"Well, the heart's a wonder," says Pegeen
Mike in John Millington Synge's comedy "The Playboy of the Western
World." It was a sentiment first articulated by Patrick's converts, who
put down their weapons and took up their pens. They copied out the great
Greco-Roman books, many of which they didn't really understand, thus
saving in its purest form most of the classical library.
By THOMAS CAHILL
No doubt, several reasons could be proffered. But for me one answer
stands out. Long, long ago the Irish pulled off a remarkable feat: They
saved the books of the Western world and left them as gifts for all
True enough, the Irish were unlikely candidates for the
job. Upon their entrance into Western history in the fifth century,
they were the most barbaric of barbarians, practitioners of human
sacrifice, cattle rustlers, traders in human beings (the children they
captured along the Atlantic edge of Europe), insane warriors who entered
battle stark naked. And yet it was the Irish who were around to pick up
the pieces when the Roman Empire collapsed in the West under the
increasing assaults of Germanic tribes.
President Barack Obama walks with Ireland's
Prime Minister Brian Cowen and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif.,
after a Friends of Ireland luncheon for St. Patrick's Day, on Capitol
Hill, March 17, 2010.
Updated 8:45 p.m. ET
It's genealogy be damned
on St. Patrick's Day - even at the White House. Every president claims
to have at least a small branch of his family tree than can be traced to
Again this year, President Obama trumpeted his
bit of Irish blood from his mother's side, though he added a couple of
"greats" to his description.
"I believe it was my
great-great-great-great-great grandfather," he said at Speaker Pelosi's
Friends of Ireland Luncheon today in the Capitol.
that's two "greats" more than the far-removed Irish relative he referred
to on St. Patrick's Day a year ago as "my great-great-great
The first time Mick Moloney visited America, he fell in love with
a library. "God almighty!" Moloney said when remembering it in a 1993
interview with Steve Winick of Dirty Linen magazine. "I couldn't leave
it. I used to stay up all night reading these books." The library
belonged to Kenny Goldstein, then chair of the University of
Pennsylvania Folklore and Folklife Department. After enticing Moloney
back to the States in 1972 to enroll in the University of Pennsylvania's
folklore program, Goldstein served as Moloney's mentor, advocate, and
friend, guiding him to international acclaim as a folklorist and
musician. Thirty-six years after meeting Goldstein, Moloney noticed a
trend: ? Nearly all the significant partnerships I've had with people
professionally have been with Jewish people." Now read on after the jump
After a month in Kosovo, the Unofficial Embassy has shut up shop and moved home. The money ran dry and the gig was up. The ambassadors said ciao to the newest country in the world with moist eyes and trembling lips. We had enough laughs for a lifetime but we also learned some valuable lessons about diplomacy that we'd like to share with the rest of you not fortunate enough to have had your own embassy.
The wind blew me in the door of Inis Mór Airport this Saturday morning, a cold east wind that sprayed fine sand in ahead of me and fluttered the notices on the bulletin board. It feels like it's been January since 1962 and the wind has been blowing even longer. Coming to work this morning through a dim, windswept landscape, it struck me the island could be a location for a science fiction movie set either in the distant past or the distant future- so old it's new. That, however, does not apply to Inis Mor Airport which is just old. And draughty. And full of ooky little corners that fill up with piles of fine sand when the wind is from the east. The crewmen were already at them with brooms.
Peggy Hernon has written a wonderful collection of short stories chronicling her experience working with Aer Arann Islands and life in Connemara. Pggy is a member of the Ground Operations staff at Inis Mor Airport. She was born in the Bronx in New York, attended NYU and worked on Wall street for 18 years. She moved to Inis Mor in 1990 where she married Micheal Hernon, Inis Mor Airport Manager and has been living on the island ever since.
Dan Barry,one of the best writers on the New York Times has written elegantly about visiting Co Galway and his own Irish roots. In today's Times, he delves into the extraordinary history of a New York flophouse to tell the story of George, its final resident.
