Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's time for a Fr. Doyle Square in Dublin

Posted by TheYank at 9/29/2009 10:35 AM EDT

You know who Fr. Duffy is, right? (If you don't, well, we need to remedy that. You can get a snippet here.) Anyway, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers had their own Fr. Duffy during World War I. He was Fr. Willie Doyle, a Jesuit priest originally from Dalkey, Co. Dublin, who was a hero to the men of the 16th (Irish) Division in the British Army just as Fr. Duffy was a hero among the men of the Fighting 69th later in the war.

Fr. Doyle's first taste of combat was at Loos in France in the spring of 1916 at the same battle where, I believe, my wife's was killed. From the first day his unit went into battle Fr. Doyle ministered to the troops with no regard for his own welfare. He heard their confessions, said Mass for them and, frequently, dashed out into danger to give a dying man last rites. He also risked his life to help retrieve wounded soldiers.

In this more comfortable and cynical age it's difficult to appreciate how important Fr. Doyle was to the men of the 16th Division. They were predominantly Catholic and much more committed to their faith than today's average Catholic. And that was before they were stripped of all worldly comforts and forced to live in trenches and face bullets, shells and poison gas.

General Hickie, commander of the 16th Division, wrote of Fr. Doyle:
Many a dying soldier on that bloody field has flashed a last look of loving recognition as our brave padre rushed to his aid, braving the fearful barrage and whistling machine-gun bullets, to give his boy a last few words of hope.

Two monuments along a road near the Messine Ridge in Flanders. The one on the left is for the "Loyalist" Ulster 36th Division and the one on the right is for the "Nationalist" 16th Division. The two divisions fought side-by-side in June 1916 in one of the war's rare clear-cut successes. Fr. Doyle was with the 16th Division then, but frequently found himself among the 36th.
Hickie also said that Fr. Doyle was "one of the bravest men who have fought or served out here." Fr. Doyle was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery during the 16th Divsion's assault on Ginchy during September 1916 during which thousands of Irishmen were killed.

Fr. Doyle was killed on August 16, 1917 during the infamous Battle of Passchendaele. Like thousands of others who died in that muddy hell-hole, Fr. Doyle's body was never identified.

Perhaps the greatest testimony to Fr. Doyle's commitment to the Irishmen who fought and died in WWI comes from this anonymous Ulster Protestant who wrote to the Glasgow Weekly News after Fr. Doyle's death.
Fr. Doyle was a good deal among us. We couldn't possibly agree with his religious opinion, but we simply worshipped him for other things. He didn't know the meaning of fear, and he didn't know what bigotry was. He was as ready to risk his life to take a drop of water to a wounded Ulsterman as to assist men of his own faith and regiment. If he risked his life in looking after Ulster Protestant soldiers once, he did it a hundred times in the last few days. . . . The Ulstermen felt his loss more keenly than anybody, and none were readier to show their marks of respect to the dead hero priest than were our Ulster Presbyterians. Fr. Doyle was a true Christian in every sense of the word, and a credit to any religious faith. He never tried to get things easy. He was always sharing the risks of the men, and had to be kept in restraint by the staff for his own protection. Many a time have I seen him walk beside a stretcher trying to console a wounded man with bullets flying around him and shells bursting every few yards.

Father Doyle's body was never identified. He's listed along with 35,000 others on the wall at Tyne Cot Cemetery near the town of Passendale in Flanders. Coincidentally, his name is beside that of the Reverend John Eyre-Powell, a Protestant Chaplain also from Fr. Doyle's hometown of Dalkey, Co. Dublin.

Father Doyle was recommended for a Victoria Cross, the highest honor for a soldier in the British Army, but it was denied because, according to his biographer, the "triple disqualification of being an Irishman, a Catholic and a Jesuit, proved insuperable."

It's well past time that this is put right. He should get that Victoria Cross now (if that's possible, I have no idea). More importantly, he should be honored in Dublin. New York has Fr. Duffy Square, but there is no Fr. Doyle Square or even Fr. Doyle Street in Dublin. There should be.

jacersisityourself wrote:
Thanks to Yank for this article. Nice little bit o' history that I wasn't taught about. I never heard of Fr. Duffy. If a heroic man needs to be recognised, then let him be recognised. There are many others who are recognised by monuments etc who weren't actually heroes or heroines, just famous people. Let's give recognition to the rightfully entitled ones. Given your story, Yank, I agree... But even if Fr. Duffy isn't recognised in memorium, or in a statue, at least we can be comforted that God will recognise his work on His behalf. *High fives*
9/29/2009 6:49 PM EDT

Ajreaper wrote:
Yank I very much appreciate and enjoy your "history lessons" thanks for a very interesting piece of history.

Both Father Duffy and Doyle would scoff at being honored as they would view what they did as not heroric but simply doing thier jobs- we should honor men such as these anyway.
9/29/2009 9:56 PM EDT

TheYank wrote:

Yes, Ajreaper, you're probably right, but I wonder if Fr. Doyle wouldn't concede to allow such a monument to him if it helped revive the memory of the men he served with. It is almost impossible to convey just how much the Irishmen who served in WWI have been blanked from history here.

I know that to an American you might think, well, what about Vietnam? And it is sort of analogous, but not quite.

It took a few years for Americans to come to terms with the war in Vietnam and to honor those who died and give the vets their due, but the Irishmen who served in WWI fought for an army that was then later discredited in the eyes of a great many people here and in the official history of this state. The veterans never spoke of their service; the maimed suffered silently; the dead were never honored.

This is despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of them joined up at the behest of Irish nationalist leaders who told them that fighting for Ireland's honor and for Belgium against a ruthless German foe would secure home rule for Ireland - a 100+ year old dream.

So, I guess I'd like to see Fr. Doyle honored because it will indirectly honor all those thousands of others who didn't deserve what they got, even if it was understandable in the context of the War of Independence and the need for a new country to develop its own myths and heroes.
9/30/2009 9:52 AM EDT

Ajreaper wrote:
Yank- I never thought about it in that light before. Thank you for the explanation and the example of Vietnam very much paints the appropriate picture for me about how WW1 service for an Irishman was viewed- I would hope they were, at least, not looked down upon for their service by many as American vetrans of Vietnam were. I completely agree Fr. Doyle would concede if it brought attention to the sacrifices of the men he served. The service and sacrifice of men and women in uniform should be honored and respected regardless of one's politics or opinion of any conflict they serve in.
9/30/2009 1:30 PM EDT

jacersisityourself wrote:
On a tourist trip to beautiful Austria, I visited a church to say me prayers. Afterwards, I went into the adjoining graveyard. I was privileged to see families' honouring their sons and daughters who died youngly in battles that they didn't know what they were fighting for. Vietnam comes around again. Young people being sent to war on behalf of Old Men? Again, pls explain the American sacrifice in pursuit of the harmony that doesn't exist in the US of A.
9/30/2009 8:28 PM EDT

kickstar wrote:
I don't agree with anything being named after any clergy, Brothers, priests,nuns bishops,Cardinals,Popes ministers, or vicars I am sure you get the point.It gives the false impression that they are somewhat better that regular folk and we now know that is far from the truth.Being that so many of these folk have been found guilty of sexual and physical abuse against children and it still goes on......http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/reuters/090930/canada/canada_us_bishop
9/30/2009 9:56 PM EDT

kickstar wrote:
yank you are so full of it, The British were only too glad to award the VC to an Irish man and did so very many times and certainly during a grinding standoff like the first world war as it helped with recruitment as for priests were not issued with arms and were not as such under orders so it was quite unlikely that any would be in a position to win a VC, Can you imagine the Citation "He fearlessly sprinkled holy water (as he called it)all over the trench as the shells rained down".. Here are some Irish VC winners..... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Winners_of_the_Victoria_Cross
9/30/2009 10:14 PM EDT

