From The Archives

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By Patricia Doyle

The blame must be laid fairly and squarely at Hercule’s door, that is Mr. Hercule Poirot. He had invaded my blissful space, as I sat in my back garden communing with nature. A soft summer breeze, a gentle ‘leoithne gaoithe’ caressed the air. Clouds, still water-laden, were reluctantly yielding to blue skies and sunshine. For a few fleeting moments all was well with the world.
The newspaper had been put aside, the radio rendered silent and the mobile phone placed out of earshot. Utter bliss. Mundane matters such as the benefits of maintaining a healthy diet, taking proper exercise, having a pastime or being creative were all in abeyance.

Then out of the blue, my “little grey cells”, like those beloved of dear old Hercule, decided “enough of this quiet and meditation”. Please bear with me and I will explain.

I’d been looking at an episode of Poirot the evening before. The drama unfolded in a beautifully ornate hotel, and, as usual, Hercule was in his element, unravelling the mysteries.

As I pictured the hotel, lo and behold I was fifteen again. It was summer holiday time and having a holiday job had just come into vogue. Up to then the genteel young ladies of the local Secondary Academy did not, categorically did not, take on jobs for the holidays. But suffice to say, the cailíní of my year, being of a more robust nature, like Boadicea, sallied forth, broke the mould and went in pursuit of holiday fortunes.

Some went babysitting, others found work in various establishments, such as hotels or shops, and those with a medical bent went to work in the local hospital.

I chose the hotel where I earned the grand old sum of twelve shillings and six pence per week, a veritable fortune to a cash-strapped fifteen year old. However, I must add that I was not found wanting in sharing the fruits of my labour. At the end of each week my good mother was duly presented with a lovely red ten shilling note, as I revelled in the joy of possessing the remaining half crown, to do with as I pleased.

But the hotel itself. Well! ‘The Hotel’ was very old fashioned, even by the standards of those days. The work was hard, but some would say great for character formation’, that’s if scrubbing floors and squeezing sheets by hand could be placed in that category.

But I loved working there. Being a small establishment meant that the hired summer help had to be a Jack-of-all-trades. At various parts of the day, I went from being a chambermaid to assistant cook, to being a waitress, and a washer upper. You see ‘The Hotel’ possessed neither washing machine nor dishwasher. Oh, how my character was forming!
I surpassed myself in the waitressing department, that is until it came to serving the final course at lunch, the tea. It was then that I unintentionally put the fear of God into the diners, as I brandished the huge teapot, which seemed to take on a life ot its’ own, swaying to and fro to the accompaniment of a chorus of “She’s coming, move out ot the way, danger”.
All said in jest, of course, as chairs were hastily moved to avoid the possibility of scalding because the blessed thing was too heavy and my wrists too weak. Thank the Lord I got through the season without inflicting any damage on the long suffering diners.

To some of the residents the hotel was a permanent home, to others, home for a season. And in the summer, home to returned emigrants and their families for that long awaited two weeks holiday.

They came to see their people, to reacquaint precious grandchildren with ageing grandparents. They came to tread the pathways of their youth and to store up memories of home, that would sustain them when they returned to the concrete jungles, that in those days were not too kind if you happened to be Irish.

My hotel, unlike the grand edifices frequented by Mr. Piorot, was a quiet, law-abiding establishment. And yet an air of mystery surrounded one or two of the long term residents.

Take Mr. L. for instance with the strange Germanic sounding name. Bespectacled, long nosed, and narrow faced, he left for work each day, summer or winter, hail, rain or shine, wearing his gaberdine swagger coat, gaberdine cap and carrying a rolled umbrella, which also served as a walking stick. He spoke in monosyllables, and only in reply to some absolutely necessary question posed by the wonderful and ever-patient housekeeper.

