Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Obscenity of World War 1.

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month World War 1 ended. So it was then that at 11am on the 11th of Novmber 1918, the guns fell silent all over Europe for the first time in over four years.As the eerie silence grew, the war weary people of a battered continent began to take in the enormity of the losses and consequences of the so called  Great War – the deaths, the injuries, the broken families and not least, the broken men who returned from the trenches and who would never be the same again.

7A17BEF9-419B-4907-B8BA-D3FDE3D8804F.jpegNearly 50,000 Irish men, died in the bloody obscenity that was World War 1. The figure of 49,435 is mentioned on the War Memorial to the dead in Islandbridge in Dublin. These men had enlisted for a variety of reasons – to show Britain their loyalty so that Ireland would be rewarded with Home Rule, its own parliament in Dublin at war’s end. The bill to allow Home Rule, had in fact been passed in 1912 and was due to come into effect in 1914. However, due to the outbreak of war, it was shelved for its duration. Others joined from youthful idealism, some answered the call for adventure while others still saw an opportunity to receive a regular wage to support their families at home.

Whatever their reasons, thousands marched away to war to the sound of pipes and drums, flag waving and cheering. So many never returned and for those who did in 1918, the climate was so politically changed that they found themselves strangers and regarded as traitors in their own land.  No cheering heaving crowds or marching bands, no flag waving or great speeches to welcome them home. It was a totally changed landscape.   In 1916, the Easter Rising had taken place and in the words of W.B. Yeats ‘All changed, changed utterly’ so that the men who had marched off to War in September 1914 as heroes were yesterday’s men: by fighting in the British Army and not in the GPO,  their sacrifice and bravery were consigned to oblivion for decades.

004C505E-E544-4B76-87D2-B71E69AC4965

All War is an obscenity but none, I feel, more than World War 1, a conflict caused by the greed and ambition of the Great Powers in Europe. Moreover, when peace was finally restored by the treaty signed in the grandeur of the halls in the palace of Versailles in 1919, it was an utterly punitive one against Germany, revenge not justice, the driving force. All it ultimately achieved was a twenty year lull, during which time, anger and resentment festered in Germany,  giving rise to Hitler and the Nazis.

So it was that in September 1939, an even more ferocious conflict was unleashed on a world not yet recovered from the barbarity that had occurred just two decades before. And across Europe, the sounds of guns and bombs and tanks and death, filled the silence once again. And once again, the sound of marching men was heard echoing into the silence.

14051A9E-5465-4090-BD6A-156D2E8F2106

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Waiting

She hates the darkness, fears it. She makes a sound, not sure whether it’s a sob or a laugh. She stifles it as she feels the small, damp hand twitch in hers, steadying herself with a deep breath, then another. She must not lose control. But she is suffocating. The air is fetid, pressing against her, smothering. Her body is covered with perspiration and her bones ache. She caresses the hand on her lap and turning sideways, bends, brushing her lips against the soft cheek.

How long have they been here? Hours, days? She shifts slightly, painfully and the hand tightens in hers. There has been no sound for a long time, not even the scampering of rats or mice, or whatever the creatures are that they share the darkness with. She shudders and closes her eyes, remembering.

The village had been a somersault of panic and dread for months. Life suspended, people waiting, sun shining. The days and nights passing in a slow tumble of light and shadow and heat and shade. Rumours scrambling over each other like living things, each one more terrifying than the last. The villagers sweltering in unbearable heat as each day passed and still, nothing happened. But they lived with the terror: – waking, eating, sleeping, working, pushing the perspiration from their eyes and staring at the empty dirt road leading to the distant north.

At last, it came, as they had known it would. She was feeding rice to the child when she heard it. At first, she thought herself mistaken, deceived by months of imaginings and false alarms, and she stopped, spoon halfway to the child’s mouth. But no, there it was again, a series of booms like muffled drums, coming from the dirt road, an indolent serpent winding itself back all the way to the city, several days trek away.

The child’s eyes widened, the pupils darting sideways, but made no sound. Strangely, for a long moment, there was no sound anywhere. It was as if the village had been sucked into the very atmosphere itself, giving it the chance to take a last collective breath before being spat out, defenceless, puny, against the approaching madness.

From outside the open window, voices, an avalanche of voices, shrill, rapid, urgent. In the room, she could smell it, the terror, the helplessness, the inevitability, and as she laid the rice on the blood red tongue of the child, her hand trembled.

Now in the darkness, she prays for courage, but fears her God is far away, powerless to help them. Has abandoned them, even. She pushes the thought aside but it lingers, like a mist coiling itself into her mind, settling there, taunting, laughing.

She feels the child move beside her and clamber onto her lap. Wincing, she strokes the hair, damp, smelling of stale sweat and begins to croon softly. It is a rhyme her mother used to chant to her as they played games in the wood when she was very young. Shouts of laughter, rising in rhythm with the words, her mother swinging her round and round and she, squealing with happiness.

