Ireland Newsletter - Douglas Hyde
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(C) Copyright - The Information about Ireland Site, 2010
IN THIS ISSUE
=== News Snaps from Ireland
=== New free resources at the site
=== Peculiarly Irish Words and Phrases #1: Chancer
=== Douglas Hyde - First President of Ireland
=== Never Far Away - A Poem by William Wasson
=== 'A Paraffin Oil Table Lamp' by Pat Watson
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Monthly free competition result
Ireland is in the grips of a big freeze with the
citizenry barely able to move, paralysed as they
are by fear and trepidation about the future.
And I am not just talking about the weather!
Snow has been heaped upon us as if nature herself
is joining us in our time of national despair.
Ok, things are not that bad. One thing is for sure:
We'll be back!!!!
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
BAILOUT PREPARED AS ELECTION BECKONS
The last couple of weeks in Ireland have been
described as the 'most serious since independence'
or 'just another economic crisis' depending on
who you listen to. There is no doubt that the
country is in real financial trouble but it is
also clear that some politicians and commentators
have been taking advantage of the situation for
their own political or commercial gain.
Despite the posturing there is no disguising the
gravity of the financial situation. Unable to meet
day-to-day expenditure due to huge public sector
pay and social welfare bills the government has
been tapping the European Central Bank for some
time. Normally this would not be that much of a
problem but the absolute collapse of the Irish
banking sector has finally scuppered the plans of
Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Fiance Minister Brian
Lenihan. The ECB has pulled the plug and will not
lend to Ireland unless the country imposes severe
austerity measures and accepts its terms.
Of course this is not a goodwill measure.
Determined to protect the euro currency at all
costs the EU, led by Germany and France, have one
eye on the situation in Portugal which, although
not as bad as that in Ireland, could infect
neighbour Spain with financial problems, thus
putting the very existence of the euro in doubt.
The deal struck with the EU and IMF totals 85 BN
euro and should finally put to bed the problems
with the banks. A huge re-structuring of the
banking sector is on the cards with several banks
to be wound down or merged. This deal is contingent
on the December 7th budget being passed in the Dail.
The sweeping reforms likely in the budget will
greatly increase personal taxation levels while
reducing the public sector wagebill and also likely
reduce welfare payments.
There is no guarantee that the budget will be
passed. It seems possible that, now that an
election is certain early in the new year, that
even some Fianna Fail T.D.s will vote against the
budget, thus bringing down the government. The
Fianna Fail and Green Party coalition is relying
on independent T.D.'s for support, several of
whom have already said that they will likely vote
against the budget. It may take a sensational
development such as Fine Gael or Labour abstaining
from the vote in order to get the measures passed.
Why would they do this? To steal the moral high
ground? To leave the blame for the cutbacks at the
feet of Fianna Fail, rather than having to bring
in their own hairshirt budget? The politics of
this situation will be played out in the next few
weeks but as usual it seems that personal interest
will be put above the national interest.
And what of Fianna Fail? Decimation in the next
general election seems inevitable. Brian Cowen
will certainly be deposed as leader prior to the
election and there is even a possibility of a new
party being formed. When he was appointed
Taoiseach Brian Cowen had a very good reputation
and was well-regarded. His performances in the
Dail (parliament) as well as his very poor
communication directly with the public have been
a mystery to his supporters. Die-hard Fianna Fail
members must be wondering why he has not already
or does not now simply collapse the government
and allow Fine Gael and Labour to introduce the
cutbacks and tax increases.
The electorate has a very short memory and
ultimately it can be argued that, although Fianna
Fail will be blamed for the illness, perhaps Fine
Gael and Labour could be blamed for the cure? Did
the thought of running for cover enter his mind or
is he determined, wrongly or rightly, to do what
he sees as proper regardless of the cost to his
career or his party? Is it possible that actual
honour still exists in the body politic?
FOREIGN MEDIA CONTINUE TO TAKE POTSHOTS AT IRELAND
Ireland and the Irish have historically been
'paddy-bashed' when things have gone wrong. The
savaging of the government by the domestic media
in Ireland has been mirrored to some extent by
that of foreign newspaper and television outlets.
Downright incorrect reporting of facts has been
buoyed by a cutting satirical whipping. It really
began in earnest with the disgraceful disparaging
of Brian Cowen by US comedian Jay Leno who
displayed an unflattering picture of the Irish
Taoiseach and then called him a drunken moron. One
wonders what the response would have been had a US
national leader been similarly mocked by an Irish
television show and that insult then broadcast
around the world.
