Politics in the north of Ireland are a tricky thing. For generations words, weapons, petrol bombs and more have been tossed from one side of the divide (and the border) to the other in an ongoing struggle for power. On this day in 1967 a different sort of projectile was thrown into the mix (ahem) when Rev. Ian Paisley launched snowballs at Jack Lynch, the Taoiseach of Ireland.
Once upon a time, the American government worked. Bipartisan agreements made sure laws and budgets were passed, the court system wasn’t overloaded and exhausted and Presidents were kept in check by legislators, rather than the other way round. I know it sounds like a faerie tale in today’s day and age but it is true. People in government once did their jobs. America even had a law on the books that refused support or arms to any country that was designated as a human rights abuser and it could actually take a stand against others in that arena without being a complete laughingstock. To be sure, these embargoes always depended on which lobby had the most influence on the American government at the time, but occasionally the U.S. actually lived up to its own hype. On this day in 1979, the U.S. even stood against one of its biggest allies when it refused to send arms to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (the RUC) in the North of Ireland on the grounds that the British government was violating the human rights of the citizens who lived there. To say that the powers that be on both sides of the puddle were upset by this stance would be an understatement, but there was no easy way to get around it thanks to Ad Hoc Congressional Committee for Irish Affairs.
Ireland is steeped in mythology and tales of faeries but these fae have nothing in common with the adorable little Disney-created pixies that flit across the movie screen. Irish faeries have a dark side and many folks still attempt to appease them to this day. You can still find bowls of milk outside certain homes on certain days and many locals who stay away from nearby hills, caves, and mounds. They warn wayward travelers to do the same. Some have iron in their doorways or other superstitious markings to protect against dark creatures of a different world. In the past these beliefs were even more prevalent and tales of changelings and other mischievous things in the night were simply a part of life. These stories also became part of a highly publicized murder after a young woman named Bridget Cleary was burned to death by her husband, her father, and others, on this day in 1895.
Many of Ireland’s brave sons and daughters had to leave Ireland for one reason or another. One of those daughters was Katherine “Katie” Gilnagh who was just seventeen years old when her sister sent for her to come to the United States. She caused a bit of a stir before she left home by having her palm read. The astute (or gifted) fortune-teller told Katie that she’d be crossing water soon and that there’d be a lot of danger, but that no lasting harm would come to her. Soon after the reading, Miss Gilnagh left her family in Cloonnee, Co. Longford and boarded the RMS Titanic as a third-class passenger, bound for America.
The true tale about a fairy tale….and the story behind the greatest Christmas song of all time. If you haven’t watched this particular ‘Making of’ there’s no better or more appropriate time than to remedy that than on Christmas eve (babe)… and this is especially true given that the Pogues’ touring manager Frank Murray just passed. Merry holidays to you all, whichever one you celebrate this time of year.
On June 30th, 1890 a horrible tragedy struck the O’Connor family in County Dublin. John O’Connor was a well-known journalist and Nationalist politician. He was the M.P. of West Wicklow and a family man who had a loving wife and five young children. This seemingly adoring family was torn apart when almost all of them were fatally poisoned. Only John O’Connor and one of his daughters survived.
Well, you learn something new every day. Yesterday I attended a Bernie Sanders rally in Oakland, CA which was the very last place I thought I’d learn a new tidbit of Irish history but I was mistaken. One of the speakers had just returned from the North of Ireland. He butchered the pronunciation of Sinn Fein but he told the crowd that Bernie Sanders was one of the only politicians in the United States (and the world) who had taken the time to write an angry message directly to Margaret Thatcher in 1981.
There’s a lot to learn with this whole writing and publishing a book thing. One thing to learn is that if you set a book up to be sold through Ingram, it disappears until Ingram gets around to distributing it. For me, that meant the paperback edition of my book was out of commission, which is a surprising and disappointing discovery.
However, I found a work around, so it is back. (Whew) If you’d like your own you can now find it here. The other links that have been posted before, and those in the Celtic Thoughts interview yesterday will only get you to the hardback edition, which is nice but more expensive.
In a few weeks, you’ll be able to order the paperback from any bookstore, anywhere – which is super neat. In the meantime though, the place to get it is the link above.
It won’t make it by Christmas anymore, but it would be a great book to start 2016 with.
Gather the women!!
Jan. 6th marks Nollaig na mBan, also known as little Christmas or Women’s Christmas in Ireland. It’s an old Irish tradition that evolved from celebrating the Epiphany but these days it’s become less about religion and more about fun and frivolity. Traditionally, Irish women were not only responsible for the Christmas time entertaining and feasts but they also had to deal with all the holiday clean up, and every day chores and household duties too for that matter. Except on January 6th, that is. That’s the day they finally got a break. On Women’s Christmas, (12th Night, little Christmas or whatever you want to call January 6th) the men took over the chores and the households so that the women could gather and drink, tell stories, kick off their shoes and relax for a moment.
It was a real treat back in the day – so much so that it continues now, even though women’s roles have changed all around the world. In modern times, it’s a day for women to gather and treat themselves to a night out at a bar with friends, a trip to the favorite day spa or salon, or head out for a fancy meal. Nollaig na mBan is the day to play hooky from work (or from the house and kids) to enjoy a day with your ladies, create your own little henhouse, tell stories, catch up, or have a cocktail and relax. No matter what women normally work too hard on, Jan. 6th is the time to take a day off, even if it’s only a mental one. It’s well deserved.