Monthly Archives: October 2013

An Irish Halloween

Halloween has its origins in Ireland’s ancient Celtic past. Samhain (Sow-an) was one of the 4 major Fire Festivals of the ancient Celts. Imbolg, Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain  fell on ‘cross quarter’ days – about half way  between the solstices and equinoxes – and are celebrated on  February 1, May 1, July 1 and November 1. Samhain (as with the other  Celtic pagan festivals) has been christianised and reinvented. The celebration has been de-paganized and has become Halloween – literally  meaning the eve of All Saints (Hallows) Day, which in turn is on the eve of All Souls Day (November 2nd.) November 1 was designated the feast of All Saints by the catholic church as recently as the 9th century. Nevertheless, modern Halloween and the ancient Samhain Festival have common themes marking – then as now – the  end of the growing season and arrival of  dark days of winter and the returning of spirits from the other world,

50 years ago or so, in Donegal, in Ireland’s north-west, Halloween was a fairly simple family affair, eagerly anticipated by youngsters. We called it ‘Halloweve’ and it was indeed a magical evening that heralded  a month of  prayer and devotions for the Holy Souls (people who had died but were congregated in Purgatory as they were not yet pure enough to enter heaven).

As for Halloweve itself, we would each have a ‘False Face’ – a paper mache mask, that in all honesty was more ugly than scary, and we delighted in wearing them all afternoon. Unfortunately very often the elastic designed to hold it on, would break at an early stage!   Tea time was a real treat  with  Colcannon piled high and rivers of melted butter flowing down the sides, followed by my mother’s Barmbrack – we called this simply Brack. Shop-bought Brack contained a ring, but for children a silver threepence or sixpence was a more appropriate ‘surprise’ to find and my mother put one in both the Colcannon and the Brack. ( See Recipes below)

Colcannon

A pot of Colcannon, waiting to be plated up and crowned with a golden knob of butter. Image Wikimedia Commons

After tea we would have nuts –  hazelnuts from the hedgerows and monkey nuts (peanuts) from the shop and if we were lucky we would also  have a coconut. My father would drill through the ‘eyes’ and pour out the milk , giving each of us a small drink. He would then saw the coconut in half and we would be given a chunk of the chewy flesh – a real once a year treat!

Every house had a nail driven into the door frame of which to hang an apple (I still have this nail on my kitchen door from my own children). The apple was attached to a long string and the trick was to get a bite from it without using hands to hold it. Apples were put into large bowls of flour,and several were floated in basins of water. In each case the apples had to be retrieved, or bitten,without using hands – the  kitchen often ended up in a wet mess, but it was great fun!  These were days before the unattractive practice of ‘trick or treat ‘ had crossed the Atlantic, and in days before television. Halloweve was indeed a highlight of our year and was the last great celebration before Christmas.

In Ireland, November 1 was a holy day, and so off we went to Church. Similarly on November 2, All Souls Day, we attended 3 masses, visited graveyards, and prayed earnestly for the release of souls from Purgatory. This continued throughout November, designated the month of the Holy Souls, and we earnestly believed that our prayers helped release souls into heaven!

 Brack.

This is not a cake, but is a bread, sliced thinly and buttered just like bread.

Brack

Buttered Brack. Image Wikimedia Commons

Ingredients

1 pound of fruit – Sultanas, Currants, Raisins.

1/2 pint of strong tea

12 ounces Self Raising Flour

1/2 teaspoon Mixed Spice

6 – 8 ounces of Brown Sugar

2 Eggs – beaten

A silver threepence or sixpence scalded in boiling water and then wrapped well in greaseproof paper.

Method

Put the fruit in a saucepan with the tea. Bring to the boil, turn off heat and leave overnight.

Sieve the flour and spice, add sugar and then the soaked fruit.

Stir all ingredients together , add beaten egg, and mix well.

Put all mixture into a greased 2.5 pound loaf tin.

Push the well wrapped coin  into the mixture

Bake at 170C (325 F) for 80 – 90 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean from the centre.

Serve cold.

Colcannon

This recipe is taken from my mother’s old cookery book – Full and Plenty by Maura Laverty

The recipe in the book is preceded by this old song

”Did you ever eat Colcannon when ’twas made with yellow cream
and the kale and praties blended like the picture in a dream?
Did you ever take a forkful, and dip it in the lake
of the heather-flavoured butter that your mother used to make?

Oh, you did;  yes, you did. So did he and so did I

And the more I think about it, sure the more I want to cry

Ah, God be with the happy times, when troubles we had not

And our mothers made colcannon in the little three-legged pot”

The recipe is simplicity itself and as with many Irish recipes, there are no quantities given.

2013-10-25 20.00.30

Hot Colcannon with a lake of butter ….

Cooked potatoes

Milk brought to the boil with a tablespoon of minced onion

Shredded or finely chooped cooked Curly Kale or Savoy Cabbage

Salt and Pepper

Mash the boiled potatoes or put through a sieve or ricer

Beat in a knob of butter and then add enough of the milk  and onion, a tablespoon at a time,  to make the mixture light and fluffy.

Add to the potato mixture one half its bulk of finely chopped cooked kale.  Beat well and reheat thoroughly.

Add the well scalded and wrapped silver coin to the mixture.

Make each serving into a volcano shaped mound, put a hole in the centre and add a knob of butter  and allow it to melt. Yum!

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Filed under Celebrations in Ireland, Ireland, Irish Cooking, Irish Traditions, My Oral History, Oral History

William Smith O’Brien in Ardagh, Co Limerick

smithobThe anniversary of the birth of William Smith O’Brien, Young Irelander, is an appropriate time to record his strong association with the area in which I live in County Limerick, Ireland.

William O’Brien was born on 17 October 18o3, second son to Sir Edward O’Brien, Baron Inchiquin of Dromoland Castle, Member of Parliament for Ennis, County Clare and Charlotte Smith, daughter of  the wealthy William Smith, an attorney,of Newcastle West, County Limerick. The O’Briens had accumulated large debts and the marriage to a wealthy Smith was a fortuitous one. Cahermoyle House, in Ardagh, Co Limerick was a property acquired by William Smith. William O’Brien (as he then was) inherited Cahermoyle House and lands of about 5,000 acres from his grandfather William Smith, and in honour of his grandfather, he adopted his name and from now on became known as William Smith O’Brien.

William Smith O’Brien followed in his father’s footsteps and entered politics, becoming conservative member of Parliament for Ennis from 1828 to 1831, but gave  it up on his marriage to Lucy Gabbett  from Limerick  in 1832.  The newly weds decided to make Cahermoyle House their home. Their marriage was a happy one and they had 7 children. William returned to politics and became Member of Parliament for Limerick County from 1835 to 1848.

At the House of Commons, Smith O’Brien vociferously highlighted  the suffering of the  people of Ireland, calling for better government and an end to Catholic discrimination. (The Famine was raging in Ireland between 1845 & 1852). He worked for Famine Relief Schemes and was Chairman of the Newcastle West Board of Guardians.

Ballingarry

The house at Ballingarry, Co Tipperary, scene of the ill-fated Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848, led by William Smith O’Brien. Image Damian Shiels

He joined the Young Ireland Movement, and was arrested for ‘seditious conspiracy’ in 1848. Whilst on bail, he led the failed Rebellion at Ballingarry Co Tipperary later in 1848 and was arrested at Thurles  Railway Station when making  his way back to Cahermoyle. Smith O’Brien with Terence McManus, Patrick O’Donohoe and Thomas Francis Meagher were charged with  high treason and  on 9 October 1948 they were sentenced to death. A petition for clemency was raised, and contained 80,000 signatures. The sentences were commuted to transportation for life and on 9 July 1849 the Young Irelanders were transported to Van Diemen’s Land on board ‘The Swift’

obrien_meagher

Thomas Francis Meagher & William Smith O’Brien with a guardsman and gaoler in Tasmania. Image Wikimedia Commons

In 1854, O’Brien was pardoned and returned to Europe, but it was not until 1856 that he was permitted to return to Ireland and Cahermoyle, and to his much loved wife. Lucy died in 1861 and William was said to have been distraught. On 18 June 1864, William Smith O’Brien died whilst travelling  in Bangor, North Wales. News of his death was reported across the world. His body was brought by ship from Wales to Dublin, arriving at the quayside in the very early hours of the morning.

The Sydney Morning Herald on 15 August reported on the funeral:

”The remains of the deceased arrived on the morning of the 23rd, at the North Wall, in the City of Dublin. About 2,000 persons were present to receive the remains. A hearse was in attendance,and as soon as the coffin was conveyed on shore it was borne towards the hearse in order to be conveyed to the Great Southern and Western Railway, en route to Cahermoyle, Limerick, but the people shouted, unanimously that it should be carried to the railway, and all efforts to take it to the hearse were unavailing. A procession  was formed, and the coffin was borne on the shoulders of six men to the railway, by way of the Royal Canal and the principal streets. The green flag was waved over the remains before the train started for Cahermoyle.”

The body was transported by road from Limerick railway station,to repose at Cahermoyle before the funeral to the church at Rathronan, where the family worshipped. The vast funeral procession comprised a large number of gentry, some 20 catholic priests and hundreds of tenants, many mounted. It is said that the hearse had reached the church while the rear was still leaving Cahermoyle, some 2 miles away.

CAHERMOYLE TODAY

Cahermoyle House is now a Nursing Home, having previously been a catholic novitiate for the Oblate Fathers who had bought the house from the Smith O’Briens.  It has been renovated and extended for its new incarnations, yet still remains and imposing and beautiful house. It has a particular link to my family as my mother spent her final 6 weeks there as a patient in 1999 and in 2006 my father died in the house, while in respite care. Both of them made their final journeys down the long avenue and through these gates.

On Sunday last, having read about the extraordinary reception of the coffin at the Dublin docks and the crowds that thronged the funeral, I went to the small graveyard at Rathronan, just about a mile from where I live. The now derelict church is a short distance off the main road, up a single track. The graveyard gate squeaked as I opened it,warning all those within that someone was coming! The peace of an early autumn Sunday afternoon was enhanced by a solitary bird singing high up in the trees, otherwise the silence was total.

The Smith O’Brien family mausoleum  is an imposing and  beautiful structure in this small graveyard. There are very few headstones here, in this exquisitely peaceful setting. The mausoleum was erected by Smith O’Brien’s son some two years after his father’s death. The door was open, but I did not venture in, and instead sat a while on the plinth thinking of the man  and his family who rested inside. A great Irishman, a man of peace,an international figure of renown who sacrificed much for the people of Ireland and for a poor and downtrodden people of a religion not his own.

This post is not an historic review of the life of William Smith O’Brien, but rather a  personal journey from his home to his final resting place. I am most grateful to a local historian Mr John Hough, author of ‘William Smith O’Brien – the unlikely Revolutionary’ for giving me a copy of his excellently researched and written  pamphlet which records and recounts the events of the extraordinary life of this man of integrity and principle.JohnHoughBook

There is a statue of William Smith O’Brien in O’Connell Street, Dublin. originally erected at the junction of Sackville and D’Olier Streets in 1867, it was  relocated to O’Connell Street  in 1929.  This monument to this extraordinary Irishman  was the first statue erected in Dublin to commemorate an individual who had stood for armed resistance to British rule.

sobdublin

 *** I am grateful to Kasia Gmerek for  the following information by email:

The poem engraved there was The House, written by Charlotte Grace O’Brien’ William’s
daughter, and can be found in the volume published by her nephew Stephen Gwynn, see
here a digitized copy of the book:

http://archive.org/details/charlottegraceob00obriiala

 

References

Sydney Morning Herald  15 Aug 1864

http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie

The William Smith O’Brien Petition

www.dublincity.ie/SiteCollectionDocuments/history_monuments_oconnell_sthttp://www.limerickcity.ie/media/Smith%20O’Brien1.pdf

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Filed under Ireland, Irish at War, Irish Culture, Irish Heritage, Irish History

Tipperary Remembrance Trust – Annual Remembrance 2013

It was a great privilege to take part in the Tipperary Remembrance Trust annual  remembrance over the last weekend in September.

DSCF2585The Tipperary Remembrance Trust was founded to commemorate Irish men and women who have  sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom and peace  across the world. To this end they have reclaimed and restored a portico from the officers Mess and living quarters from the Tipperary Military Barracks, built in the 1870’s. At one time there were up to 10,000 troops stationed in Tipperary Town and the military  presence had a big influence on the town.

DSCF2618The weekend kicked off with a most enjoyable dinner at the Aherlow House Hotel, beautifully located in the fabulous Glen of Aherlow,overlooked by the majestic Galtee Mountains. Damian Shiels, author of The Irish in the American Civil War delivered the after-dinner speech on the forgotten Irish who fought and died or were maimed in the shaping of the United States of America that we know today.

Guests of Honour at the dinner /commemoration were

Lt.Col Conor Burke, Irish Defence Forces

General David The O’Morchoe (Ret) C.B . C.B.E., President of the Royal British Legion Republic of Ireland

Sqdn Leader Susie Barnes Defence Attaché New Zealand Defence Forces

Liet. Col. Sean Cosden Defence Attaché U.S.A Defence Forces

Lieut Col. Sean English Defence Attaché United Kingdom Defence Forces

Liet. Col. Jean Trudel Defence Attaché Canadian Defence Forces

Group Capt. Peter Wood, Defence Attaché Australian Defence Forces

Lieut Col. Conor Burke, Irish Defence Forces

Guy Jones Irish Lebanese Cultural Foundation

William Kane Irish U.N Veterans Association

On Sunday morning we gathered at St Mary’s Church in John Street, Tipperary,once the Garrison Church of the town and sadly now in need of maintenance. This Church has a stunning stained glass window, erected to the memory of 3 members of one family who died within months of each other in 1916. Also in this church is a plaque in memory of  39 Abbey Boys – pupils of the local Abbey School – who lost their lives in the  First World War.The Rector,Rev. Browen Carling with Fr  Dan McCarthy Chaplain to the Defence Forces,conducted a most edifying service in remembrance of Irish soldiers who have died in conflicts, serving with our own or other forces, across the world.

St Bridget’s Pipe Band then led a procession from the Church to the Remembrance Arch ,about 1 km away, for a wreath laying ceremony

The ceremony was very moving, especially of course at the sounding of the Last Post, always an emotional moment,and again when  a Lone Piper piped ‘Going Home’  .

It was so good to see the Military Attachees from other countries – many of whom visited Ireland specifically for this ceremony – honour our dead Irish soldiers by laying wreaths.

Mick Haslam, as the ‘face’ of the Tipperary Remembrance Trust has done excellent work in setting up, planning, organizing and implementing these annual commemorations. Huge thanks are due to him for his trojan work. I love these pictures of him at the ceremony, raising the Irish Flag from half-mast. The memory of our  countrymen, who have given their lives for peace on this planet,has been in a safe pair of hands.

It was a privilege to have been there.

Further information:

The History of Tipperary Barracks

The Abbey Boys, TipperaryTown

Tipperary Remembrance Trust

David, The O’Morchoe CB, CBE 

Damian Shiels, Author, Conflict Archaeologist,PhD Scholar,Blogger

 

12 Comments

October 7, 2013 · 10:05 pm

Silver Surfer Awards 2013 with Google and Age Action

I was delighted to receive an invitation  for myself and a guest to the award ceremony for the Google Silver Surfer Awards with Age Action, which took place in Dublin  on Wednesday last. I was thrilled to be back in Google, with Louise, for the first time since I won the  Social Networking Award in 2011, and to meet again with the stalwarts of Age Action – Robin Webster, Eamon Timmins and Pauline Power.

Google  epitomizes everything that is young, innovative and fun. This is clear from the moment you step through the front door! All the more wonderful then that they sponsor the annual Silver Surfer Awards that celebrate older people and technology. A perfect marriage in many ways.

The ceremony took place in the spacious and comfortable state of the art Google auditorium. We were entertained by the talented Bugle Babes with their Andrews Sisters type repertoire and  harmonies, and their (perfectly straight) seamed stockings (George Hook checked them out).Their singing was beautiful and well enjoyed by everyone!

The ever young George Hook, broadcaster, journalist and rugby pundit hosted  the ceremony with great wit and humour, and Mr Pat Rabbitte, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources attended – both of whom are, appropriately enough, Seniors.  Minister Rabbitte expressed the wish that no senior citizen be left behind in this era of  instant communication.  Sinead Gibney, Social Action Manager with Google, and Robin Webster, the indefatigable Chief Executive of Age Action were also present. Sinead  treated us to a reading of the poem ‘When I am old’, which can be seen on my blog page here . Pauline Power who operates the Getting Started Programme with Age Action and Anne Marie Walsh, the Event Manager, ensured that things flowed smoothly.

And so to the fabulous people whose terrific achievements were to be honoured at these awards. There were several categories as follows:

New to IT Award
A person over the age of 50 who is new to technology and has overcome challenges to become an IT user

Finalists were:

Austin was the winner of this category. His story is inspirational – having left school early he had some catching up to do in later life and this he did using technology. He has written a biography for his family.

Hobbies on the Net Award was next with 5 finalists

An older person who uses the Internet to pursue their passion or hobby or who uses IT for communication and social networking

I was particularly interested in this category as my ears pricked up when I heard the name Seamus Harkin from Creeslough. Creeslough is 7 mile s from my home village of Carrigart, Co Donegal.  On an all-too-rare visit back to my roots this summer, we were in search of the site of  a former 19th Century  Revenue Barracks in Creeslough. We were given Seamus Harkin’s phone number. Seamus Harkin is all things Creeslough and is a highly respected fountain of all sorts of historical knowledge in this particular area   He was most helpful and accommodating. We spoke several times by phone, but I had not met him until today, so that was a particularly pleasant meeting!  Thanks again Seamus for sharing your knowledge  and time with us.

Seamus is known as the Singing Undertaker at home and he fixes fiddles  as a hobby- how interesting is that!  Well done on this achievement Seamus agus  Tír Chonaill Abú!

IT Tutor(s) of the year 

An individual or group of any age who provides voluntary support to older learners. Anne won this award for her work in upskilling some 40 tutors. Anne is from Louth and were other nominees – Drogheda & District Support 4 Older People.  Small county with big hearts for older people!

Golden IT Award
An individual over the age of 80 who uses technology to enhance their lives

 

I love the Golden category – here are people of advanced years who have engaged with what can be a challenging medium – perhaps they came to it after losing a life partner –  and here they have found a new way of doing things, new ways to keep in touch, and have enhanced their lives.  Michael was the winner this year. He has long been an advocate of technology and encourages older people especially to use it . Michael has a blog  The Commonplace Book that is worth a visit for the quotes alone!  The judges for all of these categories had a challenging task to pick just one from each of these categories as they are heroes all!

Google Silver Surfer Award

An older person who embraces the Internet or technology with a sense of fun and adventure.

The winner of this over arching award was David,  who has become something of a techie since his retirement and has indulged his passions for music and digital photography, and entertains his grandchildren with his technical expertise!  With Apologies to Maura and Fred for the blurred photographs. Michael in this category was an inspiration to all of us – he suffered a stroke but then used his experience to help others and technology is a perfect medium for him. Well done to you all!

This is an appropriate place to give a huge shout out for Age Action Ireland   This is a n Irish Charity that promotes positive ageing and  better policies and services for older people. Age Action is regularly in the news headlines speaking out about issues that affect all of us who are older and more vulnerable. Ageing is an issue that hopefully will affect all of us of every age.  Do drop in to their webpage  here to see the wonderful work that they do, – work that enhances the lives of thousands of people and of society as a whole.

At a delicious and beautifully presented  lunch afterwards ,entertainment was provided by the excellent  and splendidly named barbershop quartet, the Sea Sharps .

It was a great event and hearty congratulations again to all the finalists  – winners all!

As  we left the premises,I couldn’t resist taking a shot of the decoration in the washrooms.

DSCF2687

The very colourful landing  with floor, walls and ceiling covered with faces – after all that is what Google is all about –  people of ALL ages!

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Further biographical info  on the winners can be found here

Thank you Google, and thank you Age Action!

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October 6, 2013 · 1:15 pm