Ajreaper wrote:
LOL, so Kickstar because some- and I would presume a small minority of clergy were involved in such terrible crimes we should paint them all with the same brush? How pathetic and small minded is that?

The vast majority of Priests are decent men who would no more harm a child then the average person would- no one should be held accountable for the sins of others.
9/30/2009 10:29 PM EDT

Padraig wrote:
Kickstar. You truly are a jaded one. Yank writes and correctly describes a good man with no prejudices, religious or otherwise. You seem very quick to point out negatives. Yes allot priest have done terrible things but so many have done so much good. People should be honored, no matter of their background. You, my jaded tart, are racist. Not in the traditional sense, but you have the combined intelligence of a goat and are as closed minded as moth to a flame. You are not able to get out of the way because of a one tract mind. You say this would give a false impression to honor a man's greatness. We as human beings need human heroes, something that we can aspire to. Humans are capable of the worst atrocities and if judged by history, we are the most terrible animal on the planet, capable of genocide. Honestly you think the Germans were the first? What about the British trading small pox filled blankets to American Indians? That killed 3/4 of the whole population. They didn't have the immune system to combat. Genocide can go farther back than that, but the point is we need heroes. There needs to be some light in the darkness, no matter where they come from. If a man grabbed your family members hand on the edge of a cliff, would you tell him to let go because he was a Catholic Priest? Or would you say pull them up? If you said pull them up, “Does that give the wrong impression.”
10/2/2009 2:13 AM EDT

TheYank wrote:

First of all, thank you for that link to the web page of Irish VC winners. I'll have to have a good look at that. My first impression is that very few of the WWI winners were from the Irish Divisions - 10th and 16th. Will have to look again.

Second, I never said that the British didn't award any VC's to Irishmen, I quoted Fr. Doyle's biographer who said that Fr. Doyle had three disqualifying marks: Irish, Catholic & a Jesuit.

As for your belittling of Fr. Doyle's bravery, that barely requires a response. General Hickie described Fr. Doyle "as one of the bravest men" who served under him. That's among thousands. You may think the sprinkling of holy water a matter of amusement, but your view is not relevant. What mattered is how the men felt about Fr. Doyle's work among them.

Also, Fr. Doyle often left the relative safety of the trench in order to retrieve a wounded soldier or - as that anonymous Protestant attests - to bring water to soldiers. Bravery has nothing to do with having a bun in your hand.
10/3/2009 1:12 PM EDT

TheYank wrote:

I'm wary of contradicting you because I'm not 100% sure myself, but the only incident I know of where the small pox blankets were used was actually as a weapon of war during what we call the French & Indian War (the Seven Years War on this side). I think it was in an attempt to lift a siege near what is Pittsburgh today. Again, I'm not that sure of my memory on that score.
10/3/2009 1:15 PM EDT

TheYank wrote:
Bravery has nothing to do with having a bun in your hand.

Too funny. There's a lot of bravery required when eating a hot dog in a bun from some of those street traders in NYC.

Obviously, I meant "gun in your hand."
10/3/2009 1:17 PM EDT

chicagoaoh wrote:
Dear Yank,

I very much appreciated your piece on Father Doyle. It has personal significance for me. My Mayo grandfather (who was of age in WWI but joined the IRA instead) had a 1920 copy of Alfred O'Rahilly's book "Father William Doyle, S.J." throughout his life. My grandfather said it was one of his favorite books, and was please I was interested in it when I visited my grandparents. After he died in 1976, my grandmother gave the book to me. It remains one of my treasured possessions. Doyle's was a unique story of courage and faith, and I am pleased you wrote about it.
10/4/2009 1:06 PM EDT

Padraig wrote:
I'll be bit more clarified in the future. Your correct 7 years war Lord Amherst. and mmm. by the way. I liked this piece.
10/5/2009 1:24 AM EDT

TheYank wrote:

I wish I had a copy of O'Rahilly's book. You're fortunate to have one. It's hard to find. You can find a copy of the text online here http://bit.ly/CsuI3 - which is where I got a couple of the quotes above - but I'd like to own a copy of the book.

I'm very interested in your personal story. I've often wondered how IRA men of the time felt about Fr. Doyle. Your grandfather obviously thought highly of him.
10/5/2009 4:44 AM EDT

edmundburke wrote:
Dear Yank,
I have a two screen names here, because I forgot my first, so I am both chicagoaoh and edmundburke.

Since you were curious about my grandfather in the IRA and his subsequent veneration of Fr. Doyle, I thought I would give you some information about him.

His name was James Curry and he was born in Mayo in 1891. His nationalism was ingrained in him growing up through the general nationalist sentiments of his east Mayo Catholic community and his involvement in the GAA, in which he played excellent football.

His GAA athletic career allowed him to score a lower level position with the railroad. Since he had such a job, he did not have to enlist in the army and escaped service in WWI. (As you know, conscription never went into effect.) Like many others, he was radicalized by the English response to the Easter Rebellion and joined the IRA by 1920. (Whether he was a member of the IRB before that I do not know.) Even though he was 29 then, he was one of the younger members of his east Mayo unit (interestingly). Due to his age, lack of seniority, and his job with the railroad, he was specifically not assigned to armed duty but was assigned to report on the movement of personnel by railroad. In so doing, he was able to report on troop movements and informer movements, the latter leading to reprisals. He volunteered for one military action but did not make the cut. During the last week of the war, the auxiliaries came to his town of Swinford to round him and his comrades up, but he was able to escape to the surrounding fields with the help of townsmen. While he was in hiding, the Truce was declared, and he returned to civilian life. He did not take part in the civil war. He was decorated for his IRA service in the War of Independence, and my grandmother gave me his medal after his death in 1976. The identical medal is on display (or was) in the Kilmainham Jail museum.

My grandfather became a Fianna Fail supporter. Other than that he did nothing political for the rest of his life. He was a devout Catholic and socially conservative. He told me in the 1970s that he did not favor IRA physical force in the North. As I mentioned, he admired Fr. Doyle. His sympathy to the IRA extended to his old comrades and ended in the 1920s. I hope this answers your questions.
10/6/2009 9:46 PM EDT

TheYank wrote:
Dear edmundburke,

First of all, have you looked for your grandfather's family in the 1911 Census? http://bit.ly/3ac6fr Be sure to check the House & Building Return. It's can be interesting when you're looking at your ancestors' hand-writing.

