Monthly Archives: March 2013

A New Age:Leaving

The rising sun was turning the sky the deepest reddish pink as it edged towards the horizon to the east. I watched it for almost the entire journey and wondered how long it might be before I travel this road again and witness the dawn.There was no other traffic at this  early hour, so I was able to drive reasonably slowly to savour the journey in the quiet of this cold, clear  spring morning.

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The River Maigue and Castle Desmond in September

Crossing the bridge on the River Maigue has been a highlight of my life on each  morning that I have commuted across here for the past 20 years. Sometimes it is mysteriously misty, sometimes it is golden and lit by the rising sun, sometimes it is moonlit, most times it is just ordinarily beautiful.

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River Maigue and Desmond Castle in August

I  arrived very early to the office as there were things I needed to do before the buzz of new arrivals – drawers to be emptied, confidential papers to be shredded, files to be organized and a day’s  work to be done.  I (exceptionally!) walked up the 8 flights of stairs to  take a look again at the streetscape below. I continued on to the top floor  to get a cup of coffee and to look east wards again at the rose coloured  sky forming a beautiful canvas for the tall spire of St John’s Cathedral and the tops of the city buildings.

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The River Shannon on a beautiful misty morning

I have had an extraordinary bonus of enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery in Ireland every time  I looked up from my desk to see the River Shannon coursing below.

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The moody and ever-changing River Shannon flows by my office

I had developed a habit in recent times of taking photographs, as the River looks different almost every time you look at it.

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The Shannon is a very fast flowing river. The Abbey River flows into it on the lower right.

Being tidal, the river is constantly changing, rising and falling some 18 feet twice a day. In winter when there is heavy rain we may not see the stony river bed for months on end.

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Morning light on the Shannon

Colleagues arrived. There was debate about the news items of the day that impinge on everyone, including the new property tax – the pincers tightening yet again! Morale was not high on that particular day, but after some light-hearted banter we ‘got on with it’. I was surprisingly busy with phone calls to make, notes to write up.

 

View from my desk. (Copyright A .Gallagher)

View from my desk.

So this was it! One of my lunch group reminded me that it was time for lunch and I said that I had to pop out and that  I might be a while. (I was doing some research on Antarctic Explorers then , and ‘borrowed’ the quote!).

At about 1.45 pm I logged out of my computer, gathered up my security passes, placed them in an envelope, put on  my coat and walked away from my good friends, and hundreds of colleagues (most great, many very good and a small forgettable  few).  I was  walking away from a job that I loved, with tons of mental stimulation, camaraderie and social interaction as well as  wonderful scenery and the daily joyrides that were my commute to and from work. I had already hinted to close friends that they would not be given advance notice of my exact day of departure, and I was grateful that my managers respected my need for privacy. So I was able to ‘exit’ quietly.

Mandatory retirement is no longer allowed in many countries, including Ireland. Most people can now work for as long as they want, without fear of discrimination but here in Ireland it is ‘statutory’ for  some employees who commenced employment prior to 2004 to retire at age 65.  It seems extraordinary that a person can go to bed at age 64 as an asset to the workforce, doing a good job efficiently and well for a number of years, yet wake up on their 65th birthday as unemployable. This is of particular significance in a country that is in the throes of an economic depression with huge numbers of people seeking non-existent jobs. Of course my ‘mandatory’ departure date did not come as any surprise. Long term contingencies were very quickly rendered useless however by the rapidly changing  social and economic conditions in Ireland in recent years – not least of which has been that my once geographically  closest family members have relocated to a place 10,000 miles away.

Officially ‘on holiday’ for another week, I plan on spending that time lamenting the loss of the social interaction of a large office and delighting in the friendships I made there. It is too early to reinvent – time enough for that in the weeks and months ahead.

For now, I will relish the light-hearted moments and laughter that were bound to come along every day, as well as the quippy and often black humour that abounded in the place.