Where did he come from? Where or when did he go? He seemed to be there forever, then suddenly one day he was gone. Commercial travellers came and went and the occasional bank official graced the hotel with his presence.
But all good things come to an end and the best of friends must part. Summer waned and autumn breezes stirred the once green leaves, fast changing now to hues of red and brown, yellow and gold. School beckoned and I bade farewell to ‘The Hotel’. I hadn’t made my fortune. My pocket money was long spent. But I felt rich, rich in spirit. The lessons I had learned that summer were worth all the riches in the world.

‘The Hotel’ had opened its’ doors to me and, in one short season, I began to understand a little more about life and people and hard work. How lovely to be reminded of those bygone days, and those happy memories of youth. Thank you so much, Monsieur Poirot. ÷


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PAULA REDMOND recalls the visits of the famous Hollywood comic duo in 1952 & ‘53

The famous Hollywood comedy duo of Laurel and Hardy visited Ireland in both 1952 and 1953. The pair consisted of Englishman Stan Laurel and American-born Oliver Hardy, who was known to friends as ‘Babe’. Their slapstick comedy routine made them into international stars in the late 1920s.

They also successfully moved from silent films to the so-called ‘talkies’, something that many of their peers failed to do. However, by the end of the 1940s, ageing and with declining health, Hollywood started to turn their back on them, leading them to return to the theatre.

They embarked upon a series of European tours. For their first trip to Dublin in 1952, they played at the Olympia theatre for two weeks. Their act was well received and critics wrote positive reviews. They stayed at the Gresham Hotel during their visit.
The following year they returned to Ireland on September 9th, this time arriving by the passenger liner SS America to Cobh, Co. Cork. They had come to Ireland to rehearse while problems with Hardy’s visa for their UK tour were resolved.
Throngs of people came out to greet them. Boats in the harbour sounded their horns and St. Colman’s Cathedral rang its bells to welcome them. They were so overwhelmed by the warm reception they received that day that they spoke about it for many years to come.

Laurel later recounted how “All the church bells in Cobh started to ring out our theme song, and Babe looked at me and we cried.” Laurel later stated to a friend that it was the most memorable day of their careers.

Upon first seeing the crowds waiting on the quay, Laurel and Hardy were perplexed as to what was happening. With their fame having waned in the US, they were not expecting a welcoming committee.

However, when their signature tune ‘The Dance of the Cuckoos’ rang out, they knew the excitement was due to their arrival. The music was played using the carillon in the cathedral’s bell tower.

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By Alison Phillips

Over the years, much has been written about the Titanic disaster. Unbeknown to many however, Galway has a unique connection to the Titanic disaster.

For three years between 1908 and 1911, Jack Phillips, who would go on to become the senior wireless operator on the Titanic, worked at the high-powered wireless station at Derrigimlagh, three miles outside of Clifden. He would later lose his life in the disaster.

John G. Phillips, known as ‘Jack’ was born in Godalming, Surrey on the 11th April, 1887. He was the third child born to George Alfred Phillips and Ann (née Sanders). Jack’s father was the manager of ‘Gammons,’ a draper’s shop in Godalming.
In 1902, at the age of fifteen, Jack finished his schooling and went to work as a telegraph boy at Godalming Post Office. After four years at the Post Office, he decided to further his career by going to sea as an operator for the Marconi Company.
Following six months of training at the Marconi Training School in Liverpool, Jack successfully completed the course and went to sea for the first time on the White Star Liner Teutonic.

Over the next two years, he worked as a wireless operator on various liners, including the Lusitania and the Mauretania. After two years at sea, Jack was sent to work at Marconi’s transatlantic transmitting station at Derrigimlagh, three miles outside Clifden in Co. Galway.

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In their new book, bestselling authors Colm Keane and Una O’Hagan look at Ireland’s connections to the small town in southwestern France, in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, where, in 1858, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a young local girl named Bernadette and which is now one of the most visited shrines on earth.


