From The Archives

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Francis Kaye pays tribute to the showband star and legendary performer that was the late Sonny Knowles

During the 1960s, the late Sonny Knowles was a showband star, travelling around the country four or five nights a week as a member of the Pacific Showband.


He had a number of hit singles including a great version of the Eddie Arnold classic, ‘No One Will Ever Know’ and the follow-up, ‘We Could’. With Seán Fagan, who was the band’s lead singer, he made the charts again with a ballad, ‘I Only Came To Dance With You’, arranged in the style of the Everly Brothers.


In 1968, when the band was revamped, prior to its heading for Canada as Dublin Corporation, Sonny joined Dermot O’Brien’s Clubmen and continued on the showband scene for a few more years before leaving and concentrating on cabaret where he was an immediate success, becoming known as The Window Cleaner because of his habit of making circles with one hand as he held the microphone with the other.
Sonny, who passed away recently at the age of 86, didn’t start out as a singer, in fact he was a classically-trained musician.


Born in The Liberties area of Dublin in 1932, he was christened Thomas after his father but became known to all as Sonny as he was the ‘baby’. His parents died while he was a child and he was raised by his elder brother Harry, who for many years was a trombone player in the RTE Concert Orchestra.

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Trailblazers & Record Breakers


Shay Given and Robbie Keane’s records will stand for a long time, writes Seán Creedon, as he shares interesting statistics involving Irish players in the Premier League.

Christmas is traditionally a busy time for footballers in the English Premier League (EPL). This year there are full series of games scheduled for Saturday, December 22nd, St. Stephen’s Day, Saturday, December 29th and New Year’s Day. Some of those fixtures may be re-scheduled to accommodate television coverage nearer the date.


Statistics show that if a club is bottom of the EPL table at Christmas, then the likelihood that come May they will be relegated. West Brom (2004-05), Sunderland (2013-14) and Leicester (2014-15) are the exceptions, as they all survived the drop to the Championship, having been bottom of the table at Christmas.


In the seventies and eighties there were several Irish internationals playing with top clubs in the old first division, players like: Liam Brady, David O’Leary, Kevin Moran, Frank Stapleton, Paul McGrath, Ronnie Whelan and Steve Heighway.


However, in recent seasons the number of Irish players with clubs in the top half of the EPL has fallen dramatically with most of the Irish internationals now playing for clubs in the lower half of the EPL or in the Championship. Last season only 18 Republic of Ireland players featured in the EPL and this season the number is approximately 12.

The first series of games in the EPL were played on August 15th, 1992 when Sheffield United’s Brian Deane made history by scoring the first goal after five minutes against Manchester United.


When the 26th EPL season ended last May, Shay Given’s record for most appearances by a Republic of Ireland player still stood, as did Robbie Keane’s record as our top scorer in the EPL.


Given made 451 League appearances for: Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Stoke City before retiring last year. The nearest Republic of Ireland player to Given is John O’Shea who made 445 EPL appearances.

 

Continue reading in this year’s Ireland’s Own Christmas Annual

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Born to a prosperous family in Cork three hundred years ago this month, Nano Nagle overcame many obstacles, including serious health problems, to found the Presentation Order of Nuns which would go on to play a vital role in the provision of schooling for girls throughout Ireland and the rest of the world, writes Deirdre Raftery.

 

Nano Nagle was truly one of ‘Ireland’s own’. Born exactly 300 years ago, she belonged to the prosperous Nagle family of Ballygriffin, Cork.

They owned and leased land in the Blackwater Valley, some of which was used for orcharding. Indeed, Nagles were one of the biggest producers of apples to the robust market for Munster cider.
As a child, Nano enjoyed the comfort of living in a large cut-stone house, surrounded by green fields. The Nagles would have had servants, and the comforts that educated Catholics enjoyed, such as books, entertainments, and visiting tutors.


Nano’s parents decided to send their two eldest daughters to the continent to be educated. It was not uncommon for wealthy Catholics to arrange to slip their children out of the country, to attend schools in France and Spain.


At under-supervised harbours in Dungarvan and Clonakilty, Catholics were illegally conveyed to France. Nano and her sister, Ann, somehow managed to make the journey, so that they could have a convent education.


It is likely that the girls were at boarding school in Ypres, with the Benedictines – who were known as ‘the Irish Dames’. There were many Irish nuns at the convent, and they would have mainly spoken English. Indeed, Nano later wrote that she had poor French.


The main purpose of a convent education was to teach girls ‘accomplishments’, such as music and fine needle work, and to form their faith. Around 1746, Nano returned to Ireland. Her father had died, and in the years that followed, she also faced the deaths of her mother and sister.


Wealth did not protect the Nagles from the dangers of living in Penal Ireland: they were Catholics, and outspoken. Nano’s uncle, Garrett, was accused of being a supporter of the exiled Catholic King James II. Another uncle, Joseph, was described by Nano as ‘the most disliked by the Protestants of any Catholic in the kingdom.’

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By Anne Friel

Some nights ago I had a few friends over for a slap-up meal. It was more for the get-together and the chat than anything else.


Sitting around the table afterwards talking about this and that and fifty other things, Carmel (my Sligo friend) said, “Can you remember the telegrams?” Could we remember!


Hailing from North Mayo, of course I could. Anthony from Donegal happened to be a “wire boy” in his young days. Had he stories!


Telegrams were usually brief and to the point. Down our way George always delivered the telegrams on his push bike. To see George coming to your door was ominous. I remember the only time I saw my Dad cry.


The one-liner read, “Margaret died suddenly, signed Anthony”.


Margaret was his much-loved sister in law in California. Despite 6,000 miles separation he was united in spirit with his grieving brother.


George was an oldish man with a well lived-in face; he always wore a sailor hat and heavy lensed glasses. He seemed to have been well travelled and as the saying goes, “An Té atá Siúlach bíonn sé scéalach”.


We loved George and his stories and he loved my mother’s brown bread and a mug of good strong tea.


Oh, I nearly forgot, you had to have a shilling to cover the delivery cost. It was a great service as George would book a hackney/taxi in Killala to take my parents to the wake or funeral.

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Shane MacGowan of The Pogues, portrait, at the family home where he grew up, Ireland, 1997. (Photo by Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images)

From growing up in a building that stood as a War of Independence safehouse to co-writing one of the greatest Christmas songs of all-time, Shane MacGowan remains a mine of stories and anecdotes to rival the best of raconteurs living in our midst. He shares some of his special memories over a glass of wine, and a WWII documentary, with Shea Tomkins.

 

The dark evenings have reclined into the bleak afternoons and there’s a familiar Irish winter chill nipping at the air as I make my way through the emptied streets of Dublin towards Shane MacGowan’s home, signalling that Christmas, and all its bells and whistles, are not far away on the horizon.


This evening, the famed Pogues’ front man, and co-composer of one of the most popular Christmas songs, Fairytale of New York (a song he later says he should hate because he has heard it often enough, but surprisingly doesn’t) has invited Ireland’s Own around for a festive chat. And to my delight, I find him in fine conversational form.


Shane is just finishing his evening meal when I arrive, watching the end of a documentary on World War II that is set in Tunisia, and features legendary Hollywood director, Frank Capra.


“This is a very good documentary,” he comments, and while I sip on a steaming cuppa served up by his welcoming partner, Victoria, he proceeds to tell me of his interest in history, and how much of it he learned as a young boy from his extensive line of family members in Carney Commons, near Borrisokane, in County Tipperary.


“I was actually born in England, on Christmas Day, even though my parents weren’t living there at the time,” he explains.

“My old man saw to it that his bigger sister, who was much better off than us, would pay for it all. So I was born in a private maternity hospital in Kent. Then, when I was three months old, they took me back to Tipperary where the Lynches, my mother’s people, were from. My parents were married in Kilbarron, not far from there.”

Continue reading in this year’s Ireland’s Own Christmas Annual

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Alison Martin recalls the TV series starring Brendan Gleeson that first aired on RTÉ in December 1991.

 

Over the years, Michael Collins has been depicted in various television dramas and films. The Treaty has received relatively little attention in comparison to some of the larger scale productions such as Neil Jordan’s 1996 biopic Michael Collins.


