November 20th 1987!

November 20th 1987!

Another anniversary happens this weekend. 29 years ago a 20 year old me finally got the chance to fulfill my dream of signing on the dotted line and joining the Irish Defence Forces. Little did I know then that it would be a career that would span 23 years and take me around the world in pursuance of my role as not only the Defence Forces Photographer but as a member of the Irish Air Corps Pipe Band. 

I started as a fresh faced recruit in the 2nd Field Artillery Regiment but within a few weeks I had suffered a broken leg while playing football and that knocked my military training back 8 months. But in those 8 months I learnt a lot about the role I would be going into and also learnt about the possibility of going to the Air Corps and becoming a Photographer. It would take a couple more years but in 1989 or 1990 I started my career as a military photographer. It was a role I would stay in until my retirement in 2011. Some of my usual work involved just day to day military stuff, parades and training but as a photographer I was also part of the Maritime Protection unit so flying out over the Atlantic Ocean at least once a week to photograph fishing vessels. 

In 2004 I took up the role as photographer in the Defence Forces Press office and it was in this role that I really developed as a military photographer and got to travel all over with the Defence Forces. Some of the places I went to in my role as photographer were Kosovo, Bosnia, Chad, Liberia and Sweden. I also visited Lourdes in France as part of the Military Pilgrimage when the Irish President at the time attended in her role as Head of State and commander in chief. I would continue to photograph the Irish President for the next 7 years as well as visiting Heads of state. 

My other job in the Defence Forces was as a member of the Air Corps Pipe Band and it was during a trip with the band to Savannah in 2001 that I met a lovely girl from Michigan. Little did I know then that 14 years later that lovely girl would become my wife and I would be living happily with her in Atlanta. I absolutely loved nearly every minute of my time in the military, getting to experience all the things I did and doing an exciting job. I made friends that are still friends and will be for life, have an outlook on life that sometimes only military people understand. But my time came to an end in 2011 after 23 years wonderful service to my country and it was time to retire and move on. 

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I will wait till April to remember 1916

I will wait till April to remember 1916

This weekend the Irish state remembered the men, women and children of 1916 and the Easter rising in a number of state occasions, the highlight of which was a parade down O’Connell St and wreath laying ceremonies across the country. I decided a long time ago that I would wait to commemorate 1916 on the correct anniversary, the weekend of April 23/24th 2016 rather than at Easter. I can see the governments thinking behind holding the events at Easter rather than on the real anniversary but it is flawed thinking. So what if this past weekend was a 3 day weekend anyway, it was not the centenary of an event that took place in April, it was a cop out by the government.

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Wreath Laying outside the GPO in Dublin. Photo by Cpl Neville Coughlan Irish Defence Forces

Regardless of this and me not being particularly happy with it, it still doesn’t stop me being proud to be Irish and of the events that did take place over this past Easter weekend. My ex colleagues in the Irish Defence Forces done themselves and the country proud. I think I have watched every video, looked at every photo gallery and to see faces I knew in the parade was great. It was a goal of mine to photograph the centenary parade for Reveille Magazine, but my personal life and changed circumstances meant I now live in the USA and am happy I missed out on the parade as I am living a different and happy life here.

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Composite Front Cover of Ireland's Military Story and Irish Proclamation

Before I left Ireland I was working with my friend on a Military History Magazine for Ireland. He was the editor and I was the photographer/picture editor and together we brought an idea to fruition and got it published and we are now on Issue 5 with a special 1916 issue also published. It’s available to purchase across Ireland and UK but can also be subscribed to for anyone living overseas. Just go to http://www.irelandsmilitarystory.ie/subscribe and follow the information to get your copy delivered to your door every 3 months.

Ok less of the advertising, I have stated before that I lived within a stones throw of Kilmainham Gaol and went to school in St Michaels CBS which back in 1916 was called Richmond Barracks. Well both of those locations had important roles to play in 1916 and again this weekend. The leaders of 1916 were held in Richmond Barracks before bring brought to Kilmainham Gaol for execution. Living in such an historic part of Dublin gives you a certain outlook on the events of 1916 as it was there that the Rising and it’s leaders met their end, courtesy of the British government.

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Cadets Reverse Arms as a Wreath lies in the area were the leaders of 1916 Rising were executed. Photo by Irish Defence Forces

I hope to have a more comprehensive write up about the 1916 Rising on the weekend of April 23/24th and I may even ask a guest writer to pen a small history and fact based article to compliment my own blog post on the events of April 1916.

Proud to be Irish

Proud to be Irish

Even though I left the country of my birth just a few short months ago and have been slowly acclimatising to life here in the USA, I will never forget my home country or not be proud to be Irish. It defines everything I am and how I do things. We can be a bit mad, have funny ways of saying things (don’t get offended if I swear at you), live up to some stereotypes and be completely at odds with others.

Once again I start a post and start rambling on about stuff. This week, especially tomorrow, is a big week for anyone who is Irish, or claims Irish heritage. Tomorrow is St Patrick’s Day and the whole world joins the Irish in celebrating our National holiday, the day of our patron saint; St Patrick. Yesterday was Proclamation Day, a day when schools all over Ireland will unveil their own version of the Proclamation for a New Generation. This is all part of the 1916 Centenary Celebrations that are taking place in Ireland over the whole of 2016 but especially over the next few weeks.

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1916 Proclamation

Things like Proclamation Day are a very good idea and as part of it every school in Ireland was given a National Flag and a copy of the 1916 Proclamation to display in their school. One thing I do feel the country, or more specifically got wrong was the timing of the biggest commemoration, which takes place on Easter Sunday. The 1916 Rising did take place over Easter, but Easter that year was on April 23/24th and as such the major commemoration should have taken place that weekend. But governments make decisions that are in their best interest and not in the interest of the people who gave them a job to do. But that is a whole other post/rant. I will post more about 1916 and the 2016 celebrations to commemorate it in a later post closer to the actual date of the Rising, and not the date made up by an inefficient faceless civil servant or politician.

Anyway, back to St Patrick’s Day. As a child growing up in Dublin one of the highlights of the year was going into the city center to view the parade with all its floats, marching bands and other fun things that any child would love. It was also a day where we could have sweets in the middle of Lent and if you go back to my post on Ash Wednesday you will get what I mean. As I got older I was able to take part in many parades as a member of the Scouts, and it was a great honour to march in the parade as a 12 year old. As I got older I have celebrated St Patrick’s Day in various places in the USA and overseas with the Irish Defence Forces. As a member if the Irish Air Corps Pipe Band I have marched in parades in Boston, Newport RI and Savannah.It was while here in Savannah in 2001 I met my future wife, I didnt know that back then and it did take us another 14 years before we finally got together. This will be my first St Patricks Day in the USA since 2004 and my first with my wife since I met her in 2001!

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Irish National Flag flanked by the EU Flag at the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin

St Patrick’s Day is a day to celebrate Ireland and our unique place in the world.Over 33 million Americans claim Irish descent of some sort and there are thousands of recent Irish immigrants into the USA, of which I am one. There are lots of misconceptions about Ireland and St Patrick’s Day but I alluded to them in an earlier post so wont go there again. Just of you are out celebrating our great little country, have fun, be safe and Sláinte from this proud Irishman to everyone in his newly adopted country and to everyone back home in Ireland.

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Irish Shamrock – Wear it with Pride

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh – Happy St Patrick’s Day to You All

Its not difficult….but can be lonely

A bit of a thoughtful post today. As I have stated recently, I am only 3 months in the USA and still can’t work as I await paperwork to clear. As a new immigrant to the country and someone who had either been in school or work constantly since I was 17, not working is difficult but with structure and support from loved ones it can be done.

I worked for Irish Rail for 3 years, the Irish Defence  Forces for 23 and Dublin Airport for 2, as well as attending college in the last few years, so I have always been busy. I did take 8 months off back in 2011 when I retired from the military and that was more to get what I had planned going and every day had a certain amount of structure.

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Me while serving in the Military

Its very easy to fall into a life of day time TV, which i hate, or just staying in bed till noon. Neither of those options appeal to me so a plan was needed. As we have 2 dogs that helped with any plan as they love to go on walks. Also I love to drive my wife into work so that means most mornings we are out the door by 7.15am.

My day starts once I drop Leanne to work and come home with the dogs. A quick walk around the neighborhood is followed by breakfast and a mug of tea. I now have a subscription to Lynda.com which allows me to learn new skills with the aid of video online lessons. Normally i will do 90 mins at a time, 2-3 times over the day, depending on what else i need to do.

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Walking the dogs

The real difficulty is loneliness, being on my own most of the day it takes discipline to make sure I keep at what I am doing. The dogs keep me company but its a chat with someone that I miss the most. I do keep in contact with friends at home via Viber but there is a 5 hour time difference s that can be difficult at times. I am lucky as i have a few things on my side, firstly I have the support of my lovely wife, secondly i am quite disciplined to keep at what I am doing and finally daytime TV sucks!

If you are in the same situation as me, make a plan, stick to it and have structure for you day. Yes take a day off, go for lunch but have a plan of what to do. In a few short months I hope the paperwork comes through and I can start following my dream of being self employed as a photographer, but for now the planned and structured days of being at home and a house husband will continue.

 

Five years

One of the most important steps I took on the journey to the USA was taken 5 years ago today. On Feb 6th 2011 I retired after 23 years military service with the Irish Defence Forces. At the time and even until quite recently I didn’t realize how important that step was.
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Making the decision to leave a job I loved after 23 years was easy. I was a photographer within the Defence Forces Press Office, travelling the world with the troops, covering military events all over Ireland and supplying imagery to media outlets at home and abroad. So what made me leave? Well the fun had gone out of the role and it was time to move on.
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So in Feb 2011 found myself at a loose end and made a decision to go to college, at 44 years of age. Three years later I had attained my higher Diploma in Media Studies and had got a job in Dublin Airport in Security and also producing a staff newsletter. All these things meant when myself and Leanne had a certain conversation in early 2014, I was in a much better place in my life and the decisions that were going to be made over the following 18 months were going to be easy and correct.
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I will delve further into my military career as I move forward as it helped me meet Leanne and gave me some lifelong friends on both sides of the Atlantic. Two of those friends, one from Ireland and one from Savannah, GA, stood beside me on our wedding day and it was my honour to have them both there on our big day.