Wednesday, October 29, 2014

DUBLIN OPINION


Felix Larkin and the Long Fella
Click on image for larger version

My interest in cartoons really blossomed with the acquisition by the National Library of Ireland of a collection of almost 500 of Gordon Brewster's cartoons covering the period 1922 to 1932. But Felix Larkin was in there before me with his study and book on the Shemus cartoons of Ernest Forbes which are also in the National Library of Ireland. Both of these collections can be viewed online.

Well, Felix has now gone a step further with a study of DUBLIN OPINION (1922-1968) which is published as a contribution to a new book he has co-edited with Mark O'Brien. The book is titled Periodicals and Journalism in Twentieth-Century Ireland and looks like a gem.

His talk last night in Boston College (St. Stephen's Green), under the auspices of the Irish Historical Society, analysed the fortunes and failures of DUBLIN OPINION and was a tour de force. He brought a much loved publication back to life almost half a century after its demise. It was a publication that always made people smile and evoked great loyalty in its readers.

As Felix reminded us, its humour and satire was of the gentle variety which only went out of fashion with the advent of the more biting versions in Private Eye and the BBC's That Was The Week That Was.

I had been aware of the publication during my youth and smiled at its cartoons but I didn't know the story behind it. The magazine's stance was generally "agin the government", of whatever hue, and the amazing thing is that it was being run by a serving senior civil servant.

The talk was well received and was followed by a lively Q&A and comment session. Rumour has it that this continued well into the night in a nearby pub. Unfortunately I had to leave to write this post while it was all fresh in my head.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Judging W T


Click on any image for a larger version

The Royal Irish Academy published the latest book in their "Judging ..." series last evening. This is Michael Laffan's "Judging W T Cosgrave". I haven't yet read the book but if the speakers are to be believed it is not one to be missed.


Michael Laffan, Liam Cosgrave, Enda Kenny

WT Cosgrave was the first "Taoiseach" (President of the Executive Council) and he was in office from 1922 to 1932 at the head of the pro-Treaty Cumann na nGaedheal government.

He was not himself at the launch, as he died in 1965, but we had one current and two former Taoisigh present. WT's son Liam, now 94 and a former Taoiseach himself, gave a touching and illuminating speech about his father. Current Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, also spoke, more eloquently than usual, and formally launched the book. And the author, Michael Laffan, gave us some background and praised Liam for his cooperation in the writing of the book, though he said Liam might not like some of what he wrote. Former Taoiseach, John Bruton, was also present in the body of the audience.



Dolores Brewster

I have to come clean and admit that I was not really there for the book launch as such. I had learned that Dolores Brewster (m. Scott) and her daughter, Lynne Pentlow, had been invited and were flying in from Bristol to attend.

Dolores is the daughter of Gordon Brewster, the artist who was chief cartoonist and subsequently Art Editor in Independent Newspapers, including during WT's period as "Taoiseach". During those years he took at least 19 pokes at WT in his cartoons and Michael has included one of these, along with two having a go at WT's ministers (below) in his book.


See cartoon in NLI collection
Thanks to National Library of Ireland

This one has WT painting a "selfie" showing himself as the "knight in shining armour" slaying the dragon of foreign competition with the Sword of Tariff, all to protect native Irish industry.


See cartoon in NLI collection
Thanks to National Library of Ireland

This one takes a poke at Finance Minister, Ernest Blythe's, taking the shilling off the old age pension in 1924, reminding us that, at the same time, the politicians were coining it at the taxpayer's expense.


See cartoon in NLI collection
Thanks to National Library of Ireland

This one is sort of dynamite. It was published on 28 May 1927 and shows public opinion advising the Justice Minister, Kevin O'Higgins, to stop raking up past bitterness. He was assassinated just six weeks later.

Today's Irish Times carries a report on the occasion with extracts from the speeches.

Michael Laffan talks to Seán O'Rourke this morning on RTÉ radio 1.

I will be giving a talk in the National Library of Ireland on the library's collection of the Brewster cartoons at 1.15pm on 17th November 2014. All welcome.

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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Vanora


Vanora Bennett

There I was minding my own business when, tinkle, an email popped into my inbox. It was from a London-based bank I had been involved with during my working life. "Would you do an interview for our in-house magazine on your involvement with the early days of the bank", wondered the nice lady at the other end.

