Friday, July 20, 2007

302. From Famine to Free State: 35 Lives

The idea behind this post is quite simple. The intent is to show new and returning readers how Ireland recovered its cultural self-confidence and then forged its political independence during the crucial four decades between the 1880s and the 1920s. The method is to create links to the biographies of 35 individuals who were born between the years 1846 and 1891, the actual lifespan of the “Uncrowned King of Ireland”, Charles Stewart Parnell.

Most of the work is done by Wikipedia – and yourselves. I supply the birthdates and the names. Some of these names may already be known to you; others probably will not. The interesting thing is that most of these people either knew each other personally or had at least heard of one another. Ireland is a small country and Dublin, even today, is little more than an extended village.

I’m not about to offer any useful hints (politician, playwright, revolutionary, trade union leader) since half of the fun is discovering who these people were and how they related to one another and the “re-creation” of Ireland. In the separate stories of their lives you can piece together the story of the nation-to-be.

In closing, I would like to emphasize the rather significant fact that nearly half of the people on this list were Protestants, which, in the Irish context, makes them descendants of families who had been part of the post-Reformation invasions and settlements of the 16th and 17th centuries This did not make them any less Irish than their “native” counterparts, whether descendants of the Gaels or the Normans of the Middle Ages. In fact, their identification with Ireland was in many ways more acute than the others because it involved a conscious rejection of England and English ways. Without these people the Irish could never have created the modern nation in the way they actually did – and this should never be forgotten or swept under the rug by Irish Irelanders in the style of D.P Moran who proclaimed that only a Catholic nationalist could be a true Irishman or Irishwoman. This is simply not true, and the evidence lies in these various biographies.

1846 - Charles Stewart Parnell (d. 1891, age 45)
1846 - Michael Davitt (d. 1906, age 60)
1846 - Standish O’Grady (d. 1928, age 82)
1847 - Michael Cusack (d. 1906, age 59)
1852 - Lady Augusta Gregory (d. 1932, age 80)
1852 - George Moore (d. 1933, age 81)
1854 - Oscar Wilde (d. 1900, age 46)
1854 - Edward Carson (d. 1935, age 81)
1855 - Tim Healy (d. 1931, age 76)
1856 - G.B. Shaw (d. 1950, age 94)
1856 - John Redmond (d. 1918, age 62)
1857 - Tom Clarke (ex. 1916, age 59)
1860 - Douglas Hyde (d. 1949, age 89)
1864 - Roger Casement (ex. 1916, age 52)
1865 - W.B. Yeats (d. 1939, age 74)
1866 - Maud Gonne (d. 1953, age 87)
1867 - George Russell (d. 1935, age 68)
1867 - Eoin MacNeill (d. 1945, age 78)
1868 - Constance Markiewicz (d. 1927, age 59)
1868 - James Connolly (ex. 1916, age 48)
1869 - D.P. Moran (d. 1936, age 67)
1870 - Erskine Childers (ex. 1922, age 52)
1871 - J.M. Synge (d. 1909, age 38)
1871 - Arthur Griffith (d. 1922, age 51)
1874 - Cathal Brugha (d. 1922, age 48)
1876 - Jim Larkin (d.1947, age 71)
1878 - Francis Sheehy-Skeffington (ex. 1916, age 38)
1879 - Patrick Pearse (ex. 1916, age 37)
1880 - Sean O’Casey (d. 1964, age 84)
1882 - James Joyce (d. 1941, age 59)
1882 - Eamon deValera (d. 1975, age 93)
1882 - Bulmer Hobson (d. 1969, age 87)
1883 - Sean Mac Diarmada (ex. 1916, age 33)
1883 - Denis McCullough (d. 1968, age 85)
1890 - Michael Collins (d. 1922, age 32)

Here are some links to articles or poems on Irish themes to be found on this blog:
Thinking in Irish
The Runup to Easter 1916
Voodoo Drums
From the Normans to Michael Collins
The Celts – Intro
The Celts I
The Celts II
The Celts III
The Celts IV
Dublin Walkabout (1)
Dublin Walkabout (2)
Belfast and Derry (1991)
Joyce, Iraq, Michael Collins etc.

Terrorists on a Coffee Break
Maureen Rua
Joe McInerney
October in Ireland
An Clar
Irish poetry and comments on Heaney

Thursday, July 05, 2007

301. Airey Takes the Plunge

(a restoration drama in several acts)

Airey was a friend in truth,
a fairy, yes, but not a poof;
a tough guy called Reg
threw him off a high ledge.
It's a long way to tip poor Airey.

When I have fears that I may cease to be
far away from friends and family,
I think, by God, although I'm odd,
I welcome change, however strange:
in a cheerful melancholy way,
Death could be a holiday.

In fires forever burning,
on a spit forever turning,
just like a Turkish kebab;
I'm glad I never paid the tab
in so many clubs and bars.
God, won’t they be raging!
the thought is quite engaging:
they’ll be tearing their hair
as if I care
for all them drinks I bought!

I never thought,
I never thought I’d wake up
after I hit the ground
at ten zillion miles an hour.
Splat! That’s that.
Wishy-washy lack of belief
affords but scant and thin relief
for the falling, failing agnostic.
Here is a falsely true acrostic:
Sweet dreams by icy lethal waters.*

The myriad sons and daughters
of O’Leary of the Yellow Hand
have formed a band,
here in the place I’m at.
I told that them I couldn’t sing,
but they want to know what I can bring
to add to the balance of joy.
Where’s God? So sorry, m'boy,
He’s away, he’s always away.
And the Divil’s off in Osaka Japan
to follow up on his business plan,
(An Dhool is no fool)
trawling for souls in a language school.

