Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Cover of book containing entries from the finalists
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As this will be my 500th blog post on this blog I am glad to have something positive to report.

The other evening (15/12/2014) I attended the final event in the Battle of Clontarf Millennium Celebrations. This was a book launch and the presentation of prizes in the millennium's creative writing competition for local primary schools.

Every finalist, and there were lots of them in the different class categories, got exactly the same prize. A copy of the book and a selection box. But what a book. The entries form the finalists themselves had been brought together in a book entitled "We Are Writers", published by the Clontarf Historical Society and the Raheny Heritage Society. So the creativity here extended beyond that of the competitors alone.

In addition the overall category winners also received vouchers for Easons - up to €600 worth of vouchers were presented.

Barbara Tarrant & Collette Gill

MC for the evening was the ubiquitous organiser of everything, Collette Gill, Chairperson of the Clontarf 2014 Committee. You can see her here with her clipboard as she invites one of the judges, Barbara Tarrant, to address the audience of parents and children packed into the Indigo Lounge of the Clontarf Castle Hotel.

Daragh Moran & Barbara Tarrant

Before going any further, I have to declare an interest here. The photo shows Barbara presenting his book to Daragh Moran, who happens to be a first cousin twice removed. The removal bit just means he's way younger than I am. Given that I was concentrating on trying to photograph every winner in this fast moving pageant, I hadn't noticed Daragh until I saw his mother there at the end of the evening (and yes, she's only once removed).

Daragh's entry consisted of a brief account of the battle, in (almost) rhyming couplets.

Kay Lonergan & Robyn Gill

The youngest judge is Robyn Gill, a transition year student, who has already had two short stories published in the Irish Times. She is seen here accepting a presentation from Kay Lonergan, Chairperson of the Clontarf Historical Society.

Of the entries published in the book just over 40% are from girls. Not a huge imbalance and it may not have any particular significance. I suppose these bloody battles may be more appealing to boys, though one of the entries was actually from a female warrior. Indeed, if you look at the 2014 re-enactment of the battle, you'll see there was no shortage of female warriors taking part.

Morgan O'Reilly

The third of the four judges, Morgan O'Reilly, said he was very encouraged by the sense of community permeating the range of celebrations and was particularly happy with the standard of entries in this competition.

The range of styles, inventiveness and imagination in the entries was spectacular.

There was a lot of time travel, much magic, family correspondence, live tv reporting, and, as Collette remarked, even the rewriting of history - the licence of youth, no doubt. There was a variety of styles from prose (purple and otherwise) to poetry (including acrostics).

You have to remember that the children's ages were from 7 to 12 years, and you wouldn't always know from the entries alone which end of the spectrum you were dealing with. Some of the younger entries were really excellent.

Douglas Appleyard (on right)

The fourth judge, Louise Melinn, could not be present due to exams, so Douglas Appleyard, Chairperson of the Raheny Heritage Society, stood in and presented the final batch of books.

And as we're on the subject of competition, this photographer (me) had serious competition all evening from parents taking advantage of the miracles of modern technology to immortalise the achievements of their children .

I'll leave you with an enhanced glimpse of the picture on the cover of the book. This was the work of Aoife Tynan, from St. Brigid's Girls National School, Killester, who won first place in the third and fourth class category in the Battle of Clontarf Art Competition, held earlier in the year in this same venue.

If you are interested in some of the other events during the year's celebrations you can see a report on the 1014 Retrospective event, along with links to those individual events which I managed to attend, here.

Note: I will put the names of the other students in the photo titles when I get them and assuming there is no problem with that.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

1014 Retrospective

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The event took place at Clasac, on Alfie Byrne Road in Clontarf. Its purpose was to celebrate, take stock of, and close the programme of events which took place during 2014 and commemorated the millennium of the Battle of Clontarf.

There were some artifacts on display and a range of books and booklets were on sale.

A series of panels recalled the various events that were staged during the year, and they were many, and the panels also featured the series of postage stamps issued by the Isle of Man (Viking sympathisers!) for the occasion. These were beautifully produced and put our own efforts to shame.

I don't think this was Brian Boru's guardian angel but it is coming up to Christmas and she was at the top of the tree in the foyer. So a Happy Christmas to one and all while we're at it.

Collette Gill

And then down to the business of the evening which was introduced by Collette Gill, without whom none of what happened this year would have happened at all. Not only was she the major driving force, pulling it all together, but she did a mountain of work at the coalface itself (if that's not too much of a mixed metaphor).

The idea for this night was to have a number of people, who had been involved in organising some of the events of the year, give a brief account of what they had done and how it had gone.

This turned into a litany of unbelievable successes during the year, which included:
  • a once in a lifetime re-enactment of the Battle of Clontarf
  • a permanent heritage trail along the prom
  • a series of excellent lectures
  • acquisition and exhibition of a priceless painting of the Battle

Kay Lonergan, Clontarf Historical Society

Clontarf Historical Society, along with Raheny Heritage Society, were central to many of the year's events. In particular they organised a series of high quality lectures around the themes of the Vikings, Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf. Many of these presented the results of new research and, at one of them, Pete St. John's new composition, "March for Brian Boru", was launched.

Deirdre Tobin, Clontarf Residents' Association

Residents of the area not only pitched into the organisation of events but supported them in large numbers. The year contributed enormously to cultivating a spirit of community across the area.

Niall Geaney, Clontarf Business Association

The involvement of the Business Association and its members in the year's activities has contributed to a greater sense of cooperation and community in the area.

Ronan Morris, Web Together

Clontarf now has a permanent presence on a very nice website as a result of cooperation undertaken during the year.

Elaine Mulvenny, Dublin City Council

Dublin City Council has been very much to the fore in the years events. A particular success was the Battle of Clontarf in St. Anne's Park which the Council made available and managed. [The Battle itself was organised by the Fingal Living History Society and was ten years in the making.] The Council was also involved in the setting up of the Heritage Trail on the Promenade.

Presentation to Elaine

Douglas Appleyard, Raheny Heritage Society

Raheny Heritage Society, as mentioned above, worked with the Clontarf History Society on the lecture series. This was a busy year for Douglas who is deeply involved in the Bram Stoker Festival and is also attempting to complete the longstanding study of the Howth Road.

Anne Louise Mulhall, Millennium Art Group

Anne Louise reminded us of the excellent Millennium Art Exhibition in Clontarf Castle, and while we're at it, I would mention also the more general exhibition in St. Anthony's Hall which included a set of very interesting old maps as well as an ubiquitous Viking who threatened me with beheading, were it not for the presence of his young daughter.

Frankie Byrne, Principal, Belgrove Senior Boys' School

A number of classes in the boys school participated in a variety of competitions held during the year. It is refreshing to see young people getting involved in community/local history activities. I'm a past pupil of Belgrove Junior NS myself having spent my first year of schooling on the premises.

Pat Hollingsworth, Clontarf Scout Leader

Apart from a number of scouting activities, the movement has struck a special badge for the year and there is already huge demand for copies of this including from collectors abroad.

Anne McCarty, Principal, Belgrove Senior Girls' School

The girls were not behind in their participation in a number of events.

Ian Sargeant, Clontarf Yacht and Boat Club

As Bruder and his allies came by sea, it was appropriate for the Clontarf Yacht and Boat Club to stage a number of events during the year. These involved cooperation with other seagoing organisations including those from outside the immediate area.

Fr. Pat McManus, Clontarf Parish Churches

An ecumenical Ciminio type walk was organised, including the marking of cards and provision of a final certificate.

Donna Cooney, Clontarf Tennis Club

The Tennis Club organised a tennis marathon to go from 10:14 (am) on the day to 20:14 in the evening. Participation exceeded all expectations and the marathon continued way beyond its intended completion time.

Minister Richard Bruton

The Minister had opened the commemoration in January and it was fitting that he turned up to close it, arriving just in time.

Collette winds it up

Collette, without whom none of this would have happened, retook the stage to wind up the retrospective, and rightly got a standing ovation from those present.

She went on to introduce the musicians who were to play us out for the rest of the night.

Paul Dolan and friends ...

... including the ghostly tin whistle player

Despite some great spirited music, I didn't see anyone take the floor. Well there were lots of tables and chairs in the way and no small quantity of mulled wine had been consumed by then.

Group photo, including local politicians.

Among the politicians attending (all in the back row) were: Councillor, and former Lord Mayor, Naoise Ó Muirí, FG, (second from left); Senator Averil Power, FF, (centre); Minister Richard Bruton, FG, (third from right); and Minister of State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Lab, (extreme right). I saw Councillor Seán Haughey, FF, present earlier in the night.

Below are links to posts on some of the 1014 related events I attended during the year.

Talk: Pat Wallace - February 2014
Talk: Cathy Swift - March 2014
Talk: Colm Lennon - April 2014

Exhibition - 30 March 2014

Eve of Battle - 18 April 2014
Round the Field - 19 April 2014
The Battle - 20 April 2014

Rose Festival - 21 July 2014

Creative Writing Competition - 15 December 2014

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Sunday, December 07, 2014


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As I know from my own research, the whole area of Killiney Bay is replete with history. From a 6th century female monastic settlement, through rebellion, plantation, hunting, a fruitlessly awaited French invasion, and, finally, residential development, the area has a rich and varied past.

But this is probably the first time that an attempt has been made to document Killiney village and its immediate environs and it has been undertaken by locals who know what they are about.

As soon as I saw the very professional looking invitation, I knew I was in for a treat, and treat it was.