Thank you for the your grandfather's story.

10/7/2009 11:56 AM EDT
jacersisityourself wrote:
Lovely bit o' story by edmundburke/chicagoaoh. I hope the GAA back here in Ireland see it and record it in their future annals.
10/13/2009 7:41 PM EDT

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cabinet members should worry about lone nuts in tough times

Posted by TheYank at 9/28/2009 5:20 AM EDT

Last night someone tried to burn down the Department of Finance building, according to RTE. No mention of who might have thrown the petrol bomb into the building, but I guess we can let our imaginations run wild to the extent that we accept it's someone with a grudge against the government and not just a random act of vandalism.

That reminds me of something that crossed my mind the other day when I was walking by the Department of Finance. I stopped to take a picture of the Lisbon Treaty referendum posters and just as I snapped the picture I realized that the Minister for Finance was in my shot. He was with one other man and heading for his car parked right outside.

The Minister for Finance is the man in the dark suit jacket.

If I'd been an angry nut I could have thrown something at him or worse. A real lunatic could even have filed away the information that the parked car means the Minister will be out shortly and planned an act to do the Minister some serious harm.

Obviously, for the most part Irish politics doesn't engender that sort of passion, but these are not normal times. The economy has taken a serious beating and there are a lot of people who have lost just about everything: job, savings, car, house, credit rating, marriage, self-respect, perspective. There is a constant media barrage of blaming the government for all our ills - and they are greatly to blame - but that sort of talk can unhinge people who have lost so much, especially self-respect and perspective.

Obviously political violence is not unknown in Ireland, but I don't anticipate any group planning and carrying out violent actions against the government due to the economy. Still, I can see no reason why the government should make it easy for that lone nut to carry out a rash act of violence. At a minimum the garda driver should escort the Minister into the waiting car. What else is he there for if not to protect the man?

jacersisityourself wrote:
Bejaysus you're right! People like Brian Lenihan think they are among "The Untouchables". What a rude awakening awaits. Not from me, I hasten to add! I'm just a voter.
9/29/2009 6:58 PM EDT

Friday, September 25, 2009

EU to Ireland: You were just joking, right?

Posted by TheYank at 9/25/2009 10:20 AM EDT

If you're an avid New York Times or Washington Post reader you'll be aware that Ireland is going to have a referendum a week from today. We are going to the polls to answer a simple a question: "Do you approve of the proposal to amend the Constitution contained in the undermentioned Bill?"

Simple enough because all you have to do is decide whether you want to put your X in the 'No' or 'Yes' box. Simple. Right?

It gets a bit complicated if you want to read the "undermentioned Bill" before you decide to say Yay or Nay. The "undermentioned bill" is the Twenty-Eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty of Lisbon) Bill 2009. It runs to about seven pages of legalese, but fortunately the powers that be have provided an official Explanatory Memorandum, which is only 5 pages long.

However, the bill and the Explanatory Memorandum both refer to the Lisbon Treaty, which is really what we're being asked to approve (or not). And that is about 230 pages of the most turgid language anyone could ever have the misfortune to read. And to really understand the Lisbon Treaty you really should have a good grasp of all the other EU treaties that have led up to Lisbon. The EU helpfully provides a consolidated version of all those prior treaties. Another few hundred pages of legalese.

Nobody bothers with any of that, of course. We're all too busy. For Pete's sake, the dead are too busy to read all that. No we're all just going to go to the polls next week to vote 'Yes' or 'No' to Lisbon with only a vague idea as to what we're voting on.

What's interesting about this vote next week is that - in theory - we few million Irish people are deciding whether the Lisbon Treaty comes into effect for the 330m people across the European Union. And we've actually already done that in June of '08.

However, because we voted 'No' - and, thus, frustrated the intentions of the big EU powers - we're being asked, "Are you serious?" The rest of the EU is giving us a do-over because they're not sure if we were really just having a bit of fun at their expense.

Of course it's not really just a bit of fun and those who are campaigning for a 'No' or a 'Yes' are prone to lapses into non-parliamentary language if you start questioning or doubting they're on the right side.

The 'Yes' people believe a second 'No' will be catastrophic: Ireland will be side-lined in the EU; American companies will no longer want to locate their European operations in Ireland; the cost of our exploding national debt will go stratospheric as lenders worry about our future; wokers' rights will be under threat; etc.

The 'No' people believe a 'Yes' will be catastrophic: Ireland will be forced to send our sons to wars at the behest of the British, French and/or Germans; ungodly practices will be forced on us by pagan Europeans; we'll be forced to raise corporate tax rates that help attract American companies to locate in Ireland; a tidal wave of E. European and Turkish workers will come into Ireland, undermine workers' rights and force down wage rates; etc.

Last time out the 'No' votes were 53.4% of the total. A good portion of those who voted 'No' the last time are annoyed at the fact that we're being asked the same question again. However, since the last vote the economy has collapsed and as of right now it looks like that fact might change a sufficient number of people's minds to secure the result that the government & the rest of the EU wants. Yeah sure, we were just kidding.

jacersisityourself wrote:
I voted Yes last time - but only very very just a Yes vote. Thanks to the impartial Referendum Commission, I read much of the imortant bits of the Treaty in its 5-page pamphlet. I was not concerned about the things that the aftermath analysis of the No vote said were of concern to Ireland. I was concerned at the lack of democracy in the decision-making process that the Treaty proposes will ensue. But I thought "Ah, shucks (or something like that) - we're better in than out".

This time around, after all the appeasing sounds from Europe over what were seen as the stumbling blocks in the last rejection, I'm not so sure. Too much of threatening sounds emanating from Brussels and Leinster House's politicians areswaying me.

The issue of lack of democracy in the decision making-process under the proposed Treaty is at last getting more TV and radio time. I think I will go 'No' this time.

This time I hope the 'No' vote wins again. So what if we lose out in Europe?... Shure, to be shure, doesn't the US of A want a 51st State, one on the fringe of Europe? Lotsa Irish will probably go with that *G*
9/25/2009 7:16 PM EDT

Padraig wrote:
you honestly think it would have been voted yes in the other EU countries if "the people" were the deciding factor? I think there would have been alot more saying no.
9/28/2009 2:21 AM EDT

TheYank wrote:

Not sure if you're asking me or jacersisityourself, but I think there was a v. good chance the treaty would have been voted down by the people in a number of states if they'd had a chance to vote. Doesn't change the fact that we're the people holding up the Lisbon Treaty now.
9/28/2009 3:05 AM EDT

Padraig wrote:
It was to you. I can only speak for my family and my friends here in Germany. The Germans would have voted no and I believe many in France would have done the same. I can't personally say I know everything about the Lisbon Treaty, but if Ireland wants to keep, or really regain investment and so many other things then a "yes" is a must. But I have a formal education in History and the US is a blue print for the EU. At first the US was suppose to be States then Federal. this was to give autonomy to the states to guard against one major ruling body, well at that time the King of England. But, now you have a strong federal government and the implied powers gives the president the powers to operate without a senate. I fear once the Lisbon is passed, the cultural identity of Europeans will not be so diversified.
9/28/2009 9:13 AM EDT

TheYank wrote:

Don't forget it took a Civil War and a million (plus) dead to resolve that question about federal vs state power in America.

