Ireland Newsletter - Cuchulainn
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(C) Copyright - The Information about Ireland Site, 2011
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IN THIS ISSUE
=== News Snaps from Ireland
=== New free resources at the site
=== Seamus MacGee's Irish Amber
=== Famous Irish Legends: Cuchulainn
=== In the Time of Famine by Michael Grant
=== More about the Kerry Patch in Saint Louis
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Monthly free competition result
=== And Finally... Funny Irish quote of the month
Hello again from Ireland where the race to be the
next President has had even more twists and turns.
While this is a largely ceremonial role it has
increased in importance in recent years and is
sure to be hotly contested.
The economic affairs of the country seem to be tied
to the wranglings at European Union level. The
current debt-crisis has hit Greece, Portugal and
Ireland and now threatens Italy and Spain. It is
hoped that a permanent solution can be found
sooner rather than later but so far all attempts
have failed. Only when this issue is finally
resolved can any real recovery begin.
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN TURMOIL
The race to be the next President of Ireland has
already had many twists and turns and is likely
to have a few more before the ballots are counted.
The sensational withdrawal of Senator David Norris
was quickly followed by the surprise suggestion
that celebrity broadcaster Gay Byrne would seek
the high office.
The sequence of events was such that the prospects
of the next 'new' candidate were being discussed
much more than the relative merits or otherwise of
the actual declared candidates. The Irish media
seemed insatiable in its desire to unearth the
next likely candidate (or victim, depending on
Senator David Norris had to withdraw from the
campaign when first his own staff and then the
T.D.s (members of the Irish Parliament) who
backed him began to withdraw their support.
It had been revealed that Senator Norris had made
representations for clemency to Israel regarding
his former partner who was subsequently found
guilty of statutory rape and imprisoned. The
Senator had already survived a controversy
regarding his views earlier in his campaign but
the sensation that this recent development caused
was just to much to bear. When his own staff
started quitting his campaign it was clear that
the writing was on the wall.
The collapse of his campaign was initially met
with a degree of sympathy for the Senator from
the public, such was the manner in which the
media had treated him. Other media commentators
were quick to point out that if a female candidate
had sought clemency for a middle-aged man who
was then convicted of the statutory rape of a
young girl then that candidate would have been
utterly vilified. In actual fact the response to
these events by the public was quite complex and
displayed the shifting division between what is
often regarded as a vociferous 'liberal media'
and the more silent conservative elements of the
public at large.
Next up for scrutiny was the famed and beloved
broadcaster Gay Byrne. The former host of the
world's longest running television chat show
'The Late, Late Show' never actually declared
his candidacy but did intimate that he would
consider running should the public indicate its
support. He quickly shot to the head of the
opinion polls only to decide against running
when the intrusion of the media investigation
into his past became too much to bear. There is
no suggestion that Gay Byrne had anything to
hide but it is clear that the thought of having
his every public and private pronouncement
poured over and dissected was just not worth the
trouble. He quickly announced that he would not
be running which sent the media hordes off in
search of another celebrity candidate. Former
singer and European Parliament member Dana
(Rosemary Scallon) is on their radar.
Fianna Fail did not escape unscathed from this
debacle either. Party leader Michael Martin
intimated that his party would support Gay Byrne
as an independent candidate, only to have egg
on his face when Gay Byrne decided not to run.
The party membership are not too pleased with
the way their leader has handled the issue.
Fianna Fail have since decided not to field their
own candidate in the election which is hardly
surprising considering their recent General
The Fine Gael candidate Gay Mitchell also came
under scrutiny regarding letters he wrote to
several US Governors seeking a custodial rather
than a death sentence for several death-row
convicts. He maintains his pro-life stance and is
said to be furious at the focus put on this
matter. He wants the other candidates to be
asked their stance on capital punishment.
