Monthly Archives: January 2013

Stamp Your Mark on Irish Commemoration of the American Civil War

As events commemorating the  150th Anniversary of the American Civil War continue  into 2015, there is still an opportunity for Ireland to recognize the enormous contribution of tens of thousands of Irishmen who gave their lives, limbs  hearts and minds in this conflict. A commemorative stamp would be a fitting tribute and as An Post are looking for suggestions for a commemorative issue, would you like to make this suggestion by filling in their form here ? It will only take a few minutes!

Read more on this in the repressed item from Irish in the  American Civil War blog

Stamp Your Mark on Irish Commemoration of the American Civil War.

 

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January 27, 2013 · 9:35 pm

A Good Read: The House on an Irish Hillside

One of the silver linings in the cloud of a very un-festive flu is the extended reading time available to make an impression on the reading list. With its large readable format and easy prose, fitting the bill perfectly for propped-up- in- bed reading is Felicity Hayes McCoy’s ‘The House on an Irish Hillside.

This book is a true love story between Felicity and the spectacularly beautiful  Dingle Peninsula. From the day of her arrival  as a student of Irish at the age of 17, the magic of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, in the south-west of Ireland filtered into her heart and mind down the years, the incessant ‘pull’  culminating in herself and her English husband buying Tí Neillí Mhuiris – (The house of Nellie, daughter of Muris), a house built from stones picked from the fields and remembered with affection for its once smoke-filled kitchen.

Dingle_peninsula_panorama_crop

Anyone who has ever crossed  the magical Connor Pass, and dropped down into the beauty of the Dingle Peninsula has experienced the unique sense of this place. Few who visit here are not enchanted by the  fabulous scenery, the friendly people, the history, the cultural tradition and  the wonderful food.

Dingle Peninsula

Patchwork of fields on the slopes above Coumeenoole Strand at the tip of the Dingle Peninsula ( Image Wiki commons)

Felicity’s book is beautifully written – flowing along with perfectly chosen words  building  the word pictures that pervade  every page. We are enticed by the ‘polished pewter waves’ and ‘rain-washed mornings with skies like mother of pearl’ and ‘waves shimmering emerald, turquoise and jade’. Dingle is a place that challenges those who wish to describe it, for we simply do not have the vocabulary.  My two abiding images are of red hens pecking at watercress and girls cycling to dances with their high heels slung around their necks! It was at this level that Felicity’s writing appealed to me so very much, but there is more.

gold boat Celtic hoard

The Gold Boat in the National Museum of Ireland, dates from the 1st Century and thought to have been an offering to the God Manannan Mac Lir (Image National Museum)

Felicity has an extensive knowledge and regard for Irish myth and local folklore and these together with the beauty of the place are the ‘weft ‘ on which she weaves a beautiful tapestry of stories of  her love affair with Dingle’s people and places. Manannán Mac Lir, the Celtic God of the Sea , Mrs Hurley, Danú the Fertility Goddess, Kath the London neighbour; Spot the neighbour’s dog and the Sun God Lugh – all woven  together to deepen the understanding of this place. On these pages you will find present day relevance of Imbolg, Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain, the great festivals and turning points in the Celtic year; you will join in on dancing in the kitchen and music  by the fireside, celebrate Nollag na mBan and the ‘Wran’ boys.  The mythology, the folk-tales  the music, song and dance, the living friends and neighbours and the simplicity of things that matter to them, together with the memory of the dead,some of whom died  before the author came to live here and  some of whose coffins she followed, is all intertwined into a wonderful tribute to all that is Dingle.

This book will I believe,  appeal to anyone who has visited Dingle and has been smitten by it and who keeps going back.  It will also appeal to people with Irish roots, who have never stood on these shores as it will give them a sense of what it is to be Irish, what it is to be tied into the traditions and myths of our heritage and how these things impact on everyday life .  I heartily recommend it as an excellent read.

HuseFHMcC

The House on an Irish Hillside by Felicity Hayes-McCoy is published by Hodder & Stoughton and is available in all good book shops and online.

Felicity Hayes -McCoy website

Felicity’s blog 

Dingle Tourism

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January 5, 2013 · 6:06 pm

Ireland Calling: The Gathering 2013

In the closing days of 2012 we read that our young people are leaving this country at the rate of 200 a day, a level of emigration not experienced since the great famine. They head off to Britain, Canada, United States of America, New Zealand, many parts of Europe or as in the case of my family, to far off Australia. Although 46,500 Irish-born  left us  in the year to April 2012, these new emigrants have opportunities to stay in contact with brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends through social media and the irreplaceable Skype.  Long ago – and indeed not so long ago – when our family members departed these shores, it was often a challenge to stay in contact; people did not have telephones, for those who did, phoning was expensive;  people either could not write or were not good at writing letters.

Today New Year’s Day, marks the beginning of The Gathering 2013, a year-long series of events celebrating our heritage, our musical and literary traditions and our sense of fun all arranged to tempt our departed kinsfolk to visit the land of their fathers.  We Irish have a natural instinct to gather, rooted perhaps in the old rural tradition of the ‘meitheal’ where neighbours came together as a team  to help with the harvest or some other major event and where firm friendships were shaped.

Spike-island-aerial

Spike Island (Cork County Council)

This afternoon, a 21 gun salute resounded out over the splendid Cork Harbour,from where countless thousands left here by choice or necessity down the ages. The 21 gun salute was heard here for the first time in almost 30 years. Spike Island in the Harbour is the site of  one of only two fixed national saluting stations in Ireland, the second being on the end of the East Pier in Dun Laoghaire, appropriately enough also at the point of departure of tens of thousands of Irish seeking better lives abroad.

The sounding of the 21 gun salute is a tribute to all the people who have left Ireland, and while it  also symbolizes a ‘caoin’ from the heart of those of us who are left behind, it is a mighty symbolic call  to Ireland’s emigrants to come home, a symbolic call that has been sent out across the oceans, across continents to all parts of the world where Irish have settled to remind them of their heritage and to come back and share in some of it .

Mouth of Cork Harbour photographed from Cobh

Mouth of Cork Harbour photographed from Cobh, from where thousands of Irish left to take up new lives.

2013 is set to be a spectacular year-long celebration.

Taragaí linn. Beidh failte roimh gach duine  in the wonderful year that is planned!

References:

Central Statistics Office 

History of the 21 Gun Salute

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January 1, 2013 · 10:25 pm