FI had a very interesting October Sunday Session in Killester yesterday. Fiona Leech talked us through her journey into felt. Probably known to many of you social media users, Fiona is the face of FeltAtHomeDesigns and also Membership Secretary and Workshop Organiser for Feltmakers.


Fiona gave us an inspiring insight into her early career with lots of samples for us to touch and feel as well as notebooks where she developed ideas.
We viewed an early hand-knitted wall panel of a Henri Matisse lady – all done with scraps of wool and NO PATTERN.
Everyone fell in love with her Aardvark crochet family and will be searching for Toft amigurumi crochet patterns of the ‘many animal in the world’.
Her 100 Days project was picked up by an Australian Magazine, Artwear Publications that extolled her talents as a textile artist.
We were all very appreciative of Fiona’s generosity in her willingness to share how she achieved the clean cut circles that identify much of  her current art.
Thanks to Fiona and Dee who managed to have coffee and cake for our break although the Coffee Dock was closed.



For many years, Oberammergau has been on my bucket list. I was fascinated by the many facts that I’d heard about the Passion Play held there every 10 years. Luckily the 2020 event was postponed because of Covid and I realised that for this once in a decade occasion, I could not procrastinate for too much longer.

Oberammergau is a small village located in Bavaria in Germany among the stunning Ammergau Alps. Nearly 400 years ago the history of the Passion Play began. The plague raged in many parts of Europe during 1633 and it did not spare the village of Oberammergau either. The villagers soughtvrefuge in prayernand vowed to perform the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ every tenth year. The first play took place in 1634, in the cemetery next to the parish church, supposedly on the graves of the plague victims. Seemingly there were no further deaths from the plague.

Later, in 1830, the performance space relocated to the northern edge of the village, where it still remains today but in a modern open-air theatre with amazing acoustics The villagers’ promise was kept until 2020, when the play had to be postponed for two years, this time due to another plague, the corona-pandemic.

To be considered as a performer in the Passion Play, you have to be born in the village, be married to a local for 10 or more years, or live there personally for 20 years. No exceptions to these rules are made.

Costumes are made by villagers and for accuracy and authenticity on stage, no wigs are allowed. A “Hair and Beard Decree” comes into play in March of the year of the performance so there are no trips to the barbers.

Over 2,000 locals take part every 10 years, but there are only around 124 speaking roles up for grabs. Some of the scenes include 64 vocalists and 55 instrumentalists sitting in the orchestra pit.



After landing in Frankfurt, we travelled to Wurzburg. According to tradition, the first Bishop of Wurzburg found the remains of the Irish saint, Killian and built two churches on the spot c. 1060. These churches underwent renovation and changes over the years until the entire city of Wurzburg was destroyed on 16th March 1945. However in the years since the chey have both been restored.St Killian is held in very high esteem in this town with many of the eldest boys in a family being named after him. Wurzburg is a lovely town, particularly the Saints Bridge across the river Maine. With a small deposit on a glass, I had a ‘take away’ local wine sitting on the wall of the bridge.

We then continued to Nuremburg to stay in the lovely Novina Hotel. After a super dinner – what a selection of foods – and few scoops, I was more than ready for the bed.


After breakfast, we went on a tour of the city of Nuremburg with Andreas, a German guide. The weather was dreadful making the cobbled streets very precarious. But we climbed to the top of the Imperial Castle and looked across the beautiful city which for centuries was regarded as the cradle of European culture, with grand residences, ancient walls and an old castle. Nuremburg was the city of Nazi rallies and the Nuremburg racial laws.

Andreas explained that the new Germany acknowledged Nuremburg’s part in the National Socialist barbarity and accepted the destruction of the city in 53 minutes on the 2nd January 1945, the death of 1800 people and the loss of 6 centuries of history as part of the consequences. Siting the Nuremburg trials in its Palace of Justice was just as much symbolic as practical: it was one of the few towns with a prison alongside a court.

Nuremburg is now restored to its former beauty. There a many tributes to Duhrer to be seen around the city – my favourite was the hare sculpture in the square where Duhrer lived and the Ship of Fools in the market square. The Nuremburg traditional gingerbread was delicious. Nuremburg is a city of fountains – the Schöner Brunnen (beautiful fountain) which was more a public well for water in the 14th-century was shaped like a Gothic spire in the main market square.







We departed Nuremburg for Altotting stopping off in Augsburg to see the famous painting of Our Lady, Untier of Knots in the church of St Peter. Pope Francis is said to have been particularly inspired by this wonderful painting and frequently prays to Our Lady to undo the knots of life.