The hotel's history, murders, prostitutes, con men, the lot, is closely entwined with Irish-run Tammany Hall.
It starts with one Frederick F. Fleck: city alderman, bail bondsman and self-important member of the court to the Bowery king himself, Timothy D. Sullivan -- "Big Tim" -- a Tammany Hall leader said to control all votes and vice south of 14th Street......
HEROIC EFFORTS by the crew of a Galway hooker to save two brothers
whose boat had capsized were praised by a priest at the funeral of a
renowned Connemara sailor yesterday.
Fr Peadar Ó Conghaile told
hundreds of mourners, who filled not just the church but also the
grounds of St Mary's Church in Carna, that the four crewmen should get
medals for bravery.
Seán Mac Donncha (67), known locally as
Johnny Sheáin Jeaic, lost his life in the accident on Saturday morning
as he and his younger brother Josie, went to take their traditional
Galway hooker McHugh from Kinvara in the south of the bay to a regatta in Rossaveal. The boat capsized shortly after leaving Kinvara.
Mourners were yesterday told how the crew of
Bláth na hÓige , which also left from Kinvara, came to their
aid. The four men, Gearóid Ó Cualáin, Máirtín Ó Conghaile, Aonghus Ó
Cualáin and Máirtín Ó Ceoinín, managed to rescue Josie but they were
unable to save his brother.
"These men, especially Gearóid Ó
Cualáin, risked their lives to save others," said Fr Ó Conghaile. The
Carna parish priest said that, as in so many other coastal villages,
loss at sea was all too frequent. Hundreds of mourners brought the
small south Connemara village to a standstill.
St Mary's was packed from early morning and the mourners extended out on to the main road in the village.
had travelled from the three nearby Aran Islands, Inishbofin and other
offshore islands, as well as coastal communities from Cork to Donegal.
Others had travelled from the United States where wider family members
"We are all too familiar with loss at sea in these parts,
yet there was enormous shock when the news came through on Saturday
morning," Fr Ó Conghaile said.
"Johnny was a man who was renowned
and respected as a man of the sea, a lover of the Irish language and
Irish culture, and a great singer. He is an enormous loss to the
Mr Mac Donncha, from Ard West, Carna, is survived by
his wife Barbara, daughters Kathy, Maureen, Roisín and Fiona, and son
Seán. He was buried in Moyrus cemetery outside Carna.
Robert Flaherty Feature Doc to Begin Post Production
31 Jul 2009
Editing will begin shortly on 'A Boatload of Wild Irishmen', a feature
length documentary on Robert Flaherty, who became one of documentary
cinema's most influential figures directing and producing the 1922
feature length film 'Nanook of the North'.
by Brian Winston, an Emmy award-winning documentary script-writer, 'A
Boatload of Wild Irishmen' is being produced/directed and shot by Mac
Dara Ó Curraidhín. The actor (and Aran Islander) Macdara Ó Fátharta
will narrate the Irish language version of the film. An English
language version for international distribution may be produced at a
The documentary will
explain the importance of Robert Flaherty, over the dramatic footage he
took of a currach caught in a monstrous sea (from Man of Aran, 1934).
He was the first to see that film of the every day life of 'real'
people could be moulded into dramatic, entertaining narratives: but, by
the same token, he is also the father of manipulation and distortion as
well as being a bridge whereby stereotypes of exotic peoples (including
Aran Islanders of the 1930s) became part of cinema.
The prime-source of
imagery for the documentary will be the Flaherty film archive including
'Nanook of the North', 'Moana; The Pottery Maker' (1925); 'The 24
Dollar Island' (1926/7) and 'Man of Aran'.
This will be augmented by
contemporary photography of various locations in Ireland, England, the
USA, Canada and Samoa; his stills; other archival materials including
'Man of Aran: How the Myth was Filmed' and interviews with Mrs Frances
Flaherty, Colman 'Tiger' King (recorded by Breandán Ó hÉithir in
England in the 1970s) and Portrait of Robert Flaherty (a BBC radio
documentary of 1952 with interviews with Flaherty, among others).
Editing will take place over the next six to eight weeks in Lincon, UK, and will be overseen by David Sleitht.
The film was funded by the BCI, TG4, the Irish Film Board, EM Media (U.K.), and MEDIA Europa.
Solas Nua is a non-profit arts organization seeking to support both feted and unknown work by contemporary artists in Ireland to
promote awareness of modern Irish culture in Washington D.C. Solas Nua is the only organization in the United States dedicated
exclusively to contemporary Irish arts.
Aer Arann's very own Peggy Hernon has written a collection of short stories
chronicling her experience working with Aer Arann Islands and life in
Connemara. Peggy's colourful and descriptive style is sure to draw you
Peggy is a member of the Ground Operations staff at Inis Mor
Airport. She was born in the Bronx in New York, attended NYU and worked
on Wall street for 18 years. She moved over to Inis Mor in 1990 where
she married Micheal Hernon, Inis Mor Airport Manager and has been
living on the island ever since.
Below is a collection of some of her short stories of life on The Islands. We hope you like them!
The Aran Islands lie eight miles into the Atlantic ocean, off the West
Coast of Ireland, one the last remaining wild and natural environments
in Europe. To contact us please: Email here, We're pretty busy so you can also keep up on Flickr as well as Twitter and our Facebook page. Scattered
between sea and sky Seamus Heaney describes the Islands as "three
stepping stones out of Europe". The island population is about 1,000
peopel most of whom converse in the Irish language. Almost a million
visitors come here every year. Most go to Inis Mor, a lot go to Inis
Oirr and very few go to Inis Meain. Thats why we think of it as the
real Hidden Ireland. All three islands teem with wildflowers and birdlife and are also considered
by many to be the last bastions of ancient Irish culture.
Celtic Music Workshops and Lessons in Tucson
For those musicians in the Tucson area, mark your calendars for August 26 an 27. (For the Aran connection, read on....) That's when you'll have the opportunity to take private lessons and/or workshops with the internationally renowned, award-winning musicians who make up the groups Cara and 2duos.
The bands are performing on Saturday August 29, at the Temple of Music and Art (for ticket information, see www.inconcerttucson.com). The bands are arriving in town early and will be available to teach private lessons and workshops on Wednesday August 26 and Thursday August 27. Private lessons are $40/hr and workshops are $30 each. For more information, or to register, contact me at melissaltatum AT yahoo DOT com. Please note these are not beginner workshops - students are expected to provide their own instruments and know how to play them. Whistles should be in the key of D.
Wednesday Aug 26 (Cara only): Private lessons available from 10am - 12:00noon and from 2:00-4:00pm on bodhran, fiddle, guitar, flute & whistle
Thursday Aug 27 (Cara + 2duos): private lessons and workshops
Private lessons available from 10am - 9pm on bodhran, fiddle, guitar, bouzouki, vocals, flute & whistle
Thursday workshop schedule (note: for fiddle, flute, guitar,and whistle, two teachers are available and the workshops will be divided into two skill levels where necessary)
7:30-8:45 pm whistle
All events will be held at Rountree Hall on The University of Arizona campus.
