Monday, 20 June 2011

The past is so much better than it was!

with the ageless Shuggie Murray

Trekking around the old haunts, meeting old friends in the old places and most of all, savouring the exotic blend that is the past and the present combined. I have always loved Dublin but I must admit the last few visits left me with a few ambiguities. The Tiger was good and bad. Good in that it gave everyone a chance at something better and bad because, as we are often reminded – be careful what you wish for.

I like it better now and that is not to discount the harsher economic realities but it has allowed all that had been pushed into the corners – what I think of as the heart and soul of the place – to come back out into the streets. There is a music here in the voices of the people and it is better with the voices of other lands mingling.

Dublin was never really an Irish place, built by Vikings and for a while, the Norman citadel before the English made it theirs. I wasn’t born here, coming as I did – a child of 3 but it became mine in that it shaped and formed me and I love it for that. I love the feeling I get walking between the past and the present and looking at the traces that those who were here before have left. Danes and Dutch and Spaniards and Italians – they all came and added something.

I am happy here and, as the future yawns in front of me, I hope to be able to spend more time here.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

A Moving Hearts kinda day

I'm heading back to Dublin tomorrow and I need to get myself in the mood and 'Moving Hearts' are just the ticket.

And sure then, why not 'The Storm' too - for the weather!

And a bit of Christy on his own

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

More Reviews for Lagan Love

Getting some really nice reviews for Lagan Love and yes, it makes me feel good.

Sometimes, alone at night, with cigar smoke stinging my eyes I wondered: would anyone read it? Would anyone get it?

Well I am beginning to think that I might have accomplished what I set out to do - to write a story that might mean as much to others as it did for me.

Let me know what you think, eh?

And drop by to read the reviews - and do leave a 'like' - if you like.


Ireland's Brehon laws were far before their time!

Brehon Law is the body of ancient native law which was generally operational in Gaelic areas until the completion of the English conquest of Ireland in the early 17th century. They were first set down on parchment in the 7th century and were named after wanderings lawyers, the Brehons.

By the time of Elizabeth I, the Brehon laws were considered to be old, lewd, unreasonable laws. They were banned and English common law was introduced. However, thankfully, some of the Brehons thought to hide the precious manuscripts and a good number of them survived.

In 1852, two Irish scholars, Eugene O'Curry and John O'Donovan, took to translating the laws. In the words of another Irish scholar, what they found were "secrets" about Ireland's past.

The laws were "details." Binchy said: "details that describe ancient life in the days when the Irish still lived in mud huts and small ringed settlements and paid their bills in cows and bacon."

Here are just a couple of Ireland's stranger ancient laws:

Musicians / Artists

· The harpist is the only musician who is of noble standing. Flute players, trumpeters and timpanists as well as jugglers, conjurers and equestrians who stand on the back of horses at fairs, have no status of their own in the community, only that of the noble chieftain to whom they are attached.

· The poet who overcharges for a poem shall be stripped of half his rank in society.

Property / Land

· The creditor who holds your brooch, your necklet of your earrings as a pledge against your loan must return them so you may wear them at the great assembly. Or he will be fined for your humiliation.

· For the best arable land the price is 24 cows. The price for dry, coarse land is 12 dry cows.


· February first is the day on which husband and wife may decide to walk away from the marriage.

· If a man takes a woman off on a horse, into the woods or onto a sea-going ship, and if members of the woman's tribe are present, they must object within 24 hours or they may not demand payment of the fine.

· The husband-to-be shall pay a bride price of land, cattle, horses, gold or silver to the father of bridge. Husband and wife retain individual rights to all land, flocks and household goods each brings to the marriage.

· A husband who through listlessness does not go to his wife in her bed must pay a fine.

· If a pregnant woman craves a morsel of food and her husband withholds it though stinginess or neglect he must pay a fine.

· If a woman makes an assignation with a man to come to her in a bed or behind a bush, the man is not considered guilty even if she screams. If she has not agreed to a meeting, however, he is guilty as soon as she screams.

· When you become old your family must provide you with one oatcake a day plus a container of sour milk. They must bathe you every 20th night and wash your head every Saturday. Seventeen sticks of firewood is the allotment for keeping you warm.


· No fools, drunks or female scolds are allowed in the doctor's house when a patient is healing there. No bad news to be brought and no talking across the bed. No grunts of pigs or barking of dogs outside.

· If the doctor heals your wound but it breaks out a new because of his carelessness, neglect or gross want of skill he must return the fee you paid. He must also pay you damages as if he himself had wounded you.


· Whoever comes to your door you must feed him and care for him with no questions asked.

· It is illegal to give somebody food that has been found with a dead mouse or weasel.

· A layman may drink six pints of ale with his dinner but a monk my drink only three pints. This is so he will not be intoxicated when prayer-time arrives.


CATHY HAYES, Irish Central Staff Writer

Monday, 6 June 2011

The Battle of Countess Road, Killarney.

