A SOUNDTRACK TO MY LIFE?

Cool Music

In 2004, radio presenter, Gareth O’Callaghan, in his book A Day Called Hope talked about the part music and song played in his life. He described the difficulties of putting words on emotions that the lyrics of a song could express so eloquently. I suppose we all have favourite songs that put words on our feelings.
There are also those songs that when we hear, transport us to places and occasions of the past to remember sad and happy experiences.
Recently, an afternoon presenter (whom I really dislike) began a series of interviews with famous guests, discussing the music that related to their life. It inspired the following compilation – I couldn’t include all songs; sometimes the most important were omitted but it’s a snap shot of some of the music I remember from through the years

SOUNDTRACK TO MY LIFE

THE FIFTIES

The musical memories of life in our home
Were the songs of my mother as she pottered around
About dogs in shop windows and the White Cliffs of Dover
And the high hopes of ants to knock rubber plants over.

Six kids and a dog squashed in the back of our car
Belting out songs probably stopped a world war
About wishing on stars and catching some that fell
Many long Irish dirges with sad tales to tell.

THE SIXTIES

Musicals and ballads on EPs and LPs
Acquired by our dad in auction houses on the quays
An EP by the BeeGees where the world had a cry
Because of a joke was the first one I’d buy.

The Beach Boys and creatures like Beatles and Monkees
Sang the pop songs that accompanied me through my teens
A romantic “slow dance” in the Moran Road Hall
To Seasons in the Sun I still can recall.

Singers with strange name – Humperdink and Goldsboro
Crooned songs that were happy and songs full of sorrow
Bad John who was big on the Dock of the Bay
Sugar Sugar, And Saving the Last dance for me

THE SEVENTEES

In the seventies I met Seamus and he had a car
Replete with a stereo: Leonard Cohen was our star.
In a night club called Sloopys we discoed and drank wine
To American Pie and Sweet Caroline.

An Old Sheeling date every Monday without fail
‘cause we knew The Wolftones – Tommy Byrne was our pal
The Lower Deck, The Embankment were on the list too
And we belted out ballads about OUR RIGHT TO RULE

THE EIGHTEES

A decade of kids’ songs, nursery rhymes with my babies
About Dragons called Puff and other strange ditties

THE NINETEES

This decade started out with losing my dad
And his song Nancy Spain still makes me feel sad.
6 years after, Shay died taking so many dreams
And the priest by his bed sang of Bunclody’s streams.

And following bereavement as I journeyed to work
Des Cahill and Gareth O’Callaghan kept me going with songs and with talk
A choir started in school and ’twas lovely to hear
The range of the music and the voices so clear.

THE MILLENIUM – A NEW CENTURY

On January 1st a new century sailed in
But at family gatherings the same songs we’d sing

2010 –

In this latest decade it’s hard to decide
The range of my musical interests so wide.
I buy fewer CDs, download lots from i-tunes
Still belt out a ballad when working alone

Rainy nights in Soho reminds me of goodbye
to a beloved hill 16 brother way too young to die
and songs of religion now feature quite strong
Following 5 ICU weeks and recovery long.

But how amazing the memories as I look back
All accompanied by a weird and wonderful soundtrack.

What is age?

General Douglas McArthur on “staying young”:

Russian Vine in the Gables garden (taken from Oaklawn in 1980 and still flourishing!) Could aptly be called Rushin vine due to speed of growth

Youth is not a time of life, it is a state of mind.

Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years; people grow old by deserting their ideals.

Worry  doubt, self-distrust  fear and  despair, these are the long, long years that bow your head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.

You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.

So long as your heart receives messages of beauty, cheer, courage, grandeur and power from the earth, from man, from the infinite so long are you young.

When the heart is covered with the snow of pessimism and the ice of cynicism  then I am grown old indeed, and may you, Lord, have mercy on my soul.

Fuschia still adding colour to Gables garden

 

 

WORLD CUP FEVER-RUSSIA 2018

Every four years soccer hits the world stage and memories of Ireland’s halcyon days of the 90’s flood back – the swell of pride at hearing Amhráin na bhFiann on a world stage, the flying of tricolours throughout the country is remembered as I sit down to a feast of football.

 Jim told stories of the pre 90’s Irish teams and the crowds that followed them; we watched Ray Houghton put the ball in the English net in Stuttgart in the 1988 Euros and felt (and still feel) the swell of national pride and the craic that years later would make no sense to Roy Keane; Christie Moore’s Inchicore Joxer became a party celebrity and then we qualified for Italia ’90 and we became a nation of soccer enthusiasts. David filled books with stickers of footballers and we entered match scores on grids.


ITALIA ‘90

We didn’t win the World Cup but we went wild, flew flags, hung out bunting, sang Italian songs (Volare, Amore ) with Dean Martin and songs about Paul McGrath (ooh aah), Jackie’s Army (that we were all part of!),

Thousands of supporters, friends and family, travelled to Italy for the matches, but those of us who stayed at home, shared their adventure with equal fervour and grew more hysterical by the day.

We survived the group stage and reached the second round. OMG! Travel plans were changed and tickets were sourced and the boys hit for Genoa.

Dublin was as hot as Genoa on that Monday in June for the late afternoon kick-off against Romania. After ending in a draw we needed Packie to save and O’Leary to score and the crowds took to the streets as the travellers scrapped their flight tickets for Dublin and headed for Rome and a place in the World Cup Quarter finals – penalty shoot-outs will always bring me back to the excitement of Genoa.

The Pope wanted to meet us!!!! And although Toto Schillaci ended our dream in Rome’s Stade Olympico, the entire country celebrated the journey and we channelled the ecstasy into the homecoming.
And for ever after we thought Pavarotti sang Nessun Dorma for us!!!!


USA ‘94


The Giant Stadium, NY, was the site of victory for the Green Army in World Cup 1994. Drawn against the Italian giants in the Giant’s Stadium we had hope more than expectation until 5 minutes into the game Ray Houghton lopped the goalie. With baited breath for the rest of the match we cheered as Paul McGrath outwitted the famous Roberto Baggio.

The fans travelled onto Orlando, a city decked out in Green and Orange…. World media found some of our travellers and we rang round family here at home so that recorders could be set and a snatch of the revellers would become part of our World Cup memorabilia. We were lauded as the “greatest fans in USA” before the heat of the Citrus Bowl combined with the talents of the Dutch on the football field.

Undaunted, the Irish team and fans hit back to NY, but unfortunately succumbed there to the force of the Mexicans. But while it lasted, the stories were great and the songs and the posters and the comraderie and the tales of the Three Amigos!


KOREA/JAPAN 2002

Our soccer star didn’t rise again till 2002 when once again our team qualified for the World Cup and plans were made to go EAST to Japan and Korea. This time a new generation of family travelled as my newly graduated and recently employed son, David, took off as a member of the Green Army.

It was still a relatively pre mobile phone era and so we only knew the media presentation which was weighed heavily about the Saipan debacle. We watched BBC and RTE anxiously for any news but often had to be happy with views of the returned Keane walking his dog Trigs. Keane was our lynchpin – what would happen without him!!!

But Matt Holland did us proud against the Cameroons. Another 1:1 draw against the Germans and the other Keane’s (Robbie) somersaulting victory display! We dismantled Saudi and found ourselves runners-up in the group against Spain! Less than 10 minutes into game we were 1:0 down and only equalised in last few minutes – after extra time we were still undivided so Penalties again! No joy this time as Ireland were sent home! And months of recrimination against Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy followed.

AND SINCE THEN: 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018

Brian Kerr unsuccessfully led us through the 2006 qualifiers to be played in Germany but the country fell in love with Kerr’s commentaries and Roy Keane returned to the fold – older and less able!

 

 

 

 

 

We got out of our group stages for 2010 World Cup but Thierry Henry’s hand halted our progress to South Africa.

 

 

 

Trapatonni managed us in 2014 and although Ireland weren’t contesting Ray represented the O’Loughlin branch of the Green Army in Brazil.

 

 

And now as we near quarter final 2018 in Russia without Ireland we listen to the expertise of pundits – Brian Kerr has to be a favourite with what have become known as “Kerrisms”.

MAYBE 2022 in Qatar???

 

I’m not a poet BUT I wrote some poems…..

Following on from my previous post (Raised on songs and stories):

Steeped in the literary tradition described in my last post, it is hardly any wonder that I sometimes played with words and scribbled poems of gladness and sadness, rhyming and not, personal narratives, sometimes incomplete and frequently edited on odd bits of paper….. never read by anyone but myself.

Until my first year on the Education Committee, when as part of the subcommittee on Creativity and the Arts in Education I wrote a short introductory drama through ditties for the 2009 Education Conference in Gorey. Little did I realise that I would also be called on to chase out to buy a costume to participate in the short drama – parodies of Nursery Rhymes and well known songs – calling on Batt O’Keefe the Minister for Education to improve funding for the arts. For some years there was a web recording of the event; but I googled today and it’s either been archived or committed to dust – no harm as it was a really poor quality recording!!!!

But here goes with some of the ditties:

Dough , my dear, is what we need
To pay for art and song and mime
Me alone with thirty kids
For music, dance and song and rhyme
So I ask for extra hands
Lots of experts in the know
Teams to teach these dreaded strands
Batt to send us all that dough .. ow ..ow ..ow (Doe, a deer)

Humpty Dumpty sat in the room
Humpty Dumpty looked for a loom
Fabric and Fibre
He couldn’t find either
It’s enough to fill Humpty with sadness and gloom

 

Sparkle sparkle paint and glue
It’s no wonder I am blue
30 kids with drums to play
Put the instruments away
Take out props and follow cue
I must do some drama too (Twinkle Twinkle)

Little O’Keefe (Batt O’Keefe was Ed Min)
Should lose his brief
And get back to his roots at the chalk face
Give him 29 (kids)
No sink and no time
Just Units and Strands – what a rat race (Little Bo Peep)

The Drums will come out tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow
There’ll be sighs
Just thinking about tomorrow
Fills my heart with horror and with sorrow
All that noise
When I’m stuck with a class of thirty whistlers
I stick out my chin, try to grin and play
Tomorrow, tomorrow
I dread you tomorrow
You’re only a day away. (from Musical Annie,,, The Sun will Come Out)

Hey diddle diddle – no piano no fiddle
And a teacher that sings out of key
The parents want ‘bands’, the inspectors want strands
And they all seem to want it from ME.


This probably served as a precursor to the short “tongue-in-cheek” history of Kilcock I wrote some time later for the “opening of the new school” celebrations. We had a lot of talent but needed a focus to draw it together in a coordinated performance.

PAGEANT

Long long ago in early Christian times
When chieftains battled up and down our roads
To show their wealth they brought along with them
Craft workers and not just men with swords

Such was our Coca – highly skilled of hand
Who stitched, embroidered her lordship’s clothes so grand
But she was holy too and liked to pray
And in the evening always slipped away.

So when the chief encamped around this place
She found a well – it filled her full of grace
She said I’ll stay and start a little cell
That’s how Kilcock is here – the truth I tell.

Long years passed by and many changes came
The stories of Kilcock and Ireland are the same.
The Norman John de Hereford and his son Tom
Sent clerics down – they built a church of stone
King Harry 8 in his “church” take-over bid
Was unsuccessful – the Catholics just hid
Until his army passed to Kinnegad
And the priests said mass just as they always had.

In medieval times a cross was placed
In the centre of the Green, the Market Space.
And people celebrated at the site
Singing songs and dancing with all their might

Sad stories of the men of ’98
Then Famine caused the population doom
As many died, or left for faraway lands
The people and the town were filled with gloom.

But the people of Kilcock did not despair
The Royal Canal brought business to the scene
And goods were floated in and out by barge
And later, on faster transport powered by steam

At that time too the equine pundits moved
To Punchestown for festivals and fun
And Sr Fintan taught us racing poems
And now we’ll treat you to our favourite one.

(The Racing of Finn McCool)

Around that time the PP viewed his flock
Said few can read and write – oh what a shock
I’d better get some education going
He asked the Brothers, men of highest knowing
To start a school for boys that they might learn
Some reading, writing, ‘rithmetic in turn.

Now what about the girls I hear you say
The PP wrote a note to USA
He wrote “This comes from Ireland, from Kilcock
“We need some ladies of your teaching stock”
And so the sisters started up this little school
And ran it by the Presentation Rule.

That was the year of 1879
Classes were taught in the convent at the time

Scoil Choca Naofa 1953

In 1953 Scoil Choca Naofa was built
And Srs Eithne, Dympna, Brendan landscaped the site
It served us well for more than 50 years
But 300 children in 5 rooms was much too tight

So Board and Parents, Teachers and the kids
Made lots of noise, sent letters to the Dail
And Conor, Gerry, Tom and all their crew
Built this fine new place of learning for us all.

So cheers to all who’ve worked so hard for us
Buíochas daoibh go leir ‘gus bualadh bos

Raised on songs and stories

Quoting from the well known Dublin song, I too think I was “raised on songs and stories”. I wrote one of my post grad papers on the storytelling tradition and the wealth of literature and history I was exposed to growing up. Poems played a particularly important part in that heritage.

 

We always got a book from Santa at Christmas – and that is why my favourite poem is probably ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by  Clement Moore. I have numerous editions of the poem – probably only differing in illustrations but each one of them special.


Santa brought a poetry book at some stage which contained a selection of wonderful poetry. My earliest favourite was Hiawatha’s Childhood by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an extract from the Song of Hiawatha. How could you not but see the images conjured by his grandmother Nikomis’ words.

 

At the door on summer evenings,
Sat the little Hiawatha,
Heard the whispering of the pine-trees,
Heard the lapping of the waters,
Sounds of music, words of wonder;
“Minne-wawa!” said the pine-trees,
“Mudway-aushka!” said the water.
Saw the fire-fly Wah-wah-taysee,
Flitting through the dusk of evening,
With the twinkle of its candle
Lighting up the brakes and bushes,
Later I went on to read the entire poem and was moved by the romance of the wooing of Minnehaha!


What other poems stirred me-

I loved  Samual Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.


My teacher in 3rd and 4th used to read us legends – Irish and international.  That’s probably why I liked Lord Tennyson’s tragic story of the Lady of Shalott – its connection to Lancelot and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table which was read to me at school.

Willows whiten, aspens shiver.
The sunbeam showers break and quiver
In the stream that runneth ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray towers
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.


I had an inspirational teacher in 5th and 6th class and she read Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


As part of the Leaving Cert programme I was led to explore the moodiness of Emily Dickenson’s and Thomas Hardy’s poetry.
WB Yeats always held a special place in Mam’s heart and loved the way she would quote frequently from a number of poems: “I will arise and go now” was a favourite parting line of hers.
• I didn’t discover Francis Ledwidge and his WW1 poems until I was in college.
• One of my most recent discoveries is the sun and her flowers collection by rupi kaur, short and sort of feminist and moody poems


Mam was a great reader of poetry. Around the Boree Log was a book that my grandmother used to read for her children when they returned from Australia and mam had a well-thumbed copy of it. The poems ranged from humorous tales of scraggy dogs and children unwillingly joining in family prayer to stories of longing for home or youth. Written by Fr. John O’Brien the poems were all about the simple if arduous farming life of Irish settlers in Australia.

Through the hush of my heart in the spell of its dreaming
Comes the song of a bush boy glad-hearted and free;
Oh, the gullies are green where the sunlight is streaming,
And the voice of that youngster is calling to me.

It is calling to me with a haunting insistence,
And my feet wander off on a hoof-beaten track,
Till I hear the old magpies away in the distance
With a song of the morning that’s calling me back.
(from Calling to Me)


I never realised that John O’Brien wrote another collection of poetry until at a recent forage through second-hand books I found The Parish of St Mel’s.  Because Mam’s readings were usually accompanied by stories about my Gran’s longing for home I always felt that even the funny ones were a bit nostalgic!

Mam was renowned for her recitations as party pieces, many of emigrant poems, and I was so proud to accompany her as she represented the Wexfordmen’s Association as a reciter in National Competition. We even “went on tour” when, following a 1798 tribute to the Shears Brothers at St Michan’s Church, she was invited by Cork City Council to perform the same poem in Cork, at the door to the Shears’ family home.


In more recent years, as our family gathered to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, I was surprised by the creativity of uncles and cousins who penned poems describing the lives and adventures of various family members. It was lovely to listen to people being celebrated while they were still here to hear them. Very often, I discovered that there were actual collections of poems. I began collecting them and although not for me to publicise, I read through them frequently and wonder at the talent and depth of feeling behind them. I know I’ve mentioned on a few occasions that I hope to feature as a central theme.

So imagine my delight when I received these words – AND on National Poetry Day 2018: A POEM ABOUT ME (well sort of?) a tribute to multiple births in my garden pond (the writer wishing to remain anonymous?)

My Garden Pond

A stroll past the pond
That ripple caught my eye
I thought to myself
Maybe it was a fly

Curiosity got the better
I wanted to see
Threw away my walking stick
Went down on one knee

Well to my surprise
With more than one to count
They swam those waters
Not very much food about

Irony has its way
They are guarded each day
By a legless heron
Who keeps away the prey

The Salmon of Knowledge
In folklore is told
But nothing like spotting
A fish with scales of gold

My words they have fooled you
The pond is so small
If you jumped across it
You would easily make landfall

CHILDHOOD REMINISCENCES

A family get-together is always a great chance for reminiscing and that’s what we did at a family wedding last week – funny too what different memories or versions of memories we can have!!!

 I grew up in an amazing place: THE BIG RING, St Mary’s Park, Walkinstown, Dublin 12. We all knew each other, we all played and fought together and had a particular loyalty to those others who lived in the BIG ring; those who lived in the LITTLE ring couldn’t just join in with us: they had to be invited or more often they were in competition against us!!! My best friend lived in the little ring and we sat on a wall at the corner and talked and talked after school every day.

I never knew the Christian name of some of my neighbours or of my parent friends: they were ALWAYS called Mr or Mrs. and my parents’ brothers and sisters were titled Aunt and Uncle. Priests and nuns were ALWAYS called Father and Sister. You wouldn’t dream of swearing in front of an adult. You “watched your mouth” or there would be consequences. We helped neighbours with their shopping bags (hoping for a reward!)

Winter and Summer, we played Rounders, Hide n Seek, Red Rover, Beds/Hopscotch and Tug of War outside on the road or the green. We put up a swing on the pole at the corner of the green.

We played two balls, we cycled, we roller-skated, we skipped. During holiday time we went out early morning and had to be home when the street lights came on or when someone called “You’re wanted!”

We wore the same clothes day after day and had a bath and our hair washed on Saturday night. We had Sunday clothes for Mass.

Recycling was done as we searched for bottles and jars to exchange for favours with the Rag n Bone man. Jars (always called jamjars, in particular were a luxury as most of them were kept to be “boiled” for jam. We shared drinks out of the same bottle with just a wipe on the sleeve between users. School never closed and you always walked to school – we wore wellies and a plastic mac that enveloped body and schoolbag if the weather was bad.

Mr Whippy’s music gave notice of the ice cream man’s  approch and we hoped that Mam would be flush so that we could afford a cone! A NINETY-NINE was a rare but wonderful treat.

 

We ate bread and butter, jam and banana sandwiches for our tea. Blackberries were picked in Tallaght for jam; I can’t remember where the crab apples for jelly came from; but I can remember topping and tailing blackcurrants from the garden. Dad had a plot (allotment) in Islandbridge and we sometimes went there to help “harvesting”.

Fast food was what we ate if we were called in, in the middle of a game that we wanted to return to before our team lost or won or we missed our turn! We had fried eggs and potatoes on Friday or sometimes fish! Chips were made in a chip pan that could NEVER be left unguarded in case it set the house on fire. A friend of my mother’s called every few months and brought Crunchies and Aeros. Dad always brought back “English sweets” ( I can still remember sucking Spangles for hours) if he was through the NORTH delivering. He sometimes called to the park in the truck on his way back to the brewery and we took a lift to the end of the road. my dreams that time were of becoming a truck driver and reversing into narrow laneways!!!!

We went to Dollymount with our cousins some Sundays during the Summer and ONE roast chicken with plenty of thick slices of bread and sand(!!!) fed two families. (My aunt called it the miracle of the loaves and chicken!). Sometimes we went to Glenmalure fishing or to the Curragh just to gallop around. We visited Granny many Sundays where we met all the cousins and played outside in the hayshed while the adults talked inside. When visiting the Wicklow relations we walked the hills to keep us occupied.

There was a kids’ film on in the Star or the Apollo on a Saturday afternoon. The first one I went to was Pollyanna. The Residents Association held a Christmas party in the Apollo every year – a film and goodies!!

 

 

Not everyone had a television but we did. It didn’t start until 6 in the evening and we watched Flipper (the dolphin), Skippy (the bush kangaroo), Lassie (the wonder dog), Mr Ed (the talking horse), WHOLESOME I think they would be called today!!!

 

I never remember being afraid of anything – the big girls on the road brought us to the library and to Girl Guides. We knew there were some strange people around but we avoided them kindly – crossing the road or going around the long way!!!

People say today’s kids have everything!! Well that’s not strictly true
We had Everything

OICHE NOLLAG

 

Candle in the window

For as long as I can remember Mam lit a candle in the window on Christmas Eve. It was a sign that Mary and Joseph would not be turned away from this house, that the stranger would be welcome. I loved the tradition and continued it when I moved to Leixlip and then Naas. And now with family grown and the whole Christmas decorating thing becoming more minimal, I still light the candle but now over an extended period… usually from the start of Advent through to the Epiphany.

One of the most symbolic acts of Mary Robinson’s presidency was the placing of a light in the window of her official residence in the Phoenix Park.

It resonated, she said, with the tradition of her home town of Ballina, where people would light a candle and put it in the window in the run up to Christmas.

She did it in order to make good on a promise made in her acceptance speech that “there will always be a light on in Áras an Uachtaráin for our exiles and our emigrants”.

The “candle” theme of Máire Mac and tSí’s poem mad it one of my favourites at school.

Le coinnle na n-aingeal tá an spéir amuigh breactha,
Tá fiacail an tseaca sa ghaoith on gcnoc,
Adaigh an tine is téir chun an leapan,
Luífidh Mac Dé ins an tigh seo anocht.
Mary and Joseph

Fágaig’ an doras ar leathadh ina coinne,
An mhaighdean a thiocfaidh is a naí ar a hucht,
Deonaigh scíth an bhóthair a ligint, a Mhuire,
Luíodh Mac Dé ins an tigh seo anocht.

Mary Joseph

 Bhí soilse ar lasadh i dtigh sin na haiochta,
Cóiriú gan caoile, bia aguis deoch,
Do cheannaithe olla, do cheannaithe síoda,
Ach luífidh Mac Dé ins an tigh seo anocht.

Mr Nick Corish

Mr Corish

Thank you to the someone who  posted this on Facebook: “My motto in life is ‘Keep doing anything you are able to do!’ It may sound simple, but let me put it in other words. It came back to me recently because somebody saw me putting on my socks standing up after swimming in the sea. The person was worried that I’d fall. You see, I’m 92 years of age, and I always put them on that way. I’m not planning to change it while I can do it. You can’t give up on yourself before life does!”

cahore beach

My Mr Corish memories

At exactly 9 o’clock every July morning on Cahore beach, there appeared a large and motley group of children. A bearded twinkling eyed instructor waded into the waves and called “C’mon on in Tiddlers” and the smallest of the kids shivered but followed in and joined hands. No matter what the weather, dull and cold or sunny and warm, wet or windy – also important to remember that this was pre wet suit era!!!! A variety of instructions: “jump over the waves, wash your face, hold hands in a ring and every second one lie back, face in the water” were all obediently followed until parents were requested to take their offspring and the next group of “more advanced” swimmers were ordered into the water.

Not until the oldest group of “experienced” swimmers finished did the instructor emerge from the sea, calling on the kids to follow him to the pier. with army-like precision we marched behind him gathering bundles of towels and clothes to participate in the Water Safety classes. Joined by a group of adults, we watched attentively as resuscitation was modelled and then in pairs we practiced on each other. Then all of us once again into the water, way out of our depth, and followed the procedures of “victim away” “rescuer away” for numerous rescue techniques.

It sounds so serious now and yet I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. amazingly we repeated the whole exercise again in the afternoon. The  culmination (I’m not sure after how many sessions) was signalled with the arrival  of an assessor from Irish Water Safety for THE EXAM. The resulting badge (if you got it!!!!) was quickly sown onto your togs to identify you as a rescuer.

HAPPY 50TH BIRTHDAY- COMMUNITY GAMES

(Photos to be added when I find them in attic search!!!!)

The Walkinstown Sports Day was such a date in our calendar! In Mary’s Park we trained for sprints up and down the side of the “park” and the edge of the green provided the “distance” markings for the longer races which we ran in laps. The green itself became the centre for field events which in those days was either the long or the high jump… it wasn’t until much later that the throwing of things (javelins and shots, etc) was introduced! The older kids (those who were 10 and 11) were the starters and adjudicators and the integrity that was required of them would not be out of place in the real world today! There were often complaints and objections but they were usually dismissed immediately to allow training resume!

