New York Celebration of the Centenary of Easter Rising 1916

Today, Sunday April 24th, is the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. The rebellion began precisely at 12:04pm GMT in Dublin. Padraig Pearse stood at the GPO and read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

On Pier A in The Battery in New York, giant banners hung to display the backstory to the Easter Rising and the key players behind it.

By August 3rd, 1916, 16 men would be executed for their part in the Easter Rising. The names of each man executed will be posted on my Facebook Page on the anniversary of their execution/s.

It is a sad thing to remember, the Easter Rising and its aftermath, especially when you read about how each man died, his last words and how brave they were facing their deaths. Each rebel deserves to be remembered. They were all brave.

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The first four men would be executed by firing squad in Kilmainham Jail on May 3rd 1916.

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Shore to Shore: Bridge Textile Arts Project at Shorelines Arts Festival 2013

It really was a sight to behold. I loved how colorful the nets were and the reflections in the waters of the Shannon were reminiscent of the Water Lilies paintings by Claude Monet.

Artist and project director Kate O’Brien did exactly what she set out to do, capture a piece of, “elusive beauty.”

Ghosts of the Faithful Departed

One of my brothers in Ireland gifted me a book entitled Ghosts of the Faithful Departed by David Creedon. It is a beautiful, sad, and poignant pictorial trip down memory lane.

Ghosts of the Faithful Departed interior photo of room with painting of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on display. (Image Source: Photographers.ie)

Ghosts of the Faithful Departed interior photo of room with painting of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on display. (Image Source: Photographers.ie)

As I browsed through the photographs I began to realize how important a part religion played in the generations before us.

In the 160 pages of this book the iconic Sacred Heart painting was displayed at least 14 times, I had to look hard to see the last few, but they are there!

Religious statues such as the Child of Prague, considered lucky in my home-place if the head was broken off, religious calendars, paintings of the Virgin Mary, prayer books, scapulars, memorial cards, and pictures of various popes feature no less than 37 times in the 160 pages.

It is a beautiful book and shows what holds meaning for people. An unworn dress, purchased in America, with tags still attached, hangs from the back of a bedroom door. Probably too fashionable to wear in Ireland at the time. Maybe a daughter bought it for her mother and sent it home to Ireland as a gift. It was never worn.

I pulled out a magnifying glass to see what stood on mantelpieces beside crucifixes and candlestick holders; a small tin of Brasso, no longer keeping things shiny, but collecting dust like everything else. A calendar dated 1974 droops lopsided from a wall.

The most distressing picture of all is actually two pictures of the same scene, each taken just twelve months apart. Time ravages not just the body, but the things the body builds to give it warmth and comfort.

My father often said, “Time nor tide waits for no man.” Ghosts of the Faithful Departed is a brutal and vivid reminder that they don’t.

How many mothers and fathers sat beside an open fire and prayed the rosary for the son or daughter they saw off to America?

Did the Sacred Heart painting hanging on the wall give them solace? Did the statue of the Virgin Mary or the Child of Prague ease their sorrow? Who knows? Maybe they did.

Murals: A part of history or an eye sore?

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A mural of Che Guevara, who visited and stayed in Kilkee, West Clare has been painted over prior to a Latin Festival celebrating his visit in 1961. The Che do Bheatha Festival is in its third year. The removal of the mural has caused division among county council representatives.

According to The Irish Examiner, “Kilkee Chamber of Commerce President Johnny Redmond said: “Clare County Council has decided it is graffiti and has removed this harmless mural. This at a time when the council says it has no money to kill the weeds that are growing up through the footpath on the promenade but has time and funds to waste on removing an internationally recognised image in the year of the Gathering with Irish-Argentinians coming to Kilkee for the festival.””

The Che Guevara mural in Killkee, County Clare. (Image Source: Irish Independent)

The Che Guevara mural in Kilkee, County Clare.
(Image Source: Irish Independent)

The Belfast Telegraph said that the mural was removed because due to an increased number of US tourists, the Americans were upset by the Che mural. “The Americans left town after seeing the mural. The face of Guevara, who visited Kilkee in 1961, had adorned the same spot for the previous two Che do Bheatha festivals.”