When it was first broadcast on RTÉ in December 1991, however, The Treaty received overwhelmingly positive reviews and was praised for its accurate depiction of historical events. It was Roger Bolton, an experienced TV producer with a proven record of dealing with Irish issues, who originally came up with the idea of making a programme about the negotiations that had led to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921.


Bolton later stated that he had originally wanted to make a drama but ‘was prepared to fall back on documentary’. The director, Jonathan Lewis, on the other hand, claimed that he had initially been approached by Bolton to make a documentary. However, due to the lack of archive film or surviving participants, he had come up with the idea of turning it into a drama.

Continue reading in this year’s Ireland’s Own Christmas Annual

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Much-loved RTE broadcaster Mary Kennedy fondly remembers her childhood Christmases growing up in Dublin, in conversation with Kay Doyle.

Christmas Eve just wouldn’t be the same for many hundreds of thousands of homes across the country without RTE’s Christmas Carol Concert on television as they prepare for the big day. Whether it’s Carols from Kilkenny, Cobh or Dublin the music played is as familiar, and as welcome, as the show’s presenter, Mary Kennedy.
Mary has been bringing the Christmas specials to our screens for many years now, along with the festive Nationwide programmes, highlighting the many events taking place across the country at this time of year.


Speaking with Mary, I can tell she’d already excited to begin filming the 2018 Christmas Carol Concert.


“We film the Christmas Carols, which I absolutely love, before December, to go out on Christmas Eve. We filmed slightly later this year because of the Presidential Election,” she says.


Mary Kennedy exudes a natural warmth and energy that is almost contagious and no doubt part of the reason she has had such a successful broadcasting career. She loves to talk to people, hear new stories and new voices. And thinking about her festive plans is bringing a smile to her face, as she remembers the plans her mother also made years ago.


“We had a tradition growing up in St Brigid’s Road in Clondalkin, Dublin,” she says, “we held Christmas in our house – number 31 one year and then number 33 the next year (her aunt, uncle and three cousins lived next door to her.)


“The beginning of Christmas was always my Dad and Uncle Tom going down to Carlow to get the turkey. My grandmother was from Carlow and we had relatives down there.


“Aunty Kate would then get the turkeys ready for eating, hanging them in the garage for ages. We’d all fight over the claws and frighten people with them. As I’m saying this I’m thinking of my youngest daughter who is vegan and imaging how horrified she will be!”

Continue reading in this year’s Ireland’s Own Christmas Annual

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James Scannell recalls the MV Kerlogue’s Bay of Biscay rescue of drowning German sailors a few days after Christmas in December 1943.

During the 1939-1945 Emergency one of the ships engaged in keeping Ireland supplied with essential items was the 335 gross tons MV Kerlogue, 142 feet length, built in 1938 in Holland for coastal and cross-channel shipping and operated by the Wexford Steamship Company.


On 18th May, 1942, MV Kerlogue was put on the Lisbon run, commanded by Captain James Gaul of Clifford Street, Wexford, with officers holding ocean going certificates and experience.


For the next two years, MV Kerlogue carried agricultural produce from Ireland to Britain, where she received her Navicert or ship’s passport from the British authorities, then carried coal from Britain to Lisbon or a Spanish port, before returning to Ireland with grain, general cargo, fruit, or pyrites from Spain, after calling at a British port for inspection, making these journeys unescorted, alone and out of convoy.


The MV Kerlogue sailed from Lisbon on 27th December, 1943, a day later than scheduled due to the death of a crew member who could not be buried until after Christmas.


Around 9 a.m. on the morning of 29th December, 1943, MV Kerlogue was sailing northwards through the Bay of Biscay, about 360 miles south of the Fastnet and approximately the same distance from Brest, France, when she was circled by two German Focke Wolf Condor long range aircraft which signaled by flashing light ‘SOS lifeboats – follow’ and then flew in a south-east direction firing veray light flares indicating the direction they wished the ship to travel.


Her master Captain O’Donoghue altered his course to that indicated by the aircraft and by 11 a.m. arrived at the scene of battle which had taken place the previous day, encountering a scene of life rafts rising and falling on the rough sea with men on them or holding onto ropes attached to them, and others floating in the water.