I'm really pro-Europe, as I'm sure you are. The founding impetus - to build a more unified and, thus, less warlike Europe after WWII makes perfect sense to me.

What bothers me is that the integration movement is driven by bureaucrats in Brussels and not by any groundswell of public opinion. This means that we have a rule-based dream for lobbyists and bureaucrats and nothing like "government of the people, for the people or by the people."

You can read the American constitution in about half an hour, but in order to read the new Consolidated treaties - essentially the EU's constitution - would require weeks and even then you'd end up unsure as to what was and wasn't for you.

If we vote 'No' not only will our debt financing get more expensive and our economy suffer, but I suspect that the whole creaky EU edifice will be under threat. Ganley and others say we "can do better" and I think that's true. But, given the extent of the European big-wigs commitment to Lisbon I think we could also do much, much worse with a 'No'.
9/28/2009 9:51 AM EDT

Padraig wrote:
Yank. I agree with you totally.
9/29/2009 5:21 AM EDT

jacersisityourself wrote:
I have to say while I feel more like voting No, both The Yank and Padraig have very valid points. Maybe I'm veering into the 'Don't Know' field! *L*

I think about my children's future and the future of their families - the result of this Friday's vote will have enormous repercussions for them all. If I am to believe in the telling that a No vote will kill off the Lisbon Treaty (since all EU countries must approve it for it to come into effect) then there must be an alternative to it.

It's the alternative that has not been even talked about - all I hear is that a two-tier Europe will emerge. But hang on - what kind of two-tier Europe? Nobody has explained that to me - and my vote is supposed to matter on Friday! Hmmmm... I think I'm definitely in the 'Don't Know' field now! But I will vote one way or another on the day.

Again I ask, would a No vote mean that if Ireland becomes a second-tier country within Europe, that it might mean that we might again look to joining the US of A as its 51st State? Perhaps even as a 32-county Republic? At least it would solve the problem of all the undocumented Irish, from both the North and South, in the US... maybe.

Or would someone say to me "Shure the US of A is also governed undemocratically"? What's the diff - EU or USof A?
9/29/2009 3:13 PM EDT

TheYank wrote:

No, you never hear about an alternative to the Lisbon Treaty because - so far as the powers that be are concerned - there is none. They believe they've exhausted all possible alternatives during negotiations that led to this treaty. And, I'm sure that the politicians, bureaucrats and lobbyists for all the special interests that got their causes supported by opaque clauses did exhaust themselves. It's hard work to come up with such a muddled document, which is an extension on the muddle of all the previous treaties.

It would have been far better if each country had sent a handful of electorally selected reps to a convention to draft a new constitution for the EU, but that would have cut the professional pols and lifelong bureaucrats out of the job!

To answer your question, a 'No' would legally and officially leave everything as it is now, but I'm sure that in the event of it being 'No' all our bureaucrats and politicians would find that a lot of deaf ears are turned their way when they next seek some help on a problem or whatever.

As for joining the US of A, well, imagine all the upset when instead of a few planes landing at Shannon entire armies are based in the west of Ireland and the US Navy turns Cobh into a nuclear submarine base. No, don't see that happening any time soon.
9/30/2009 9:32 AM EDT

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ploughing Championships not on the tourist trail

As I mentioned in the twitter posts - you are reading those, aren't you? - I'm at the National Ploughing Championships in Athy, Co. Kildare. I've never been to this event before, although it's a huge attraction. The Ploughing Championships run over three days and this year's event is expected to attract 150,000 people.

The National Ploughing Championships are about a lot more than plowing. In my first few hours here I haven't seen a single plow. What I have seen are hundreds of exhibitions and there are at least as many I haven't seen.

The Ploughing Championships are a big deal, but what I was curious about is whether they're a tourist attraction. I think the answer is definitely 'No.' One of the first exhibitor tents I found was one labeled International Visitors Pavilion. When I saw the sign as I was walking along, I had visions of meeting dozens of visitors from Britain, America, Germany, wherever, maybe with free coffee and cake for 'us.' Unfortunately it was not so.

The International Visitors Pavilion was nothing more than a table with brochures from Fáilte Ireland, the national tourism agency. A very pleasant woman there was almost apologetic when I asked her about the the exhibit's name, but she also told me that as far as she could tell there were only Irish people at the Ploughing Championships, other than some exhibitors from England. All the visitors to her tent yesterday and so far today had been Irish people, interested in an Irish vacation or short break. Oh well.

There is one other exhibitor I want to mention now. (I'll have more later.) Kingswood Computing are selling software to farmers. I had a chat with two gentlemen selling the software because I was curious as to whether Irish farmers were had really gone high tech. The answer is that those who have, really have, but a large percentage won't touch a computer. As one of them told me, show them a modern tractor with GPS and they're all there, but try to interest them in a piece of software and, well, you can pretty much forget about it.

However, it's not like Irish farmers wouldn't benefit from computers. As I learned, the records that farmers must now keep to ensure total traceability of their products are very, very detailed. They showed me the record for one cow and every cough, chill or calf is recorded so that we consumers can have total confidence in our food. This traceability allows the supermarkets to even put the farmer's face on the packaging of their beef, which is something I'm pretty sure is not available in American supermarkets.

All of which reminded me of something I saw when I was in a supermarket near Albany, NY last month. The beef was labeled as being the product of US, Canada & Mexico. (And, yes they used the '&' sign so it's AND and not OR.}

Sure, it's "grain-fed for rich beef flavor," but where the heck did it come from? Even those Irish farmers who don't use computers to keep their records must keep the detailed records and anyone selling beef will be able to tell you all about the farm and animal itself. It's reassuring, actually.

More later - and keep an eye on the twitter posts too (above right).

The Ploughing Championships are really a big trade show

Posted by TheYank at 9/23/2009 9:23 AM EDT

They may call the event the National Ploughing Championships, but the trade show is really the center of attention. It's literally at the center of everything that goes on here. The plowing is - for me anyway - hard to find and on the outskirts of all that's happening. Having said that, the trade show is not without its merits as an attraction for this desk-bound, urban/suburban guy.

Two exhibitors in particular caught my eye this morning. One is selling log homes and the other is selling cosmetic products. Yup cosmetics, which tells you more about the people who come to the Ploughing Championships: they're not all farmers as you'd imagine them. There are a lot of women here and an equal share of the exhibits are targeted at women.

