“Sleep well Leonard, you were one of the people who made the world better.”

Remembering Leonard Cohen (Friday 11th November 2016)

(had this written in November but forgot to post it!)

Leonard Cohen entered my life in 1973 when I met Seamus Fay. Cohen songs were played endlessly on the tape deck in the car; we knew every word and sang them late into the nights at parties in the Castle in Cahore and in flats in Inchicore. Suzanne, The Sisters of Mercy, Marianne, The Stranger Song were all part of our repertoire interspersed with Janis Joplin’s “Another little piece of my Heart” and Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen”. Many Beatles numbers also found their way into the sing songs.

I think this was perhaps my favourite Cohen song (although in more recent years, I’ve developed a soft spot for “Hallelujah”)

Famous Blue Raincoat

Leonard Cohen

It’s four in the morning, the end of December

I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better

New York is cold, but I like where I’m living

There’s music on Clinton Street all through the evening

I hear that you’re building your little house deep in the desert

You’re living for nothing now, I hope you’re keeping some kind of record

Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair

She said that you gave it to her

That night that you planned to go clear

Did you ever go clear?

Ah, the last time we saw you you looked so much older

Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder

You’d been to the station to meet every train, and

You came home without Lili Marlene

And you treated my woman to a flake of your life

And when…




I still have a copy of this album in the attic – if I can find a turntable in working order I’ll give it a spin for old time’s sake.



There were so many tributes to Leonard and his work today but this one from The Irish Times has the more Irish connotations and is worth considering:

President Michael D Higgins was among those to pay tribute to musician Leonard Cohen whose “lasting legacy and his work will continue to inspire current and future generations.”

“Cohen captured not just feelings of loneliness and loss, but also the essence of human life: love, beauty, humour, as well as social and political engagement,” Mr Higgins said in a statement following Cohen’s death.

He noted how the singer was “deeply influenced by William Butler Yeats” and he made a very warm connection with his Irish audiences – a fact that he valued and emphasised to me when I met him in Dublin.”

There were hints that Leonard Cohen would not live much longer, but in a year that has already taken away Prince, David Bowie and George Martin, his death , announced via a Facebook post on Thursday , still came as a shock to many.

“It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away. We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries,” the post said.

‘Incredible, sublime’

DJ Dave Fanning said on the Ryan Tubridy Show on RTE Radio 1 that the late singer “was the best I’ve ever met”.

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys paid tribute to her “personal favourite”. She said his “music had an ability to reach into your soul and speak to your inner thoughts, your hopes and your fears. His music brought solace and joy to so many. The world has lost one of its true music legends and indeed one of its greatest modern poets. He will be sincerely missed by his Irish fans and millions more around the globe.”

Labour spokesperson on the Arts and former Tánaiste, Joan Burton, expressed her sadness at the news. She said: “I am so sad to hear of Leonard Cohen’s passing and offer my sincere condolences to his family, friends and indeed his many fans in Ireland and around the world. “His concert at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham in Dublin in 2008, not withstanding the pouring rain, was one of the best of my life, and an evening I will never forget.

“Through his music and lyrics, Leonard Cohen touched so many people, and with his great love of WB Yeats, he had a special affinity with Ireland. His thousands of Irish fans will remember fondly his concerts at Lissadell House in Sligo in 2010, held just a short distance from the birthplace of the poet.

Eddie Walsh, the co-owner of Lissadell House in Co Sligo where Cohen played two concerts in 2010, said he was “a man dedicated to art, dedicated to professionalism, incredible, sublime”. “It was one of most incredible weekends in my life. He played two magical very special concerts. We even had a rainbow over Ben Bulben one of the nights. They were two of the longest concerts he ever played because he was so blown away by Lissadell,” Mr Walsh told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.



Barry’s Tea advert has me dreaming of Christmas past

I’m such a sentimentalist about Christmas. And it doesn’t take much to make me teary and nostalgic: a verse of Silent Night (especially the one from WW1 trenches), reading ‘Twas the Night before Christmas, Santa departing from the North Pole on the radio, The Christmas Carol on the telly (even the Muppet version),  rooting out the decorations and I’m done for. There’s a lump in my throat, a tear in my eye.