CARA tour world wide with their unique interpretation of Celtic music. They are rooted in traditional music and song, but their own exciting compositions have received wide critical acclaim. While the two female lead singers are surely a hallmark of the band, the quality standard for instrumentals and arrangements is equally high. Cara combine their mastery of vocals, piano, fiddle, flute, guitar, bodhrán, uilleann pipes, accordion and concertina with a dry-witted and very entertaining stage presence. For more about CARA, check out the band's websites at www.cara-music.com/english/ and www.myspace.com/caralive
2duos consists of four well renowned and successful musicians from Europe - two from Scotland and two from Germany - all with a passion for Irish, Scottish and German folk music. Demonstrating that the musical culture and heritage of their home countries does indeed have lots in common, 2duos have been wowing both audiences and critics alike with their unique blend of German, Irish and Scottish tunes since their formation in December 2006. For more about 2duos, check out their websites at www.2duos.com/ and www.myspace.com/2duos
Patricia Clark is studying for a BA in Irish music and Dance at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in Limerick. She taught at numerous festivals around Europe like Cambridge Folk Festival and Sidmouth Folk Week in the UK, Le Bono in France and many more. She also is a sought after teacher for masterclasses by musicians visiting Ireland. Toured with several international artists such as Altan, At First Light, Gráda and The Outside Track. Patricia plays fiddle and piano
Aaron Jones was voted 'Instrumentalist of the Year' at the Scots Trad Music Awards 2005 and is also a member of award winning Scottish band 'Old Blind Dogs' - winners of 'Folk Band of the Year' at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2004 and 2007. He is in great demand as both an accompanist and a singer and continues to work with some of the biggest names in traditional music. He is also a founding partner in traditional music resource www.tradmusic.com, which launched in 2002. As well being a Committee Member for the Musicians Union of Scotland and Northern Ireland he is also an official accompanist at the prestigious BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Awards. Aaron sings and plays bouzouki and guitar.
Claire Mann has established herself as one of the leading performers and teachers of traditional Irish fiddle and flute. She has toured extensively worldwide with bands Tabache, Croabh Rua, The New Shoes, Tom McConville and Christy O'Leary and is also a tutor of traditional music on the renowned RSAMD and Newcastle University folk degree courses. Claire sings and plays flute, fiddle, and whistle.
Claus Steinort started playing the Irish Flute in 1989. He has been touring and recording with several bands, including Dereelium, Steampacket and Cara. Claus has spent a lot of time in Ireland in the 90s, including a semester in Dublin, where he studied applied languages. Claus has a diploma degree in applied languages (technical translation). He has taught Irish flute playing since 1996 at various occasions, mainly for the Uilleann Pipes Society of Germany, at Wimborne Folk Festival (UK) and various Folk Weeks across Germany. He also started playing the Uilleann Pipes in 2004 and is a master of ornamentation and interpreting a tune. He also plays and teaches tin whistle.
Juergen Treyz was classically trained on the piano and graduated in Jazz Guitar at the MGI Munich. He also got involved with medieval music as well as folk music from all over Europe. He combines his knowledge of harmonic structure with a sure taste in styles and is one of the most distinctive guitar players and arrangers in Celtic Music today. He also works as a composer for audio books, TV series, theatre plays and movies. He runs his own recording studio named artes Musikproduktion and produced a vast amount of CDs, both with his own music and as a producer for various bands.
Rolf Wagels started playing bodhrán in 1993 and was rated among the best bodhrán players of continental europe. He teaches all over Germany and is a member of the highly praised trad irish bands Cara, DeReelium and Steampacket. In June 2005, he was the first non-irish teacher at the renowned Bodhrán Summerschool "Craiceann" on Inis Oirr (Aran Islands) and was asked to return every year since. His style is a mixture of traditional pulse orientated playing and the more extroverted top end style. Webpage: http://www.bodhran-info.com and http://www.myspace.com/rolfwagels
Gudrun Walther was classically trained on the fiddle, but picked up folk music also from a very young age and combines the two styles in her fiddling. She studied in master classes with many internationally known fiddlers from Ireland, France, Germany and Scandinavia, and makes her living as a touring musician since 14 years. Gudrun is also a popular teacher for fiddle as well as for ensemble playing and arranging.
The engineers also faired over the observer's cockpit at the front of
the fuselage, and enlarged the pilot's cockpit to allow Alcock and
Brown to sit side-by-side. The Vimy was then disassembled and crated,
to be shipped across the Atlantic to Newfoundland. (The attempt would
start from there because the prevailing winds blew from West to East,
making a crossing in that direction easier and needing less fuel.)
arrival in Newfoundland, the aircraft was reassembled at Lesters Field.
The photographs below show various stages in the process, which took 14
this was being done, the field was being prepared for take-off. A
surviving receipt from one Charles F. Lester to Captain Alcock shows a
total charge of $1,345.10 for the work, including 2,079 hours of labor
at 40c per hour and 330 hours at 25c per hour! It's interesting to
compare those figures to today's minimum-wage legislation - they're not
far off, in terms of relative value.
The field was still very
rough, and Brown wasn't sure that the heavily-laden Vimy could take off
successfully. In an attempt to save weight and reduce rolling
resistance, he removed a nose-wheel that had been attached to the front
skid. This was to have interesting consequences on the other side of
Alcock had a stroke of luck during the reassembly
process. The Handley-Page team (see above) were having trouble with
what they thought was a defective radiator, which kept clogging. Alcock
realized that the real problem was not the radiator, but the local
water, which was heavily mineralized and carried a great deal of
sediment. He promptly arranged that the water to be used in the cooling
system of the Vimy's engines would be filtered several times, then
boiled. This removed the sediment and minerals from it. The
Handley-Page team were still waiting for their new radiator when Alcock
and Brown took off!
The preparations for the flight were marred
by poor weather. There was no hangar to protect the Vimy from the
elements, and curious sight-seers tried to take pieces of the aircraft
as souvenirs. This was not very helpful. The ground crew had to mount
constant guard over it, sheltering from the rain and bitter cold in the
packing-crates in which it had arrived.
The aircraft was finally
ready. Locals gathered around for this photograph before departure on
June 14th, 1919. It bears Brown's signature.
Alcock and Brown got into their flying suits. They are shown here before departure.
The Vimy took off on its long journey at 1.45 p.m. local time.
and Brown carried a radio transmitter, and were supposed to radio their
position regularly: but this malfunctioned three hours into the flight.
For hours there was uncertainty as to whether or not they were safe, as
this New York Times headline shows.
the flight, engine and wind noise make it almost impossible for Alcock
and Brown to hear one another speak. Brown communicated navigation
information to Alcock by writing it in his notebook, then showing the
page to the pilot (using his flashlight at night to illuminate the
page). An example of one such message in his notebook is shown below.
flight was long, arduous and very hazardous. After a few hours, fog
appeared, and they had no choice but to fly into it. The fog was so
thick that they couldn't even see their engines, and their sound was
muffled. Alcock had no modern blind-flying instruments, as can be seen
in this photograph of the Vimy's cockpit.
had to fly as straight and level as possible, hoping for a patch of
clear visibility now and then so that Brown could check their position.
None appeared for some time. As darkness fell, the inner exhaust pipe
of the right-hand engine split, spitting flames into the slipstream. To
make matters worse, the batteries powering the electric heating
elements in their flying suits ran down. Alcock later remarked that
they "froze like young puppies", even more so because they could not
move about in the cramped cockpit.
Alcock tried to climb above
the fog to enable Brown to get a sun-sight, but they found cloud above
the fog. Entering a thick fog-bank, the plane dropped in a spiral
almost to the surface of the sea before Alcock could regain control and
climb once more. The fliers refreshed themselves with sandwiches, beer
and whisky. At last Brown was able to get a shot of the setting sun,
right behind them, so that they were reasonably confident that they
were on course. They flew on into the night.
midnight Brown was able to get a few star sights, fixing their position
again. They had covered 850 nautical miles, and had just over 1,000
still to go. They ate more sandwiches, and drank coffee laced with
whisky. Alcock later commented, "I looked towards Brown, and saw that
he was singing, but I couldn't understand a word." One presumes the
singing was the result of high spirits, rather than the liquid variety!
about 3 a.m. they hit heavy weather once more, with thick cloud. The
Vimy went out of control, falling towards the sea in a vertical dive.
Alcock only just managed to level out before they hit the water. He
commented, "The salty taste we noted later on our tongues was foam. In
any case the altimeter wasn't working at that low height and I think
that we were not more than 16 to 20 ft. above the water."
began to fall, building up on the wings and fuselage, and ice began to
form on the engines, blocking the air intakes and carburetor air
filters. According to Brown's later accounts, he made several trips out
onto the wings to clear the ice and snow away from the engines.
However, others have disputed this, noting that Brown never wrote of
such efforts in his hourly log entries, and pointing out that he had a
badly injured, partly crippled leg which would have made such movements
all but impossible. Since Alcock died soon after the flight, there was
no evidence to support or contradict Brown's subsequent claims. The
controversy has continued to this day.
Icing continued to
bedevil them through the night. Daylight came at 6.20 a.m., by which
time the lateral controls had iced solid. Alcock tried to take the Vimy
higher, to allow Brown to get a sun sight and fix their position. At
7.20 a.m., at a height of 11,800 feet, he was able to do so, and
reported that they were on course. However, it was imperative that they
find warmer air to prevent the controls from freezing. Alcock took the
Vimy down into the clouds once more. At 1,000 feet, the warmer air
melted the ice, making flying easier.
At about 8 a.m. they
sighted Ireland, coming in over the town of Clifden near Connemara.
They circled the local radio station, with an inviting green meadow
nearby. They saw people waving from the radio station, which they
thought was a welcome. In reality the waves were an attempt to warn
them that the 'meadow' was not a meadow at all, but Derrygimla Bog, far
too soft for them to land: but the fliers could not know this.
brought the Vimy down on the bog at 8.40 a.m. It ran for only a short
distance before the front skid (minus its wheel, which Brown had
removed in Newfoundland) dug into the bog and flipped the aircraft onto
its nose, breaking the lower wings and damaging the front of the
fuselage. Brown reportedly turned to Alcock and asked, "What do you
think of that for fancy navigating?" Alcock replied, "Very good!", and
the two shook hands.
and Brown became instant heroes. They traveled to England (not in their
Vimy, which was retrieved from the bog and repaired), and arrived at
the Royal Aero Club in London. There they delivered to General Holden,
vice-president of the Club, 197 letters entrusted to them by Dr.
Robinson, the Postmaster in Newfoundland. They carried stamps
overprinted in Newfoundland to indicate that they were being delivered
by air. The letters were rushed to the nearest Post Office, franked and
forwarded. Those stamps and covers are today amongst the most valuable
philatelic collectors' items, being the first trans-Atlantic air mail.
(They're also among the most forged - fakes are rife.)
and Brown were knighted by His Majesty George V, and received the
£10,000 Daily Mail prize, presented to them by the then Secretary of
State for War and Air, Winston Churchill.
also received a prize of 2,000 guineas (equal to £2,100) from the
Ardath Tobacco Company, and another of £1,000 from Lawrence R. Phillips
for being the first British subjects to fly the Atlantic. They gave
£2,000 of their prize money to the Vickers and Rolls-Royce mechanics
who had helped to prepare the Vimy for the flight.
of the original propellers was not returned, however. It is today used
as a ceiling fan in Luigi Malone's Restaurant in Cork City, Ireland.
Arthur Brown married soon after the flight, and he and his wife left
for the USA on honeymoon. Sir John Alcock did not long survive the
flight. He was killed in an aircraft accident at Cottevrard, France, on
December 18th, 1919, and was buried in England.
Brown never flew again. He survived World War II, dying in 1948 in Swansea, Wales.
and Brown inspired those who followed them. Charles Lindbergh, who made
the first solo crossing of the Atlantic from New York to Paris in 1927,
said when he landed in Paris, "Alcock and Brown showed me the way."
Sadly, in the USA, they are almost unknown today. Many Americans assume
(or are misinformed) that Lindbergh was the first to fly non-stop
across the Atlantic. He certainly made the first solo crossing, and the first between New York and Paris, but not the first non-stop Atlantic crossing.
video clip below shows the replica Vimy in flight earlier this year. If
it seems slow to you, remember that the Vimy's top speed was only 100
mph - no faster than many cars on our roads today, and slower than
quite a few of them!