Tag Archives: ireland

Remembering Easter Monday 1916

2016: an invigorating walk up and around Cumnor Hill ( Oxfordshire) was so energising that when I got back I poured myself a glass of champagne, added some orange juice and sat down at my newly decluttered desk to watch again Tom Hiddleston play Henry V (Harry) in the BBC’s marvellous Hollow Crown series. Meanwhile,in Dublin, the first shots in the 1916 Easter Rising are being remembered on Irish television. Within a few days, the ring leaders would be  shot and their coffinless bodies buried in lime.

Would that Harry had been on the rebels’ side in 1916: they might then not have been executed with such haste: “Use them with mercy” Henry V instructed his soldiers of the citizens of Harfleur after he had taken the port by force. Though that compassion may have been Shakespeare’s and not that of the real Henry V.


Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Life, Uncategorized

The Easter Rising

Today of all days

No one wishes to stifle individual creativity but some things are sacred so Elizabeth, aged 6, is told no, you can’t colour Ireland’s flag purple. Well, you just can’t. Well, because it’s green, white and orange for a reason.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What the irish ambassador had to say about 1916

Oxford. February 12 2016

Last night, the Irish ambassador to Great Britain, Daniel Mulhall, spoke at a gathering to mark the Bodleian’s exhibition entitled Easter Rising 1916.
It was an interesting speech in which he highlighted a few points:
The age of the leaders of the Rising tended to be much younger than people like Parnellite John Redmond of the Irish Parliamentary Party who was 62 in 1916 while people like Pearse were 37 and Eamonn Ceannt 25.
He felt the Rising could not have taken place were it not for the fact that WW1 was already happening. And following on from that, he quoted a German commentator (I missed the name) who was of the opinion that had Britain not been so distracted by Irish affairs in 1914, there was a chance that she and Germany might have entered into talks that could have averted the war. (I’m not convinced of that.)
He later touched on the legacy for Ireland of 1916 one of which was the stability that followed it all and gave as an example: William Cosgrave held the post of Taoiseach for 10 years. De Valera was President for 21 years.

( I relate this to the Good Friday Agreement which resulted in a form of power-sharing which is still in place eighteen years on, though Jonathan Powell makes the point, in his book Talking to Terrorists, that power sharing has it downsides: “You can’t get rid of the bastards,” as one person said.)

At the end of his very positive talk, the ambassador pressed the little red button on his desk and up came on the wall screen information on the Bodleian’s very new Easter Rising 1916 Web Archive. Try it: http://www.webarchive.org.uk/easter¬_rising/bodleian.html

There was a big crowd at this excellent event and the icing on the cherry was that the ambassador’s talk was followed by a glass or three of wine.

Congratulations to the Bodleian for continuing to be such a generous host and to its ongoing contribution to research into 1916.

You can read Daniel Mulhall’s speech when it goes up, in a few days, on the Irish Embassy website http://www.embassyofireland.co.uk

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Terence Mc Caughey, tower of the Irish Anti Apartheid Movement – and an excellent dinner guest.

De Profudis clamavi, ad te, Domine.
Domine, exaudi vocem meam.

For the group of people gathered together in the Mandela corner of Dublin’s Merrion Square¸it was a grim occasion and as Terence McCaughey intoned the De Profundis, I understood, for the first time, its true anguish:

From the depths have I cried unto thee, oh Lord.
Oh Lord, hear my prayer.

It was April 1993 and Chris Hani, leader of the ANC and the MK in the anti-apartheid struggle, had just been assassinated in Johannesburg. So popular and passionate a leader was he that word had it that he might succeed Nelson Mandela. Now with his murder, the fear was that civil war would break out which, given the hope that the apartheid era was drawing to a close, would be disastrous.
In the event, Mandela went on TV that night to appeal for calm and to warn the National Party that the democratic process must be speeded up. So, two months after Hani’s death, it was announced that the first democratic elections in South Africa would be held in a year’s time – and the rest is history.
A piper played a lament that day in Merrion Square and Terence McCaughey’s calm words held us steady. A Presbyterian minister from Belfast, he was a tower of quiet strength in the Irish Anti-apartheid Movement ( the IAAM) and much loved by us all. He died last week, his wicker coffin with its bunch of daffodils accompanied to its last resting place by a lone piper. A good man who will definitely rest in peace.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Hidden Kerry – that last-minute present you almost forgot to buy

It’s just come in to my hand – Hidden Kerry by Breda Joy and subtitled The Keys To The Kingdom.

