Culture & Reference
St. Brigid's Well Scene from Free Photos Of Ireland
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Hello again from an Ireland that is still in a state of Covid Lockdown. The restrictions imposed shortly after Christmas have been extended and will be maintained until early March and probably beyond. It is hoped that the combination of case-numbers falling and the distribution of the various Vaccines will drag the country back to some semblance of normality.
In this month's newsletter we have the tale of the disobedient daughter who became and Irish Saint! Just about every child who has been schooled in Ireland can recall making a Saint Brigid's Cross at some stage of their early education, so it is appropriate at this time of the year to recall her epic life. We also have the final part of Richie Patton's frugal trip around Ireland, while Brian DeVon recalls his visit to Sherkin Island.
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Until next time,
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It is a problem that seems to be affecting a lot of countries in the world. The roll-out of the Covid-19 Vaccination in Ireland has been badly hit by the reduced supply of the precious vaccines.
Despite several different Vaccines being approved for use in Europe such is the massive global demand that the EU appears to have been caught 'on the back foot', relative to the amount of supply that the US and the UK have been able to procure. Indeed the UK were very quick off the mark in firstly sourcing the actual Vaccines by signing contracts quickly and secondly by stretching out the time between the two doses necessary, so as to get as many people Vaccinated as quickly as possible.
Some EU member states have taken matters into their own hands. Hungary has given authorization via an emergency order to allow use of the Russian 'Sputnik V' Vaccine that has just recently been hailed as a 'good news for the whole of mankind' by European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell .
'The Lancet' medical journal has also published an independent report confirming that the Russian Vaccine is 91.6% effective against symptomatic Covid-19.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban was typically truculent:
'Hungarians need the vaccine, not an explanation about why it is not available..... After the epidemic there will be time for member states to examine whether or not it was a good decision to entrust the procurement of the Vaccine to Brussels.'
Ireland is punching above its weight again in the entertainment industry, the recent announcement of Golden Globe nominations for Irish talent seems to suggest.
Veteran actor Brendan Gleeson has been nominated in the Best Supporting Actor in a TV role category for his well-regarded portrayal of recent US President Donald Trump in 'The Comey Rule'. Other memorable roles on his C.V. include the movie 'Michael Collins' and the TV series 'Mr. Mercedes'.
Appreciation for Sally Rooney's novel 'Normal People' continues with the TV adaptation being nominated in the Best Limited TV Series category. English actress Daisy Edgar-Jones has also been nominated in the Best Actress in a Limited Series category for her fine performance.
And in yet another boost to Irish Animation the hit 'Wolfwalkers' made by Cartoon Saloon has been nominated for Best Motion Animated Picture.
Saint Brigid of Ireland, also known as Saint Brigid of Kildare, is the female Patron Saint of Ireland. Known as Bridey, Bridget, Mary of Gaels, Biddy, Bríd and Breed, Saint Brigid was born in the year 451 near Dundalk to a pagan Gaelic Chieftain named Dubtach (later anglicized as Duffy), and to a Christian slave mother named Brocca (also Brocessa or Brocseach), who was sold soon after Brigid's birth. She was baptized by Saint Patrick with whom she was to become friends.
Legends of her holiness abound. One such tale recalls how the baby Brigid would vomit when a Druid tried to feed her, such was the impurity of the Pagan Druid. When older she was constantly giving away her food and clothing to the poor, on one occasion performing the miracle of having the food-stocks she had taken from the kitchen replenished.
As a child the young Brigid enjoyed a certain position of some comfort and privilege, the family being in receipt of financial support because of their position of authority. Upon reaching adulthood however, she assumed a role of servitude and was charged with caring for her father and family.
She never forgot her mother however and, despite being forbidden to do so she left the family home, located her mother, negotiated her release from slavery and returned home to her fathers house. To her dismay, her father had arranged her marriage to a poet, he being among the most prestigious men of the time. Brigid had already vowed to remain celibate and to do God's work so once more, she left her home, this time forever.
Together with seven other dedicated women she formed the first ever female Monastic community in Ireland in the year 468. They helped the poor of the time and were attributed with many miracles.
Despite having limited resources they never seemed to be without food or supplies for their good works. Brigid founded a school of Art and a Monastery at Cill Dara (meaning 'the Church of the Oak'), about which the modern town of Kildare now stands. It is thought that this was the exact same site that a shrine to a Celtic Pagan Goddess named Brigid also stood. During this time the Abbess of Kildare was regarded as Superior General of the monasteries in Ireland, an incredible position for any woman to occupy.
Her friendship with Saint Patrick was well recorded in the ninth century 'Book of Armagh':
'Between Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid, the pillars of the Irish people, there was so great a friendship of charity that they had but one heart and one mind. Through him and through her Christ performed many great works.'
The most famous miracle associated with Brigid tells of her confrontation with an Irish Chieftain. She asked him for a quantity of land so that she could build a monastic community. The Chieftain replied that she could have whatever amount of land her cloak could cover. Brigid took the cloak from her shoulders and cast it on the ground where to the amazement of all onlookers it covered over twelve acres of the Chieftains lands! He gave it willingly.
Brigid died in the year 525 with the date of her death becoming that of her feast-day, February 1st. It is on this day that she has since been celebrated, her memory marked with the traditional creation of the Saint Brigid Cross, made from reeds. She is buried next to Saint Patrick in Downpatrick.
Such was her popularity among the Irish that her name and its many variants became incredibly popular over the following centuries. Such was the widespread nature of the name that just about every Irish family had a child named Brigid. When these so-named ventured abroad to England or America the name Brigid assumed the meaning of 'Irish woman'.
The Goddess Brigid
Saint Brigid of Ireland is one of many Irish Saints who have been associated with ancient Celtic Pagan Gods and Goddesses. The Celtic Goddess Brigit (or Brigid, Bríg), whose name means 'exhalted one', was of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the daughter of the Daghda and wife to Eochu Bres. She is associated with the Spring season, with fertility, healing, poetry and smithcraft. She is credited with creating the ancient tradition of 'Keening', which is a form of wailing, weeping and singing, and is carried on to this day in rural Ireland, especially at wakes and funerals.
The Goddess Brigid was 'syncretized' with Saint Brigid during the middle ages. This was a process whereby the practices, beliefs and traditions of a Christian Saint were merged, blended and assimilated with an earlier often mythological character. It is no coincidence that both Brigid the actual Saint who lived in Kildare and Brigit the mythological Goddess of old Ireland are both associated with the coming of Spring.
Saint Brigid is celebrated on February 1st each year, the day and month of her death. It is this day that also happens to be the date of an annual Gaelic Pagan festival called 'Imbolc', marking the beginning of Spring!
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Sherkin Island is one of a group of Islands in Roaringwater Bay off the Southwest coast of Cork. I visited the island a few times some years ago and have fond and amusing memories of this special place.
While staying there for a weeks holiday I remember many a lively night spend in a pub on the Island, which perhaps better remain un-named. Admittedly there is few to chose from so a reasonable guess will land you in the right place. You remember of course this was in the days of draconian pub opening and closing times, which were the curse of the drinking classes.
Sherkin Island is approximately a mile from the mainland town of Baltimore. It was in Baltimore, back then, that the local constabulary were housed and it was from there they would have to launch any surprise attack on the after hours drinkers on Sherkin.
Every effort was extended to protect the honor and good name of the guests in the pub, and to that end a great dark green velvet heavy curtain was pulled over the door as the legal drinking hours came to an end.
It should be noted that the front door of the pub faced the mainland and opening it after dark was like shining a search light across the bay. If a late night customer, having enjoyed the liquid entertainment, was to open the door without having the curtain pulled across a horrified gasp would rise from the crowd followed by friendly shouts of abuse.
The last evening I spent in this splendid establishment the forces of the law decided to raid the after hours festivities. Of course being a mile or so off shore they had to make their trip in a heavy wooden rowing boat. Luckily one of the patrons had gone to use the outdoor facilities and saw the boat leave Baltimore.
Rushing back in with the shout 'the Garda are on the way' cause everyone to rush back out for a look. The landlord who had done extensive training for such an emergency quickly produced a 'Guest Registration Book' and we were all ask to sign in a guests of his bed and breakfast. Apparently all forty or more of us were staying in his four bedrooms.
The Garda were closely observed rowing across the bay and the landlord estimated there was plenty of time for another pint before their arrival.
They finally arrived and the rowing crew waited at the landing while the Sergeant came to investigate the carry on at the pub.
The landlord knew him well and told him we were all guests and showed him the registration book.
'That's grand' he said, 'I just came over to check.'
The landlord anxious to keep relations on a firm footing offered the good Sergeant a pint, which was gratefully accepted. 'It's a long old row over the bay, you get a thirst on you' he said,
'God bless all here!', he said raising his glass.
part 1 of this story can be found here
part 2 of this story can be found here
I pressed the one button, again, thinking if I do get more water it'll be warm as I'm used to at home. More steamy, skin-smarting water shot out. Gyrating around the stall while covering delicate parts, I finally succeeding in rinsing. The second dose of water stopped without any help from me, again. I stood there missing the frigid end to my showers back home. I had a little talk with myself – Yeah, Richie, all a part of, uh-huh, I know part of the adventure. At least there is cold air coming through this window. Minutes later, cooled to satisfaction, I returned to the empty room.
Brushing my teeth at the room's small sink, I was soon smothered by the stifling air. I propped the room door open slightly, hoping for the desired cross ventilation. Cool air started to circulate. Relieved, I put my things away, shoved the folded thick comforter aside and climbed the ladder at the end onto the top bunk. Only a few feet from the ceiling, it felt as if all the sweltering air was trapped there and pressing down. In minutes, I was sweating. Be patient, I warned myself – my Catholic Irish American mother was keen on enduring most everything uncomfortable and I had been so conditioned from an early age – it won't be much longer before the cross ventilation will blow away the hot, stagnant air leaving behind fresh coolness. I laid back, reviewing the day. I was reminding myself what I had to do in the morning when it struck me the open door was an invitation to anyone in the 400-bed hostel to pilfer my things and those of my roomies. Reluctantly, I climbed down the ladder, shaking the scarred metal frame with each step, and closed the self-locking door. I was tempted to see if I could get another room, but by now I was so tired I just wanted to lay down and catch a pile of Z's.