The exhibitors that caught my eye included:
Óg Ireland - making cosmetics out of Irish peat taken out of a bog in Offaly. The face mask product - looks like a tub of dark brown mud - is 100% peat and (according to John Kenny of Og Ireland) can help with acne, psoriasis and other serious skin issues.
JPK Log Homes - three men from this company explained to me how houses hand built of pine or cedar in Pennsylvania - with Amish labor, if I'm remembering correctly - are then shipped to Ireland and put together here. Sounded almost too fantastic to me. I couldn't get my head around the idea that shipping a house across an ocean could pay. They assured me it does. {They need to get that web site right.}
The Arch diocese of Dublin - both Catholic and Church of Ireland (Anglican) sharing a tent in a bid to woo the farmers back to church? Have the farmers also left? I didn't realize that.
The agricultural machinery distributor selling a 'cow wash' that looks like a small version of a car wash with the big rollers that scrub the cow top, sides and rump. I only wish it was in operation rather than sitting idle while a video showed how it worked.
For some reason I liked a lot of the agricultural equipment on display. Tractors, milking machines, silos, etc. Just so different from the usual broadband services and computer software type trade shows that I've attended frequently in the past.

John, James & Jimmy of JPK Log Homes. They showed me pictures of their American log houses and other buildings across the country.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Next time students run riot on Fordham Road

Posted by TheYank at 9/21/2009 9:25 AM EDT

I only just came across this story from last Monday. A family in Dundalk, Co. Louth found themselves living in a neighborhood with a large population of students from the local Institute of Technology.

This is what the Daily Star says the McNamee family had to endure:
parties every weekend;
broken glass & syringes outside their house;
late night carousing;
drinking in the road;
climbing on cars;
driving on lawns;
condoms in the grass;
and, recently, women walking naked up and down the road.
Needless to say that McNamees were ticked off about this. What struck me, however, was the fact that they said that the students had made their residential area "like the Bronx."

I went to college in the Bronx and I have to say I don't remember anything like this, probably because the college I attended was for serious, well-mannered young men and women hoping to play a positive role in society. My guess is the McNamees are talking about Fordham's students. Next door to Fordham is the Bronx Zoo — enough said! However, next time Fordham's students escape the confines of the zoo the residents might well say that the students had made their neighborhood like Dundalk.

Actually, I doubt Fordham's students get up to this much anti-social behavior in the neighborhood around the University. And, I know there used to be and probably still is the occasional minor tiff between Manhattan College's students and the residents of Riverdale. Still, what the McNamees had to endure sounds extreme.

Students and families are a bad mix. Even I, as a courteous and gentlemanly young student, kept hours that would not suit families with young children. I doubt much has changed. Music and noise - even without parties - until 2 or 3 or later were, and I'm sure still are, the norm.

Fortunately for me and for the residents of Riverdale, NY I lived on campus for the full four years of college. So, my penchant for relaxing by shooting a hockey puck off the fire hydrant in our hallway only disturbed other students, who were equally good at disturbing me.

I know a lot of students like living off campus and for some it works out well. However, for the most part, students make awful neighbors. Universities should - if possible - try to ensure that students live among each other and not where families are going to be subjected to the drunken revelry and bacchanalia that is, whether we like it or not, a part of student life.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Nama will be a symbol for tomorrow's emigrants

Posted by TheYank at 9/17/2009 10:18 AM EDT

Sorry I've been so silent here the past few days. Maybe you heard we had a fairly serious crash in Dublin between a bus and one of our new(ish) on-street light rail trains?

I nearly missed the Bus-Luas crash story yesterday because I'm completely distracted by the other big story here. Really, the biggest story in Ireland. Nama. Yesterday evening I switched radio stations every time the talk veered away from Nama.

Yesterday the Irish government finally unveiled the plans for bailing out our broken banks. Nama - the National Assets Management Agency - is the plan.

Everyone in Ireland is sick of the sound of it: Nama, Nama, Nama. Sick of hearing about Nama, but equally worried sick about what Nama will mean for them. No one tunes out even when they want to. I'm the same.

Will it work? I have no idea, but like most people here I'm pretty skeptical. Skeptical that the idea is not some form of boondoggle to benefit the governing party's (Fianna Fáil) developer and construction friends; skeptical that anything this government tries could possibly work. Simply skeptical.

Yeah, in truth, I don't think it's going to work for all sorts of reasons. I think the government is paying too much for properties that will be a long, long time (if ever) recovering their value. I think we're being saddled with a debt that will mean a decade (or more) of economic stagnation. And, I think the dusty old "how to" manuals on emigration will be getting a thorough look again. Yup, I think we're about to see a net outflow of people from Ireland. Again.

A lot of young Irish people will soon be looking beyond these shores for an opportunity to work just as generations of Irish have before them. They're not going to stay here to earn low wages - if they can get work - and pay high taxes, both of which are as near as guaranteed thanks to the necessity of having to bail out the banks. Someday in the future thousands of Irish emigrants will think of Nama as a symbol of all that went wrong during the '00s and forced them to leave home.

Already there is a generation of builders, engineers and architects out of work. They're gradually being joined by people who used to work in the banks or other office occupations. Once things pick up in Britain or (whisper, whisper) America, they'll be off.

Have to keep it down about America because very few of those who will be heading west in the next few years will be going with legal visas, etc. Unless of course, that issue gets somehow resolved over the next few months or so.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

If lamb isn't for dinner, what is it for?

Posted by TheYank at 9/15/2009 5:05 AM EDT

Did you hear about Marcus the lamb? In case not, basically Marcus was one of the animals on a farm started by an elementary school in Kent, England. The idea was that the farm would help the children learn about farming and where our food comes from, etc.

I think it sounds like a great idea, better than a lot of other drivel that's been added to school curricula in recent years. I wish my kids had had such an opportunity. {You see, although where we live is surrounded by hills full of gamboling lambs, we're still kind of cut off from the reality of farm life.}

Of course one of the key educational objectives from this project is that the children will learn that animals on the farm are, well, tomorrow's food. That was always going to be one of the lessons of the farm.

Inevitably, some of the kids got attached to little Marcus and some of them didn't want Marcus to be slaughtered. Equally inevitably, however, was the reaction of a minority of the parents.

Their little dears were 'traumatized' at the thoughts of Marcus being killed and rather than tell them that this is how life is, they decided to feed the traumatic frenzy. Three mothers started an internet campaign to save Marcus and, also inevitably, animal rights celebrities and lunatics (often one and the same) jumped in to help try and save Marcus.

Despite this, when the time came, the principal, backed by the staff, school board AND a 13-1 vote by the student council, culled Marcus and he was sent away to become someone's Sunday roast, as he should have been or the farm lessons would have been lost.

Now - and this was all inevitable too - the school is facing serious threats from the lunatics and at least one of the campaigning mothers has contacted a lawyer with a view to suing the school for the distress her child has suffered.

