The Man Who Saved Barcelona Football Club

Thu, Oct 09, 2008

If you walk down a street named Calle de la Mar in the town of Denia on the Costa Blanca in Spain you will see at number 20 an Irish bar called Paddy O’Connell’s.

Normally I avoid Irish bars overseas but a friend of mine told me that the name on this bar had special significance to the supporters of Barcelona Football Club. Inside the bar didn’t disappoint my initial aversion to Ireland’s largest export.

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Lady Gregory’s ‘missing’ grandson

Thu, Oct 02, 2008

Following the success of the publication Me and Nu - Childhood at Coole published in 1970,* it is sometimes forgotten that Lady Augusta Gregory had three grandchildren, and not two as is often assumed. Written by Lady Gregory’s granddaughter Anne, Me and Nu is a charming account of life at Coole, as the children watched with amusement (and disillusionment at their human foibles), many of the great figures of the Irish literary movement of the 20th century as they came and went.

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Some of the awful things George Moore said...

Thu, Sep 25, 2008

You might think that those at the core of the Irish literary renaissance at the beginning of the 20th century, were one big happy family beavering away in their rooms at Lady Gregory’s home at Coole, Co Galway. In those early days it was a house full of voices and sounds. Sometimes you heard WB Yeats humming the rhythm of a poem he was cobbling together; or the click-clacking of Lady Gregory’s typewriter as she worked on another play for the Abbey. There was the sound of the Gregory grandchildren playing in the garden; the booming voice of George Bernard Shaw, as he complains that he is only allowed to have either butter or jam on his bread, but not both to comply with war rations (He cheated by the way. He put butter on one side of his bread, and when he thought no one was looking, piled jam on the other!); or the voices of the artist Jack Yeats and JM Synge returning from a day messing about on a boat calling out to a shy Sean O’Casey to come out of the library for God’s sake and enjoy the summer afternoon.

And then there was the flamboyantly Bohemian Augustus John, who was her son Robert’s best man at his wedding. John was a bit wild, and loved to pinch maids’ bottoms as he swept by (“Oh! Mr John!”). It was unlikely, however, he ever pinched Marian. She was the kindly but formidable Lady Gregory’s right-hand ‘man’ in all domestic arrangements. Marian saw that guests dressed properly for meals, which were always served punctually. Despite his wickedness, she had a soft spot for Augustus. Augustus would climb to the top of the highest trees at Coole, and lie on the uppermost branches swaying in the breeze. Marian’s voice could be heard shouting up to him to come down or he’d be killed, and that dinner was on the table.

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How Ireland lost thirty nine famous paintings – Week II

Thu, Sep 18, 2008

The sinking of the Lusitania on May 7 1915, off the Cork coast, by a German submarine electrified Ireland, Britain and America. In Ireland, the fact that German submarines were lurking so close to the Irish shore, added fuel to the propaganda that Germany was planning to invade the country. It spurred recruitment into the armed forces. In Britain, the shameful practice of using passenger liners to carry munitions across the Atlantic without telling the passengers they were in effect travelling on a British war ship, was to come to an end. But it was too late for more than 1,000 men, women and children who lost their lives. And ironically for Germany, the Lusitania proved to be a Pearl Harbour. Among the dead were 114 Americans which caused such an outcry in the US that it led to their coming into the war, and ultimate victory for the Allies.

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A heavy shadow over Coole

Thu, Sep 11, 2008

In Roy Foster’s impressive biography of WB Yeats* he tells an interesting anecdote concerning the sinking of the RMS Lusitania off the Cork coast on May 7 1915. The Galway writer Violet Martin (the second half of the caustic but amusing Sommerville and Ross duo), was walking by the sea near Castletownshend, Co Cork, when she saw the Lusitania pass in ‘beautiful weather’. Half and hour later, as the ship steamed passed the Old Head of Kinsale on her way to Liverpool, it was torpedoed by a German U-boat. Nearly 2,000 people perished.

I have written about the sinking of the Lusitania before, telling the tragic story of young Annie Kelly of Newbridge, Mountbellew, who followed her boyfriend, William Murphy, to America only to be turned back by emigration for failing her medical examination on Ellis Island. She was sent home on the Lusitania, which left New York minutes before her boyfriend arrived with a permit allowing her to stay.

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A King of the Jungle foiled by the King of the Jungle!

Thu, Jul 31, 2008

IT’S A FACT, but a sad fact if you are a bookmaker, that no matter what a punter’s losses are, if he hears that it was a bad day for even one bookmaker, he smiles as he tells his wife the annual fib, that he lost only half what he really lost.

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Sligo must be punished, but how?

Thu, Jul 24, 2008

The Galway Arts Festival has become such an enormous event (in fact it is now an international event of significance), that it is a bit like the Lisbon Treaty: You can’t see all of it; and while many of us see its value to the community, there are parts of it I don’t quite like.

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For King and Country

Thu, Jul 17, 2008

It’s very hard to describe a true Irishman, without acknowledging that we all share a complicated inheritance. At no time was that complication more powerfully amplified than in the crisis of identity leading up to and during War World I. On the one side is the unionist image of Irish Protestants loyally, and exclusively, rallying to the Union Jack, and sealing that union with their blood; while on the other side, the Catholic and nationalist men and women, the people of the 1916 Rising, who represent the ‘true’ Ireland, in sharp contrast to the misguided Irishmen slaughtered in France on the altar of British imperialism.

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