Saturday, June 18, 2016
The internet is surely a funny place. The seriously literary tweet above turns up in my Twitter timeline, retweeted by friend, historian and scholar, Felix Larkin.
I was curious on two fronts. What was the French interest in our National Library and I was also intrigued by the very clever moniker which implied a lively interest in literature. Just how lively I was about to find out.
So I clicked on their addy and up came their Twitter profile. Deinitely a serious literary crowd I thought.
So I went one step further and clicked on their website and hey presto.
An amorous nude couple in Michaelangelo marble and the provocative statement to the effect that book readers pull more birds.
But enough of that for the moment.
What really caught my eye was a picture of Johnny Halliday in an adjacent news item.
Now, my reaction was probably typical of someone of my advanced age: "Jaysus, is he still alive?".
Well he is and he is in deep shit.
When I was an au pair boy in France in 1963, Johnny was all the rage - the French Elvis.
Along with the equally popular French singer, Sylvie Vartan, he dominated issues of the then new pop magazine "Salut les Copains". He and Sylvie were an item by then. They toured together and married in 1965. The marriage lasted till 1980 and Johnny has gone through a few more wives since then. But in 1963 it was all fresh and innocent.
I learned French words like Cacolac and Velosolex along with some slightly stronger ones from my French protegés. But that's a whole nudder story.
Johnny has now published his autobiography, "Dans Mes Yeux", in which he has some not very nice things to say about his third, last but one, wife Adeline Bandieau.
He described her as "vile", "hysterical" and "fickle" and went on to accuse her of having been unfaithful and having it off with those little punks in Saint Tropez and then acting like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.
She took him to court for defamation and lost. Apparently, according to the court, this sort of stuff is now run of the mill and so does not seriously affect anyone's reputation. To add insult to injury the publisher awarded her €2.
Her brother, who is a lawyer, then took the case to the appeal court which found for her and Johnny now owes her €2,500.
In the course of all these legal shenanigans she accused Johnny of sexually molesting her when she was 15 and, because this was said in court during a trial, it is privileged and he has no come back.
All a long way from those innocent days in 1963.
But to get back to this serious literature thing. Apparently surveys have shown that people who read books have a better chance of hitting it off and going the whole hog (so to speak).
One of the articles in Actualitté goes even further and suggests (above) that it is unwise to embark on a sexual relationship with a person who does not read books.
At the other end of the literary spectrum, it suggests that should one be lucky enough to pick up a date with a librarian the earth could well move.
[Pseudo-legal disclaimer: whatever about librarians in the commercial or academic sector, the total disarray of the material in the illustration above (as used by Actualitté itself) could not be further from the magnificent job being done by our own National Library which I have praised elsewhere.]
Thursday, June 16, 2016
This is Davy's pub in Leeson Street, Dublin, to where the perpetrators of the Phoenix Park Murders retired after their dreadful deed on 6 May 1882.
That's where I went this evening, on Bloomsday in this year of Our Lord 2016.
Was I sitting on one of the same stools as the perpetrators? I doubt it, as this is now the Leeson Lounge and the decor is changed utterly.
I was there to hear Senan Molony talk about the murders, particularly as they were retailed in one of the chapters of Joyce's Ulysses.
In the run up to Senan's act, we were treated to some songs which appeared in Joyce's works and even one actually set to music by the great man himself.
The songs were sung by a Dutch lady whose stage name is Truly Divine. And truly divine they were. This lady is a self taught jazz singer with professional theatrical training and she is a wow. A beautiful voice with a great variety of tonality and great delivery.
It was well worth coming in for this alone.
I'd have liked to hear her sing Piaf and asked her about that. Yes, she does, a little, but more Marlene Dietrich and Doris Day. But her Joyce songs, interspersed with commentary were great. I'd have listened all night.
But that's not what I was there for. I went to see and hear Senan Moloney on the Murders. Readers will know that I have a bone to pick with him, but this turned out not to be the night.
His session got of to a sombre start when he was obliged to refer to the murder of Yorkshire Labour MP Jo Cox who had been shot and stabbed and had died on this very day. This was a tricky one as Senan's talk was about a Yorkshire MP who had been stabbed to death on 6 May 1882 in the Phoenix Park, Lord Cavendish.
In any event tonight's show would go on, but the day's events would add a poignancy to this retelling of an older story.
Senan's talk was quite interesting and he spiced it with some over the top impersonations of Joyce's characters.
His main chapter concerned some newspapermen discussing the murders sixteen years later on 16 June 1904 (Bloomsday) and he explained how Joyce's text was taking potshots at newspaper men in general.
You really had to take Joyce's text apart to understand how he was getting it up for the newspaper guys and Senan gave us a good exegesis of the text.
In passing, he was critical of the English newspapers at the time of the murders when they had tried to implicate Parnell in the dreadful deed although he had nothing to do with it.
He told that one with such a straight face that I'm sure his own earlier linking of Albert Folens with Nazis and war criminals was the last thing on his mind.
Anyway, if he gives the talk again somewhere it would be worth going along.
It might just tempt you to read Ulysses or it might put you off entirely.
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Bloomsday as a public occasion didn't start to take off until 1954 when a number of Dublin literati made a pilgrimage out to Joyce's Tower in Sandycove. It has slowly caught on and with performers like David Norris coming on the scene it really took off in more recent times.
Bloomsday 110th Anniversary @ Martello No.7 (2014)
(l-r) Niall O'Donoghue, David Hedegan (RIP) and Felix Larkin
Not being a literary type, and prepared to admit that I have never read Ulysses, the day never made much of an impression on me until, very much into later life, I started taking an interest in Martello Towers, mine being principally in No.7 Killiney Bay.
The day then took on a more personal commemorative interest when I realised that it was on that day in 1946 that Gordon Brewster, artist and cartoonist, died in my mother's shop in Howth, and it was on that day in 1948 that my grand-aunt Margaret died in Portrane Asylum, having been there for thirty years.
Despite the emotional loading of the occasion I have no plans to attend any event in particular though I did skim the programme out of pure curiosity. In the course of this I came on the above event where Senan Molony, currently political editor of the Irish Daily Mail, will be recounting the story of "Skin the Goat" (James FitzHarris) who was the driver for the assassins at the Phoenix Park Murders in 1882.
The connection with Bloomsday is apparently Joyce's reference to Myles Crawford recounting the journalist Gallagher's scoop on the Murders. Not being a Joyce exegesist myself I'll leave you to disentangle the affair in this Chapter of Ulysses or you could always go along and hear Senan's version.
Unfortunately, Joyce didn't mention Albert Folens because, as he might have said himself, time didn't permit. Otherwise Senan might have thrown in, as a bonus, his own "scoop" on how Albert Folens was a Nazi, that is until the matter, as intended to be relayed by RTÉ in 2007, went to court and the claim was then reluctantly accompanied by some qualification. Nevertheless, Folens's reputation was truly assassinated and the reverberations are round to this day.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Sure, I had heard of the Battle of Jutland but I knew nothing about it and I had no particular interest in it. I had an uncle killed on the Somme and a granduncle who came home injured and that was enough of a connection with WWI to be going on with.
Anyway, I had given up history in school after Inter Cert as it was just a list of names, dates and battles and I was hopeless at rote learning.
So the Battle of Jutland was just a name floating around in an amorphous space called history.
That is until a hitherto unknown branch of my family found me on the internet a month or two ago. They are living in Neath, near Port Talbot in South Wales so I wouldn't exactly run in to them in the street. As it happened they discovered a common pair of ancestors and we took it from there. Here's how it goes and how it gets to Jutland.
My grandfather, Patrick Mortimer, had a brother, Francis. Francis Mortimer had a son, Patrick Joseph. Patrick Joseph Mortimer took a wife, Catherine. Catherine Daly had a brother, Patrick Joseph. Patrick Joseph Daly, was an Able Seaman who went down with the HMS Tipperary in the Battle of Jutland on 1 June 1916.
For the non-genealogists among my readers, that makes him the brother in law of a first cousin once removed.
In naval terms, the battle of Jutland was the clash of the titans, with the British navy confronting its German counterpart over about 12 hours on 31 May 1916.
The battle involved about 100,000 sailors in 250 ships (151 British and 99 German). Almost 9,000 sailors died, two thirds of them British. Twenty five ships were lost (14 British versus 11 German) but if you look at the tonnage, losses by the British were twice those of the Germans (113K versus 62K).
Nevertheless both sides ended up claiming victory. The Germans claimed they'd won on the basis of the statistics above. The British (rightly) claimed they'd won as, despite the heavier casualties, they had bottled in the German fleet and ensured that it would no longer be able to take part in the war.
Things then got sort of complicated with the Germans relying on intensive submarine operations and the Americans coming into the war, but you get the general message about Jutland.
The Tipperary had been built at Cowes, originally ordered for the Chilean Navy and launched in March 1915. In the circumstances the British acquired it and its sister ships and at Jutland the Tipperary was the leader of a flotilla of destroyers.
There was a lot of confusion during the battle and various sections of the British fleet fell out of contact with one another and were operating blind, so to speak.
The last hours of the Tipperary are graphically described below by members of the HMS Spitfire which actually made it back to port after the battle.
At 9.30pm they [the flotilla of destroyers] were forming up 5 miles astern of the Battle Fleet. They did not know the outcome of the battle, where the enemy were or even where most of their ships were – only that they should form 5 miles astern of the Battle Fleet. By 10.00pm they were settled in line ahead – Tipperary leading, Spitfire, Sparrowhawk, Garland and Contest of the 1st Division following.
It was a very dark night as there was no moon, and the sky was overcast and the atmosphere hazy.
They were very nervous of running into their own ships by mistake and had been ordered to keep a sharp lookout for the enemy. In the darkness they could make out ships closing them from astern, Tipperary made the challenge; they were British. Shortly before midnight they saw again the dark shape of a line of ships on their starboard quarter, occasional glare in their funnel smoke. Some thought they were friends, but they could just as well be the enemy, so 21” torpedo tube and 4” gun were kept trained on them.
But here visibility was under 1000 yards and when the dark outlines were nearly abeam, at a range of between 500 and 700 yards Tipperary again made the challenge…
The reply was all three ships switching on a blaze of searchlights. The majority of these lights were trained on the Tipperary and only a few stray beams lit on us and on our next astern. Then these lights went out, and after an extraordinarily short pause were switched on again, and at the same moment a regular rain of shell was concentrated on our unfortunate leader, and in less than a minute she was hit and badly on fire forward.
At the same moment we fired our 2 torpedoes and saw one of them hit. But I saw the most infernal storm of shells hitting the water just ahead of us, and all around the Tipperary.
as soon as we resumed our course, we saw Tipperary behind us, a dreadful, burning torch. She was stopped and being fired at under the concentration of the enemy’s searchlights. So back we went to attack the ships attacking her.
The Captain decided to go to the assistance of the Tipperary and, if necessary, carry on action with their guns. As they got near he felt maddened at seeing their leader disabled and being so fiercely attacked. He gave what seemed the hopeless order to fire at searchlights, which, as if at target practice, winked, and went out.
We closed the Tipperary, now a mass of burning wreckage and looking a very sad sight indeed. At a distance her bridge, wheel-house and chart-house appeared to be one sheet of flame, giving one the impression of a burning house, and so bright was the light from this part that it seemed to obliterate one’s vision of the remainder of the ship and of the sea round about, except that part close to her which was all lit up, reflecting the flames.
(The account of HMS Spitfire at Jutland is courtesy of Alan Bush, grandson of Lt. Athelstan P Bush)
The Tipperary sank in the early hours of 1 June 1916. Of her complement of 197, 185 died, 4 were wounded and 8 taken prisoner. Her Captain, Charles J Wintour, went down with his ship.
Jutland Memorial Park
Photo: The Telegraph
As the centenary of the battle approaches we find two major memorials on the west coast of Jutland near where the sea battle took place. The first is Sea War Museum Jutland which displays artifacts from the battle and also functions as an interpretive centre. The second is a novel memorial park where each lost ship is represented by a large stone monument and the hope is to add some 9,000 anonymous sculpted figures representing each of the sailors lost in the battle and grouped around the monument to their ship.
Map showing relative position of wrecks
HMS Tipperary highlighted
Click on image for a larger version
The ships' memorials are laid out relative to their positions on the seabed. You can see the Tipprary highlighted in the map above.
According to his navy record, Patrick Joseph Daly was born in Dublin on 7 March 1887 and when he enlisted in the Royal Navy, in July 1904, he was 17 years of age. He had previously been working as a gilder. He served on a number of ships during his naval career and reports on his character varied from satisfactory to very good.
The record shows a break in his service from 1 April 1911 to 2 April 1912. On the night of the 1911 census he appears, living at home in Dublin's Grenville Street. It is likely that his period of leave followed his father's death and that he had come home to support his mother either financially or emotionally. His occupation at this stage is listed as bootmaker, the same as his father's and brother's.
He was back on duty in April 1912 and served continuously up to his death in 1918.
Here are some useful links if you want to follow up on any of this.
Karen's History Hub Ulster - Irish Sailor
Animation describing the Battle (24 mins)
The Battle in Wikipedia
The Tipperary in Wikipedia
The Telegraph (UK) on the Battle & Memorial
General information on the memorial site
Ronan McGreevy on the Irish at Jutland
Sunday, May 22, 2016
I'll make this short.
Vulnerable lady abused by Churchwarden. She kicks up a fuss, particularly with the Dean of Jersey, head of the Church of England on the island. He is complicit in having her "deported".
Inquiry criticises the Dean. His bishop, Tim Dakin of Winchester, tries to sack him but can't because the Dean is partly directly appointed by the Queen as Jersey is a crown dependency.
Jersey establishment organise another inquiry which is demonstrably biased. Dakin refuses to publish it. Jersey is transferred out of Winchester diocese. Archbishop of Canterbury now reported to have made unreserved apology to the Dean. This is trumpeted as an exoneration of the Dean by the Jersey establishment (Senator and former Bailiff Philip Bailhache) who calls for the publication of the biased report which he claims also exonerates the Dean.
Tim Dakin refuses to accept implied exoneration and makes a new apology to the victim.
That's it in a nutshell and the only authority figure to come out of this with any honour looks like being Tim Dakin.
I explained the background in detail a good while ago and you can read the Jersey Evening Post reports of the Archbishop's apology and Dakin's response.
Friday, May 20, 2016
I'm still with the 200th birthday of the Ha'penny Bridge over Dublin's River Liffey.
In a previous post I covered the first of the two events organised by the City Council. This is the second event - a series of short talks in City Hall dealing with different aspects of the bridge. These will be published in a forthcoming book from Four Courts Press later in the year.
The session kicked off with an introductory overview of the history of the bridge from City Archivist, Mary Clarke.
The bridge replaced an earlier ferry in 1816. The fare/toll was the same, a ha'penny, but business boomed across the bridge, so to speak, and much money was made. In 1919 the toll was abolished after the bridge had paid for itself many times over. Now it is crossed by about thirty thousand people each day.
The bridge was conceived during the mayoralty of John Claudius Beresford, who Mary mentioned was considered the black sheep of the family due to some of his cruel and insensitive acts. I'm sure Mary must have confirmed that with his descendants earlier in the day.
Next we had Eibhlin Roche, from the Guinness Archive, recalling memories of the Guinness barges that plied the river well into my time.
It was always great fun to watch them going under the bridges at high tide when they had to fold down the funnel. This produced a great puff of smoke as the barge went in under the bridge. I suppose we were really watching to see would they remember to fold the funnel in time. To our disappointment, they always did.
Logan Sisley, from the Hugh Lane Gallery, beside where I went to school, brought me up with a start.
He was talking about the controversy over the location of the gallery which Hugh Lane insisted be built for the priceless collection of paintings he proposed leaving to Ireland.
The relevance to this session is that the Ha'penny Bridge was one of the locations which was very strongly pushed. It would have been designed by Edward Lutyens and would have seen the end of the Ha'penny Bridge.
There were many places suggested as a location for the gallery, but what actually drew me up short was Logan's cartoon by Gordon Brewster of his conception of how it would have looked on top of Nelson's Pillar.
I have an interest in Gordon and had not seen the cartoon before. It's a sort of interesting piece of trivia that Gordon's only known extant painting is actually in the current Hugh Lane Gallery in Parnell Square, though not on display,
Seán Harrington was talking about design aspects of the Ha'penny Bridge and how these inspired him in undertaking the design and construction aspects of the adjacent Millennium Bridge, for which he won the competition, and subsequently the Rosie Hackett Bridge further downstream, which he also designed.
The man was talking poetry, and to an enraptured audience.
Then he produced his wee model to demonstrate the technique for flattening the curve of the bridge while maintaining safety. He used the same technique as the designers of the Ha'penny Bridge but improved on it for both the Millennium and Rosie Hackett bridges.
Patrick Gorman was involved in the refurbishment of the Ha'penny Bridge from the City Council's bridge department. He recounted the various technical challenges facing the Council and his own particularly ingenious solution to one of them.
Over and above his involvement with the actual restoration of the bridge, Patrick was responsible for submitting the project as an entry in the prestigious Europa Nostra heritage competition in 2002. The project was awarded a diploma in the conservation section which Patrick duly picked up in Brussels in May 2003.
I am well aware of the prestige associated with the Europa Nostra awards having been involved in submitting the 2014 entry for the restored Martello Tower in Killiney, which got a special mention from the Jury.
Patrick didn't have a conservation architect on the job and at one stage he was told to get one pronto.
That's where Paul Arnold came in. His primary task was to ensure that as much of the original material as possible was preserved in the refurbishment. Following surveys it was determined that most of it could be kept but would need extensive restoration work done on it. Much of this was undertaken by Harland and Wolff in Belfast.
Annette Black was to give a social history of the bridge and her acrostic approach looked promising. Unfortunately I had to leave at that point and didn't get to hear her talk.
I'm sure you can catch up on Annette's contribution when the book comes out.
I have titled this post A Ha'porth of Tar, not just because of the Ha'penny connotations but because it is clear from its durability that the ha'porth of tar was not spared on the Ha'penny Bridge.
Yesterday (19/5/2016) was the 200th birthday of the Ha'penny Bridge, Dublin's first pedestrian bridge over the Liffey. It connects Merchant's Arch on the south side with Liffey Street on the north.
The Corpo (City Council to you) had arranged two events to commemorate the original opening of the bridge.
The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Críona Ní Dhálaigh, would formally cross the bridge, starting from the wild Northside and seeking asylum on the Southside where she has her (one year holiday) home, otherwise known as the Mansion House. This event is dealt with below.
Later, there would be a series of talks in City Hall on aspects of the bridge. These will be published in a forthcoming book from Four Courts Press later in the year.
Not content with this bag of goodies, the Corpo had invited descendants of the then Lord Mayor, John Claudius Beresford, and of the designer and builder of the bridge, John Windsor. And come they did. Some of them only realising the family connection with the bridge for the first time.
The Ardmhéara, now coming to the end of her year in office, showed that she could not only talk the talk (as Béarla agus as Gaeilge) ...
... but she could also walk the walk.
She has had a great year and she has made a difference, certainly as far as culture and heritage are concerned. Needless to say this has been very welcome to Dubliners at a time when these areas are slipping down the national priorities.
The event was also something of a mediafest with video and audio being trundled all over the place. But the print media were also on the ball and the elegantly dressed man from the Evening Herald was ubiquitous.
And finally, this standoff.
Probably ended up on the cutting floor. Ah well.
City Archivist, Mary Clarke, was on the scene, as were others from the Dublin City Library and Archive (DCLA).
I'll leave you with the two Dublin biddies, permanently seated outside the Woollen Mills and in sight of the Ha'penny Bridge. No doubt they will have much to natter about following the 200th year birthday party which they hosted yesterday.