Europe’s first female engineer.

Alice Perry 1885-1969.jpg

Galway girl Alice Perry was the first woman in Europe to graduate with a degree in Engineering.

Born on this day in 1885 she graduated from Galway Queens College in 1906.  She replaced her father in his role as Galway County Surveyor, and remains the ONLY woman to work as a County Surveyor in Ireland.

Alice moved to Scotland where she met and married John (Bob) Shaw in 1916, coverting from Presbyterianism to Christian Science.

As a factory inspector in this time Perry enforced laws that protected the many women working in armaments and war industries who were handling some very dangerous substances and chemicals.

Bob Shaw died in WW1 on the Western Front only a year later.  Alice became interested in poetry in the early 1920’s.  She left her job in Glasgow and moved to Boston, the HQ of the Christian Science Foundation where she wrote and edited poetry.

Sadly there seems to be none of her poetry easily available online.  Some volumes of her poetry were donated to NUIG library.  Perhaps some poetry nut will transcribe a few of them onto the internet thingy and give me a link.

Galway University is suitably proud of their first in engineering and named their Engineering Centre the Alice Perry Building in 2017.  Now we need to see to the task of appointing the second woman in Ireland to the post of County Engineer.

El Camino

Monet

Kahlil Gibran famously describes parents as archers and children as the arrows in his book “The Prophet”.  Parents provide the stablility, the bow, the platform from which children can launch into the future to pursue their dreams.

Aja Monet describes it in a different way here.  I live in the bloodline. We are all a product of our heritage.  We are all a product of the blood, the genes that we receive from our ancestors.  But more than that we are a product of the achievements and choices of our forebears.  I was the road you took here. I am la Camina. I was the way.

I too am the Grandchild of a revolutionary.  In Ireland we can now search the Census online for 1901 and 1911.  My Grandfather, Jeremiah Clancy, was living in Nicholas Street in St Mary’s Parish in Limerick City, aged 6 in the first census.  His mother Ellen, was head of the household because my Great Grandfather Paddy passed away in 1896.  Grandad was living with his sisters Delia and Annie and his brother Paddy.  I remember them all very well.  We used to visit my Clancy relatives in Limerick and Kilbane each year on the way to holidays in Kilkee.  The aunts never married.  They were spinster aunts to my father.  Paddy married our Great Aunt Hannah and they had a house in Grace Park Road, Drumcondra.  Paddy and Hannah separated in an Ireland where such things seldom happened and he returned to Limerick to end his days in Kilbane as the postmaster.  I grew up thinking of him as a bachelor.

By 1911 Ellen had passed away, not reaching her 58th year.  Paddy, Annie and Delia moved down the street to live with their older sister Lissie and her husband Francis McNamara.  They had four boys of their own, two boarders and a servant.  Busy house.  My Granddad was elsewhere.  In 1911 he is to be found in Smyth’s, Ballygar where he was a 16 year old apprentice in the Hotel business.

Sometime during World War 1 he was photographed in his Volunteer uniform firing a graveside volley (front row right hand side).

ClancyJ2

He also pops up in this photo, the dashing chap in the back row sporting the dicky bow, probably his hotel uniform shirt and tie.:

ClancyJ

They are all wearing lilies, suggesting a commemoration of the Easter 1916 rising so it may be 1917 or 1918 putting him at around 22 years of age, which looks about right.  So these photos are the earliest evidence we have of his road to revolution.  He was later arrested for leading a military parade in 1918.  His defense in court was that it was a religious procession.  The second photo was probably the first taken, on the basis that he is wearing only a partial uniform in the second photo, but is fully kitted out in the kneeling shot.

He never left the military life and following the overthrow of British rule in Ireland 1922  he became a professional soldier.  He joined the Free State Army in Tipperary, served a time in Limerick before being posted first to Kilbride, Wicklow and later to GHQ in Dublin, housed in McKee Barracks in Dublin, where my Father grew up.  My parents were raised in a new Ireland.  It was the world described by William Butler Yeats as “No Country for Old Men” (Sailing to Byzantium).  A land where those who fought for our freedom rose to become the new political class.  It was a social democracy, a meritocracy where class and past heritage were more of a hindrance than a help.  It was an evolving society of potential and possibility where a hungry person could define their destiny.

This is the path that was mapped for me and my siblings.  You make your future, you define your success, everything is possible through hard work, dedication and desire.  I wonder if we have lost something of this attitude in Ireland today?  Where are next years revolutionaries?

 

What my Grandmother meant to say was; by Aja Monet Bacquie

I taste of salt. My fingers cannot sit still. I smuggled
tears from smile to smile. When I became too tired
to run, I swam. What love does not reach beyond
borders? I swam. I rose. I flew. I dreamed. I fell in
love with litte to no food. I belonged to no where,
no one, no thing. I fell in love with everywhere, every
one, everything. I was hungry and cold. I hated hunger
and cold. I hated everywhere with no food. I hated
everyone with everything. It was different. I was
a woman. I was stupid. I was waiting to become
more than what happened, more than a bird fleeing
it’s country, to bathe in being afar, more than a land
scape or an image to cast a shadow on, the flip
of a tricky coin, seductress of men, visions aching
for a new story to tell you. My children, riding on
the dragonflies of sacrifice, I left them. I turned back
many times, I almost became the devil they wanted
but I left. A devil, nonetheless. I was a woman ahead
of her time. I shimmered in the scars. I live in
the bloodline. I imagine more than broken families.
I come from the laughter of aspiring lovers, the lure
of trembling in anothere’s arms. What about what
I wanted? What of the loss – of culture, of dreams,
of home? There were many secrets. We fled from
the revolution. I could not protect my children from
everywhere. I made offerings. I cleansed. I repented.
I am their mother. I am not God. I was a Candela.
I glowed. I was luminous. I lit up the room. I was
the light gleaming in the Sierra Maestra at night. I was
the mountains. I swayed the sunrise, yearning. I danced.
I was a witch they could not burn. I was la Fuega. I am
their mother. I am not God. I made choices. I made peace
with them. I was a woman ahead of her time. I was
the road you took here. I am la Camina. I was the way.

What’s in a name?

Portiuncula Chapel Assisi

Portiuncula Chapel Assisi

On this day in the year 1781 a group of Spaniards founded the settlement they called  El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula.  As the name of a small village it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.  It took longer to say the name of the village than it took to ride through it on a horse.

Over the years the village grew and the name got shorter.  It became the city of Los Angeles.  At this stage it is a huge metropolis and the name has contracted further so that most of us just call it L.A.

Portiuncula is the Italian for a small portion of land.  Such a small portion was given to the hermits of the Valley of Josaphat in the 4th century where they built a small chapel.  The chapel fell into disrepair but was renovated by St Francis of Assisi who had a vision from God telling him ” go and repair My house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins”.  Francis sold his horse and some of his fathers cloth to pay for the repairs.

After a row with his father and the local bishop Francis cast off his finery and became a beggar.  He took the message from God to refer to the church in its entirety, rather than the small chapel of Portiuncula.  Because of this story there is a river in California, a  Basilica in Brazil and a Hospital in County Galway, Ireland named after the small chapel repaired by St Francis.

The Spanish name for LA translates as “The settlement of our lady the queen of angels of Portiuncula”

’tis but thy name that is my enemy;
thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? Tt is nor hand, nor foot,
nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet;
so Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
retain that dear perfection which he owes
without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
and for that name which is no part of thee
take all myself……………………Juliet, Act II Scene ii, Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare