A walk down memory lane

A walk down memory lane

They say that school days are the best days of your life, well I never subscribed to that but over the last couple of weeks I have connected with past classmates of mine via FB. This got me thinking about my school days and my childhood back home in Ireland. I lived in an area called Inchicore, right beside Kilmainham Gaol, which was at the center of Irish history in 1916. 

I attended primary (elementary?) school in St Michael’s CBS, also in Inchicore and across the road from Richmond Park, the the home to St Patrick’s Athletic and McDowells pub, two places I would frequent a lot in my adult life. St Michael’s CBS was also steeped in the history of 1916 and between there and Kilmainham, it’s no wonder I have a huge interest in not only Irish history, but 1916 and the fight for Irish independence. School back then was completely different to the way it is today, teachers didn’t think twice about taking out a leather strap or hurling a duster the length of the classroom at you if you weren’t paying attention. 

As a young lad my sporting interest was football (soccer) , but I also played hurling and rugby but more times than not I was out with a ball having a kick about with friends and playing matches on the weekends. I was quite small but quick and I really loved playing football and as a little 10 year old I was part of a great team who nearly all attended the same school and lived in the same local area. Now below is a photo of me in the team photo and it was the year I was named player of the year. It was the highlight of career! 

As I said I have recently connected with some lads I attended secondary (high school) with on FB and this weekend they are meeting up for a few beers back in Dublin. I seen a photo of our class that was taken just before we finished school for good and I have absolutely no memory of the photo ever been taken and it was the first time I ever seen it. It was taken in 1984, before we sat our final exams in June of that year. 

I hope you have enjoyed my brief walk down memory lane and I am delighted I have been able to reconnect with my ex classmates and that I am still in touch with some of the lads in the football team photo nearly 40 years later. 

Culchie day in Dublin! 

Culchie day in Dublin! 

What are you on about I can hear people in the USA say, what is a ‘culchie’? So let’s get what a Culchie is out of the way first. Anyone from outside Dublin is a Culchie, someone from ‘down the country’. As usual Wikipedia gives a quick overview view so if you want to read about the origins of the word etc just click on the link A Culchie according to Wikipedia

So the next question, why are they coming to Dublin. Well back when I was younger, December 8th was a holy day, a day off school, so parents would pack the kids into the car, onto the train and head to Dublin to visit the big shops, do Christmas shopping and see Santa. This was in a time before there were any malls in Ireland and most of the big department stores where only in Dublin. Nowadays it doesn’t happen as much due to most reasonable size towns having some sort of a shopping centre. 

As children we would be brought into Dublin city center to see Santa, go to Switzers to see the Christmas window decorations, a kinda Harrods in Dublin but no where near as exclusive, and into a grill cafe to have dinner which consisted of chips (french fries) and a burger. I started bringing my own son to see the lights on Grafton St when he was young and it was something we done every year till last year. Hopefully we will get to see them this year together. 

Writing this post was prompted by me telling Leanne that today was Culchie day in Dublin and explaining to her what I meant. And that me thinking about a few things that you are liable to hear in Dublin. Had a quick Google search and it came up with a few suggestions but here is one Dublin Phrases


 

Some random thoughts of an Irish Ex-Pat living in the USA

Some random thoughts of an Irish Ex-Pat living in the USA

So 13 months ago I stepped onto an Aer Lingus plane and headed to Orlando on my way to my new life here in Atlanta. What brought me to make that trip came from a conversation with my now wife 18 months previous. So here I am, 49, married to the most wonderful woman, working away, enjoying life and immensely happy. 

But, and seldom there are times there is a but, I have missed my family and friends back home, missed going for a pint and talking about the latest football match, miss sharing things regularly with my son, seeing my Mam on a near daily basis, having some good fun with my workmates in Dublin Airport. These are just a few things I miss but the biggest thing over the last year was my Dad’s funeral in July.  The decision not to travel home wasn’t taken lightly and it wasn’t easy to make but I know it was the right one at that particular time. 

Being an Ex-Pat living away from home comes with some distinct advantages and some other distinct disadvantages. Missing family and friends as well as family events, like funerals are hard. Learning to fit into a new society, new friends and just general life in my new country was hard at the beginning but it gets easier with time if you allow yourself embrace the new life. Getting a decent cup of tea is near impossible but it can be overcome, again by embracing a new way. And no I don’t mean coffee, but a new blend of tea even though I do love the fact I still have 450 tea bags from Ireland left. Some of the advantages are that people are genuinely interested in what life in Ireland is like, so I do get to talk about Ireland a good bit. Of course I have to remember not to talk to fast or no one will understand me. 