Hey ho, tipsy toe

Turn the ship

And away we go…

 

Thousands of miles and a wide ocean ago …

 

Her eyes jerk open. The child stiffens on her lap but remains silent. She hears a door burst open somewhere on the corridor outside, volleys of shouts, marching feet and a storm of voices, high pitched, alien. She swallows and puts the child gently from her, forcing her body upright. Her legs are shaky and she staggers, praying that she won’t fall, that she will be strong. She reaches for the child’s hands, gripping them – feels the small body trembling.

The knob turns, roughly, uselessly. The strange voices, high, excited, a crash against the door. It doesn’t budge. Then, more shouts and grunts, the door judders but still holds. It is only a matter of seconds, she knows that. She pulls the child closer, deeper into her side The wood is splintering now, creaking like an old arthritic knee joint. Not long now, not long.

Her lips move above the child’s head and the words come softly…

Hey ho, tipsy toe,

Turn the ship

And away we go, go go..

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Pedal Power only in the Sunny South East.

IMG_1753.JPGDetermined to cycle part of the Dungarvan- Waterford Greenway before returning to school, I arrived in Dungarvan this morning with two friends to an overcast sky, threatening rain and other dire offerings. The look of the sky was so bad that it prompted Nora to remark, somewhat sourly, that swimming goggles might prove to be of more benefit on the route than the sun glasses we wore, somewhat rakishly, on the crown of our heads, to effect a rather bohemian demeanour.
Emerging from a hearty breakfast at Meade’s Cafe in the square, well, there wasn’t any point in foregoing food because of some misplaced notion that real athletes set off on 25 kilometre cycling trips with only granola and natural yogurt in their stomachs. We’ve never set much store in the well-loved catholic belief of penance and fasting, so there wasn’t much chance of the three of us suffering from hunger pangs en route. We are inclined to lean more towards an army marches on its stomach school of philosophy really.
We were amazed, even suspicious, to be greeted by sunshine and a warm breeze as we stood in the square, among all the food stalls: it very evidently being market day in the town. Still, we persisted with our plan of hiring bikes and pedalling the 22 kilometres to Kilmacthomas village. It was wonderful to see so many people, adults and children cycling, walking, running, (ok, there were some who did seem to be on the verge of expiring but even they were putting a brave face on it, it being such a sunny day and all) Fair play to them.

IMG_1765.JPG
The view was wonderful, for the first five or six kilometres, we had the sea beside us, choppy with white spray dashing off the rocks. We passed Clonea Strand, though we stayed wedged in our saddles, as we had this superstitious belief that if we once dismounted, we mightn’t be able to persuade our limbs to climb back up again.
There was a long tunnel, dark, moisture laden, lit only by faint bulbs along the way. It was black and rather sinister and I was thankful when we were back into the sunshine again. We passed under another tunnel, of trees this time, cool, dappled sunlight peeping through the branches which met in the middle. I was so busy here, admiring the beauty of nature and wondering if I’d chance writing a poem on it, that I only narrowly avoided falling off the greenway altogether and tumbling into the ditch ten feet below.
By this time, we’d begun to believe that we’d actually manage to complete the 22 kilometres without mishap, so we detached ourselves from the saddles to take a break at the old pub, near Durrow. Mahony’s has been plying its trade since the 1860s and the three of us were so intoxicated by the combination of fresh air and the quaintness of the pub that we went mad altogether, treating ourselves to a yogurt and bottle of water, with Nora losing the run of herself completely and demolishing two Curley Wurlies – in addition to the yogurt and the water.

 

Nora and myself take a short breakIMG_1748.JPGBack on the bikes again, it was just over an hour to the old kilmacthomas railway station. We were feeling inordinately pleased with ourselves and maybe, in retrospect, that was the problem. Haven’t we all been reared with the old adage: pride comes before a fall?Whatever, it was here, as we were on the home straight that we had, what could euphemistically be called ‘the incident ‘ – though we did manage, thankfully, to survive to tell the tale.

Well obviously, you’re rceading me, aren’t you?

To be continued

 

The Dungarvan -Waterford Greenway was opened by Simon Coveney TD on March 25th this year.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Magic that is Goleen

Goleen is a little village, westwards from Schull, that one travels through on the way to The Mizen. It is where I will settle for part of the year, when I am fortunate enough to win the lotto, write a best seller or maybe come into an unexpected legacy, from a hitherto unknown relative in America. Whatever, it is in this small unpretentious village, that I’ll buy a small unpretentious house and glide seamlessly into my golden years.

Goleen Village

IMG_1729

Goleen was built in the nineteenth century at a crossroads, where there was a cattle fair. And every house along both sides of the street began life as shops. For many years, I visited the village regularly, a month in the summer, some weekends here and there, and at other school holiday times throughout the year. Whenever I could, I headed for Goleen.

