Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Vera Lynn at 100

Vera Lynn celebrated her 100th birthday yesterday. Whenever I think of this special lady my mind goes back to my childhood when I first heard her rich melodious voice on Radio Eireann and various gramophone records. The songs I heard at the time included Hello Patsy Fagan, Patsy McCann and Sitting on the Bridge below the Town.

The voice of Vera Lynn has always remained special to me. Another special person I often think about is my cousin, Nellie Shorthall of Fethard, Co. Tipperary who passed away in November 2015 shortly after reaching her 101 birthday. Nellie was a great lady who loved music and was a big fan of Vera Lynn; I am sure she is looking down on Vera to-day.

Vera Lynn's greatest hits were: Auf Wiederseh'n SweetheartThe White Cliffs of Dover, My Son My Son and We'll Meet Again. The other great female singers that followed were Rosemary Clooney, Teresa Brewer, Jo Stafford and, a little later, Connie Francis.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Great Win for Ireland

RBS Six Nations Championship:

Ireland 13; England 9

In Saturday's final game of the Six Nations series, played at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, the Irish rugby team achieved a famous win over England. This may end up being the sporting highlight of the year — unless Tipperary win a football All-Ireland, or the hurlers achieve a consecutive national title, something they haven't achieved since 1964/65.

England came into Saturday's game with an impressive record of 18 consecutive wins against both northern and southern hemisphere teams, thus equalling the all-conquering All-Blacks' record. Ireland had an indifferent Six Nations, losing to both Scotland and Wales, while England had trashed Scotland by 61 points to 21 on the previous Saturday.

I knew Ireland would put on a vastly improved performance for this one — they always do when their backs are to-the-wall — but I didn't think it would be enough against an English team that has upped their game so much under New Zeland coach, Eddie Jones. With fierce determination, no little skill, a bit of necessary luck, Ireland achieved the impossible. Johnny Sexton put in a commanding performance at Number 10 while continuing to bear the brunt of late tackles.

The one thing that stands out about the Irish Rugby team is its united country dimension, drawing support from Ballycastle to Bere Island. Indeed, the Irish captain, Rory Best, hails from the Unionist heartland of North Armagh.

The game with the 'crooked ball' is indeed a funny one.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Eddie Dalton Honoured

Eddie Dalton of Golden, County Tipperary, is to be received into the Hall of Fame by the Tipperary Association in Dublin at the end of this month. It is a greatly deserved honour whose genesis lay in a tragic set of circumstances which occurred 76 years ago.

Here I will quote the opening lines from the book Murder at Marlhill written by Marcus Bourke in 1993:
At eight o'clock on the morning of 23 April, 1941, Harry Gleeson was hanged in Mountjoy Jail in Dublin for the murder of his neighbour, Mary McCarthy. Her body had been found in a remote spot on Gleeson's uncle's farm near New Inn, Co.Tipperary early on Thursday 21 November,1940...A six day preliminary hearing in Clonmel District Court on January 1941 was followed by a ten day jury trial in Green St. Court House, Dublin in February. A four-day hearing in the Court of Criminal Appeal a month later and a reprieve campaign both failed.
Harry Gleeson was born in Galbertstown, Holycross, County Tipperary, in 1902. Sixteen years before the tragic events, he moved to his uncle John Caesar's farm at Graigue, New Inn. Three years later, they moved to a 75 acre farm at Marlhill, New Inn. As the Caesars were childless, it was assumed that Harry would inherit the farm. A fellow worker on the farm was Harry's friend and cousin, Tommy Reid, who was in his early twenties at that time.

Marcus Bourke, the author of the book, was a barrister with Tipperary connections. He became convinced of Harry Gleeson's innocence after more than five years of painstaking research and interviews, prompted initially by a casual encounter with two people from the Cahir area. Sean McBride, who was a Junior Counsel at the time of the trial, was on the defence team and had a life-long belief in Harry Gleeson's innocence. Marcus Bourke spoke to McBride on many occasions, mostly on the telephone, but also at his home. In the book, Bourke quotes from an interview with McBride in 1974:
Gleeson not alone didn't commit the crime but couldn't have committed it as he was elsewhere at the time...two years earlier he had said "I was quite certain the man was innocent. I had no doubt about it...I did everything I could to prevent him being executed". 
Talking to Marcus Bourke in 1992, Tommy Reid recalled the fateful evening before Mary McCarthy's body was found. He and Harry Gleeson were cleaning themselves before entering Caesar's house for supper at about seven o'clock, When Reid heard two shots, he turned to Gleeson and said "By God, Harry, whoever fired those shots must have cats eyes". He said he didn't think Harry heard him as he was a bit deaf.

