Lady Gregory’s Birthday


March 15th the Ides of March and that fateful day for one Julius Caesar in the year 44 BC.  After the death of Caesar his adopted nephew, Octavian, rose to power in Rome and became the first Emperor.   The senate awarded him the title “Augustus” in 27 BC, meaning “The illustrious one”.

In 1852 on Roxborough Estate in Galway a young girl was born to to Frances Persse and was named Isabella Augusta Persse.  She grew up and married Sir William Henry Gregory and became Lady Gregory.  She Co-founded and Managed the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s National Theatre with William Butler Yeats, Edward Martyn, John Millington Synge etc.

Lady Gregory was a prolific playwright but her greatest legacy to Ireland was as a folklorist.  She learned the Irish language and established a school on her estate.  Then she collected and published a huge body of folk material.  She was the Irish version of the Brothers Grimm.

Here is one of her translations, a sinful, sexual and blasphemous piece of beauty:

Donal Óg; Anonymous 8th Century Irish poem.

Translation by Isabella Augusta (Lady Gregory)


It is late last night the dog was speaking of you;
the snipe was speaking of you in her deep marsh.
It is you are the lonely bird through the woods;
and that you may be without a mate until you find me.

You promised me, and you said a lie to me,
that you would be before me where the sheep are flocked;
I gave a whistle and three hundred cries to you,
and I found nothing there but a bleating lamb.

You promised me a thing that was hard for you,
a ship of gold under a silver mast;
twelve towns with a market in all of them,
and a fine white court by the side of the sea.

You promised me a thing that is not possible,
that you would give me gloves of the skin of a fish;
that you would give me shoes of the skin of a bird;
and a suit of the dearest silk in Ireland.

When I go by myself to the Well of Loneliness,
I sit down and I go through my trouble;
when I see the world and do not see my boy,
he that has an amber shade in his hair.

It was on that Sunday I gave my love to you;
the Sunday that is last before Easter Sunday.
And myself on my knees reading the Passion;
and my two eyes giving love to you for ever.

My mother said to me not to be talking with you today,
or tomorrow, or on the Sunday;
it was a bad time she took for telling me that;
it was shutting the door after the house was robbed.

My heart is as black as the blackness of the sloe,
or as the black coal that is on the smith’s forge;
or as the sole of a shoe left in white halls;
it was you that put that darkness over my life.

You have taken the east from me; you have taken the west from me;
you have taken what is before me and what is behind me;
you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me;
and my fear is great that you have taken God from me!



Happy Birthday WB Yeats


WB Yeats by Louis Le Brocquy

In the world of poetry there is an insufficiency of superlatives to describe WB Yeats.

His epitaph reads:

Cast a cold Eye

On Life,  on Death

Horseman pass by.


When you are old; by William Butler Yeats

WHEN you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Happy Birthday Countee Cullen


African Americans had a brief flowering of liberty and creativity in the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War in the USA.  This was brought to a sharp end by the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and the passing of the Jim Crow laws.

In the 1920’s there was a cultural, social and literary flowering of creativity by the grandchildren of the reconstruction era negroes.  Known at the time as the New Negro Movement it is now called the Harlem Renaissance.  Countee Cullen was one of the leading lights of this movement.

This poem is interesing to me because it is so evocative of the WB Yeats “He Wishes for the cloths of heaven”.  While Yeats wrote of the lovers angst Cullen’s poem speaks of discrimination and racism.  Here we are today 100 years on from the Harlem Renaissance and it seems that the struggle for equality for African Americans has seen little advance.  Despite the Civil Rights movement, the Black Panther Party, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X the USA still appears to be dangerous ground on which to be a black person.

For a Poet; by Countee Cullen

I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth,
And laid them away in a box of gold;
Where long will cling the lips of the moth,
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth;
I hide no hate; I am not even wroth
Who found the earth’s breath so keen and cold;
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth,
And laid them away in a box of gold.

Visions of War

Yesterday the USA dropped the largest ever non-nuclear weapon ever used, the GBU-43/B.  They dropped this massive piece of ordnance in a cave system in Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan.  The stated intent was to deny a system of caves and tunnels to ISIS fighters.  A truer intention is Donald Trump flexing his muscles for the Russians and the Chinese to show he is a serious military threat.  But that too is secondary, because his primary audience is the American people.  I’m sure the people of the USA feel a little bit safer today knowing that several miles of caves in Afghanistan have been destroyed.  (That last sentence is called sarcasm)

Today I have three images for you, all stolen from the Guardian photos of the day.  Image 1 is of US troops marching in step at a NATO rally in Poland.  Hey Mr Putin, look at those gung ho young American boys, marching in neat lines.  We have big bombs too.  Boo Yah!


The second photograph is from further east, in the city of Mosul, Iraq.  The smart uniforms and the neat lines of troops give way to the true face of war.  A man pushing his daughter through a blasted landscape in a wheelchair.  It is pathetic.  As you sit down to your Easter Sunday dinner spare a thought for what awaits this family on their table.  What did he do to deserve this fate?


