From The Archives

0 2315

By Verdun Ball

Over two centuries ago in Ireland there were cures for almost everything. The cure for a dog bite was to place some of the hair from the dog on the bite; the cure for a cut in the hand was to place a cobweb on the cut and allow the blood to seep through the cobweb. For measles, nettles were boiled and a drop of whiskey added to the juice.

Faraban was a weed hated by farmers. If you had a bad cut you chewed a faraban leaf, then spat on the blood. This stopped the bleeding immediately. Faraban was also used to cure sores.

Ragweed was used to heal sore throats, chickenweed for sore eyes. Ivy was used to cure corns, by pulling a leaf, then putting it on the corn. It was also used for curing chillblains – by boiling it, then bathing them in water.

Soap, melted in a spoon over heat with sugar added, was used to ‘draw’ boils. Vinegar was used to kill chillblains and wasp stings.

For a bad cold, buttermilk was boiled with two teaspoons of sweet milk. The buttermilk always curdled and cured the cold. To cure corns, caster oil was put on a clean piece of cloth. Changed a couple of times a day, this was always guaranteed to ‘root out the corn’. Alternatively, you could go see a doctor.

0 1451

The past had been playing on Maura’s mind …..but her attempt to right a wrong has an unexpected outcome

By Fergus Caulfield

Maura was resting easy in the armchair by the fire, her head back and her left foot tapping away to a song on the radio by The Fureys, a timeless classic she had often sung to her children when they were still just about of an age not to be embarrassed by that kind of thing, …“I love you as I’ve never loved before”…she sang, dueting with Finbar’s soft raspy voice, closing her eyes in delight when Davey Arthur’s banjo solo took over.

It was hard to believe so many years had passed since she first heard the song. Her three children had long been adults and two of them, Pat and Sinéad, now had children themselves.

Her own Billy had passed, and here she now sat – an old woman warming her legs by the fire – as she had done all her life, still enjoying the song as much as she did so many decades ago.

Maura wasn’t one for maudling so she shook herself, drank down what was left of the cold tea, leaned forward in the chair so she could reach the walking frame, took a moment to concentrate and pulled herself to her feet, automatically leaning to the left, taking the weight off the right hip she had managed to crack after falling over the stupid cat. She would have skinned him alive if she caught him, especially after he added insult to injury by meowing at her whilst sitting near her head licking his paw, and poor Maura lay on the cold floor hoping to God she had her mobile phone in her apron. Good fortune was on her side and an ambulance was there within half an hour.

There was little the hospital could do for her, so she was back home after a few days, having been told to rest, stay off the hip and a community nurse would call every few days.
Clare was her name, a nice girl, but young, and Maura always found it hard to take advice from someone who had such little life experience…compared to Maura at any rate.

She shuffled to the sink and washed her cup. The place was tidy enough, it would have to do; dragging the hoover around was beyond her at the moment, not that she hadn’t tried, but even Maura knew when she was beat. It could be weeks or months before she was back on her feet properly – if ever. Old bones weren’t conducive to speedy repair.

As she wiped down the draining board she saw Clare’s little car pull up outside. She topped the kettle up, turned it on and shuffled back to the chair. Clare knocked once on the door and entered as Maura had previously told her to do.

“Hello and how are you today, are you well?” Clare asked, smiling as she always did, sitting down on the couch.

“Couldn’t be better,” Maua replied sarcastically as a stabbing pain hit went through her hip.

“Great,” Clare replied, well used to the sarcasm after three weeks as her nurse. “I see you have been resting like I recommended,” she continued, using a little sarcasm of her own as she looked at the boiling kettle?

“You wouldn’t want me to die of thirst would you?” Maura asked indignantly. “I can’t sit still all day.”

“No, that’s true,” Clare acknowledged, “but only move when necessary for the next couple of weeks. We’ll get you some physio and you’ll be back to full strength in no time.” She smiled at Maura, knowing she wasn’t convincing either of them. “Did Sinéad come round this morning?”

“Yes”, Maura replied, stoking the dying embers of the fire, “the dutiful daughter came round and helped her geriatric mother out of her bed and made her some breakfast.”
“Great,” Clare said, “let me get you a nice cup of tea and I’ll have a look at your hip.”

So Clare did as she had done for the last few weeks, trying her best to ignore Maura’s complaints, remaining positive in the face of adversity.  

“Right. That’s me done. I’ll be an hour or so earlier on Thursday because I have a call to do over in Whitechurch after I see you.”