I will  recall the always cheerful early morning  greeting of the delightful woman in the canteen, for whom nothing was too much trouble!

I will delight in the memory of companionship at early coffee, when you would not know who might happen along on an early break, and I will still ‘hear’ the very familiar footsteps of a special friend coming along the corridor, always looking beautiful and armed with her designer shopping bag and with her lively daily greeting of ‘Bonj’ before she rushed away to her ‘career’.

At lunch, we had time to bond – shepherded along by our ever precise and delightful clock-watcher, always in good humour and who managed to organize us all in the most charming way. Bringing up the rear was  our ‘Drama Queen’ who regaled us with stories ranging from her amateur drama society escapades to a too-close ‘encounter’ with shampoo on a shop floor, to the hazards of Roman toe ( or was it Greek?). These two, together with the above mentioned career girl and myself made up the hardcore lunch table.

If we arrived slightly early we might join our ever thoughtful, ever smiling, quietly spoken elegant and wise friend, who always has time for whoever is in her presence.  From time to time we would be joined by the  ever-cheerful woman of the West  with the hearty laugh and oodles of common sense, or the witty ‘cuttie’ (girl) from further north who always had a sideways but pleasant view on life to make us smile. Sometimes another quiet but stalwart friend might join us – IF she remembered it was lunchtime – but invariably 20 minutes late!

There are several others who fall into the ‘very special’ category and whose company was always well worth seeking out and one or two ‘long distance’ colleagues who had left our particular place. These too are a huge loss to me, and I am forever grateful for all of them.

I will miss all of this. I will miss these very special friends who were part of my days, part of my weeks, part of my joys, part of my tribulations, part of my highs, part of my lows, part of my hoots of laughter!  We have lived through births, marriages, deaths, personal trials and challenges both IN and BECAUSE of  friendship.

I will not ever be able to replace any of this. It  is of its time and of its place.  Now is a time to remember. Now is a time to be glad for all of it. Now is a time to shed a tear or two.  Now is a time to smile at these memories.  Now, and always, I  will lament their passing.

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Filed under Family History, Living in Ireland, My Oral History, Retirement Age

For those who wish to know something of the REAL St patrick, Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland blog has posted this essay from Terry O’Hagan, who is doing a PhD on Patrick at the moment. It is a ‘potted history’ of what is known about the real St Patrick.

Pilgrimage In Medieval Ireland

So today is the feast day of St Patrick, Ireland’s national saint. It is incredible to think that celebrations in the saints name are taking place all over the world today.  This post was written by  Terry O’Hagan  blogger and archaeologist . Terry is near to completing a PhD thesis on St Patrick at the school of Archaeology at UCD and  is one of the country’s experts on the saint.  Many thanks to Terry for taking the time to write this post and share his knowledge of the saint with us.

St. Patrick: A Man on a Mission

St. Patrick is a man of many faces: missionary, mascot, legend, figurehead, saint, sinner, superhero and saviour. Over the 1500 years or so since his death; successive generations have chosen to remake and remodel his life according to ever-changing concerns and  climates. Ongoing adaptation, along with the passing of the centuries, has…

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Filed under Celebrations in Ireland, Ireland, Irish Culture, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Irish Traditions

St Patrick’s Day:Badges,Shamrocks and ‘Going Green’

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A bowl of ‘Shamrock‘ on a restaurant table in Adare, Co. Limerick this week

St. Patrick’s Day…When half the world turns green and the other half is out parading –  or so it seems! Airports, rivers, waterfalls, tourist features, buildings, beer and people the world over – all in green livery for the ‘big day’. From Pyramids to Google Doodles– they are all ‘at it’!  But, it is far from all of this that we were reared!