Killarney was our wild west and as Hollywood poured out ‘Westerns’ we all became cowboys. Paul and his friend, Johnny, rounded up the tinkers’ piebald ponies and took turns wearing the white hat he found under a Christmas tree.

Tinkers are often confused with Gypsies. They live the same lifestyle and suffer the same condemnations but they are different. They were once farmers and 'landed' but were stripped from their holdings when economic fashions changed. They now roam the roads of Ireland and borrowed their name from the itinerant tradesmen of long ago. They traveled in horse drawn wagons, just like Gypsies, pulled along by sturdy ponies that were large enough to be confused with horses.

Stealing a tinker’s horse is a declaration of war and when they arrived at our gate our army went out to meet them. My grandfather still had a policeman’s stance and propped himself with an innocent looking but lethal walking cane.

My father carried the ceremonial sword that should have been returned to the army and Sean carried a blackthorn stick. Dick and Paul stood behind, near a small mound of sticks and stones. My mother watched from behind lace curtains, trembling but ready to rush in to tend to the fallen. Ciaran and I stood behind her itching for the fight.

“Can we not go out to help beat the tinkers?” we asked.

“Nobody will be beating anybody,” my mother soothed, “they are just going to talk.”

The tinkers sized us up and knew they were matched and chose instead to negotiate for the return of the horses.

“We had ourselves a day of Horse-trading with the Tinkers,” my father would remind us later, “and who better than a Kerryman to get the better of them?”

It happened a few more times until we found ourselves in ‘Entante’ with the travelers. Their horses grazed in our garden and nothing of ours went ‘missing’.

The tinkers could see us as apart from the rest of the settled people. We were apart but it took a tinker to tell us. From then on no tinker ever left our door empty handed and a few years later, in a respectable suburb in Dublin we had a tinker’s picnic on our front lawn.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

How my father won the emergency (a.k.a. WWII)

When the German bomber came down in the hills my father led his platoon forward to take prisoners, if they could. This wasn’t an exercise – this was the real thing. He looked back along the line of men that followed him: “Fearful farm lads and a few brash codgers from the back streets of Dublin" – what would they do when they met the Germans who had taken Poland in four weeks and France in six? They were now pummeling England and “how long could the old windbag, Churchill, blow smoke in the face of inevitability?”

He hoped that the Germans were dead.

By the time they found the crash site the day was darkening so he deployed his men around – in a textbook perimeter – to wait for the dawn. As the evening quieted he heard the cattle lowing and a dog bark off in the distance. A curlew called one last time. All the crows flew home but one – the great big Dornier would never take to the skies again. My father waited and he listened. Despite his orders his men talked too loudly and that damned ‘jackeen’, Hackett, lit a cigarette. The dull red tip glowed like a beacon in the gathering gloom and awoke a voice from the downed plane.

“Hey Tommy!”

My father’s men froze.

“Hey Tommy, We surrender.”

As my father hurried to make his decision he was beaten by recklessness.

“We are not feickin’ Tommies ya bollocks, we’re Irish”, retorted Hackett.

“Then what are you doing in England?”

“What are you’se feckers doing in Ireland?”

In the pause that followed my father could hear a whispered conference in German.

“Are you sure we are in Ireland?”

“Of course we’re feickin’ sure – haven’t we lived here all our lives?”

Another hushed conference followed and my father strained to hear the words. He didn’t know the language but he was enchanted by the words. It reminded him of Gaelic – only spoken in anger. He had heard a lot of German on the radio over the last few years but it was always stringent. The language these men spoke was softer and more human. It was delicate like an aroma and was easily whisked away on a passing breeze.

“Okay, Irishman, we are coming out,” the darkened voice called out again.

“Hold your whist a while now,” my father warned, “Stay where you are ‘til morning.”

“Irishman? It is becoming cold and some of my men are injured. You must help us. We have not eaten anything since morning. Can we not be your prisoners now?”

They had all survived with some injuries. They had bombed Liverpool and turned the wrong way when harried by the Spitfire whose cannon fire had shredded most of the dials and gauges and punched a few small holes in a fuel tank. They ran out and landed on a soft hillside, which they had thought to be in Wales.

My father held his side arm ready as the Germans approached. What would he do if they tried to resist?

They wore grey pants and leather jackets. Every one of them now had a cigarette dangling from their lips and as they approached his platoon they passed around a single word that caused them all to smile – “Landesschutzen”.

“Shur-up! No feickin’ Hitler talk around here,” commanded Hackett from behind his Lee-Enfield.

“Who is in charge here?”

“That would be your man – over there – His Excellency, General O’ Murchu himself – the one with the bossy boots!” Hackett tilted his head in my father’s direction.

“I am OberLeutnant Bekker.” The German said to my father as he saluted from the peak of his cap. “My men and I are your prisoners. Please, we need food and sleep.”

“Bart Murphy! Come on with us and we’ll get you all fixed up.”

“Danke sehr, Herr Hauptmann Mur-fee, do you have any water?”

“No but we do have something better – something that will get the blood warmed,” Hackett offered with a sly smile as he pulled a flask from the inside of his mottled brown tunic.