Culture & Reference
Dermot, Strongbow and the Invasion of Ireland
The Titanic and Ireland
The Vikings in Ireland
The Ancient Ogham language
Charles Stewart Parnell
IN THIS ISSUE
This month we have a couple of tales of old Ireland from Marie O'Byrne and Mattie Lennon for you to enjoy. If you have an article or story you would like to share then please do send it in.
Until next time,
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JOB STRESS in IRELAND HAS DOUBLED IN 5 YEARS
A study by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), has reported that job stress among Irish employees has more than doubled from 8% to 17% between the years 2010 and 2015.
Angry Customers Are a Big Cause of Stress for Retail Employees
This half-decade is noteworthy as being among the most economically disastrous in the history of Ireland. The banks had collapsed and the EU/IMF/ECB had bulldozed their way in, offering loans to keep the country afloat on condition that their own French and German bondholders/gamblers be repaid their massive debts first. The deal was created by Fianna Fail before they were removed from office in 2011, with the newly installed Fine Gael Government implementing the plan that they had been elected to oppose.
Retail outlets collapsed in record numbers, emigration surged, rural towns were decimated while 'ghost estates' of unfinished housing blighted the Irish countryside.
It should be little wonder then, that those employees who were able to retain their jobs should have felt greater stress. Wage cut-backs, increased working hours and changes to contracts all contributed to a bleak working environment.
What is most surprising is that even at a rate of 17% the rate of stress in Ireland was below the average of ten other western countries, with their average being 19%.
AMAZON DATA HEAT TO WARM DUBLIN HOMES
In a sign of the times and a measure of just how super their 'super-computers' really are, it has been announced that excess heat from an Amazon data processing centre will be re-purposed to heat some Dublin households.
Data Centers Generate a Lot of Heat
South Dublin County Council has developed their 'South Dublin District Heating System' that will capture waste heat from the Amazon site in Tallaght and then redistribute that energy for home or water heating. The plan is to serve offices owned by the Council as well as 1,200 apartments and 339 student accommodation units that are in development. Some Tallaght Hospital buildings are also expected to be connected.
There are currently 48 data centers located in Ireland, mainly serving the big tech companies: Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook.
The news comes as Ireland is facing up to a huge failure in reaching its agreed 'emissions reduction' targets. Current estimates suggest that Ireland will achieve a mere 1% reduction in carbon emissions by the year 2020. The agreed EU target that was set in 2005 was a 20% reduction, a full 95% shortfall.
The main thrust of government policy in respect of reducing carbon emissions seem to be aimed at encouraging/forcing citizens to use hybrid and electric cars. And this despite the fact that no Government Ministers currently use them.
Massive EU fines are on the way.
BREXIT DEAL ON A KNIFE-EDGE
An upcoming vote in the British parliament looks set to decide the fate of Brexit (the decision by the British electorate to leave the European Union), as well as the fate of the 'peace process' in Northern Ireland.
British Prime Minister Theresa May finally convinced her cabinet colleagues to bring an agreement to parliament for approval. The agreement includes a provision for a 'backstop' in Ulster that would prevent the reintroduction of a 'hard border' around the six partitioned Counties. The deal would also remove Britain from the EU 'Customs Union' but would allow Northern Ireland to remain within it. A sort of 'half-in, half-out' scenario.
Parliamentary approval for the deal is far from certain and at this stage looks unlikely to succeed. If the vote is negative and a 'hard no-deal Brexit' becomes imminent then the calls for a second referendum in Britain on the whole Brexit question will gather pace very quickly.
MICK MCCARTHY TAKES OVER IRISH FOOTBALL TEAM
The reign of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane as managers of the Irish football team has abruptly ended after a string of terrible results and even worse performances. The Football Association of Ireland (FAI), have been quick to install a replacement with previous manager Mick McCarthy reinstated on a two-year term, with former Dundalk coach Stephen Kenny set to take over from McCarthy after the European Championships.
The draw for the European Championships has been kind to the Irish with the 'boys in green' being drawn in Group D alongside Switzerland, Denmark, Georgia and Gibraltar. While the Swiss and Danes currently have little to fear from an Irish team that is still reeling from the 5-1 home hammering in the World Cup playoff, the draw could have been a lot worse. At one stage it looked as though Ireland had been drawn in the same group as Germany and The Netherlands (which would have been a nightmare), but as Ireland is hosting four of the matches for Euro 2020 they were not allowed to be drawn in the same group as two other 'hosts'.
That is a very good start indeed for Mick McCarthy.
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GALLERY OF IRISH COATS OF ARMS
'Hurry today love, there's a lot that needs to get done. We have to catch the early bus into Bray to pick up the turkey!'
My mother spoke fast and very excitedly as she handed me the empty milk pail. It was early in the morning on Christmas Eve. I put on my wool coat and hat, grabbed the milk pail and ran out the door. I was about twelve years old. Running across the fields to the Massey Farm, I could see the small footprints I made in the frosty morning grass, and I could feel the hard ground beneath my feet. My breath felt bitter cold in the thick veil of foggy dew that was rising slowly from the ground all around me. Not a sound could be heard from the robins or the sparrows this morning – the air was far too cold for any birdsong.
The handle from the metal pail left red marks on my bare hands and I ran as fast as I could to stay warm until I reached the old milk parlor. I dropped off the empty pail, picked up the full one, and walked carefully back home across the fields making sure I did not spill any milk along the way. I knew my mother would know, somehow she always knew if I had spilled any of the milk.
She had her purse out and her list ready. At the top of the list were the turkey and the ham, then the brussels sprouts and the carrots and parsnips. The turkey had been on order at the butcher's shop for weeks, but she liked to have it in her hands early on Christmas Eve as she had to make sure there was enough stuffing prepared to feed our large family of thirteen and Aunt Peggy. After we had picked up the turkey and the ham and the vegetables and a big box of Christmas crackers we headed back down the busy street towards the bus stop, both of us with our arms full of shopping bags. On the journey home as I chomped on a bar of Dairy Milk Chocolate, she chatted away to me in nervous anticipation of the big day ahead, It was like she was running through in her mind all the preparations that needed to be done.
'I'll make the stuffing once I get in, and you and Pauline can peel all the potatoes and vegetables and put them in pots of water on the stove top. The cake and the pudding are ready and Dad has the whiskey and the Guinness. Angela will whip up the cream tomorrow so it will be nice and fresh and then we'll be all set' she went on, sometimes repeating herself.
'Do you think it will snow for Christmas Day, Ma?' I asked her again. 'Well, it sure feels like it love, it's certainly cold enough but we'll have to wait and see' she replied matter of factly. The Christmas tree was already up and decorated. My brothers had collected plenty of holly and firewood from the local forest and the fireplace mantle had been decorated festively with lots of red berried holly and red candles. The holly was also placed on top of all the picture frames throughout the house.
I remember walking to Midnight Mass with my family. Over the road we all went and up the hill to St. Killians as the familiar church bells rang out across the dark, cold village. It was the one night of the year I was never afraid to be out in the dark. My five sisters and I were dressed in new red wool tights and matching red ribbons in our hair. Even though our coats and shoes were old and worn, on that night all we saw were the new red tights and the new ribbons in our hair. My father, a very proud ex-military man from the Irish Army, insisted on all of us having clean shoes for Mass and every Saturday night his job was to clean and polish all the shoes. He laid out thirteen pairs of shining, polished shoes on the back doorstep ready for us all for Sunday morning's Mass.
I remember the priest placing baby Jesus in the manger and lighting the red candle in the hanging lantern by the straw. The choir sang out the familiar carols to the sound of the beautiful old church organ, and it was like the whole world had lit up. Our family filled the whole pew, my mother smiled over at me and my father smiled and nodded his head back at my mother. All seemed well with the world that night.
After Mass, my mother placed a large candle in the front window as was the custom back then, to symbolize a warm welcome in our home to the baby Jesus, and to any strangers or neighbors that would be out on that holy night. The lighted candle in the window and the handmade holly wreath on the green front door will forever remain etched in my memory. My father, who was a very good cook, put the turkey in the oven and sat by the fire with a glass of whiskey. He basted the big plump turkey throughout the night with a large metal spoon. He had just the lights of the Christmas tree and the blazing fire glowing in the room as he nodded off and on in his armchair. Back then cooking a turkey was an all night affair, and I remember him saying that it had to be cooked 'easy and slow'. There was never a complaint from him even though he knew he had a long days work ahead in the kitchen the next day.
With great wonderment and delight I awoke very early in the morning to a small doll with black hair and a frilly blue bonnet at the end of my bed. There was a big pop-out book called 'Pinky and Perky' and some chocolates and crayons wrapped up in red Santa paper. Santa had come! My sisters and I immediately began to eat the chocolates. Mid-morning, our elderly neighbors Joe and Molly, who had no children of their own, came over for their Christmas glass of whiskey and a slice of mothers Christmas cake. As they all sat on the sofa by the fire they raised their glasses.
'To your good health Jim and Carmel' they toasted. 'And to you too! May we all be around this time next year! Please God!' replied my father as he raised his glass and smiled. To this day the smell of Jameson's whiskey reminds me of Christmas morning.
Since we only had the one room for entertaining and dining we had to wait for Joe and Molly to leave before we six girls got very busy setting the table with all kinds of good things: slices of ham and turkey, roast potatoes and colorful vegetables, and a big jug of gravy. There was an extra wooden section of the table inserted to accommodate fourteen people, our family of thirteen and my Aunt Peggy who lived with us. A Christmas cracker was placed on each plate. With red and green paper hats on our heads and a full glass of lemonade or wine in our hands we all shouted 'Happy Christmas!' and toasted one another.
'Sure this is great,' my father always said as he carved the big turkey. 'What more could we ask for? I mean it, what more could any of us ask for?' He discreetly kissed my mother on the cheek. This was the one day of the year when there was food and drink aplenty and you could eat away to your heart's content. Amidst great chatter and joke telling we sat around and ate our fill by the big blazing fire. We paused after dinner to hand out our presents to each other that we had bought with our saved money. They were small gifts: candy or chocolates, mittens, scarves, or my sister Eileen's handmade handkerchiefs and tea cozies.
With record speed the girls cleared off the table and washed all the dishes to get ready for dessert. My mother and father heated up the slices of plum pudding and prepared the whipped cream and custard – a great ending to our Christmas dinner.
Neighbors and friends dropped in and out to say hello in the afternoon and to have a drink by the fire and to tell a joke or two. We would often break into song as we played with our toys and board games and the boy's played cards and read books that they had received from Santa. Later in the evening my mother made a big pot of tea and we all had a slice of Christmas cake and a warm mince pie. Christmas day was winding down now, soon to be over for another year.
Now that I am older I often reflect on my simpler, childhood Christmas's and I believe my father was so right. 'What more could we have asked for?' We did indeed have it all! We had each other, a big loving family living in a three bed roomed cottage; not rich by any standards, but we had lots of food and a big glowing warm fire. The sights and sounds of Christmas past will always remain with me in my heart.
I hope you all have a joyful Christmas with the one's you love, wherever you may be and I wish you all a very happy and peaceful New Year, full of goodness and blessings.
Marie O'Byrne. Kingsburg, California.
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'He'll romp home'. 'She'll head the pole'. 'It's not going to snow'. 'He won't see morning'. Predictions, predictions, predictions. Haven’t we spent our lives listening to predictions? We have encountered prophecies of doom from various quarters. Nostradamus left us some cryptic clues about the END, as did Malachi, nearer home. I'd be the first to admit that futurists have been frighteningly accurate, at times, down the centuries. I wouldn't be one to nit-pick and labour on the fact that nobody predicted the Donald would be in the Whitehouse, or that there would be such a thing as Brexit.
Yes, the future has been foretold with amazing exactitude, since the beginning of time. Who could argue with T.S. Eliot's assertion that 'time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future and time future contained in time past'.
However, despite the informed anticipation and pessimistic augury of the aforementioned et al, my trepidation is tempered by a stubborn if cagey scepticism. It dates back to my first long-trousers.
Let me explain. When, I was growing up it was normal for boys to wear short-trousers up to the age of fourteen. In 1959, my aunt in Coleraine who had a son a couple of years my senior sent me my first hand-me-down long trousers, which had to be consigned to mothballs until my 14th birthday. Since I had ultra-conservative parents, the tradition was honoured to the full. I had to serve the full sentence, with no remission for good behaviour. By the time I was thirteen and a half, I began to see something incongruous about my bear knees and certain 'manly' pastimes.
Now, in the late fifties an article appeared in a Catholic newspaper – I’m not sure if it the Standard or The Irish Catholic? – which informed the Faithful of the imminent termination of the planet.
We didn't manage to get our hands on the paper at home, but several well-meaning neighbours, enlightened relatives and acquaintances met a fairs and Devotions, relayed the good tidings, piece-meal, to us; THERE WOULD BE THREE DARK DAYS INN 1960. Black pigs would walk the earth. The smell of brimstone would be stifling.
And no family would be together when this calamity would occur.
(I interpreted this latter as meaning that in the case of each family, unit, the father would be at the turf Rick, the mother would be in the cow-house and each of the offspring would be out playing a solitary game in a different part of the Inch).
1960 came and went. I attained the age of fourteen (and I haven't used camphor balls since). I got my first bike. There were no dark days, in Kylebeg anyway. (Well not in the sense that we were deprived of diurnal illumination).
There was no smell worse than cow dung and rotten spuds evident, and there hasn't been a black member of the bacon-providing species seen in the area since the days of the Yorkshire pigs. So, seers past and present, I've heard what you have to say about flooding and disaster. I'm less spiritual but just as doubting as Thomas. So if you were to predict that; politicians would keep their promises, or that Wicklow would win the next All Ireland Final I would treat it with a healthy scepticism.
Wouldn't you, if you had spent your initial years of your teens worrying that you were going to die in short trousers?
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