Strange Thing I Am

Patrick Pearse

Patrick Pearse 10 November 1879 – 3 May 1916 (Image Source:

I have often wondered how it came to be that Irish Victorians, that is to say all people born in Ireland between the years of 1837 to 1901, considered themselves Irish. Many Irish people today will baulk at reading the words “Irish Victorian” in a sentence. But Ireland was still part of the British Empire, and all who were born in Ireland in those years were considered British subjects.

I understand that Catholics in Ireland would never consider themselves British due to religious persecution and political differences. But there were also Protestants in Ireland who wanted an Independent Ireland and considered themselves Irishmen. Men such as William Smith O’Brien, Thomas Francis Meagher, to name but two, will always intrigue me because of their politics and opposing backgrounds.

What makes a wealthy Protestant landlord fight on behalf of his Catholic tenants and their lack of rights? They risked everything, their homes, families and lives, for Irish Nationalism. Is it a strange thing to want something so fanatically that you are willing to die for it? Especially when maintaining the status quo benefits you, though not necessarily the class beneath you? I think so. I think it is a strange thing. In fact it is an amazing thing.

Some may call it fanatical, and it very well might be, but it is intriguing to come across political figures who risked losing everything to challenge the powers that be and effect change for the common good of all, despite the fact that it meant the loss of wealth, or indeed their own lives in the process.

Author, educator, political activist and 1916 Easter Rising rebel, Patrick Pearse, saw himself as strange. According to author Joost Augusteijn, in his book Patrick Pearse:The Making of a Revolutionary, Pearse saw the union of his mother and father, though both “freedom loving” people, as opposite traditions which fused together and made him, “the strange thing I am.”

Birthplace of Patrick and William Pearse (Image Source:

Birthplace of Patrick and William Pearse (Image Source:

Pearse described his father James as an “English, puritan and mechanic.”James Pearse was a London stonemason who relocated to Dublin in or around 1861 according to the census of that year. James worked for John Hardman and Company, a Birmingham owned business as a sculptor. Hardman and Co. opened an office in Dublin around 1861.

James Pearse eventually established his own business, Pearse and Son’s, at 27 Great Brunswick Street, now known as Pearse Street.Though Patrick Pearse tried to find Irish connections on his father’s side, he discovered that as far back as 400 years the family were English. The family business in Dublin became a “leading supplier of architectural ornament and church fittings,” according to Christine Casey, author of Dublin: The City Within the Grand and Royal Canals and the Circular Road with the Phoenix Park.

Patrick Pearse described his mother, Margaret Brady, as “Gaelic, Catholic and peasant.” Margaret, upon the execution of both of her sons after the 1916 Rising pursued a career in politics and was elected to Dáil Éireann as a  Sinn Féin  TD, Teachta Dála, in 1921.

It would be easy to say that Pearse’s rebellious nature came from his mother’s side. They hailed from County Meath and spoke only in the native Irish language, which influenced the young Patrick Pearse greatly. But his father’s artistic side played into Patrick’s development as a rebel as well.

This “artistic streak,” as Patrick called it, meant that his father’s friends were “bohemian types,” whom the young Patrick Pearse liked because of their “quaint costumes, their sense of humor and their gentleness.” So, the union of a “puritan” and a “peasant” produced a “strange thing,”…….an Irish Nationalist.

The family business flourished and secured the Pearse family’s position comfortably as middle-class, affording Patrick and his brother William excellent educations.

William Pearse 15 November 1881 – 4 May 1916 (Image Source:

William Pearse 15 November 1881 – 4 May 1916 (Image Source:

Patrick Pearse became  an Irish language teacher and a barrister, and later a writer of essays, poems, plays, an editor for An Claidheamh Soluis, The Sword of Light, which was the journal of the Gaelic League.

William, or Willie Pearse was headed down the path that his own father had longed to travel. William became a noted sculptor and studied in Paris. His sculptures can be found in churches throughout Ireland. When he was set to inherit the family business he decided instead to help Patrick run Saint Edna’s secondary school for boys in Ranelagh, Co. Dublin. Willie, influenced greatly by his older brother’s political activities, joined the Irish Volunteers and became part of the Republican movement which resulted in the Easter Rising of 1916.