Belfast should know a thing or two about the historical importance of murals. The slideshow above (all pictures are my own. Taken in August 2009) is of murals in the city of Belfast depicting the troubles, the heroes of both sides, and historical figures, such as Guevara, that were revered for their patriotism. Taxi and bus tours of Belfast city include the murals in their informational tours.

Jim Fitzpatrick's iconic image of Che Guevara

Jim Fitzpatrick’s iconic image of Che Guevara

The image depicted of Che Guevara was made famous by Irish artist, Jim Fitzpatrick, whom I interviewed by telephone in November 2011. You can read the interview here. Fitzpatrick met Guevara when he visited County Clare during a  flight stopover in 1961.

Should the Kilkee mural have been painted over or removed because it upset a few Americans? I don’t think so. And I do hope that the Clare County Council will redo the image. Regardless of whether you admire or despise Che Guevara, it is just a mural, and if the locals aren’t offended, why should a tourist be offended?

Is there an Irish Historian in the house?

A great man, at least I think so. William Smith O'Brien (Image Source: en.wikipedia.org )

A great man, at least I think so. William Smith O’Brien (Image Source: en.wikipedia.org )

I need the help of an Irish historian.

I am writing an historical fiction book about the society and political climate in Ireland from 1845-1890. The Great Hunger in Ireland, the Rebellion of 1848, convict Ships, coffin Ships will all come into play. I am trying to recreate an accurate historical account as best I can.

I have tried to find out what types of weapons Home Rule rebels used in the 1848 rebellion and how Irish Americans contributed/ got involved with Irish Home Rule.

What weapons were used in the Irish Rebellion of 1848 and where did the rebels get the weapons from? Were any weapons brought into the country from abroad?

Thanks so much to anyone who might be able to give me some answers.

That I Should Rise and You Should Not

DeparturesWhat is it that stirs a person to emigrate? Apart from factors such as financial and oppression, why is it that the “tired, poor, and huddled masses” teem to foreign shores?

Forced emigration isn’t an easy pill to swallow. It isn’t the end of the world either. In my situation I left incrementally, in dribs and drabs, for a vacation, to work for a year, to work every summer while in college, and finally to secure a green card that I won in the Morrison Visa lottery in 1993.

Eventually the notion of “having to leave” transformed into “wanting to leave.”

“Of all the money that ‘ere I spent, I’ve spent it in good company. And of all the harm that ‘ere I’ve done, alas it was to none but me.”

Crossroad of the world (Image source: Irishtimes.com)

Crossroad of the world (Image source: Irishtimes.com)

I missed my family. I missed the Sunday walks in the forest park. I missed the smallness of a small town, and the bigness of a large family. I grew accustomed to a  commuter town with sirens and car horns, with train tracks so close to my house I could hear the lonesome whistle of the diesel train as it passed by every Tuesday at 2am; and over here no one drops in for a cup of tea.

The Irish decorated their homes with flags, figurines of leprechauns, and tea towels with the ingredients for Irish soda bread to help keep Ireland alive. To me it was a reminder that I had left the real thing for something artificial.

“And all I’ve done, for want of wit, to memory now, I can’t recall. So fill for me the parting glass. Goodnight and joy be with you all.”

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Portumna, County Galway.

Twenty years later I too have brought bits of Ireland back with me. Sods of turf, cups with shamrocks, statues of Setanta and the Children of Lir, Christmas ornaments with the Claddagh design, ceramic tiles with the numbers 2 and 7 in Celtic design now adorn my mailbox, mementos of my hometown.

“Oh of all the comrades that ‘ere I’ve had, are sorry for my going away. And all the sweet hearts that ‘ere I’ve had, would wish me one more day to stay.”

Though I thought Ireland would stand still in time, it didn’t. Siblings grew older and greyer, and so did I. Nieces and nephews reached the ages where I now respect their opinions, talents, and advice. People died, babies were born, houses were built on a country road and shortened the journey that as a child I thought was a long one.

“And since it falls, unto my lot, that I should rise and you should not. I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call, goodnight and joy be with you all. Goodnight and joy be with you all.”

Things changed, people changed, and so did I.

The day is fast approaching when I will have lived longer in America than I did in Ireland. That day will be April 4th 2016. I will be 23 years out of Ireland. I left when I was 23. Do I miss Ireland? Yes. Did something stir within me in 1993 and make me rise and emigrate? Yes.

longdistanceEmigration, either forced or voluntary, isn’t the end of the world…we’re all just trying to make a living the best way we can in different parts of the world. Four walls, a roof and a means to make a living; we’re all doing the same thing, only on different soil.

(The lines in italics are from the song The Parting Glass)

Are “Irishman jokes” no laughing matter?

Irish JokesI had a talk recently with someone who lives out of Ireland, like I do, but hails from Galway, like I do, about how she feels when someone starts to tell the typical “Irishman” jokes. You know the kind of jokes I mean; Irishmen are stupid, dense etc. Are these jokes racist? Should we just laugh them off?

The Italians have Carabinieri jokes, the Americans have their redneck jokes, the English have their Irishman jokes, as well as Scotsman, and Welshman jokes. So should we just laugh along when we hear these jokes and not be offended?

It is a matter of how many Irishman jokes I hear from the same person, if this seems to be a habit, a pattern.  They hear my Irish accent and the jokes start coming, then I actually have some pity for the person telling the jokes. I consider that person ignorant. One or two jokes, fine, they’re just jokes, but if it goes on and on the person telling the jokes is revealing their own ignorance and race insensitivity.

An ignorant person will not grasp the concept that their ethnic insensitivity is a turn off to intelligent people. And I don’t take these jokes personally at all, chances are the person telling the jokes isn’t just racist towards the Irish, but other nationalities too.

Don’t get me wrong, I think political correctness can be taken too far sometimes. Political correctness shouldn’t hamper comedy or hinder it in anyway, so long as the humor is done in a satirical way…Ricky Gervais is excellent at this, as is Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Watch Brendan Gleeson in The Guard, a brilliant satirical portrayal of a stereotypical Irish man.

However, there is a time and a place for politically incorrect jokes, which the typical Irishman jokes are. And this is where the water gets a little murky. When is the right time and where is the right place?

In Irish Central’s August 22, 2012 article, Irishman wins cash settlement for “Paddy” jokes told by comedians on cruise ships, a comedian tells holiday makers on board a cruise numerous Irishman jokes and the cruise line got sued for the comedians “offensive” jokes.

I wonder if the comedian had told more jokes about the English, Welsh, Scots and Rednecks to create diversity in the act would he have gotten into trouble then? Let’s face it, every nation gets stereotyped. Every county in Ireland is stereotyped. So what makes it alright for Irish to tell jokes about the Irish, but politically incorrect for other nationalities to do it? Because we are certain it is not a character assault when it comes from one of our own, but not sure when it comes from another ethnic group.

So if you’re going to tell me an Irishman joke, be sure to follow it up with a joke about your own ethnicity, or else I’ll just write you off as a racist and a bigot, and it will be our last conversation.

Tales from the Irish diaspora

The Boy and The Crow by Brendan Walsh

The Boy and The Crow by Brendan Walsh

It is a small world. No, I am not singing it, I’m just saying that it is a small world, after all.

My sister was best friends with a girl in secondary school who had an aunt that immigrated to England, had a son, and the family then immigrated to Canada.

I get an email from a man who has self-published a book and he tells me his cousins live not too far away from where I grew up in Ireland. Brendan Walsh, author of The Boy and the Crow contacted me about my writing, and his writing, and he mentioned how difficult it is as a self-published author to promote and publicize your work.

Brendan had this brilliant idea to generate more reviews of our self-published books on Amazon and Goodreads: we send each other copies of our books, read them, and review them.

I didn’t know at the time that he was the first cousin of my sister’s best friend in secondary school…..so, it’s a small world after all.

Without further ado, here is my review of Brendan Walsh’s lovely book The Boy and The Crow.

Daniel Cagney knows a thing or two about crows. He knows that there are two kinds; the gang members he hung out with in New York city who called themselves “The Crows,” and the Corvus brachyrhynchos kind, the American crow.

When Daniel is sent on a year’s probation to live with his grandparents on their farm in Vermont his knowledge of both types of “crows” changes. He learns to disassociate himself from his former gang with the help of his dog Jessie and a crow named Paddy. Humans help him along the way also, but Daniel’s appreciation for freedom comes mostly from Paddy.

When Daniel wounds Paddy by accident and then nurses the crow back to health, a bond is created between boy and crow. Although Danny saved Paddy’s life, at the end of the story we learn that Paddy returns the favor.

Gang life, teen angst, the need to belong, struggling to be accepted, and gang mentality are nothing when it comes to simple family values and the love of family and friends.

Walsh has a keen eye and ear for the sights and sounds of nature. He constructs a vivid word picture which transports the reader to the green hills of Vermont. I heard every “caw caw” as clearly as if Paddy was on my own shoulder. I shivered with Danny and his mother as they feared for their lives in a pit rapidly filling with water, I saw the landscape and felt the emotions of each character.

The lesson learned from The Boy and The Crow by Brendan Walsh is that sometimes animals and birds know more about us than we think. Read Brendan Walsh’s The Boy and The Crow, you’ll never look at a crow the same way again.

Coffin and Convict Ships

The Providence; convict ship that sailed from Cobh, County Cork in Ireland (Image source Don Wilson's The Providence)

The Providence; convict ship that sailed from Cobh, County Cork in Ireland (Image source Don Wilson’s The Providence)

In doing some research for the follow-up book to The Foundling I needed to find out more about convict ships.

I bought a few books and interviewed my Australian cousin, Keiran Hannon, who knows a lot about convict ships and is currently writing a book about them.

The books I bought were quite helpful. Bound for Botany Bay by Alan Brooke and David Brandon, The Great Shame by Thomas Keneally, and The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes.

Interior of a convict ship (Image source www.nzmaritime.co.nz )

Interior of a convict ship (Image source www.nzmaritime.co.nz )

All convict ships were fitted out in Deptford, England. The ships were barks (or barques)  that were converted to transport convicts. These ships had three or more masts. Between the deck and bulkhead was the prison, with prison bars. There were no hammocks for convicts to sleep on, they slept instead on benches.

The reason for the need for a penal colony was that the crime rate in the British Empire during the late 1700’s and 1800’s had skyrocketed. Petty crimes such as stealing clothes, clothing was scarce and people were so cold they stole it, were punishable with transportation to a penal colony.

Although laws in New South Wales in Australia were passed in 1841 to stop convict ships arriving from Europe, the ships continued to make the journey to Van Diemen’s Land until 1851. The reason for the NSW parliament making the law was that settlers were unhappy with the convicts being shipped to their lands.

A hulk was essentially a ship that was docked and used as a floating prison. Convicts were imprisoned on hulks until they were transported to either Botany Bay or Van Diemen’s Land. The condition of the hulks was often worse than the convict ships themselves. In Ireland in particular the hulk ships were very bad.

A convict ship (Image source Victorian Crime and Punishment)

A convict ship (Image source Victorian Crime and Punishment)

Convict ships transported male or female prisoners separately. This resulted in some ships with female convicts becoming notoriously known as The Brothel Ships.

Female convicts were put in the coal hold if they didn’t obey orders. The biggest insult for women was getting their heads shaved as a punishment for misbehaving.

Lobscouse, a watery vegetable stew, and burgoo, a cheap porridge, were two meals that were born on the convict ships. Provisions were contracted by producers who often cheated with the amount of food provided by making false bottoms for casks or lacing provisions with large bones , nails, dead rodents, and horse’s hooves. This resulted in a shortage of food for the prisoners which then caused disease outbreaks.

Dysentery, pneumonia and scurvy were common on-board convict ships. Bark solution was used to treat scurvy, it was a mixture of lime juice and other juices. Sometimes the convict ships would stop at Cape Town in South Africa to collect more provisions such as oranges.

Interior of a female convict ship (Image Source Australian Culture and Psyche)

Interior of a female convict ship (Image Source Australian Culture and Psyche)

There were three main routes taken by convict ships; a direct route from England and or Ireland to Tasmania, England to Rio de Janerio, England/Ireland to Cape Town (summer) Simon’s Town South Africa (winter), and the final destinations were Tasmania, Botany Bay or Van Diemen’s Land in Australia.

The most concise history of Convict ships can be attained from The Convict Ships by Charles Bateson. Here is a sample of some of the exact details about specific ships that Bateson provides in that book.

Name of Ship: John William Dare (Women’s Convict Ship)

Arrived in Hobart: 22nd May 1852

Bark, small, 291 tonnes

Captain: Thomas Walters

Surgeon Superintendent: Robert Clarke

Sailed from: Dun Laoghaire (then known as Kingstown) in 1851

172 convicts embarked and 3 died en-route to Hobart.

