From The Archives

0 2002

By Gerry Breen

Evidence of the indelible impression made by Irish emigrants to America is to be found in the names of cities and towns right across the land of their adoption. In different parts of the United States people could be regularly talking about Dublin although they’ve never seen Ireland.

There are no fewer that fifteen Dublins scattered throughout America – Dublin is a town in North Carolina.
It is also a town in Franklin County, Ohio, and in thirteen other locations, including California, Georgia, Kentucky and Michigan. No wonder, then, that many American tourists refer to Dublin, Ireland – with so many locations bearing the same name, it is common sense to be precise.

If you ever found yourself in a little town in Iowa, you might wonder why a statue of the Irish patriot, Robert Emmet, is sited in a prominent position. There’s a very simple explanation – the name of the town is Emmetsburg which has a proud history of Irish settlement.

In fact, it used to be known as the ‘Irish Colony’. It was settled in 1855 by pioneers and was occupied by a number of Irish families, including the Nolans, Laughlins, Nearys and Hickeys. The name was officially changed to Emmetsburg in November, 1877.

The original sculpture of Robert Emmet by Jerome O’Connor was erected in St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin in 1916. The statue of Robert Emmet which is the centrepiece of Court House Square in Emmetsburg was cast in 1919.

Emmetsburg is very proud of its Irish associations and the town holds its biggest celebration of the year on St. Patrick’s Day. On 17th March, 1962, the Lord Mayor of Dublin and the Mayor of Emmetsburg signed a proclamation declaring their two cities to be sister cities.

There are four Irelands in America, one each in Alabama, West Virginia, Indiana and Minnesota. The name Hibernian crops up in Florida, Jersey and New York, and there are five Erins scattered through the United States – Georgia, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

The Irish provinces are represented by Munster in Illinois, in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Texas, while Ulster lends its name to Ulster Township, Iowa; Ulster County, New York and Ulster Township, Pennsylvania.
Obviously, the Irish were great name-droppers. There are no fewer than eleven places called after Antrim; five after Belfast, three after Armagh, four after Clare, six after Newry, three after Galway, five after Kildare, three after Kilkenny, ten after Limerick, six after Derry, eight after Tyrone, four after Waterford and six after Wexford.

Twelve places are called after Avoca, the famous beauty spot in Co. Wicklow immortalised by Thomas Moore in his Irish melodies. Most Irish counties and many Irish towns and villages have leant their names to locations in America.

While Killarney may be the crowning glory in the Kingdom of Kerry, it is not the only one. There’s another Killarney in West Virginia.

Strangely enough, the place named in the United States census of 2011 as the most Irish town in America does not have an Irish name. It is Scituate, a pleasant seaside town thirty miles from Boston. All together, sixteen communities within the South Shore neighbourhoods of Boston have the highest percentages of people of Irish descent in the United States.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost fifty per cent of the residents of Scituate are of Irish descent and at least forty-four per cent of the populations in Braintree, Hull, Marshfield, Avon, Pembroke and Milton claim Irish ancestry also.
Irish Americans continue to dominate the large majority of suburban Boston. This is not really surprising, because of the millions of Irish emigrants who left this country in the second half of the last century and crossed the Atlantic to seek their fortunes, the great majority of them settled in cities on America’s eastern seaboard.

It is generally acknowledged that the most enthusiastic celebrations on 17th March are held in America and there is a very good reason for this. About forty million Americans proudly claim Irish ancestry, and New York City has the distinction of playing host to the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

That took place on 17th March, 1762, and it has since become a worldwide tradition.

It is also widely accepted that the Irish brought much more than their place-names to America. They have made distinguished contributions to almost every aspect of life in the land of their adoption.

No fewer than twenty Presidents of the United States have traced all or part of their ancestry to Ireland.
In fact, the very architect of the White House was an Irish-Catholic immigrant, James Hoban, a native of Kilkenny who had settled in Charleston, South Carolina.

In planning the home of America’s presidents, Hoban is said to have been strongly influenced by the design of Dublin’s Leinster House, which new serves as the meeting place for Dáil Éireann.

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By Seán Ua Cearnaigh

The Dublin street ballad, ‘The  Wearing  of  the  Green’, with  its’ rousing martial air, was composed, it is believed, in the early years of the eighteenth century. It has always been popular and particularly so on Saint Patrick’s Day, wherever Irish people foregather. Although Dion Boucicault was, at one  time, erroneously credited with its’ authorship, nobody knows who wrote it.

Napper Tandy is mentioned in the second verse. But who was this man?

He was a true Irish patriot. Although now largely forgotten, even in his native city of Dublin, he played an important role in the affairs of the United Irishmen and the 1798 Rising.