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This little 3 leafed plant looks like the Shamrock that we used to pick for St Patrick’s Day. It grew tight to the ground and was difficult to pick the little sprigs.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations  in my small village in Donegal were traditionally simple. Apart from obligatory Mass and school being closed, nothing else much happened. I have tried to recall the events of a typical St Patrick’s Day when I was growing up. I remember being dispatched to find some  shamrock a week or so before the big day and again on the day before. The double harvest was required as we had small purpose made boxes in which shamrock would be posted to relatives abroad in England, Scotland or America,(no customs restrictions in those days!) and then people at home needed fresh Shamrock to wear on St Patrick’s Day itself.

Shamrock is  a very specific plant that can be found growing in certain places. I recall a roadside bank, and a particular field  where I used to gather quite a bit. The stems creep along the ground and I have vivid recollections of having cold and sore fingers from trying to uproot  stems with a bit of length, so that they could be pinned onto  a coat or lapel. The wet mud would compact under fingernails and it was often quite painful! I also recall being sent back out to get the real thing, when tired of the pulling, decided to just pick clover instead –  much easier to harvest as the stems did not cling so tightly to the cold wet earth!

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This is clover and earned me a clip on the ear if it was brought home for St Patrick’s Day

Clover is a much softer plant with the leaves on longer stems than ‘proper’ shamrock. Clover usually had  a white mark in the centre of the leaves.

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Oxalis is not Shamrock either !

As well as wearing Shamrock, we children had a St Patrick’s Day badge. These were bought in the village shop for about 4 pence and consisted of a length of  green, white and orange ribbon. Some had a gold paper harp attached. Several designs were usually available and these were worn with great pride. Later at Mass, the very lively hymn ‘Síor Glór do Naomh Padraigwas sung.

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St Patrick’s Day badges c. early 20th century, from the Museum of Country Life. Image Wikimedia Commons.

It is often said that the designation of March 17th as the Feast Day was an ‘Irish solution to an Irish problem’  as it falls slap bang in the middle of Lent, when most  Irish would be abstaining from sweets, alcohol and other niceties.  Being a feast day, Lenten rules of abstinence and mortification did not apply, so it was certainly a ‘feast day’ with a difference. The tradition of ‘drowning  the shamrock’ appears  to go back for several hundred years. This is variously described as alcohol being poured over a shamrock in the bottom of a glass, or shamrock being floated on top of a glass. Either way, the alcohol was quaffed, and presumably the drowned plant went with it. Public Houses were forbidden to open on St Patrick’s Day from the early 1900’s up to the 1970s, in an attempt to curb excessive ‘shamrock drowning’. Irish people are of course aware that neither a ‘closed door’ nor licensing regulations are of much consequence when there is serious shamrock drowning to be done.

St Patrick’s Day is a relatively modern feast day, having been so designated as recently as the 17th Century. It is recognized in many Christian traditions, including Anglican and Eastern Orthodox as well as Catholic. It has now turned into a world-wide festival of Irishness – interesting,  given that St Patrick was not even an Irishman! St Brigid would have been much much more appropriate as a National Saint but for two major failings – serious enough that she was tentatively associated with a pagan pre Christian deity,  but worse still – she had a gender issue – she was after all only  a woman and therefore highly unsuitable for such a prestigious position. The foreign Patrick is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland in 432 AD. This is contested as it is believed that there were groups of Christians in Ireland before he ever arrived. Many places in Ireland contain his name, the most famous being Croagh Patrick, a mountain in Mayo and a place of Pilgrimage, and there are many holy wells that bear his name although it is highly unlikely that he visited all of them.

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Patrick misrepresented in 17th century ecclesiastical garb, with equally misrepresented serpents

It is rather odd that he is depicted wearing a Bishop’s Mitre and green church vestments that were not invented until several hundred years after his death. This is a dishonest portrayal of the truth of who he was . Another myth prevails that he drove the snakes out of Ireland as apparently there were none here in the first place.