Now I add to all that – hearing a radio ad, the Barry’s Tea one about the train set. It seems to have a direct route into my store of Christmas sentimentality. Catherine Donnolly who wrote the script for the tea ad passed away earlier this year. Her husband Frank Sheerin told Joe Duffy the history behind the ad on Lifeline one afternoon this week– well worth a listen on the Podcast!


There is a 1950s feel to the ad, a time when imagination was all we had to conceive a vision of fantasy. Not for us trips to the North Pole or Lapland: everyone KNEW only Santa and his elves went there. Switzer’s and Cleary’s window displays and the Dublin Streets decorated with lights were our wonderland. Maybe that’s why the simplicity of this ad taps into a kind of collective nostalgia for those simple fantastical Christmases of pure make believe.


Although I never asked Santa for a train set, my brother did and I remember so well that Hornby clockwork train set as it went round and round the sitting room floor, carriages being loaded and unloaded at each circuit. My dad was the station master, directing proceedings ably during the hours between Mass and dinner. No lying about in pj’s in those days. Firstlt there was no central heating. Children had been up from  before 6 and had attended 8 o’clock Mass. Dinner would be on the table for 1 o’clock. Mum might be occassionally called from ministries in the kitchen to witness a derailments or other mishap.


A wave of strong feeling comes over me whenever I hear this ad, whether in the car, at home in the kitchen, or in a shop. It doesn’t make me want to rush out and buy Barry’s Tea, but it does makes me a little wistful for Christmases past,

In 1984 the Hornby set left the attic in 32 to travel to Naas and Grandad sat on the floor again explaining the world of engineering and transport to another generation and it was accepted with the sane verve and enthusiasm.

Two years later the Dad here, a car rather than rail man came home with a scalextric racing set – the feeling was the same although it was more involved with its ramps and chicanes and because there were 2 tracks, competition! And the voice of my own son saying: “You’ll never guess what Santa brought” and Dad as the main man, in charge of assembly and management, child relegated for hours to watching and assisting! What memories! I did miss the gentle “Toot toot”.

That radio ad evokes memories and yearnings that are so real and I know stored in the memory with a generation’s pasts and imagination.

This year I’ll spend my first Christmas in almost 40 years away from home – sharing my sister’s celebration. I’m so looking forward to it. How important to look forward as well as back!

My First ARTI Meeting Christmas 2016

I attended my first meeting of the Retired Teachers Association of Ireland (Kildare Branch) in Kilashee House Hotel on Wednesday 14th December. And what a wonderful event it proved to be ….an excellent combination of business and social. So well attended too and a great chance to meet and chat with colleagues!!!



We convened just before 11am (everyone was so prompt) for tea/coffee and scholarly muffins (muffins with a chocolate cap but no gown). Everyone was signed in and had received raffle tickets by about 11.20.




Business commenced with Ted Riordan offering the Chair’s apologies. An account of the events of the year – tours, activities and meetings followed by the financial statement – all presented in an interesting and lively way.



Touring !!!!!! No Hands!!!!! No Kids!!!!!!


Rena gave a comprehensive account of the past outings and the proposed AWAY OUTING 2017 which is to beautiful Derry and Seamus Heaney Country, taking in Magherafelt, Castledawson and Bellaghy, including the recently opened Heaney Centre. A discussion on the unsuitability of the dates resulted in Rena (only today) sorting out a change



It is now planned for 3rd to 5th April (price the same approx. €299) and bookings to be made yourself through Marathon Travel 01 4755010 ext 4.  Let Rena know you’ve booked (086 8252164)

Keep Dancing


Brian Keyes’ account of the dancing group that meet every second Wednesday in the Town House was lively – new members welcome in January – all abilities are catered for I’m assured – skill and fun for all. The date of the first after Christmas “Strictly” will be notified.

 From Head Office

billyBilly Sheehan’s presentation covered the following topics:

  • Pension – some welcome changes for all,
  • Comhnasc survey – there is value both in hard copy and media access
  • Launch of Website – I’m going to have a go with submissions to keep our branch efforts up to date
  • Solidarity Fund which is now open for submissions according to guidelines
  • RTAI Bursaries – new criteria which will include recognition of Life Long Learning Skills
  • Membership + Card – renewed for 2017/18
  • Teaching after retirement – some guidelines
  • Carecall Counselling Service – 1800 409 773
  • Any clarification on the above from info@rtaireland.ie

Following words of high praise from Ted on the solid work done over last number of years by retiring Secretary Mary and Auditor/Treasurer Mícheál Mac Cártaigh, the election to offices process was painless; after little consideration people volunteered their services readily.

New Kildare Committee for 2017:

  • Chair: Ted Rooney
  • Vice Chair: Martin Hoban
  • Secretary: Fidelma Farrell
  • Treasurers/Auditors: Peadar Cunningham & Paula Waters



Don’t ask me who organised the raffle prizes, but suffice to know they did a brilliant job and there were loads of happy winners of wine, chocs, gifts, …..Well done!


The meeting adjourned to the Turners Restaurant where we had Christmas dinner – time to catch up and make friends.




I heard talk of golf, hill walking, and there are probably other specialist interest activities ….Will try to find out times and dates and contacts.


logo-intoI joined the INTO as a young teacher, just gone 20. It was a different world then …. INTO unbelievably was a part of our social life. We met with friends from college to listen to men (mostly), discussing our rights, inspiring us to a new awareness of not only sponsibility but entitlements. Being an INTO member was hugely encouraged by older colleagues in school, colleagues who had been on the picket line in 1946 and now near retiring could remember that although unsuccessful, the strike demonstrated that workers could stand together. We made many new friends while we supped a glass or two after the meeting (usually all that I could afford) before catching the last bus home. And so I became an INTO-head. (In today’s vernacular that’s someone who leads a pretty boring existence and/or has little to do)
When I transferred to the Droichead Nua branch in 1981 I attended meetings in the Teagasc Hall in Friary Lane in Naas. It was thronged – sometimes standing room only. I’d say CEC reps hated visiting us as many stalwart debaters from our ranks argued our case most ably with them, certainly making them work for their position. CEC reps did not always come out the worse of the discussion as they opened our eyes to realities of fiscal constraints and the need for wise action.
When Seamus died in 1996, I was glad of the many supports offered by the organisation and the visits and advice of INTO friends got me through many rough patches.
Eventually I found my way onto branch committee – falling interest and diminishing crowds rather than personal ability might more appropriately explain my ‘meteoric’ rise. But I loved it. CEC reps were still put through the ‘wringer’ on many occasions as we questioned why the membership were becoming increasingly disenchanted with the organisation.


I was there for the CLASS SIZE CAMPAIGN which certainly brought a bit of a resurgence in interest both from teachers, parents and politicians (unluckily just as the Celtic Tiger was bounding off to jungles new!).
In 1999, I joined the INTO Principals Forum serving as secretary for a few years at the end of the Noughties and into the Teens. During this term, DROICHEAD caused much heated discussion and was one of the few issues where I disagreed strongly with union policy. anotherdroicheadThe ensuing directive caused huge divides in the teaching community. Sad that alternatives weren’t discussed as enthusiastically as directives! Those involved in the process were so positive and now were denied their right to continue. (Don’t I sound like a political animal!!!!) DROICHEAD was the main focus of the last INTO Congress I attended at Easter and it left quite a bitter taste in many mouths. All my congresses up to that were great affairs with a feeling of camaraderie, ‘union’ …late nights, lovely meals and probably one too many drinks….and still being in the hall for a nine o’clock start each morning ….what a way to spend your Easter holidays. This last one was not so nice!

While I loved the debate about political issues, my true interests lay in education. So in 2009 I decided to contest the election for the District Representative on the Education Committee. This meant travelling around to all the Branch meetings with my manifesto, “what I would do and the changes I’d make!” (and again I say I didn’t think of myself as political). It was a pretty tightly contested election. My ensuing victory was due in no small way I’d say to the size of my own branch and the efforts the Branch made to turn out a vote. But it was thrilling on the evening of the ‘count’ to receive the phone call from Shiela Nunan congratulating me on my success.

My first EDCOM meeting was an overnight in Kilkenny where I found myself allocated to the Arts in Education Committee, which was to be responsible for the next Education Conference. The annual INTO Consultative Conference on Education 2009 was to take place in the Amber Springs Hotel, Gorey, Co. Wexford, on November 13th and 14th and its focus would be on the theme of Creativity and Arts in the Primary School.