He was born into a Protestant,  unionist family in 1740, but he himself, as he grew to manhood, was  no unionist.

Although he started his working life as a land agent – an occupation not likely to endear him to the Irish public – he abandoned this career in favour of politics. He went on to become a member of the Anglo Irish Parliament in College Green, where he soon became known as an ardent champion of Catholic rights.
Joining the Volunteers on their  formation and closely associated as he was, with Henry Grattan and Henry Flood, he commanded the approaches to the Houses of Parliament, when legislative  independence was announced on  May 27th, 1892.

Tandy,  described by an unfriendly  critic, as the ugliest-looking man in Dublin, if not indeed, in Ireland, was  hated by the ascendancy clique of  the city.

Often in danger of arrest and persecution by his enemies, he found refuge by continually changing his places of residence. He is believed to have resided in no less than ten houses in Dublin, in the years between 1779 and 1795, in which latter year, he went to America.

He championed the rights of  Catholics, time and again, in  Parliament, but sadly, to no avail.  In 1791, following a difference of  opinion with the infamous John Toler, afterwards, Lord Norbury,  the hanging judge who sentenced  Robert Emmet to death, he suffered  much persecution and harassment, at the hands of the ascendancy  chiefs in College Green.

But  his  days  as a member of parliament were numbered. 

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0 2595

By Susan Healy

Jack came trundling down the stairs with a resigned look on his face. “Let’s get you to the airport then, your carriage awaits,” he announced somewhat glumly.
It was a beautiful morning and there was a lovely change in the weather. The sun was beaming down from a cloudless azure blue sky. Miriam was looking forward to seeing her friend, Zoe, in London.

“See you in a couple of days, Buster,” she chirped as she knelt down to give the terrier a goodbye kiss.  She would miss her canine friend.

Miriam walked out into the bright sunshine and the glare temporarily blinded her. She glanced up into the sky and she could make out a jet trail leaving milky streaks across the heavens. Soon that would be her, and she couldn’t wait. The excitement was fever pitch; she loved the thrill of flying.

Jack carefully placed her weekend bag into the boot. In the car she watched Jack’s expression but his eyes were fixed on the road ahead.

Good old reliable Jack, he was as steady as a rock she sighed to herself. A part of her wished he was more spontaneous at times. A partner of a friend was forever showering her with gifts and impulsive weekends away to romantic destinations. But maybe there was more to love than extravagant gestures.

She thought of her friend, Grace, who was going to a hotel in the west with her family. A wave of nausea swept over her. She remembered being there once and it was hideous. The corridors were over-run with screaming children and they were skidding around the place like Michael Flatley on ecstasy! Their voices reverberated throughout the hotel.
She remembered one couple in particular who seemed to have locked their children out of the hotel room.

She shuddered when she thought of what their hidden motives might be. She didn’t envy her.

Soon they were approaching the airport and the car veered sharply towards the left on the off-ramp from the motorway. She felt the excitement bubbling up inside her. She loved seeing the Departures and Arrivals sign in big lettering on the overhead gantry.
Jack parked the car in the Arrivals section, in the set-down area.

“Gosh, I will miss you,” Miriam threw her arms around Jack in a warm embrace. She kissed him affectionately.

“Right, I will have to dash now, see you Monday.”

She wheeled her suitcase into the main concourse and for one overwhelming moment, she felt lost.

Already, she missed Jack’s presence guiding her through the various checkpoints with all the requisite documents to hand.

She needed to keep switched on and not get distracted by the Aladdin’s cave that was the Duty Free Shop. Finally, she was checked in and she was on her way through Security. Suddenly, a sense of freedom overtook her. She felt exhilarated and it felt intoxicating like a glass of wine. Her head spun and excitement coursed through her veins.  

She would grab a quick coffee in Butlers and do one of her favourite activities – people watch. She flopped into a chair and felt the familiar vibration of her phone. She had sixth sense as far as that was concerned. She could almost divine when somebody texted her. It was a message from Zoe.

“Can’t wait to see you. Look out for me in Terminal Two.” She couldn’t wait to see her friend now.

In a lot of ways she envied her, she had great position in an American Bank and she was married to a drop-dead gorgeous guy. She could go off to any destination worldwide at the drop of a hat.  

She trotted off down towards the gate where they were calling all those travelling with small children. Miriam glanced down at her boarding ticket. Great, she had a window seat. She felt elated, like a child at Christmas.

She squeezed her eyes tight as the plane hurtled down the runway at full throttle. The engines whined loud and finally they were up, up and away. She looked down at the ground beneath her and the dinky patchwork of green fields below.