The flip side to missing family and friends back home and missing out on family occasions in Ireland, is that now I have a whole other extended family and circle of friends and I have been able to attend family weddings and some funerals too. Not quite 4 weddings and a funeral but more like 2 weddings and 6 funerals. 

And so onto something I am really looking forward to. On December 16th we will fly to Dublin to spend Christmas with my family. I will actually miss my American family and friends as they have taken me into their hearts and group and made me very welcome. But I will see my Mam, sister, brother and son as well as friends over our 2 week visit. I left looking forward to a whole new life with Leanne, some nervous anticipation about how that life would shape up, well let me tell you, it has worked out fantastically well.

In 13 months I have experienced 2 Thanksgiving holidays, various other USA holidays, spent Memorial Day in Florida, spent a week in Michigan, a weekend in Pittsburgh, a couple of weekends in Blue Ridge, Georgia, a few days in Charleston, a day visit to Savannah to go to the place where myself and Leanne met, drove from Atlanta to Detroit, the longest drive I have ever done in my life, seen Broadway shows in the Fox Theater, fireworks for July 4th, a US Presidential election and so many other wonderful things. 

Over the last 2 and a half years I have shared my life and experiences on social media a lot, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and this blog. I hope people enjoy the posts and I do hope to keep it up into 2017. 

Life is good and I am going to take this opportunity to wish everyone a good Christmas and a safe 2017. I will try post before I head to Ireland and when I am there but otherwise it will be January before I get to post again. 

Another step!

Another step!

So today after a little over 6 months and a small wait while the Georgia Drivers services figured out I was entitled to a drivers license I finally got to do my driving test. My last test was back in 1991 in Ireland and then I was the young person and the tester was the older person, well not today. Today after I got checked in and a small mishap with not having insurance card with me, I was all set. When my name was called I was greeted by a 20 something year old! After a quick introduction and another check of paperwork we were on our way. Even though I can drive and am a tidy driver with 25 years experience I was quite nervous, especially for the parking, emergency stop parts. Making sure I indicated and looked all the way around, even though normally most people here think indicators are Christmas lights, only to be used in December!

And so out of the parking lot and onto the real test, the driving on the public highway. This was the easy part, stop at stop signs, count to 3 before even attempting to move, indicating all the time, keeping speed below the limit, watching all the time. We got back to the parking lot and the young man told me I had passed but he had to tally the score! So on the road test I scored 100 and on the technical skills I scored 100, it seemed kinda easy to tally that score 🙂 But I suppose he had to do it officially and after a minute or so I was sitting in my car with the official document, 100 score and passed!

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I got my Georgia Drivers License

The drivers license here is as important as your social security number and probably as important as a passport so it was vital as I still job hunt to get that done and out of the way as soon as paperwork allowed. It was good to be able to drive for a few months to get the practice as it did prove invaluable. Sure even this past weekend I drove over 12 hours for our Memorial weekend trip to Florida and back.

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On the Beach in Florida

The weekend away in Florida was fantastic and it was great to be able to share the time with Leanne and some fantastic people who have now become my friends too. We sat on the beach, bobbed about in the sea and drank some beers, overall a brilliant time. I alluded to Memorial Day in my post last week and it struck me on the drive home from Florida yesterday the amount of USA flags that were flying outside houses, business and even some cars. This is something that I would love to see copied back home in Ireland but unfortunately the only time flags will be flying outside houses or cars will be if some sports team or person does well. Politically it would be nearly impossible to place flags in cemeteries due to the connotation it would have to the Troubles and republicanism, but maybe as a country, Ireland is growing up a bit more and the events of 2016 will allow more national pride in the Defence Forces, its veterans and those who have given their lives in service to Ireland and peace throughout the world without it being overshadowed by political point scoring.