The favourite therefore is the Labour Party
candidate, Michael D. Higgins, who has thus far
managed to avoid any scandals and is seen as
something of an intellectual, a safe pair of hands
for the job of Irish president. He is not home yet
though as this intriguing campaign continues.
FULL BODY SCANNERS FOR DUBLIN AIRPORT
Implementation of the occasionally controversial
body scanners at Dublin airport is to begin on a
trial basis for an 18-month period. Staff will be
asked to use the high-tech security scanner
initially before a decision on a full scale
roll-out of the equipment is made. The European
Union has not made any decision yet regarding the
possible implementation of the devices.
ECONOMY TO GROW, JUST
A senior economist at Ulster Bank expects the
Irish economy to grow by 0.3% in 2011, down from
his earlier estimate of 0.5%. His findings mirror
that of other commentators who expect modest
growth in the economy but that the growth will
be somewhat jobless. With the unemployment rate
so high (14.2%) consumer spending has consequently
fallen sharply, down by 0.5pc in July alone
compared to June. Emigration from Ireland which is
the highest among the European Union countries
continues to rise with the US, Canada and Australia
being the most popular destinations for Irish
WIDE-SCALE DEBT FORGIVENESS UNLIKELY
The number of mortgages in Ireland in arrears
varies from 2% to over 7% depending on which
set of statistics are cited. What is certain is
that there are a large number of families now
trapped in negative equity having bought houses
and apartments at the height of the recent
property boom. Apartments that were sold for
over 400,000 Euro now sell for 150,000 Euro,
if they can be sold at all.
The notion of debt forgiveness therefore has
received some traction in the Irish media
recently with several high-profile commentators
and economists calling for such a scheme to be
It is difficult to see though how this could be
implemented. If a blanket debt write-off were
introduced then there is no doubt that a lot of
people struggling but managing to pay their
mortgages would simply stop paying their mortgage
in order to try to qualify for the new program.
The anger from those mortgage-holders who have
paid or continue to pay their monthly bill would
also be substantial.
A compromise is therefore likely. Stretching the
loan out to 40 years or more. Providing a 2 or 3
year 'mortgage holiday' to allow those struggling
with bills to get back on their feet are among
the suggestions offered. The government could even
buy out the negative equity part of the mortgage
and rent the property back to the original
owner in a co-ownership scheme. There are several
variations possible with the government to make a
REMAINS OF NED KELLY DISCOVERED
The remains of Irish-Australian folk hero Ned Kelly
have been unearthed from their Melbourne mass grave,
130 years after his death. Kelly was hanged for
killing three policemen in 1880 and was regarded
as a vital symbol of resistance to British rule in
nineteenth century Australia.
He was famous for wearing home-made body armour.
DNA tests carried out on the bones were compared
to DNA from his living relatives to confirm the
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SEAMUS MACGEE'S IRISH AMBER
by Jimmy McGhee
I wrote a story and designed a bottle to win a
bottle of whiskey from John Teeling at Cooley
Distillery. The premise was that he had found
2500 cases of a premium single malt Irish whiskey
when they reopened the distillery, and needed a
name and a bottle designed for it. The prize was
a bottle of whiskey from the first cask opened
from the Director's private stock. I won bottle
number 169 which I still have unopened.
Attached are the story, the bottle and a scene I
made to depict how we make whiskey in Ireland. I
did the scene because when I asked all of the pubs
in San Francisco why they did not carry Cooley
whiskey they all told me that it was not known to
be Irish. I thought John Teeling might take it to
heart and use it in an advertisement.
SEAMUS MACGEE'S IRISH AMBER
My entry to name the newly found Irish and to
describe the bottle will require a wee tale that
has to date not been known apart from my family.