The final image is of a pretty girl taking a selfie in a field of flowers.  It could almost be in Holland, with the bright blossoms in neat lines, except for the fact that the girl in question has a machine gun on her back.  Nir Yitzhak is a kibbutz on the border of Israel with the Gaza strip.  If ever there was an image of the absurdity of war this is it.  Page down to a war poem by Yeats!

Nir Yitzhak

On being asked for a War Poem : By William Butler Yeats

I think it better that in times like these
A poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesman right;

He has had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winter’s night.




Bucket List #4


These are the collection buckets we used to raise money for the Hope Foundation.  Gavin, Jerry, Esha and I have variously waved these buckets at the very many generous people of Cashel, Thurles and various Tipperary townlands.  We brought them to Rugby matches in Dublin and Limerick, and to Hurling games in Semple Stadium.  They have seen the warm days of summer and the cold dark days of winter.

They have earned a proud position in my “Bucket List” as they contain many great memories of a good year.

Four years ago my oldest son Jerry participated in the trip to Kolkata with Rockwell College.  He documented his journey on his blog:

This year it was all about my younger son, Gavin, who made his own trip, which he recorded on wordpress, twitter, snapchat, etc.  His fundraising exploits are on his  wordpress site:

PLEASE DO NOT SEND THEM MONEY.  They have finished their trips and made their visits to Kolkata.  But if you would like to support the fabulous work of the Hope Foundation feel free to do so at their site:

What I like about the Hope Foundation is that it is a charity that strives to make itself useless.  What do I mean by that?

Some charities operate in a way that perpetuates dependency.  Their business is to “help” disadvantaged people.  But if they are “too successful” there will be no poor people left to help and they will effectively be out of business.  Self-perpetuating charities are not things I like, or appreciate.

I am very much of the mind to take people out of dependency.  This is where Hope operate.  They focus on educating kids to escape the cycle of slum living.  They help the parents to escape the cycle by supporting small enterprises, and by freeing up the parents to work by caring for the kids in crèches.  The greatest day for Hope Foundation will be when they can happily close down their facilities in Kolkata because their job is done.

That is not a pipedream.  It can happen.

As my son Jerry reminds me frequently “Give a man a Hamburger and he eats for a day.  Teach him to Hamburger, and that metaphor only works for Fish”.

The Fish:  by William Butler Yeats

Although you hide in the ebb and flow
Of the pale tide when the moon has set,
The people of coming days will know
About the casting out of my net,
And how you have leaped times out of mind
Over the little silver cords,
And think that you were hard and unkind,
And blame you with many bitter words.





Three random items


Item 1:  The Response, which is the name of the Canadian National War Memorial and tomb of the unknown soldier in Ottawa.  It was the scene yesterday for the murder of Corporal Nathan Cirillo who was on duty at the monument.  The suspected murderer was a criminal with 12 convictions for petty theft.  Somehow I do not believe that he was a representative of any Islamic organisation, but maybe I am naive.


Item 2:  A camshaft for a VW Passat Diesel.  I have one of these in the collection of nuts and bolts that I lovingly refer to as a car.  Seems it is a bit worn around the edges and doesn’t open the valves properly.  That would explain the rattling when I hit the accelerator.

Item 3:  A Drinking Song; by William Butler Yeats

WINE comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

Glass my ass!


The most feeble lament for “Why not?” is “because THEY won’t let me”.  That’s why it enrages me when competent, intelligent business women gather to discuss “The Glass Ceiling”.  Beware if you attend a “Women in Business” conference, and the topic of the Glass Ceiling comes up.  Bring a hammer in your briefcase, and wave it around if anyone so much as mentions the topic.

There is no glass ceiling but the one you make for yourself.  Man or woman, rich or poor, educated or self-taught the only limitation on your ambition is that imposed by you.  Yes, there are barriers to success, but they are only there to keep out those who don’t have genuine ambition.

Where would Ireland be without Mna na h’Éireann, the women of Ireland?   Eamonn de Valera had no fear of the British, because he had to devote all his fear to Cumann na mBan.  William Butler Yeats was forged by the Gore-Booth sisters and tempered by Maud Gonne mcBride.  Constance Gore-Booth went on to become Countess Markievicz.

Who was Cuchulainn without Dechtire or Fionn McCumhaill without Liath Luachra?  Behind every great Celtic hero is a fiercely impressive woman.  Celtic women have a long and proud tradition as leaders and warriors.  Queen Maeve of Connacht, Boudicca, queen of the Iceni, who almost threw the Romans out of Britain, Gráinne Mhaol (Grace O’Malley) the pirate queen of Mayo, Betsy Gray who died in the 1798 rebellion, Anne Devlin who refused to incriminate Robert Emmet.

When Cumann na mBan formed in Wynns Hotel in 1913 do you think Kathleen Shannahan was speaking about a glass ceiling preventing women from rising?  When Winifred Carney marched into the GPO with a Typewriter in one hand and a Webley Revolver in the other was she concerned that her male colleagues might impede her progress?

The business women of today need to do a bit of growing up.  Follow the advice of Big Jim Larkin:  The great appear great because you are on your knees – Arise!

Don’t stand back and wait for a gentleman to open the door for you.  Step forward and open it yourself.  Then, if you like, invite him in!

No Second Troy; by William Butler Yeats

Why should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great,
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?