Sons of Érin

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An image instantly recognisable to everyone who grew up in Ireland.  Patrick Pearse in this iconic photograph, the hero shot!  He is our national messiah, the sacrificial lamb who was slain so our nation could be born.  Born on this day in 1879.  Teacher, Poet, Writer, Orator, Barrister and the Military Commander of the Easter Rising in 1916.  Pearse was executed in May 1916.

His brother Willie was executed the very next day for his part in the Rebellion.

Patrick wrote the following lament through the eyes of his Mother.  It is Ireland’s version of the Bixby letter from President Abraham Lincoln to the mother of five fallen union soldiers of the Civil War.

 

The Mother; by Patrick Henry Pearse

I do not grudge them: Lord, I do not grudge
my two strong sons that I have seen go out
to break their strength and die, they and a few,
in bloody protest for a glorious thing,
they shall be spoken of among their people,
the generations shall remember them,
and call them blessed;
But I will speak their names to my own heart
in the long nights;
The little names that were familiar once
round my dead hearth.
Lord, thou art hard on mothers:
We suffer in their coming and their going;
And tho’ I grudge them not, I weary, weary
of the long sorrow-And yet I have my joy:
My sons were faithful, and they fought.

 

Willie & Pat

Willie & Patrick Pearse

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From Guillemont to Ginchy

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Not a photo of Tom Kettle

102 years ago on September 9th, 1916, the Irish 16th Division took the French villages of Guillemont and Ginchy from the Germans in an action that formed part of the Battles of the Somme.

Somewhere between those villages Tom Kettle died in a hail of bullets.

An intellectual, Barrister, Politician, Visionary and devoted Christian he is best remembered for the last three lines of the sonnet he penned to his daughter four days before he died.

To My Daughter Betty, The Gift of God; by Tom Kettle

In wiser days, my darling rosebud, blown
to beauty proud as was your mother’s prime,
in that desired, delayed, incredible time,
you’ll ask why I abandoned you, my own,
and the dear heart that was your baby throne,
to dice with death. And oh! they’ll give you rhyme
and reason: some will call the thing sublime,
and some decry it in a knowing tone.

So here, while the mad guns curse overhead,
and tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,
know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,
but for a dream, born in a herdsman’s shed,
and for the secret Scripture of the poor.

Growth and Death

Ferguson

Harry Ferguson was born on this day in 1884.  He was born into a world of horse powered agriculture.  Two great leaps forward occurred in agricultural practices during WW1 and then again in WW2.

Ferguson began his career in engineering with aircraft.  He was the first Irish man to build a plane and the first to fly a plane.  He moved from aircraft to tractors just before the outbreak of the Great War.  All through the war he was developing ideas for ways to attach a plough to the tractor.

In the early 1920s he presented his ideas on the three point linkage to that other great Irish engineer, Henry Ford.  Together they created the Fordson.  Ferguson went on to build his own tractors and incorporated his designs into David Browns and Massey Fergusons.

When the second great agricultural leap forward came during WW2 it was powered by tractors designed by Harry Ferguson.  His work revolutionised agricultural production and allowed for the radical improvements in output per acre that originated during WW2.  By the end of the war Britain was able to feed itself.

After the war these innovations were rolled out to the world and sparked the prosperity of the “Swinging Sixties”.

Harry Ferguson never saw the 1960’s.  He died at the beginning of the decade after years of legal battles with Henry Ford II over the illegal use of his patents.  The legal battles cost him half his fortune and all his health and was unsuccessful in restricting Fords use of his work.

If Ferguson represents an era of Growth we can see in the poem below that Williams has experienced an era of Death, Murder, Famine and Dictatorship.  Born in 1936, on this day, Charles Kenneth Williams lived through those swinging sixties.  But he saw the rise of tin pot dictator after dictator pillage country after country in Asia, Africa, South & Central America.  Much of it carried out under the cloak of U.S. Foreign Policy.

Today on the news we see thousands of troops sent to the US Mexican Border.  Donald Trump is addressing voters for the upcoming mid term elections.  He uses the language of the demagogue.  He sounds like another tin pot dictator.  He says his troops will shoot at any migrants who throw stones.  He says that the Democrats want to invite “Caravan after Caravan” of migrants over the border.  When Republicans speak about Democrats they describe them as Communists or Socialists.  From here in Europe the Democrats come over as far right liberals.  We would see them as right wing extremists.  It is hilarious to describe a club of multi-millionaire politicians as socialists.  It is, frankly, an insult to socialism.

The future of the planet lies in sustainability.  Humans must live within our means or we will become extinct.  Politicians who, like Donald Trump, deny climate change are doing so because they are trading personal greed against public good.  They know the world is full of short term thinking greedy people.

The failure of democratic American style politics to plan beyond the next election is the major barrier to long term sustainable planning.  When Harry Ferguson was designing his first tractors during WW1 American saw itself, and was, the saviour of the Western World.  Roll the clock forward 100 years and today, 2018 the USA is the worlds greatest problem.

 

Zebra; by Charles Kenneth Williams

Kids once carried tin soldiers in their pockets as charms
against being afraid, but how trust soldiers these days
not to load up, aim, blast the pants off your legs?

I have a key-chain zebra I bought at the Thanksgiving fair.
How do I know she won’t kick, or bite at my crotch?
Because she’s been murdered, machine-gunned: she’s dead.

Also, she’s a she: even so crudely carved, you can tell
by the sway of her belly a foal’s inside her.
Even murdered mothers don’t hurt people, do they?

And how know she’s murdered? Isn’t everything murdered?
Some dictator’s thugs, some rebels, some poachers;
some drought, world-drought, world-rot, pollution, extinction.