Listen, will I be dead for a long time?
Just as long as ye like.
On yer bike, resurrect some hobby
and make it last ten thousand years.
Any wee jobby to keep yer mind off things,
but stay away from collecting stamps:
stamp tramps are pure ferocious:
Super Calley Went Ballistic: Celtic Were Atrocious.
Hierophants and sycophants
make me want to wet me pants,
revert to my psychosis.

But can I do that, like?
Wet meself, scratch, play with girls?
No, you can’t. You’re, like, disembodied.
What about this pain in me arse?
Imaginary, old son.
You can keep the pain
but yer arse is dead and gone.
Where’s it gone to, so?
The Soap Factory.

In cold brittle little exchanges
I accommodate myself to certain changes.
Aren’t ye glad ye’re Catlick?
Y’wha?? Fuck you on about?
Even so. You should see the shabby sheds
where they stick the poor sad feckin Neds.
The Jews have chic flats in the Mews
(they were right all along)
Oooh, baby, won’t you shake your thong?
Instruct us, don't you dare amuse!

And them towel heads? Don’t arsk.
I don’t ask. And the Jehovahs?
They’re stuck with the oul’ whores
knocking on doors, forever and ever
and ever and ever. Amen.

Well, I never! This cheers me up
considerably. Jayz, I could
kill for a pint. Are there any pubs in Hell?
Naturallement! As Monsieur knows well
the Squareheads, the Jocks and the Micks
couldn’t die without them. There are Czechs
and balances, mind you, like the Skandies
who have acquired a taste for shaving lotion,
an effective if quite "deadly" potion.
Har, har, a pun. What fun! Listen,
we send people back from time to time,
would you like to go? I don’t know.
Being dead's, like, doin’ in me head,
but it’s not so bad, y’know?
Even so. Pack up and go:
back to the World of the Living.
Cease receiving, son. Start giving.

Right, then, here’s me,
rejected back to Life:
-- Suit, white shirt, necktie: check!
-- Red underpants, socks with clocks: check!
-- Sunglasses, watch, gold chains: check!
-- Cellphone, iPod, 3 rubber johnnies.
Hello there, Life, Allo, Allo!
Jeez, it’s fuckin raining.
I’m out of training.
I’ve forgotten how to talk
I can hardly bleedin walk
sedately; innately, I feel
that none of this is real.

O Jayzus, damn, by heck!
I just got a bang on the back of the neck.
I turn to my oppressor,
a large and hairy male cross-dresser
in a pink tutu and fawn little boots.
Beige, ye barstid, fawn is outré!
but what I really want to say
is 'oo the feck are yoo?
I delivered a thump and a bit of a bump
'coz ye look just like a ghost
mon semblable, mon frere,
are ye back from under there?"

I yam. Right, so, whattya think,
will we call it quits and go for a drink?
Seventeen pints after,
ciggies, girls, and gurgling laughter,
it's home with young Ivy Malone
on the Bakerloo, she don’t live alone.
The thing to do, she tells me,
is climb up the garden ladder
Because I reelly don’t want me fadder
or mudder to see yez. Haul away.
Show a light in the windy, sweet darlint,
show a light where I can see yez,
yer luverly pearl-white arms,
yer full abundant charms!
And here’s a tiny little kiss,
a promise of a night of bliss.

I feel so drained
yet self-contained
as I gaze into the glass:
a faint recognition
of the apparition
I know to be myself.
Dead, mislaid, or on the shelf,
this, too, I think, shall pass.
Her flashing eyes!
Her thunderous thighs!
All in two words explained:
convent trained.
Her legs grab tight-ily,
mightily wrap around my ass:
heave-ho, puff and blow!
Sky is high and ocean deep:
will she never go to sleep?

Ah, it’s not bad to be alive
once more. I can’t remember when
before it felt this cool. A general rule
is to keep the head down low,
and let the winds crack and blow
above you, like young sweet Ivy Malone
breathing hard in her shoebox of a room
up there on Dollis Hill.
I close my eyes, I remember still
her posters of Duran Duran,
the night I was her only man.

Being dead ain’t that bad, either,
once you get the hang of it, like.
The thing is being killed,
being shot or stabbed or smashed to bits
or tossed off a high building;
that’s the bit I don’t much care for.
Reg had hairs sprouting from his nose
and he had a bit of a ripe smell about him,
so when he pushed me off the roof that day
I had a bit of a snob thing about him,
not at all in my league, I’d have to say.

Time to drop in on hairy Reg.
I can imagine his moonlike pasty face
as he takes my presence in.
I’ll slip in the icy uncanny wedge
of fear. Here is a ghost, my dear!
But things seldom work out
quite as one expects: in many respects
Death and Life are both unfair.
I stand before this old armchair
and gaze on Reg, unprepossessing sight,
He’s been out all night,
God, he looks the worse for wear;
wheezing, snorting through his nose,
crumpled-up clothes, drunk as a coot,
one filthy, ugly, smelly brute.

When he wakes up, I’ll top him,
but not until he knows,
not until he really knows.
Then I’ll walk into the hall,
and descend. I need a friend,
have none at all. I was in love
and then I wasn't in love.
I was also once in life,
and then no longer in that.
Snow falls on distant mountains.
Sweet dreams by icy lethal waters.
Drip … drip … drip.

* a falsely true acrostic, in that only 22 of the 28 letters are used with an extra 'e' thrown in; seven words.