Sunday, May 25, 2008

"Hike" to Ballycorus Chimney

Today I "took a notion" (as they say in Ballingate) and decided that I would at long last try to go up to Ballycorus Chimney in Rathmichael in south Co Dublin.

For years I have noticed the chimney on top of a hill near Loughlinstown, but had never went near it. I didn't even know that the chimney had a name until earlier today when I Googled it to find directions. It being a fine day, I decided that I would head off with my camera for a look. In Google Maps below it is the shadowed landmark just to the right of center.

It is easy to drive quite close to the chimney. I parked at the end of a lane and walked the rest of the way up through the nutty aroma of gorze bushes. In no time I was at a very windy top. Once upon a time this chimney was part of a lead mine in this area - lead was mined further down the hill 200 years ago and they decided to build a long chimney to take the fumes from the smelter away. I was once told by a geologist (Pat Kirwan) that it was the longest chimney in Ireland.

From Wikipedia (link):
The mine was opened about 1805 by the Lead Mining Company of Ireland who erected a smelting works at the foot of Carrickgolligan for processing of lead and silver ores taken from the local mine. Ore was also brought here by horse and cart from Glendalough and other Wicklow mines for processing. The ore was melted and converted into ingots, the silver separated and refined, and litharge, red lead and shot manufactured. The mine was closed during the 1920s.

At the top I took a few photographs. The chiminey is still a very impressive structure with an interesting partial spiral staircase around the outside. It is broken in several places so it is no longer possible to go up to the top of the chimney. I was the only person there and I treated myself to the magnificent view out to Bray, Killiney, Dublin Bay, Howth, and the Dublin mountains.

I saw no evidence of the rest of the chimney going down hill - apparently it was possible to walk up through the chimney, but not now.

You can go into the center of the chimney and look up through the middle.

One is struck by the ingenuity of the 19th century engineers who built this chimney. Nearby there is a hollowed out area where it looks like the stones for the chimney were cut out of the local granite rock. I'm glad that at last I made the effort to go and see this landmark.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

EdTech 2008

I attended the EdTech 2008 Conference held in Dundalk Institute of Technology on Thursday 22nd May. The Conference is the main activity of the Irish Learning Technologies Association (ILTA). I have been on and off the ILTA committee over the past two years and did not take much part in the preparations for the Conference. I pulled back from ILTA activity when I took on the role of Acting Head of School for three months before Christmas last. This was also the first year that I did not submit anything for the Conference - I regret not finding the time to do this.

I picked up my colleague Stephan Weibelzal at 07.30 hoping to arrive early in Dundalk. However, we spent just over an hour between the M50 toll bridge and the M1 exit - literally inching forward. I can't believe that there are people who do this every day. I was in my car because it was raining - how I wished I had taken the Harley instead! Nevertheless, we were only about 5 minutes late for the opening keynote presentation by Larry McNutt of IT Blanchardstown.

Larry's presentation was one of the best I have been at in years - very entertaining and informative. The title of his talk was "An exploration of the habitus of educational technologists: What does the research tell us?". Lots for us educators to think about. At the end he presented everybody attending with a small gift - a "high-tech device" that he said we should all use to improve our teaching. It turned out to be a mirror! Fantastic!

The break out sessions were good - I attended the following sessions:

Developing educational screencasts – practical tips and pedagogical issues from the chalkface
Damien Raftery of IT Carlow.

Using an Interactive Whiteboard to Efficiently Create Instructional Multimedia to Support Student Learning in a Numerate Discipline
Seamus Ryan of Athlone IT

Using RSS Feeds to make your Lecture available on Moodle, iTunes and the Web
Brian Coll of IT Sligo

Voice: The killer application of mobile learning
Gavin Cooney of Learnosity

Conceptions of Digital Literacy: Implications for Research Design
Leo Casey of National College of Ireland

Usability and Behaviour Observation in e-Learning
Stephan Weibelzahl and Leo Casey of National College of Ireland

Afterwards I attended the ILTA AGM at which I was nominated for the committee again. I also successfully pitched for NCI to host the EdTech 2009 Conference next year - now the work begins!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

GAA Shock - first Championship win ever for Wicklow in Croke Park!!!

While I was at Declan and Orla's wedding last Sunday a big shock was taking place in Croke Park - Wicklow 0-13 Kildare 0-09, in the Leinster Senior Football Championship. This was Wicklow's first ever Championship win in Croke Park! Kildare were 1/7 to win this match, and like most Wicklow people I was almost certain that Kildare would win this one handy enough. I did not even look out for the score during the wedding and got a big surprise later on in the evening on hearing the news.

Much credit is due to the magic touch of Mick O'Dwyer who abviously loves Croke Park. He was giving out today that Celine Dion was more important to the GAA than Wicklow because Croke Park is being used for a concert instead of hosting the next match for Wicklow. Next up - Laois!

My grandfather PJ O'Loughlin will be pleased up in heaven at a first Wicklow win in Croke Park - please have a celestial pint on me to celebrate (I'll pay for it in 40 years time when I get there!).

Wedding Bells - Declan Kelly and Orla Lahart

Sunday 18th May 2008 was the big day for my School of Computing colleague Orla Lahart's wedding to ex-School of Computing Head of School Declan Kelly.

The wedding ceremony took place in Cappataggle, Co Galway. Roma and I picked up my colleague and friend Pramod Pathak on the way, stopping off in Athlone for lunch, and arriving in Cappataggle about five minutes late. Not to worry - Orla was about 15 minutes late so we were in plenty of time. A nice ceremony featured very nice music.

The reception was in the Hodson Bay Hotel just outside Athlone - it was a great occasion with several of my colleagues - Pramod, Stephan, Frank, Paul, and Elaine present. We had a fantastic evening with plenty of jokes and dancing - I even danced the Siege of Ennis!

Declan and Orla looked great (and very much in love - ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!). I took 175 photographs - go digital photography!

Long life and happiness to Declan and Orla - thank you both for a great day.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

La Peniche Restaurant

Last Friday I went out with colleagues from work (Pramod, Stephan, Elaine, Orla, Keith, Paul, Shauna, and Declan) for dinner to La Peniche Restaurant which is on a barge on the Grand Canal near Baggot Street Bridge. The occasion was to mark the upcoming wedding of Declan Kelly and Orla Lahart next week. We met for a drink in the Mespil Hotel first and we then crossed the road to the barge.

Our meal was excellent and we were also treated to a (short) cruise on the canal. The best bit was going through a lock - I had never been on a barge before. It was a surprisingly swift operation - we went up top to have a look at the proceedings.

The picture of Orla and Declan to the right was taken with my phone - I rarely use it as the quality is poor.After our meal, we adjourned to the The Fifty One pub on Haddington Road - a noisy pub with loud music that made it difficult to hear others. However, we still had a nice evening - I even tried to sing!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The New Taoiseach

Fellow Class of '77 Cistercian College Roscrea Pastman, Brian Cowen, is the new Taoiseach, today is his first day. The photo above is from today's The Irish Times front page showing him receiving his seal of office from President Mary McAleese.

Finally, it's my generation's turn to run the country. I hope "we" do a good job!

I mentioned that I was a classmate of Brian's in a previous posting. If someone had told me in 1977 when the photo to the left was taken that the boy on my immediate left would be Taoiseach some day, I surely would not have believed them.

I don't think I would have selected Cowan in a "Boy Most Likely to be Taoiseach Some Day" competition. There are 56 boys in the photo - a select group now. Hopefully we'll meet up some day again at a re-union in CCR.

Brian signed the back of the photo (as did most others in the class) - this is his signature to the right. As you'll see, Brian followed Liverpool FC and I recall plenty of banter with him over soccer matters. He is known more today for support of GAA, and is not as well known as a soccer fan. Indeed it is hard to compare the man he is now with the fit youngster of 18 years of age in the school photo above.

In school he was one of those guys who was good at everything. Every game he played, he was one of the best. In class, he was one of the smartest. In debates, he out-classed everyone. He was modest, and never boasted about his achievements. He was a thief! Well, sort of. I used to get the newspaper every day in sixth year and during lunch he would "steal" it to read - he was prefect on the table next to mine. Let's hope he will be a good Taoiseach.

I have met Brian three times since school. The first was in The Ginger Man pub in Fenian Street not long after he was first elected to the Dáil - I'd say about 1985. I recall we chatted, mostly about College and what I was doing. The second time was in Guiness's during the visit of US President Bill Clinton in 1999 - we bumped into each other as he came out of an elevator. We shook hands, but he did not stop - cleverly keeping moving as he said hello to me. I'm sure people stop him all the time - he can't stop to talk to everybody. The third and last time was in 2005 at the launch of the CCR book Céad Bliann Faoi Rath, which marked the 100th Anniversary of CCR - Brian was to launch the book. I had been chatting to another classmate, Dr Eamon Maher, when he came over to sympathise with Eamon on the recent death of his father. We just said hello again. I would liked to have stayed around as I believe the party went on long into the evening, but I went to a soccer International after the book launch.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Trailer by Joe(s) O'Loughlin Senior and Junior

Last year I bought a foldaway motorcycle trailer from Treale's Trailers near Preston in Lancashire. I first used it to take my Harley to Achill on holidays last summer. It is very neat and folds up easily so that I can put it in my garden shed. A description as to how it works is here. It really can only be used as a motorcycle trailer - that is, until my Dad and brother Joe got a hold of it.