The yard in Kilmainham Jail Dublin where the 16 Rebels were executed. (Image Source: Loretto Leary 2009)

The yard in Kilmainham Jail Dublin where the 16 Rebels were executed. (Image Source: Loretto Leary 2009)

Both Patrick and William were executed in Kilmainham Jail for taking part in the Easter Rising of 1916. Patrick died first, aged 36, he was shot by firing squad for his part in the Irish Rebellion and the following day Willie was executed.

The “strange thing” about Patrick Pearse is that not everyone agrees that he is a hero. I’ll state the obvious first: many Unionists, most notably Conor Cruise O’Brien (a former Unionist), see Patrick Pearse as “dangerous, fanatical, psychologically unsound and ultra-religious.” O’Brien states that, “Pearse saw the Rising as a Passion Play with real blood.” Others, such as former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, would defend Patrick Pearse and argue that his “fanatical” behavior was heroic. This is where Pearse becomes a complex personality, for what Pearse has left us with is a debate on what it means to be an Irish Nationalist. Does it mean being a fanatic or a hero? According to the Patrick Pearse article on, “his complex personality still remains a subject of controversy for those who wish to debate the evolving meaning of Irish nationalism.”

The only way to glean more about the mind of Patrick Pearse is to read what the man wrote. And I begin today by reading his essay, The Murder Machine. Stay tuned.

How Irish Are You?

(Image source:

(Image source:

The Irish have a unique way with words. Some have dubbed our colloquialisms “doublespeak-doublethink.” You’ll have to do double the work to figure out what we’re talking about. So, you think you are Irish? Let’s see how Irish you are.

1. When a friend says his “back teeth are floating” it means…

a. His dentures have come unglued.

b. He is inebriated.

c. He needs to pee.

d. His dentures have fallen into the River Shannon and are floating.

2. If your friend says she “gave it welly”…it means…

a. She has donated her goulashes.

b. She meant to say “jelly” but because her back teeth float she has trouble with her “w’s”

c. She gave it full effort.

d. She kicked someone or something.

3. “Eat up, you’re at your aunties” means……

a. Don’t be rude while visiting your aunt’s house for supper.

b. Your aunt doesn’t like washing dishes.

c. Your aunt is a gourmet chef.

d. Take full advantage of the free food and eat as much as you can.

4. If someone tells you they could “Eat a child’s arse through a chair”….

a. They are part of a circus act.

b. They are starving with the hunger.

c. They are challenging you to an eat-off!

d. They are from a remote Island where children’s arses are considered a delicacy.

5. If someone tells you they could “Eat a farmer’s arse through a ditch”…

a. They are trying to one-up the person in #4

b. They like tougher cuts of meat.

c. They are from South Tipp.

d. They are challenging the indigenous migrant from a remote Island who has just moved in next door.

6. If someone asks you “How’s she cutting?” It really means…

a. Is the new female barber doing a good job?

b. How are things with you?

c. Is the wife doing a good job carving the turkey you won at bingo?

d. They want an in-depth analysis of how the hairdresser actually cuts hair.

7. “Now you’re sucking diesel…” means

a. You are addicted to drinking diesel.

b. You are part man-part tractor.

c. You are doing a fantastic job.

d. You have partnered with Walter White and the secret ingredient to Blue Crystal Meth is Irish diesel filtered by the human digestive system.

8. If someone says they will, “Give you the back of their hand” it means…

a. They will slap you.

b. They are promising to donate their body parts to you.

c. The are part of a secret organization called The Back of the Hand.

d. They live next door to the indigenous migrant from a remote Island in #4 who is loosing weight because his diet is not providing enough meat and the farmer next door to him  won’t share  food.

9. “You’d find more meat on a tinker’s stick,” means…..

a. Irish philosophers, tinkers, use their canes to collect meat. (The Irish have trouble pronouncing the “th” sound)

b. Someone is very thin…….or is that “tin?”

c. The guy from #4 is jealous of the Irish philosopher who just moved in next door who has more meat than he does.

d. Irish philosophers like to brag about their manhood.

10. “Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin”, or, “There’s no hearth like your own hearth,” which really means…

a. What is a “hearth?”

b. Someone can’t spell the word Pulmonary correctly and decided to use hearth instead.

c. There’s no place like home.

d. The ejit in #1 has lost his dentures in the Shannon again and is now talking funny about his heart.

This quiz was inspired by Just How British are You?

“We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English.”
- Winston Churchill

The Portrayal of the Irish in Movies

When I first visited the US in 1985 for a summer holiday I was amused and entertained by the clever television advertisements. The one that sticks out in my brain has the line  “Let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?” at the end. It always made me laugh. Or it used to, until Ryan O’Rourke of The Wild Geese Online made me think about it from a different perspective. O’Rourke asks his readers to observe, “how Irish culture and Irish people are portrayed and represented in the media (including television and film).“How has film shaped people’s view of the Irish. Or, let’s talk about you, the theater going public…What do you think of the Irish in film and media?

O’Rourke mentions The New York Times piece by Maureen O’Dowd, Beautifying Abbey Road, Jan. 7 2014.

O’Dowd says, “My grandmother and her nine sisters were tall, strapping women who immigrated to America from Ireland in the second decade of the 20th century and found jobs as maids, cooks and nannies for rich families.” Noting the difference between the reality of her grandmother and grand aunts’ lives as maids and the upstairs-downstairs co-existence created by Julian Fellowes, O’Dowd states, “It was a much tougher life than the democratized fantasy shown in “Downton Abbey.” Yet, this is how Fellowes wants his audience to see the lives of servant and master.

Allen Leech as Tom Branston in Downton Abbey (Image Source:

Allen Leech as Tom Branston in Downton Abbey (Image Source:

It is the Irish Chauffer, Tom Branston, that strikes me as a watered down Irishman, the metamorphosis from Irish rebel to English gent making him more palatable to his in-laws.

Branston, played by Irish actor Allen Leech, marries the youngest daughter of the Crawley family causing the gentry to completely lose the plot. He is, after all, the chauffeur, and even worse, he is Irish. Should I be insulted? I don’t think so.

The story isn’t about the Irish, it is about how the landed gentry survived a class shift after World War 1. Do I think the character of Branston is a bit, hmm, stereotyped? You can bet your britches. But at the same time I admire Leeche’s performance of a young man with politically opposing ideas trying to fit in with his in-laws. And I like the fact that Fellowes nods at the deep connection between the Irish and the English by creating the character of Branston. Now, what I was insulted over was when Branston’s brother, Kieran, was cast as a drunk. How original? *BURP!*

So, getting back to the beginning…”Let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?” Or in other words, how does the media portray the Irish? The words political, fighting, religious, superstitious, witty, and ownership all come into play when thinking of how the Irish have been portrayed on film. The lens of a camera is really the eye of the director, and that’s whose perspective we are seeing.

The Lad From Old Ireland is one of the first “on location” movies made outside of Hollywood. Filmed in Beaufort, Co. Kerry and New York City in 1910 it is a silent movie which chronicles the immigration of Terry O’Connor, played by Canadian actor Sidney Olcott, and his eventual return to Ireland to bring his sweetheart back to America with him. The script was written by Gene Gauntier, who also acted in another Irish film in 1912 called You Remember Ellen, based on the Thomas Moore poem. Both films show an impoverished Ireland, where men and women toiled side by side in the fields. Ireland of the early 1900’s was a place where  an honest heart and hard work was always rewarded with love and riches beyond believing.

John Ford, an Irish-American, had a very “twee” version of the land of his ancestors. Nothing wrong with that. Ford wanted the public to see Ireland and appreciate it the same way that he did.His movie The Quiet Man made the world think that Irish women had fiery tempers, and being dragged through a field of thistles was just, “a good stretch of the legs.” The Rising of the Moon, another Ford movie, connects three tales of rural life in Ireland. It is Ford’s perspective, once again, of wives who obeyed their hubbies and would happily “keep the bed warm,” at the rising of the moon. No man did more for the Irish accent, Irish sayings and pint drinking than Barry Fitzgerald, a Ford favorite. In Broth of a Boy,  lines like, “He’s as useless as an undertaker at a wedding,” sure make the Irish amiable, and worth listening to.

Hilton Edwards, had a deeper connection to Ireland. Edward’s was of Irish-English heritage and he co-founded the Gate Theater in Dublin with his partner Micheál MacLiammóir. Edwards’ Return to Glennascaul made the theater going public see Ireland as a haunted land. With its ancient history, the idea of Ireland’s countryside and abandoned mansions brimming with ghosts is one that seems to do well on the big screen. High Spirits with Liam Neeson and Peter O’Toole comes to mind. There is also the 1963 Francis Ford Coppola film, Demtia 13. Gorey, horrific, psychotic and violent, and very hokey. More recently we have Into The West with Gabriel Byrne and The Eclipse by Billy Roche and Connor McPherson. One of my favorites actually.