"Surely" I thought "this could be fun". And fun it was.

We arranged to do it by email and she sent me a few fairly general questions. As I set about answering them, memories flooded back, and before I knew it I was in the throes of regurgitating a full blown memoir.

"How are you doing" she asked after a respectable interval. A bit like a publisher asking a writer how the long awaited manuscript for his next book was coming along. "Maybe you are very busy and I was expecting too much? Should I take some of the material you've already blogged and work it in, to take some of the load off you. Maybe a thousand words or so?"

"No, no. I'm working on it and I'll have something by Monday." I'm sure publishers are used to getting that sort of stalling crap from their writers. So, I'll bet she got a shock when Monday morning came and ten thousand words tinkled into her inbox. An embarrassment of riches I hoped. And it seemed to go down well.

She culled the material to suit the interview, and within days I was in print in the inhouse magazine of this very prestigious bank.

Unfortunately I can't give you a link to it as the inhouse magazine is top secret and is rumoured to carry the code to the vault on it's masthead. Not the nice lady's fault. Policy.

Anyway I did learn something along the way which I can share with you.

When I went to the nice lady's website I found out that she was more than just a nice lady working on a bank's inhouse magazine.

She is a world famous author with a whack of acclaimed fiction and non-fiction titles to her name. She has been a war correspondent in some very troubled areas over the last two decades. And she is a violin maker.

So, brimming over with curiosity, out I went to my local library in case they might have one of her books. They had three, so I took them all and have now read two of them. You can see my reaction to The White Russian here and to Midnight in St. Petersburg here.

And that's the nice lady at the top of this post.

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Sunday, October 05, 2014

Richard Gardiner Brewster


Click any image for a larger version

The first I knew of Richard Gardiner Brewster was when I saw his name on his brother's grave.

I had gone to Kilbarrack graveyard to check out the grave of Gordon Brewster, the artist who had died in my mother's shop in 1946.




So from that point on, I was chasing up Gordon's brother as well as Gordon himself.

It was not long before I came across the website of Doug Vaugh who has a particular interest in the South Irish Horse Regiment in which Richard had enlisted. Doug sent me Richard's military records and they make very sad reading. You can see a summary of Richard's military career here


Then I found this photo of a plaque on the internet. It commemorated those parishioners from St. George's parish, Dublin, who died in WWI, and Richard's name was there.



So the next step was to check out the plaque. However, St. George's was no longer functioning as a church. It had become a nightclub, among other things, and my recollection from passing it on more recent occasions was that it had then become a commercial premises. So I resolved to make it my business to get in to have a look.

By the time I got round to that it had been vacated and was up for letting. To make a long story short, I contacted the letting agent who put me in touch with the owner, Eugene O'Connor. I explained to Eugene what I was at and he checked out the church. No sign of the above plaque, but what he did find was even more interesting.



A beautifully crafted stained glass window commemorating those parishioners who died in WWI. Richard's name was in one of the stained glass panels surrounding this magnificent resurrection window. Eugene sent me a photo, but I was anxious to also check it out for myself. I got the opportunity during Heritage Week when the [former] church was open and the Heritage Architect, James O'Connor, who had been involved in its magnificent restoration, was on site.


James told me that the original plaque I was looking for had not been in the church when Eugene became the owner. So that would have to be for another day.

However, on my was out I spotted a plaque to those parishioners who had been members of the Boys' Brigade and who had fallen in WWI.


And, sure enough, there was Richard's name and regiment.


Then back to the net for more searching, and up comes this plaque in the High School in Rathgar (Richard's name is second from bottom). Not a great picture, so I thought to try and take my own. I saw from the school's website that they had a full-time archivist, Alan Phelan, so I wrote to him. Then I discovered they were doing a project on WWI on another site so I wrote to them. That led me to Michelle Burrowes who is doing the project which is attempting to fill out the lives of the 900 or so pupils who enlisted, and more particularly the 80 or so who died.

Michelle already had a page up on Richard with information culled mainly from the school magazine "The Erasmian".

Alan had already revealed that both Richard and Theo attended High School and I dug up a few extra bits when I visited the archive. Meanwhile Michelle had unearthed a good quality photo of Richard in uniform (and one of Theo as well). I had some pictures of Richard from the family and she has now incorporated them into her page.


