September 28, 2003

Reading matter

The James Joyce centre is running a poll of the top 10 Irish novels. Alas you have to choose from a shortlist of 50 'worthy' novels rather than pick whatever novel you like (presumably to stop Maeve Binchy winning it). The bould James gets a special mention on the Guardian's online discussion on the Worst Read, though not in a good way.

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It never rains but it pours, Pt. II

I called over to Pollatomish yesterday, to have a look at the damage caused by the landslide. The Garda at the checkpoint wouldn't let me up the road to where most of the damage occurred, so I drove over to Rosduagh, and looked across the bay. I couldn't help thinking of the Aberfan disaster - all across the ridge of the mountain, deep gashes were visible where the bog had slipped down the hill. The worst landslide crashed straight through the graveyard and down onto the road. Had it happened in the path of any of the houses, it would have washed them straight into the bay.(Picture is from the crappy digital camera - I'll post some 'proper' photos when I get them developed).

The extent of the damage can be seen - the landslides occurred across the length of hills from Dooncarton (right) to Pollatomish (left). The pillbox structure on the ridge is a radar station. It looks like one of the landslides occurred close to the site.

By the way, there are some enormous mussels clinging to the bottom of the pier at Ross Port, at the low-water line. I couldn't reach them and my suggestion to lower Herself down by her ankles to grab a handful received an unseasonally cool response.

View of Pollatomish from Ross Port, looking across Sruwaddacon Bay at low tide. The landslides are the dark streaks on the hills.

Most of the Sunday papers give it some coverage, though none have much of an explanation of what happened. It seems that the rain caused the peat to become saturated and so heavy that it eventually detached from the land beneath. Like a snowball, once it started, the momentum would increase, bringing even more material down the hill. I'm inclined to agree with this column in, if only because I hate sheep almost as much as the author. In all the coverage, there is no mention of the stone circle at Dooncarton that overlooks Pollatomish and Broad Haven. It has lasted millenia already - in fact it was probably erected before the bog ever formed on the hillside of Barnacuille and Carnhill - hopefully it has survived.

More pictures of the landslide available on the site here.

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Fair Trading

The fair was in Castlebar yesterday, and it seemed every skanger in Connacht was there. By the way, an showing of the ESB Environmental Photography Award winners is still on the Arts Centre, while, in the coffee shop, there is a modern installation, called "Screaming Children with Chain-smoking Mothers" Very contemporary.

No doubt the card-sharps, stall-traders and , most importantly, the chip-van drivers were getting in a bit of last-minute practice before the premier event of the autumn - the Ballinasloe Horse Fair, which takes place next weekend. It is the one weekend of the year when the residents of the town won't have to worry about the smell of the landfill in the town.

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It never rains but it pours, Pt. I

No sooner had Fianna Fáil's John O'Donaghue finished gloating over Joe Higgin's incarceration in Mountjoy (he suggested that Higgins should be censured by the Dáil), two Fianna Fail TDs land themselves in a bit of trouble. In Limerick, Michael Collins was named in the Revenue Commissioners list of tax evaders. Despite (Fianna Fáil-led) initiatives such as an amnesty for tax evaders, Michael tried to keep the head down. He issued a statement, saying he deeply regretted the circumstances regarding his financial affairs - i.e. he regretted being caught. Michael resigned the party whip yesterday - which is about as hard-hitting as a university graduate being deprived of alumni membership. Michael will vote with the party, run as Independent Fianna Fail at the next election, and will be re-assimilated to the collective afterwards. Resistance is futile.

Meanwhile in Dublin last week, G.V. Wright, TD drove at speed home from the Dail. Unfortunately, he had been drinking (7 whiskeys according to the Sunday World), and mowed down a nurse. She survived, though one of her legs is held together with pins and stitches. G.V. deeply regrets …being caught too. As Gene Kerrigan in the Sunday Independent pointed out, he scraped in at the last election on the last count, narrowly beating…Clare Daly, currently in jail with Higgins for blocking a bin lorry from collecting rubbish in Finglas. Now, I'm dead against the protest, but if I had to choose who deserves jail more…..

You'd like to think that criminal activity, particularly of a type that directly undermines major initiatives of the legislature, would warrant resignation from the Dáil. Wright in particular seems to be intent on sitting it out. Presumably if Wright had killed the nurse, he might feel obliged to resign. But since he only winged her, maybe he doesn't feel so bad. If only it was a safer seat, then he could go….

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September 24, 2003

Orange is not the only colour

In a NIHE Limerick student union presidential election debate some years ago, one of the more prominent candidates opened his speech by opening a bag of carrots (which he had thoughtfully peeled beforehand) and threw them at the crowd, yelling," This is for all the lesbians in the audience". Such juvenile tomfoolery didn't win him many votes, but in the testosterone (and sweat)-filled atmosphere of a college that was ninety-something percent male at the time, it was considered almost Swiftian wit. God knows what they would have made of this.

I only mention the incident because it seems that the humble carrot is not naturally orange. No, it was originally maroon, but a few centuries ago, Dutch breeders managed to breed an orange strain to honour their royal family (of whom we are somewhat familiar with in Ireland). Imagine, all the carrots that Irish people have munched through over the years, and each one a tribute to King Billy and the House of Orange. Mind you, Arthur Guinness and his four sons were founder members of the Orange Order in Dublin (for that's where it all started) and that hasn't put off too many Paddies from slurping their weight in stout as often as possible.

From the ever eclectic Metafilter.

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September 21, 2003

Long Live the King

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Easy Pickings

September has been a glorious month. Every time it seems that the summer has finally gone, another hot sunny day comes along, lifting the spirits of the people and the land itself. Flowers that had begun to fade, rise again, and produce yet another swathe of blooms. In my own little sheltered garden, poppies (both garden and Californian) that began blooming in June are still standing tall, the clusters of sweet peas are still climbing (and the delicate scent still welcomes me home every evening) and the salvia horminum still provide splashes of pink and purple.

Yesterday, I stood on Benchoona overlooking Little Killary Bay - it was a glorious day. You could see InishTurk (Inis Toirc), Cahir Island, Clare Island and the cliffs of Achill from Croghaun down to Achill Head.

The graveyards of Pollatomish - looking across Sruwaddacon Bay, Co. Mayo.

Looking up the Mayo coast, it was hard to believe that the previous night, torrential rain had caused a landslide at Pollatomish, demolishing the road and damaging houses. Mercifully, no-one was injured.

We headed down to Carrickduff beach afterwards to pick mussels for chowder.

The motherlode - Irish blue mussells on Carrickduff beach, Co. Galway.

The mussel shells are bigger than those on Doorus, where we collected mussels last week, but the mussels were smaller.

The latest in high-tech mussell-picking equipment

When we were on Doorus (the peninsula west of Kinvarra), there was a Dutch lady digging for clams - she had a fair haul but it seemed like hard work. On Carrickduff, there were a few swimmers and plenty of walkers. Most people strolled over to the island (accessibleat low tide) at the end of the beach to look at the 'fortress' (built by a Czech movie company).

Maybe we should get them to 'jazz up' a few of our monuments around the country.

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It was quite a week. In a cosy interview with Matt Cooper on TodayFM, Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly waxed nostalgic about the mass breakout of Republican prisoners from the Maze prison in Northern Ireland 20 years ago, though he was less eager to talk about the prison officer killed in the breakout or indeed, the warden that he shot in the head but didn't manage to kill. The Shinners would like to think that their prison days are behind them, but other politicians are taking their place.

Joe Higgins, Socialist Party TD, and Clare Daly (another member of the socialist party) were sent to Mountjoy prison for a month on Friday, because they refused to comply with a High Court order to stop obstructing garbage collection in Finglas. Liam Lawlor will probably be joining them soon after yet another bout of testimony at the Planning tribunal that Flann O'Briain would have been proud of.

To hear some of the reaction to Higgins' incarceration, you'd swear it was on a par with the Birmingham Six. Not so. Joe's point is that since people pay income tax, they should not have to pay extra to have their rubbish bins collected - a double tax, as it were. As economist Moore McDowell pointed out, you could make the same argument for more vital services, namely electricity or water. Worse still, because every other county in the country is operating bin charges, Joe's action would lead to a triple taxation for everyone else - paying income tax, their own bin charges and also paying for Dublin's litter collection too. In fact, this is already happening, since the proposed rate of bin charges is about a third of the rate charged anywhere else. It is lower because the state (Dublin county councils) operate the collection, at below the commercial rate (i.e. subsidised by the rest of us).Actually, since Higgins is a TD (also paid for by the rest of us), he's giving us a quadruple tax. Hey wait a minute, we also pay for the prisons…Damn, Joe is really screwing the rest of us. Hopefully, he'll be making wheely bins in the prison workshop.

Most of the other political parties believe in the 'polluter pays' principle. I'd go further - let the area that generates the rubbish take care of the rubbish, rather than plan to ship it to a tip or incinerator, down among the country cousins.

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Sharon's Grave

The Druid Theatre's production of John B Keane's "Sharon's Grave" finished up last night. If you get a chance to see it on tour, seize it. The play, written in 1960, is set thirty years earlier in rural Kerry. An old man lays dying in a ramshackle cottage on the coast - his daughter Trassee Conlee tends to him, wondering what will become of herself and her simpleton brother, Neelus in the future. The cause of her anxiety is her cousin, Dinzie who intends to seize the farm once his uncle dies - he plans to send Trassee up to his own parents house, and send Neelus to a home.

Dinzie is an evil creature, consumed by hatred. He hates the old farmer for not dying sooner, forcing him to wait for what he regards as his rightful inheritance. He hates his cousins - their presence on the farm endangers his plans. But most of all, he hates life. His legs are withered, and he uses his bigger but simpler brother as a packmule. He feels only half a man not just because of his physical deformity but because he has no land, and is therefore of no attraction to anyone. Once he gets the farm, he reasons, there'll be no shortage of women who'll marry him.

Dinzie's plan takes a knock, when a stranger, Peadar arrives at Trassie's door on the night of her father's passing. He had travelled there looking for work and stayed on to help around the farm after the funeral. The attraction between Peadar and Trassie is immediate and obvious, and it grows stronger as the days pass. Dinzie knows that if his cousin marries, he will have no inheritance. It is clear only murder will secure his future

Though Tom Hickey gets top billing (as a healer Pat Bó Buí hired by Dinzie to prove Neelus is mad and thus have him committed), it is Frankie McCafferty as Dinzie that is the centre of the show. His first appearance, piggybacking on his brother, is at his uncle's bedside. Die!, he screams, won't you die and be done with it! And he only gets more malevolent after that. When he is set down, he writhes about the stage like a snake, hissing evil and venom. He has the best lines, of course, but it is a sustained and frightening performance by McCafferty, who would be best known to most Irish or British viweers as an amadán in the TV show, Ballykissangel. While Dinzie represents evil in a pure form, Neelus (played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) is an innocent in this world. He spends his time, day and night, out at Sharon's Grave, the mouth of a hole in the cliff that plunges down to the sea. Local legend has it that Sharon, a celtic princess, was thrown into the pit by a deformed underling who was jealous of her beauty - Sharon's last act was to drag her attacker with her to a watery grave. Neelus believes the shrieking and howling of the wind and the moaning of the sea, is the lament of Sharon herself, who can only gain eternal release by sacrifice. The play's denouement hinges on the battle of affection for Neelus, between his sister's unquestioning love for him, and Dinzie's attempt to trick him into disposing of both him and Trassie.

This was Keane's second play, and is a powerful insight into the desperation caused by grinding poverty. The dialogue is earthy and steeped in the piseogí and superstitions of the time. As I was watching it, I wondered if my own generation, born in the late Sixties and early Seventies, would be the last to view such a play with any familiarity. The likes of Pat Bó Buí, part faith-healer, part quack, who would be as likely to get a call to heal a sick pig as a sick neighbour were still around when I was growing up ( though mainly for curing animals). I still know people who go to fortune tellers and 'tea-leaf readers'. In another generation, there probably won't be many farmers of any sort, let alone the small holdings of peasant farmers that Keane writes about in this play (and others). And yet, in the week just gone, a man went to prison for helping his father kill his uncle in a row over land. The younger brother inherited the holding six years after the play was written and was killed 30 years later by his older brother, his resentment at being manoeuvred out of his inheritance (as he saw it) leading him to bludgeon his sibling to death with the help of his son.

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September 18, 2003


Dog rose, Galway

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September 17, 2003

A load of rubbish

John Fay complains about the behaviour of GreenStar, the company that collects his rubbish. Folks in east Galway aren't too happy either, because they are worried that the company is planning a big fat dump or incinerator in the area.

When it comes to garbage, it's usually better to give than to receive.

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Stop the press

In the last few months, I heard quite a few hair-raising stories about the behaviour of builders and auctioneers. And the funny thing is, I have never ever read a single story about dodgy building practises in any of the local newspapers. I guess it would have nothing to do with the nice plump property sections in every paper.

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Secondary colours

The campaign for the local elections have begun in earnest. A councillor turned up at our door, to be greete by Herself. His main pledge was to object to a housing development near where we live.

She was puzzled - what was the problem?

Oh, the planning notice wasn't visible from the road, the notice in the paper was inaccurate and the mix of housing was all wrong, came the answer.
But, Herself pointed out, that could apply to pretty much any housing development in the area.

But the residents of the neighbouring areas are against it.

She checked the list - it included our road, and we had never heard of any petition.

He squirmed a bit. But the builder is thinking of selling the estate to the council.

AHA! So you're against social housing, She asked?

Oh God no! Not at all, in a tone that suggested that this wasn't the first time he had answered this question.

He was sent on his way. We live in an area where many houses are owned by investors and rented out to people who are probably also on the housing list. He won't win many friends with his campaign.

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Lady Gregory

Colm Tóibín has written a book on Lady Augusta Gregory, described in the Guardian as 'revisionist'. Lady Gregory's home was Coole House, near Gort in Galway (see gallery).

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September 16, 2003

Enter the Dragon

I wonder would this work in Belfast......?

Mostar, in Bosnia Herzogovina, is a city with ethnic divisions. So they decided the best subject for a new statue would be...Bruce Lee

Out of all the ethnic heroes and those who have a material interest in acting as victims, we have chosen Bruce Lee. Now they can rack their brains trying to decide whether he is he Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim), Croat, or Serb,” said Veselin Gatalo, one of the initiators of the idea.

To be honest, I get sick every time I tell someone I am from Mostar and they ask me whether I am from the east or west side of the city (the city is divided into the Bosniak east side and the Croat west side),” said Nino Raspudic. “That is one of the reasons for building a statue of Bruce Lee. We are hoping that someone in the future will say: “I knew Mostar. That is the city with the Bruce Lee statue. If we succeed in that, then I can retire.” (via MetaFilter)

UPDATE: April 2006 - article from

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September 14, 2003

Ups and Downs

An article in the New York Times on climbing 'The Reek' this year…and the Western People have a great story on a salmon that crashed through the roof of a house in Ballina.

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Animal Farm

What do you call a recovering alcoholic, a recovering cocaine addict, a recovering anorexic, a manic depressive and a bunch of farm animals ? Yes, RTE's idea of reality TV - Celebrity Farm. The idea was to get a bunch of celebrities to spend a week on a farm, acting as farm-hands, and one would get voted off each night. The winner would donate the winnings (50,000 euro) to a charity of his/her choice. Alas, there were no actual celebrities - when the most famous person in the group turned out to be Twink, things already looked bad. Some commentators complained that having so much booze around recovering addicts, particularly Mary Coughlan, was a bad idea. Personally, having such a bunch of incorrigible hams around the farmyard pigs was in even worse taste.

On Saturday night, the farmhands got together on the Late Late show to share their experiences. To hear the poor dears babbling about their incarceration..goddammit, it's not like they were handcuffed to a radiator in Beirut for a couple of years.

Except Kevin Sharkey, who went on Dunphy's chat show instead to complain about the show and how bad the animals were treated (the Sunday Tribune reports that the farm will sue over Sharkey's claims). Ah yes, everybody except poor Kev went onto it to start or restart their meedja career. Mar dhea.

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All the news that's fit to print ?

What do you think was the most important news story in Ireland last week - the fall-out over the Laffoy commission ? Maybe the impact of Anna Lindh's murder on Sweden's vote on the euro? Ireland's largest circulation newspaper, the Sunday Independent devoted it's front page to an analysis of DJ Carey's private life (DJ led the Kilkenny hurlers to victory today, and any day that sees Cork take a beating can't be a bad day). The story was all the more insidious by posing as a commentary on other paper's stories on the subject, before launching into a full-blooded 'dissection' of his personal life. I guess there is just no more mileage to be got from Bertie and Celia…

DJ has been at the forefront of efforts by GAA players to get better reward for their efforts. It looks they are getting a taste of what it is like to be a professional celebrity…

Posted by monasset at 11:13 PM | Comments (2)

Them thar hills

BBC2 will be showing a programme on September 25th, called Landscape Mysteries:In Search of Irish Gold. And no, it's not about Liam Lawlor's property deals. Apparently, the South and West of Ireland were awash with gold thousands of years ago. OK, maybe awash is overstating it. However, the Prehistoric Gold Research Group has decided that the west of Ireland - and Croagh Patrick in particular - was one of the richest sources of gold in Britain and Ireland 3000 years ago.

Meanwhile, the ingenuity of early mapmakers is described here.

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Island life

Eamonn O'Cuiv was on hand for the introduction of 3-phase electricity to the island of Inishturbot last week. Two islands, near Clifden, will now have the same service as the mainland. It's a pity that there are no residents on the island (apart from holiday homes). John Burns in the Sunday Times is not so impressed by the largesse.

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Inishturbot was one of the places that an increase in corncrakes was noted. Omey and Achill also recorded an increase, as did Inishbofin. Overall, sightings are higher than any time in the last ten years. Good news.

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Das Kapital

During the summer, at a Summer School, Tom Parlon (former IFA leader and now Progressive Democrat junior minister) declared that plans to limit the price of development land (i.e. land approved for house-building) was an idea 'somewhere to the left of Stalin'. No doubt the PDs have a very long list that they would consider on the other side of Big Joe, and given that it was an idea floated by Eamonn Gilmore, of the Labour Party and late of the Democratic Left parish, you could see how Tom would be agin it. And am I the only one who was wondering how Tom got invited to a Summer School in the first place?

The idea sounds great - stop big industrialists from driving up the price of houses by fixing the price of the most expensive constituent in a new house - the land it is built upon. Alas, it is not so straightforward. For a start, many housebuyers are in the market for secondhand houses - they would not be affected. The second problem is that, in Ireland, a house is the most favoured form of investment. For each modestly-paid PAYE worker trying to save up to buy a starter house in some soulless estate at the fringes of one of our cities, there is a lawyer, accountant or businessman/woman bidding for the same house so that he/she can rent it out to the aforementioned and hapless PAYE worker. The only way to combat this inclination is to encourage the self-employed business-people to invest in something else. And I haven't heard too many plans for that.

Still, it was a good soundbite…

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Some of the good people of Finglas have decided not to pay their bin-collecting charges - the council have responded by not collecting the bins of non-payers. Last week the protestors blocked the trucks so that nobody in Finglas got their rubbish collected. The protestors, supported by Joe Higgins TD, argue that because they already pay income tax, they should not pay a second tax (i.e. the fee for the bin collection). Two things are worth considering; the fee, of 120 euro, is about a third of what anyone outside of the city is paying, including those of living in the West. Secondly, there is already a scheme to waive the charge for those on low-incomes, pensioners, etc. In Ballyfermot, 40% of the residents avail of such waivers. Maybe that's why there are so many people available to mount the protest - they have no work to go to. You'd never know the local elections are coming up early next year, would you…?

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September 10, 2003

Riotous Assembly

Have Galway City Council gone completely mad ? In an attempt to curb littering in the city, they have decided to prevent large groups of people gathering without permission, ostensibly to prevent large numbers of leaflets being handed out (and subsequently discarded, hence the litter). There are lots of reasons for dirty streets in Galway, but discarded leaflets is the least of them. Talk about using a bag of hammers to crack a nut. The Leptard has his own take on the situation.

A word of advice to the protestors who had set up a stall at the top of Shop Street last weekend. Given the week that's in it, it might not be in the best possible taste to have a guy in a balaclava, holding a shovel aloft and standing beside two coffins. The issue is not that serious.

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I mentioned last month the planned cablecar for Achill Island. RTE's Countrywide programme focused on two island communities this evening; Dursey on the Beara peninsula in Cork and Turbot island near Clifden (it is close to Omey island) . Dursey has been linked to the mainland by a cablecar since 1969 (opened by the real Taoiseach, Jack Lynch) and is used by locals and tourists alike. It is also used to carry cattle and sheep across, so best arrive early if you're worried about sharing.

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September 07, 2003

Astral Week

Last week, a meteor flashed across the twilight sky, heading towards the Atlantic when it blinked out as suddenly as it had appeared. This follows a more spectacular sighting a couple of weeks ago by a bunch of stargazers in the Phoenix Park, who were out there viewing Mars. The earlier meteor exploded as it headed west, leading to speculation that bits of it might have fallen to earth. Museums offer generous rewards for even very small fragments of space rock, which might be some consolation if it landed on your house.

Lights of a different sort were seen in Leitrim last week, as the county got its first set of traffic lights (a pedestrian crossing). Locals have been seen cowering in front of it, wondering whether to press the big red button, or fall to their knees and worship it as a god.

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Fry-up of the Gods

I was driving through the pretty village of Newport a few weeks ago, when I spotted a butchers shop. It proclaimed, on its window, that it sold national award-winning sausages. Whoa! That's fighting talk. Now, there is another butcher in the west (Loughnanes in Loughrea), that has won such a prize and I have to say that their sausages are very special. So I went into the shop, asked for said pork product. He disappeared to the back for a minute and when he came back, he seemed a little offhand. It turned out that the shop is run by identical twins (who were also dressed the same) so there followed a scene almost as funny as Eric Sykes walking around with a plank of wood, as hilarious as the entire run of Batchelor's Walk - Ok, not funny at all. Anyway, I got the sausages and they were not bad at all. But worthy of the title of all-Ireland sausage ? Hmm. And now there is a new competitor - Tesco have introduced Irish sausages with sun-dried tomato and rosemary. Now, normally I'd be the first to condemn such fancy-dan tomfoolery, but damn it if they are not delicious. Damn these faceless international conglomerates and their shameless manipulations. Damn them all!

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Out there

Where is Lord Lucan ? The missing aristocrat disappeared after he murdered his family nanny (it was suspected that he actually intended to murder his wife). Since his car was subsequently found at a bathing spot on the coast, it was assumed that he had drowned himself. However, the good people of Castlebar never gave up hope and never believed his death - though that might have had something to do with the fact that Lucan was entitled to ground rent on about 150 holdings in the town (and you thought we had got rid of all that landed gentry stuff when we got independence). While he was not officially declared dead, no rent had to be paid. Not that the missing lord did much but gamble - but some of his ancestors were more enterprising. Mind you, one of them was also responsible for the Charge of the Light Brigade.

The reason that it is back in the news is that there is a new book out which claimed that an old bearded hippy who died nine years ago was actually Lord Lucan. The basis of their thesis was that if you take a picture of the missing lord, draw a beard on it, and scrunch your eyes up when you're staring at it, GASP, it looks a bit like the old hippy. The old fellow was cremated so it conveniently leaves no DNA evidence. Arrange the words 'shit' 'crock, and 'of' in any way you like.

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Stephen Collins in the Sunday Tribunes highlights a forthcoming anniversary this week.

Next Thursday, 11 September, is the anniversary of the massacre of 3500 people - men, women and children who were slaughtered indiscriminately on the orders of a religious zealot whose aim was to strike terror into a whole country.

He is, of course, describing Oliver Cromwell, who ordered the destruction of Drogheda 354 years ago.

UPDATE: The Sunday Tribune reports that a delegation from Huntington visited Drogheda on Thursday to apologize for Cromwell's deeds - the Lord Protector hailed from the English town. There is now talk of the two towns being twinned. An apology hardly seems necessary - it's not like Cromwell asked the opinion of his fellow townsfolk before heading over to Ireland.

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September 04, 2003

The long haul

I finally got around to post up the photographs of the Pilgrims Walk to Croagh Patrick. I haven't quite finished with the captions yet, but it's a start.

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September 02, 2003

Holy orders

And you think the Nigerian 419 scams are bad? The Kenyan Missionary Mass card scam is sweeping Mayo!

GARDAÍ in Mayo are poised to launch an investigation into an elaborate scam involving the sale of fraudulent Mass cards in shops across the county. It has been revealed that the pre-signed Mass cards, which are printed in the midlands and bear the signatures of missionary priests in the Third World, are currently on sale in shops in a number of towns, including Ballina, Castlebar and Ballyhaunis. - Mayo News

Those of you destined for eternal damnation might be wondering what exactly is a pre-signed Mass card, and why would you need one. The priest signs a card, stating that he will say a Mass in honour of someone. The concept fulfils a common custom of somebody requesting a Mass to be celebrated for someone - say a deceased relative, on the anniversary of their death. You could ask your local priest but he already has a pile of anniversaries in the parish to celebrate, and there are only so many Masses that can be got through in a year.

So why not get a missionary priest to celebrate the Mass ? He will be saying Mass every day anyway, and, more importantly, he could probably do with the money. You see, the custom is to 'throw a few pound in' with the card, so the Mass card custom is also a way of helping the various Missionary orders. When the priest visits Ireland (either to visit relatives, or to celebrate Mass as a visiting priest in a parish), he signs a stack of 'blank' cards, each of which, a bit like a bank note, promises the bearer that a Mass will be said for them. The whole things rests entirely on trust - you can buy the cards in shops, so you can only hope that the proprietor is passing on the money. As the Mayo News reports, the names of the priests on some of the cards are those of either missing or dead priests - which would make the cards truly miraculous. Another priest has been banned by his bishop from signing cards - presumably not for poor handwriting.

So if you bought a card from a chap who was doling out presigned cards from the back of a Hiace, dealing in 'cash only', don't expect divine intervention any time soon.

UPDATE: The Sunday Times have the story but it seems to be a rehash of the Mayo News story.

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Definitive Articles

Mother Teresa is making an appearance in Knock. Co. Mayo. And no, it's not quite a miracle. In fact, it is a collection of Mother Teresa relics that destined for Knock.

Primate of All-Ireland Archbishop Sean Brady will be chief celebrant of the mass at Knock for the occasion.
Record crowds are expected to attend the veneration of the relics on October 26. Around 40,000 travelled to the Knock shrine in 1993 when Mother Teresa visited. - Ireland Online

Decorum prevents me from speculating on which bits of M. Teresa are on the way, but I assume they are the genuine article.

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Time's arrow

I dropped my driving licence renewal form into a postbox last Tuesday evening, and the new licence was posted back to me on Friday morning. Quick work!

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