Anyway, all that is for other blogs to debate and I do have my thoughts on it but here isn’t the time or place.As each step on this journey is taken I am ticking them off, I have my legal residence status approval, drivers license, green card is on its way and soon a job. All these things are part of my journey in my new life here in the USA and I couldn’t have taken one of these steps without my wife by my side, her support is unwavering and gratefully appreciated. Between this blog and my personal FB page I have been doing nearly a running commentary on my life now for 18 months and I do enjoy sharing various milestones with people, especially friends and family both here in the USA and back home in Ireland.

I just want to thank everyone who has followed this journey so far, there are still a good few episodes and milestones to go so please keep following, liking and even sharing across social media.

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Driving me around the bend

Driving me around the bend

I know I have commented on this before ( Driving Post ), but driving in Atlanta can be one hell of an experience. Some drivers think they are invincible, or invisible, I am not sure which. Car manufacturers went to great lengths to place indicators on cars, but a note of safety should be placed on the dash board of cars. Putting on an indicator doesn’t mean you just fly across 4 lanes of traffic at 70mph. If you do that you are a complete gobshite and nothing else.

I have driven down 285 twice in the last 2 days and both days had 20-25 minute delays due to gobshites not knowing how to drive crashing into the side of another car while changing lanes. No sign of them indicating, looking, checking and then going. It’s indicate, put on invincible cloak and go for it.

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Approaching Atlanta on busy highway

I enjoy driving, and delays don’t bother me to much as they are part and parcel of driving in a big city. The open roads here are great but once you get close to the city you need to have your wits about you. I have to concentrate nearly at full level while driving in the city . I have to make sure I am in the right lane, making lane changes in plenty of time and safely, and just be aware of traffic on all sides moving quickly.

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Concentration levels are high (Oh and I was stopped)

Driving in Atlanta, and probably anywhere in the USA is the same, and Dublin doesn’t get off scott free either as it has it’s fair share of gobshites in cars too. How about instead of pointless driving tests, all drivers should do an aptitude awareness test first. Not everyone can use a computer, or tools, or fly a plane but we give everyone a car!

Irish Proclamation

The Proclamation of the Irish Republic 1916

Shortly after 12 noon on Monday the 24th April 1916 Padraig Pearse stood beneath the pillars of the GPO and in the company of other members of the provisional Government, James Connolly, Joseph Plunket, Tom Clark, and Sean Mac Diarmada, read the Proclamation of The Irish Republic to the People Of Ireland. A Green Flag Bearing the inscription “Irish Republic” was raised at the corner of the GPO and Princes Street, and the Tricolour of green, white, and orange was hoisted shortly afterwards.

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Proclamation from Easter 1916

The Reading of the Proclamation signalled the start of the Easter Rising in Dublin 1916, and set in motion a chain of events that would eventually lead to Irish Independence in 1922.

From my point of view the language of the Proclamation is still valid today. As an Irish immigrant in the USA I hold onto my ‘Irishness’ but can see the resemblance of the 1916 Irish Proclamation with the USA Declaration of Independence.

100 Anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland

Well this weekend marks a special centenary in Ireland. I was lucky enough to live in an area of Dublin that was steeped in the history and the stories of that momentous time in Irish history.
Below is an an article written for me by Wesley Bourke, the editor of Ireland’s only Military History magazine, Reveille, Telling Ireland’s Military Story.

I have known Wesley for over 15 years, working with him during our time in the Irish Defence Forces as photographer and journalist together in the Press Office. We started Reveille together and even though I am here in the States, I still help him out as much as I can, isn’t the internet a great thing. Wes traveled over to America last December to honour me by being my best man at my wedding to Leanne, I was delighted that he was able to take time out from running the magazine to join us on our special day and to stand by my side.

1916 – A Quick Introduction and Guide

This weekend marks the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rebellion in Ireland. There is no doubt that this was a complex time in Ireland. Ideas such as nationalism, unionism, republicanism, socialism, home rule or a republic, women and labour rights were highly debated and spoken of. In parallel to the home front tens of thousands of Irish men and women were serving, primarily in the British Army, in the battlefields, hospitals and factories of the First World War.

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Irish Republic flag from 1916

The rebellion that took place in Ireland during Easter Week 1916 effected many parts of the country. Caught up in this insurrection were Irish men and women on both sides. These included the various rebel organisations including the; Irish Republican Brotherhood, Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, Hibernian Rifles and the Irish Citizen Army,  but also those in the; National Volunteers, British Army, Dublin Metropolitan Police, and the Royal Irish Constabulary. As the Rebel Army rose up proclaiming an Irish Republic the crown forces responded resulting in armed engagements between both sides. Taking no side and giving assistance and aid when they could were the members of the St. John Ambulance and Dublin Fire Department, their story gives another aspect to the rebellion that has all but been forgotten.

Why the Rebellion or Rising as it is commonly known today, took place when it did continues to be heavily debated to this day. By the outbreak of the Great War the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood who had evolved from the Fenian Brotherhood, had reorganised and were rejuvenated by the arrival home of Thomas Clarke and new younger members such as Bulmer Hobson. The Brotherhood, like their Fenian brethren, supported armed struggle for an independent Ireland. They now wanted to use the fact that Great Britain was caught up in war with Germany and Turkey to strike.

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Dublin’s GPO

Infiltrating Eoin MacNeil’s Irish Volunteers, men such as Patrick Pearse became very prominent in that organisation. It was Pearse as Irish Volunteer Director of Operations who published orders in the papers for the Volunteers to mobilise on Easter Sunday. The Brotherhood also brought onboard James Connolly and his Irish Citizen Army. In tandem to the planning at home John Devoy, leader of the republican Clan na Gael in the United States, had sent Roger Casement to Germany to try and gain support for an Irish rebellion. Securing a shipment of arms Casement made his was back to Ireland with some 20,000 rifles due to land in the south coast of Ireland on Holy Thursday/Good Friday.

Easter Sunday was chosen purely from a military point of view. It was deemed by the Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood that as it was a holiday weekend most of the citizenry and authorities (police and military) would be at the horse races, cricket matches, or simple on leave. However as Eoin MacNeil was not aware of a planned rebellion when he did find out he sent out countermanding orders. Then when he was told of the shipment of arms due in Easter weekend he allowed his men to be mobilised. These orders and countermanding orders resulted in confusion all over Ireland. Some units mobilised and then went home, others stayed at home, while others carried on with whomever turned up.

Although there were significant unrest in Wexford, Galway, Cork, Laois, and Louth it was the Dublin Brigade Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army who took the brunt of the fighting in Dublin City, north county Dublin and Ashbourne in Co. Meath. Some 1,000 plus Volunteers mobilised in 5 battalions in Dublin City and north Dublin on Easter Monday April 24th. These Volunteers were augmented by around 30 Hibernian Rifles and 200 members of the women’s auxiliary Cumann na mBan and the scouting movements Fianna Éireann and Clan na Gael. The General Post Office in Sackville Street (now O’Connell St.) was deemed the Rebel Army Headquarters.

From the beginning it became very evident that the Rebels did not have enough men. Key positions such as Dublin Castle, Trinity College, Kingsbridge Railway Station, Broadstone Railway Station, the Customs House and the Docklands were not captured. Rebel efforts were also further hampered in part by the efforts of individual members from uniformed bodies such as; the Trinity Officer Cadets, the School of Musketry and Dublin Metropolitan Police.

The British authorities reacted swiftly and decisively. Military and Royal Irish Constabulary forces were mobilised throughout Ireland and reinforcements immediately dispatched from Britain. Around the country rebel positions were isolated and contained. In Dublin as more reinforcements arrived the city was surrounded. The rebel positions were cut off from each other one by one. Isolated they were shelled by artillery and assaulted by infantry. Some of the heaviest fighting was in the area of Ballsbridge and Mount Street bridge. Here only a handful of Volunteers held of several battalions of British reinforcements. As Caulfield says in ‘Easter Rebellion’, ‘It was a sickening slaughter’. The 2/7th and 2/8th Battalions Sherwood Foresters had no information about the insurgents’ strengths opposing them, or indeed as to their exact locations. They blindly persisted in an expensive frontal assault to enter the city while some hundreds of yards away two clear undefended routes lay open.

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Artist Illustration of the Proclamation at the GPO

By mid week the city centre was heavily damaged and many buildings were alight. Looting was very prominent. Dublin Fire Brigade and St. John Ambulance did what they could to assist civilian, military and rebel alike, at times under heavy fire.

By week’s end there was no option but to surrender. Why the Rebellion took place and why individual men fought did not really matter as they were marched into captivity. Little did they know at that time that a new chapter in Irish history was about to begin.

I would like to thank Wesley for the article. I will post another few articles in relation to 1916 over the coming days.