There are serious political films too. Shake Hands With The Devil, is a close look at the Irish War of Independence in 1921, a fight for freedom from English rule. Starring James Cagney, Noel Purcell, and again we see the connection between Ireland and England as notable English actors such as Michael Redgrave and Glynis Johns also appear in the film.The Wind that Shakes the Barley is also well worth seeing. Another film that’s worth watching for its delicate portrayal of Catholic and Protestant disputes in Northern Ireland, and female submission due to religious doctrine is December Bride. How could I possibly forget Liam Neeson in Michael Collins?

Rural folk and land ownership is the main focus in Jim Sheridan’s The Field. Just how far the Bull McCabe goes to own the field his father toiled in is eye opening. The Bull only knows one law, and that is the law of the land. The Field isn’t really a field though, it is really Ireland, McCabe is all the Irish rebels rolled up into one being. The Guard is John Michael McDonagh’s quirky view of the rural Irish: witty, likable racists. Throw Calvary into that quirky view and you’ll see the Irish as gun toting, revenge seeking and anti-religious. Not too far off the mark alright. They don’t call it the wild-west for nothing.

Then we have the urban Irish. The Commitments, The Snapper, The Van, are Roddy Doyle’s Ireland. Agnes Browne, based on Brendan O’Carrolls book, The Mammy, gives us the urban widow’s Ireland.

From a religious perspective we have most recently Philomena, as well as The Magdelene Sisters and Song for a Raggy Boy. All worth viewing for a more precise look at the relationship between the Irish and the clergy in Ireland and why the churches are now almost empty. All are true stories.

If documentaries are your thing, there are a couple of good ones. The great documentary, Mise Éire in 1959 and then the 1967 documentary, The Rocky Road to Dublin by Peter Lennon, do more to show Ireland, and how it got to where it is, than any other serious movies.

So, how do the Irish come across in film? Are we a fighting, witty, anti-religious, pint drinking, superstitious, political, land-greedy people? I suppose the answer depends on what you movies you like to watch, who’s acting in it, who directed it and who wrote it, and what their relationship is with Ireland.

There are plenty of Irish movies to choose from. So get to it. You should be done by Saint Patrick’s Day, 2016.




Age Progression: What would they look like now?

It’s a new year, 2015, and both you and I face another year, hopefully, of growing older. Happy New Year?

Nobody “likes” growing older.  I try to be positive about it, reminding myself that  growing old is a privilege that those who died young were not allowed to enjoy.

My parents celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. (Photo by Mary Horrigan)

My parents, Michael and Margaret Horrigan, celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. (Photo by Mary Horrigan)

Both of my parents died young. My father was 60 years old and my mother died the day after she turned 68. I still think that’s young. Especially with today’s health and medical standards. I wonder what both of my parents would have looked like now.

My father would have been 87 as of January 2015, and my mother would have been 79 in May of 2015. As the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh said, “Every old man I see, Reminds me of my father.” And the same holds true of my mother.

The company Phojoe, based in Clarkston Mi, has been featured on many media outlets for their competence in age progression photos of missing children. The company has turned its competency into a form of grief therapy for parents whose children died young, doing age progression photos of what the deceased children would look like now.

Phojoe artists have also had some fun using age progression on photos of dead celebrities. So let’s have a bit of fun with that. All pictures were done by Phojoe and used in a Daily Mail article from November 2013. Let’s see if you can guess who the “aged” celebrity is before you click on the live link at the bottom of the last photo. Let’s get started.

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 Some are easy, others not so easy. If you give up, click on this link, The Daily Mail article: What if they had lived to fade away? Rock and roll legends who died young imagined in old age with the help of photo technology.

So, how many did you get? My husband got two right. Did you do better?

Here are my favorite pictures of my parents.

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I can’t resist! Just did this age progression of myself using Microsoft Digital Image Suite photoshop combined with an age progression tutioial from I look like my mother, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Lonnie old.png 2And here’s another apple from the tree photo of my son and my dad. He has both sides in him though. I can see my husband’s dad there too.