On a cold, dark February day in 1858, a 14-year-old girl named Bernadette Soubirous left her home in search of firewood. She lived in the worst slum dwelling in Lourdes. A one-roomed cesspit, it was dark, dank and infested with lice. It smelled of manure. There was mildew in the corners and in the cracks. This squalid basement, a former gaol, was home to Bernadette, her unemployed father, mother, sister and two brothers.

On that icy day, Bernadette headed with her sister and a sister’s friend to a rocky outcrop known as Massabielle. There, she became separated from her companions. All of a sudden, she was attracted by the sound of rushing wind. Startled, she looked towards a niche in the Massabielle grotto, where she saw a soft light and a figure resembling a lady. The story of that ‘beautiful lady,’ as Bernadette later described her, would transform Marian devotion and the lives of millions in the years ahead.

Over the next five months, Bernadette conversed with the lady on 18 occasions. Word spread like wildfire and captured the public’s imagination. It was revealed that the lady had smiled at Bernadette, prayed with her, taught her a special prayer, disclosed secrets – which were never publicly divulged – helped identify a previously-unknown spring, asked that a chapel be built at the site, and eventually declared that she was the Immaculate Conception.

Miracles were soon being reported. One of the earliest involved a two-year-old boy, Justin Bouhort, who was on the edge of death from consumptive fever. Late one afternoon, his mother ran with him to the grotto and immersed him in the spring which the lady had identified to Bernadette. After the mother had thrust the child up to his neck in the icy water, Justin was cured. Seventy-five years later, at the age of 77, he attended the canonisation of Bernadette in Rome.

Within weeks of the first apparition, news reports of the happenings at Lourdes reached Ireland. The first arrived by electric telegraph at the offices of The Dublin Evening Mail. The wire report used the word ‘miracle,’ which must have caught the editor’s eye in his Parliament Street office. On that day, in 1858, the newspaper – later renamed the Evening Mail – printed the first account in Ireland of the apparitions at Lourdes.

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The other day I bought myself tickets for Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets concert at the Convention Centre in Dublin next April.

For those who don’t know Nick Mason was the drummer in Pink Floyd and Saucerful of Secrets was one of the group’s early albums a few years before they found global fame with Dark Side of the Moon. Mason now tours with a very talented group of mainly session musicians and the band also includes Gary Kemp, formally of Spandau Ballet and the composer of all that group’s big hits from the Eighties (Gold, True etc).

Of course Pink Floyd were very much my generation of musical heroes and last year I went to see another past member of the band, Roger Waters, in concert at the Three Arena — brilliant stuff. But I’ve also been contemplating how many of today’s musical stars will still be able to sell tickets and do concert tours in fifty years’ time?

Now, don’t get me wrong; I am not going down the route of ‘it was all better in my day’. But the truth of it is, as we all know, records don’t sell any more and if there are no sales there’s no competition and therefore no proper benchmark for people to judge their musical endeavours by.

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As the Rugby World Cup kicks off in Japan, Seán Creedon talks to former Irish rugby international Tony Ward about the many highs – and a few lows – of his sporting life.

The first soccer World Cup was staged in Uruguay in 1930, but it would be another 57 years before sports fans would get to experience a Rugby World Cup tournament.

The competition, which was staged in Australia and New Zealand in 1987, came too late for many of Ireland’s former rugby stars.

Players like Jack Kyle, Tony O’Reilly, Willie John McBride and Mick Gibson had to be content with the old Five Nations Championship every spring against England, Scotland, Wales and France to show what they could do.

However, Tony Ward, who has been the victim of some strange decisions by Irish Rugby selectors during his career, can tell his grandchildren that he did play for his country in the first-ever World Cup tournament.

Ward wore the number 10 jersey in the 46-19 win over Canada in Dunedin at the end of May 1987, and in the 32-9 win over Tonga at Ballymore, Brisbane in June, 1987. Paul Dean started Ireland’s first game where we were beaten by Wales and Dean was back at fly-half for the final game in our group when we lost to Australia.