Mary McCarthy was a single mother with seven children which led to McBride writing in his papers: "Mary McCarthy was a victim of a perverted sense of morality bred by a civilisation which nominally based on Christianity lacks most of (its) essentials.

Although he was not yet born at the time of Harry Gleeson's execution, Eddie Dalton was inspired by his father, John, late of Cloughleigh, Golden, and others from the area around, who were convinced of Gleeson's innocence. Dalton worked arduously and painstakingly over many years to secure a Presidential Pardon for Gleeson. On January 2016, on the advice of the Attorney General, the Minister for Justice directed the President, under Article 13.6 of the Constitution, to grant a pardon to Harry Gleeson. This was justification for Eddie Dalton, and other good people involved in the campaign.

Monday, 20 February 2017

George Washington

Today is George Washington's birthday. He was born on 20 February, 1733 and died on 14 December, 1799. Washington was the first president of the USA having been American commander-in-chief during the War of Independence. Raised in Bridges Creek, Virginia, he was the son of a colonial planter whose family had emigrated from Northamptonshire in the 17th century. He gained a high reputation for leading a campaign against the French and defending against attacks by Indians. In 1775, he was given chief command at the outbreak of the War of Independence and, having been prevailed upon to accept the presidency, took the oath on 30 April, 1789. He was re-elected for a second term in 1793, but had to endure much violent criticism before retiring to Mount Vernon in 1797.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Tipperary International Peace Award

Down the years, the organisers of the Tipperary International Peace Award have been rightly commended for the calibre of the people they invited to Tipperary town to receive the accolade. The thought that Martin McGuinness is on the short list to receive the award for 2017 sends shock-waves through decent-minded people in this county and beyond. For McGuinness to receive the award would be a most retrograde step for this organisation and would undo all of their good work in the past. It would be a slap in the face to the relatives of the dead, and to all others who suffered from terrorist activities for 35 years.

Now is a time to cement a strong relationship between Unionists and Nationalists — something which should have started 95 years ago — instead of fomenting hostility by giving awards to someone so closely involved with the chief terrorist group during their campaign.

Monday, 30 January 2017

The Wintry Night

Around the fire, one wintry night,
The farmer's rosy children sat,
The faggot lent its cheerful light,
And jokes went round, and harmless chat.

When hark! a gentle hand they hear
Low tapping at the bolted door;
And, thus to gain their willing ear,
A feeble voice was heard implore.

'Cold blows the blast across the moor,
The sleet drives hissing in the wind;
Yon toilsome mountain lies before,
A dreary, treeless waste behind.

'My eyes are weak and dim with age,
No road, no path, can I decry;
And these poor rags ill stand the rage
Of such a keen, inclement sky.

'So faint am I, these tottering feet
No more my palsied frame can bear,
My freezing heart forgets to beat,
And drifting snows my tomb prepare.

'Open your hospitable door,
And shield me from the biting blast;
Cold, cold it blows across the moor,
The weary moor that I have passed!.

With hasty steps the farmer ran,
And close before the fire they place
The poor have- frozen beggar man,
With shaking limbs and pallid face.

The little children flocking came,
And warmed his stiffened hands in theirs
And busily the kindly dame
A comfortable meal prepares.

Their welcome cheered his drooping soul;
And slowly down his wrinkled cheek,
The round tear was seen to roll,
That told the thanks he could not speak.

The children, too, began to sigh,
And all their merry chat was o'er;
And yet they felt — they knew not why —
More glad than they had been before.

— Anonymous

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Martin Luther King

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia, USA on this day, January 15th, 1929. A Baptist Minister and activist, he became the most famous Civil Rights leader in history. Originally named Michael King, his father changed his name in honour of German Protestant leader, Martin Luther. Martin Luther King Jr. was a man of great intellect who sailed through college and university exams, completing his PhD dissertation and degree in 1955. He believed in non-violent protest making the famous quote: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that". Other famous quotes from his speeches were: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moment of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy"; also "Faith is taking the first step when you don't see the whole staircase". King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, USA on April 4th, 1968.