Sunday, August 31, 2008

All-Ireland Football Semi-finals

Kate and I attended the All-Ireland football semi-finals in Croke Park yesterday to see the replay between Cork and Kerry, and the meeting of Tyrone and Wexford. Kate was decked out in her Wexford jersey and I bought two mini-scarves for us outside the ground - €2 each! We had seats in the upper tier of the Hogan Stand and an excellent view of the pitch.

The Kerry vs Cork match was very exciting with plenty of excellent scores and good football to watch. Like last week, Kerry built up a big lead and squandered it only to win out at the end - as the Irish Times put it Kerry survive stormy passage. In the end it was Kerry 3-14, Cork 2-13. The better team won, but Cork did make a match of it.

In the second game we were of course up for Wexford even though Tyrone were hot favourites to win. Despite Wexford scoring the first point, Tyrone powered ahead scoring points almost at will racking up a lead of nine points after 25 minutes. It looked ominous for Wexford with memories of the 23 point beating by Dublin still on the mind. However, they dug deep and came back to within two points with 20 minutes to go. However, Tyrone showed us what they were made of winning by a flattering six points in the end and snuffed out the Wexford dream - final score Tyrone 0-23, Wexford 1-14.

Claire, Kate, Vicki, and I took Roma out for dinner to Valparaiso restaurant in Monkstown to celebrate her birthday. Lucky me - out to dinner with four beautiful girls!

Preston North End 2 - Charlton Athletic 1

I was at Deepdale in Preston yesterday for to see the Preston North End vs Charlton match in the English Championship - and of course also to see my Bro' Brian! PNE have had a good start to the season and hopes are high this year of a challenge for promotion to the Premier League. This is my third time in just over a year to go and see a PNE match - I'm beginning to feel like a regular!

Early flight with Ryanair from Dublin to Liverpool followed by a cheap (£1.50) bus journey in to Liverpool Lime St station for a train to Preston. I met Brian at the station and we went to Preston Harley-Davidson for a look at some bikes and to buy a T-shirt. Brian liked the bikes and I felt like an expert showing him the different models. After this we had lunch in a Japanese restaurant during which the Japanese cook cooked our meal with a lot of ceremony right in front of us - delicious. We walked up to Deepdale just in time for a beer before the match.

Preston played very well in the first half but fell behind to a daft penalty after Mawene tripped Varney as the ball was going wide (19 mins). In the second half PNE upped their game and were dominant, and were eventually rewarded with an excellent goal by Neil Mellor on 58 minutes - we had an excellent view of this as Mells cracked the ball into the roof of the net, 1-1. PNE pushed forward for the lead goal and Barry Nicholson obliged in the 66th minute. PNE in front and looking good. At full time PNE were deserving winners and kept an unbeaten start to the season intact - after three visits to Deepdale this was my first win. Fantastic! Brian took the picture to the right of me in my PNE shirt at half time.

After the game we adjourned to a pub called the Moor Head for a noisy pint - we quickly moved on to the more sedate surroundings of Hartleys where we caught up on family chat and of course an analysis of the game. At 18.50 I caught the train back to Liverpool.

In the airport there were a lot of Everton fans heading back to Dublin and Belfast - Everton had lost at home to Portsmouth (0-3) and the fans were not in celebratory mood. I'd be conservative in guessing that 70% of the flight back to Dublin was made up of Everton fans. Footie is good for Ryanair! Bizarrely, I was sitting beside the same bloke in the last row on the way home as I had been in the morning - he was on a day visit to Liverpool, but not for football.

Oh, and by-the-way - yesterday was Roma's birthday. I gave her an Apple iPod Nano and then dissappeared to Preston for the day. I won't ask her which was the best present!!!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sailing lessons

Today I finally booked some sailing lessons at the Irish National Sailing Club in Dún Laoghaire! I will have two lessons - one on 13th September, and the second on 15th September. The course is an "Introduction to Sailing – Beginner Dinghy". The dinghy used is a small 9' Laser Pico - I'm already nervous!

I have practically no sailing experience (other than being a passenger). I once took a lesson in 1994 when on holiday in Club Med in Ibiza, but I did not get on well - my instructor seemed to think I should be able to sail after about five minutes of his instruction! He had to sail the boat back into shore.

So - all going well I will no longer be a total land-lubber. I'll be sure to blog my experiences.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

All-Ireland Football Semi-final

Today Kate and I went to Croke Park for the All-Ireland football semi-final between Cork and Kerry. This is our first trip to GAA HQ of this year's All-Ireland Championship. Kate drove to the IFSC where we parked our car in the NCI car park. We had lunch in New York Grind after which we headed to Croke Park.

There were 35,000 people at the match - Croke Park still looks empty even with this amount. We were entertained by the Cork and Kerry supporters arround us - lots of shouting at players and arguing between themselves - good humoured banter.

As for the match itself - Kerry were very good and Cork were woeful. Even though Kerry missed loads of chances they were eight points up with five minutes to go and cruising. Many Cork people had already left the stadium in disgust. Two goals in injury time for Cork levelled the match - the Irish Times described it as "Like Lazarus, Cork rise from the dead". The Cork supporters celebrated as if they had won the All-Ireland itself! A great exciting finish to what was a good match.

On our way back I called into the College to pick up an office chair - this I hope to turn into a bar stool using my old Harley Davidson leather seat.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Weekend in Mayo

Roma, Kate, Vicki, and I spent last weekend in Mayo - we stayed in Roma's brother Bryan's holiday house in Rosmoney. The occasion of this rare visit West was an anniversary mass for Billy (16th) and Mary Rose Bourke (2nd) - my mother and father in law. This was held in Islandeady Church on Saturday morning.

We spent most of the afternoon in Westport - we had a late lunch in Cosy Joe's on Bridge Street. After this I watched the Wexford vs Armagh game on TV in the bar (Wexford won 1-14 to 0-12 - hurray!!!). In the evening we had a barbecue dinner in Bryan's house - Roma's other brothers Peter and Angus were also there with their families.

I took the above photograph to get as many of the Bourke cousins together as possible - it was quite an effort and after several attempts the above came out the best. David Bourke could not be persuaded to join in. From left (all Bourkes except Kate and Vicki): Kate, Rory, Cecille (French exchange student), Vicki, Emma, Sarah, Marina, Maeve, Laura, James, and Conor. Other cousins that are missing are Karen, Billy, Ruth, and Claire (O'Loughlin).

On Sunday we went for a walk down to the Mayo Sailing Club where I looked at some boats - I fancy something like a Laser 16 and got some expert advice from Bryan on the workings of such a boat. I've decided to look further into the possibility learning how to sail and perhaps even owning a boat. Bryan also took me out into Clew Bay on his Rib inflatable boat - this is a fast machine. Great buzz when Bryan opened it up!

On our way back to Dublin we stopped off at the Knockranny Hotel in Westport for an excellent lunch. We bumped into two old friends (Sheila and Ger Ber) as we were leaving.

All in all - a nice weekend away. The only drag is the distance - it takes 3.5 hours to drive either way, I'm glad I don't have to do this too often.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Book Review at Amazon

I wrote a review of Peter Hart's "1918 - A Very British Victory", which I bought in Chester, for - see all my reviews by clicking here. The review is reproduced in full below.

1918 - A Very British Victory
Excellent book about the end of a terrible war, 11 Aug 2008
I heard Peter Hart being interviewed about his new book "1918" on RTÉ radio a few of weeks ago and made a mental note to watch out for it the next time I was in a bookshop. Hart in the interview described the end of the war as a savage time and how even in victory, the British suffered enormous casualties - life was indeed cheap.

This book starts out well and gets better and better. Hart makes no apologies for labelling the book "A very British victory" though a more accurate title might have been "A very British victory (with a little help from our French, Canadian, Australian, and American friends)". One minor critique - though the maps are excellent and useful, there are many references to locations not shown on the maps and it can be sometimes hard to figure out where events actually happened.

The way this book is written makes it stand out from others I have read. As the oral historian in the IWM Hart has access to huge archives of first hand accounts of the action that he expertly links together with the context of events. It is a tough job to write about events from the point of view of the ordinary Tommies going "over the top" and the generals commanding at the same time, but Hart pulls this off magnificently. It is almost as if Hart interviewed each man personally at the time - excellent!

For balance, I would have liked to have had more first hand German accounts - but as this book is written from a very British point of view this is forgiveable. As I write this review, Wikipedia lists only 11 known surviving First World War veterans - it is important that books such as this one record the personal accounts of what happened for posterity. Very soon there will be nobody living who will be able to recall either military or civilian events from 1918.