“Whitechurch is it”? asked Maura, her ears pricking up. “I used to know a fella over that way. His family had the farm at the bottom of the valley, over the bridge past the pub. Seán was his name, Seán Ryan. That takes me back.”

She laughed as she thought back to those days, and noticed that Clare looked a little caught off guard.

“Is it Seán you’re seeing?” asked Maura seizing the opportunity. “Well, what a coincidence. Is he well? I suppose not, or you wouldn’t be calling on him.” Maura paused and looked enquiringly at Clare.

“Sorry, Maura but I have to respect patient confidentiality. It wouldn’t be right for me to say anything. I could lose my job.”

“Musha, don’t worry about that. Sure aren’t I the soul of discretion,” Maura said, almost believing herself. “I have only seen him a handful of times over the years, at funerals and the like. He went to England for a while. Well, there’s a blast from the past. Oh, and of course, about fifty years ago we were engaged to be married!”

Maura looked at Clare, pursing her lips, nodding slightly as if this was privileged information she was now party to, hoping for dramatic effect.

“Really,” said Clare, zipping up her coat, who obviously hadn’t understood the impact of what she had just been told. “Well, perhaps you can tell me that story another time, but I must be off now. See you in a couple of days. Take care, I’ll see myself out.”

And she was off, leaving Maura thinking about poor Seán. Someone must know what ailed him. Time for a bit of detective work. So Maura rang round her circle of friends and acquaintances, trying her best to squeeze even the slightest bit of information from them and she succeeded on the third call, speaking to an old school friend in the next village.

The news wasn’t good. Seán had cancer, and was recovering after an operation and still lived alone on the family farm in Whitechurch.

After Maura hung up, she thought about the year she had spent being courted by Seán, most of it still remarkably fresh in her mind, especially the night she told him that she was breaking off their engagement.

She tried not to be harsh when he asked the reason why, for he had no inkling this had been coming, but he kept on at her, insisting he could make things right between them; but he couldn’t, because Maura didn’t want him to.

She didn’t want to be a farmer’s wife and she didn’t want to be his wife, and she eventually told him so, and it wasn’t an amicable parting. Within a week he had left on the boat for England, not returning for ten years or so when he came back to take over the farm.

He had never married and Maura had started to feel twinges of guilt as the years rolled on. Perhaps now would be a good time to build bridges, to say sorry, because by all accounts there didn’t seem to be too much time left.

Maura considered what her next step should be. She was going to visit him; that much she was sure of. But should she just turn up unannounced, or ring in advance? She would make that decision tomorrow, but now was time for bed. It’s amazing how sitting around all day can tire you out.

The next day passed as the previous weeks had. Sinéad came both morning and evening to help her mother and Maura considered her options with regards to Seán, finally deciding on an appropriate course of action in her mind. On the day that Clare was due to visit, Maura was ready, fully dressed, her hat and overcoat on and she was out the door before Clare had pulled up the handbrake.

“Where are you going,” asked Clare a little bewildered. “You can’t be walking far in your condition.”

“I won’t be walking anywhere,” replied Maura, opening the passenger door, painfully easing herself onto the seat. “We’re going to see Seán.”

“We are not going to see Seán! Do you want me to lose my job? I can’t bring visitors with me. I’m a nurse, not a taxi.”

“Well, he said it would be okay,” replied Maura, fighting with the seat belt. “In fact, he said he would be delighted to see me. Would perk him right up, better than medicine and he doesn’t have many visitors.”

“This is highly irregular,” Clare said, not sure what she should do. “You spoke to him?”
“Yes, I spoke to him. Now let’s get on. I really should be resting, come on child.”

The farm house didn’t seem to have changed much over the years. A new roof and windows and a coat of paint, but from the outside it was still recognisable. A Collie greeted them on arrival, barking its head off, bringing Seán round from the back where he had been tending to his vegetable patch.

“Hello Clare, welcome. Get down Patch, knock it off,” he scolded the Collie who took no notice and sat at Clare’s feet, anxious for some attention.

“Hello. Nice day for a change. I’ve brought your visitor for you”. She nodded at Maura who had just opened the passenger door, fighting again with the seatbelt, this time to take it off.

“My visitor?” Seán said in surprise. “What visitor?” He looked to see who was getting out of the car.

“Maura. You said for her to come and see you….didn’t you?”

“Maura who?” Seán asked, going to see who was getting out of the car, more than taken aback when he saw Maura O’Connell, as he had known her, struggling to alight.

“Give us your hand, there’s a good fellow. These little tin cans weren’t built for elderly ladies with a bad hip, that’s for sure.”

Seán did as he was asked, helping Maura to her feet, and into the house at her direction before he could ask any more.

She stood in the kitchen. “I’ll stand here a minute to stretch myself. It’s nice to see you again after all these years. I was sorry to hear about your situation.”

Seán was still looking at her in surprise. Clare had put the kettle on and was pretending to check the medication in the cupboard, not wishing to get dragged any further into Maura’s plot.

“You’re looking well”, Maura said, giving him the once over. He had lost weight and his hair was thinning, probably the medication, and completely grey. But he didn’t look bad, all things considered, and he was quite a few years older than her.

“And to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?” Seán asked, sitting down. “To say I wasn’t expecting you would be a bit of an understatement.”

“Well, I heard you weren’t well,” Maura said,“from an old friend of mine.” She emphasised the ‘old friend’ for Clare’s benefit. “And I thought I should pop over here and see you before…you know…before…I just thought it would be nice to see you, give my regards to an old friend who is having a difficult time.”

“It looks like you’re having a more difficult time than me,” Seán replied, looking at Maura, who was leaning to one side like the Tower of Pisa, holding her hip, with a face so drawn and white you’d think she had just broken the hip.

“Sure, I’m fine,” Maura said. “The road down here isn’t very kind. It’s somewhat rocky even for the country. Anyway, being on the level, you know, with both of us not getting any younger, and you in your condition, I wanted to make amends…to say sorry.”

“Sorry?” asked Seán inquisitively, taking the cup of tea from Clare, “and what have you be sorry for. Sure we have only spoken a handful of words to each other over the last years.”

“No, Seán. I’m talking about a lot further back than that, when we were engaged.” Maura sat down next to him, taking her tea off Clare, who promptly disappeared out the door, thinking it best perhaps to wait in the car or play with Patch.

“I think about how upset you were the night I broke our engagement off. It’s still fresh in my mind, you know, and then you left for England, and never married. I suppose because of the trauma I caused you, and you never had children. And I feel bad because of that, like I ruined your life. But I couldn’t marry someone I didn’t really love. I am sorry.”

Maura looked at him like he was a helpless child; with pity, patronisingly and a little smile.
Tempted as Seán had been to interject, he waited until Maura had stopped speaking, took a sip from his tea to compose himself and said, “Maura, this might come as a surprise, but when you finished with me I was relieved. Our marriage would have been a disaster. I would have broken it off myself if it wasn’t for my mother. I could tell you wanted more than I could give you and I must say you weren’t the easiest woman to get on with…even without being married.”

“But…” Maura tried to interrupt, but Seán was flowing now. “Breaking the engagement off was the best thing that ever happened to me. It gave me an excuse to go abroad, leave the farm for a while and explore the world, even if it was only England.

“And I met other women there Maura, in fact I was engaged twice, but I eventually realised that marriage wasn’t for me – the cons did outweigh the pros, so I came back when I felt ready and took over the farm. And I am glad I did.

“My heart was always here. I don’t want to be hurtful, but I dread to think what our lives would have been if we had been married. Neither of us would have been happy. So you don’t have to be sorry. If anything, I’m sorry this has been playing on your mind for so many years.”

It was unusual for Maura to be listening rather than speaking, so she drank her tea to hide the dumbstruck expression on her face, eventually breaking the ensuing silence quietly.
“Well. What can I say to that? Funny how you can judge a situation so wrongly. There’s nothing else to say I suppose.”

Maura started to her feet, putting her cup down on the table.

 “Ah, sit down out of that,” Seán said, “and finish your tea. You’ve come to visit so I might as well get my money’s worth.

“Now, how are those children of yours, and grandchildren as well by now I suppose?”

So Maura sat back and they spoke. Small talk, but talk all the same, probably more than they had told each other when they were supposedly in love, planning their life together.
Clare had to tell Maura three times that she was leaving before getting her in the car and Seán waved them off, smiling to himself.

The car was quiet on the way home. Maura was tired, her hip was throbbing but she was pleased she had seen Seán, bringing some closure to a chapter of her life she often thought about – even if her pride had been hurt.

“I hope he pulls through, Clare. He’s a good man.”

“He may well do,” Clare replied. “His operation seems to have been successful, so hopefully he’ll go into remission.

“He’s not a young man, but he seems happy and at peace with his life. What more could anyone ask for?”

“What indeed?” thought Maura.

Maybe young women do have sense afterall.

Read original short stories in Ireland’s Own every week

0 1841

A household name in Irish fiction, Kay Doyle visits Marian Keyes to reflect on her continually successful career.

This time twenty years ago, a virtually unknown Irish writer was putting the finishing touches to what would be one of the most exciting books to emerge in modern female Irish fiction. Limerick-born Marian Keyes was a 31-year-old law graduate, finding her voice in the writing world.

Today, with 15 fiction novels and four non-fiction, she has sold over 22 million copies worldwide and her books have been translated into 32 different languages. As we sit in Marian’s splendid Dun Laoghaire home, she looks back at the early days and it is clear that she is hugely grateful for how far she has come.

Marian Keyes began writing while on the road to recovery from a difficult period in her life in her early thirties. Living in London, she worked as an office administrator, but often found herself at her desk early, working on her writing.

Having submitted some of her short stories to Poolbeg Press, Marian was advised by Kate Cruise O’ Brien to work on a full-length novel. And so began Watermelon, the quirky book which secured Marian Keyes a three-book deal and etched her name into a new genre of female Irish writers.

However, she is quick to point out it wasn’t as glamorous as it sounds.

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

0 1840

By Pat Grant

May is a beautiful month, and in years gone by my father always took me down to Patrick Street in Cork to watch the children who had just made their Holy Communion. They serenely walked in a procession on the Sunday evening after their big day, small hands joined in prayer as they sang the lovely hymns which they had practised for their first Holy Communion. They also wore their Communion dresses and veils.  

I could almost smell the newness of their gorgeous clothes and couldn’t wait for my seventh birthday. Then I too would make my communion and wear a white dress and veil and sign the hymns.

My time came at last when I was seven years old. My mother bought the white shoes early in the year.  
She intended to get my clothes gradually so she wouldn’t have a big expense all at once.  

She put the shoes in their box under the bed, and whenever she didn’t want me in the kitchen I would go upstairs, take them out of the box and try them on. Then I would slowly walk up and down with my hands joined, practising for the May procession. I just couldn’t resist those lovely shoes.  

One night I went to the bedroom window and waved them out hoping someone passing would admire them. One of them dropped out of my hands and fell out on the street down below. I didn’t know what to do as I had been warned to go to bed and I was afraid to go downstairs again. So I put the single shoe back in the box again shoved it in deep under the bed and never told anyone.

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

0 1756

It is 50 years since John B. Keane’s classic story ‘The Field’ was first staged. Thomas Myler tells the story behind one of the most popular Irish films ever made – plus enter a competition to win a pair of tickets to the hit play at The Gaiety

Playwright, poet, novelist, essayist and ballad writer, John B Keane was one of the most prolific literary figures of the last century – a colossus whose death 13 years ago, May 30, 2002 to be exact, was mourned at home and abroad. It is said that there is hardly a home in Ireland without a John B. Keane book.

Two of his stories were turned into movies, The Field and Durango. But it is The Field which is best remembered because of its sharper story, more defined dialogue and particularly as it had a major international star, Richard Harris, in the title role. The cast included John Hurt, Sean Bean and Brenda Fricker but it was really Harris’ movie.

The renowned Limerick-born actor, a noted hellraiser on the set and off, made the part his own, a role that fitted his persona and personality like a pair of comfortable slippers. Harris gave a bravura performance in the larger-than-life role of Bull McCabe, the patriarchal farmer with a ferocious temperament and blazing charisma.

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

0 2023

By Moira Gallagher

Preparation for First Communion began when I moved into First Class. Along with the shiny new English and Irish readers came a small attractive little book with cream coloured pages printed in red ink: The First Communion Catechism.

For our homework each night we were told by our teacher to memorise the answers to two questions from the catechism.

My father would listen and coach me until I was word perfect. Prayers had to be memorised too, the Confiteor and the Act of Contrition for confession, plus some prayers to say before and after Holy Communion.

After Easter the preparations began in earnest. We learned the correct procedure for confession and then practised it by going in turn to the teacher’s desk for ‘pretend confession’.

The formula consisted of reciting ‘Bless me Father…….’ followed by ‘the first half of the Confiteor’, then ‘this is my first confession’ and ‘here are my sins’. All this took some time to get in the right order. Then we would have to think of what sins we were going to tell the priest. After a suitable pause we would be given a make believe penance and told to say the Act of Contrition.