In the swayed sack I looked around the sordid room, laughed at myself and noticed the large round stool. I thought, that'll be a good way to leave the bunk without shaking it and bothering Vincenzo when I have to relieve myself in the wee hours. My benign prostrate problem was an unwelcomed but constant nightly visitor.
I positioned the stool just outside the wall of bags and boxes on the floor surrounding Vincenzo's lower bunk. Form my perch above, I gauged how in the dark with feint light coming though the uncovered window, I could drop silently onto the stool's broad top, step quietly to the floor and exit soundlessly out the heavy entrance room door to the nearby bathroom. Confident, I re-checked my tiny travel alarm clock placed on the cover of a large round wall light within an arm's length of my head. Determined to get a good night's sleep and be fresh for my first day's research, I tried to put everything out of my mind, including the fact it was already after 11:00 p.m., an hour past my normal bed time.
Suddenly, I was awake, squinting around the room. There, by the window, I spotted someone rifling through a back pack. Uh-oh, a thief. My adrenalin surged. What can I do? I was thinking about dropping down off the stool and confronting the burglar, when he turned. From some of the light filtering in through the window, I made out his profile. I sighed in relief. It was the young American, Joe, I had met earlier. A moment later, he had his toiletries and was headed out the door. The alarm clock read 12:37 a.m.
Sighing, I laid back, wiped sweat from my face and wiggled around to get more comfortable on the thin mattress. Go to sleep, I silently commanded myself.
Rifle shots! Huh? Where? Was I dreaming? More of them, not as close. I listened closely. Somewhere in the distance yet another. I peered around. Snoring rose from several bunks now occupied. What the heck's happening? The “Troubles?” No, that's Northern Ireland. I spied movement in the dark. It's the quiet Scotsman who bunked below Joe Ferguson. Then, a few feet from me, he was out the door. Instead of easing it to a quiet close, he let it slam shut. It sounded like a rifle retort. The others? Of course, the echoed sound of the other doors closing in the rambling four-story frame building once a convent for nuns. Several young residents had nicknamed it the “bed factory.” It was 2:27 a.m.
Crap, will I ever stay asleep? From as early as I could remember, I was a real bear when my sleep was interrupted. Images of my bedroom at home with my quiet wife in an equally quiet country neighborhood, reminded me what I was missing. Remember, Richie, it's all part of the … yeah, yeah, I know, the adventure. My frustration and Irish temper were rising. A troubling sign. And, I continued my internal dialogue ... you're saving at least one-half to three-quarters of the cost of B & B's and hotels, y'know. Sure … sure. The thrift of it all was some calming. Sleep!
I awoke, again, rudely. Oh, crap, I have to go now. The prostate urgency had to be honored – and quickly! Holding back, I scooted to the edge of the bunk, sighted the shadowy top of the stool (that appeared to be in the same position I had placed it earlier). Good, this should be easy. I launched myself out from the edge of the bunk. Oh no, my feet aren't making contact with the stool's platform. Suddenly, the heel of my right foot bounced off the rim of the stool. Catapulted forward, my feet hit the floor. The rest of me was lunging off balance. I heard the stool banging against the floor. Flailing to right myself, I crashed off the lockers toward the window. I thrust my arms out, hoping to feel something solid and stop myself. My hands connected with the wall on either side of the window. Hunched over, I peered out the open window to the yard four stories below and a decrepit statue of Jesus. Whew! That was close. I could have … Instead of completing that thought, I gave thanks. From behind, there was a chorus of mutterings and angry grumbling; then, quiet. It was 4:07 a.m.
Back in the bunk, I finally nodded off. Then, what seemed like only minutes later, I was jangled awake by the loud insistence of my alarm. It was already 5:30 a.m. For a few minutes, I contemplated sleeping in, but reminded myself of my mission. But first I needed some cool air.
Sweaty, my problem lower back complaining of a soft mattress and feeling as though I was drugged, I walked out to the unheated hallway. Alone, I enjoyed the cold. As my head cleared, I started to anticipate the day ahead – shower, breakfast, a day of successful research …
During a brisk walk to the National Library, while trying to sightsee, questions plagued me. How can the atmosphere at the hostel be better? If it can't, how much inconvenience do I want to put up with to stay within my tight budget? Would I be better off spending more for more comfortable accommodations, but have a shorter stay? If I shortened my stay, would I accomplish my goals and enjoy time for the craic I anticipated. Where might I be tonight?
Epilogue. I did stay at the hostel five more days before heading for more picturesque locations. After six days of dizzying microfiche viewing, I had little for my efforts (that would come during a later visit to County Wexford). Finally, while the result of my quest was not to my satisfaction, I ultimately had a most enjoyable visit – unforgettable sights seen, memorable people met – Irish and other Europeans, alike – and more mighty craic than I deserved.
Richie Patton is the author of the 'Paddy O' & Curly Slim' Saga that you can view at his Amazon Page
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by Michael Green,
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