Miriam must have nodded off but she awoke with a jolt as the plane banked sharply to the left, as it flew over the city of London. She could make out the building known as ‘The Gherkin’ and a few other notable landmarks.

They were flying over the Thames now; she could see it glittering below her.  She took out a lozenge to suck to help her ears acclimatise to the change in pressure.

Before she knew it, the plane touched down in Heathrow.

She made her way out of the new Terminal 2 building and Zoe held a big sign, ‘Welcome to London, Miriam’. Miriam ran towards her friend and embraced her warmly.
“Gosh, it’s great to see you,” declared Miriam.
“C’mon, I’ll help you with the bags and we’ll jump on the Paddington Express and we will be in Central London in no time,” replied Zoe excitedly. The friends chatted animatedly catching up on gossip about shared friends and some ex-colleagues.
Miriam, with her newfound freedom, couldn’t help giggling like a schoolgirl.

They were going to drop their bags in Zoe’s flat in Hammersmith and then hit the shops in High Street Kensington. Later, they would have a meal at a restaurant in Covent Garden and Zoe had invited some of her friends from work to catch-up at a pub in the Strand called the ‘Coal Hole’.                                                  

Next morning, Miriam awoke early but she was still feeling groggy from the night before. Zoe stumbled into her room and sat down beside her friend on the bed.
In the cool light of day, Miriam noticed that her friend looked pale and drawn.
“Listen, Miriam I have something to tell you. Sam and myself are going through a trial separation. He has been having loads of affairs and whilst at first I turned a blind eye to it, I can’t continue to live like this.”
“Gosh, Zoe, I am so sorry. I thought you two were really happy,” said Miriam and she leant over and gave her friend a warm hug. Miriam could see the tears glistening in her friend’s eyes, threatening to spill down her cheeks at any minute.
“Today, why don’t we go to the National Gallery and grab some lunch afterwards” enthused Zoe.
“Yes that sounds like a plan,” agreed Miriam.

Just at that moment, she heard a ping from her phone, the telltale sign of an incoming text. It was from Jack. “Hope you are having a lovely time.  Missing you and looking forward to seeing you later XXX Jack.”

Miriam glowed from the inside. She always thought that Jack was ordinary but really he was quite special in his own inimitable way.

He might not be the flashiest husband but he was always there for her. She realised that she had been taking him for granted. She had been so envious of Zoe, great job, gorgeous husband and lovely lifestyle, but everything was not as it seemed.
What seemed like an idyllic existence from a distance was rapidly unraveling for Zoe. Miriam felt sorry for her friend.

She was sure this ‘trial separation’ was very painful for her. However, in the circumstances it was the best option for Zoe. “I have really missed you these last few days and I can’t wait to see you later XXX M,” Miriam replied to the earlier text from Jack.  It had been a wonderful weekend but she couldn’t wait to get home now and see Jack.

Read original short stories by our readers every week in Ireland’s Own

 

0 2998

By Fergus Caulfield

Catherine was worried about him. Not because of her father’s age so much, a healthy sixty-five-year-old by anyone’s standards, used to his own company; her mother ( his wife) having passed a few years before. Those years had been tough but they had pulled together and eventually pulled through together, making the most of happy memories and timely goodbyes, becoming closer and stronger without fuss or unrealistic expectation.

With forty years serving as a Garda under his belt, half a dozen Dublin marathons (some years ago now) and the timeless reminder of his amateur boxing days still visible by his old broken nose, he was a man of substance both physically and mentally.

Whether he agreed with you or not, he would always give you the courtesy of listening, and never failed to offer a solution or answer that he thought best solved the problem.

If you didn’t pick the only obvious course of action; which was usually his suggestion, there wouldn’t be any “I told you so,” anger or obvious disappointment, maybe just a quiet sigh, waiting the inevitable, but so discreet and part of his character you could never be sure.

But something was different about him and she was concerned; for both her father and herself. She couldn’t pinpoint what this difference was and Catherine thought she knew her dad like the back of her hand. Now she wasn’t so sure.

She had known, and been close to him all her life, but of course she hadn’t known her father all his life, and now, for some reason that she couldn’t put her finger on, there was something going on, and she didn’t like it. She wasn’t comfortable with the unknown in her family life. Was she imagining this? No way, regardless of a lack of any tangible evidence.

Catherine had become so worried, with more than a hint of curiosity, she had persuaded her brother Phillip to fly over from Liverpool to investigate, even though he wasn’t due his six monthly visit for a while yet.

Phillip couldn’t see what the fuss was about before he arrived home in Ireland, and when he left two days later after discreetly prodding his father as best he could over a few pints, he was still none the wiser. If anything, his father seemed happier and more content than usual. Phillip certainly couldn’t spot any signs that there was anything to worry about, none of which reassured his sibling in the slightest.

Catherine had considered all the usual possibilities; including the serious and unimaginable – that he was seriously ill, or, had a lady friend. Catherine had even convinced herself that one day she would knock on the family door to be answered by the new Mrs Hughes.

“Oh come in dear”, her step mother would surely say, “your father has told me all about you”. Catherine hadn’t yet finalised what her reply would be. It couldn’t be too rude, but the decrepit old lady would have to be clear where her place in this family was, regardless of what her new husband had sweetly told her. Not that her father shouldn’t have a wife she had to grudgingly admit. He was still a fine man and her mother had been a classic beauty, a mirror image of Catherine herself, but this wasn’t a development that Catherine was ready for, and maybe never would.

It was driving her mad. What could it be? Maybe she should just ask him outright, but she didn’t hold out much hope of a straight answer. As open as he was with advice and opinion, his emotions and personal thoughts were always private.

It would have been something if she had a husband or boyfriend to offload her frustration, but she was very single at present, and her little black cat didn’t seem to understand, no matter how much Catherine spoke to her or tried to bribe her with treats. There was only one solution left and that was to have this out in the open.

He would have to speak to her whether he liked it or not. With resolution clear in her mind a peaceful night’s sleep followed.

As soon as she had finished work the next day she called round to her dad’s house, who unusually, wasn’t at home. There was no time like the present for Catherine, so she rang his mobile, which he answered almost immediately – also unusual in itself.

“Where are you Dad? I need to speak to you,” she demanded.

“I’m down the road,” was his reply. “I needed to speak to you as well funny enough, pop down here and have a chat.” And he hung up without waiting for a reply.

“Down the road”, referred to the pub a hundred metres away. As Catherine marched towards enlightenment she couldn’t help but talk aloud to herself, “You wanted to chat. Of course you did. The wedding date has been set I suppose.”

Flouncing into the warm interior she immediately saw her dad halfway through his pint, standing up to kiss her flustered rosy cheek – something he hadn’t done since….she couldn’t even remember. He must be feeling guilty.

“Sit down love. I got you a glass of wine, thought you might need it.” She was ready to spit feathers but took a sip of her drink and composed herself.

“Right Dad, off you go so. I’m all ears.” He looked a little sheepish and twirled the porter around in his glass, for once, slow to start.

“I’ve been on the internet” he started; “you know… the computer… down at the library.”

“On the internet is it?” Catherine interrupted, “I know what a computer is alright, haven’t you become the modern man. Now let’s see if I can guess what you have been doing on the internet…looking for a woman by any chance?” she hissed at him.

“A woman?” he asked surprised. “Good God no! I have been looking for a man…”
“For a man?” Catherine interrupted, almost choking on her drink. “You’re looking for a man?”

Her father cottoned on to what she was alluding to and laughed. “Not quite Catherine. I was looking for a man, but not for me; and I found him, through that Facebook thing, the man you split up with three years ago, shortly after your mother died – because you wouldn’t go with him to Australia – because you felt too guilty about leaving me on my own.”

Catherine was stunned, “You have been in touch with Jimmy?”

“I have, and I should have done it years ago. The two of you were made for each other. You have wasted enough time on me. It’s time to get on with your own life, and Jimmy thinks so too. Sure ask him yourself,” and he nodded in the direction of the counter where her older but still handsome Jimmy was sitting expectantly (and somewhat nervously) on a stool, not sure of how Catherine would react.

Her dad got up and put on his coat. “I’m off. I’ll leave you with it. If things work out, fantastic, if not, then at least I know I tried. Goodnight and good luck.” And he was off, leaving the two of them staring at each other with regret for the past, hope for the future, and a lot of catching up to do.

The End

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0 4448

Eanna O Murchu meets the man who has helped over 3,000 couples find romance

Romantic Ireland will never be dead and gone, not while Willie Daly, Ireland’s most famous matchmaker, has a hand to play in the age old art of “courting”.

For the past century and a half, County Clare man Willie and his forefathers have been responsible for the beating in unison of thousands of love-pierced hearts, and the man with an astute eye for pairing perfect partners is confident that the successful traditional trend won’t be bucked anytime soon.

“My grandfather, who was also Willie, did a good bit of matchmaking,” says Willie. “Though what he did was on a different scale to what happens today. This was the nineteenth century, and houses had no electricity or running water. There were no motor cars and the matchmaking was conducted at horse fairs or cattle fairs or at weddings, and even funerals. News about the matchmaker spread through word of mouth and people thought nothing of walking a good distance, be it miles from Ennistymon, or even from further outside the county, if it meant a chance of finding romance.”

In the early 1900s, Willie’s dad, Henry, upped sticks and moved across the country to settle in Dublin. There he secured a job at the Guinness Brewery before establishing his own pub and restaurant at Pembroke Place. However, after he got married and he became the father of two daughters, Delia and Elizabeth, the lure of the homeland proved too much, and in 1940 the Dalys said farewell to the capital, selling the business, and returning to County Clare.

Upon their return, Henry took over management of the family farm. It was into this rural existence that Willie was born. He also had a stepbrother, Michael.

“My father would have done a modest amount of matchmaking,” says Willie. “He wasn’t fond of drinking or socialising, and was more of a home person. People wrote to him asking about the chances of finding them a match, and he went with the flow a little. He passed away in 1972. After that, people kept asking me if I was going to do it. There was a need for it you see, just like there still is today. After all, I had made my first match when I was fifteen.”

Indeed, Willie’s first “match” is  quite the entertaining story.

“There was a lovely lad who lived nearby me and he fancied one of the neighbours. She lived with her father and the lad was disappointed because he rarely got to see her. But I remember watching the pair of them at Mass on a Sunday in Kilshanny Church. When he’d be going up to communion her face would go red as she passed him on the way down, and then his face would go red.

“Those were the days when the women sat on the left and the men on the right. She was very pretty. He told me that he would love to meet her. He was sixteen, she was seventeen. One day, the father put an ad in the Clare Champion, saying that he had a pig for sale. So I had an idea. I  told the lad that we would call to the house and I would pretend to want to buy the pig. He was too shy to talk. We got there and I knocked on the door. The father came out. He looked the two of us up and down before I told him that I’d heard he had a fat pig for sale.

“‘He’s over there in the pig sty,’ he said, pointing at a dry wall. We walked over, and Eileen came with us. She was beautiful, with dark curly hair, blue eyes and rosy cheeks.
“The farmer pressed on the pig, telling us all about his softness. Then he invited us to press on him. Eileen pressed on him and said, ‘He’s a well-fed pig, on barley and milk and potatoes’. Then the lad couldn’t keep quiet any longer and blurted out ‘Will you ate him with me?’ to poor Eileen. She didn’t know what to say, and ran out of the sty.

“Three days passed by. I was at home fixing the wheel of a car in the yard when the old man arrived at my gate on a bicycle. I was hoping he wasn’t offering me the pig at the small price I’d offered, because I didn’t want the pig at all. He sat up on the wall and said ‘that was a nice boy you had with you the other night. Is he a good worker?’

“‘He is,’ I told him. ‘I’m getting older,’ he said, ‘and Eileen will need some help running the farm.’ And just like that, my first match was made.”

Willie waited until he was 24 before he started matchmaking again. It went on slowly enough to start with, at horse fairs and cattle fairs. Potential clients would shiftily make their way up to him at the fair and prod and poke a cow before whispering in his ear if there was a chance of making them a match. Coy as you like, for they didn’t want the greater public knowing what they were up to.

“I remember one funny story from when I was eleven,” says Willie. “It was the end of a fair day in mid-November and the youngsters had been sent home with the cattle. The men convened in the pub for a drink and I was waiting for my father. At around 8.30pm in walked a small well-dressed man with a cap. He had a shake in his head, the kind of man who would react to anything.

“The men at the bar knew this and thought nothing of hopping him a ball. It had been a bad day at the fair and he had five daughters with him. ‘My God Paddy,’ said one of the men at the bar, ‘with prices so bad at the fair you’ll never make a fortune for those daughters of yours.’

“Well, he hit the bar an almightyful smack with his fist and said, ‘Their face is their fortune. And you’ll have to pay 1,000 pounds for each one of them.’ Girls were available for dowries back then. There were one or two matches made that night, but not for the money he initially demanded.”

Willie’s own marriage was the result of a bit of skilled matchmaking by his father. The Dalys run a riding school in Ennistymon and one day, when he was about 28, three women arrived at the house to go out riding.

His father was quite elderly at this stage and was in a bed in a room off the kitchen. When the three women got caught out in the rain, Willie offered to give them a lift back into town, but first he had a job to do with the cattle.

While he was out, his father dropped his pipe and he started calling for Willie to come and fill it up for him. One of the young women, Marie, picked it up for him, and filled it. Quite taken with the obliging young lady, he asked her if she would consider marrying Willie.

“I would,” said she, and the two would go on to marry and be blessed with a large family of their own.

When Willie thinks about the matchmaking in times gone by and the matchmaking of today, he feels not much has changed. Years ago there were mainly two types of people that sought matches – singletons and widows, or widowers. Now, you can include a lot more people that are separated and looking for happiness the second time around.

“Some people can be reluctant to go down that road again, as it wasn’t so great the first time around,” says Willie, “but my advice is that the second time around can be a totally different experience. I’m a firm believer in the traditional matchmaking system that is proven to work. There is online dating these days but the traditional system sees you meet the person and you can touch the flesh. Online you can take a chance, and it might not always be the same when you see the thing.

“You know, you only have one life and people will always want companionship, it’s in our nature.

“Irish men are unique – they have a lovely nature and way of looking at life. That’s why I get so many women from all over the world writing to me looking to meet a nice Irish man. From 23 to 83, there is no need to be on your own and feeling sorry for yourself.

“I  have a lucky book that is approximately 160 years old, which was used by my father and grandfather. If you touch with both hands you will be in love and married within six months; touch it with one hand and you will just fall in love, and if you are married and touch it you resurrect romance in your life and relive a part of your honeymoon experience. I take it with me everywhere, it’s a good luck charm.

“My daughter said to me once, ‘there’s an awful lot of people walking around that wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for the matchmaker’ and she was right.”

Matchmaking continues to keep Willie exceptionally busy, and in recent weeks he made a couple of trips to the UK to address Irish communities.

“My bigger interest these days in working with Irish people,” he says. “We really are such a special race of people and one of the biggest enemies of people getting married is shyness.

“When we lose a friend or neighbour, that doesn’t get married, then that’s a few generations missed and those people won’t be replaced. I like to think I can help stop that from happening.”

Willie Daly can be contacted at The Matchmaker Bar, Lisdoonvarna, County Clare or by calling 087 671 2155.

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By Annie May Harte

A grandfather reflects on his past and gets a wonderful surprise letter in the post

The dusk of evening was slowly dropping down. The mist gathered over the big black mountain behind the house.  It would soon be dark. The winter was setting in earlier this year, he mused.

 ‘How long have I been sitting here in this chair?’ John asked himself.  ‘What an idle man I have become,’ he chuckled.  ‘I remember when I hadn’t time to bless myself, always working all the daylight hours God sent. Shep the black and white collie lay at his master’s feet.

John stroked him gently as he rose to put more turf on the fire.  Soon the fire was aglow and the flames blazing up the chimney.  He lowered the oil lamp from the shelf. Taking his time to trim the wick, he lit the lamp and replaced the smoked stained globe.

Smiling, he recalled that the globe was always shining bright when herself was here, yes the house had lost its shine since she died.

John did not like the long winter nights, they brought a gloom. Memories of what used to be kept going around in his head.  He brought the pipe from his pocket and tapped it on his shoe, then filled and lit it.

The haze of smoke marred his gaze as it swept around the kitchen.  

His eyes then rested on the oil lamp.  It was over forty years since it had come into the house, although it was much older than that.  It came from his parent’s house, a present to them on their marriage.

The old house where he was born was just a couple of fields away.  John was the youngest of eight.  The others had emigrated all over the world. There were three in America and four in England.  His father had left the farm to him, although it was a small holding one could make a living out of it.  

It seemed only like yesterday that Jane and he had crossed the fields to clear out his home place.  He remembered that morning as they madetheir way across the fields; Jane told him that they were expecting their first child.  

He would have liked to gather her into his arms and kiss her but he couldn’t be seen doing that. No displays of affection could be shown to the outside world.  The neighbours would have thought big John had gone soft in the head.  

Later that day when they had returned to the house, their precious lamp which had always sat on the shelf had been polished to perfection.  Jane mashed the tea and he saw the lovely glow about her.  

They talked into the night about their plans for the future.  He could say without contradiction that this was the second happiest day of his life; the first being the day Jane became his bride. The modest wedding was held at Jane’s parent’s home, her sister was bridesmaid and Pat Kelly was best man.

Brid was born that August. The following year Francie arrived, he was called after Jane’s father and he was her pride and joy. Then Alice came along, followed by Danny.  
Brid took up nursing and was above in Dublin. She was married now and had young children of her own.  Both John and Jane had travelled up to help with the new born. They spent a few days sightseeing and then travelled back home by train. Jane laughingly told John it was like the honeymoon they never had.  

Francie got a job in the Civil Service in England.  He was there for a year in the earlier part of the twentieth century. War was looming in Britain.  

Francie joined up with the Irish Fusiliers; it came as a great shock to the family back home.  Jane had shed many a tear over his choice of army. She was from a staunch Republican family and it did not sit well with her.  

He was sent to France in 1916 and in the thick of the fighting he lost his life in the trenches. He was buried in an unknown grave far away from home and family.  

The cable arrived one morning with the dreadful news.  Two officers called to his parents with the medals which he was awarded for bravery along with some of his personal possessions. Among them were a few worn pictures. One was of Jane and himself in the garden on the Sunday he left home and a picture of a girl that he had met in London.  He was always remembered during the family rosary each night. Jane had never got over his death.  

Alice was nursing in England and was married with two children. She visited every year for a couple of weeks. Danny the youngest had just sat his exams and had not made up his mind what he wanted to do with his life.

His uncle Joseph and his wife Maria came home on a visit from America. It was their first trip home since they emigrated twenty years previously.

The visit held many happy memories for Joseph; their parents had passed away many years ago. Joseph spent many hours reminiscing about the wonderful memories he had of growing up in the old homestead. It had now seen better days and some slates were missing from the roof.

One day as he wandered around his birthplace, he recounted to his brother John his memories of sleeping in the old bedroom. The four boys used to sleep in the one bed. Every night there were gales of laughter as they lay head and heels.

During their visit Joseph and Maria became very close to Danny and they indicated to John and Jane that they would like to invite him over for a visit.

‘Well I suppose it would be no harm to see how he likes it and maybe he’ll find work there,’ John replied, anxious that his son would do well for himself as there were great opportunities in America.

‘I’ll pay his passage and sure if he doesn’t settle he can always come home,’ Joseph generously offered.

Danny found work in America and settled there. He came home to visit his parents whenever he could.

Brid’s family had grown to four; they journeyed down every couple of months. On one of her visits, she noticed her mother’s failing health. She finally agreed to go the doctor and she was diagnosed with a kidney complaint. Poor Jane died that Spring. They all came home for the funeral. Danny had grown older and looked like Francie. They recalled the old days over the wake and funeral but all too soon everyone was ready to get back to the routine of their lives again.

John sat counting the days since Jane had died, the days turned to years, he counted ten, the decade had passed last Spring. He still thought of her every day.

One day a letter addressed to Mr and Mrs Browne arrived by post.  On opening the letter, he got a big surprise it read;

Dear Grandparents,
I’m sure you will not know me, and I have been wanting to write to you for so long but my mum did not want me to bother you after all these years.  I know my dad died at the front and was honoured with medals for bravery.  We wrote to the war office some years ago and they gave us this information.  We are very proud of dad. I thought of going into the army, I would like to visit you if that would be possible. If you would rather that we did not get in touch, we will understand.
Love
Your grandson Francie.

John reread the letter many times that day and finally he got the pen and notepad down and began to write his reply. Before nightfall he went to the post office and posted the letter.  He wrote and asked them both to come and see him.

The reply came back within the week; they would both be delighted to accept the invitation. They were due to arrive in Dublin at ten o’clock on Wednesday morning.
 
John sent his daughter in Dublin the news of his long lost grandson.  Brid made her way to the airport and was standing near the baggage arrivals holding the name ‘Francie from London,’ on a cardboard sign.  She didn’t have to wait long, until she saw the tall lean lad coming towards her.  He was so like his dad, she ran to meet him.  She held him and wept, feeling the love that only comes when someone has been gone for so long.
She turned to the lad’s mother and asked; ‘Why did you not contact us before?’  

The tears welled up in the other woman’s eyes as she said; ‘I was afraid that you might have rejected us.’

They drove down by car and were home with John by five o’clock. As the car pulled up, John was outside to greet his grandson and his mother.  

When the lad lifted his head to greet his grandfather, they wrapped their arms around each other and remained speechless for some time.

They all went indoors, John was murmuring ‘we have a lot of catching up to do,’ as he gently closed the door to the outside world.

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The words and lyrics of the old carol ‘O Holy Night’ were written by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure in 1847. Cappeau was a wine-seller by trade but was asked by the parish priest to write a poem for Christmas. He obliged and wrote the beautiful words of the hymn. He then realised that it should have music to accompany the words and he approached his friend Adolphe Charles Adams(1803-1856). He agreed and the music for the poem was therefore composed by Adolphe. Adolphe had attended the Paris conservatoire and forged a brilliant career as a composer. It was translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight (1812-1893).

Oh holy night

O Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night divine

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here come the wise men from Orient land
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend
Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name

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By Matt Keane

Match of the Day is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

It is one of the BBC’s longest-running shows, having first aired on August 22nd, 1964. Arsenal and Liverpool were the teams who featured on that historic night.

