From The Archives

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The year 1917 has long been viewed as one of changing political attitudes and loyalties. The watershed year witnessed the emergence of a new political phenomenon in the guise of Sinn Fein at the expense of the long dominant Irish Parliamentary Party. As the year came to an end and with four by-election victories under their belts Irish republicans confidently looked forward to realising their long held dream of achieving independence,
writes Eamonn Duggan.

During the last few weeks of 1917 most people across Ireland began to reflect on a year that was notable, not for the violence of the previous year, but for the obvious change in the country’s political direction. The year saw the beginning of the end for the dominant political party of the previous forty years, the Irish Parliamentary Party, and the emergence of an altogether different and much more vibrant political force, Sinn Féin.

The new party, led by Éamon de Valera, was embraced by an increasingly politically astute electorate determined to effect a profound change in the way the country was governed. It voiced its opinion through the ballot box on four occasions during the year returning, each time, a Sinn Féin candidate and creating a momentum which culminated in a stunning Sinn Féin general election victory in December 1918.
However, as the long dark days of 1917 came to an end and the events of the following year were yet to unfold, the majority of the people, not only in Ireland but also across Europe, fervently hoped that the fourth Christmas of the Great War would be the very last one.

While conflict still raged on the continent, Ireland enjoyed what was a relatively peaceful year as political activity took centre stage. The year saw the emergence of a new and youthful leadership dedicated to removing British rule and establishing a republican administration in its place. Many of those who came to public notice during the year had played their part in the Easter Rising and had spent some time after it incarcerated in British prisons or camps where they had time to plan for the next stage of the struggle for independence.

The general consensus which emerged in republican circles was that for the time being long term political victories were more important than any short term gains that might be achieved through acts of violence against British forces or representatives in Ireland. The violence of the Easter Rising and its aftermath had taken a toll on everyone and there was a need, not only for a new approach to win over the political hearts and minds of the populace, but also a need for a period of time to reflect on what future direction the country should take.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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Best selling author Michael Harding recalls some of his festive memories including his favourite Christmas, in 1992, when he was snowed in deep in bog country with just his heavily pregnant wife for company, and a roaring fire to keep them both safe and warm.


Michael Harding sees Christmas as a beacon of light in the bleakness of darkest winter. He also sees it as a metaphor for family life, and has the fondest of memories of his own childhood growing up in Cavan.

“The Christmas meal was a big deal, as we always got a lovely leg of turkey,” he recalls. “You would get white meat on occasion during the rest of the year but the turkey was special. It was also tricky to cook and I have a lot of memories of the turkey going wrong.

“In recent years we have moved away from the tradition of turkey at Christmas as the novelty has kind of worn off. We had Indian food one year, and steak another. I’m not sure what we’ll have this year.”

Michael also embraces the religious side of Christmas, and is particularly drawn to the story of Mary and Joseph, struck by the lack of welcome they received when they arrived in Bethlehem.

“One of my most special memories of Christmas as a child was the Christmas crib,” he says. “Someone else in the family got the job of putting up the tree but I set up the crib, at the bottom of the stairs, and I became very engaged with the story. I was intrigued by this family of outcasts and how they had to sleep in the byre.
“I think of the crib today when I hear stories of the immigrants in Ireland and how they have to live in direct provision centres, at times up to six or seven years or longer, and how difficult a time it must be for them before they are free to fully integrate into our society.

“I remember setting a light up at the back of the crib and pretending it was a stage and shining a spotlight on the different characters in it as I made up stories using the figurines.”

Continue reading in this year’s Christmas Annual

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In an extract from his new book On This Day Vol 2: Irish Histories from Drivetime on RTÉ Radio 1, Myles Dungan recalls how The Pogue’s Christmas classic was kept off Number One 30 years ago. Can you name the song that beat them to the coveted Christmas No. 1 slot in the UK?

Back in 2001, on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the establishment of 2RN, forerunner of Radio Éireann and RTÉ Radio, this station conducted two separate polls to attempt to find the seventy-five most beloved Irish songs. One was a poll of music professionals conducted through IMRO, the Irish Music Rights Organisation, the other was a reader/listener poll conducted through the RTÉ Guide. The results were varied, but there was absolute unanimity about the number one song.