The Hotel Plankl in Altotting was our destination. After dinner a few of us explored the town, found a lovely bar and shared (a few) bottles of wine.


We spent the morning exploring Altotting. Since the 9th Century the Black Madonna has been one of the most famous pilgrimage destinations in Central Europe. Pope Benedict who was reared near here often stayed here – also in Hotel Plankl.

In the afternoon, we travelled out to Markt Marktl where Benedict was born. We all remarked at how big his house was, but the guide informed us that the building housed the Police Station (his father was a police officer), a customs post (Austria is only a few miles away) and accommodation for the police and custom officers as well as Benedict’s home.



After an early breakfast, we set off for Garmisch-Partenkirchen. This German ski resort in Bavaria was formed when 2 towns united in 1935 for the Winter Olympics, often called the Nazi Olympics.

Our destination, the Riessersee Hotel was fabulous and being allocated a suite overlooking the lake was the icing on the cake. My balcony afforded a unique view down into the valley although there was little chance to enjoy it before being whisked off to Oberammergau. The shortening days of September moved the performance start time to 1.30.

Oberammergau was stunning. Most of the houses have colourful murals or Luftmalerei, the older ones illustrating martyrs, passion scenes and famous citizens and events. More recent illustrations are of nursery rhyme and fairytale characters. The Hansel and Gretl house is magnificent. The shops along the route to the theatre have wonderful displays of wooden ornaments and Christmas decorations, sometimes the woodworker is actually carving outside the door.

Wood carver

Men and women were separated into different queues, probably because the women generally have handbags and the search might cause delays. The banter between the spectators was lively as we shared stories of our journeys here.


Inside we were directed to really good seats; the view of the mountains behind the stage was awesome. The play revolved around the mystery of the Psssion of Jesus in both a dramatic as well as a meditative way. Between scenes, moments of the Old Testament were depicted as ‘living pictures’. The scale of the production with 2.000 actors and live animals, up to 400 on the stage at one time, was unbelievable. The score was haunting and the acoustics of the theatre allowed it to reverberate right through the audience.

The play was in German, meaning that the dialogue didn’t distract from the action. A copy of the script in English was made available but I decided it would be better read after the play. The play was approximately five and half hours long, performed in two acts with dinner served in the village during the intermission. While not a culinary delight, there was a selection of Bavarian and international food. We had a little time for shopping before returning to the theatre.


A quick trip back to Oberammergau this morning for some shopping and outdoor Mass (in the pelting rain) before onward journey to Munich. The city centre roads were all blocked off in Munch for a music festival. So we got a festival and a quick run around Munich and then off to airport.

The holiday/pilgrimage met all expectations and I certainly wouldn’t rule out a 2030 trip to Oberammergau. It wasn’t oppressively “holy” but it gave opportunity for contemplation and questioning.


Return to the Gaeltacht

D’fhreasatil mé ar Gaeltacht Chorca Dhuibhne i 1972 ón Coláiste Oiliúna. Is múinteoir scartha mé anois agus shochraigh me ar ath-chuairt ar an nGaeltacht an Samhradh seo chun an teanga a chleachtadh. Fuair me lóistín le Gertie and Seamus ina dteach “An Guirín” I mBaile an Lochaigh. Bhi teach álainn acu – an chompórdach le radharcanna áille ó gach fuinneog agus ba bhreá an fháilte a chuir bean an tí romham.  Chuaigh mé ar turas bus timpeall Shlí Cheann Sléibhe.

Chuimhin me ar na heachtraí go léir a bhí agam agus na háiteanna eagsúla ar a thug mé cuairt mar scoláire na blianta ó shin – Coumeenole, Cé Dhún Chaoin, Na Blascaoid, Trá Dhún an Óir, Muiríoch,

Bhain me an-taitneamh as na laethannnta mar scoláire/taistealaí arís.

The Platinum Weekend

In my previous post I declared that “Nobody does pomp like the British!”
And the Platinum Jubilee weekend was certainly no exception. Even a non-royalist would have to be impressed with the splendour and magic.

On 6th February 2022 Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth became the first British Monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years of service to the people of the United Kingdom, the Realms and the Commonwealth. I think she won many hearts in Ireland during her visit in 2011, with her words (a few as Gaeilge), her interactions (remember the English Market in Cork) and her respectful silences (the Garden of Remembrance).

Now she has reached her platinum jubilee. A range of events and initiatives were planned with the culmination being this four day UK June bank holiday.

The four days of celebrations included public events and community activities, as well as national moments of reflection on The Queen’s 70 years of service.

