s Tomb being discovered in 1922. It was in this month that Ellis Island received its last immigrant in 1954. The Suez Canal was opened on the 17th, in 1869.

                Catholics weren’t permitted to eat meat on a Friday in former times but US Catholic bishops decided to dispense with the rule in November 1966 and the hierarchy in other countries followed suit.

                On the technology front, the US Weather bureau began operating in the 1870’s. The Soviets launched Sputnik 2 in November 1957 and the first stereo radio appeared in the same month in 1955. The first long distance telephone call without the assistance of an operator, took place on November 10th. 1951.

                Operator assisted calls continued to be the norm in this country into the 1970’s. An important medical advance occurred with the patenting of the first artificial leg in November 1846.

                Nowadays, many athletes rely on prosthetic limbs to enable them to participate in sporting competitions. I recall seeing a dancer on TV last year who actually danced on ice using artificial legs. It made me reflect how helpless some of the rest of us are as we struggle to keep our balance, even though we have our own natural limbs!


                November has been called the ‘dark month’ of the year and not without reason. Daylight is disappearing rapidly, outdoor work is slowing down and lamps are being lit earlier each evening. One Senior used to comment perennially, “Soon there’ll be no day in it at all.”

                Storytelling was highly rated in this country at all times but when November came the darker side of life seem to take possession of men’s minds.

                Nowadays people dress up as witches or goblins at Hallowe’en but this didn’t really happen when we were children.

                ‘Trick or treat’ games were all the fashion then. We loved to disguise ourselves and call to the neighbours’ houses, performing songs or recitations.

                In return we received small sums of money or ‘goodies’ such as fruit, sweets or chocolate. We also took great delight in fireside sagas, even though we found some of them terribly scary. Were the tellers trying to frighten the life out of us, or did they truly believe the sagas that they were recounting?

                Perhaps they got a kick out delving into the occult and they just wanted to share their experiences with their listeners? Did they, as some of them claimed, have personal encounters with spectral entities from another dimension? 

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