Written by Shane MacGowan and Jem Finer of the Pogues, and sung by MacGowan and the extraordinary Kirsty MacColl, ‘Fairytale of New York’ has become a Christmas anti-classic all over the world. In the UK it is the most-played Christmas song of the twenty-first century. It’s also, arguably, the greatest song not to have reached number one in the British pop charts.

The song had its origins two years before its release. As with most of the mythology surrounding the ‘Fairytale’, there is disagreement about how it began. One version suggests that Elvis Costello jokingly challenged the Pogues, the least sentimental group of all time – outside of The Clash – to write a Christmas hit.

Continue reading in the Ireland’s Own Christmas Annual

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A Tribute to Jimmy Magee

In 1994, I was a seventeen-year-old journalism student asked to interview someone famous as part a college project. New to how the journalism game worked, and also a sports nut, I rang the RTE receptionist to ask if I could speak to Jimmy Magee. “One moment, Sir,” the lady replied, and put me through to the sports desk. Jimmy cheerfully answered the phone, and I explained what I had been asked to do. “No problem at all, young man,” was his reply. There and then, he gave me a half-hour interview, and could not have been more courteous. He will be remembered as a gentleman, and commentating great. The following is an interview he did for Ireland’s Own in 2012. 

Shea Tomkins


A voice for the ages

In the summer of 2012, over one million viewers turned on their television sets to witness golden girl, Katie Taylor, punch her way to Olympic glory, at the ExCel Arena in London. For those nerve-wracking eighteen minutes that it took Bray’s first lady to see off her dogged Russian opponent, a familiar voice carried us through the twists and turns of the pulsating battle – the same voice that has now described the explosive action at eleven summer Olympics, and twelve World Cups.

Coming across loud and clearly over Irish airwaves for over half a century, Jimmy Magee has established himself as the country’s very own Memory Man, though he insists the title was bestowed upon him, and wasn’t self-appointed. The County Louth man has also become famous in sporting circles around the world, celebrated for the credence he gives to the Irish-associated expression of having the ‘gift of the gab’. When it comes to having the right words to suit any sports occasion, Jimmy Magee is your man.

Today, on a quiet Friday afternoon in late autumn, Jimmy has a touch of a cold which was brought on by the unpredictable weather we have been experiencing this year. Other than that he is in sparkling form, as he reflects on a life that up to now has been never short of excitement.

‘These days if people stop me on the street they want to congratulate me on the London Olympics and talk about Katie,’ he says, ‘or whatever sporting event is coming up that weekend. They like to hear my thoughts on who I think is going to win the All-Ireland final or who I think should be in the Irish soccer team. I don’t really follow any particular soccer team but I like seeing the game played properly, so I enjoy watching the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid at the moment.’

Jimmy knew Katie Taylor had the potential to become an Olympic champion long ago. Back in March 2009, he remembers watching her wow an 02 Arena audience when she appeared on the same bill as Bernard Dunne. He cheered her on, affectionately, while she clocked up European and World titles and is proud to have been present when she made history by becoming the first Irish woman to win an Olympic medal for boxing in London. In his opinion, she is Ireland’s greatest contemporary sportsperson.

When his parents Patrick and Rose Magee packed their suitcases and took their not yet three-year-old son out of New York to start a new life across the Atlantic Sea, they had no idea that he would grow up to become one of Ireland’s best loved sports commentators. Jimmy was born in the Bronx in 1935, the eldest of four children but grew up in Ireland, enjoying an idyllic childhood in the Carlingford-Greenore area of rural Louth.

As a boy, he remembers trekking across the fields to visit his grandfather who lived on the side of a mountain and talking to himself, pretending that he was commentating on a GAA game that was taking part in Croke Park that weekend. He even sang some live music to accompany the report, as he also had aspirations to become a disc jockey. Inspired by such legendary commentators as Micheal O’Hehir, Stewart McPherson, John Arlott and Raymond Glendenning, who worked with the BBC, young Jimmy had one true goal in life – to be a sports commentator. It was a dream that he would never give up on.

‘The walks used to take me three-quarters of an hour,’ he recalls, ‘and I would have the whole thing timed to perfection. I was the imaginary presenter of Sunday Sport and I gave the news as if it was real, who was injured, the teams and all the action as it happened. When the call eventually came from RTE I was fully ready to go, because in my head I had done it all many times before.’