Thursday 2nd June

Trooping the Colour is an annual event that marks the official birthday of the British Sovereign. It has been happening for over 260 years but this year will be spectacular. The Queen’s Birthday Parade this year saw the colour trooped by the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards, and more than 1200 officers and soldiers from the Household Division putting on a display of military pageantry on Horse Guards Parade, together with hundreds of Army musicians and around 240 horses. During the birthday parade a Royal gun salute was fired.

Once the parade ended and the Royal Procession returned to Buckingham Palace for the Royal Family’s balcony appearance.
There was an impressive Flypast to coincide with the Royal Family’s balcony appearance and the younger royals stole the show with their excited reactions.

Platinum Jubilee Beacons: The United Kingdom’s long tradition of celebrating Royal Jubilees, Weddings and Coronations with the lighting of beacons was of course bigger and bolder for this Platinum Jubilee.
A beacon chain, once used as a tool for communication, has now become a symbol of unity across towns, borders, countries and continents and is often the central point of focus for any outdoor gathering or celebration. In 1897, beacons were lit to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. In 1977, 2002 and 2012, beacons commemorated the Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees of The Queen, and in 2016 Her Majesty’s 90th birthday. Over 1,500 beacons were lit throughout the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and UK Overseas Territories.

The Principal beacon, involving The Tree of Trees (a 21m high ‘tree’ constructed of 350 smaller trees), was lit by the Queen in a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Friday 3rd June

The entire royal family attended a Service of Thanksgiving for The Queen’s reign in St Paul’s Cathedral. Unfortunately, the Queen herself was unable to attend. Harry and Meghan made their first public appearance since they absconded to USA, to quite a varied response. Great Paul, the largest church bell in the country, was rung for the Service. It was made in 1882, but fell silent in the 1970s due to a broken mechanism. It was restored in 2021 and has been rung on 8 occasions since.

Saturday 4th June

The Derby at Epsom Downs: This was probably one of her Her Majesty’s favourite events and usually she would have a horse running. Not this year. Again this was another event she could not attend.

The Platinum Party at the Palace in the evening saw famous faces from the world of entertainment brought together to perform for a night of musical tributes to celebrate the Jubilee. An array of Royals, young and old attended.

A special video tribute of the Queen and Paddington Bear thrilled the nation, even the world.

Sunday 5th June

The Big Jubilee Lunch: Over 60k people registered to host lunches, with events ranging from world record attempts for the longest street party to back garden BBQ’s and everything in between. Over ten million people across the UK joined the celebrations.

The Platinum Jubilee Pageant: The Gold State Carriage, guided by The Sovereign’s Escort, led the Platinum Jubilee Pageant. The pageant embraced the latest in digital technology to evoke the excitement and majesty of her journey to be crowned 70 years ago.
The Pageant brought to life iconic moments from The Queen’s reign as well as showcasing the changing society over the past 70 years.
National treasures and iconic figures from music, film, sport and the arts sent their good wishes to the Queen.

No I’m not a royalist, but I love the pageantry and grandeur and drama attached to royalty!!!!


Poet Laureate celebrates the occasion in poetry

Nobody does pomp like the British! Be it a royal wedding, a state funeral or an anniversary they know just how to roll out the celebrations.
They even have a Poet Laureate who may or may not commemorate the occasion poetically!

William Wordsworth became Laureate in later life and exercised the poet laureate’s prerogative and wrote not a single line of official verse.

Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion’s poems, one a rap and the other a sonnet to celebrate Prince William’s 21st birthday was called On The Record. The rap was the A side, the sonnet the B side reflecting vinyl LP and 45s records.
From the A side:
Better stand back
Here’s an age attack,
But the second in line
Is dealing with it fine.
From the B side:
That’s what our ‘happy birthday’ means today:
A wish that you’ll be free to claim your life
While destiny connects with who you are –
A Prince and yet familiar common clay;
Your father’s heir but true to your own faith;
A mother’s son and silvered by her star.
John Betjeman was Laureate when Princess Anne got married and his poem was like a hymn of praise:

“Hundreds of birds in the air/ and millions of leaves on the pavement”.
It was always thought to be a good idea to have the poet Laureate on your side or quite uncomplimentary or nondescript verse could be written. In 1901 Alfred Austin reported
“Across the wires the electric message came:
He is no better, he is much the same”
when the Prince of Wales, future Edward VII fell ill in 1901.
Simon Armitage, the current Poet Laureate, claims to address current affairs in his role. His tribute to the Queen on her platinum jubilee is called Queenhood.

Christmas in Russborough

Took a trip to Russburough today to take in the christmassy atmosphere of a Palladian house.