There was one little boy who, when hecame to where he was to think about his ‘sins’ would shout out: “I fought, I stole, I said bad words.”

“No! No!” the teacher would exclaim: “Don’t tell your sins to me, only to the priest.” However, every day, despite the warning, Frank shouted out the same story. Finally one day, losing patience, the teacher asked him what exactly did he steal?

In a small voice, he whispered “I stole sugar!”

Nowadays when the over consumption of sweet food has become a health hazard, it is difficult to believe that once sugar was regarded as a great treat and indeed was a scarce and precious commodity too, in many a household. Therefore ‘stealing sugar’ was a serious crime in the eyes of a child.

When everyone was au fait with Confession, it was time to move on to Communion. We filed up to the desk again. The older pupils informed us that there would be peppermint sweets used for ‘pretend communion’ but to our great disappointment this was not the case.

Instead the teacher put her finger on our outstretched tongues. I remember one of the bigger boys, who had been recently slapped, telling us that we should have bitten her finger.

At home, Mammy was busy getting ready for the big day. The beautiful dress my sister wore was taken out of the tissue paper it was wrapped in, and although it looked perfect, Mammy washed and starched it again. The wreath of little white rosebuds and pearls, the veil and the white gloves completed the outfit.

Off to the co-op to buy black patent shoes with big shiny buckles on the front and white ankle socks. A First Communion prayer book and white rosary beads, that were bought in Ards Friary one Sunday after Mass, finished the preparations.

At last the much awaited day arrived. Mammy and I stood in the porch of the church while she adjusted my wreath and veil. Then I was handed over to the teacher to take my place with the other children: girls on one side, boys on the other.

All went well until Communion time. We lined up at the altar rails and lifted the white cloth to our chins. We were told to go back to our seats in order, the child at the beginning of the rail going first. I waited for ages but nobody seemed to be moving so I got up, not waiting for my turn, and went back to my seat. I began to worry about the consequences of my action when my friend whispered, “You’ll be killed on Monday!”
A few photographs were taken afterwards and then off home for a very welcome breakfast, after having fasted from midnight. We finished off with a chocolate gateaux Swiss roll as a special treat. I took off my beautiful princess clothes and went out to play.

The outfit was carefully stored away and kept for my little sister’s Holy Communion. Although I wasn’t dressed up any more, the magic lasted all day.

I dreaded going to school on Monday, expecting to be scolded for not following the correct procedure at the altar rail. However, the teacher gave me a big smile and asked if I had a lovely day. I felt the true meaning of forgiveness for the first time that morning.

Read memories like these every week in Ireland’s Own

0 3353

By Jim Clarke

One of those rare breeds of people who stamp their name indelibly on the program of life’s achievements was James Cagney, the actor’s actor, a bright star in the movie land galaxy. The angel with a dirty face, a pug nose and a twinkle in his eye. Cagney; the most believable movie gangster who made his professional stage debut as a female impersonator! He spoke perfect Yiddish and never said, “You dirty rat” in any of his movies…

Cagney was born in 1899 in New York’s Lower East Side and reared a few metres from First Avenue, in a tough district known as Yorkville, where a cat with a tail was a tourist.

His father was Irish his mother was half-Irish and in a neighbourhood of German, Italian, Irish and Jews, James always referred to himself as Irish and proud of it! He had red hair, a bad temper and at an early age was the boxing Bantamweight champion of the local district.

 Although James Cagney became synonymous with hard-nosed vicious gangsters, he earned his first big wage, $35 per week, playing a female impersonator in ‘Every Sailor’! This was a big improvement on his $16 per week working in Wanamaker’s department store.

Jim recalls how he taught himself to dance by watching other ‘Hoofers’. He had a passable singing voice and felt he could earn a living in his chosen trade.

For the next 11 years it was a hard grind, dancing, singing and acting on the Vaudeville Circuit. However, it was on the Circuit that he met and married a chorus girl named Francis Vernon, whose funny nickname, Billie, he shortened to Bill. Their marriage would last for 60 years!

Jimmy’s first big break came in 1931 in ‘Public Enemy’. This was to be a milestone in Jimmy’s illustrious career. One scene was to become the standout of the movie, the ‘Grapefruit Scene’!  