Simone Walsh

The exhibition was the brainchild of Jimmy Kelly, who was so modest on the night that I didn't even get a photo.

It was held in the Druid's Chair, Killiney village's only pub, and one which has contributed significantly to local activities over the years.

The night's proceedings were kicked off by Simone Walsh who was intensively involved in the project herself.

P J Drudy

The guest speaker was P J Drudy, Emeritus Professor of Economics in TCD. He recalled discovering the sense of community in the village when he moved in many years ago and was full of praise for how that spirit had been maintained down the years. This is shown today by the huge involvement of the local people in providing material for, and supporting, the exhibition.

Imelda Kestell & Charlie Mason

The ribbon was cut and the exhibition formally opened by two longstanding locals, Imelda Kestell and Charlie Mason.

The exhibition panels, and the two monster loose leaf books, clearly showed the depth of the research undertaken. Their presentation was hugely professional and it was clear that those attending were completely captivated by, and absorbed in, the content.

Ger Garland & Emer Brady

I was floored by the professionalism of the panels produced by Ger Garland until, through nefarious contacts and otherwise, I found out that she is a well known and respected "high end graphics artist". No doubt about it.

Emer Brady was an important contributor to the exhibition with her research and editing and, of course, Alice Cullen, Killiney's local historian, made an enormous contribution to the content.

This is a marvellous exhibition and a great example to other local communities of what can be done.

Unfortunately you won't get to see this showing as it finishes today. However, I hope it will get many other well deserved airings, perhaps in DLR county hall and in Dalkey castle.

As far as the latter is concerned, it might remind the people of Dalkey that there is another leg to the greater Dublin Bay beyond the hill.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Labour Party Archives

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The occasion was a talk on The Labour Party Archives, 1919 - 2014. It was sponsored by the Irish Society for Archives and given by Ross Higgins, the Labour Party Archivist, at the Dublin City Library and Archive on 2/12/2014.

Ross outlined the contents of the the archives which are quite varied but unfortunately include a 25 year gap as a result of a fire. The archives were presented to the National Library of Ireland by the Labour Party and are currently being catalogued.

How, you might ask, could the Library take on this extra task given the current cutbacks in funding and services. Well, the answer is cooperation. The Labour Party, as well as presenting the archives, also agreed to fund a post to have them catalogued. The post was competitive and advertised and Ross got it.

Certainly, on the basis of his presentation and his stunning performance in the Q&A session, they got the right person for the job. He's been at it now for a year and a half and expects to finish next Spring.

There is a lot of valuable research material in the archives, much of it pre-processed, so to speak, in the form of the party's annual reports, for example. And these reports are quite comprehensive, bringing together information which would be difficult to collate otherwise.

When the archives are catalogued, they will represent, along with other material such as that held by the Irish Labour History Society, an invaluable social/political history resource.

The cataloguing is only the first stage. The material then needs to be analysed, possibly in conjunction with other sources, and then written up. Some potential PhD candidates in the social and political sciences should now be sharpening their pencils for a foray into this excellent thesis material.

Full marks to the Labour Party, the National Library of Ireland and the Dublin City Library and Archive for creating this great resource and for publicising it.

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Monday, December 01, 2014


The cover of the current issue of Ireland's Own caught my eye.

Donncha with mike in hand reminded me of a trip to Belfast on the toy train at the height of the troubles. If I remember correctly Donncha had either organised it or was part of the organising group. The idea was to bring toys up to Belfast from the south for the children of internees in the north. We were also to provide some entertainment for the kids and to this end a number of "celebrities" had signed up for the trip. When it came to the crunch that morning in Connolly Station it turned out a fair few of them had funked it.

The kids were assembled in the Ardoyne Hall and I distinguished myself by knocking over a fully lit Christmas tree as I went out on stage. The kids thought that was great. I told them I was going to sing a song and they could clap or tap their feet along with it. This was greeted by a thunderous roar of stamping feet which it took the stewards a good few minute to quieten down. Then I canvassed animal names for Old McDonald had a Farm and was totally mystified by the response of one of the youngsters. The animal in question finally turned out to be a cow but the unaccustomedly strong Belfast accent made it sound like a totally new species.

Anyway, the song was sung and the toys were distributed and the southerners returned safely home.

My first visit to Belfast was passing through in the 1950s when we went on holidays to nearby Bangor. I particularly remember three things from that holiday in Bangor. Much to our surprise, disgust and fear, our landlord turned out wearing a sash in the Orange parade on the fourteenth of July. Post WWII rationing was still in force in the north and we got what we thought was our chocolate coupons for the first week of our fortnight's stay. We were very surprised and disappointed when we went back for our second week's coupons to find we had already consumed our full fortnight's ration. And, finally, I remember cutting the ads off the town map which was available for free at the Pickie Pool, opposite our lodgings, and selling copies in the street for a penny each. Happy Days.