While several noted US publications have been
reporting the matter fairly it is also true that
certain of the television coverage has been just
plain incorrect. Given the fact that the Irish
situation is dragging the European Union down
with it, it is perhaps a surprise that the most
supportive and objective reporting has come from
Europe. Despite media criticism in the
English press it is an irony not lost on the
Irish public that the UK Chancellor George
Osborne has pledged to assist Ireland in the
bailout and has even offered funding outside of
the agreed scheme, totalling possibly as much
as 9 BN euro in loans. Given our history this is
an amazing development.
UNDERLYING ECONOMY IN IRELAND SET TO IMPROVE
Despite high unemployment and a collapse in the
construction sector the Irish economy is
proving somewhat resilient. Retail sales
increased by 2% in October with car sales leading
the way. Despite sales rising for 8 out of the 10
previous months spending is back to 2004 levels.
The Irish Exporters Association has revealed
that over 40 BN euro of goods and services were
exported from Ireland in the third quarter of
2010, up by 9.3% on 2009. 5.8% growth is forecast
for 2010 as a whole in what is being mooted as a
very viable pathway to recovery.
JOBLESS WILL HAVE TO WORK OR TRAIN TO GET WELFARE
New regulations are being introduced which will
force unemployed people to accept training
courses or else lose up to a quarter of their
welfare payment. Other long-term unemployed people
will be required to complete community work
schemes or else face being cut off.
HEALTH INSURANCE COVER DROPS DRAMATICALLY
A knock-on effect of the tough economy is that
people in tight financial situations opt to do
without goods and services that they would
otherwise take for granted. Day-spas, health
club memberships, house cleaners and the second
car were among the first of the luxuries to
face the chop. As the financial noose tightens
it is health insurance that is suffering. Over
34,000 people have cancelled their private
health insurance policies in the first 9 months
of 2010, putting overall national coverage at
just under 50% of the population. This will put
further pressure on an already burdened public
health service as the economic fallout continues.
CHRISTMAS TREES TARGETED BY THIEVES
It is a sign of the times that forests are being
targeted in the run-up to Christmas. Christmas
trees can fetch between 25 and 45 euro each so
gangs with vans and trucks have been raiding
forests, hacking the trees down and escaping
to sell the trees on the black market.
NEW HIKING PATH FOR DUBLIN MOUNTAINS
A new long distance trail suitable for hikers has
been developed and runs for 43 Km around the
Dublin Mountains. The Dublin Mountains Way runs
from Shankhill to Tallaght and is fully
signposted. Visitors who are interested in
hiking, orienteering, walking and horse-riding
should check out this and other great walks
around Dublin mountains at:
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NEW COATS OF ARMS ADDED TO THE GALLERY
The following 5 coats of arms images and family
history details have been added to the Gallery:
K: Keith, Kenyon
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PECULIARLY IRISH WORDS AND PHRASES #1: CHANCER
The sixteenth century saw a fierce rivalry develop
between the Butlers and Fitzgeralds. Violent
clashes between the two groups were commonplace
with once such melee occurring in 1492. Butler, the
Earl of Ormond retreated and was forced to take
refuge in Saint Patrick's Cathedral. He barricaded
himself behind a stout wooden door and refused to
leave until he got assurances for his safety. After
some negotiation a deal was struck. In order to
seal the deal a hole was hacked through the wooden
door and Fitzgerald offered his hand. This was risky
indeed as a large axe could easily have removed the
limb. Harmony broke out however and the standoff
It is thought that the modern expression 'chancing
your arm' originated from this event. From that
time on a 'chancer' was someone who took a risk
or a gamble. The hole in the door can still be
seen to this day with the door known as the
'Door of Reconciliation'.
DOUGLAS HYDE: FIRST PRESIDENT OF IRELAND
Douglas Hyde was born in Frenchpark in County
Roscommon in 1860. His father was a local Church
of Ireland Rector. He quickly became fascinated
with the Irish language and entered Trinity
College where he studied other languages
including French, German, Greek, Latin and
Hebrew. He was determined to prevent the
continuing decline of the native language
however, and in 1893 he founded the Gaelic
The Irish language had been in decline since
the seventeenth century but this decline
accelerated in the years after the famine.
The 'Black Death' of 1845 to 1849 resulted in
over a million deaths from starvation and a
further million people were lost to emigration
in the decade following the famine. The effect
of the famine on the Irish language was
The increased awareness in national identity
that culminated in the Easter Rising in 1916 and
the subsequent War of Independence and eventual
declaration of an Irish Republic can be traced
to events in the second half of the nineteenth
century. The formation of the Gaelic League by
Douglas Hyde was crucial in the promotion of the
idea of an independent Irish nation. Many of the
iconic Irish nationalist leaders that were later
to shape the course of Irish history formed their
nationalistic philosophies during their
membership of the Gaelic League. Pearse, DeValera
and Collins were all members. Hyde later became
discontent with the increasing political bent that
the League was displaying and resigned the
presidency of the organisation he had founded in
1915. He had no political affiliation either with
the Home Rule movement or Sinn Fein.
