The big wheel for Christmas 2023 in Cork’s Grand Parade
Cork at Christmas
My next spot of Christmas travel was to my home by the Lee.
Finn’s Corner, early morning
St. Peter and Paul’s, beautiful old city centre church
This took me back to opening term masses here when I was in UCC. I wonder if that tradition is still observed.
Statue of Our Lady in the grounds of St. Peter and Paul’s.
This was my first sight of the Michael Collins statue.
A great likeness
Just a Thought
Here is a link to my reflections which were broadcast on Radio Kerry in the Just a Thought slot last week.
Serendipity is the making of unexpected and pleasant discoveries by accident.
Front (faded) and back (vivid) covers of a book discovered in a charity shop and purchased for 50c.
A story from the book… Pail but not Wan
I don’t know the year for this one.
With Tambourines and Wren boys
(Continued from yesterday…)
But then, about the Wren. How the wren derived her dignity
as the king of all birds. That was the question. An eagle issued a challenge between all birds, big and small as they were-wrens, robins, sparrows, thrushes, blackbirds, jackdaws, magpies, or else. They commenced their flight this day-Christmas Day-The eagle, being the bravest continues her flight and was soaring first. All the other birds were
soaring after, until, in the finish, after a lapse of time in her flight, the weaker birds seemed to get weary and could not continue their flight some ways further.
But the Wren pursued to the last.
The other birds got weak and worn out and in the heel of fair play, the eagle said that she was the king of all birds herself now. The wren concealed yourself under the Eagles feathers, in the end of fair play the Eagle got worn out. The wren flew out from under the Eagles
feathers and declared yourselves the king of all birds. That is how the Wren derived her dignity as being the king of all birds. So we hunted her for the honour of it.
Also, when St Stephen was in prison and as he was liberated the band went out against St Stephen, and it was a daylight performance and the wren, when she heard the music and the band, came out and perched yourselves on the drum. That’s how we heard the story.
Anyway we made our tambourines. You’d get a hoop made (in them days) by a cooper. There is no cooper hardly going now. You’d get this made by cooper for about half a crown. I used to make my tambourines always of goat’s skin. You could make them of an ass foal’s
skin-anything young, do you see. How? I’d skinned the goat, get fresh lime and put the fresh lime on the fleshy side of the skin-not that hairy side but the fleshy side of the skin-fold it up then and double it up and twist it again and get a soft string and put it around it and take it with you then to a running stream and put it down in the running stream where the fresh water will be always running over it, and leave it so.
You could get a flag and attach it onto the bag, the way the water wouldn’t carry it. Leave it there for about nine days and you come then and you can pull off the hair and if the hair comes freely you can take up the skin and pull off the hair the same as you would shave yourself. And then you
should moisten with lukewarm water. You should draw it the way it wouldn’t shrink. You should leave it for a couple of hours. You would get your ring and you’d have the
jingles and all in-the bells-you’d have them all in before you put the skin to the rim. You should have two or three drawing the skin to keep it firm-pull it from half-width, that would be the soonest way t’would stiffen. Let the skin be halfwidth and put it down on the rim and have a couple pulling it and another man tacking it with brass tacks.
That’s the way I used make my tambourines, anyway. Ther’d be no sound out of it the first night. I used always hang my tambourines outside. And then the following morning t’would be hard as a pan and a flaming sound out of it. And then after a bit t’would cool down. T’would be bad to
have them too hard, they’d crack. Ah, sure I made several tambourines that way.
To be continued…
A Christmas Poem
The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.
The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
“The church looks nice” on Christmas Day.
Provincial Public Houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says “Merry Christmas to you all.”
And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.
And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say “Come!'”
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.
And is it true? And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?
And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,
No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.
+ R.I.P. Maureen Sweeney+
As a tribute to a heroine who has passed away, here is her story from a previous blogpost…
Flavin Sweeney wedding 1946
2nd, lL to R, Maureen Flavin Sweeney Blacksod Bay, 5th L to R Theresa Flavin Kennelly Knockanure, 6th L to R, Peg Connor Moran, Knockanure
Billy McSweeney told us this story and it appeared in Listowel Connection in 2018
In my Grandparents time, Kerry people understood that they were cut off from the rest of Ireland by a series of mountains; they realized that they were isolated and had to look after themselves. Life was harder in Kerry than in the Golden Vale or on the central plains of Ireland. The mothers of Kerry especially, knew that they had to look to every advantage to help their children and prized education highly to that end. In the mid-19thcentury the people of Listowel welcomed enthusiastically the establishment of St Michael’s College for Boys and the Presentation Convent Secondary schools for Girls, not forgetting the Technical School. The people who read this blog are most likely familiar with the Census’ 1901 and 1911 and will have noticed that many homes in Listowel housed not only Boarders but also welcomed Scholars who came from the villages and isolated farms scattered around North Kerry. These boys and girls spent 5-6 years in the Listowel schools to be educated for ‘life’.
The upshot of this was that from Listowel we sent out many young adults who were a credit to their teachers to take their places in many organizations and many whose names became nationally known for their talents and abilities, especially in the Arts.
Let me tell you about one such young girl, Maureen Flavin, who was born in Knocknagoshel, Co Kerry. When the time came for Maureen to go on from National school she was welcomed into the Mulvihill home in Upper Church Street who themselves had a young girl, Ginny, of the same age. Maureen and Ginny became fast friends and stayed so for life.
When Maureen finished school in 1930 she wanted a job; couldn’t get one in Kerry because of the times that were in it, so she answered an ad in the National Papers for an Assnt. Postmistress in Black Sod, in North Mayo. Her references and qualifications were suitable and in due course, as she says, to her own surprise she was offered the job. This was to set Maureen on a course where she would be an integral part of one of the most momentous actions of the age. Mrs Sweeney, the Black Sod Postmistress, was married to Ted who was the Lighthouse Keeper, both operating from the Lighthouse building in Black Sod. They had a son, also Ted, who Maureen fell in love with and married in due course. They in turn had three boys and a girl and life took up a normal rhythm for the family; that is until 3rd June 1944.
The WW2 was in full swing at this stage with Gen. Eisenhower as the Allied Supreme Commander and Gen. Rommel the German Commander in Normandy. Rommel knew that an Allied invasion was prepared and imminent. Conventional Meteorological sources at the time for the US and German military said that the coming days would bring very inclement weather so that the invasion would have to be postponed. Eisenhower postponed the action and Rommel left Normandy for a weekend in Berlin based on the same information. The British Chief Meteorologist had however visited Black Sod some years previously and knew the value of Black Sod as the most westerly station in Europe and when a break in the weather was reported by Black Sod on 3rdJune he persuaded Eisenhower that 6thand 7thJune would be clear and to ignore the same conventional Met advice used by both the US and the Germans. Ted compiled the reports for the Irish Met Office and Maureen transmitted them. Maureen remembers receiving a telephone call a short time later from a lady with a ‘very posh English accent’ asking for confirmation of her report. Ted was called to the phone and he confirmed the readings, The rest, as they say, is history.
(R.I.P. Maureen, who passed away on December 17 2023, aged 100. She was a recipient of the US Congress Medal of Honour)
In one week from today it will be St. Stephen’s Day 2023