While I was there, Michelle showed me the alcove which houses their stained glass window, which is by the same artist as the one in St. George's, William McBride, though this one doesn't have individual names on it. And I could see why the photo of the plaque looked so poor. The plaques are at the side of the window and are awkwardly placed to photograph unless you come with your own lighting setup.


The next thing I came across on the web was a reference to another plaque in All Saints' Church, Phibsborough. So I contacted them and Rev. David Pierpoint suggested I come over one morning when there was a service. Which I did. The service was still in progress when I arrived and I had to keep pinching myself. This was high high church and I could have been at a Roman Catholic mass. I can at last understand how my mother and her friend on holiday in England all those years ago thought they were at mass until the celebrant started to "pray for the King, the head of our church".

Anyway, the plaque is a beautiful enamel picture, in stained glass style, with panels on either side with the names of all the parishioners who enlisted, and those who died shown in gold.


So both Richard and Theo figure on this one. The parish thing seems a bit inconsistent on the face of it but the Brewsters had lived at a number of addresses and would have had associations with a few parishes. This was the only plaque I found with Theo's name on it. He survived WWI.



Still searching for my first missing plaque, I learned that, when St. George's ceased to function as a church/parish, its function passed down the road to St. Thomas's in Cathal Brugha St. which is now St. Thomas and St. George. So I wondered if they might have inherited the plaque. I contacted Gillian Dean who invited me to come in and check it out, and I did find a plaque from St. George's. But this was the roll of honour for all who served in WWI from St. George's parish.


Richard's name figures on this, but no Theo.

Incidentally this church is relatively modern (1930). The original St. Thomas's was burned in the Civil War and rather than restore it the decision was made to demolish it and break Seán McDermott St. right through to O'Connell St. The connecting road is now Cathal Brugha St.


Richard is commemorated in two other non-church locations. His name is in the books of the fallen Irish which are kept in the Island Bridge Memorial Gardens (above) ...



... and at the Pozières Memorial in France near where he fell.


The picture of Richard above is from the High School archive to whom thanks for permission to reproduce it here.

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Saturday, October 04, 2014

Working on the Railway



Well, this Paddy wasn't exactly working on the railway. They don't have one in Jersey. But he did end up working for British Railways, in St. Helier, in 1961. They ran the ferries.

I was still at school. I had just done my Inter Cert and Summer holidays were looming. A job was arranged with a bank in Jersey. I think it was Barclay's. And that was fine and dandy.

When I arrived in Jersey, the man who was supposed to have arranged the job told me there wasn't one. Shock of my life. So I told him he'd brought me all this way; I had no where to go (which was only partly true); and there had better be a job.

So he fixed me up with a public counter job with British Railways in St. Helier.

I was dealing with parcels and with day trippers to France.

I have recorded one of my linguistic adventures here. And that was nothing to do with the local patois (otherwise known as Jèrriais) but with the Queen's own English which I thought I knew inside out even if I didn't always speak proper.

As far as the day trippers were concerned, the British and the French had organised a nifty system. UK visitors to Jersey came for the weather and the touch of Frenchness on the island. Despite is proximity to the French coast it was still British, a Crown Dependency, and they would not have needed to bring their passports. So how to organise a day trip to France? Well, in place of a passport, I issued them one day only ID cards. The card was in triplicate [and needed a photo for each section ?]. I kept one section, they handed up a section on entering France and the final one on leaving that country. The French authorities matched their two portions each evening and if there was not a corresponding exit section for each entry one, then the hunt was on. If there was any possibility that they had left and that section had not been handed up or had gone missing, then we had a corresponding section with which the authorities could hunt them down on the island. I almost felt like I had entered the diplomatic and the secret service all in the one go.

The British Railways Agent in Jersey (ie the boss of the Jersey operation) was a man called R.D.Roberts. His next assignment, which was fast approaching, was to become the Agent in Dublin. When he heard where I was from (or maybe that's why I got the job) he asked if I could come up to his office a few days after work and brief him on Ireland and Dublin. That worked out OK, but he had one question which absolutely floored me. Would he have to learn Irish to speak to the dockers? I reassured him on that one but it was very interesting. It told me two things. First that Ireland's propaganda regarding the status and practice of the Irish language had spread far and wide. And second, that he did intend to speak with the dockers and was prepared to knuckle down to learning some Irish if that was what was required. I don't know how things worked out for him in Dublin as I never saw him after I left Jersey.