You see long ago my great great grandfather came
to America from Ireland by way of Scotland, all
that he possessed was just one case of the most
exquisite Irish Whiskey that had ever wet a
whistle, this Irish was hungrily hoarded by my
great great grandfather. To be sure it was the
finest that had ever been tasted, all who tried
it said so. That being said the family was still
always dumbfounded by the way he would caress the
elegant bottles as though they had a life all of
their own, as though they were magical. We surely
thought that they were because great great
grandfather made those twelve lovely bottles last
the remainder of his life, no one had knowledge of
where they had come from or how he had come to have
them in his possession, and all of his life he had
kept it a secret, never a hint, or a word until the
time came for him to pass on.
When my great great grandfather knew that his time
on this earth was drawing to a close he gathered
the family together and was at last going to
explain the presence of the exquisite Irish Amber
as he had called it. So then here is the story as
it was passed down to me. We have never told the
story outside of the family for surely everyone
would think us mad. However I have come to believe
that someone who is Irish truly Irish would find
this tale quite plausible, so here it goes. It
happened like this....
You see when my great great grandfather was a
young man he was prone to partaking of one measure
too many. Now not to think ill of him God rest
his soul for I am sure he was not alone in his
devotion to the Irish. Any way one night as he
was staggering home he happened upon a Leprechaun
who noticed his state and thought to torment him
for the rest of his days by offering my great
great grandfather a measure of what was the
finest Irish Amber there was, for you see it
belonged to the King of the Leprechaun's. So the
measure was offered and taken and it was so lovely
that my great great grandfather actually sobered
up with the appreciation of it, personally I
believe that what sobered him was the scheming
of how he was going to acquire more of the Irish
for it was truly amazing. You see the thing was
there were 2500 cases of the King of the
Leprechaun's Irish Amber and as the story goes
each case had a Leprechaun to guard it, now in
each case there were 12 lovely bottles of the
clearest crystal they were rounder more than
taller and had a longer neck to get a better
purchase whilst pouring, and as the King got
very angry if he received a short measure each
bottle had a stopper that also held exactly one
perfect measure. Oh! and the bottles also had
rings cut into them so the King of the
Leprechaun's could tell if anyone had been at any
of his bottles, you see that way he could easily
see if the level in any of the bottles of his
prized Irish Amber had ever dropped, for you see
no one but the King was allowed to have a taste
of his whiskey.
As the Leprechaun told the rest of the tale of
how the King of the Leprechaun's had hidden the
Irish right out in the open in a huge granite
distillery aging warehouse in the Cooley Mountains
my great great grandfather hatched his scheme and
put it to work, he picked and picked and taunted
the Leprechaun for having to guard the King's
Irish and not being able to have any for himself
finally the leprechaun was so mad that he told
my great great grandfather of a way to trap each
Leprechaun in a solid block of the Irish Amber, in
that way all of the Irish could be theirs alone.
Now my great great grandfather was not about to
share with the Leprechaun so he tricked him and
trapped him also, and that is why each bottle of
Irish has a small solid block of Irish Amber with
a Leprechaun attached to it, it is also why
you never see a Leprechaun.
Now my great great grandfather thought that he had
all of the Kings Irish to himself, but he had not
thought about how he was going to get the Irish
out of the warehouse, so he thought that he would
break into the warehouse and take it, only he was
discovered and barely escaped with his life. He
got one case of the King of the Leprechaun's Irish
so he made for America and that is that.
Sadly my great great grandfather passed on before
he was able to tell how it was that the
Leprechaun's were trapped in the solid blocks of
Irish Amber so I guess we will never know.
So there you have it, when I heard of the 2500
cases that you had discovered I felt compelled to
finally let the truth be told and that is why I
think that it should be called Seamus Macgee's
Irish Amber in recognition of my great great
grandfather who, by the way, was Seamus Macgee.
FAMOUS IRISH LEGENDS: CUCHULAINN
There was a time in Ireland's history when
chivalry and chieftainry ruled the land. When the
country was occupied by bands of warriors who
spoke only their native tongue and who cherished
their heritage and civilisation. This was the time
of Conor McNessa and the High Kings of Ireland, of
the Gamanraide and the Red Branch Knights of the
Emania. It was the time of Cuchullain.