Everything’s murdered, but still, not good, a dead thing
in with your ID and change. I fling her away, but the death
of her clings, the death of her death, her murder, her slaughter.

The best part of Thanksgiving Day, though—the parade!
Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, Kermit the Frog, enormous as clouds!
And the marching bands, majorettes, anthems and drums!

When the great bass stomped its galloping boom out
to the crowd, my heart swelled with valor and pride.
I remembered when we saluted, when we took off our hat.

Bold Boy

francisdrake17

Sir Francis Drake was a Bold Sailor

There is a wealth of history in how we use the word “Bold” in Ireland. It is a word that draws a line between the oppressor and the oppressed.

As a child I remember my English cousins being confused when they heard my Mother admonishing myself and my brother for being “bold boys” when we were clearly being naughty. In England it was a positive thing to be “Bold”. Sir Francis Drake was a “bold” sailor. Sometimes Pirate who became the Queens Admiral. He demonstrated that a Good Englishman could get away with walking on the wrong side of strict legality. For English boys boldness embodied all the qualities desired in a strapping young lad who was being raised to rule the British Empire. Bold boys were brave on the rugby field. Bold boys were confident, outgoing and made good leaders of men.

Boldness was not a quality the English wanted exhibited in their Irish, Scottish or Welsh subjects. A bold Irishman was a rebel. He was dangerous and a threat. Irish were expected to be obsequious and subservient. They were expected to take orders, not give them.

Irish mothers raised their sons in a manner to keep them safe. Being bold would not make you safe. Being bold would get you in trouble. So in Ireland being a bold boy was a bad thing.

The bold buccaneer: by John Le Gay Brereton

One very rough day on the Pride of the Fray
in the scuppers a poor little cabin-boy lay,
when the Bosun drew nigh with wrath in his eye
and gave him a kick to remember him by,
as he cried with a sneer: “What good are you here?
Go home to your mammy, my bold buccaneer.”

Now the Captain beheld, and his pity upwelled:
with a plug in the peeper the Bosun he felled.
With humility grand he extended his hand
and helped the poor lad, who was weeping, to stand,
as he cried: “Have no fear; I’m the manager here.
Take heart, and you’ll yet be a bold buccaneer.”

But how he did flare when the lad then and there
doffed his cap and shook down a gold banner of hair.
Though his movements were shy, he’d a laugh in his eye,
and he sank on the Captain’s broad breast with a sigh,
as he cried: “Is it queer that I’ve followed you here?
I’m your sweetheart from Bristol, my bold buccaneer.”

On an isle in the west, by the breezes caressed,
the bold buccaneer has a warm little nest,
and he sits there in state amid pieces of eight
and tackles his rum with a manner elate,
as he cries: “O my dear little cabin-boy, here
is a toast to the babe of the bold buccaneer!”

Happy Halloween Stephen Rea

Rea

Oooh, Scary!

Stephen Rea, Irish Actor, born on Halloween in 1946.

The photo above shows Stephen in the role of Santiago, the Joker of the Vampires of Paris from the film “Interview with the Vampire”

In 1795 the poet John Keats was also born on Halloween.  As a Romantic I’m sure it was a dark and stormy night, full of terrors and brooding portents.

The Eve of St. Agnes; by John Keats

St. Agnes’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
the hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
and silent was the flock in woolly fold:
Numb were the Beadsman’s fingers, while he told
his rosary, and while his frosted breath,
like pious incense from a censer old,
seem’d taking flight for heaven, without a death,
past the sweet Virgin’s picture, while his prayer he saith.

ARE YOU HOOKED:  Look up the full poem here

 

Happy Birthday Eileen Shanahan

West-Gate-Clonmel

Clonmel West Gate

 

Eileen Shanahan was born in Dublin on Oct 28th 1901. She worked as a secretary at the League of Nations in Geneva from 1929 until the invasion of France in 1940. Published widely in magazines and anthologies, she never published a collection of her poems and her work remains uncollected. The Three Children is her best-known poem.

I too have three children, and live not too far from Clonmel.  I too am a king of all that I survey, a road, a mile of kingdom, of banks and stones and every blooming thing.

 

The Three Children (Near Clonmel); by Eileen Shanahan

I met three children on the road,
the hawthorn trees were sweet with rain,
the hills had drawn their white blinds down,
three children on the road from town.

Their wealthy eyes in splendour mocked
their faded rags and bare wet feet,
the King had sent his daughters out
to play at peasants in the street.

I could not see the palace walls;
the avenues were dumb with mist;
perhaps a queen would watch and weep
for lips that she had borne and kissed —

and lost about the lonely world,
with treasury of hair and eye
the tigers of the world would spring,
the merchants of the world would buy.

And one will sell her eyes for gold,
and one will barter them for bread,
and one will watch their glory fade
beside the looking-glass unwed.

Maura’s Maybe Birthday

My mothers birthday is shrouded in mystery.  The selection of her birth date is a bit along the lines of what the Christians did when selecting year 1 AD.  It is the first year in which they could categorically say that Jesus was alive.

So 13th October is officially Maura’s birthday, but unlikely to have been her birth date.

It is poignant in being the day before Paddy’s anniversary.  Maura was born in 1927.  Paddy was also born in August of the same year, and passed away Oct 14th 2006.  Maura hung on in there until Christmas Eve 2016.

Below are a few random snaps from the files of Maura & Paddy

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Some Christmas Party with Angela & Paddy O’Flaherty

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Maura holding Jerry while Paddy contemplates how anyone ever chose that carpet

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Maura having a laugh with Esha

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Paddy at one of the kids birthday parties.

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Maura with Gavin decked out in the Christening Robes