I can accept it might have been genuinely stressful for this girl to accept that Marcus was going to be killed. But, kids get over that kind of thing. Pretty easily, actually. What this poor girl will have real trouble getting over is her mothers' excessive cosseting and the stigma of being the girl whose mother sued the school over a farm animal.

atlanticdreams wrote:
This is horrible. Maybe back in the day people went out and killed their dinners but schoolchildren used to go down the mines too and we hardly want those days back? Or do we?
9/15/2009 11:44 AM EDT

Ajreaper wrote:
I don't think the students participated or witnessed the slaughter- it says the animal was sent away. Three are many children who grow up on farms and/or ranches who not only witness but participate in the slaughter of livestock and they are not scarred for life by it. Reality in the real world does not change or go away no matter how much parents wish to shelter little johnny and Mary from it.
9/15/2009 12:16 PM EDT

lilyfrog wrote:
This is about the meanest thing I've ever seen. Those poor children; I can't even look at this picture myself without wanting to cry. It's just shameful, it really is.
9/15/2009 12:24 PM EDT

TheYank wrote:

I totally agree. Kids are not scarred by the reality of where our food comes from. They deal with it quite well. I never experienced it other than looking at Bambi hanging from people's trees in our town. I was never sure if they hung the deer outside because it was so cold in our area in the winter that it was basically like a deep freeze or was there some other reason for it. Regardless, I'm over it and would eat a piece of venison if it came before me.


There's a massive difference between sending kids down to mine coal - where they might get killed or maimed in an accident or suffer the ill effects of breathing foul air or, at a minimum be denied an education - and letting them look their dinner in the eye.
9/15/2009 4:04 PM EDT

JennLois wrote:
Seriously people, where do you think your lamb meat comes from???? Yes, a lamb just like Marcus. The kids will get attached to something so cute, but they will get over it. The parents dragging it out are just making it worse. And they are looking to just make some "easy" money by suing. Seriously, this society has become way to sue-happy. Something doesn't go my way....sue! Someone calls me a name...sue! Someone looked at me wrong...sue! Wow! Pathetic!
9/24/2009 3:01 PM EDT

Monday, September 14, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Posted by TheYank at 9/14/2009 8:26 AM EDT

We're in the middle of just about the best stretch of weather this summer (autumn here - that's another story), but our local supermarket has started stocking the Christmas items. Yup, on the second Saturday of September our local Tesco started putting out their Christmas chocolates and other items.

I know from my daughter, who has returned from her American summer, that Wal-mart has had their Halloween candy on the shelves for the past few weeks and she thought that was obscenely early, but this is beyond ridiculous. It isn't just that chocolate is perishable - I presume it'll last the 3 months - but these things take up room. Who wants to store chocolate Santas in their house for three months? And, it's not like you won't be able to find these items six weeks down the road.

marsman wrote:
Great article, nice to have to have pointed out. Matter of fact:
last Christmas was a disaster for any such advertising strategy
and it is likely to be repeated all over again. Some businesses
made already fools of themselves, learned it the hard way -
and are going to learn the next hard lesson again. Because
that's already into the counterproductivity of advertising,
getting people to hate it with all consequences.
If someone likes to the problems of the ad industry easy,
they are suffering from declining ad revenue everywhere,
the "Mad Avenue Blues" can be recommended, a song
parody in which fun is made of the ad industry's problem.
Fun that inlcudes, anticipates all those results of stupid
ad strategies. Much better to have fun, be two steps ahead
than simply be annoyed and disgusted.
9/15/2009 5:21 AM EDT

TheYank wrote:

That is a fantastic video / song. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.
9/15/2009 4:13 PM EDT

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Do you have time for a bite of breakfast?

Posted by TheYank at 9/12/2009 8:12 AM EDT

{Warning: reading this may cause heart disease.}

Have you ever wanted to break a world record in the Guinness Book of Records? Well, an eatery in Cavan has set the challenge for you: the fullest full Irish breakfast ever. In fact, it's the fullest breakfast ever offered, topping the old six pounds-six ounce record held by a restaurant in Bristol. The breakfast at Cavan's Hard Boiled Egg weighs in at more than seven pounds.

Seven pounds of breakfast. Just let that sink in (or better yet, maybe not). I've held seven pound babies in my hands, but I've never thought about eating one.

Seven pounds. McDonald's is under fire for coming out with their third-pounder burger, which tops the old quarter pounder by a fraction, but imagine the uproar (and the upchuck) if they changed their quarter pounder for a four pounder and threw in 3 pounds of fries with that!

I know, I know. Too horrible to contemplate. But what of the offer from the Hard Boiled Egg?

The breakfast consists of the following: ten rashers (thick bacon slices), ten sausages, ten eggs, five pieces of pudding, five hash browns, French fries (presumably the thick, greasy Irish kind, not thin salty McDonald's fries), tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans and ten slices of toast. I don't know if the pudding is black pudding or white pudding. If you don't know what either of those delicacies consists of you may be just as well off. Offal and awful might just cover it (although I've been known to eat both).

Have a look at this picture from Irish radio station Newstalk. This looks bad enough, but the beans and toast aren't even here.

When I first heard about this my first reaction was something along the lines, “If only I were 25 years younger ...” as if the breakfast were an attractive young woman or an invitation to play baseball again. But the truth is, even when I was 20 I wouldn't have been able for ten sausages, ten bacon slices and ten eggs.

When I was 20 I wimped out on a challenge to a chicken-nugget eating contest, one that was won after a mere 34 chicken nuggets. I knew I'd have trouble past number 9 or so, a child's portion.

Then there are the baked beans. I don't know why baked beans are even part of anybody's breakfast, but Mike McLellan writing in the Tracy Press (Tracy, CA) says that beans should be as closely associated with Ireland as potatoes are. He says that Boston's reputation as the baked bean capital of America is thanks to the influx of Irish immigrants in the 19th century. Okay, I suppose, beans in the breakfast.

We can't see the beans in this picture, but if they're going to be in proportion to the rest of the breakfast there would have to be a vat-sized bowl of them. Oh boy. What if someone actually ate that amount of baked beans? How many days would it be before they would be fit for human interaction? (Or even non-human. Why should a dog or a cat have to suffer?)

No, this breakfast is not for me and never was. It needs a John Candy. {Remember how he polished off the 48oz steak in The Great Outdoors? That's the spirit required here.} This is a challenge for a man with a serious appetite, an iron gut, a cavalier attitude to his own personal health, and, let's face it, no qualms about producing antisocial smells for a few days. {I'm not sure if this is sexist or not, but I cannot picture any woman having so little self-esteem - and intelligence - that she'd even attempt to eat such a breakfast.}

This is a great “I dare ya” to all the men of Ireland and any passing tourists who happen to be feeling a bit peckish during a visit to Cavan Town. The challenge is yours. Your name in the Guinness Book of Records and immortality - well, until someone eats an 8lb breakfast - await.

The breakfast costs €19.95 (about $30), but is free if you finish it in half an hour. Bon appétit.



jacersisityourself wrote:
This had me in big guffaws... but I'd never try a whopper of a full Irish. No, nay never! I'd say the seven-pound breakfast is for a few lads on a Saturday morning after the Friday night pints before they go play their football and hurling matches in the afternoon.

But I do enjoy the full Irish brekkie - I love cooking a good oul' full Irish, with all the foods mentioned except the french fries - who'd want more potato when you've got your fill of delicious Hash Browns? French fries are for wimps' lunches and supper's fish 'n chips, preferably the thick greasy ones, not your wimpish MacD's type. When I was a kid I couldn't eat pudding after I found out it was made from pig's offal, with pig's blood added to make black pudding (they're both now often served as a pre-meal delicacy in some of Dublin's finest eateries).

But I've grown to love both black & white pudding, deliciously seasoned tasty stuff. Then there's the fried eggs.. oh what a treat! - especially if cooked half-soft and served topped with a splash of good oul' Chef brown sauce. Fry or grill the rashers to near burnt, add pan-heated tomatoes and mushrooms with a sprinkle of onions, the ever delightful sausages. As I cook all these, I get that whiff of their appetite-whetting odour. Aaargh! Now I can't wait for breakfast in the morning!
9/12/2009 4:18 PM EDT

TheYank wrote:

I'm sure you're right that this breakfast is for "a few lads on a Saturday morning after the Friday night pints before they go play their football and hurling matches in the afternoon." Uggh. I feel unwell just thinking of running after eating all that.

I have to admit I like black & white pudding myself, particularly the like the black. Actually, I like all the breakfast foods, but in manageable portions. I don't require 7lbs.
9/14/2009 7:54 AM EDT

Padraig wrote:
black pudding. no one can do it better than Ireland. Living in germany, they call "brutwurst" translation blood sausage. Same thing but they can't prepare the good way after those pint filled nights of good craic.
9/15/2009 12:53 AM EDT

Friday, September 11, 2009

Never so far from home as on Sep 11, 2001

Posted by TheYank at 9/11/2009 7:28 AM EDT

The weather is perfect today. Just like it was then. We all remember the absolutely perfect weather in New York eight years ago, but it was almost exactly the same here.

Eight years is a long time. Just trying to think how much has happened makes my head spin. Children growing up, family members dying, career changes - so much. Then there's the wider world: wars, natural disasters, economic collapses, elections and new governments. It's actually been a good while.

Yet, when I see the date on a milk carton or an ad for an upcoming soccer game or on my computer screen memories flood in and it's as if everything happened only yesterday. Suddenly eight years seems like a blip.

There is a September 11 season on television here, especially on Britain's Channel 4. I watch all the documentaries and wonder afterwards what motivates me to watch them. I just can't help it. Still trying to understand, I suppose.

Everyone has their own memories. What I remember most clearly are the feelings: confused, sick, angry, but more than anything I remember feeling like I wasn't where I should have been. On the evening of September 11 I went out into my backyard and looked up into a beautiful sunset, into the west, roughly towards NY and wondered to myself, "What on Earth am I doing 3,000 miles away?"

That feeling came over me slowly. Wasn't there initially. I was in an office in Dublin when the news first came through that a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers. I assumed it was a small single-engine plane and tried to focus on my job, but of course any news story about New York always distracted me. Then, in what has now merged into a time span of seconds I learned that it was a passenger jet and that a second plane had just struck the second tower.

A sort of fog came over me from that moment. Just like everyone else around the world, the people in the office sat transfixed, watching the television. I remember my wife calling to talk about it and saying that she'd heard the Pentagon had been hit too. I didn't believe her. That would have been just too fantastic a tale. I was sure it was just another rumor. But, two minutes later the station we had on reported the Pentagon attack. My God!

I never imagined the World Trade Center buildings would fall, but once the first did it seemed inevitable the second would too. And when that finally happened, I went back to my desk and sat down for a few minutes then grabbed my stuff and left. I didn't say a word to anyone. Must have been around 4:00. No one was working.

That's when it started. I walked down the street to the train station, up to the platform and onto the train feeling increasingly like an alien in a city I'd lived in for 10 years. I stared blankly around me on the train home, but I felt like a gulf was opening between me and the others around me and everyone else in Dublin.

I was glad when I got home. My wife understood exactly what was going through my mind. I couldn't take off the television at home, but I didn't want the children to watch. It was too late, of course. They'd already seen too much because RTE preempted their children's programming with live scenes from New York. Everyone was too shocked to think rationally.

The sense of alienation hardened over the weeks and months that followed. I didn't want to talk to people, even friends. Couldn't avoid them all, unfortunately. Lots of conversations ended with me being really angry.

Now so much time has passed that the sense of alienation has faded, although it hasn't completely gone away. I doubt it ever will. I took New York - America - for granted before September 11. That will never happen again and it's that sense that keeps me apart from most people here.

{If you're interested, this is what I wrote on this date in 2003.}

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Look for your relatives in the 1911 Census

Posted by TheYank at 9/10/2009 11:35 AM EDT

Now we're cooking. As Kelly reports elsewhere on the site, the full 1911 Census of Ireland is now available online. This is absolutely tremendous.

For those of us whose grandparents or great-grandparents had not left Ireland by this time, it's actually exciting to see the forms. I found my great-grandfather's form, which included all sorts of little tidbits that I didn't know. First I had some trouble finding my great-grandfather's census form. Why? Because the database lists the family as Fahey and not Fahy, which it should be.

Yet, unlike the error by the people at Ellis Island, where my grandfather's name was spelled as Tahy, the problem with my great-grandfather's census form is that he didn't seem too settled on any particular spelling for the family name. He seems to spell the name with an "e" in his signature, but without the "e" in the "Surname" column.

This might seem a little odd, but if you read Mike O'Laughlin's column on Irish family names you'll get an idea as to how this might have happened. My great-grandfather was born in 1848 and - I'm assuming - grew up speaking Irish more than English. As an Irish-speaking friend once explained it to me, "The Anglicized name wasn't really their name anyway so a lot of people didn't mind how it was spelled in English."

Again, don't be put off if you have trouble finding your relatives. It's worth it to make that extra effort. And, be sure to have a look at the House and Building Return. That can take a bit of effort to figure out, but you can get an idea as to what the house was like and how it compared with their neighbors'.

I can't wait for the 1901 Census to go online next spring.

No more 'nod of peace'

Posted by TheYank at 9/10/2009 10:57 AM EDT

You might remember a few weeks ago I mentioned that the priest at our local church had decided to do away with the sign of peace due to swine flu. He didn't come up with this idea all on his own, however. It was a response to a statement from one of the bishops asking people to stop shaking hands at the sign of peace.

So, instead our priest asked us to turn, nod and smile at the people sitting near us. To say the least, this was a little strange. I half expected the padre to say, "Now bow to your corner and do-si-do your partner..."