All of the warrior bands had their own Seanachie,
a person responsible for recounting the deeds of
times past, a chronicler of the ages. Cuchullain
was their most famous subject and hundreds of
tales of his heroic deeds, both real and
imagined, have survived to this day.
Cuchullain was the nephew and foster son of King
Conor of Emania, and was originally named Setanta.
He arrived at the Court to find the youths
playing Caman (hurling) and, having with him his
red bronze hurley he so outplayed the other
youths that his future greatness could be seen
by all of the Court. The warriors of the Red
Branch acknowledged him as a blood relative of
the King and heard him proclaim before the
Druids in the Hall of Heroes:
'I care not whether I die tomorrow or next year,
if only my deeds live after me'.
Cuchulainn's greatest deed was perhaps when he
alone held back the forces of Connaught and had
to fight his friend, Ferdiad, who was the
champion and chief of the Connaught Knights of
the Sword. Ferdiad and Cuchullain had trained
together in arms in their youth and it was
displeasing to Cuchullain to have to fight his
friend of old. He tried to dissuade Ferdiad
against fighting by reminding him of their days
in training, when they were both subjects of
the great female champion, Scathach, in Alba.
'We were heart companions, We were companions in
the woods, We were fellows of the same bed, where
we used to sleep the balmy sleep. After mortal
battles abroad, In countries many and far distant,
together we used to practice, and go through each
forest, learning with Scathach'.
Ferdiad would not be swayed. Lest he weaken under
Cuchullain's pleas he responded only with taunts
against his friend, now foe.
So they fought. They fought for four days and
eventually, after a tremendous effort, Cuchullain
laid Ferdiad down and then fell into a trance of
sorrow and weakness after the epic duel.
As is the way with such heroes, Cuchulainn died
on the battlefield. He was propped against a large
rock whilst dead, with a spear in his hand and a
buckler on his arm, and with such a defiant
attitude was able to strike fear into his enemies
even after death.
IN THE TIME OF FAMINE
by Michael Grant
In 1845 a blight of unknown origin destroyed the
potato crop in Ireland triggering a series of
events that would change forever the course of
Ireland's history. The British government called
it an act of God. The Irish called it genocide.
By any name the Great Hunger caused the death of
over one million men, women, and children by
starvation and disease. Another two million were
forced to flee the country.
With the Great Hunger as a backdrop, this is a
story about two families as different as coarse
wool and fine silk. Michael Ranahan, the son of a
tenant farmer, dreams of breaking his bondage to
the land and going to America. The passage money
has been saved. He's made up his mind to go. And
then-the blight strikes and Michael must put his
dream on hold.
The landlord, Lord Somerville, is a compassionate
man who struggles to preserve a way of life
without compromising his ideals. To add to his
troubles, he has to deal with a recalcitrant
daughter who chafes at being forced to live in
a country of 'bog runners'.
In The Time Of Famine is a story of survival.
It's a story of duplicity. But most of all,
it's a story of love and sacrifice.
The rains were steady and relentless the summer
of 1845. At the time, most thought little of it.
What else could one expect from the vagaries of
the harsh, unpredictable climate of western
Ireland? But tenant farmers, superstitious and
fearful by nature, were always on the lookout
for portents of misfortune. A crow flying too
high, an owl abroad in daylight, or a deformed
newborn calf was enough to send men scurrying
to the parish priest for explanations. These
men of the soil, who barely eked out a living
in the best of times, viewed the unusual rains
of '45 with vague dread and foreboding.
Now it was mid-September and, in spite of all
their prayers and entreaties, the rains
continued unabated. Since dawn, black clouds
had been scudding across a heavy gray sky
promising yet more rain. A damp wind, funneled
by the mountains to the west, swept across the
valley, causing the wheat to roil like waves in
a golden sea. In a field, two men, bracing against
the stiff wind, swung their scythes, slowly
wading through the golden waves one-step at a
time. They worked in silence-the only sound was
the moaning of the wind in the wheat, the soft
swish of scythes, and the occasional caw, caw
of a distant crow.
To look at these two men one would never suspect
they were brothers. Michael, almost six feet
tall, towered over his younger brother by more
than a foot. He had thick curly black hair and
dark blue eyes that never failed to send shivers
through the bodies of the young girls in the
village. He possessed a natural grace and
bearing not often found in peasant stock. He
swung his scythe in a graceful, rhythmic arc as
though the tool were an extension of his body.
Dermot, short and compact like their father, had
close-set eyes that gave him the vague look of an
imbecile. His unruly hair, the color and texture
of straw, didn't help matters. The same girls
who nudged each other and giggled when they saw
Michael, snickered in derision at Dermot. With a
scowl that seldom left his face, Dermot hacked
at the wheat with choppy, uncoordinated strokes
as thought he'd never gotten accustomed to the
shortness of his arms and legs.
Reaping was hard on the body, but Michael didn't
mind. He was young - he'd just turned twenty-four
- and his body was hard from toiling in the fields
since he was nine. Besides, the rote nature of the
work freed his mind to think of other things. And
what he was thinking about now, and had been
thinking about for the better part of three years,
was an idea so fantastic, so daft, so daunting in
its implications that even now he could barely
Just the night before he'd dug up the box again
to reassure himself that he did indeed have the
money. The sight of all those shiny coins never
failed to take his breath away. He could
scarcely believe he'd amassed such a fortune.
One by one he counted the coins. Then he carefully
put them back in the box and reburied them. He sat
there for a long time in the darkness with his
back against a tree, reflecting on what he'd
gone through to earn them.
After the harvest, when the wheat and the potatoes
and the corn were in, there were long winter
months when there was little to be done but wait
for the spring and a new season of planting. Most
farmers welcomed this annual respite from grueling
fourteen-hour days in the fields and holed up in
their cottages, content to snuggle close to their
warm turf fires, smoke their pipes, and sip their
jars of 'poteen' - a potent homemade whiskey.
Michael, forgoing these meager comforts, took this
opportunity to go out into the countryside to find
In a rural land where the preferred currency was
barter, earning coin was a formidable task at best.
Still, day after day he trudged from village to
village in the cold and the rain. He begged,
cajoled, and employed his considerable charm to
convince merchants that he was a trustworthy lad
whom they could count on to pick up and deliver
their goods on time and in prime condition.
It was lonely work traveling the roads for such
paltry wages. He cut expenses by eating whatever
a passing field had to offer and sleeping in a
ditch or barn instead of an inn. He'd gone as far
as Dublin, but most trips were no more than
twenty miles from Ballyross. Sometimes he was
taken advantage of by merchants who paid him less
than the agreed price. Others cheated him out of
his money entirely. But he refused to give up.
He soon discovered who the honest merchants were
and hauled their goods day and night in the cold
and the wet. For three long years he did that
and now, finally, after collecting a shilling
here, a half-crown there, he'd saved enough.
By all rights he should have been happy, but to
his dismay, now that the time to make a decision
was at hand, he found himself wavering. Making
decisions - big or small - was not something the
son of a tenant farmer was accustomed to doing.
Michael's life - indeed the life of every tenant
farmer - was simple and preordained. A man was
born. He worked his father's rented fields, ate
his father's food, and slept in his father's
cottage until he married. And then the cycle
started all over again when his sons were born.
But Michael wanted none of that. He was convinced
that there had to be more to life than tending
rented fields and living in constant dread of
being turned off the land at the whim of a
landlord. There had to be a better place and
Michael knew where that place was: America.
