The Worm Moon

I missed the first supermoon of 2020 – busy having knee replacements! Amazing recovery allows me to consider celestial events again and report that the second supermoon of 2020 is set to light up the night sky and delight skygazers this evening (if the clouds clear).

It is dubbed the “worm moon” and will be visible from 5.30pm.

But how did it get its name?

Royal Observatory astronomer Emily Drabek-Maunder said: “The March full moon is known as the worm moon, named after earthworms that emerge towards the beginning of spring as the ground thaws.

This full moon will also be a supermoon, meaning it will appear about 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter in the sky as it reaches its closest point to Earth.

The moon will set in the west at sunrise on Tuesday morning around 7.13am.

GAA and the Gospel according to John

One of Ireland’s most famous GAA supporters, Frank Hogan, who spread the gospel from the terraces with his yellow sign “John 3:7”, has died at the age of 81.

Although a Limerick man, his popularity among the wider GAA family, transcended county lines.

People called him ‘John’ because of the sign. He went to All-Ireland Finals with no ticket and never failed to get in.

When Derry won the All-Ireland back in the 90s, he went up to Derry for the homecoming celebrations and he slept in his car.

He said he got the inspiration for the sign when watching the 1987 Wimbledon men’s final when Pat Cash beat Ivan Lendl. As the victorious Australian climbed through the crowds to get to his family and supporters, Hogan saw a man holding a car number plate with the message John 3:16 and he decided to do likewise for hurling and Gaelic football.

John 3:7 reads: “Do not marvel that I said to you, you must be born again”.
In early years the Christian evangelist had a sign that read John 3:16, the bible verse that states: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”

A committed Christian evangelist, Hogan’s John 3:7 sign was a fixture at GAA matches for over three decades, usually being held aloft on Hill 16 and other terraces around the country whenever a score was landed. 

All ireland 2004 Kerry v Mayo

Mr Hogan’s famous sign was once stolen as it travelled home by train from an outing in Croke Park in 2009. It was later recovered by gardaí after it was left in a public place, and returned to Mr Hogan.

Munich remembered

Harry Gregg died today

My teen years coincided with the rebuilding of one of the greatest teams seen in England, Man Utd. Manager, Matt Busby had a winning wonder team in the late 50s. However, the Munich Air Disaster robbed him of some of the era’s greatest players. Once he had recovered from his own injuries, he set about forging another side to take the world by storm.

I was hardly a fanatic Man Utd fan as my football knowledge was pretty scant but the story of the air disaster captured my interest.

The signing and debut of the superstar from Belfast, George Best with his film-star looks however made me an eventual life long fan of Man Utd. The lads bought me a match ticket and stadium tour apart of a weekend in Manchester for my 50th birthday.

The death of Harry Gregg, the Man Utd goalie of that era today caused me to reread articles of the time. This poem was written by Harry about the Busby Babes and is a particularly touching account if the disaster.

The Busby Babes

How they laughed, they loved and played the game together
Played the game and gave it every ounce of life
And the crowds they thronged to see such free young spirits
My good God, there wasn’t many who came home
Roger Byrne, Mark Jones and Salford’s Eddie Colman
Tommy Taylor, Geoffrey Bent and David Pegg
Duncan Edwards, Dublin’s own boy Liam Whelan
My good God, there wasn’t any who came home
There are those gone down that long, long road before us
But each morn we try and keep them in our sight
In memories’ eyes, the Busby Babes are all immortal
The Red Devil spirit lives and never died. (Harry Gregg)

The Aran Sweater

As the GANS rep for Feltmakers Ireland, I am often fortunate to attend really interesting talks on craft. One such was Vawn Corrigan’s presentation on the history of the Aran. However, her story’s links to my mother and aunt were what fascinated me most.

Coincidentally, my son’s visit today wearing a jumper knit by MY mam for HIS dad prompted this post.

Aran knit by Marie O’Loughlin for her son-in-law

The Aran Sweater is named after the set of islands off Irelands West coast. However this is not where it was first created.

The origin of the Aran sweater can be traced back to Guernsey, an island 400 miles South-East of the Aran Islands. Guernsey trade relied on fishing, and the clothing requirements of fisherman were quite demanding – durability, repairable, stain resistant, easy to move about in,and probably most important, warm and water proof.

The population of the Aran Islands was increasing in the early 1900s and they decided to explore ideas of how to improve their standard of living on the island. One idea was to invite Scottish fisherman to share information on their skills. They brought some Scottish ladies (probably their wives!!!) who showed the womenfolk how to knit sweaters for a living.

So the Irish ladies took the idea and made it their own and by 1935, the Irish version of the jumpers was in such demand that they came onto the Dublin markets!

By the 1950s, the USA market had opened (thanks in no small part to popularity of the traditional music group,the Clancy Brothers). The 1960s saw Marie my mother, and Josie, her sister, among the growing workforce of knitters throughout the country who were employed to meet the growing demand for jumpers and cardigans. (My mother was thrilled on a visit to Clerys to spot one of her jumpers with a quaint little tag stating: “This garment was hand knit by Marie in her little cottage in the west of Ireland.”)