Breda Joy, from Killarney has for some years worked as a journalist on Kerry’s Eye and if anyone is going to know about Kerry it’s a Kerry journalist. Open the book at random and take your pick. Here’s the story of  Big Bertha, the cow who lived longer than any other and who produced thirty-nine calves along the way. Once she’d found fame in the Guinness Book of Records, her celebrity status helped raise money for cancer. Bertha is famed for  something else as well: she comes from the ancient Droimeann line of cattle much treasured for their ability to produce creamy milk from the grazing they had at the side of a mountain track.

And then read about the three Miss Delaps of Valentia one of whom was a self-taught and reknowned marine biologist. Explore the story of the German U Boat that surfaced in Ventry Bay in  October 1939, to put ashore the 28 Greek sailors, torpedoed by the same U boat the previosu day but whose captain, having rescued them, then wanted to return them safely to land,

Breda Joy takes us back to the old days, to the days when the smell of tar was a sign that the fishing season was about to start again and the nets, made of hemp or cotton had to be tarred to make them waterproof. Donkeys were used to pull the heavy nets through the baths of tar ready for the fishing. And the catch? Salmon. On a good day, way back in  1963, some 1.800 salmon were caught in an eight-hour period in the village known as The Cashen. Now, times have changed and there are no boats in the water and The Cashen is a forgotten village. Almost forgotten – for the village was also known for its singers and dancers and much of that is remembered in the North Kerry Museum  located out along the Cashen Road.

And this is the strength of this book. It takes you to local places and local people that, let’s face it, you won’t find in the Lonely Planet Guide.

Hidden Kerry is published by Mercier Press, http://www.mercierpress.ie


Filed under Uncategorized

The Turner Prize 2014 disappointment

I first went to the Turner Prize Winner exhibition the year Damian Hirst won and it was brilliant. His take on isolation ( the dots) and separation ( mother and offspring at birth) got me thinking. Separation is something we  all experience and have to deal with.His bisecting of a cow, of course, drew criticism. He was trying to shock, people said. Maybe he was, shock us into thinking about this most primal moment when we are expelled from our mothers’ bodies into  an unforgiving world where we experience cold, hunger and instability. Shocking.

But this year’s exhibition did nothing to reach into the void. The winner is Irish-born Duncan Campbell who expounded his theories about capitalism in a leaden dull way. Videos dominated, accompanied by a monotone commentary. The commentary was sometimes too fast to understand and the superimposed text illegible. Marxist theories were offered which, unless you knew something of Marxist equations, meant nothing.Most Marxists I know are incapable of dialogue and deal only in monologues in which there is no space allowed for an outside contribution. This was no exception.

One theory offered was about the way in which icons are commercialised to the point at which they no longer stand for their original statement. But for Christ’s sake, anyone who has been around for a few years already knows that the ban the bomb sign or the black and white keffiyeh worn by Yasser Arafat have been reproduced as fasion items which have no connection to their original political statement. Are the judges of the Turner Prize that far removed from life that they themselves were unaware of this?

Campbell states that museums have now become, not simply the guardians but the owners of foreign artifacts. This comes from the refusal of the  British Museum to give him access to artifacts from Benin so that he had to use reproduced images of them rather than filming them for his video.

But Africa, the victim of colonialism and thereby relieved of its cultural treasures, is the easy option. Why did he not look closer to home. Not exotic enough, perhaps. Had he taken a trip to Oxford’s Bodleian Library, he would have come across plenty of illuminated manuscripts, from Ireland, which have been “acquired” by the Bodleian.

And so the viewer is left with the impression that Duncan Campbell has been living in an ivory tower where his politics have gone unchallenged. Think the Young Ones – remember them – and you get the idea.

No, the prizewinners exhibition has been a disappointment. Worse, it is boring.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Writers’ Irish Hideaway

This time next week, it’ll all be over – except for New Years Eve. Have you thought about that – the promises to self, the losing of weight, the giving up of drink, the writing of that book…. I won’t go on. It causes too much pain this giving up business. Why not a bit of affirmation instead? Yep, I’ll do this, definitely do that, go there, read that book. Do something you really enjoy doing.

For starters, how about checking out a lovely new writers’ retreat I discovered in Birr recently: the Tin Jug. Brainchild of interior designer Rosalind Fanning, the retreat is actually a fine Georgian townhouse in Birr where you have your own room – I had the Red Room.  Breakfast is left discreetly on the landing for you and the evening meal is served by the blazing turf fire.

Here’s the Red Room:

birr,ox garden binsey fete, eta  septoct 2014 021

And here’s the welcoming glass of wine on my first night at the Tin Jug:

birr,ox garden binsey fete, eta  septoct 2014 070

To find out more, go to http://www.tinjugstudio.com. The Tin Jug has a writers’ residency week which is worth exploring.  If you found this post useful, maybe have a look at my website: http://www.maryrussell.info

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Life