Another thing that stays with me is wrapping up the books at the end of the day. Anyone who has worked in a shop or at a counter knows that reconciling the day's takings with the day's activity can be a curse and there is always some little niggle of an error. But that is not what stayed with me. These was the days of pounds, shillings, pence, and bits of pence (£.s.d.to you). Well my way of adding up a cash column, and I'm sure nearly everyone else's, was to do the bits first (ha'pennies and farthings) and carry the pennies into the next column, then do the pennies and carry the shillings and finally do the shillings and carry the pounds into the final column while adding that up. I would style that vertical adding. This guy just added up whole terms: first row £sd + next row £sd and so on and then just wrote down one final answer. Never saw anything like it before or since. Horizontal adding to beat the band.

Anyway, that was this Paddy's experience of British Railways in Jersey.

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Thursday, October 02, 2014

History


Felix Larkin on FX Martin
in the Central Catholic Library

You really can't get away from it. The country is in the middle of an anniversary bubble. We are told it will remain there for the next decade or so, presumably until the centenary of the end of the Civil War.

Well, its probably no harm. At least these anniversaries provoke a raft of new research, bring up old controversies and sometimes give rise to new ones.

Given the kind of history I got in school, and which influences me up to this day, this probing must be a good thing. I was raised on the simplistic nationalist version which saw "Irish good, British bad" and I was overawed by the "blood sacrifice".

Now we are finding out that these guys were human after all, that some of the nice guys may not have been so nice and and some of the not-so-nice guys may have something going for them at the end of the day.

The coincidence of two talks on two consecutive days brought this home very vividly to me.

The first, by Felix Larkin (above), was on FX Martin, who, in the hubris of the 50th anniversary of the 1916 rising dared to question its morality. An oversimplified version would be that FX rehabilitated Eoin McNeill at the expense of Pearse and his "blood sacrifice". OK, so it was a lot more complicated than that, but in taking a cold hard look at 1916, FX left us a legacy that many of us still have difficulty coming to terms with.

The morality of the rising cannot be justified in retrospect by its success in failure which was significantly aided by the executions and the establishment by the British of the Frongoch rebel university and training camp. Seen in prospect, the rising did not fulfill the conditions required for a moral revolt. And this is FX's main theme which Felix explored for a rapt and packed audience. The overflow was such that he nearly had to surrender his lectern as well as his chair.

The second talk was a sort of rehabilitation of John Redmond who has been airbrushed out of Irish history and whose dilapidated vault in a small graveyard in the middle of Wexford town testifies mightily to that fact.

Redmond achieved something that eluded both O'Connell and Parnell. He got Home Rule signed into law. How that would have ultimately translated into reality is not clear. Partition was the big bugbear; there was, however, the possible makings of a deal on offer that just might have been acceptable at that stage but WWI intervened and it was not tested. Then we had 1916 and the context changed utterly. So Redmond's "victory" cannot be validated at the end of the day.


Dermot Meleady on John Redmond
in Raheny Library

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Knockananna


Photo: Michael Wayne
Click any image for a larger version

It all started with an out of the blue email from Michael Wayne in Florida. When I saw the intro, "Mr. Póló", I immediately thought it was one of those spam things. Fortunately my curiosity got the better of me and I read on.

Some of Michael's people were Whelans from the Knockananna area in Co. Wicklow. He had Googled the place and come up with my web page on the village and then got in touch with me.

His main purpose was to enquire about a plaque he had seen on one of the family graves during a visit to Knockananna last year. You can see the plaque above. The Gaelic script led him to believe it was in Irish but he could not find a translation. The script is certainly misleading and the text turns out to be a Latin version of Matthew 20.1 "The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a landowner .." and so on into the parable of the Vineyard.


Photo: Michael Wayne

Once we got that out of the way, he told me this amazing story.

Some twenty years ago his mother had given him a plastic sealed envelope of papers and photos on the history of her side of the family: the Whelan’s. He wasn't hugely interested at the time and, after a cursory reading, chucked it into the back of a drawer. The bulk of the information in the packet was an essay and story based on much research done by a distant (Whelan) relative named Dan Wagner in the early 1970’s who had typed out this large volume of pages about the Whelan family history and the ancestral area around Knockananna.

This year, Michael and his wife Kendra were planning a visit to Ireland. "I decided then that one of the trips we had to take while in Ireland was to try to track down the family gravesites in Knockananna so I made a copy of Dan’s entire packet and the photos along with a “to whom it may concern” letter about who I was, and my contact information. I put it all in a waterproof envelope and figured if I did find a Whelan gravesite I would just leave the envelope at the site and see what, if anything, would happen".


Photo: Michael Wayne

In the event, he changed his mind and left it in the adjacent church. Instead, he left a bottle of Guinness at the grave.

Some while later, he got an email from a Whelan relative in Knockananna. Someone had taken the packet from the church and passed it on to the relative who was thrilled to get the information it contained. Her family had been aware of some visitor from the States way back who was collecting information on the family, but they knew no more.


And lo and behold, when I checked out my own photos of the graveyard from last Christmas, I found I had taken a photo of the very same grave, and it appears the Parish Priest had meanwhile confiscated (scoffed?) the bottle of Guinness. I had taken my photo because of the interesting way the illustration had been worked into the gravestone. This was a feature of a number of the gravestones there.

So there you are.

Isn't the internet a truly amazing place.

You can read Michael's own story and see a photo of his mother and grandmother.

My page on Knockananna.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bono's House


Click any image for a larger version

It's really all the fault of the Vico Road.

Everyone knows that the Vico Road is in Dalkey.
Bono lives on the Vico Road.
Therefore, Bono lives in Dalkey.

I'm fed up of reading that shite.

You see not all of the Vico Road is in Dalkey. Quite a substantial part of it is in Killiney and where Bono lives is in both the former urban district and current townland of Killiney.

Bono lives in Killiney. Enya lives in Killiney.

It's Pat Kenny that lives in Dalkey and who would want to end up in that neighbourhood.

Just so people will know the score, the map below shows the border between the former urban districts of Killiney and Dalkey and it's a good uphill walk from Bono's house, highlighted in yellow at the bottom.


Bono lives on the actual townland of Killiney, one of the constituent townlands of the former Killiney and Ballybrack urban district.


So there.

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Friday, September 05, 2014

Where is it ? No. 34


To see all the quiz items click on the "Where?" tag below.

To see all the unsolved quiz items click on the "unsolved" tag below.

This one again solved by Felix Larkin.

Is he the only guy/gal in town with their eyes open?


As he's mentioned a clue, I should say that all I said to him was "You of all people!".

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

#SackTheSub


Eilis O'Hanlon
"Write a letter"

I have become so infuriated with typos and inaccuracies in the newspapers that I have adopted a Twitter hashtag #SackTheSub, the idea being that the Sub-Editor, whose job it is, should have picked up on this stuff before it went to print.

Sacking the Sub would not have helped in the little spat I had with Eilis O'Hanlon way back because in her case she had inaccurately, and detrimentally, misquoted Pope Francis. No Sub would have been expected to pick that up. That was the journalist's own job. I pointed out to her that she had falsely attributed a mysoginistic quote to the Pope, which she subsequently knew to be false, and I asked if she intended to correct it. Her response was to tell me to write in a letter as that how this is done nowadays.

I was very taken aback at this. Instead of correcting her error in the following issue she wanted me to try and correct it by writing in to the newspaper. This is nuts, I thought. But this week I read a piece in Phoenix which seemed to confirm her stance as what is now standard practice, in the Sunday Independent at least. Of course, that does not make it good journalism.

This is what Phoenix had to say:


Phoenix 29 August 2014 p12
Click text for larger version

I understand the system works by allowing the writer/reporter to enter copy directly into a template of the page where they will have been allocated a certain space. The disadvantage to the reader is twofold.

In the first place the copy is not subject to checking by anyone other than the originator and that may consist of a simple automatic spell check.

In the second place, nobody is determining the relative importance of the item after seeing the copy. It could have fizzled out as an item but in today's competitive environment no journalist sent out for a story is going to admit this, so the reader will end up with inflated copy.

I would hate to undermine the enthusiasm of any writer of copy, but I do think they ought to be aware of this before their next filing.

It seems to me that this development partly undermines the mainstream media's claim to journalistic superiority over mere bloggers. The MSM have always boasted that their copy has to pass a screening process before it is launched on the public whereas bloggers type straight to print, as it were.

I suppose I should have been prepared for something like this from my even earlier spat with RTÉ Automatic Radio some three years ago.

Anyway, time to lighten up, so here's a piece of classy sub-editing from the pen of Gordon Brewster in the Sunday Independent of long ago, probably 1920s or 1930s.


Thanks to National Library of Ireland
Click image for larger version
See original

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Monday, September 01, 2014

Conkers


Click image for larger version

It looks like there will be a good crop this year.

My attention was drawn to the chestnut trees the other day when I saw a group of youngsters gathered underneath them picking up some fallen chestnuts. They must have been blown down by the wind as what's there doesn't yet look like it's ready to fall of its own accord, though one did fall on the roof of the car with a loud bang as we drove under it the other day.

It's good to see the estate going through another generation of youngsters and them taking an interest. They also look like they understand that the wait will be worth it as the chestnuts grow to maturity and fall to the ground.

Not a stick in sight.

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

St. George's


Former St. George's Church, Hardwicke Place
Click any image for larger version

I am currently working on a talk on the cartoons of Gordon Brewster and on some aspects of his life. A major influence on the family was the death of Gordon's brother, Richard, towards the end of WWI.

I had been told there was a plaque with Richard's name on it in St. George's church in Dublin and I had seen a photo of it online.

In trying to trace the plaque I encountered Eugene O'Connor who now owns the former church which is currently seeking a commercial tenant. Eugene discovered that there was a stained glass window on which Richard is mentioned and that only made me all the more anxious to gain access to the interior.

Well, today was the day. The premises is open at the moment as part of Heritage Week and Eugene arranged for me to meet James O'Connor, the heritage architect on the project.

The place would blow you away. Not only has the exterior been saved from demolition but it has been lovingly restored and is now in magnificent shape. The interior is something else. Eugene and James have fully conserved the inner walls, including the organ, the memorial plaques and, of course, the stained glass window, along with some others.

But the way the premises is now fitted out as commercial floorspace is something else again. It is essentially a free-standing open plan structure within the building and the result is that you can still see the inside of the outer walls, including the stained glass windows. Of course the pews and the altar are gone, having given way to this office space. You can read details of the restoration here. Purely incidentally, I had already come across the altar rails in St. Iberius in Wexford town. These are the rails at which the Duke of Wellington was married, but that is another story entirely.

Anyway, I was anxious to see the full window and hoped I would be able to get a photo, which I did.


Memorial Window 1914-18

It is a magnificent resurrection window, as you can see. The border panels with the wreaths each contain the names of three parishioners who fell in WWI.


No greater love ...

The, by now, standard inscription honouring those who gave their lives is at the top, and while many might feel that, rather than giving, they had their lives taken away from them, that is not a reason to deny them the honour.


Fallen parishioners

The bottom script explains that the window honours parishioners who fell in WWI.


Richard G Brewster

This is the panel with Richard's name on it. It is in the top right hand corner of the window.


Boys Brigade Fallen

I did not succeed in finding the actual plaque I was looking for and James told me that it was not in the church when Eugene acquired it. The church in Cathal Brugha St., just down the road, inherited the parish functions and I may go in there just to see if the plaque was transferred.

Meanwhile on my way out I spotted the plaque above. The list of names is shorter and the regiments are specified. These are a subset of fallen parishioners who had also been members of the parish Boys' Brigade.


Richard G Brewster

There is Richard's name and regiment.

So, all in all, a good morning's work.

And, if you want to locate your business in a truly prestige premises, this is it.



Postscript 14/9/2014

It is quite amazing how research can lead you up all sorts of paths and turn up the most weird and wonderful connections.

My research on Richard Brewster, as well as leading me to St. George's, also led me to a plaque in High School, Rathgar, which commemorates pupils of the school who fell in WWI. Richard was one of these.

Michelle Burrowes is undertaking an extensive project commemorating the 1,000 pupils who enlisted in WWI and more particularly the 79 pupils who fell in that war. Richard's brother Theo, was among those who survived.

There is a beautiful stained glass window in the school - the High School Great War Memorial window. It is the work of William McBride and Michelle wondered if the window in St. George's might also be one of his. She has now established that it is. And so we are now linking the two windows virtually.

You can see the High School window here and it would be well worth your while to have a good look around this impressive site. There are links to the rest of the site in the right hand column of the window page.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Albert Reynolds RIP


Albert Reynolds, RIP

Albert Reynolds was my Minister from November 1988 to November 1991. He was the Minister for Finance and I worked in that Department (Ministry).