His co-star, Mae Clarke seems, in Cagney’s opinion, to be nagging him at breakfast. In frustration he lifts half a grapefruit and pushes it straight into Mae’s face! Well, did this cause shock waves around the world? You better believe it and probably sold a lot of grapefruit??

The Irish in Jimmy Cagney was very evident in a big row with Warner Bros over a $450 a week wage compared to other star’s earnings. His new film was aptly named ‘Run for Cover’ and Jimmy won a raise to $1,000 per week!!

More claims from Jimmy earned him Jack Warner’s title of ‘The Professional Againster’ but Jimmy took the tricks and won the money…

He loved acting and dancing, but often remarked they were ‘just a job, no big deal, just a means of putting food on the table’.

A boyhood dream came true when he bought a farm at Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Bill and Jim spent all their free time there working the soil and breeding cattle and horses. Jimmy wasn’t a bright lights or party man.

He preferred the company of a few dear friends who usually met once a week for dinner. His best friend was probably Frank McHugh. Others included Pat O’Brien, Spencer Tracy, Ralph Bellamy and Frank Morgan.  
They were tagged the ‘Irish Mafia’, which, he said, was a bit of literary license.

In 1938, James Cagney starred in, what was for me, his best gangster movie, ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’. Jimmy’s co-star was ‘Father’ Pat O’Brien and a great team of kids named ‘The Dead End Kids’.  

Throughout the movie, Rocky (Cagney) the likeable rogue is revered by the Kids. The climax in the movie is memorable. Rocky, sentenced to die, is on his way to the Electric Chair. In the hope that the Dead End Kids will not idolise him, in death, as a hero, the priest implores him to turn coward at the end. Cagney indignantly refuses.
As he is led into the gas chamber, however, we hear him sobbing and begging not to die as the priest gazes upwards, his lips in prayer.
 Did he turn? When often asked for an answer, Jimmy would always say, with that mischievous twinkle in his eye, “What do you think?”
On the movie screen, Cagney was still; forgive the pun, knocking them dead. He starred with George Raft in ‘Each Dawn I Die’,  ‘The Roaring 20s’ with Humphrey Bogart and, heroically in ‘The Fighting 69th’ – the true story about the famous Irish American Regiment.

America became part of the dreadful Second World War and James Cagney became the wonderful George Michael Cohen in ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’.

The movie was a huge success worldwide. Jim thought it was his best performance. Hollywood agreed. They awarded him The Academy Award.

It was to be some years before he came back to his old stomping grounds as a gangster in ‘White Heat’. Not a great story but an exceptional performance from Jim.

Cagney retired in 1961 aged 62.  Thirteen years later, he received the American Institute’s Life Achievement Award.

He was diabetic and in 1981, his doctor and Bill persuaded him, for his health’s sake, to make one more movie. He gave one last massive performance in ‘Rag Time’ playing, of all things, a police commissioner. Ironic? James Cagney left us forever in 1986.


0 1627

A Resentful Case

“Please get here quickly! I’m freaking out!”
What on earth could have her doing that, Miss Flanagan wondered, as she hit the road for Sandra Behan’s house.
Sandra was pointing at some jewellery on her kitchen table now and recoiling as if it were too hot to handle.
“It’s not mine and I’ve just found it in my handbag!  Someone must have planted it there to get me blamed for stealing it!”
Speaking calmly, Miss Flanagan asked Sandra to start at the beginning.
Sandra had just found the bracelet and ring that belonged to Yvonne Turner in her handbag. Yvonne had rang her the previous day to say that the items had disappeared from her windowsill by the sink during the make-up party that Yvonne had hosted and that Sandra had run.
Sandra had recently started this make-up party business enlisting women she knew to hold such an event in their homes and invite all their friends who might or might not buy make-up from Sandra on the night after she demonstrated the products.  

Sandra had been horrified, the day before, to hear that anything untoward had happened during the sales event but had said she knew nothing about it.  Now she had just found Yvonne’s property in her handbag! What on earth was going on?
“I’ll be blamed for taking it!” she wailed. “How can I ring Yvonne and say what I’ve found? She won’t believe I didn’t steal it!  And the Gardai won’t believe me either!”
Just then, Sandra’s phone rang and she went into the living-room to take the call.  She came back looking even paler.
“That was Ruby Kerrigan!  She hosted a party at her house a few nights ago.  She’s saying that a computer – a tablet – has disappeared since the party and she’s heard that Yvonne is missing stuff too. She’s as good as accusing me of using the parties as a front for nicking stuff!  This is a nightmare!”
Oh dear…