Tragedy struck when Jimmy was fifteen years old. His dad, who he idolised, passed away at the age of forty-three, from TB. Being the eldest, he felt it was up to him to become the man of the house and start earning some money to ease the pressure on his mother. Reluctantly, he sacrificed his education to serve his time as a pharmacist in Carlingford. He stayed there for two years before leaving for a job with British Railways, where the pay was better. After six months, he was transferred to Dublin where he managed to get his foot into Radio Eireann, and the realisation of his boyhood dream came true.

Sports broadcaster Jimmy Magee.

‘There was a guy working in RTE called Harry Thuillier who was one of their biggest stars at the time and he had a programme called Junior Sports Magazine. I pestered him a few times for an audition. Eventually he called me back and asked me to come in for a voice test. A few days later he called and said that he liked what he had heard and would I cover a game of hockey the following weekend. That was May 1956, and it was the best feeling in the world when he invited me to become a freelancer on the show.

‘I tried my hand at playing sports too. I played Gaelic football in school and even had aspirations to be a sprinter. The one hundred metre-event was my speciality and I thought I might have a chance of making one of the Olympic teams. I suffered a nasty injury when I was trying out for Dundalk football club at the age of sixteen, and that was the end of any professional sports ideas. I consoled myself with the fact that the career of a commentator outlives the career of sports stars by many years and sure the evidence stands conclusive – here I am in my seventy-seventh year and still doing what I love best.’

Jimmy met the love of his life, Marie Gallagher, at a dance in a ballroom beside the Gate Theatre in 1953. Married at the age of twenty, he feels his early foray into matrimony was the best thing that ever happened to him as it forced him to mature quickly, and also helped him to concentrate on his career. Together they had five children, two boys, Paul and Mark and three girls, Linda, June and Patricia. In 1989, Jimmy lost both his mother and Marie, his beloved wife departing this world far too soon, at the age of fifty-five. He says they would have been married for fifty eight years this year had she lived, and he openly admits feeling lonely at times since she has been gone. Work commitments and looking to the future have helped him cope with her loss, always thinking and planning for the next big sporting event. More tragedy lay in store when his son Paul succumbed to Motor Neuron Disease, a muscle wasting disease, in 2008.

‘Paul was a sports fanatic and he excelled at a number of sports including running, Gaelic Football and soccer – he played with Shamrock Rovers and won a League Cup and FAI Cup with them,’ says Jimmy. ‘He was also an international tenpin bowler. He had an extremely positive outlook on life. As strong as he was, however, it couldn’t save him.’

From covering the first all-London FA Cup Final between Tottenham and Chelsea in 1967 for RTE to watching Bayern Munich capture three European Championships in a row in 1976, or being at the golfing heaven that is the Augusta Masters, Jimmy has such a treasure chest of memories to draw from that it is pretty impossible for him to select one favourite, though Michael Carruth and Katie Taylor’s Olympic victories do get special mention.

In 1987, Jimmy and fellow RTE commentator George Hamilton teamed up to produce a TV sports quiz called Know Your Sport which ran for eleven years, striking a major chord with a mostly male audience around the country. For all the half hours women had commandeered the TV set to watch their favourite soap operas down through the years, suddenly their other halves had a reason to grip the remote control come seven o’clock on a Monday evening.  

‘I suppose Know Your Sport was where the name Memory Man first started,’ says Jimmy, ‘and it was carried on from there. It was a brilliant show and I still remember the big winner at the end of the first series. He was a very knowledgeable Waterford man called Tony Hunt, who is an uncle of the footballers Stephen and Noel Hunt. He was our first champion and won a trip to Seoul in South Korea for the Olympic Games of 1988. A few months back myself and George got together and had a chat about resurrecting the show. I’d definitely be up for it – why not?’

An adventurer disappears in an ancient Egyptian pyramid
and Owen travels back in time to find out why…

A story for slightly older kids who aren’t afraid of mummies…!!!!

It was a sun-drenched Wednesday afternoon and Owen was enjoying his favourite lesson in school – history class.

Today Miss O’Reilly was teaching them about the pyramids of Ancient Egypt. “Many people know about the Great Pyramid of Giza which is one of the original Seven Wonders of the World,” she explained, “but what few people have heard about is another much smaller pyramid that was built close to Giza, a pyramid that has its own very interesting secret.”

owen-the-mummys-tombOwen and Alberto, his best friend and time-travelling companion who was sitting next to him, leaned forward in their seats to hear more.

“On May 15th, 1923, just a few months after Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in November 1922, a lesser-known adventurer named Roger Baxtable entered the smaller pyramid, known today as the Little Point Pyramid. He was travelling with only two camels and a guide that he had hired in a local town.

“When he went inside the pyramid, the guide said he heard Baxtable screaming ‘It’s alive, it’s alive,’ before the entrance of the pyramid caved in, trapping Baxtable forever.
“The guide was terrified and fled the scene,” continued Miss O’Reilly.  

“There was a story that had been passed down for generations, that back in the year 2,400 BC, a young princess had been buried in the pyramid. However, she had been engaged to be married to a local prince who couldn’t get over her death at such an early age.

“On the night of her funeral he went into the pyramid demanding that nobody was to follow him.

“When inside, he closed up the entrance with rock after rock so that nobody could get in. His devastated family tried to follow him but he told them to leave him be, that he wanted to stay with the princess forever. If anyone tried to deny him his wish, he said he would haunt them.

“Many local people claimed to have heard strange noises coming from the Little Point pyramid down the years, but nobody had been brave enough to enter it until Roger Baxtable came along. But when he went inside the pyramid in 1923, he was sadly never seen again.”

Owen and Alberto sat listening with their mouths gaping open. What an amazing story. “You know what we have to do, Owen,” whispered Alberto. Owen nodded.
“Meet me at the time machine tonight at 11 o’clock,” he replied.

Owen’s father was a scientific genius, who had invented the world’s first time machine. He spent his life on adventures to many historic times, and always brought back relics which he left, anonymously, for the local museum to exhibit. Nobody knew his identity, but the treasures that he had left in the care of Professor Claude Santropolis at the National Museum of Greek Artefacts had made the museum the top tourist attraction in the whole country.

At 11 o’clock, once the boys were sure that their families were fast asleep, Owen and Alberto met up with Owen’s dog, Noodles at the shed in their back garden. That was where his dad kept the time machine.  

“We need to go back to 1923 and help Baxtable to escape,” said Owen.

Alberto looked a bit nervous, and as the moonlight illuminated half of his face, Owen and Noodles felt shivers run down their spines.

“I realise this is the scariest mission we have undertaken,” said Owen, “but we just have to find out what happened to him once he went inside that pyramid.”

The three intrepid adventurers climbed inside the time machine and Owen set the date on the clock to May 15th, 1923. There was an explosion of blinding light as the machine warmed up and blasted its way into the past.

When the time machine made its crash-landing in May, 1923, Owen cautiously opened the door and took a look around. They had timed it perfectly. In the distance they could see Roger Baxtable, just as he entered the Little Point pyramid.
Behind him, stood his guide holding on to two camels, just as Miss O’Reilly had described. But then the story took a sinister twist!

The guide turned to his right and ushered frantically at two dark figures that crept their ways around the side of the pyramid. The guide pointed at the pyramid and the two strangers sneaked their way inside, ready to attack an unsuspecting Roger Baxtable.
“Oh no,” whispered Alberto, “the guide must have been part of a criminal gang. We have to save Baxtable. Come on, we have no time to waste.”

First though, they had to distract the guide, so that they could get inside the pyramid without him raising the alarm.

“Noodles,” whispered Owen, “do you think you could scarper around and distract the guide while Alberto and I run inside.”

Noodles woofed in agreement and sped off across the golden sand.

The guide jumped in surprise to see this strange dog running between his camel’s legs and the two beasts he was keeping hold of (the other camel belonged to Roger Baxtable) bolted, such was the fright Noodles had given them. While the guide chased after the camels, trying to calm them down, Owen and Alberto slipped inside the entrance to the pyramid. Within moments, they disappeared into the darkness.
Alberto had brought a torch and he flicked the switch.

A ray of light beamed its way down the eerie entrance tunnel of the pyramid, from where the two boys could hear voices.

“Who are you guys and what do you want?” they heard a man shout in a strong English accent.

Owen knew straight away that it was Roger Baxtable.

“Hand over your treasure bag and all the money that you have,” snapped one of the men.
Instantly, the boys knew that Baxtable was being ambushed.
“Here, tie him up with this rope,” the other man ordered.

Owen now realised what had really happened to Roger Baxtable all those years ago. Three thieves had lured him to the pyramid with the intention of taking his valuables, and then left him locked in the pyramid forever. Well this was Owen’s chance to rewrite history!