Whatever the truth and the fiction, St Patrick’s Day in the early 21st century is far removed from the simple religious celebration of the Ireland  of  50 years ago.  It is now a world-wide celebration of all that is Irish and it continues to reinvent itself. For the past number of years Ireland has had parades and the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Dublin have now become an annual festival. The famous New York St Patrick’s Day Parade first took place in 1762 and it is thanks to Irish emigrants in far flung places that the tradition has been kept alive. While we do have to tolerate the  stereotypically awful  ‘begorrahs’ and ‘top of the mornin’ and red bearded leprechauns, not to mention the emerging excruciating ‘St Patty’s Day’, we Irish are immensely proud that the world celebrates us so enthusiastically each year.

St Patrick is the lynchpin for Irish identity right across the world, for believers and non believers.  The blurred boundaries between a national saint’s day and a national Ireland day are easily forgotten when we witness the enthusiasm and the joy and fun as people party for Ireland all over the world.

For academic and fascinating scholarly information on St Patrick, a visit to Terry O’Hagan’s  blog voxhiberionacum. is a must.

This post originally posted in March 2013  was updated in March 2014

Lá ‘le Pádraig sona daoibh!

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Filed under Celebrations in Ireland, Emigration from Ireland, Home, Humour, Ireland, Irish Culture, Irish Diaspora, Irish Heritage, Irish Traditions, Life in the 1960s, Living in Ireland

In Dublin’s Fair City

Last weekend I was in Dublin for a family occasion and stayed – for the very first time – in the rejuvenated  docklands  at Sir Rogerson’s Quay. I have long wanted to see at first hand the cleverly designed, harp shaped new bridge over the River Liffey …and there it was – right on the doorstep of our hotel! In the quiet traffic free hours of a Sunday morning I took a stroll along this lovely part of the South Bank.

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The Samuel Beckett Bridge, having ‘the appearance of a harp lying on its side ‘

The Samuel Beckett Bridge carries both vehicles and pedestrians and is, in my opinion,one of the most beautiful structures in Dublin.

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The Convention Centre, Dublin

Right alongside the bridge is another stunning structure – the world-class Dublin Convention Centre, with its tilted glass cylinder  beautifully reflected in the  Liffey waters.

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The Dublin Convention Centre from Samuel Beckett Bridge

The Convention Centre dissected by the stays of the Samuel  Becket Bridge.

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A view of Dublin City through the Samuel Beckett Bridge

Looking back towards the City Centre, some of Dublin’s iconic structures are framed by elements of the bridge. The tall building is  Liberty Hall. Built in the 1960s it is renowned for its non pleasing appearance, but is nevertheless an integral part of the Dublin sky-scape. In total contrast, the green dome is atop one of the most beautiful buildings in Dublin, the fabulous Gandon designed  18th century Custom House. The tall spire to the right of the dome is the Monument of Light, otherwise known as The Spire, reaching 121.2 metres into the Dublin sky.This very elegant and modern  stainless steel structure has been part of the Dublin skyline since 2002.

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Liberty Hall, The Custom House and The Spire ‘through the eye’ of Samuel Beckett Bridge

Another view of 3 of Dublin’s iconic structures, all on the north side of the River Liffey,  from the Samuel Beckett Bridge.

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Ulster Bank Headquarters, on the Liffey South Bank, from Samuel Beckett Bridge.

Equally iconic, although a recent addition to the Dublin sky scape, is the glass, multi-roofed building that is  the headquarters of the Ulster Bank. It looks very spectacular at night especially when approaching the city from the north side.

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The Jeanie Johnston Replica Famine Ship.

Moored  between Séan O’Casey Bridge and the Samuel Beckett Bridge, with the Custom House in the left background, is the replica famine ship, the Jeanie Johnston. Built about 2002 in County Kerry, she is a replica of the original that sailed between Tralee in County Kerry and North America from  1847 to 1855. The Jeanie Johnston was  remarkable in that no life was ever lost on the difficult voyages between Ireland and the New World. She is open to the public. I boarded her when she was tied up in Fenit, County Kerry, some years ago and she is well worth a visit to see at first hand what the living conditions were like for the emigrants who sailed in her.