A wonderful tour guide brought us through the unique Russborough – designed and built to an unrivalled standard, and surviving almost unaltered since the 18th century to today because of the extraordinary love of 3 families who owned it.

The Leeson family who organised the building and started the acquisition of an impressive collection of paintings, sculpture and furnishings.

In 1931, the house was bought by Captain Denis Daly and his wife Maeb, for €9000.  Their two daughters Anne and Avia were the last children to call Russborough home.

In 1952, the house and estate were sold to the Sir Alfred and Lady Clementine Beit, owners of a world-class European fine and decorative arts collection. They installed the Beit Collection (world-renowned works by leading Dutch, British and Spanish artists including Jan Vermeer, Henry Raeburn, and Francisco de Goya) into their new home.

The house opened to the public in 1976.

I hope my photos give you a feeling for being in Russborough today.

Finn McCool and Punchestown

Finn McCool The Winner at Punchestown, (Author unknown)

This poem was a great favourite of one of my colleagues in Scoil Choca Naofa, Kilcock. There were many rousing deliveries for school concerts, fleadhs, etc. Interestingly when I found it on the web, it turns out it was also the party piece of Kevin Burke, Captain of the successful 1953 Ballymore Eustace Senior GAA Football Team

‘Twas Martin McDonagh who bought him, from a man at the Fair in Naas
And never an uglier object, was seen in a farmer’s place.

He was long and lanky and bony, with a head like a tinker’s mule
Yet he had such a style of stepping, that we called him Finn McCool.

But never a word said Martin, for he was the knowing one,
He foddered his colt all winter, and he cantered him here and yon.
A feather would knocked me over, when I heard one day in the town
That Finn McCool had been entered, for the Races at Punchestown.

Taking a drop to brace me up, I started into Maynooth,
There was twenty there before me, all anxious to know the truth.
And there sat deluded Martin, joking and playing the fool,
Telling stories about this and that, but nothing of Finn McCool.

Tipping a wink for myself to stay, he soon got rid of the lot,
And the missus came calling him to “come while the tay is hot.”
A cup was there for myself of course, and a plate of pancakes brown,
But what cared I for pancakes, when my thoughts were on Punchestown.

Martin went on to tell me, the pedigree of both grand sires of Finn
He was a bay descendant of all his famous kin
“The horse has his point” says Martin, “though his runs like a circus clown
But he stands to make me or break me at the Races of Punchestown.”

O Lord, it’s a terrible feeling, when every shilling you own,
Is bet on an ordinary animal that’s skin where he isn’t bone.
I couldn’t sleep a wink at night and the wife says “Felim O’Toole,
It’s below in the Carlow Asylum, you’ll finish with Finn McCool.

The day of the Races came, and Martin, meself and the horse
And Davy Lacy to ride him, were early upon the course.
“How much against Finn McCool” says I, and the bookie says with a grin
“Arrah 50 to 1 and the fun you’ll have, watching another one win.”

The horses came from the paddock, went down and got into a line
And burst like shots from a rifle, when the starter gave the sign
And lagging along behind them, came Finn McCool at a pace
That would shame any dacent donkey, for sale at the Fair in Naas.

“Go on ye devil ” I yelled at him, “go on and lift your feet
For all the horses that ever were born, I’ll shoot you this day if you’re beat.”
And Martin himself was yelling, and cursing him dead and blind
And the crowd were roaring and shouting “look at the one behind”

He heard us, by all the Gods above, for he shot like a frightened deer
When Davy Lacy the jockey digged him, from tail to ear.
Rearing and snorting and kicking, he clattered past horse by horse
You’d think the end of the world had come, with the roaring on the course.

With his big feet trashing like paddle wheels and his tail like a dory mast
He leapt over the wall and the double ditch till first in the field was past.
“He’s winning” I heard someone saying, the crowd all going wild
And Martin McDermott beside me, was crying like a child.

“Winning, of course he’s winning” says I and “there take that from O’Toole”
As I threw my hat in the bookies face that had laughed at Finn McCool.
“Faith Finn doesn’t know when to stop” says Kelly the vet from Clane
For having near jumped the judges box, Finn made for the hill again.

We followed him into the paddock, where the horses were weighing in
The devil the hair was turned, on the hide of the warrior Finn
As cool as his mighty name sake, who had never known defeat
He seemed to be winking “that Fenian lad is a mighty hard thing to beat”

The bookies paid us our money and the crowning joy of the race
Was counting my bag of money from the lad I hit in the face.
“Be careful” says I “me bucko, whenever your money is down
A lesson from Finn McCool you have, the winner at Punchestown”