Read this book and enjoy, you will not be disappointed - 5 stars.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Weekend away in Chester

In October 2002, I stopped off in Chester on my way from London to the ferry in Holyhead with my Sportster. I had several hours to kill and decided to check Chester out – I had never really heard much about it before. What I found was a lovely city full of Tudor-style buildings and a unique high street with two rows of shops on each side of the street (called The Rows). I promised myself that I would return with Roma for a few days – so nearly six years later I fulfilled my promise!

We had excellent weather and Chester was very busy. We arrived at the Crowne Plaza hotel in the city centre and went to The Victoria pub for a late lunch. Following this we toured the city centre – especially The Rows where there is plenty of variety. We went to the city walls where you can walk along the top – they are beautifully kept and are a real tourist attraction. We walked along the river Dee and explored inside the ruins of an old chapel beside St John the Baptist Church. After this went to the excavated Roman Amphitheatre and stood in the centre – about 2,000 years ago gladiators fought each other to the death on this spot. We then went inside St John the Baptist Church for a look – bleak but interesting. We stopped for beer in The Custom House and The Watergates Bar and enjoyed relaxing for the evening. Not feeling terribly hungry we decided to go for tapas in a Spanish style Bar and Restaurant called Fiesta Havana. This was an extremely noisy place and I felt about 15 years too old compared to everybody else that was there – but it was buzzin’.

Saturday morning I bought a Barmah Australian bush hat in The Hat Store. As I have a 63cm diameter head it has always been very difficult for me to buy any type of cap or hat – 63cm is an XXXL size (must be the brains!). They had to stretch it with heat and steam to get it to fit a bit more comfortably – but now I can go around with a Crocodile Dundee look! Following some more shopping we went to The Falcon pub for lunch. I had been speaking to the owner of the pub in 2002 as I had parked my Sportster on the path outside and it turned out that he was a big Harley fan. We also visited Chester Cathedral and did the tour inside. A really historic and magnificent building – a digital guide expertly told us about everything. Late afternoon Roma went for a pedicure in the hotel and I headed for the Cheshire Military Museum, but was too late to gain entry – I went Waterstones instead and bought Peter Hart’s new book on the First World War, 1918 – I had heard him interviewed about the book on RTÉ radio last week. For dinner we went to a Middle Eastern restaurant called Meze on The Rows - we had a table right on the balcony and enjoyed people watching. There seemed to be a lot of stag and hen parties – very boisterous, but stylish.

On Sunday we took a Walking Tour of Chester at the local tourist office. There were just us and our guide Christine. Despite the fact that the tour was around the same sights as we had already seen it was very interesting and informative. After this walking tour we felt we had earned a nice lunch which we had in the front window of Chez Bernard. Following this we split and this time I did get to the Cheshire Military Museum. There were lots of interesting displays and stories about the Cheshire Regiment down through the ages. Most interesting was one of the pens used during the signing of the Japanese surrender to the Americans in 1945 on display. This museum is well worth a visit. I met up afterwards with Roma who was shopping. We both had a look at the new iPhone 3G in an O2 store – I really like it. Fingers are crossed that I get one of these for my birthday in October.

For our final evening we went to a Mediterranean Restaurant called La Tasca for tapas. Despite only ordering three items each we were barely able to eat it all. It was very late and the restaurant staff was clearly wrapping up for the night and unfortunately ignored us after our main course. I had to get up and go to the bar to pay (they weren’t pleased with this). I left no tip and afterwards discovered that they had not charged us for wine on our bill. I did not feel the urge to go back and point out this error.

On Monday morning we did some last minute shopping. We bought a Sue Howells signed limited edition print at the Watergate Street Gallery and stopped off at a Tesco to buy some wine and beer which were slightly cheaper than in Ireland. Our final activity for the weekend was to stop off at the Treardur Hotel in Treardur Bay which is beside Holyhead. Roma’s parents, Billy and Mary Rose, once stayed there and knew the then owners whom they had met on a skiing trip. We both thought that Treardur Bay was very like Achill Island.

On arrival in Dún Laoghaire we were the third last vehicle out of the port and also had to deal with a traffic jam. There are only two ferries a day in Dún Laoghaire port and it is annoying that the port authorities don’t do anything to relieve the traffic congestion caused by the traffic coming off the boat. There are Harbour Police who could help traffic get out of the port – it would only take two half hour sessions a day. However, they are probably too busy clamping cars who are parked five minutes longer that their ticket allows. Rant over.