He accepted a position in Seanad Eireann (the
appointed Senate) but later lost the post when an
election was held. It is believed that the fact
that he was a Protestant counted against him,
although false allegations that he supported
divorce must also have damaged his chances. He
returned to academic studies and became Professor
of Irish at UCD.
Despite having retired some years earlier Eamon
DeValera appointed Douglas Hyde once more to
Seanad Eireann. His stay in the Senate was again
short-lived but this time it was because greater
office beckoned. DeValera and the opposition leader
W.T. Cosgrove agreed that Hyde should become the
first President of Ireland. Both of these leaders
wanted to prove that the 'new' Ireland could be
inclusive and the appointment of a Protestant
would certainly demonstrate this. Recognition for
the years of service Hyde had given to the Irish
people through his tenure as president of the
Gaelic League was also a factor. In 1938 he became
the first President of Ireland and settled into
Aras an Uachtarain in the Phoenix Park, which has
remained the home of all Irish Presidents ever
Hyde was a popular President with the US
President Roosevelt calling him 'a fine and
scholarly old gentleman'. He suffered a massive
stroke in 1940 and it appeared his demise was
near. He recovered however and, although
wheelchair bound, continued his presidential
duties for another 5 years.
He left office in 1945 but continued to live in
the Phoenix Park until his death in 1949. He was
granted a state funeral and was buried in his
His contribution to the cause of the Irish
language, history, music and literature cannot
be overstated with W. B. Yeats proclaiming him
as the source of the Irish literary renaissance
which continues to this day.
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NEVER FAR AWAY
A Poem by William Wasson
Mom was born in a small house
In a place called Ireland
She was raised up on a farm
That sometimes turned into a ranch
At the tender age of ten
Her mother fell deadly ill
Her father cried loud and bold
Please spare her, take me instead
He died and she recovered
That's the story I've been told
Some prayers get sadly answered
And we are left to wonder why
Times were hard, but they got by
Dear mom, brothers and sisters
Six in all as I recall
No time for tears while milking cows
No holidays on a farm
Seven days a week each week
No time beyond school and chores
But she grew up healthy and strong
She also grew wise and good
In a world where that is rare
When school ended at sixteen
She said goodbye and sailed away
In America she found
Opportunities she sought
A good man, a family
A house, a home and lots of love
Her important dreams came true
And I am glad I was one
I am me because of her
I couldn't ask for anymore
She's gone now and I'm amazed
She lived in the old country
Just sixteen years of her life
And talked about it for the rest
This shows me the kind of pride
Ireland leaves in the heart
No matter how far you stray
Ireland's never far away.
A PARAFFIN OIL TABLE LAMP
by Pat Watson
'Please to help me Herr Mister, my bicycle she is
punctured.' Willie Killion was mesmerised. During
the war forty-year-old west of Ireland farmers'
sons seldom met film-star types in distress while
cycling to town.
In her little saddlebag she had a full repair kit
including two little tyre levers. Willie had
always used spoons to remove tyres. The levers
were much better, even if he was a bit addled by
the strange fragrance. Perfume was rare in the
west. She was talkative with the face and gait of
a young girl - the body of a woman and a neck
just like his mother. Judging by her hair she was
a dab hand with the rack (comb). By the time the
bicycle was back on its wheels he was enchanted.
She had just arrived in Ireland to escape the war.
She was renting Carter's vacant house just here.
She had lost everything, including her family.
'Would he like some tea? The kettle was on the
boil'. He stood in the sitting room holding his
cap in his hand while she talked from the
kitchen. 'You to join me on the chaise longue'
she said as she placed the tray on a little table.
He had been looking at the sofa with only one end.
'So that's what it's called!' She sat on the
reclining end while he gingerly sat on the other
end. The tray had two cups and a plate with two
little long loaves, split down the middle with
sausages in the centre. Frankfurters, she called
them. They were like rubber sausages, took a lot
of chewing. He was on his way to town to buy the
makings of a new suit. She would go with him.
As they cycled he forgot Mary, with her farm and
her aging parents. For years she had been his
best hope as his older brother was the heir
apparent to the home farm. Not that he had got
any farther than thinking of Mary but this foreign
lady stirred his fancy in a way totally new to
him. She had said her name was Brigitte. He
supposed that was a mispronounced Bridget. Sure
Bridget was his mother's name. The parish church
was St Bridget's - they even had a St Bridget's
holy well. Was it a sign?
They parked their bicycles in the alley between
the drapers and the hardware shop.
'Isn't zat lamp ze most beautiful lamp you ever
saw!' she said, looking in the window.
'It would ve just perfect on my sitting room
table! No? Ve had one just like it before ve
lost everything. It would make life in this
strange country just like ze Fatherland, but of
course I can never have it, I am too poor now.'
She whimpered. As he looked at her sad face, she
flashed her very long eyelashes. He never saw
eyelashes that long before. The poor girl was
distraught. The lamp was thirty-seven shillings
and six pence. He had fifty shillings for the
makings of the suit. If he bought her the lamp it
would make her happy, she would smile again, it
would make her forget her troubles and her
loneliness, she would be very pleased and
grateful, maybe very, very grateful. To hell with
the suit, he would buy her the lamp.
They packed it in a wooden box, filling the
inside of the globe with newspaper and packing
the whole thing in fine sawdust. They even
included a bottle of paraffin oil for fuel. Wasn't
he the proud man cycling home with the luxury
lamp on the carrier and the beautiful lady beside
him. He wouldn't call the Queen his aunt. It
didn't bother him that she spoke friendly to an
He unpacked the lamp, placed it on the table and
when he fitted the globe it was magnificent.
'Vell Herr Villy Villian you are vonderful' she
said and throwing out her arms, she caught him by
the ears and kissed him lightly on the lips. His
heart went mad. He was transfixed with a hideous
grin. He had never been kissed before.
'Thank you velly, velly much Herr Villy,' she
said as she ushered him out the door.
'You must visit again, but now I have some letters
to write' He jumped on the bike, emitting little
yahoo's - sure he nearly did himself an injury
jumping on the saddle. Night had fallen but with
light in his heart he scarcely noticed. He could
still feel where her lips met his. He could still
smell the perfume. His ears would never be the
same again. He pulled up suddenly. A thought had
just struck him.
Why did she usher him out?
Had she expected him to respond to the kiss?
Maybe she was disappointed. He should have
'You're a fool,' he told himself.
'You waited a lifetime for this and now you're
cycling away when you should be making hay'.
He turned back. He would return and take up where
they left off. He was sure that's what she wanted.
What excuse would he give for coming back?
The box! He would say he wanted the box for a
clucking hen, to set a clutch of eggs for
hatching, that sounded plausible. Anyhow she
would probably fly into his arms and words
would be superfluous. After that he could play it
by ear. He was very excited. Wasn't this his
'It's night you idiot, day or night what matter?
Go man go.'
When he got to her house the blind was pulled and
there was a man's bicycle outside. He went down
on one knee and peeped in under the blind. Bridget
was reclining in the chaise longue. The army
fellow was reclining with her. He had his head
left on her chest looking up at her. She was
holding a frankfurter in her mouth and he was
trying to bite it. He couldn't because she was
holding his ears. He rapped on the door. She
opened it. He brushed past her, took the lamp in
both hands and walked out, his anger carrying him on.
'But Herr Villy ve vill have no light!'
'Ye won't need light for what you're at!'
Writing letters, my foot! to whom? Wasn't all
belonging to her dead? 'Moryagh'
She was probably a German spy. She was using her
sausage to get information out of the army fellow.
He hoped she'd get caught. They might even shoot
her. She would roast in hell. It would be the
price of her for meddling with the makings of a
Half a mile down the road he came to Mary's house.
He marched up the path still holding the lighted
lamp. Mary looked out the window.
'Daddy! There's an apparition coming up the
garden' The father looked out.
'Come Nancy,' he said to his wife,
'Out the back door, this is a man on a mission,
leave him to Mary'. Mary opened the door. Willie
marched in and put the lamp on the table. Mary
held out her arms in awe. Before she could catch
his ears he bear hugged her. She was agreeably
surprised. She had been a little concerned about
his masculinity, she need not have worried, he
was all man. Even the old couple peeping in the
window squeezed hands.
Did they all live happily ever after?
Why wouldn't they?
Hadn't they the best-lit Parlour in the parish.
'A PARAFFIN OIL TABLE LAMP' is one of
sixty lyrical yarns from
'Original Irish Stories' by Pat Watson,
Creagh, Bealnamulla, Athlone, Ireland.
First published in May 2006.
or you can email the author here:
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GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
PHRASE: cuimhnigh i gconai
PRONOUNCED: cweeve-nee ih go-nee
MEANING: Always remember
PHRASE: Is fearr Gaeilge briste, na Bearla cliste
PRONOUNCED: iss far gale-geh brishteh naw bear-elh clish-teh
MEANING: Broken Irish is better than clever English
PHRASE: Ni tir gan teanga
PRONOUNCED: nee tier gon tyan-geh
MEANING: No nation/land without a language
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