Glorious hedgerows on the walks around Goleen

IMG_1725

There are wonderful walks around Goleen, none of which is very far from the sight and sound of the sea. On one, you climb up the narrow road, hedgerows lush with exuberant, orange montbretia and the fuchsia everywhere one looks, until cresting the rise, quite unexpectedly, the sea appears in your line of vision and you are breathless, not because of the climb, but at the sheer beauty of the vast expanse of blue – inviting and sparkling in front of you.

Once, I walked with a friend near midnight, the muffled, lazy sound of the waves just beyond the roadside fields and the flicker of the lights of the far away Fastnet lighthouse casting a long ladder of light over the countryside. A strange, almost hypnotic calm enveloped the sleepy road into the village, seeping indolently into our very bones, wrapping itself around us, until there existed only that moment in that place – there was no past, no future, only the present, the silence and my friend and I.

There was no traffic and the soft whinnying of two horses, heads thrust over the five bar, rusting gate in one of the small fields adjoining the road, was like an explosion in the stillness. The moon shone so brightly that it was possible to see the carpet of wild garlic growing on the hedgerows and their scent filled our nostrils, so that the silence and the faint swishing of the waves, the gently weaving trees and the odour of the garlic, so seduced my senses that I felt almost giddy, heady with the perfection of that moment and that place.

The exuberant montbretia, fuchsia and lush hedgerows around Goleen

IMG_1726.JPG

In the winter, in howling winds and heavy rain, the sea is no less beautiful, wild and savage, untameable and untamed. The force of the wind and the growls of the sea fill me and power and energy course through my body, and there are no limitations to what I can do.

The Fastnet Bar, The Lobster Pot, the Post Office in the corner of the coffee shop, Sheehan’s Grocery and Heron’s Cove on the harbour. And the house, known then as Mary Kate’s, where we created unforgettable memories. And the wind blowing in from the sea, always the sea.

And the house I’ll buy there one day, when I’ll meet my golden years.

Strolling through the village

IMG_1728.JPG

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Broadford Village, Co. Limerick

IMG_0899Broadford Village.

Whenever I return to  Broadford, the small village in West Limerick, where I was born and raised, I think how very pretty it is and how very lucky I was to have spent my childhood there.  My life, my personality, my first vision of the world were formed here in this tranquil corner of County Limerick.

The memories of my childhood are etched into the very road beneath my feet, in the cobbles on the pavement, absorbed into the river bed flowing languidly past, what used to be Jer Forde’s house, on the road leading to Ashford and mixed with the concrete blocks of the creamery, still standing strong and impressive, after more than a century serving the people of the area.

Just up the road from the creamery is the cottage where my mother’s family have lived since 1908, the first and last permanent home of my grandfather, who moved into the cottage, at the age of thirteen. This followed a very innovative initiative introduced by local government at the time, where large farmers provided an acre or half acre, so that a cottage could be built to provide a home for landless labourers and their families. The Delees were one such family.IMG_0922.JPG

Tullaha Cottage.

One of the first things my grandfather, James Delee, did on that sunny September morning, was to plant a conker in the haggart and the tree grew and flourished, witnessing the major events, not only of the Delee family, but indeed the national events which included the War of Independence, the fear engendered by the Black and Tans and the Auxilaries, the bitterness of the Civil War which followed, the Emergency, the proclamation of the Republic, the visit of John F. Kennedy and so many more up to the present day.

IMG_0924.JPGStill standing, the old horse chestnut tree.

On a personal level, the tree witnessed the death of my grandfather’s mother at fifty five, the death from TB of his own wife at the age of thirty nine and the striking down of three of his children with TB in their early teens. Thankfully, all survived, though my mother spent eighteen months in a hospital in Dublin, before she was well enough to return home. My grandfather’s youngest son, born when his mother was dying, spent the first seven years of his life in the County Home, being cared for (very well) by nuns and lay staff. So the Delee family is well rooted in the fabric of Broadford and the surrounding area.

There is, however, much more to the pretty little village that I happily grew up in, in the sixties.

To be continued.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Thou Worse than Useless Thing…..

Just out of idle curiosity, I wonder if anyone reacts the way I do, when a match quenches before it succeeds in lighting a fire or candle. I look at offending match in deep disgust, even contempt and berate it soundly , ‘Well, I don’t believe this, you were created for the sole purpose of doing this job and you just flunked it, you worse than useless, stupid, incompetent, no good article. You should be utterly ashamed of yourself.. one thing to do, only one, and you couldn’t even manage that much, for God’s sake, you pathetic piece of wood.’

I actually believe it shrivels up in shame – I mean, I can see it there before my eyes, shrinking, and so it should obviously.

Just wondering….

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized