================================================= IN THIS ISSUE === Foreword === News Snaps from Ireland === New free resources at the site === Freedom Fighter by Evan Deehan === Patrick's Promise by Terry Cowan === The Indomitable Irishman by Drakeman Kincaide === Gaelic Phrases of the Month === Monthly free competition result ================================================= FOREWORD ======== Hi there. Hope you enjoy this month's issue which again features some great readers' contributions Do you have access to a website? You can help to keep this newsletter alive by adding a link to any of our websites below: http://www.irishnation.com http://www.irishsurnames.com http://www.ireland-information.com http://www.allfamilycrests.com http://www.irishpenpals.com Many thanks to our contributors who have again sent us in their stories, poems and reports. Why don't YOU submit an article, story or poem for the next edition? Until next month, Michael WE NEED YOUR HELP! PLEASE - send this newsletter on to your friends or relatives who you think are interested in Ireland. By doing this you are helping to keep us 'free'. Got something to say? Don't keep it to yourself! Why don't you submit an article for inclusion in the next edition? Go here for more information: http://www.ireland-information.com/newsletter.htm If you have an AOL or HOTMAIL account then you will get much better results by viewing this newsletter online here: http://www.ireland-information.com/sep04.htm The only way that you could have been subscribed to this newsletter is by filling out a subscription form at the site whereupon a confirmation notice would have been issued. If you wish to unsubscribe then go here: http://www.ireland-information.com/newsletter.htm ================================================= NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND ======================= SMOKING BAN LOWERS ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION Overall alcohol consumption is Ireland is estimated to be 9% lower than before the smoking ban was introduced. The link between smoking and drinking has long been established but the Government Health officials must be delighted at the ancillary reduction in Irish drinking that has accrued because of the ban on smoking. Diageo, who own the Guinness and Carlsberg brands of drink, have agreed to freeze prices until 2005, in response to reports that some publicans are sourcing cheaper bear from mainland Europe. Some publicans have even knocked 50 cents off the price of a pint to try to entice consumers back into their pubs. Some publicans are claiming that consumption of drink on their premises has fallen by over 25%. While off-licence sales continue to rise, consumption of spirits is on the way down, by 20% in 2003, partly due to the 42% excise duty the Government imposed. The decision of the Minister for Health to introduce the smoking ban in March instead of in the middle of Winter appears to have been an inspired one. Irish smokers have had six months to get used to huddling outside pub doors while smoking, but now that the cold and wet weather has arrived the real test of the smoking ban begins in earnest. IRISH PERSONAL DEBT HAS DOUBLED IN LAST DECADE A recent report has highlighted the ever increasing levels of personal debt that Irish people have. Over the last decade the level of personal debt has more than doubled with the easy availability of mortgages, credit cards and personal loans being cited as one of the main causes. Mortgage debt accounts for over 80% of the overall personal debt figure, compared to the EU average of 68%. The recent boom in the Irish economy has greatly increased the confidence of Irish people in their ability to repay large debts and this could cause a big problem if there is an overall economic downturn in the years to come. Despite forecasts of economic growth of up to 5% over the next couple of years a collapse in the property or stockmarkets is a possibility that continues to worry Irish economists. IRISH SPENDING CONTINUES UNABATED Reports that Ireland has become one of the most expensive countries in the EU have done little to dampen consumer spending. A recent 'Economist' report lists Ireland in eight place in the world in terms of spending power. Only Luxembourg, the United States, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Switzerland and Denmark spend more than Ireland. The report found that Ireland is: * ranked fourth in the world for TV ownership * ranked 27th in th world for car ownership * ranked 30th in the world for air miles travelled, USA, Japan and Britain top the list * ranked 38th on the list for life expectancy, with an average lifespan of 77 years * ranked 2nd in the world for beer consumption, second only to the Czech Republic * ranked joint 3rd in the world for alcohol consumption, behind Hungary and Luxembourg NEW LUAS LIGHT RAIL SECOND LINE OPENS The Luas tram line has been expanded with the opening of the line from Tallaght to Amiens Street. Over 15 km of track have been laid to accommodate the new service which is the second phase of the new light rail system. The Sandyford to Stephens Green line is already in daily operation. IRISH TOURISM RECOVERS The number of visitors to Ireland has grown in 2004 with 5% more tourists arriving than in 2003. Visitors from the UK continue to be the largest contingent of arrivals although tourists from the US are now visiting Ireland at pre-2001 levels. PRESIDENT MCALEESE TO RUN FOR RE-ELECTION President Mary McAleese has announced that she will seek a second term in office but it is unclear if there will even be an election. Neither Fine Gael nor Labour are putting forward an opposition candidate despite the desire of Labour's Michael D. Higgins to be nominated. IRISH POPULATION EXCEEDS FOUR MILLION The population of the 26 County Republic has exceeded 4 Million for the first time since 1871. The return of thousands of emigrants as well as an influx of asylum seekers and economic migrants has resulted in the increase. At the time of the 1871 census Ireland had over 1 Million fluent Gaelic speakers, compared to just 100,000 today. Before the famine of the late 1840s the population of the country stood at over 8 Million. NUMBER OF ASYLUM APPLICATIONS CONTINUE TO FALL The number of applications for asylum continued to drop during the first half of 2004. 1932 applications were received during the first half of 2003, compared to 1104 this year. Recent legislation removing the right of children born in Ireland to automatic citizenship has been cited as one of the reasons for the downward trend. Voice your opinion on these news issues here: http://www.ireland-information.com/cgi-bin/newsletterboardindex.cgi ================================================= NEW FREE RESOURCES AT THE SITE ============================== NEW COATS OF ARMS ADDED TO THE GALLERY: The following 8 coats of arms images and family history details have been added to the Gallery: C: Cleveland, Callan E: Ewing G: Guy H: Hayden, Howard, Howell K: Keith View the Gallery here: http://www.irishsurnames.com/coatsofarms/gm.htm We now have over 100,000 worldwide names available. Get the Coat of Arms Print, Claddagh Ring, Screensaver, Watch, T-Shirt Transfer or Clock for your name at: http://www.irishnation.com/familycrestgifts.htm ================================================= ================================================= Freedom Fighter by Evan Deehan =============== Like a cloud your spirit soars, Defined by family, history and war. True passion leads your hearts desire, The fight for justice your soul aspires. Pursuit of truth faith and love, A mere reflection of the power of God. Your fight for justice was Ireland's gain, The struggle for freedom many thought insane. Today I reflect, on your greatness in strife, And take comfort in knowing we're cousin's for life. Throughout our lives mortal and far beyond, Comparison and contrast, a spiritual bond. Like a cloud your spirit soars, Defined by your heart, family, friends, and war. You are my cousin and brother in arms, An artist, a poet, a man of God's charm. In the memory of Joseph Mary Plunkett, 1887-1916. ================================================= YOU CAN HELP TO KEEP THIS FREE NEWSLETTER ALIVE! Visit http://www.irishnation.com where you can get great Irish gifts, prints, claddagh jewellery, engraved glassware and much more. Anne MacDonald ordered a family crest plaque: Hello, Michael, Received my plaque, carefully wrapped, in good order. It is splendid! I am thrilled, and I know that my dad, for whose 81st birthday this was ordered, will love it. I would like to order another one! Everyone who has seen the plaque has been really impressed, even those who, as my daughter says are 'not into ancestor worship!' Again, my hearty thanks for this first-class product. Best wishes for happy holiday season. Sincerely, Anne MacDonald View family crest plaques here: http://www.irishnation.com/familycrestplaques.htm ================================================= PATRICK'S PROMISE by Terry Cowan ================= Patrick and Nora had been friends since they were three years old, both were born in a small village close to the sea shore in west Ireland, everyday they played together, running, climbing having adventures, when they were both seven years old they ventured down to the beach front, past the church along by the village shop and followed the lane, through the green to the pathway. The path was not very long, winding through the fields, they could see the blue of the sea, and hear the washing noise as the tide fought to come into the shore. Straight in front was an old gypsy caravan, they stopped, afraid to pass, they had heard tales from the older children in the village about the gypsy witch who, if angered would put a spell on you. Frightened, they crept past the caravan. Alerted by her dog barking the door of the caravan swung open and a loud voice boomed out from within. 'Where are you two going? Tell me now! If you know what's good for you.' The two children stood trembling, fearing a terrible spell would be cast upon them, Nora held Patricks hand so tight he cried out 'you're hurting me', to this Nora felt this was the witches spell working and held on to Patrick even tighter! Feeling courageous for her friend Nora marched to the gypsy's caravan door and demanded that she take the spells off Patrick now, and 'don't you dare hurt him.' Laughter bellowed out from within the 'van' ' foolish child let go of your friends hand and he will be all right.' Nora did this, and Patrick let out a sigh of relief, convinced her that it was a real spell, and she had made the witch break it. The gypsy came to the door of the caravan, and looked down at the children where are you going she asked, in a more gentle voice. She had realised she had frightened them. The gypsy offered them apples and biscuits which they gleefully accepted and they sat down on the step of the caravan and began to talk. Why do you live here? Asked Nora, don't you have a proper house like my mummy and daddy? The gypsy sat a moment slightly angered by the questions, and then began to tell her story. She had been married once to a travelling man, and had two strong sons, they had lived far down south near the big town, a wealthy farmer had offered them a house, if they worked for him, so they could get rid of the caravan and live like the local people, she had tried to live there, but she missed the adventures on the open road, different towns, different friends, she could work for her money, washing clothes, selling wild flowers or pegs, she could tell peoples futures from the tea leaves. She went on to tell of travelling fairs, of nights around the camp fires telling stories and making new friends, how she had left her 'house' down south and travelled. She had wanted her husband and two sons to follow her, but they had liked the house and stayed, it broke her heart, she had cried many nights, and felt bitter, sometimes she would shout at young boys in anger, because her sons had forsaken her. Patrick and Nora felt sorry for her, and asked if she wanted them as a friend, the gypsy lady smiled and said 'of course children, come and visit me every day.' The children would visit the old gypsy many many times, they enjoyed sitting around the camp fire in the late afternoons listening to the stories the old lady had to tell, one late afternoon they were talking about how dull and grey the clouds were, Patrick remembered how the old gypsy had told of telling peoples fortunes by reading the tea leaves, 'please', he begged 'tell mine', the old gypsy refused, but again he asked until she agreed, and she poured out a cup of strong sweet tea and gave it to Patrick. She told him to drink this tea with a clear head and a happy heart, 'and I will see what the leaves have to say to you.' They all moved inside the old lady's caravan, huddled together as the rain beat down hard against the curved roof and hammered against the sides of the 'van' the gypsy's dog whimpered as he curled up tight on the floor against the door, telling the rain not to beat down so fast that evening. The old lady began to speak, not as they knew her, but in a strange soft voice, 'Patrick, my boy, you have a good future, where you will see many towns and meet many people, but beware, not all will be your friends, beware', it was a chilling warning, afterwards she told of wealth and water between him and his true home, and she smiled and looked sweetly at Nora. Hold her hand Patrick, then she placed her hand on them both and promised 'you will be forever together, you're friendship will never die, always, always look for each other.' She stopped abruptly, and said 'enough now children it's time you went home, but remember, be guided by the great bright stars for somewhere out there your love will be...' The two children , now a mature nine years old left the caravan that night, and made their way back home. 'That was a funny reading Patrick', Nora said, 'yes, it was' Patrick replied, and then fell silent. It was two days before they made their way back to the gypsys brightly painted caravan, they expected to see the smoke from her fire curl and climb up to the sky, as they approached they listened for the gentle barking from the old lady's dog alerting her to the approach of the children as they got close to the small clearing where the caravan was, they stopped in surprise and shock. This story is continued in the online edition and can be viewed here: http://www.ireland-information.com/sep04.htm#story1
There were many adults around, and the village policeman was talking to Dr Smith, 'it was all for the best DR, he said, yes the Dr replied, its all finished now, the two children rushed forward frantic, what had happened they asked where is the old lady, where is her dog? They asked, the adults just told them to go away, but the policeman, knowing both children, bent down and spoke gently to them, I'm sorry but the old lady has died, when? Patrick asked, brushing away his tears, it must have been the night of all the rain, she just died in her sleep, I'm sorry; I know you were both fond of her.|
Nora asked worriedly, where is her dog, will it be all alone? Sorry young Nora, the policeman replied, it just ran away.
