Saturday 29 March 2014


Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire;
Whose trees in Summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest, who can unconcern'dly find
Hours, days, and years, slide soft away
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day.

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mixt, sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented, let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.

Alexander Pope

Friday 28 March 2014

John B. Keane on Referees

The following is taken from the match programme for the Munster Senior Hurling final played between Limerick (winners) and Clare at Semple Stadium, Thurles on 5 July 1981:
There is a daring breed of men whose exploits never make the front pages of newspapers, whose heroics forever remain unsung, whose visages will never be seen on our television screens and about whom no songs are made. 
Be that as it may, what matters is that this breed of men is common to every generation and no matter what abuses or tortures the breed suffered in a previous generation, it will always bob to the surface in this present one. It will show itself to be unsullied and untainted by previous wrongs and it will carry on with the job regardless. 
I refer, of course, as if you didn't know, to that dauntless band of gentlemen, none other than those heroes who referee junior football matches. 
Now don't get me wrong.There are few of us who loved the game who did not at one time or another find ourselves with a whistle in the hand when the appointed referee failed to turn up. This is all very well but, while we may have acted the part once, nothing on this earth could induce us to do so again. We did it and we wrote it down to experience. We were grateful to escape without injury and those who suffered physically were even more resolved never to be caught again with a whistle in the hand. 
The hero to whom I refer is he who comes out Sunday after Sunday to do the needful in the matter of refereeing. Often his task is easy and pleasant but only when one team is so much better than another that a referee is not needed at all. 
His life is in danger however when there is nothing between the teams. Then, in the eyes of the partisans, his every decision is riddled with prejudice and no matter what way he points the finger he is greeted with a storm of catcalls and booing. To these he is impervious and he takes them for granted. 
It is when he makes the genuine mistake that he is in serious trouble. Nothing will convince the injured party but that it was deliberate. First the ball is flung at the referee. Then he is abused with a wide range of choice epithets. 
At this stage experienced referees go to where the ball is, sit on it and wait till the whole thing blows over. The worst he is likely to suffer if he chooses this course is a belt of a cadhraw or a scraw. However, if he attempts to hand the whistle to one of his tormentors it is felt by one and all that he is stepping outside the part and is no longer, as it were, in sanctuary. 
Acts like this are regarded as impertinence. Once he ignores his enemies he is more or less ignored himself but once he takes them seriously he is asking for trouble. 
After the game is over is the worst time. There is no police protection and it is quite true to add that the game may have been contested in a village where there never were police. His best bet here is to pick out the biggest man in the vicinity and to open a conversation with him. Those who are out for his blood can never be sure but 'tis his brother or maybe his uncle he is talking to. 
A referee who togs out in white is taken far more seriously than a referee who does not tog out at all. Like a singer who appears on stage wearing a dress suit, he has a head start over those who treat the occasion lightly. The referee who merely stuffs his trousers inside his socks and hands his coat to his girlfriend is asking for trouble.
Whatever way one looks at it, it is a hazardous occupation. Referees for the most part are even-tempered men who do not court trouble. This, however, is no protection and the good referee must know a few tricks if he is to survive. Before I close I would like to recall one of those tricks as I saw it. 
The match was a junior semi-final. All went well and our friend staggered around without falling. What saved him was the fact that he did not blow the whistle. Then following a long bout of booing he blew, and having blown he could not remember why. The pitch was invaded but, completely in command, our friend raised his hand and announced that he had blown the whistle in order that two minutes silence might be observed. Nobody asked who was dead. It wouldn't do to exhibit such ignorance

Thursday 27 March 2014

Communist Tyranny Revisited

The recent actions taken by Russia against Ukraine are reminiscent of how they treated the countries of Eastern Europe for nearly 50 years after the end of World War II in 1945. I think especially of Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968). The Prime Ministers of those countries began a process of allowing people to utilize their talents in a way beneficial to themselves and to society as a whole. Human and civil rights which had been suppressed under communist dictatorship were being gradually restored. This situation did not please Moscow. They sent in their forces with tanks to crush the movement towards free enterprise. The two prime ministers were replaced with their own puppets and in Budapest the tanks rolled over unarmed civilians in the streets and the evil communist regimes were restored. The stranglehold which communist Russia held over all of Eastern Europe was allowed to happen by the weak-kneed agreement which the USA, the UK and France made with the USSR in 1945.

On 23 August 1939, a Nazi-Soviet non-aggression treaty was signed in Moscow by German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop and Soviet Commissar of Foreign Affairs Molotov. It secured the benevolent neutrality of the Soviet Union towards Germany's approaching attack on Poland. On 28 Sept 1939, a secret protocol partitioned Poland between the two powers and placed Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, in addition to the Romanian territory of Bessarabia, within the Soviet sphere of influence. The treaty remained in force until 22 June 1941 when Germany invaded Russia without warning.

The German troops moved rapidly through Russia and were soon surrounding Moscow. Stalin appealed to the USA for support. On 7 December 1941, the USA entered the war after Japanese bombers destroyed two-thirds of its naval fleet anchored at Pearl Harbour in the Pacific Ocean. With the Japanese diverted from its eastern flank and the Nazis preoccupied in North Africa, Italy and France, the extreme Russian Winter allowed the Red Army to regroup and drive the enemy back. The war left Germany divided with a large part of the country east of the river Elbe falling under communist control.

Berlin was divided into four sections controlled by the USA, UK, France and the USSR. East Germany became one of the most brutal of the Communist satellite states. Between 1949 and 1961, during which free movement was allowed, 2,700,000 crossed from East Germany into West Berlin and never returned. In August 1961, a year in which more than 3,000 a day were crossing into the west, on the instructions of Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev, a 96 mile wall was erected to halt the outflow. Many lost their lives from communist rifles in attempting to escape; many others succeeded. The present Russian president, Mr. Putin, was head of the KGB, the Russian secret police, until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990.

Monday 24 March 2014


Teach me to feel another's woe,
To hide the fault I see;
That mercy I to others show
That mercy show to me.
Alexander Pope