About the Author:
Michael Grant joined the NYPD in 1962. He worked
as a police officer in the Tactical Patrol Force
and the Accident Investigation Squad. Upon being
promoted to sergeant, he worked in the 63rd
Precinct, the Inspections Division, and finally
the Police Academy. As a lieutenant, he worked in
the 17th Precinct and finished up his career as the
Commanding Officer of the Traffic Division's Field
Internal Affairs Unit. He retired in 1985 and went
to work for W.R. Grace Company as a Security
Coordinator. Mr. Grant has a BS in Criminal Justice
and an MA in psychology from John Jay College. He
is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy. In
1990, Mr. Grant moved to Florida where he wrote his
first three novels: Line of Duty, Officer Down, and
Retribution. In 2006 he returned to Long Island
where he has written four novels:
The Cove, Back To Venice, When I Come Home, and
In The Time of Famine.
Get your copy here:
MORE ABOUT THE KERRY PATCH IN SAINT LOUIS
Regarding the article in the July Newsletter about
the Kerry Patch in St. Louis, Missouri. All is
true in that story plus a lot more. A relative of
mine, Dr. John Gano Bryan built most of the Kerry
Patch. My Da knew people who lived there. I was but
a boy at the time. As I grew older, I ventured into
the area and looked at many of the neighborhoods.
And today it's a horrible shame what it's become.
I do not have any particulars at my fingertips,
however one of the neighborhoods that was missed
in the article is an area called 'Dogtown', it is
still a thriving Irish neighborhood of Irish
families, church and school. I'm not living in the
St. Louis area currently however I am trying to
make my way back there as it is a very good place
to raise a family and live.
A Landmark in the St. Louis area is an Irish Pub
called 'John D. McGurks', it's located on 12th
street and Russell, in the Soulard Market area.
It started as a place owned by an Irish attorney
and his friend, another attorney, as a place they
could stop and have a pint on the way home from
their offices. I recall that man's name, it was
Frank. While Frank was not Irish, he traveled to
Ireland many times and one would be hard pressed
to not believe they were in Ireland herself when
entering the pub. Frank loved Ireland and the pub
as though he himself were Irish, and it showed.
They brought Irish musicians over for 6 weeks at
a time that played in the pub. It was a grand
place to be. I met many of the musicians there. My
family reigns from Brian Boru, and while I've only
been to Ireland once, I fell in love with the land
of my people. Since that time the pub has become a
hangout for the younger business people, yuppies
mostly now, and has lost it's auld Irish charm that
it had when I hung out there. I miss Ireland, and
will return as soon as I'm able.
The article written was also very true in that we,
even as Irish-Americans were treated very badly. I
realize the Irish in Ireland had it hard, but few
there will believe we were treated as badly here
as we were.
God Bless Ireland,
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GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
PHRASE: Beagan agus a ra go maith
PRONOUNCED: byug/onn ogg/iss a raw guh mot
MEANING: Say little but say it well
PHRASE: Mol an oige agus tiocfaidh siad
PRONOUNCED: moll on ogue/ihh og/iss chuck/igg sheed
MEANING: Praise the young and they will flourish
PHRASE: Ceoil agus Craic
PRONOUNCED: ceo/ill ogg/iss crack
MEANING: Singing and fun
View the archive of phrases here:
The winner was: firstname.lastname@example.org
who will receive the following:
A Single Family Crest Print (decorative)
Send us an email to claim your print, and well done!
Remember that all subscribers to this
newsletter are automatically entered into the
competition every time.
AND FINALLY... FUNNY IRISH QUOTE OF THE MONTH
Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900, (renowned Irish writer,
author of The Importance of Being Earnest)
'A little sincerity is a dangerous
thing, and a great deal of it is
'A poet can survive everything
but a misprint.'
'Education is an admirable thing,
but it is well to remember from time
to time that nothing that is worth
knowing can be taught.'
'Fashion is a form of ugliness so
intolerable that we have to alter
it every six months.'
I hope that you have enjoyed this issue.
Until next month,
The Information about Ireland Site.
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P.O. Box 9142, Blackrock, County Dublin, Ireland Tel: 353 1 2893860