It is worth noting, however, that the first colour edition of the programme arrived on November 15th, 1969 – Liverpool and West Ham the two teams who featured in that game.

Some recognisable names have been MOTD presenters including Kenneth Wolstenholme, David Coleman, Jimmy Hill and a man born in Ennis, Co. Clare, Des Lynam.

Des left Ireland at the age of six when his family decided to move to Brighton. He presented the show from 1988 to 1999. During that period the BBC lost the rights of the show to ITV for four years, but they regained the rights in 1992 when the Premier League was formed.

During those four years the BBC were confined to showing FA Cup games only. Lynam was working on MOTD in April, 1989, at Hillsborough, when disaster struck and 96 supporters lost their lives.

The first Republic of Ireland international player to score a goal on MOTD was Andy McEvoy on October 3rd, 1964. He was playing for Blackburn Rovers against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge; unfortunately Rovers lost 5-1.

Born in Bray, McEvoy played 183 games for Blackburn and he scored 89 goals. He won 17 caps for Ireland, scoring six goals. He finished his career with Limerick, scoring 38 goals for the Shannonsiders. He passed away in 1994 aged just 55 years. Match of the Day is synonymous with its “Goal of the Season” award and another Irish international picked up the prize in 1975.

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By Rebecca Mansell

Consider stuffed cabbage, herring fish and cod fish and Christmas doesn’t exactly spring to mind, does it? How about leaving polished boots on the windowsill or competing to display the best fireworks or going to your friends for a barbeque? Still doesn’t seem very festive does it? Yet all over the world people have different ways of celebrating Christmas.

In many places St. Nicholas is the main gift giver. His feast day, which is his earthly death date, actually falls on 6th December.

Where St. Nicholas is prominent, his day, not Christmas, is the primary gift giving day. Parties may be held on the eve; 5th December, and stockings left for St. Nicholas to fill during the night.
However St. Nicholas gifts are meant to be shared, emphasising the benevolent time of year. Yet very little is actually known about St. Nicholas. He may be considered as the original “Santa Claus” but there are a lack of secure references about him.

One of the earliest legends that is attached to his name tells how St. Nicholas heard of a man who could not afford the dowries for his three daughters, with the result that he intended – regretfully – to send them to a house of ill repute to work.

St. Nicholas saves them from this fate by throwing three bags of gold through their window at night.
Therefore it is this tale which is often identified as the root of St. Nicholas’s reputation as a gift-giver. Many countries incorporate St. Nicholas in their celebrations…so let’s gather the reindeers, leap into the sleigh and fly through the starry night to visit these countries and experience their very own Christmas Day…

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By Fintan Quigley

We grew up in a small rural Irish town, not one-horse, but just about big enough for two.

One memorable Christmas Eve, after Mam was satisfied that she had enough supplies to see her through to Stephen’s Day, Dad mumbled that he was heading down for a couple of “after-tea pints” and that he wouldn’t stay long.

“Don’t forget we’re going to Midnight Mass,” she called after him. He waved a hand of acknowledgement, before disappearing down the street.

For the next few hours myself and my brother helped my mother out in the kitchen. I was in charge of the stuffing, the sting of the onions making my eyes weep, while my brother made an attempt at making a trifle.
Shortly before ten, I saw my mother cast an agitated eye towards the clock. “You’d better run down to Ryan’s and get him,” she said.

I found my father at the bar, telling jokes and letting anyone who would listen know why such a horse was a sure thing in the King George. I told him we had better be off, that we had a Mass to attend.

He slouched along the road, using me as a support every now and then, and told me what a great son I was, and how brilliant my brother was too.

He also told me how lucky he was to have such a wonderful and understanding wife – I hoped she would still be as understanding when we got home. She took one look at him when we reached the door, and laughed, “Sure, Christmas comes but once a year.”

We found a pew towards the back of the church; Midnight Mass always filled up early. Fr. Kelly came out and accompanied by the local choir, the Christmas celebration began. It was a heartlifting experience.

Sitting there listening to the enchanting hymns and the story of the birth of Christ, I felt a warm glow inside.
However, it was when they sang the most heavenly version of Silent Night I had ever heard, that my father started to add his own noises to proceedings.

By the time they got to the third verse he was snoring like a lion. All around him people were laughing, and my mother, God bless her, was mortified. I gave him a few shakes and he came to.

That was over twenty years ago. I am fully grown now, and have children of my own. I still make it home to see the folks on Christmas Eve. I even join my dad and brother for a pint or two before Midnight Mass.
Though I have yet to fall asleep during the service. And whatever my mother said to father in the early hours of that memorable Christmas morning, he has never had a snooze in The Lord’s house since.

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