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Statue of Mayo-man Admiral William Brown, ‘Father of the Argentine Navy’

A few yards from the Samuel Beckett Bridge, on the seaward side, stands a statue of  Admiral William Brown, or Guillermo Brown as he is known in Argentina. This illustrious Irish emigrant  changed the history of South America. This piece is from the Connaught Telegraph :

”Admiral William Brown, the hero of Garcia, Montevideo and Los Pozos, is acknowledged as ‘the father of Argentina’s Navy.’But he was even more than all that. He was a champion and friend of human liberty and the emancipator of a whole nation. In fact, the entire continent of South America owes him a debt of gratitude that can never be fully repaid. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that he was one of the world’s foremost and greatest men of action, and that his exploits and heroism have profoundly influenced the course of history.”

Feb13 Book Launch + Dublin 036Beyond the statue of Admiral Brown, looking seaward there are reminders of the history of the old Dublin Port when ships were once moored along these docks.

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The modern Dublin Port in the distance, with these once busy quays now providing an excellent recreational, commercial and residential amenity.Feb13 Book Launch + Dublin 035Reminders of the past are all along the quay wall.

References

http://www.jeaniejohnston.ie

http://www.con-telegraph.ie

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Filed under Ireland, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Living in Ireland, Mayo Emigrants

International Women’s Day: The Gender Agenda

centredinternationalwomensday“The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum” is the theme for International Women’s Day on Friday next 8, March.

The story of how this annual celebration came about is  so worth repeating as it is in itself a triumph  of ‘ The Gender Agenda’ and an inspiration to all of us girls who want to celebrate the road  travelled in our name, or raise awareness of  paths that still need to be trod on behalf of our sisters across the world.

From my blog of March 2011, to mark the centenary of this international event:

The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in March 1911. It had its origins in America a few years earlier where women had come together to protest against poor working conditions, resulting in a National Women’s Day being declared by the Socialist Party of America. Subsequently at an International Conference for Working Women in Copenhagen, attended by delegates from 17 countries, and including the first 3 women elected to the Finnish Parliament, a proposal to have a special day each year to focus on women’s issues was met with unanimous approval.

Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark observed the first International Women’s Day in March 1911. More than a million men and women attended rallies in support of women’s right to work, right to vote, right to hold public office. In 1913, Russian women observed International Women’s Day campaigning for peace and in 1914, other European countries joined in.

In 1917, amid great unrest in Russia caused by millions of casualties, terrible food shortages, and with many women removed from farms to work in the factories, International Women’s Day prompted 90,00 workers to strike and the army at Petrograd to revolt. Attempts to end the unrest were not successful and Tsar Nicholas II abdicated some days later. The new provisional government granted universal suffrage with equality for women.

Down the decades, the movement has continued to grow and has become a worldwide event in countries all over the world. In 25 countries it is an official holiday while in China Madagascar and Nepal it is an official holiday for women only. In many countries from Bangladesh to Guinea, from Vietnam to Iceland, from Afghanistan to Zambia, events will take place on March 8th to mark International Women’s Day. The top 5 countries for International Women’s day activity to mark the centenary on March 8th are the UK, Canada, Australia, the United States and Ireland.

International Women’s Day has evolved into a global day of celebration of the achievements of women, socially, politically, and economically. Women’s rights campaigners highlight inequalities and raise money for Charity and   Celebrities the world over associate themselves with the day.

So, whether you want to celebrate, raise awareness for a cause or make a call for action, International Women’s Day is a special day for our Gender Agenda! Go on, DO something!

And while we are at it, what about an International Women’s Day event for Female Bloggers! If interested, please share this post and we may be able to build an online event across the globe to celebrate who we are!

For a list of hundreds of activities and events by country, see http://tinyurl.com/bpve9tg

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