And you know what I learned? It's actually easier to turn and shake hands with a stranger than it is to turn and look at them all the while trying to ensure your smile looks genuine, but not overly friendly. I know after one 'sign of peace' I walked out of Mass thinking to myself, "That lady who was sitting behind me is going to think I've been drinking." It wasn't even 10am yet!

Well, no more. I don't know if the priest got wind of how uncomfortable the new regime was making people, but now we're only being asked to say a short prayer for the people around us. And that - let's be honest here - is a whole lot easier than worrying about whether your smile looks like a grin or a chuckle.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Celtic, Notre Dame and "Go Irish"

Posted by TheYank at 9/5/2009 10:15 AM EDT

The Irish kick off this afternoon and here's hoping that they don't let down against what, on paper, looks like inferior opposition. That has been too common a refrain in recent years.

You know I'm talking about soccer, right? Oh, maybe not. You may well have thought I was talking about Notre Dame and their season opener today. In truth, I was thinking about them too, but the Irish national soccer team has a “crucial World Cup qualifying match” this evening in Cyprus. It was in Cyprus 3 years ago that the Irish lost – were humiliated – in what was then a “crucial qualifying match” and missed out on the 2008 European Championships.

I've often thought it kind of funny that the phrase “Irish football team” refers to two completely different teams playing two completely different sports and which is which depends on whether you're on the east or west side of the Atlantic. In Ireland gridiron football really does not exist and the phrase “Go Irish” – if used – would not imply quarterbacks, wide receivers, linebackers or defensive tackles. (I haven't actually seen a lot of football the past 20 years, so I'm not even sure if the positions are the same as I remember.)

As you can imagine the Irish national soccer team is one team that everyone here (in this part of Ireland – Northern Ireland has its own team) agrees on. We'll all be rooting for them later and in their next two games coming up in Dublin against Italy and Montenegro.

Funny enough there is one more soccer team that just about everyone in this part of Ireland also agrees on and that's Glasgow Celtic. Despite the fact the Irish national soccer team and Notre Dame's football team share the name “Irish football team”, Celtic is in many ways more like Notre Dame.

Like Notre Dame, Celtic has roots in Catholic charity. Celtic was formed in the late 19th century when Irish Marist Brother Walfrid established the club as a means of raising money to help Irish immigrants who had flooded into Glasgow, Scotland in the years after the famine.

Br. Walfrid's club quickly took root and developed into a soccer power and its chief rival was Glasgow Rangers, the Protestant team. The intense rivalry of these two clubs – and it's still fairly intense – helped ensure that Celtic acquired a strong following among Irish Catholics in Glasgow, across Scotland and in Ireland.

Notre Dame's football program grew into a national power in the early 20th century and its success had a similar effect in America.

The small Catholic college in Indiana acquired the nickname “Fighting Irish” for reasons that are a bit murky these days. In fact, Notre Dame's players were as likely to be of Polish or German origin as Irish, but the name – which was a put down initially – became a badge of honor signifying the grit and tenacity of Notre Dame's teams. During the 1920s the name “Fighting Irish” created a legion of fans among the east coast Irish, for whom college was mostly an aspiration they had for their children.

These “subway alumni” transformed Notre Dame from a small mid-western regional power into a national force, drawing massive crowds to their games at Yankee Stadium and other eastern stadiums.

The subway alumni hope that this year's Fighting Irish can push the last few years' poor showings into distant memories. It all starts today. As for Celtic, they had a let down last year and have already endured disappointment in Europe's Champion League in the early season play. Today Celtic's Irish fans will forget about their club for a day and root for an Irish win. The two games kick off this evening, with the Irish soccer team starting at 2:45 EDT and Notre Dame at 3:30.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I can't even escape the Yankees in Ireland

Posted by TheYank at 9/4/2009 7:36 AM EDT

If you've been dropping by here for a while now you know I'm a baseball fan. I'm a Met fan and of course by extension that also means I'm a Yankee hater. All of which means that this has been an awful summer baseball-wise.

Living in Ireland can be a comfort at times like these because, for the most part, I can put the Mets' woes and the damn Yankees' current good play out of my mind. Other than the not-quite-occasional-enough e-mails from friends and family I don't have to endure the Yankees at all. In fact, often I can go a whole day or more without the Yankees entering my consciousness, although that's been getting harder the past year or so.

You see, Yankee caps and shirts and other stuff have - God knows why - become fashionable here. I can be walking down the street, minding my own business when I'll see some unthinking 18-year-old girl wearing a Yankee cap. As we walk by one another I'm sure she wonders why that middle-aged guy is sneering at her, but it's no more than she deserves for causing me pain when I think I'm a safe 3,000 miles away from the Yankees.

And now my local supermarket is getting in on the act. On a recent trip to get groceries what should I be confronted with? Only a shelf selling Yankee bags. 'Back to school' - lecch. I hope whatever kid carries that bag around gets double homework everyday!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

John Condon of Waterford, "youngest battle casualty"

Posted by TheYank at 9/1/2009 7:02 AM EDT

As I mentioned last week I returned to Flanders because I didn't feel like I'd seen all I needed to see there. Following my last visit I became fascinated by World War I and the Irish role in it. I wanted to return to see some of the places and the graves of those I'd been reading about.

On my list was the grave of John Condon from Waterford. I came across his name in a book about the Irish in the Great War. Condon is listed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as the "[y]oungest known battle casualty of the war." His headstone says he was 14 when he was killed on May 24, 1915. Condon's grave is thought to be the most visited among the hundreds of thousands of soldiers' graves from the Great War.

Having read that about Condon, I thought I should pay a visit myself. When I arrived at the right cemetery - there are hundreds around Ypres - I realized I didn't have the grave reference. Uh oh, I thought. I didn't have to worry, however, because while walking through the cemetery Condon's grave almost shouted out to me what with the Irish flag and the little wooden crosses left by those who had visited recently.

As I was standing in front of this one grave among the thousand or so graves I couldn't help wondering how any 14-year-old managed to convince some (too willing?) recruiter that he was 18.

Since I've come home I've learned that Condon may have done no such thing. First, I went looking for the Condons' census form from the 1911 census. That's when doubt first entered my head. I couldn't find any family with a John of the right age to be Private Condon. So a short Google search turned up this, from the local Waterford newspaper in 2007.
According to Michael O’Connor, Director of Waterford Heritage Services, John Condon was actually born in 1896 and was 19 when he died, not 14. He hadn't fooled anyone, but was actually the same age as so many of those who died in Flanders between 1914 and 1918. And Michael O'Connor says that the Condons' census form from 1911 lists John as a 15-year-old "General Labourer."

A little additional digging and it turns out that John Condon may not be buried in that grave at all. This site claims that the remains of a different missing soldier, 35-year-old Patrick Fitzsimmons from Belfast, were misidentified as Condon's back in 1923.

Uggh. It was all so much simpler when I was just going to visit the grave of the youngest soldier killed in the war.

{Maybe not as interesting as being the youngest battle casualty, but the Condons' 1911 census form shows that John's mother, Catherine, is listed as 40 years old and married 26 years. They were certainly different times.}