I who was never on stage in my life found myself involved in the staging of a short drama on the changing views to art: composing ditties and even appearing in the role of ‘a cheeky school girl’. How lucky I was that our ‘performance’ was part of the introduction and not all delegates were in the hall. There were some quite startled expressions as District 7 delegates found seats close to the stage, noting the uncanny resemblance of ‘a wan in plaits and school uniform’ to their Rep on the EDCOM! Luckily the webcam was of poor quality and that is the only remaining evidence of my acting abilities. I worked with this uber-enthusiastic committee for 2 terms (6 years) and I was proudly named with them on 6 extraordinary conference papers on important educational issues. I resigned in 2015 because I think committees need new talent to contribute new energy and ideas and maintain vibrancy. I agree wholeheartedly with those that say the Education Conference is the best of the INTO conferences – sending almost all of the delegates as better people/teachers!

Even though, no longer an EDCOM member, it did open the door to working with NCCA for 2 years on the New Language Curriculum – and that was a brilliant opportunity. And i represented INTO in Letterkenny at a conference on Global Solidarity.

And this week I attended my LAST district 7 meeting and Christmas Dinner. I’m sad – YES but friendships won’t end. And another door opens!!!!! RTAI – the Retired Teachers Association of Ireland. I already have many friends in situ there – some of the vocalists from Teagasc days – and I’m invited to their first meeting next week AND Christmas dinner. So INTO goes on……..


I’ve received my last copy of INTOUCH (although I can still read in online) and my first copy of CONASC.


And what a lovely welcome in an article by Prof Mark Morgan:
You stand on the shore of new invitation
To open your life to what is left undone;
Let your heart enjoy a different rhythm
When drawn to the wonder of other horizons
(Blessing for Retirement by John O’Donoghue)


Sing a new song for Ireland 1916-2016

fr-pj-and-the-flagI can’t believe that the centenary of 1916 is almost finished: I’ve read so many 1916 books (and still have more to read), I was at the reading of an old and new Proclamation, I stood at the raising of the flag by such a proud multinational group of parents and children and yet I’ve blogged nothing about it.

Like an old friend used to do, I cut articles from papers and put them into books and drawers and other ‘safe places’; finding them at later dates – often wondering then what made them important to keep! However this is not such an article. Although it’s dated 28/03/2016 it probable describes the dreams of 1916 and 2016 in a most inspiring yet apolitical way. I think it also puts into words the excitement of being part of a new Ireland- look at the faces of these children:


Certainly worth a read and a bit of a ponder:

The Prayer of Remembrance by Fr Seamus Madigan, Head Chaplain, Defence Forces (From Irish Independent 28/03/2016)

God, most merciful and kind, on this Easter day of new beginnings we remember the men, the women and the children of 1916 whose short lives and big dreams extended the horizons of our hopes. In Your mercy the faithful departed find rest. Look kindly, we pray, on all who lost their lives during 1916 and throughout the troubled journey of our island’s history.

As we reflect on our past we thank You for all the courageous people of Ireland who dared to hope and dream of a brighter tomorrow for our country and all of its citizens. Blessed are all those who sought to build a more inclusive and just society, for they are truly the chosen of God. Look kindly, we pray, on the people of Ireland from all traditions, at home and abroad.
Help us listen and respond to the voices that challenge in 2016 as we re-imagine our future. Conscious of our troubled past, ‘To You O God, we sing a new song’: a song of compassion, inclusion and engagement; a song of listening, social justice and respect for all; a song of unity, diversity, equality and peace; a song of Ceád Mile Fáilte and of care for our environment. With You, O Lord, we long to sing our new song in a spirit of true freedom.

Loving God, You know my frail heart and my frayed history and now another day begins. Give us courage to step onto new ground, eyes young again with energy and dreams. Help us to believe in beginnings, to listen to the voices that challenge and to sing a new song for Ireland.
Together, on this island, we have achieved a new peace. We cherish that peace, as we cherish all of the children of this island equally. We pray for all those who have suffered in the Troubles of the past century, and we hope for peace and reconciliation in the century that stretches before us.

Do gach duine atá bailithe anseo ar an lá speisialta seo agus i ngach áit in Éirinn, go mbeadh sonas, sláinte agus síocháin againn.
Moladh go deo le Dia.

Praise God forever.