Route: via Cape Town

Took 146 days to make the journey

Interior of a coffin ship (Image source Penn State to Ireland)

Interior of a coffin ship (Image source Penn State to Ireland)

The most amazing thing I have read so far in my research about convict ships is that the most common crime committed was stealing clothing and that the coffin ships that left Ireland during the years of the great hunger had worse conditions than convict ships.

There were far more deaths on the coffin ships than there were on the convict ships. Conditions were also worse on the coffin ships.

Divide and Conquer

(Image source: wikimedia)

(Image source: wikimedia)

I am a big believer in leaving this planet in the best possible shape for future generations to come. However, when conservation and environmental awareness is being coerced down your gullet by the worst offenders of environmental protection you can’t help but wonder if there is an ulterior motive.

If the Irish government is telling the owners of 53 SAC raised bogs in Ireland to cease all turf cutting, then why didn’t they stop cutting raised bogs in their possession also?

Bord na Mona, a government owned turf cutting company, not only cuts turf to sell in Ireland as peat briquettes, and peat particles as fertilizer, they also ship to the USA and UK. Ireland Earth ships briquettes to the USA and Puraflo Filtration systems are made from peat particles from Irish bogs, owned by Bord na Mona.

My most commented on blog post was Rights of Ownership and Irish Turf Wars, and I learned a lot from the comments made. Comments came from turf cutters and environmentalists. It is important to listen and digest what each side has to say. And, incredible as it may seem, both sides appreciate the bogs that are under dispute, but for slightly different reasons.

The bog owners appreciate the natural and historical way of life that cutting turf provides, the conservationists appreciate the bogs for their beauty and rare foliage and fauna.

A sleán (Image source Flickr.com)

A sleán (Image source Flickr.com)

The turf cutters and bog owners are staging photo-ops for the media with sleán Sunday on August 14th and other such fetes around Ireland during the month of August. A sleán is an old tool used to cut turf.

The conservationists claim that commercial turf cutting is destroying the few remaining raised bogs left in Ireland and now deemed Special Areas of Conservation and that the bog owners and turf cutters are playing on people’s emotions by calling the EU the new absentee land lords.

From my point of view, the Irish government has learned to divide and conquer its own people; it pits conservationists against private bog owners whilst the government owned Bord na Mona continues to commit the sins it forbids the bog owners to do and gives permission to conservationists to do battle with the bog owners for doing: cutting turf on SACs.

There’s no money to be made in someone cutting their own turf, but there’s lots of money to be made in cutting turf and shipping it abroad. As IrelandEarth.com, a USA division of Bord na Mona, says,

“IRELAND EARTH is all about connecting and involving everyone to all things Irish, whether you’re one of the 38 million Americans of Irish Descent or wanting to be part of some great Irish culture.  Below is a list by State of some of the major Irish Cultural Centers, Societies, Organizations and Irish Festivals and Fairs. If you’d like your organization or festival represented below, please contact us and we’d love to help. We’ll keep you up to date and connected with these groups’ upcoming events. So join us to be part of the craic.”

spot the differenceHere’s the “craic” though, while Ireland Earth is connecting with the 38 million Irish Americans, and selling peat briquettes through Amazon.com, the private bog owners and conservationists in Ireland are going at it LOGGERHEADS!

So maybe one of your ancestors in Ireland is protesting his/her right to cut turf, or maybe your Irish ancestor is a conservationist who is trying to preserve Irish bogs for future generations, who knows?

Just keep in mind the fact that Bord na Mona, who owns Ireland Earth, is the biggest culprit for desecrating Irish bogs, and is government owned, and the government of Ireland is telling private bog owners and turbary rights bog owners that they must cease cutting turf on their SAC bogs.

This is a big deal, police are stationed at these bogs daily, the EU fines the Irish government 25 thousand Euro daily for each SAC bog that is cut.

Keep in mind that Bord na Mona, a government owned company, is implementing a divide and conquer campaign among the people of Ireland, whilst it persists in its own destruction of Irish bogs. According to one commentator Bord na Mona bogs are now beyond saving.

I can see both sides of the story here, the bog owner’s side and the conservationist’s side, but I fail to see how the government of Ireland can dictate a rule that it persists in breaking.