Newmarket and a day out with my Dad

Both of my paternal grandparents, PJ O’Loughlin and Kathleen Hurley, were natives of Newmarket in Co. Cork – they moved to Tomacork, near Carnew, in 1929. Dad often speaks about Newmarket and recently we decided that we would go there for a day to see where Kathleen and PJ grew up. The picture to the right is taken from a group photo of my Mum and Dad's wedding on 22nd October, 1958. It shows Kathleen and PJ at the front - my Dad's aunt Eileen Hurley (know to us all as the wonderful Mrs. D) is the lady in the centre.

Tuesday 22nd July was the day out to Newmarket. I stayed with Dad on Monday night and even got in a couple of pints in Jim Byrnes in Carnew where we planned our day. I don’t really remember ever having a whole day out with my Dad – just the two of us, and I was looking forward to the day. We had lots of chat in the car on the way down about grand-parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and O’Loughlin and Hurley family history.

We arrived at about 11.00 and our first port of call was to see Dad’s second cousin Breda Collins (nee Murphy). Breda was full of chat about my grandfather PJ, whom she called “Paddy”. She also told us that the reason he left Newmarket was that another man died in an accident involving a horse and cart for which his family blamed PJ. Breda also treated us to one of the biggest fry-ups I’ve ever had – enormous quantities of black and white pudding, sausages, rashers, and tea. It was very welcome as we had our breakfast very early. Breda mentioned old photographs of Dad as a youngster, but disappointingly she could not find them to show us. We left with promises to come back again for a longer visit.

Next stop was main street Newmarket to see my Grandmother Kathleen Hurley’s old house. This house is across the street from a now disused Protestant church in whose graveyard Sarah Curran (of Robert Emmet fame) is reputedly buried. The Hurley house is now the Newmarket Cattle Breeding Society sub-station.

We then went out to the local graveyard in Clonfert outside the town. We were looking for Hurley and O’Loughlin graves. Dad recalls being at some funerals in this graveyard and had some idea where to look. In no time we found the grave of a grand aunt of Dad – Hannah Murphy who died in 1961.

After this we looked for Dad’s grandparents’ graves. We soon found the grave of Thomas and Bridget Hurley. Bridget, who is my great grandmother, died on 3rd July, 1916. Thomas, who is my great grandfather, died on 20th February, 1921. It’s strange seeing these graves of great grandparents who died long before I was born, and well before Dad was born (1931). I know nothing about them. Apparently they were well off and had a good business in Newmarket. Despite a good search, we had no luck finding any O’Loughlin graves. They are in the graveyard somewhere, but there were a lot of unreadable and broken headstones – no doubt they are buried under one of these. I would have been interested in seeing a grave for a Eugene O’Loughlin who was Dad’s grand uncle. There is also an 1845-1847 Famine Memorial at the top end of the graveyard – the memorial poignantly states “An event has happened upon which it is too difficult to speak and impossible to be silent”.

Following the graveyard we went up to a place (still outside Newmarket), called Barnacurragh to see where PJ O’Loughlin grew up. We had some difficulty finding it and had to ask for directions twice, but once we drove up beside it Dad recognised it straight away. The house is no longer used as a dwelling, but Dad does remember staying there at least once when he was young and the roof was thatch instead of galvanise iron. We peered inside and Dad was able to tell me which room was which. There is a huge open fireplace in the centre – no doubt our O’Loughlin ancestors had many a conversation around this fireplace.

We went back into Newmarket and stopped at a pub called Dan Hourigans. This is home to another of Dad’s second cousins – Joan Hourigan (nee Murphy). The pub is closed during the day time. It had recently celebrated 40 years in business. I also met Joan’s daughter Paulette who is of course a third cousin to me. Her brother, Tim, is mentioned in one of my earlier posts about finding a picture of PJ O’Loughlin in the 1927 Newmarket GAA team. Though we would have loved to have taken Joan up on her offer of a pint in the pub we settled for tea instead. We looked over lots of photographs of the 40th anniversary celebrations and had many cousins pointed out to me.

Our final port of call was to visit with yet another of Dad’s second cousins - Joan Hickey. This was a quick visit, but was still full of chat and reminiscences about the O’Loughlins and Hurleys.

Late afternoon we set off home via Waterford, stopping on the way in Cappoquin for a coffee. We still chatted about our day, and who was who, in the car. It was a most enjoyable day for me. Dad is great company and is full of knowledge about the family – I think he enjoyed the day too. Who knows if I’ll ever be back in Newmarket again – it took me 48 years for my first visit, I hope it won’t be as long for my second.