The SPORTS DAY dawned and a car drove around the area announcing events, starting times and “added” attractions (an Ice Cream van was the usual addition!) Bunting Road Green was the site for the SPORTS and in an era when we saw little official racing on TV this “lined out” arena surrounded by a huge crowd of athletes in motley sports gear and their spectating parents caused great excitement. We walked around intently examining the starting points for various races, commenting on distances as if we were experts, and checking out the opposition.

The megaphone announcements of the real races as well as the novelty races was listened to with such attention….it would be DISASTER to MISS your heat. Nor could you miss the race of your best friend or a family member. We screamed all onto victory. Decisions were made about the viability of wearing runners or going barefoot. Presentation of medals (or packets of sweets to the also rans) by Mr Connolly or Mr Bermingham (everyone over 25 was Mr or Mrs then) was cheered loudly.

joe-connolly

And then OUR Joe Connolly and Walkinstown were at the cutting edge of the establishment of The Community Games. Joe, an ordinary but inspiring man mobilised a handful of adults who then came together and formed a committee to address the lack of sporting and leisure activities for young people in 1960’s Dublin.

We never saw the big “social” picture. For us it meant an extension to SPORTS DAY and an added prize of knowing someone who might progress to represent their area and even their county. The first Dublin Finals took place in August 1968 with 3,000 young people from 24 community areas participating. However it was in ***** when Jim and Carmel garbed in maroon blazers and white shorts paraded proudly through the streets of Dublin that our hearts swelled with pride, a pride that neither Ronnie Delaney nor Sonia O’Sullivan ever inspired.

As family photographer for all events I surged forward to capture the pair of Olympians on camera. For many years after the Community Games in our house was known as the Mini Olympics, a sign of the esteem in which they were held!!!

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Many years later my own lad paraded around Mosney as a Kildare representative lifting Bronze and Silver medals and I managed a badminton team with Jean Kennedy that took home Gold.

 

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Opening and closing Parade, Community Games, August 1991

I must climb into the attic one of these days and find more of the photos and programmes and medals that commemorate the fond memories of this childhood rite of passage, the excitement of activities with friends on Summer days when the sun “always shone”

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 Community Games County Pledge

We the children of Dublin pledge ourselves to the ideals of the Community Games in a spirit of friendly rivalry. We will strive to participate with honest endeavour. Our aim will not be victory at any price but we will genuinely seek to unite our community in friendly sporting competition. By competing fairly and honestly, we the children of Dublin will attempt to make our county a happier place in which to live.

Sé aidhm na gCluichí Phóbail cairdeas fearúlacht agus cothrom na féinne a chothú agus a mhúnlú i measc an phobail uilig. Dearbhaimidine paistí Condae Atha Cliath, go ndéanfaimid ár ndícheall a bheith dílis do ídealacha na gCluichí Phobail. Cé gur mhian linn go léir an chraobh a bhaint amach,mar sin féin tuigfimid gur tábhachtaí go mór spiorad coir, macánta ionraic a chothú tríd na gcluichí seo. Measaimid-ne má éiríonn linn cuspóir na gCluichí seo a bhaint amach gur sásta agus gur aontaíthe an pobal a bheidh again uilig in ár gceanntair féin, in ár gcathair féin agus in ár mbailte féin, in ár gCondaethe féin. Ní neart cur le chéile.

Many famous Irish people have competed in the games over the years and have very fond memories of the Community Games.

“I always enjoyed the Community Games in Cobh with my school friends and then the trip to Cork for the county finals. The ultimate though was heading off on the train to Mosney for the all-Ireland finals, I remember and still have my little accreditation pass, just like what you get in the Olympics for access to all you need and the big book with all the results from years gone by. That’s where I set my early targets and goals for future years, by looking up athletes I knew and the times they ran at the Community Games finals each year before me”.                                                                                                               Sonia O’Sullivan, May 2013

Sonia O’Sullivan

Tommy Bowe

Sean O’Brien

Colin Farrell

Niall Breslin

Paul O’Connell

Ronan O’Gara

Saoirse Ronan

Denis Irwin

Niall Quinn

 

Our German links to the Sally Gap

ireland-county-wicklow-mountains-sally-gap-road-sign-in-irish-gaelic-AB4YHG (1)A trip to Kilakee and lunch in the Armoury Restaurant in Glencree took me back through the years and family trips to Wicklow, crossing the mountains oftentimes through one of the two gaps – the Sally Gap or the Wicklow Gap. More especially fond memories returned of sunburning days on the “Featherbed” with neighbours cutting turf, where we as kids were certainly more of a nuisance than helpful. Great times!

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Bearna Bhealach Sailearnáin / Sally Gap is located between Mullaghcleevaun and Djouce Mountain. It is evident from the name as well as from the aspect itself that there is a ‘gap’ (bearna) at this location and a ‘road’ or a ‘way’ of some sort (bealach). The final element of the placename is probably a derivative of the Irish word sailearnán, a ‘willow-tree’. And there are certainly plenty of windblown Sallies on the hills.


In more recent times I took a group of young French student teachers across the Gap to admire the bleakness and beauty of the scenery and share historical tales!

 

Mam often recounted the exploits of Michael Dwyer, his part in the 1798 Rising and his guerrilla campaign from the safety of the Wicklow Mountains, the exasperation of the British forces which prompted the building of the road. The Glencree (Glen of the Heart) Barracks was opened as a station on the road in 1806. But by 1820 all the barracks along the Military Road had closed down.

Glencree-Visitors-Centre view from roadIn 1859 Glencree Barracks became a reformatory for delinquent boys. Following the deprivations of the Famine there was a massive increase in crime especially juvenile crime and large numbers of children were held in adult prison. Public outcry about this led to the establishment of reformatories. Lord Powerscourt, then owner of the land of Glencree, offered a lease on the abandoned barracks for the establishment of St. Kevin’s Reformatory there.

ThOverlooking Glencree Borstale boys laboured to reclaim and cultivate more than 100 acres of land. It is now said “that the fields under the Glencree Centre are the most stone-free fields in all Wicklow”! However reports in recent years from inmates and others describe the terrible floggings that went on, the starvation rations, the almost complete lack of education and the ill-health that derived from poor diet and virtually no proper health care.  In 1941 the reformatory closed down.

It was interesting that even before Government investigation into care of children in institutions, Mam had talked to us about the hardships and cruelty of these institutions. She also acknowledged the initial humane reasons for their establishment. What a balanced view of life I received, a foundation for my belief in the importance of balancing rights and responsibilities.

Today’s visit, however, introduced me to the international history of the place. For a short time during WWI (1914-18) it had been used to house German prisoners of war. During WWII, (1939–45), when Ireland was neutral, Glencree housed German air force pilots who crashed in Ireland as well as German agents who were captured trying to plan anti-British activities with the IRA.

shamrock projectUnder Operation Shamrock the Irish Red Cross turned Glencree became a temporary Refugee Centre. The French Sisters of Charity looked after thousands of German and Polish war orphans on UN sponsored three-month rest programmes or en-route to longer-stay fostering in Irish homes. Over a three year period almost 1,000 children were brought to Ireland and, after a settling-in period at Glencree, were fostered by families throughout the country. There are many German named residents around Rockbrook and Tibradden who probably settled with families around the area.

Glencree9Following lunch another surprise was in store.  Just down the road on the banks of the Glencree River, Padraig brought me to the German War Cemetery (Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof) which was dedicated on 9 July 1961 and is administered by the German War Graves Commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge). There are 134 graves belonging mostly to air force or navy personnel. Fifty-three are identified, 28 are unknown. Six remains belong to WW1 POWs held by the British. Included also are the victims of the Arandora Star, German civilian detainees sank by U-Boat in July 1940 off Tory Island, Co Donegal. 6 WWI German POW’s who died in a British POW camp are also buried here as is Dr Hermann Görtz who was one of a number of parachutists into Ireland during WWII on espionage and IRA related activities.

gortzIn the summer of 1940, Görtz parachuted into Ballivor, County Meath, Ireland he remained at large for a total of eighteen months. On his arrest Görtz was interned first at Mountjoy Prison then later Athlone Military barracks with 9 others until the end of the war. In 1947 under the threat of return to Germany and Soviet captivity he took his life by cyanide capsule.

Glencree poem, Patrick Comerford, 2016

 

The quiet of the cemetery with the Glencree River babbling alongside and the commemorative plaque with a poem in 3 languages all lend to the atmosphere. Well worth a visit!

 

 

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Following the outbreak of hostilities in Northern Ireland in 1969, a voluntary group, with State assistance, set up a Centre for Peace and Reconciliation at Glencree.