I didn't have any direct contact with him in the early days, or even during the negotiations for the establishment of the EBRD from late 1989 to mid 1990, which body of work was on my desk. The negotiations were led by Michael Somers and the then Taoiseach, Charlie Haughey, took a hands on interest in them as they had been initiated by his good friend French President Mitterand and Ireland held the EU Presidency in the first half of 1990.

Albert's first real involvement with EBRD was the signing of the Articles of Agreement in May 1990 at the Elysée Palace in Paris. He actually signed the articles twice. No, not in a gesture of extravagance which would not have been his form, but firstly as the Bank's Governor for Ireland and secondly on behalf of the EU Presidency.

His next involvement with the EBRD was at the inauguration of the Bank in London in April 1991. By then we had, of course, relinquished the EU Presidency and he was attending solely in his capacity of Governor for Ireland.

The Chairman and CEO of the Bank was President Mitterand's former adviser Jacques Attali and, as a man of high culture, he had arranged a working lunch for Governors where they would be entertained by the renowned cellist Rostropovich. As I have explained elsewhere, Attali had invited Mary Robinson, the newly elected President of Ireland, to the lunch in place of the lowlier Finance Minister and Governor for Ireland. I felt obliged to get this protocol gaff reversed and managed it by citing the likelihood of an Irish constitutional crisis if Attali persisted in his mistaken campaign to notch up as many Heads of State as possible at every function he organised. This was a working lunch for Governors and the presence of a constitutional Head of State with no executive functions related to the Bank was completely inappropriate.

I don't know if Albert appreciated Rostropovich more than Mary Robinson would have but that was not my problem.

I don't think he was in any way impressed by people's nominal status. I introduced him to Viktor Gerashchenko, then head of the Soviet Central Bank, and the lead Soviet negotiator at the talks. I thought he might like to have said hello to a Soviet dinosaur as the USSR was coming apart. He hadn't the slightest interest.

As it happened, after the first day, Albert got fed up with the whole thing and I got a call in the middle of the night to say he wanted to go straight back to Dublin. This was arranged for first thing the following morning.

Now Albert's speech was scheduled for that morning and as I was now Head of Delegation I was faced with either cancelling it or making it myself. As I had written the speech I was loath to see it vanish so I opted to give it myself. The Norwegian Minister, whose speech was scheduled for the afternoon, was also anxious to be gone. He was looking for a morning speaker to swap with and, as I was going to be around anyway, I swapped slots with the Norwegians. That gave me plenty of time to make a few amendments to the speech to insert a few, not too obvious, digs at Attali who had been getting on my wick from a good while back.

I did inform the secretariat of both the swap and change of personnel but the latter never got as far as the captioners in the video room. So the video of me went out captioned as Albert Reynolds, Governor for Ireland. It is now presumably reposing in some archive and may well confuse historians in times to come.

Finally, Albert is accused of being a "one page man" as thought he couldn't read more than a single page at a session. It was very clearly explained in this morning's excellent Today with Seán O'Rourke that this originally stemmed from Albert, the businessman, insisting on any proposal put to him not going over one page. If he liked it he would then follow it up. In a ministerial/civil service context the "one page" submission also served a purpose. It meant that the person writing it had to have a very clear idea what precisely they were proposing that the minister do and it also gave him a very focused action brief.

Some more EBRD reminisences

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Grove


The Grove in Brewster's 1932 cartoon
(with thanks to the National Library of Ireland)

I have already mentioned, on this blog, that I will be doing a talk in the National Library of Ireland on the artist and cartoonist Gordon Brewster. This is now set for 1pm on 17th November 2014. In the course of preparing for the talk I am doing a more intensive analysis of his cartoons than hitherto. Yesterday I was looking at the one above. It's from 1932 and is entitled The Election Aftermath.

My interest was taken, however, not so much by the posters as by the house itself, named The Grove. Now this was 1932 and some five years later Brewster came to live in a newly built house in Sutton which he named The Grove.

It occurred to me to wonder if there was any connection between the cartoon and his new house of five years later.

Judge for yourself.


The Grove today

There are, of course, many possible rational explanations for this. Nevertheless, it felt a bit spooky standing outside The Grove today taking the photo. A bit like going back in time into one of Brewster's cartoons.

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