The game against Tonga was to be the last of Ward’s 19 caps in an era where international players didn’t win anything like the number of caps current players do.

‘‘What I remember from that game in Ballymore was a banner on the terraces with the slogan K.R.A.M, which meant ‘Keep Rovers at Milltown’, and as a former Rovers player the banner resonated with me,’’ said Tony.

Ireland has competed at all eight Rugby World Cup tournaments and it will be nine later this month when the tournament is staged in Japan for the first time.

Our first game is against Scotland in Yokohama on September 22 and the other countries in our group are Japan, Russia and Samoa.

This time round Ward probably won’t be travelling to Japan as he took early retirement as Rugby Editor of the Irish Independent earlier this year. However, he hopes to write some columns on the tournament.
I sat down with Tony in the famous Goat Grill sporting pub in Dublin to talk about Ireland’s chances in the Rugby World Cup, but first we rolled back the years to the career of one of Ireland’s most talented rugby players, who also won an FAI Cup medal with Limerick in 1982.

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Cork’s Famous Quays

As Cork’s famous quays undergo a process of change, Maurice O’Brien takes a look back at their interesting history

Cork’s Coat of Arms bears a timeless message, namely that sea and seaport are defining features for the city.
Its accompanying motto Statio Bene Fide Carinis (translated as a safe harbour for ships) can certainly be taken as a reference to the enormous lower harbour between Cobh and Roches Point, where the greatest of modern vessels find sufficient depth to enter the calm waters away from the Atlantic and Irish Sea.

However, the age-old motto refers also to the fact that Cork city, nearly fifteen nautical miles inland, has for centuries boasted a dockland on its doorstep.

Coal boats plied to the famous Coal Quay, now part of the city centre. Bridges near the City Hall and Brian Boru Street once had opening spans to allow ships to travel to George’s Quay and Merchants Quay on the south and north channels of the River Lee respectively.

At the height of its activity the city quays occupied an extremely busy series of wharfs below and around the meeting point of the two channels. From the 1940s to the 1980s these thriving docks were at their maximum tonnage feeding the automotive, grain, livestock and fruit importation industries to mention but a few. They added colour, character, sound and spectacle to city life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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As The Sunday Game celebrates forty years on TV, Seán Creedon talks to its presenter of the last eleven years Des Cahill about his love of all things sporting and his life in broadcasting.

The BBC’s Match of the Day programme, with its distinctive theme music, has been regular Saturday night viewing in many Irish homes for over 50 years. Meanwhile, for the past 40 years the strains of the James Last tune Jägerlatein has signalled the start of summer and RTE’s Sunday night GAA highlights programme, The Sunday Game.

The Sunday Game made its debut on July 8th, 1979 when RTÉ2 showed just one game, the Munster hurling final at Semple Stadium, Thurles, where Cork beat Limerick 2-14 to 0-9.

Galway-born Jim Carney and the late Bill O’Herlihy were co-presenters in the early years. The programme made the headlines when one of their analysts was former Camogie player, Liz Howard. Female analysts and female presenters are very common in 2019, but 40 years ago it was big news to have a woman on Irish television talking about sport.

Seán Óg Ó Ceallacháin, who is fondly remembered for his long-running GAA results programme on Radio Éireann on Sunday nights, temporarily replaced Carney for two years, but then another Galway-man (via Waterford), Michael Lyster, took over from Carney in 1984, the GAA Centenary Year, when the programme got a revamp.

When the programme later expanded to feature live games, the Ireland’s Own columnist presented both The Sunday Game Live and The Sunday Game highlights programme later the same evening.

In 2004, when presentation of the afternoon programme moved from the RTÉ studios in Donnybrook to various venues around the country, Pat Spillane took over as presenter of the Sunday night highlights programme. Five years later the former Kerry footballer was replaced by Des Cahill.

Now well into his 11th season as presenter of the hugely popular Sunday night programme, is Des happy with the way the programme is going?

‘‘I am enjoying it. You couldn’t call it hard work because I love sport, but I am certainly kept very busy as I still do a lot of radio work also. We have great viewing figures and I don’t want to sound boastful, but our audience figures compared to Sky are not an issue. I realise that a lot of GAA people cannot afford to purchase a Sky Sports package.’’

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By Victor O’D Power

Some people don’t pay any heed at all on stories about ghosts and fairies, but, for all that, why, the ghosts are there – aye, and the ‘good people’ too – and tis many a time I met them myself, in my rambles and I had a narrow escape one time, that I wasn’t carried away into a Lis.

So let ye listen to me now for tis a true story ye’re going to hear tonight, every word of it.

Away in the Co. Kilkenny it happened, many long years ago now; and the first part of the story was told to me by Peg Reilly, who was witness to it, and the other part of it I saw with my own two eyes for myself.

Peg Reilly, at the time the queer event took place, why, was nursing a little baby belonging to one Mrs. Doherty, at a place called Ballycroney, in the parish of Glenmore; and Bid Doherty was laid up at this time, the poor craythur, with the pleurisy, so Peg was looking after the little child – a grand little girl of just thirteen months, she was, with big blue eyes and yella hair and a skin like milk, with a pink blush in each of her cheeks, for all the world as if she was painted.

Little Minnie was Bid’s first child, and the poor mother, God help her, was cracked alive about the infant.

Bid was after marrying a man old enough to be her grandfather; though, at the same time, mind you, she was mad in love with a cousin of her own – one Murtagh Walshe of Ballyreddy; but Murtagh’s people wouldn’t hear of him marrying Bid, as her fortune wasn’t big enough, and they were striving to force him to take another girl who had four hundred pounds to get.
And, faith, the end of it was that Murtagh cleared out of the country and went away to England to work; and early in the next year, Bid’s people coaxed her to marry old Micky Doherty; and, when Murtagh heard this he got reckless like, and he picked up with an Irish girl in Swansea and he married her, and, for a year and a half after that, he never wrote a line to his own people at home.

Then, one fine day, didn’t he come back to the old home, just to say goodbye to them all, as he was about to start for America – himself and his wife and their infant son. He didn’t bring the wife or the child with him, as he knew well enough that there wouldn’t be much welcome before them, why; and the day before he left his old home for America, didn’t he stroll over to Ballycroney to see his old sweetheart – Micky Doherty’s wife – once again and to bid her farewell, God help us.

Of all other places, wasn’t it just alongside of the Ballycroney rath they chanced to meet on that August evening and Bid was nursing the infant daughter and she was sitting down on the green, grassy bank under the hawthorn bushes at the edge of the rath, and she was singing a little song to the baby as Murtagh, all of a sudden, came over straight to her through the field.

And, if he did, when his eyes fell on Bid and the infant in her arms, he couldn’t keep back the tears, for the poor chap always loved her, and faith, sure poor Bid was just as bad about himself, every bit, and when she saw him crying, she took to cry too, and their hands clasped together, and not a word could they speak for fully five minutes.

And, in the end, they got a bit easier in their minds, and, when Murtagh took notice of the infant and when he saw ‘twas the living image of Bid herself, a thought darted through his mind, like a flash of lightning, and, if it did, he made no delay to follow it up.

And, “Bid girl,” says he, “since yourself and myself were disappointed about one another, the best thing we could do not is to plan out a match between your little girl here and my little son, when the two of them are of an age to get married.
“Your little girl, God bless the craythur,” says he, “is the stamp of your own self and my little son, Dannie, is the image of his father, so they tell me anyway. And ‘twould be an ease to my mind, Bid,” says the poor chap, “to know that, that even though you and myself were parted, yet our two children would be happy together, in the years to come as husband and wife.”

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