Miss Flanagan thought of how the jewellery had appeared in Sandra’s bag.  Who had planted it there?
“Let’s think about this logically.  You didn’t steal the items yet they were in your bag.  Does someone have a grudge against you, do you think?”
Sandra looked horrified.
“A grudge?  Like they hate me?  I don’t think so. I’ve never done anything to warrant that. God knows I try to help out in the community as much as I can, on committees and so on, to give something back, as they say.  It’s an awful thought that something could be trying to frame m me for a crime.”
“It is, but these things happen sometimes,” said Miss Flanagan before an unsettling thought struck her. Goods had disappeared from two houses and items had been planted in Sandra’s bag from one – had something else been planted and Sandra just didn’t realise it?
Sandra was horrified when Miss Flanagan suggested that she search all her boxes – and her car.
“I hope you’re wrong!”
“So do I, but we should check.”
Sandra stood there in shock.  They had just found a digital tablet underneath a display box of moisturizer bottles in the boot.  
“You’re sure it’s Ruby’s?”
“Yes.  She said it was in a pink spongy zip cover.  Who else’s could it be?”
“And you were at Ruby’s house when?”
“Tuesday night. Three nights ago…  This is dreadful.”
Miss Flanagan was thinking aloud.

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


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Brian Moss reports on ‘The Metal Man’ who stands towering over the Tramore coastline, keeping those at sea safe from harm

If you happen to find yourself hopping barefoot three times around a tower, a tower topped  by a giant sailor made of metal on a secluded hilltop overlooking Tramore bay, and you’re doing so to encourage  the prospect of marriage within the next twelve months, don’t fear!

It’s not time to consult those attired in white coats, you’re just paying a visit to and indulging in one of the many myths associated with Tramore’s legendary cast iron protector ‘The Metal Man’.

Tramore’s Metal Man is one of the county’s, if not the country’s, more intriguing monuments.  
The 14ft-cast iron statue lords over the bay and protects seafarers from Tramore’s beautiful yet at times treacherous shallow waters.

Indeed it was due to a sea tragedy that ‘The Metal Man’, as he’s affectionately known, came about.
Undoubtedly, the story behind The Metal Man is as intriguing as the monument itself.
‘The Seahorse’, a British transport  freget went down with the loss of over 360 souls in 1816 off nearby Brownstown head, and the insurance company, Lloyds of London, who insured the vessel, didn’t want a repeat of the tragedy.  

They commissioned and funded the building of ‘The Metal Man’ on the cliff, and the corresponding two towers across the bay, on Brownstownhead, as warning markers for nearby ships.  

By 1823, all the necessary work had been completed and The Metal Man took up his vantage point over-looking the bay. The tragedy left a lasting impression on Tramore and the ship’s image was later adopted as the town’s official logo. Keen collectors of crystal will know the sea horse is also the symbol for the world famous Waterford Crystal products.

Tramore, once a sleepy fishing inlet, has grown over the last century to be one of the country’s premier summer holiday resorts. Yes, many a happy day was had by families from the length and breadth of the country, not to mention the overseas visitors on her sandy shores and nearby amusement park and promenade. Indeed, yours truly has washed a great deal of Tramore sand off his feet on family vacations over the years.

Of all the attractions Tramore has to offer it is The Metal Man, however, appearing so small from the sandy dunes of Tramore beach, which literally stands out like a beacon.

There are so many legends attached to this fellow it can be difficult to discern what is fact and what is fiction.
Even The Metal Man’s height is a topic of debate.

Some say 9ft, others 14ft; having been relatively up close and personal to Tramore’s great protector, I’ll plump for the latter.  

One of the stranger myths attached to the statue is the aforementioned thrice barefoot hop around The Metal Man’s tower in a bid to encourage matrimony in the preceding 12 months.

A word of warning though, if you are struggling to  find a suitable partner to take you up the aisle, perhaps to be seen hopping shoeless around a tower on top of a secluded cliff at the tip of the south-east coast of Ireland may not be the best way to encourage potential suitors!

Another of the legends attributed to The Metal Man is that on stormy coastal nights he finds his voice and is said to be heard recanting his maritime warning “Keep out, keep out, good ships from me, for I am the rock of misery” – if hearing that doesn’t make the hair stand up on the back of your neck nothing will!
The look and design of The Metal Man was the brainchild of a Cork man, celebrated sculpture Thomas Kirk, who unveiled his creation at an exhibition in London in 1817.