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Freedom of Expression


In light of the Charlie Hebdo killings in France: Free speech comes at a price, and over the years the media, the arts and others have paid dearly.

Originally posted on Breise! Breise! Extra! Extra!:

It would be very easy for me to start off this blog post with a sentence like: So long as we don’t insult or intentionally offend others, free speech and the right to it, should be a universal right. But politeness shouldn’t prevent the truth from being told.

Art is truth, we’ve all heard that before. The truth isn’t always pretty, in fact more often than not the truth can be downright ugly. And ugly needs full exposure. Art, be it through film or written word, has helped expose many an ugly truth.

In the last two years the right to freedom of expression through the media and free speech has come under the hammer. There have been a few cases that challenged the right to say what we really think, and say it out loud.

Wikileaks and Julian Assange brought the right to free speech into a new electronic age. The Wikileaks cables put thousands of…

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The Romance of the Fisherman’s Daughter


Great new blog about my home town, Portumna.

Originally posted on Portumna Heritage:

Millers Vault  MillersVault

The Miller vault in St. Brigid’s GraveyardPortumna, Co. Galway is one of the many interesting architectural features to be seen on a walk around the town. With its vermiculated decoration it is quite unique in the town according to Christy Cunniffe, Galway County Council Field Monument Advisor. Today we ask ourselves who were the Millers who are commemorated here and where did they live — because there are no longer any Millers in the town? Well, look no more: the recently digitally-released Folklore Commission stories for the Portumna area tell the origin of the Miller family in the town. A beautiful romantic story… or legend!

AnDuchasMiller Extract from original school essay (click to enlarge)

Around 1880, Portumna was the scene of a marriage between a Mary Coen of humble means and an English millionaire named Miller. This is the story of the Miller Vault in the old St. Brigid’s…

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Thank you to all who donated

A total of $320.00 raised and donated for the

October 11th 2014

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Out of the Darkness Walk

in Westport.


You can still donate to the AFSP by clicking on the image to the left of the home screen!

Is America Obsessed with Super Heroes?

Poster of Birdman or the Unexpected virtue of ignorance. (Image Source:

Poster of Birdman or the Unexpected virtue of ignorance. (Image Source:

Last week, I went to see the new Michael Keaton movie, BirdMan or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance.

It is a very interesting movie, not just because of the stream of conscious type filming where one scene rolls into the next, but it poses a lot of questions.

The obvious kind come to mind first: Does he really have powers? Can he levitate? Is he hallucinating? Can he really fly? Is Bird Man a figment of his imagination? Is this movie about the inability of a once well-known and loved actor to accept the fact that his career is over? Is it about his downward spiral from fame?

And the not so obvious questions come to mind later. Questions like: Is this movie making fun of the super hero genre? Why would the directors and actors want to do that? Is Keaton poking fun at his own turn as Bat Man? Why would he want to do that?

And then the question that comes to my mind a week or so after seeing this movie is: Why is America obsessed with the super hero?

What is it about these men with supernatural powers who save the world on a daily basis from “almost certain” global destruction? The bad guys aren’t just evil, they are devil-like evil, therefore the super hero isn’t just good, he’s god-like good. But the movie BirdMan or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance doesn’t have an antagonist. It doesn’t. There is no devil-like evil doer. Unless of course, you include the observer.That’s what makes it really deep and far beyond excellent.

In school, my English teacher would always prepare us for the state exams in Ireland by repeating this mantra. “The answer lies in the question.” And this holds true for the new Keaton movie as well. Maybe there is a hidden message here for people. Maybe the hidden message isn’t so hidden, and is there in the title. Is there virtue in ignorance?

Goodness in being stupid. That’s what its telling us. Asking questions and seeking answers requires a lot of work. A lot of brainpower. A lot of digging deeper and critical thinking. And asking questions means learning the not-so-pleasant truths, or even worse, getting no answer at all.

This is why I like Bird Man.

My own interpretation of the movie is that we need to stop relying on super heroes, and that list would include a multitude of people who want to do our thinking for us, including the poster of BirdMan who does the thinking for Keaton’s character in the movie.

As my mother used to say, “Well, if your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you follow them?” I think she was urging me to think for myself, and not follow the crowd. And maybe that is what this movie is saying, subliminally, too.