They turned away from the now familiar place and walked further down the lane towards the sandy beach. Hugging each other in an attempt to console each others sad loss. It was the night she read you're leaves, and it rained very hard cried Nora, I know Patrick wept, I know.
After sitting on the sand dunes for what seemed like an age, Patrick turned to Nora and made her a promise, when we are grown up, we shall buy a caravan and travel all over the place and visit the fairs and laugh and tell funny stories around the fire in the evenings, AND what shall we do for food and money asked Nora? now feeling better after all her tears, we shall sell pegs and work and sell flowers and things laughed Patrick, loving the thought of the adventures to come.
We can go anywhere out there Nora, we can!
Promise me forever Nora, promise me, Nora held his hand tight and promised on this beach, under the great bright stars, I promise.
As time passed and the children grew into teenagers and young adults they continued to meet in the same spot on the beach, under the stars where they would pledge their love for each other.
Walking home one night they passed a small cottage, the window was open, and the sound of a song carried across the air,
Somewhere out there look up to the stars,
Follow northward, follow with your heart...
It was the gypsy's song; the words carried across to the two young people, and hit Patrick like a slap
It was the words of the old lady, somewhere out there
He stood quite still, a lump formed in his throat and a tear ran down his cheek remembering those words and his promise to Nora.
Nora, he said this is our tune, when you hear it, remember I love you.
A few years passed and they slowly drifted apart, Nora left for the city, to train in the hospital as a nurse, and Patrick vowed to remain close for when she needed him, he bought an old caravan, (not unlike the old gypsy's) and tried to relive the dream and stories heard so many times around the camp fires, waiting for Nora, to return, she never did, but would write often telling him about new friends and always remembering his love for her.
These were troubled times, with no work for men forced Patrick to move from his home
Along with friends, he travelled to England, leaving behind wonderful memories of running on the beach down towards the gypsy caravan, listening to the stories and adventures from around the camp fire, he would miss Nora, watching her long black hair flowing behind her as she ran towards him, laughing and calling his name. He stood on the ship's deck watching his home disappear behind him
He looked up towards the bright stars, remembering the gypsy's telling him, follow the stars, they will lead you to all you love, he remembered his promise to Nora, his heart was heavy as he ventured into a strange land.
Many years passed and Patrick found a new love called Julie, he told her about his past telling her about the gypsy and her caravan and stories about the travelling fairs in Ireland, he told of the beach, and of Nora his friend (he never promised one day he would have a caravan for himself and Nora to travel the lands together) but Julie wasn't pleased, she didn't want to follow Patrick, but wanted a steady life in one town, he worked hard but his heart ached for lost loves, often Patrick would travel across the country he made many friends, people who travelled, he looked into the camps, he often thought of Nora, where was she, did she miss him, he had tried many times to find her, writing to her friends at home, nobody knew where she went, people would say, she travelled the world nursing the sick. He spent many lonely hours remembering her.
Patrick and Julie parted from each other, Julie knowing Patrick's heart was elsewhere went to live with her mother and Patrick finally bought his caravan and began to travel, he would stay for days working for anyone who wanted him, sometimes it was weeks, then he would move on, all the time looking for Nora, he believed she would travel to meet him. He was haunted by the old gypsy words; you will be together under the great bright stars Patrick, follow it to all you love,
Patrick had told this story to many people, he would light a small fire in camp each evening and share stories with both parents and the children about his adventures, and they would all laugh and sing then take their children back to bed, wishing him luck as they left. he sat on the rivers edge one day and looked at hid reflection in the still clear waters, an old man aged from years travelling on the roads, from living in a caravan in all seasons, he wondered if the children would call him an old warlock, as he and Nora and called the gypsy lady a witch many years ago, almost a lifetime he thought.
Patrick headed north, to the point where he could see look across the sea to the distant lands of home, he would follow the bright star again , looking for Nora, he thought of how he had promised her they would travel all over in their caravan, just like the old gypsy lady had, Patrick looked to the sky, the clouds were moving fast, black and angry the noise from the thunder rumbled lazily across the sky he knew the signs, there was trouble coming and he would have to find safe shelter.
He moved the caravan into the glen, one of his favourite places was close to the waters edge, the lightening flashed brightly and the thunder crashed, the noise inside the caravan vibrated, deafening, for the first time in his life, Patrick was worried, it brought him back to the night the gypsy had read his leaves, the night she passed away, he huddled around the fire. It gave out so little heat, the sound of the rain battered the roof of the caravan like a thousand feet beating down every second, as he watched the lightening flash across the water, he thought he saw the face of the old gypsy lady silhouetted against the window, laughing at him, then it was gone, darkness fell, the thunder stopped and the rain eased, no more marching feet across the roof. Silence…
An eerie silence settled on the caravan, Patrick laughed at his fear, he had beaten the storm, the kettle boiled, whistling on the single ring of the cooker, he made a cup of strong sweet tea.
Gently he eased the door of the caravan open, a small glint of light far out to sea winked at him , reassuring him all was well, daylight was starting to arrive, the blackness of the night was slowly going he looked up to the sky above him shone the brightest star, it lit up the glen, casting a silvery path all the way to the rivers edge sitting on the steps of his caravan he felt at peace with himself, it was a long long time since he had felt this good.
At first he didn't believe his ears, the gentle tune carried in the wind, NO! It couldn't be, it got stronger…….
Somewhere out there look up to the skies
Follow northward, follow with your heart……
He jumped up, his heart beating faster, not sure if it was that tune, it got closer, surrounding him, he stepped down from the caravan, and followed the tune, he thought of the pied piper, a story from his youth, a camp fire story, yet he marched on, seeking the source of the tune,
He pinched himself more than once, this must be a dream, as he moved across the beach and through a clearing, he stood transfixed, it was there, the old gypsy caravan ,and at the door was Nora, smiling arms out stretched, come to me.
Patrick she called out, come to me, he stumbled across to the old 'van' she looked just as he remembered her before she went away, her long black hair hanging freely her face beautiful, he threw his arms around her and cried, tears and tears, Oh where have you been, where have you been ?I've searched for you.
They sat on the steps outside the old caravan and talked and talked, she told him of going too many foreign lands to help the sick children, of all the things she had seen, she told of wars and dangers, she had never married, she had missed him. And had taken to the road in that old gypsy caravan to find him, She had remembered their promise so many years ago.
Patrick slumped down beside her and silently wept, But Nora I broke my promise, I went on to travel in my caravan without you, Nora held him close, remember what the old lady said? Underneath the great bright star you will find all you love, Patrick you didn't break your promise, because I was always there in your heart that is where I travelled. they sat together side by side, Patrick's arm around her shoulder and watched the morning break, the light gradually washed away the night, the birds began to sing, and the tide pushed gently further onto the shore, Patrick felt the perfect glow of love and peace…
They found his body late the next day, a young woman walking her dog across the beach had seen an old man leaning against the rock, an old grey crumpled man, wrinkled and aged from years of rough weather his tatty coat around his shoulders and his arm around the mound of rock, as if hugging it for comfort,
The policeman attending to Patrick's body was talking to a newspaper reporter who had been close and had come to investigate, strange this man passing away on this monument to the nurse, Nora O Reilly, it is if he knew her, but how could an old tramp know our most famous nurse, he added, she died recently saving the children at the hospital from the fire…
Strange though the policeman stared at the inscription on the monument it read
Nora O Reilly
I never noticed that bit before, it read 'At peace at last' it was scratched on, in a ghostly scrawl..... they closed their notebooks and walked away.
Michael O'Donnell was born of Irish descent and very proud of his heritage, according to Deanna. He was a true Gemini with two distinct personalities. He had ruggedness about him known and understood by men who met him.
'He had a softer side as well, a part of him that caressed me like a gentle spring rain, held me as though I were a fragile butterfly yet kissed me with a fiery passion,' Deanna said.
From what she told me, I gathered that Michael was an adventurer and loved the sheer thrill of a challenge. She mentioned how he would go deepwater scuba diving to visit forgotten ships in ancient graveyards. He climbed precipitous cliffs in torrential downpours and power hiked up steep mountain trails.
'Michael always had a tender side,' Deanna said wistfully, 'He wasn't always the devil-may-care Irishman that many thought he was.'
She told me how he adored snorkeling crystal-clear lakes with her, leisurely bike rides through cool city parks, hiking together using Irish walking sticks carved by his skillful hands, and counting stars with her in still summer nights.
'Michael was quite comfortable in ordering the finest wines at exquisite restaurants,' she said, 'I even recall our first anniversary dinner.'
In the flickering candlelight I saw her drift back into a vastly different time and place.
'We dined on a fricassee of wild mushrooms and roast Main lobster with shallot confit. He even knew my favorite Cabernet Sauvignon, late harvest Riesling, and the Pinot Gris wines that I loved.'
Deanna also told me that Michael was equally at home in the kitchen and loved to cook such delicacies as American red snapper with savory lobster dumplings, basil-crusted yellow fin tuna and filet mignon at a blue satin-covered table
'It sounds as though Michael was a worldly man of means,' I said, 'and most certainly accustomed to an extravagant lifestyle.'
'Michael was an incredibly complex man. He was equally at ease in denim, too. My Irishman knew beer-Kingfisher, Chimay, Rolling Rock, Saky and Newcastle Brown Ale-and treated me to picnics serving cold chicken and ice beer.'
She had that dreamy look in her eye once again, of a time past.
'On the dance floor, Michael was second to none. The merengue, disco, waltzes and contemporary all belonged to him. He taught me moves that made me the envy of all the nightclubs,' she said.
Blues, jazz and hard-metal rock were sounds that Michael enjoyed, but his other half knew Strauss, Beethoven, Schubert and all the Baroque classics
'Every weekend with Michael was different. At times, he was an obsessive, sizzling lover, consumed with passion and merciless with desire,' she said.
Deanna closed her eyes and she smiled at the mawkish thoughts of a distant past. Deanna had a mesmerizing voice as thick as syrup laced with Scotch; velvet-smooth and dusky.
'Yes, young man, my Michael had a tender side to lovemaking,' she murmured softly, 'slow, easy and understanding. His kisses were gentle and comforting when they needed to be.'
There was a distinct sadness in her voice now. Deanna told me that slumber had become both seduction and purgatory, from deep-set memories that haunted her.
Before we parted company, Deanna O'Donnell gave me an unforgettable kiss, light yet prolonged; and through her parted lips I felt what she felt for Michael. I felt the laughter, tears, declarations, dreams and fantasies they shared. I heard the music, experienced the dancing, and tasted all the wines and candlelight dinners, for the barest instant.
And what was Michael like? He was a man who had an effortless grasp of the deepest meaning of life. He used language that was colorful, imaginative, full of surprise and truly unforgettable. She met him on one of those hilly streets where buildings descend like stair steps in a windy Donegal winter. He was a man of independent mind and means. He traveled extensively through Europe, Africa, India and China, keeping remarkable diaries, a few of which have survived. The pages are filled with observations of society, insights, curious notations, poetry and recipes.
The tryst with Deanna is now thirty years into the past, which would make her a guest of Earth who's remained for 91 years.
I tried in vain to locate Deanna, but to no avail. I suspect she is resting in the green hills near Donegal, where she walks hand-in-hand with Michael under skies that are forever blue.
'It never was loving that emptied the heart,' Deanna told me that Irish afternoon, 'Nor giving that emptied the purse. Do much of both in your time on Earth, Robert.'
Deanna and Michael, wherever you are, I dedicate this collection of quixotic stories to you.
Drakeman Robert Kincaide