Dad designed, engineered, and manufactured a box to fit on top of the trailer for use as an ordinary trailer when not towing a motorcycle. Joe welded all together with some skill.

Now I can simply slide the box on and off the trailer. Pictured left is Dad at home on the farm and my new trailer's first load - "sticks" (logs) as we call them in Ballingate.

No problems driving on the road - due to Dad's careful aerodynamic design, no wobbling or bouncing on the road was observed. Excellent!

Now I need to paint to complete the job.

Roma of course thinks I have turned into her Dad and that all I want to use the trailer for is to go to the dump!

Patrick Pearse - The Triumph of Failure

I have just finished reading a biography of Patrick Pearse by Ruth Dudley Edwards - "Patrick Pearse - The Triumph of Failure". I very much enjoyed this book and gave it a five star rating on I have also reviewed it for Amazon - my review is available here.

I sent a short email to Ruth Dudley Edwards today thanking her for an enjoyable read and to my surprise she responded almost immediately. I told her that Roma and I had a copy of the photo of Pearse as a boy which at first we could not identify. Her response was as follows:

Thank you very much, Eugene.

I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I certainly enjoyed writing it.

How interesting about the unidentified boy!

Best wishes,


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Patrick Pearse - A Rare Photograph?

Just before my Mother-in-Law, Mary Rose Bourke, died in September 2006, Roma saved some old photos and letters that Mary Rose had at home and was about to throw out. Interestingly, included were several very old letters, documents, and photos dating back to the early parts of the 20th century. Roma's grand-aunt, Eileen Ryan, was an aquaintance of Margaret Pearse - Patrick's mother. Eileen also attended Pearse's school for girls (St Ita's in Ranelagh).

I'll post a few items on this blog about this as it is facinating that these documents were kept in Roma's family for over 80 years. Eileen Ryan died on 29th July 1923. Her sister (Gabrielle) was Roma's paternal grandmother.

Perhaps the most interesting photograph is one of Patrick Pearse as a school boy. Pearse was born in 1879, so the picture shown to the left was probably taken in the 1890's - he looks about 12-14 years old in this photo.

Ruth Dudley Edwards, in her excellent biography of Pearse "Patrick Pearse - The Triumph of Failure" shows a copy of the photograph among others in the centre section. It is simply labelled "Schoolboy" with no reference to it in the text, or in the bibliography.

I suspect this is quite a valuable photo. I have been to the Pearse Museum in Rathfarnham and did not see a copy of this photo there. I have also Googled it, but have not found it. Several Pearse and 1916 memorabilia have been auctioned in the recent past (see Adam's Independence auction results). In the run up to 2016, there are sure to be many more auctions and renewed interest in early 20th century memorabilia related to 1916.

I have made several efforts to contact the Pearse Museum through email and telephone. Roma feels that even though the documents might be valuable, if the museum are interested in them she would like to donate, or lend, to the museum.

Today, 3rd May 2008, is the 92nd anniversary of Pearse's execution by firing squad in Kilmainham Jail.

Friday, May 02, 2008

South Bar and Restaurant

Last evening we went out for pizza to the new South Bar and Restaurant to celebrate Kate's 17th birthday. The whole Beacon area in Sandyford is being developed, so we saw lots of new buildings and shops. We had not been to this new restaurant before - it looks great, if a bit "posh".

While our meal was fine - we all had pizza, our waitress was to say the least "inexperienced". She took an instant dislike to us, and didn't seem to know what she was doing. Once she had taken Kate and Vicki's order she disappeared! When she came back she took our wine order, and was almost about to get away again when we asked if Roma and I could also make an order! Even this did not compute to her - soon after, Kate and Vicki's pizza arrived - no sign of ours. By the time our pizza arrived, Kate and Vicki had finished their's. Even a Manager's intervention did nothing. I can't remember when it was the last time I did not leave a tip. The meal came to €90.15, and I took home the €9.85 change from €100.

I'm sure I'll be back - the rest of the menu looked interesting, and of course this waitress won't last.