“Are you ready?” he whispered to Alberto, just as Noodles arrived at his feet. “We’ve got to act fast!”

Owen and Alberto ran up behind the two unsuspecting thieves and gave them both mighty shoves in the backs. The two thieves fell over into the darkness, dropping their lanterns to the ground. Baxtable reacted swiftly, jumping onto them both while they lay on the ground, tying their hands behind their backs.

“Thanks guys, I owe you my life,” he said to Owen and Alberto. “I guess it’s one of the hazards of being an adventurer, always some dodgy character somewhere trying to get their dirty paws on your valuables.”

Owen took a look over his shoulder. “Do you think the Mummy is really down there?” he asked.

“Well why don’t we find out now that we’re here?” replied the adventurer. And Owen shuddered.

Baxtable took the boys’ torch and led them deeper into the pyramid until they came to a dead end. And there, lying across the wall was not one, but two tombs. Baxtable’s eyes lit up. “Could this be what I think it could be?” he whispered, as he stood before the tombs that held the secrets to a piece of famous Egyptian history.

“Do you mind if we take a picture of you standing in front of the tomb before you open it?” asked Owen, and Baxtable gave his best Indiana Jones-style smile as he posed proudly in front of the tomb. Owen whipped out his tablet, and clicked.

But then, just as Baxtable reached to open the lid of one of the tombs, he heard a groaning sound coming from inside.

“Er, ok,” grumbled Baxtable, “that doesn’t sound good. Time to make a swift exit boys.”

As the lid of the tomb creaked opened, Owen, Alberto and Noodles nearly fainted with the fright. An Egyptian mummy pushed opened the door and began to climb out.
“Arrrrggghhhh,” it yelled, and the four adventurers ran for their lives.

They sprinted past the two thieves who were still face-down on the floor, and up the entrance tunnel to the pyramid.

Owen was super glad to see the daylight. Standing outside was the confused guide, who by now had calmed the camels. Baxtable hopped up onto his camel and began to ride away (a camel even moves faster than an Egyptian mummy).

Meanwhile, Owen, Alberto and Noodles jumped into the time machine, and reset the date to May 15th, 2017. Just as the time machine warmed up, they saw not one, but two mummies emerge from the pyramid. The two thieves were running along in front of them, into the desert, still with their hands tied behind their backs. Hot on their heels was the now even more terrified guide. Moments later, the time machine landed back in 2017, and Owen, Alberto and Noodles were back in the garden shed.

The next morning, Professor Santropolis arrived at the National Museum to find a never seen before picture of Roger Baxtable standing in front of the ancient tombs of the Little Point Pyramid. The anonymous adventurer had struck again! “Thank you,” he whispered, “one day, I’m going to find out who you are…”

Read stories for children every week in Ireland’s Own’s Owen’s Club

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Athlete Ronnie Delaney in 1956. (Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection). (Photo by Independent News and Media/Getty Images)

Noel Coogan recounts the day when the Irish cycling team was arrested

While the sixtieth anniversary of the Melbourne Olympics was remembered earlier in the year, the first Games to be staged down under was actually held in December, 1956. It was a very successful event for Ireland with Ronnie Delany’s 1,500 triumph the highlight and four medals gained in boxing also giving cause for celebration.

However, there was frustration for a small group of Irish cyclists who were hoping to represent their country in the Olympic road race. The trio were members of the National Cycling Association which was not recognised internationally and were taken away by police shortly before the start.

The Irish team comprised of Paudi Fitzgerald from Kerry, Tommy Flanagan from Meath and another Meath man, Tom Gerrard, a former Navan Road Club rider who had emigrated to Australia a few months earlier and was living in Melbourne.

Con Carr from Kildare was also selected but sufficient money was not raised to send him.
Paudi Fitzgerald was selected on the Irish team because of his overall triumph in the 1956 Rás Tailteann. That was the fourth edition of the famous race and the third over eight days. Fitzgerald won two stages to become the second Kerry rider to take overall honours, Gene Mangan having been the winner the previous year.

Tommy Flanagan was honoured with the trip to Australia after winning the National League, a series of long distance races with points awarded to the cyclists with highest placings. The Navan Road Club pedaller also rode consistently to take fifth place overall in the ’56 Ras.

Tom Gerrard was born in Navan town before living in the Gaelic football stronghold of Skryne for a number of years. Coning from a sporting family, his brother Jackie gained senior championship honours with Skryne and Tom was a strong cyclist who took second place in a stage of the Rás.

Each of the three counties was responsible for raising funds to send their man to Melbourne. Meath’s target of £600 was comfortably attained through church gate collections, dances and subscriptions from clubs, other organisations, businesses and individuals.

Flanagan recalled being presented with his Ireland jersey, a predominantly white garment with a tricolour band around the waist. There was a strong support for ‘Send Flanagan to Melbourne’ posters around Meath and the Royal County cyclist departed from Shannon Airport in the early hours of November 27th for the race on December 7th.

The Meath rider travelled alone as shortage of funds delayed Fitzgerald’s departure for another two days. Unlike the present times, no officials went with the cyclists.

Before flying out, Tommy Flanagan sent the following letter to the Meath Chronicle newspaper: “Dear sir, In an hour’s time I depart on a TWA plane to New York en route to Melbourne where I hope to represent my country in the Olympic Games road cycle race on December 7th. That I will soon be starting my journey is due to the wonderful support given to the NCA Olympic Games support fund by the people of Meath for which I want to thank them. I would be pleased if you would publish this short note to show my appreciation of my fellow countymen. Yours in sport, Tommy Flanagan.”

Paudi Fitzgerald linked up with Flanagan in New York and then it was on to San Francisco and Sydney before arriving in Melbourne on December 1st. The two riders were fixed up with accommodation in a suburb of the city.

The whereabouts of the Irish cyclists had newspaper reporters baffled and prompted the following headline, ‘Cyclists cannot be traced.’ Australian Cycling Association secretary Bill Jones said no entries on behalf of Irish cyclists had been received and they would not be allowed to start.

“Nobody will gate-crash on Friday. They can bring their shillelaghs with them if they like but they won’t be any use,” said Jones.  

At the time, Cumann Rothaiochta na hEireann (CRE), 26-county body, was accepted internationally to represent Ireland.

The three cyclists hoping to represent their country in the 1956 Olympics were given instructions by NCA officials to highlight the association’s plight.

Apart from the aim of getting away with the rest of the racers, they were instructed to remove every Union Jack they could find and, bizarrely, to extinguish the Olympic flame in protest at their exclusion. However, the latter proved beyond them!
Leaflets, printed in a few different languages, highlighting the NCA’s situation, were distributed among the spectators by Irish emigrants.

Looking back, Tommy Flanagan said they nearly got away with the rest of the riders. “We kept our tracksuits on as long as possible and the starter was down to six in the countdown when we were noticed. We were told we weren’t entered, the police were called in and we left peacefully. The police had sympathy for us,” he said.

Although not allowed to compete, Flanagan described the trip down under as a memorable experience. “Altogether we were away for three months and were treated well everywhere we went,” he recalled.
Strangely, Ronnie Delany’s gold medal triumph in the 1,500 metres did not impress some Irish people. NCA president and NACA vice-president Jim Killean expressed the odd opinion that “nobody won a gold medal for Ireland this time!”

 At the subsequent NACA congress Killean was critical of Nenagh Olympic AC members for taking part in the town’s welcome for Delany.

After being selected to represent Ireland in the 1956 Olympic Games, the three cyclists did not do much racing. But Tommy Flanagan still goes out for regular spins. At the time of writing, all three men are alive and well and can look back on a dramatic chapter in Irish sport which occurred 60 years ago this month.


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PAULINE MURPHY marks the 125th anniversary of the death of the ‘Uncrowned King of Ireland’ and the inception of the annual Ivy Day comemoration on Oct 6th.


This year marks the 125th anniversary of the death of the ‘Uncrowned King of Ireland’. On October 6th, 1891, Charles Stewart Parnell took his leave of this world at the much too young age of 45.

Parnell’s funeral was one of the biggest funerals in Ireland and drew up to 200,00 mourners, including a large contingent from the GAA. Parnell’s funeral took place five days after his death and the streets of Dublin thronged was with those who followed the funeral procession to Glasnevin Cemetery. Such was the size of the crowd that the funeral arrived through the gates of Glasnevin late in the night!

It was a major event and such was the strong interest and public demand, train companies put on special ‘funeral trains’ to bring mourners to the capital from all corners of the country.

In the days after, newspapers across the land published names of people who had attended the funeral in Dublin. If someone who had been to it and failed to see their name published in the paper, the editor was sure to get an angry letter from them!

The funeral made headlines across the globe. Newspapers in places like New Zealand, Africa, America and Australia, reported extensively on the massive funeral, one which was conducted on behalf of the Parnell family by Fanagans undertakers in Dublin.
Before Parnell was carried to his final resting place on the northside of the city, he lay in state in Dublin’s City Hall where up to 30,000 people passed by his coffin.
When the funeral procession took place and followed the route down O’Connell Street, (then known as Sackville Street) towards Glasnevin, Parnell’s dark brown horse, aptly named Home Rule, followed behind the hearse. A pair of his master’s riding boots dangled from the black drapped saddle.

Behind ‘Home Rule’ were former and serving members of parliament who walked in formation while carriages behind them carried members from corporations across Ireland. Several bands also made up the funeral procession while at the request of the Parnell family, no banners or flags were allowed.

The hearse containing the remains of Parnell was covered in a mass of floral wreaths while several more carriages had to accommodate the over-flow of such floral tributes.
Among the many floral wreaths that were then placed on Parnell’s grave was one sent from a lady in Cork and was made entirely of dark green ivy.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (Issue 5571)

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Thirty people who were alive in 1916 opened up to film-maker Alex Fegan for a landmark documentary that covers a hundred years of life in Ireland, but their own life stories were the most fascinating, writes Eileen Casey.


One of the televisual gems of recent years is Older Than Ireland, a low budget documentary by Snackbox Films, distributed by Element Pictures (2015) and directed by Alex Fegan.

Since it aired on RTÉ television in late August 2016, the stars of this charming production continue to enjoy celebrity status. The film is especially significant for featuring men and women who’ve lived through the birth of the State, witnessed Civil War, technological advances and their effect on day-to-day living (washing machines, computers etc.).

olderthanirelandcoverIt’s an historical and social portrait, taken at a particular time, paying tribute to the outlooks of those who have gone through a broadening out of life in general, simplified in the expression ‘a car at every door’.

There are political resonances also. For example, Jackie O’Sullivan from Killarney met Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera, while Jimmy Barry from Waterford witnessed the 1920 Bloody Sunday Massacre when he was aged just nine.

 From start to finish, watching Older Than Ireland is a time travelling experience. The centenarians take us on a journey back to a distant past, recalling, among other things, memories of first shoes, first kisses, school days, work, romance, marriage, what reaching 100 means and of course the inevitable question concerning the afterlife.
It’s a journey that recaptures the magic and thrills together with the emotional pain of grieving the loss of loved ones.

Older Than Ireland brings laughter and tears in equal measure. Dolly Atley’s first shoes are forever bound with the circumstances of her father’s death. He had gone to market with his pony and cart, promising the one-year-old little girl that he would bring back ‘a new pair of shoes for his little doll.’

However, on the way home the pony became skittish and jumped into the ditch, killing Dolly’s father. While she sat in her armchair in front of the camera’s eye, she recounted this hugely significant episode in her younger life, holding the little shoes in her hands, faithfully preserved all these years. The shoes, barely the size of Dolly’s palm, seemed so poignant, connected as they are to such a bitter sweet event.
First shoes were certainly big news for most of the men and woman interviewed. Walking to school barefoot seems to have been a common denominator too, described by Kathleen Fosdike from Castleknock as often resulting in ‘big toes without a nail’. Shoes, for the most part, meant prestige and feeling important in a rural Ireland where money was scarce and where style took a back seat to the provision of day to day necessities.
The down-to-earth no nonsense attitude of some of the ladies, in particular, also brought smiles. Margaret Kelly from Ballinasloe described getting the cheque from Michael D, money that was spent on the party that celebrated her 100th year – “and sure if we didn’t get it, we’d have to do without it”. Who could argue with that? When asked how it felt reaching this milestone age, Kathleen’s sister Mary (101) insisted that her life was little different to when she was young “except I have more comfort now as I don’t have to do anything!”

Madge Fanning from Skerries took her centenary celebration in her stride and said it didn’t knock a feather out of her, that she didn’t get excited about it.
Dr Jack Powell from Nenagh, woke up on his birthday and thought he’d better get up, he had a big birthday to celebrate. Dr Powell worked as a vet all his life, not retiring until he was 98. A member of the Church of Ireland (or minority religion as he himself described it), he said he never felt excluded by his Catholic neighbours and when the roof of his church went up in flames, it was those same neighbours who helped put out the fire.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own