Shay benefitted from the home industry when he received a jumper for his 30th birthday.

Something about Aran Stitches

The patterns on Aran sweaters are based on Irish Tradition each stitch represents a different meaning and symbolizes something of importance. Here are some of the more popular stitches.

Recent Aran History…

Generations after its creation, the Aran sweater is still going strong. The aran sweater made the list of iconic fashion pieces featured in an exhibition in Manhattans Museum of Modern Art. Chosen because of its impact on the world during the last century, it has remained popular in the entertainment industry and fashion world alike.

The National Museum of Ireland loaned one of its oldest sweaters for the exhibition, where it was placed beside other fashion elites such as the Birkin Bag, Wonderbra, a pair of Levis 501 jeans dating back to the 1940s, and an assortment of little black dresses.


Nine weeks ago I had one knee replaced. Now I’m counting down …. and nine more sleeps to having second one. Officially they’re called TKRs …. total knee replacement.

I heard so many horror stories. But I’ve only positive ones. I’m putting it down to an excellent surgeon and great nursing care.

And doing what I was told …. exercises, resting, icing, etc probably helped too.

And all the good wishes and support I received both as an in-patient and an out-patient.

Eulogy to a Knee by Sherwin Kaufman and Jim Smith

I think that I shall never see
A joint as complex as my knee
For years it helped me run and play
At many sports til I was gray

But then arthritis took its toll
I found it painful just to stroll
Before the day was halfway spent
My knee complained without relent

I had a surgeon look to see
What it would take to be pain-free
The x-ray told him of my trial
My knee had walked its final mile

So nervously, my knee a wreck
Into a hospital I checked
The surgeon said his saw and knife
Would give me back my pain-free life

It really gave my heart a twinge
To think my loyal little hinge
Would soon be severed from its home
So that my limp could be long gone

So fare thee well old faithful knee
For you I wrote this eulogy
No more painful bone on bone
My knee now glides on cobalt chrome!


Shay’s anniversary is synonymous with the arrival of snowdrops. Twenty four years ago I drove home from Walkinstown to Naas with the boys: it was snowing, the roads were slippy, we were lost in this new world of aloneness and grief. We stopped into St Corbans to leave our small pot of snowdrops, a little sign of life and hope among the mound of flowers, sadly beginning to droop after nights of frost.

I believe the snowdrop is a native if southern Europe and monks are credited with first bringing the fragile yet resilient plant from Rome to Ireland and planting them around the monasteries. They not only grew easily here but thrived.

This year I might take a visit to Altamont Gardens (Carlow) or Ardgillan Castle (Dublin), or Shankill Castle (Kilkenny) or Burton House (Kildare) where they grow profusely.

Heralded as the first flowers of the year, snowdrops are a welcome reminder that spring is on it’s way. Wordsworth’s poem To A Snowdrop captures the essence of what the snowdrop means to me:

Lone flower, hemmed in with snows, and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day
Storms sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art though welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste snowdrop, venturous harbinger of spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years.

Eimear Noone, a great Irish conductor

“It’s an honour to be there, to help normalise something that I do every day. Little girls everywhere will see this and say, ‘I think I’ll do that.’ That’s what we want.”

I love getting the chance to celebrate women’s achievements on this site and as I listened to Eimear Noone’s interview with Ray Darcy on radio yesterday, I just knew I’d have to write about her.

Galway-born Eimear Noone will be the first female ever to take charge of the orchestra at the Academy Awards when she conducts excerpts from the five nominated scores. 
Her casual reference to her friendship with music was lovely as she described her feelings of nerves ahead of the big event. “I’d be dead inside if I didn’t have any concerns. Luckily for me, I have friends in the orchestra and I have friends on the page in front of me, ” she said.”The background changes, but the little black dots on the page are always home for me. No matter what country I’m in or what concert hall, it doesn’t matter – the score is where my mind and my heart are.”

Eimear’s career flourished in LA where she moved when “Ireland wouldn’t even give her a chance to fail”. While she has conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, l’Orchestre symphonique de Bretagne, the Sydney Symphony, the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, several other national orchestras and was the first woman to conduct at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, she is best known for her award-winning work on video game music.

When asked if she did the tap tap tap at the start of a performance ( to bring the orchestra to attention) she answered that the conductor should never do a solo! What humour! What humility!

Listen to her interview on the Ray Darcy podcast (24 Feb)

Watch her performances on You Tube. And certainly watch her on Oscar night, Feb 10th when she conducts music from the films: Little Women, The Joker, 1917, Star Wars and Marriage Story ……our Irish winner regardless of results.

HAPPY 2020

20teens What a decade for the Dubs. And how great to have been a witness.

And now we move to a new year, a new decade, some new dreams!



What about the sentiments of this Tennyson poem, Ring out Wild Bells, as a resolve for a decade? (Tennyson who wrote Mam’s poem, Crossing the Bar!)

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
  Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.


Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh go léir