The previous day the German Narvik-class destroyer Z27 and two Elbing class torpedo boats, T25 and T26, had been sunk. They had intended to escort Alsterufer, a German blockade runner which had left Yokohama, Japan, on 4th October, 1943 with supplies of rubber, tin, wolfram/tungsten, chinchona, fats, and iodine to France from Japan, and was near the French coast on 27th December, 1943, when she was spotted by an RAF Sunderland flying boat and was subsequently attacked and sunk by a Czechoslovak manned RAF Liberator bomber.

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By Eileen Casey

When Chester Alfred Beatty passed away in 1968, his popularity and high standing was evident by his large funeral, the tolling bells of St Patrick’s Cathedral and the words that were spoken by most Reverend Archbishop Simms, who referred to Beatty as one of the great romantics.


And indeed, the man whose legacy resides in a library named for him in Dublin Castle, was certainly that. He especially loved the Orient, travelling extensively in Japan and China in 1917. Throughout his lifetime, the man, whose collecting interests were first attracted by stamps, rocks and minerals as a child, also collected a host of honours and awards. Buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, he was the first man to receive an Honorary Irishman Award.


The man who donated what has been described as the “richest, most breath-taking gift any one individual has presented to a nation that was not even his own,” (Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times, 2000) was born in 1875. The collection that began with stamps soon expanded to include colourful, differently shaped, snuff bottles (a lifelong interest) and by the time, Beatty’s largesse was housed in a library in Dublin Castle, it included Japanese woodblock prints, jade books, Arabic, Persian and Turkish manuscripts.


These manuscripts include more than 250,000 copies of Islam’s sacred Koran, Biblical papyri dating from the early second century, Babylonian clay tablets, Russian icons and Chinese dragon robes. Among the many awards Beatty received is one from the Vatican, conferred because of his encouraging of bible studies.


Chester Beatty first began travelling the world as a young mining engineer, having finished top of his class at Columbia’s School of Mines. His working life saw him excavate mines from Denver to the Klondyke, but in Colorado, his health, which was never robust, was to suffer as a consequence of silicosis, the lung disease which affects miners and which dooms the sufferer to a short life. Miraculously, Beatty eventually lived to the ripe age of 93.


By the age of 29, Chester Beatty was Chief Mining Consultant to 90 per cent of the world’s mines. However, while fortunate in his working life, misfortune soon visited his family life. His first wife, Grace, died of typhoid fever when Beatty was just 35, leaving him with two small children.


However, in 1913, Beatty married Edith Dunne (who was also to predecease him)and they lived in the family home at Kensington (Baroda House). When World War l broke out, Beatty gave the house over to the Red Cross (as he also did in WWll) while he travelled to Japan and Egypt. He even bought a house near the Pyramids and started a small library there.

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By Helen Morgan

During World War 1, Bovril played a large part in supplying the troops with food and nourishment throughout their time in active service.


The “War to end all Wars” as it became known, was one of the deadliest conflicts in history and originated in Europe following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.


It began on the 28th July 1914; some four-and-a-half weeks after the assassination, and ended on the 11th November 1918. The total number of both military and civilian casualties was estimated to be 37 million people.


‘Johnson’s Fluid Beef’ as Bovril was first known, was invented by John Lawson Johnson, a Scotsman, who, in 1870, won the contract to supply one million cans of beef to the French Army during the Franco-Prussian War.


As there was not enough meat of any kind available in England at the time to fill the order, Johnson came up with the idea of mixing beef extract with yeast and putting the product into small jars. All that was necessary was to add boiling water to the jar’s contents to produce a healthy hot drink.


Within 20 years of its invention sales of Johnson’s product took off in England with at least 3,000 pubs and grocery shops selling the product.


In 1886, Johnson renamed his product ‘Bovril’ after reading references in a book. The first part of the word ‘Bo’ comes from the Latin word ‘Bos’ meaning ox. (It is interesting to note that the word Bó is also the Irish word for cow). The second half ‘Vril’ was a made-up word used by the popular science-fiction author, Bulwer Lytton in his 1871 published novel The Coming Race.

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