My third time in Belfast was with the Irish language folk group Tŷ Bach when we made an LP, Téanam Ort, in Billy McBurney's recording studio. It should be worth a few bucks now as a vinyl rarity.

Little did I think then that I would later return on business as co-chair of the EU Peace Programme Monitoring Committee. I don't know if it's apocryphal, but the rumour was that the original name for the programme was Special Northern Ireland Programme for Economic Recovery but that some wide awake acronymist nipped that one in the bud (SNIPER).

And my last time in Belfast was last year to attend Craig Murray's talk on the Falls Road during Féile an Phobail.

But back to Donncha. The occasion of the extensive article by Gerry Breen in Ireland's Eye was the publication last September by Three Sisters Press of Donncha's new book Donncha's World - The Roads, the Stories, and the Wireless, in conversation with Declan Lyons. .

Good to see he's still on the go. The only man I know who could talk the hind legs off a leprechaun.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Looking for God

Patrick Masterson
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Another lecture in the excellent Patrick Finn Lecture Series in St. Mary's church, Haddington Road, Dublin.

This time it was Emeritus Philosophy Professor Patrick Masterson "Looking for God - a philosophical journey".

He warned us he was not going to give a dry philosophical lecture which we could find on the internet any day of the week. This would be an account of his own philosophical journey in search of God.

Not that he hadn't started out without God in the first place. He was always a believer. This was a philosophical quest to see how close to God we could get through philosophy alone.

He confessed a youthful preference for Acquinas but brought us on a journey in the company of some of the acknowledged philosophers and with the triple compass of metaphysics, existential phenomenology and theology.

They all brought us to the edge of the cliff and posited something beyond.

Masterson then looked at the attributes this overarching "being" would need to have and among other things came up with "infinite goodness".

I think that is where he lost me.

I was raised a Roman Catholic but would now class myself as an unbeliever/agnostic, but with loads of baggage. Separating out the baggage from the rest is not an easy, if not an impossible, task. So it might have been more a question of me losing him than him losing me. But I did detect an unwarranted jump at the end of the journey and didn't quite get a answer to my question.

However, it was a very stimulating and impressive lecture and one of the things that impressed me was that this man, with a whack of experience behind him and a string of qualifications after his name, had the grace and humility to admit it when he didn't know something. Full marks there.

I had a feeling that he was on two parallel journeys here. A philosophical quest and a personal search. And it was very difficult to disentangle them.

He was clearly in a very personal realm when he spoke of his wife who recently died. He felt in his heart and soul that she still existed beyond the mere memory of her. And that was quite evident in the wave of emotion that hit him at this point in his talk. So his quest to define his own set of personal beliefs, in a God and in an afterlife, has clearly been a success, if an evolving one.

The less personal and more academic quest for God seems to me to be still ongoing and may well stretch into that infinity where the conflict between infinite attributes will go on forever.

Incidentally, St. Mary's is currently celebrating its 175th anniversary. You should check it out. It is a beautiful church with many unique features and the lecture series is innovative, top quality, and a fitting tribute to the PP Patrick Flynn (RIP) who initiated and developed it.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Celtic Totem Pole

I have always seen the texture of Celtic Crosses as grey weathered stone. I knew the weathering had happened over the centuries, but what I didn't realise was that the original paint had also disappeared.

Yes, those guys actually painted their Celtic Crosses. Reminded me of native American totem poles. Nothing less.

I only discovered that today in the National Heritage Park in Ferrycarrig.

Blew my mind it did.

Hope it blows yours.

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Sunday, November 09, 2014


Where the Tech World Meets

This is a huge thing with 20,000 people attending and some of the biggest names in hi tech on stage and in the exhibition area. And it's happening in Dublin. Never mind the traffic jams all over the city. It's worth it to showcase Ireland, and Dublin, as a hi tech venue. The potential returns to Ireland in terms of tourism, start ups and hi tech FDI are enormous.

And what happens? The effing Wifi crashes and the promoter is seriously considering whether he needs to take the event elsewhere next year.

Admittedly attendance has grown from 500 a few years ago to 20,000 in 2014 and some growing pains are excusable at that exponential rate of growth.

But the Wifi crashed. At a showcase tech event. Come on.

The promoter was tearing his hair out. He wanted to bring in his own choice of Wifi provider from a pool which was used to dealing with this scale of event. But no. The venue, the RDS, insisted on using their own provider. And the Wifi crashed.

This was an effing national disaster of epic proportions.

Fortunately I don't have much hair to tear out and if this happened to me it's not my own hair I'd be tearing out.

It's not rocket science. This scale of event is successfully, and uneventfully (if you'll excuse the pun), Wifi'd at venues all over the world. So why is Dublin different?

Maybe someone should ask the RDS?

Nostri Plena Laboris
Our Best Effort
Not Good Enough

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