The First Holy Communion dress did not fit everyone

Thu, Jul 17, 2014

Abbot Patrick Hederman: ‘	We need to create the balance necessary to provide a lifestyle that will be total.’

If there isn’t some dramatic change, and matters as they stand are allowed to drift, it is easy to see that the impact of the child abuse scandals within the Catholic church have had a very negative impact on the present and future generations in Ireland. Despite being one of the most generous generations ever when it comes to helping others, young people today are quite indifferent to the church. In fact many are openly hostile.

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Coping with the Magdalen fallout

Thu, Jul 10, 2014

John Quinn, a popular broadcaster with RTE, and author, presents an interesting insight into the beliefs and religious practices of well known politicians, writers, sportsmen and many others in his latest book.

Ilearn something of the impact that the Magdalen Laundries scandal had on the Mercy nuns themselves reading the personal testimony of Sister Phyllis Kilcoyne. Sister Kilcoyne is part of the Leadership Team of the Western Province of the Mercy Order.*

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Patricia’s vocation did not take root

Thu, Jul 03, 2014

Patricia Burke Brogan at the Magdalen Women’s memorial at Forster Street, Galway.

Patricia Burke Brogan joined the noviciate of the Mercy Sisters at the convent of St Vincent, Newtownsmith, Galway  at the end of the 1950s.  It was before the reforms of Vatican II had relaxed rule of the heavy medieval habit, the shorn hair, and a constant reminder ‘to keep custody of the eyes’. What was called ‘discipline’, which was nothing less than outrageous bullying, was meted out on the novices by some of the older nuns, in a cutting and wounding way. The nuns were hard on each other.

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Was this a glimpse of Dante’s Purgatorio?

Thu, Jun 26, 2014

Patricia Burke Brogan at an exhibition of her etchings, some years after she left the convent. Her autobiography, Memoir with Grykes and Turloughs, will be launched at the Galway Education Centre at 6pm on July 1 by Ms Sabina Higgins.

‘No one wants these women. We protect them from their passions. We give them food, shelter and clothing. We look after their spiritual needs.’ And that was all that was believed to be required for the inmates of the Magdalene Laundry, in Forster Street, Galway. It is true that no one wanted ‘these women’, because of the twisted sense of morality of the time. Girls who gave birth to a child outside marriage were ostracised by society. If the pregnancy and birth could not be kept hidden (some families kept their pregnant daughter locked away in an upstairs bedroom, or sent to a relative in England); people feared local gossip, and judgment to such an extent that parents turned against their own daughters. They brought their daughters to the nuns, and walked away. The problem was out of sight, and, they probably believed, gone away.

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An artist opened Galway’s ‘Secrets Box’

Thu, Jun 19, 2014

Most families, most adults, and most communities have secrets; past indiscretions they would rather forget about, and usually not very serious. But  some of them can be very painful, and are kept hidden, in a sort of a Secrets Box,  long after they need to be.

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Images of Aran more than a century ago

Thu, May 29, 2014

All great books begin with an arresting sentence. I remember as a boy being captivated by JM Synge’s opening sentence in what I consider his greatest work The Aran Islands, first published in 1907, two years before his death. It has not been out of print since:

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MGQ - many believed she would have been an ideal Taoiseach

Thu, May 22, 2014

Commissioner Máire Geoghegan Quinn: ‘The process of change is not easy.’

I am probably the worst kind of voter that the enthusiastic canvassers could meet. I do not vote for a party, but for a personality, or for a candidate whom I feel will do a good job. I admire politicians. I know that ninety-nine per cent of them are motivated by public service, and genuinely believe that they can effect change. Some of them actually succeed in bringing about change; but it is a long, hard slog.

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Education is exciting, but probably better to leave the Minister at home

Thu, May 15, 2014

The late Br Michael Crowe who ‘made it special’.

Ms Avril Forrest took her first religion class in the Jes when the school chaplain Fr Derek Cassidy was on sick leave. Famine in Africa, and how the West should respond, was the issue of the day. The class unanimously insisted that the Vatican should sell all its assets, and give the money to relieve world hunger.

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‘I’ve been waiting five years for this moment’

Thu, May 08, 2014

Mary Troy Fennell: ‘Privileged to see students at their most wonderful best.’

Seán Duignan, the Irish journalist, newsreader, and political aide and writer, recalls that his time at the Jes, the longest established school in Galway, was generally happy. It was an all-male school then, and had a rowing team that did the school proud.

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Coláiste Iognáid - ‘Was it Eton or Stowe?’

Thu, May 01, 2014

The young William Joyce taken from a group of  students about 1918 (The Jes - 150 years of the Jesuits in Galway).

In any war propaganda is a useful weapon. In World War II both the Allies, and the combined Axis powers used broadcasting, leaflet dropping, false information contained in dead men’s briefcases, diaries, fake military manoeuvres, or through clever counter espionage, to discourage and demoralise the enemy. There were many spectacular successes; but the one that really annoyed the British was the voice of William Joyce, broadcasting almost nightly from Reichssender Hamburg radio. He became known as Lord Haw Haw, a much hated figure.

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Noir By Noir West - disquieting Galway stories

Thu, Apr 24, 2014

How about this for revenge? A man dumps his wife for a younger model. Wife appears quite civilised about it. But just as ex is about to go off on a classy holiday with new model she asks him to check out an old property she is thinking of buying. It’s in an awful state, but she needs him to trip a switch on the meter box in the tiny space under the stairs so she could check the lights on each floor. It will only take him a minute. Its a small space, and she is wearing a tight skirt and hates spiders.

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The man who remembered his father

Thu, Apr 17, 2014

How The Guardian saw President Michael D Higgins during his five day visit to Britain last week. It described him as ‘Ireland’s Poet President.’

During his recent and very meaningful state visit to Britain, and his address to the joint Houses of Parliament, President Michael Daniel Higgins slipped in the fact that his father, John, had fought in Ireland’s struggle for Independence.*

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A child’s time on Spanish Island

Thu, Apr 10, 2014

Joy O’Gorman - gently passed into her mother’s arms

I believe that my grandfather, Ronnie Hackett, was surprised when my grandmother agreed to marry him. He was the youngest of six brothers and four sisters, born in the Blackrock area of Cork city. Many of the brothers having a medical qualification went off to see the world with the British merchant navy. But in their later lives all came back to Cork, and enjoyed a happy life fishing and shooting, and a little bit of medicine. Indeed there are several family stories about a brother’s wife apologising to a full waiting room for her husband’s abrupt departure ‘on an urgent medical matter’. Whereas in fact, the call was from another brother to come fishing.

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The lonely boy who landed on our shore

Thu, Apr 03, 2014

The young Orson Welles: slept by turf fires in Connemara.

It is possible that when the 16 years-old Orson Welles embarked from the SS Baltic in Galway Bay in August 1931, he visited the Taibhdhearc theatre. In any event, he struck up a friendship with a Galway actor. Two months later he visited the Gate Theatre in Dublin, and went backstage to see his friend. Clearly impressed by what he saw, he left a note for its founding partners, Mícheál MacLiammóir and Hilton Edwards, boldly proclaiming ‘Orson Welles, star of the New York Theatre Guild, would consider appearing in one of your productions, and hopes you will see him for an appointment.’

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Siobhán McKenna - A legend in Irish theatre

Thu, Mar 27, 2014

‘You think that life is nothing but not being dead?’ - Siobhán McKenna in her great role as Joan of Arc

French soldiers in World War I carried Joan of Arc’s image into battle at Ardennes, at Charleroi, at the Marne. They wore medals bearing her face around their necks, and tucked her picture into the pockets of their uniforms.

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An Taibhdhearc - becomes ‘pathway to success’

Thu, Mar 20, 2014

Love conquers all: Walter and Peggy Macken at their home near Oughterard.

For three years after the opening of the Gate Theatre in Dublin Mícheál MacLiammóir continued to work for An Taibhdhearc. He travelled to Galway as often as three times a week. Despite the Gate's rave reviews for its first play Peer Gynt, for which Mícheál designed its 'symbolic' scenery, money was slow to come in. Mícheál needed the salary that An Taibhdhearc offered. The Minister for Finance, Ernest Blythe (who was soon to take over the running of the Abbey Theatre), and who had taken such interest in the fledgling Galway project, urged its directors to offer MacLiammóir full-time employment. But MacLiammóir felt that his destiny was in Dublin. The Gate opened later in 1928, the same year as An Taibhdhearc, offering Dublin audiences the best of European and American theatre, and rapidly becoming a venue for a new wave of talented Irish writers.

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MacLiammóir’s magic captivates an innocent Galway

Thu, Mar 13, 2014

Alfred Willmore (the young MacLiammóir) - The boy wonder on the London stage.

Geraldine Neeson, whose family kept theatre people when they visited Cork, described Mícheál MacLiammóir ‘as beautiful as a young god’, and his companion Hilton Edwards as a man endowed ‘with exuberant spirit and all-embracing gestures,’ diplomatically hinting that perhaps he was somewhat less prepossessing.

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An Taibhdhearc - Spreading the News

Thu, Mar 06, 2014

The new look Taibhdhearc: Will play its role projecting Galway’s arts scene.

Almost five years following a disastrous fire, Ireland’s unique Irish theatre An Taibhdhearc, situated in the very heart of the city, has opened its doors again. Perhaps the fire may have been a blessing in disguise. The theatre has reopened in a confident mood. Its distinctive new signage makes its mark, especially on dark winter evenings; and its facilities have been up-dated both for the audience and actors. Yet it has retained its remembered intimacy, and sense of Irishness. Micheál MacLiammóir’s golden Celtic peacocks, on the black fire-curtain, proudly remain as rampant as ever!

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‘Mr Huston would you like a little night-cap?’

Thu, Feb 27, 2014

Small fry: John Huston  and his son, Tony, walk  home from fishing at St Clarens (note the catch of the day). Tony became an expert fly-fisherman.

It was John Huston’s wife Ricki, who first saw St Clarens, a large Georgian house, and gardens near Craughwell, Co Galway. She had been staying with Derek and Pat Trench at Woodford House for the Galway Races. When she heard the house was coming up for sale by public auction she went to check it out. Once owned by the O’Hara Burkes,* it was then a virtual ruin, and in the hands of the Land Commission.

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Ricki Soma - Anjelica’s beautiful mother

Thu, Feb 20, 2014

Ricki Soma Huston, at St Clarens in the 1950s

Anjelica Huston’s mother, Ricki Soma, grew up over a popular Broadway Italian restaurant called Tony’s Wife on West Fifty-Second Street in New York. At 14 years of age she was already a beauty, and a ballet dancer. She looked like the Mona Lisa, in fact she was considered so beautiful that a few years later her photograph appeared on the cover of Life magazine.

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