The casting of the statues was carried out by John Clarke two years later, at the request of the ballast board. Clarke cast four statues from the same mould. Little brother hasn’t quite the vantage point of big bro, however, and can be found in the harbour at Rosses Point in Sligo. The whereabouts of the other two are unknown.

Kirk is still considered one of Ireland’s foremost sculptures with Dublin’s Nelson Pillar, once the capital’s great landmark, amongst his creations.

The Pillar loomed large over Dublin City for over 100 years until deemed surplus to requirements by the IRA, and blown up in 1966, much to the horror of the capital’s citizens.

Over the years, The Metal Man has become synonymous with Tramore and is maintained by the local council getting a brand spanking new fresh coat of paint every three years, British blue white and red if you don’t mind!

Over 180 years in situ, and set to reign for many more, regardless of your marriage intentions, a trip to Tramore’s very own big friendly giant is definitely something to put on your Deise ‘to do’ list!

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Meet the archaeologist who has returned to Longford to establish a new brewery named after a nephew of Saint Patrick

by David Rickman

St. Mel is a name highly renowned in the Irish Midlands. Not only are there a famous cathedral and second-level college named in tribute to the nephew of Saint Patrick, but now a local archaeologist is part of the team behind the thriving new ‘St. Mel’s Brewing Company’.

Based in the Ardagh pocket of Longford, archaeologist Eoin Tynan and biotechnician Liam Hanlon are the brains behind the exciting venture, and their back story is an interesting one.

“I was raised on a dairy farm near Ardagh village,” says Eoin, “and was driving a tractor as soon as I knew how to ‘lock hard’. I was used to pulling and dragging and doing any kind of farm work that was expected of a chap of my age.

“After secondary school I went on to Maynooth College where I studying History and the Classics, and from there my interest in archaeology exploded.”

As a historian hunting through the earth for clues to the past, Eoin has been involved in many interesting excavations around Ireland, and further afield.

“We uncovered some really interesting finds around Ireland in places such as Carrickmines and the Victorian Gaol in Mullingar. I came across Bronze Age burial chambers, cremation sites and the gaol in Mullingar was especially captivating as you could get down and walk around the cells, up to waist level.

“One of the more memorable research projects took me to Sparta in Greece where we spent two months uncovering a Roman Amphitheatre. We found pillars and blocks and carved stones, some from the Byzantine period which would have been post Roman, and pre-Ottoman.”

In the late noughties, Eoin’s career took a different trajectory when he enrolled on a Masters in Finance course in Dublin. On his wedding day, when he married his American sweetheart, Melissa, at a marquee which was held on the family farm, he had a conversation with master brewer, Liam, and the seeds of a business partnership were sown. A year later they revisited the idea, and in 2013 the St. Mel’s Brewing Company was formed.

“Things happened quite quickly after that,” explains Eoin. “We went to the Leader Project in Longford, told them what we had in mind, and the Community Resources Ltd granted us funding. We rented a unit from the Local Enterprise Office and now run a 1,500-litre brewery.”
And that’s when the name of Saint Mel entered the frame.

Saint Mel, or Moel, was a 5th-century saint and the son of Conis or, Chonis, and Darerca.

Saint Darerca was a sibling of Saint Patrick and recognised as the ‘mother of saints’ because most of the children that she gave birth to (seventeen sons and two daughters) undertook a religious vocation.

Mel and his brothers Melchu, Munis and Rioch travelled with their uncle Patrick to Ireland and helped him carry out his missionary work. Mel and his brother Melchu were both reportedly consecrated bishops by Patrick himself.

After St. Patrick built the church at Ardagh, he appointed Mel as Bishop of Ardagh.

With a cathedral and college already named after him in the area, and given Eoin’s huge appetite for Irish history and culture, the brewers decided to adopt the saintly title for their product, as the name St. Mel travels far throughout the Midlands.

“The business is up and running since June 2014,” says Eoin, now resettled at his homeplace, and combining the bottling and brewing of the drinks with managing the farm.

“There are the two of us here and an apprentice brewer, Mark Connolly, who is learning from the master, as Liam is at the highest grade of his craft in Ireland, having studied Brewing and Distribution in Edinburgh. Then we have the family and friends who help us out with the bottling – they are, of course, paid in kind!”

For further information on “St. Mel’s” follow the team on Facebook, or on Twitter @stmelsbrewing. Or email them on