Posts Tagged ‘ History ’

A Year in Brief: Part One


What a year it’s been; Hitler birthday cakes, mutant rats, and Bob Geldof off to space! To celebrate the end of another 365 days here are some of NIB’s favourite stories of the year.

Kicking off the year in festive spirit a man in Derry was fined after stealing a CCTV camera which “became his friend”. Police found Peter Morrison, 24, drunk and “petting” the camera as they arrived to arrest him. CCTV pets are for life not just for Christmas. Continue reading

News in Brief – Nuns Robbed While Keating Lands Postman Pat Gig


In the week that’s seen ’Danny Boy’ reach 100 and Cork 10,000, well, not much else has been going on.

There has been some “interesting” research into office party politics answering one of life’s greatest questions, when is the optimum time to take pictures at the office Christmas party? Well that would be 10.02 (with the average party beginning at 7pm, so 182 minutes in, fact) though they can be a bone of contention for some. Women complained the party picture didn’t show them at their best, with twenty percent citing their make-up coming off had crushed their hopes of looking like *insert name of celebrity* in *insert name of film*. One in one hundred men complained of the same dilemma and similarly one in one hundred claimed seeing snaps of the office do caused them to look for a new job, the same one in one hundred perhaps? Continue reading

News in Brief : Backhanders And Blackouts


NIB is sure we’ve covered this before, but hey, Irish women are the best looking in the world and that’s cause for celebration (drink based traditionally). The ranks made up by a dating site, aptly called weren’t so positive about Irish men though, ranking them third ugliest on the planet. It’s a small positive though as a few years ago they were ranked the ugliest. Sorry lads.

Talking of beautiful Irish things, we’re going to start selling off our heritage sites to the highest bidder. In yet another example of the Government trying to claw back the cash they splurged on champagne and caviar, they are now going to lease out sites like Dublin and Kilkenny Castles, Derrynane House and Doneraile Wildlife Park to the most persuasive tender. Apparently the rules are that any new commercial usage plans must be in check with the historical heritage of the site so no casinos or hotels will be permitted, unless the brown envelope’s thick enough. Minister for Public Service Reform Brian Hayes said: ‘I don’t know how successful it’s going to be, I have to be very frank.’ Continue reading

First Flight Fest Now History Fest (26 Sept – 9 Oct)


Despite the summer having slipped quietly away, there’s still plenty of festival and cultural activity to be had around the city. Coming up at the end of September is Dublin’s first history festival which promises to be a worthy member of the cultural scene. This is an exciting new initiative from Dublin City Council so any history buffs out there would be advised to check out what’s on offer.

Much of the programme is free of charge but booking will be necessary for most events. Some are simply ‘first come first served’ but it’s as well to check the details. Events have been scheduled for Dublin City Libraries, Dublin Castle (Printworks Venue), City Hall and the Irish Film Institute so check the web site for further information. I’ve certainly got my eye on booking a few events, though deciding which ones to choose will be a tricky task. It’s not often that you get to see the likes of Jung Chang and Simon Schama for free. Continue reading

Death Of The First Republic

The first Republic of Ireland is dead; this is a sensationalist statement to many but we are now in denial at its funeral. We crowd around its coffin, backs turned to the corpse and draw hope and nostalgia from those that brought her to birth, but those ghosts will teach us little more and if they could we would not listen. The lessons, valuable irreplaceable lessons, will only be found in its autopsy and in the investigation of its demise.

The first republic was born from a theatrical passion for cultural fulfilment, ownership and historic tribalism. Born as a hippy child it was raised by conservative parents backed by a regimental religion, hands shackled from liberalist choice in case it cut its knee in self discovery. Through its adolescence in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s it made friends in the European playground, picking up its fashionable taste for fast and loose capitalism. Of course young Ireland was not educated to the level of those who had dabbled for so long, but it would posture and be allowed do so. The reigns that had harboured young Ireland so close to its moral centre were quickly being rebelled, mistaking peer pressure of internal financial aesthetics, with the freedom of choice it had for so long wished to be its own. Continue reading

Blast from the Past – Snippets From History

In 1981 Sean McBratney wrote a book called “Lagan Valley Details”. What is it about Northern story-tellers that make their tales so endearing? Simple plots, human observances, a little humour and an unfussy narration perhaps. Sean McBratney has a beautiful tendency to jog the reader along with fun and then slap home a tragic twist in his last paragraph. There is the hilarious story of ‘Patsy Quigley’s jump off the Viaduct near Dromore’. Making a pair of wings, Patsy was to perform the deed. Bets being laid in the local pub. The church unable to persuade him to change his mind. When McHenry heard the proposition: ‘……..the sort of easy-going man who would often save up his words until his pipe went out …..- looked very pensive…..’, and Patsy’s wife: ‘…..had a vision of herself left  a widow and young Pat left without a father ……(and) phoned a solicitor and asked him if she could take out one of these injunctions to stop a man jumping off a great height in an attempt to fly ….’.  Humpy Davis tells an ‘unbelievable tale’ of a talking tree in which he observes: ‘….Leprechauns are diminutive Irish Nationalists. Proper fairies…..have no interest in politics at all and have no nationality….’.

In 2001 RTE had a new series called “Ireland’s Greatest Hits” which answered some interesting questions. Did you know for example that Andrea Corr likes to bathe to help her write sexy lyrics? Or that Gloria’s smash hit One Day at a Time was recorded in Nashville in just ten minutes? Did you know that King of the Culchies, Aon Focal Eile star Richie Kavanagh was booked to play at a party in the jet-set South of France resort of St Tropez every summer ? RTE 1’s new series looked at the stories behind the songs, talked to the singers, the writers and the  producers and uncovered all the tricks,  magic, coincidences, luck and success that are part of every hit.

Also in 2001 the film “Merlin: the Return” was released. Rik Mayall as Merlin and Patrick Bergin as King Arthur – magically  transported to 21st century Stonehenge, where they run for their lives from an evil scientist played by Tia Carrera from Wayne’s World. Someone. Please. Tell me I’m hallucinating.

In olden times beards grew more out of necessity. The fashion of the beard varied in different countries at particular times. Surprisingly enough the Egyptians were clean shaven and also the young Greeks. It is believed that the Romans didn’t start shaving until about 454 AD. The first day of shaving was regarded as entering manhood. It was celebrated with a festival where the newly-shaven wined and dined. Ceaser tells us that the ancient Britons let the hair grow long only on the upper lip corresponding to a  moustache, although they didn’t have a name for it. The Saxons are said to have grown beards but the Normans shaved the entire face. Until about the 17th century the beard was in fashion and was accepted as part and parcel of human apparel. It was now the hey-day of the razor and the familiar ‘cut-throat’  bared men’s faces throughout England and America. With the Crimean War and its subsequent hardships the beard came into vogue once again and many took a soldier’s licence. The long beard adorned the face until the 19th century. In the early 20th century it again disappeared from fashion but the Second World War brought the hair back on the faces of Europeans, but Americans were  reluctant to do so.

Back to 1981 again and in this year Uilick O’Connor wrote a biography of Oliver St John Gogarty. Biographies of famous literary people are seldom uninteresting. A biography ‘of one of the great lyric poets of his age’ who was also a wit, a surgeon, a senator, a playwright, an aviator, athlete and Irishman is most interesting. Passages of Gogarty’s own writings adorn the manuscript. Brilliant –  like his description of a Dublin Madam, Mrs Mack of Nightown: “A brick-red face, on which avarice was written like a hieroglyphic, and a laugh like a guffaw in hell ….”. He gives information on a number of people -Arthur Griffith, George Moore, architect Michael Scott, Gabriel Fallon, Eamon de Valera, James Stephens and many others. As a surgeon Gogarty was something of a Robin Hood. He refused to charge Gabriel Fallon for his professional attendance remarking: ‘I have a Duchess coming from London  and I’ll settle her snout for a century’. A touch of M.A.S.H in the operating theatre too: “Jesus Christ”, cried a young assistant in dismay when a lesion burst during an operation. “Cease calling on your unqualified assistant”, Gogarty hissed. Dublin’s great institutions come alive for us here:  The Bailey, TrinityCollege, Joyce’s Tower, the better classes (‘born concussed’) or the larger than life Dubliner ‘six feet three in height with a head like the Kaiser’ reading Shakespeare while other people slept. Visits to the country too – to Renvyl and further south for a sarcastic diatribe on Eamon de Valera: “….they say in Clare that the blacksmiths are shoeing the cattle so that they may gallop round the fairs on the look out for a purchaser….”

Also in 1981 Peter Haining wrote “The Leprechauns Kingdom”. The subject may be open to ridicule in our twenty first century but anybody with even a big toe still in the past will be pleased to ponder again on the Tuatha de Dannan and their contemporaries. There is no mention of the famous O’Grady banshee in the section on that lady whose comb (rack) so  many of us picked from a ditch with mock bravery. The song of O’Neill’s banshee is given – treble clef key of E (those O’Neills were always snobs – we always deemed the banshee to wail not sing an aria!). The Kildare Luricheen does not  figure in this book either but its pages bulge with other Lullachans, merrows, pookas, water sheerie – even were wolves and vampires.

Many years ago Kathleen Clarke wrote “Revolutionary Women”. There is adequate factual  (and fictitious) material available for the historian or general reader. Which makes Kathleen Clarke’s autobiography all the more  welcome. Wife of Tom Clarke, one of the executed leaders of the 1916 rebellion, she was a Daly from Limerick and her story gives fascinating background information on the whole struggle. For example she tells how a Dublin festooned with Union Jacks annoyed her so much that she began making up tricolours from yards of ribbon and soon had the tide of colour in Dublin streets changed. Her memoirs tell of her time in the United States, her part in the rising and its aftermath including imprisonment with Countess Markievicz. IRB and Cumann na mBan activity is outlined. The German Plot, the Black and Tans, Collins advising her to go on the run and she refusing because of her 3 children. The story goes on until we reach  the amusing take-over of Lord Mayor of Dublin from Alfie Byrne in 1939. Not for Kathleen portraits of Queen Victoria and others that had survived in the Mansion House. She ordered removal men to arrive at 6am and sat up all night to make sure they were admitted.

In 1991 a man called Teddy Delaney wrote “Where we Sported and Played”. At the time on radio,  one channel chat-show was discussing the availability of condoms to young people, the other featured a couple (husband unemployed) with nineteen children who spoke of their happy family. Books like Where we Sported and Played provide a soothing read in such times. They tell of less complicated times when simple sporting and playing went alongside hard work and when life seemed to be happier. Teddy Delaney slots in snatches of history as he describes the life of a Cork youth in the early 1950s and   1960s. Raza and queen  cakes, holidays in Youghal, hanging around the quays in the hope of getting some chocolate crumb from a docker uploading Cadbury’s merchandise, verses of street rhymes and loftier verse, including Goldsmith – here is  a mix as strong as drisheen that would make you ‘wax a gaza in Pana ‘.   And if you don’ know what that means you should never dare sing ‘De Banks’. Nice one, Mercier and Teddy Delaney.

In 1999 Gene Kerrigan and Pat Brennan wrote a book called “This Great Little Nation”. It’s ‘the A-Z of Irish scandals and controversies’ and covers everything from the Fethard boycott of the 1950s to the tribunals of the 1990s and such  issues as the Ann Lovett case and the downfall of Albert Reynolds government. And did you know that one of the first tribunals of inquiry was held  in 1947, the subject of which was Locke’s Distillery in Kilbeggan? The sale of the distillery by the two remaining members of the Locke family in 1947 attracted the attention of a group of international chancers. These were Englishman Horace Henry – Smith, Austrian Herbert Saschell and Georges  Eindiguer from Switzerland, who made up Trans-World Trust based in Lausanne, Switzerland. They quickly got the support of the Department of Industry and Commerce in their plan to buy Locke’s Distillery. The intention they claimed was that they would manufacture whiskey for export but they would also develop the home market. They would revive the great and ancient little distillery. However after the trio had tea with the President Sean T O’Ceallaigh at the Aras, it was discovered that the lads were crooks and Smith was really a Russian with a false passport wanted by the British police while the Austrian had been given a month to leave the country by Gardai three months earlier. It eventually transpired that the boys were after the 60,000 gallons of matured and maturing whiskey at Kilbeggan and that they had no intention of getting the company up and running at all! Three judges oversaw a tribunal of inquiry but found that there had been no political collaboration in Transworld’s scheme. And you remember that famous necklace that Maureen Haughey received from the Arab about 25 years ago- well the allegation at the time of Locke’s Distillery was that Eindiguer had presented a gold watch to a son of the Taoiseach Eamon De Valera or had been advised to, to smooth his way towards the distillery purchase!

In 1971 a Dublin journalist wrote a book called “How to read between the clichés”. How usually reliable is “the usually reliable source”? How expert “the leading expert”? How uncomfortable are you likely to be in a hospital ward when a newspaper blithely describes you as “comfortable”? The answers to all these questions and many more will be found in this definitive if somewhat satirical work. If a newspaper report describes you as being “comfortable” in hospital following an accident it can be taken for granted that you are uncomfortable. If you are described as having had “a good night” it can be taken for granted that you had a bad one. “Slightly improved” means you are about to be discharged; “no change” means that the hospital staff didn’t bother to check for the reporter when he telephones. “Seriously ill” means that you are in the operating theatre and they’re working on you. “Critical” means that you have just come back from the operating theatre. ”Very critical” means that it is time to send for the shroud. “A raging inferno” is any fire which causes loss of life even the life of the semi-detached budgie. “The girl was not however criminally assaulted” can usually be taken as meaning that although she was beaten up she was not raped. “Frantic efforts” in general are often normal activities of people the firemen, police and doctors. “Heroic efforts” are civilians attempting to perform the normal activities of firemen, police and doctors. “Trojan efforts” means that both the “frantic efforts” and the “heroic efforts” failed in the face of the emergency. The Gardai “are anxious to interview” is a full scale manhunt.

Welcome to West Belfast 2012

The Infamous Black Taxi Tour

Northern Irish tourism has been going from strength to strength every year with overseas visitors spending an estimated £368million during 2011. As the summer of 2012 winds down, local events have attractined people from all walks of life, as West Belfast offered a range of exciting, creative and cultural experiences that were not to be missed.

Visit West Belfast Tourism Development Officer, Seán Quinn believes, “Our role involves lobbying Statutory bodies on investment and PR for West Belfast especially on tourism. We work with local businesses trying to enhance their tourism products and in developing new ideas. We also attend trade shows where we sell the West as a tourism destination.”

Many locals see West Belfast as an area where once conflict and political issues flooded the streets but in recent years this deep history has helped West Belfast in becoming a tourist hotspot. Huge numbers flock each year to Belfast to hear the stories of cultural differences and historical debates. Popular attractions include, the famous Black Taxi Tour, a walking tour organised by a political ex-prisoner and catching an open top bus to view the political murals.

Though, if politics is not your thing then start your day with a thrilling trek up Divis mountain and take in the breathtaking view of Belfast’s landscape. Then head into the heart of the West for a variety of restaurants, bars and cafés, where you can experience at first hand a warm Belfast welcome, hearty home-cooked food and traditional Irish Music.

One of West Belfast’s most captivating tours is the Gaeltacht Experience, where visitors can hear some traditional Irish music, dance and listen to locals talking about the history. This tour will surely not disappoint.

August 2012 seen the communities in West Belfast come together for a festival which firmly put the West on the map as a tourist hotspot, Féile an Phobail. The festival has gained resounding praise and has grown into one of the largest community festivals in Europe. The carnival parade brought together over 20,000 participants for a colourful, musical procession with specially-designed floats representing a chosen theme, dancers and children in costume and face-masks.It has grown from a one-week festival to a year-round programme. Kevin Gamble, Director of Féile an Phobail believes that, “festivals in West Belfast help in showcasing the West to the World.”

Mary Black, the popular Irish singer performed at Clonard Monastery and Alabama 3, a blues band known worldwide, performed at Falls Park which saw people from all areas come together, enjoy music and food and see the West in a different way. Minister of Tourism, Arlene Foster described the work put into making this all happen, “Our huge investment in tourism during 2012 and beyond is designed to help drive our economy forward faster, encouraging private sector enterprise and creating new jobs.”

The West Belfast Arts Society, which has been running for 25 years and now has a membership of over 60 people has just wrapped up a series of different weekly classes and work in different mediums. The exhibition showcased recent work of the Society’s members and featured a wide range of both medium and subject matter.

Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich in partnership with Shankill Women’s Centre celebrated International Peace Day on Friday 21st September at Townsend Street where a variety of fun filled activities such as circus performers, musicians, theatrical performances and storytelling made a great day for all to see.