Sunday, July 31, 2016

All-Ireland Quarter Finals at Croke Park #154

Two games of football on a sunny Sunday in Croker - first up it was Kerry vs Clare, followed by Galway vs Tipperary. I have not been to see Tipperary or Clare play football ever. I can't remember being at a match with Galway footballers before (hurlers - yes, in 1980 the last time I was ever at an All-Ireland final). Kerry of course I have seen many times, most recently for their defeat by Dublin in the National League final.

Kerry saw off Clare fairly easily. But the best of the two games saw Tipp score a brilliant win over the favourites Galway. Tipp simply dominated in everything as they out muscled Galway in style. 

With me were my bro Brian and his kids Jess and Joe who were in Croker for the first time. They certainly enjoyed the occasion at GAA headquarters. Great family day!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

First print copy of republished "Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way" #WildAtlanticWay #155

I arrived back in Dublin yesterday after a couple of weeks in Wexford to find a new delivery of my Wild Atlantic Way book. This was my first copy printed to order by Createspace. While I am not classifying it as a second edition, it does have some changes with a couple of photos removed, new ones added, and two replaced with a better version. While the first version had a far superior, more professional, layout - I'm quite pleased with my own efforts at self-publishing. 

Old version on left, new on right.

At £26.90 (€32 approx) in Amazon, this is far too expensive for this book - this is the cheapest that Amazon allow me to set it. Add in postage and there would not be much change out of €40. While I'm happy that the book is available in print, I have very low expectations for print sales due to cost. I can order copies myself at a much reduced price ($20.29 including postage), and can do so for anyone who would like a copy.

Work now begins on a Kindle version which will be far cheaper - I'm hoping I can sell it at about $5.00 with no postage costs.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Dunbrody Abbey #156

The last of my posts about my mini tour around the south east of Ireland brought me to Dunbrody Abbey - a 13th century Cistercian Abbey near Campile in Co Wexford. Henry VIII of England closed the abbey in 1536 after which it was plundered. It was a huge abbey which became the home of the Etchingham family who received it as a gift from Henry. On Christmas Eve in 1852 there was a big collapse and the abbey has been a ruin since. There is some restoration work going on at the moment to preserve the abbey for future generations. I certainly enjoyed walking around the inside and thinking about the monks who lived and prayed here hundreds of years ago. A building such as this must have seemed like a Wonder of the World to the local peasants - there could have been no doubt in their minds that God existed when such wonders were built in His name.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Duncannon Fort Re-opened by @HookTourism #157

Last summer I went visit Duncannon Fort in South Wexford only to find it closed. The local tourist office told me that it was closed due to Health and Safety issues. This was a pity because it is a fine attraction with a shop, museum, and lots of historical military items to see. It is now partially re-opened in an initiative by Hook Tourism - the fort can only be seen as part of a guided tour. There are five tours a day, seven days a week, during the 10 week summer period. Our small group set off in the hands of our guide Bob, who both entertained us and told us all about the fort during the 50 minute tour.

The fort is over 450 years old and for most of its life it was occupied by British soldiers. Since independence in 1921, our lads took over until the 1990s. It is a defensive port, though from my basic knowledge of Irish history I don't recall an attack on this part of Ireland since the sixteenth century. There are arsenals, sentry posts, gun turrets, cannons, shelters, and World War II lookout stations. As the fort overlooks the deep-water Waterford Port, it is considered to have been placed in a very strategic position. There are great views over to the village of Passage East Co Waterford on the other side of the harbour, and out to Hook Head. We visited the deep dry moat and also got to go inside gun placements. None of the buildings were open - the military museum that used to be here is now gone. It seemed strange to be part of a very small group wandering around such a large empty fort - almost as if we were trespassers.

Good luck to Hook Tourism with this initiative. I hope some day that the fort will be fully open again.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Book Review: "Elegy: The First Day on the Somme" by Andrew Roberts #158

Image source: Amazon.
It being the centenary of the Battle of the Somme I decided to read up a bit more about it - "Elegy" (£5 for Kindle version) looked promising, I had previously read "Napoleon and Wellington: The Long Duel" by Roberts and enjoyed it very much.

"Elegy" is a good account of the events leading up to and after the first day of the battle. The British had their worst ever day with 19,240 men killed in 24 hours (many of these were Irish). The tragedy of this day is emphasized throughout the book with lots of numbers, eg "We came out of action with 4 officers out of 26 and 435 men out of 1,150" (page 185). The reader is left in no doubt about the scale of the disaster and the failure of the 7 day bombardment before the 1st July battle to dislodge the well dug in Germans. There are stories of sacrifice and bravery, plus savage injuries and death. 

General Douglas Haig, commander of the British army, comes out of the book quite well. I'm sure I am not alone in thinking that he was a brainless idiot who sent thousands to their deaths for nothing. Andrew Roberts recognizes some if his mistakes, but also poor communication and lack of resources. 

The book is more than just about the first day - as it is quite a short book (292 pages), a lot is devoted to the build up, aftermath, and legacy of 1st July 1916. So as a history of the first day it is not too detailed, and it presents the story in a sympathetic and interesting way. 

Recommended - worth reading, especially for those who know little about this battle and its bloodiest day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

10,000,000 @YouTube Views #WOW #159

My YouTube Education Channel hit the ten million views mark over the past weekend and as always I am both humbled and delighted to make a landmark like this. I had no idea when setting this channel up in 2006 that it would end numbers like this. Over the past few years I have regularly posted (and I admit - boasted!) about milestones such as reaching a million views. All the videos in this channel are educational with emphasis on Project Management, Data Analysis, Problem-solving, and Statistics. 

In May 2015 the channel experienced a dramatic decline in views - this followed changes I made to the channel (on the advice of my Content Partner Manager) such as adding thumbnails and adding more metadata. Since I abandoned the thumbnails early this year there has been a good recovery in views. Up until the later part of 2013 the channel was growing rapidly year-on-year - after this it leveled off in growth. There is a lot more competition out there now, and of course some of my videos about "How To..." do stuff in Office 2003 and 2010 tools are getting dated. 

Click Image to Enlarge.
One thing I've noticed this year is that my most popular video of all time (with 1,000,000 plus views): How To... Create a Gantt Chart in Excel 2010 has dropped in popularity (5% of views) with How To... Plot Multiple Data Sets on the Same Chart in Excel 2010 (10% views) now being the most popular this year. This indicates to me that there is a higher demand for Data Analysis and graphing tools, so I'll be looking for opportunities for new Excel videos (which will be Office version 2016) in the coming academic year.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Passage West to Church Bay #160

For a short distance the road around Monkstown in Cork runs by the sea, before heading inland to Shanbally. I made for Ringaskiddy where I stopped for lunch at the Ferry Boat Inn. Nearby is Haulbowline Island where the Irish Naval Service is based and I went out for a look. I entered a car park unsure that I would be allowed to get close to the base. I didn't know that we (the Irish) had so many navy ships - there were six tied up at dock. I took a few photos and headed back to the car park only to find the gate closed. I definitely shouldn't have been there! Luckily I was soon let out by a somebody coming into the car park. 

Part of the Naval Docks in Haulbowline.
My next stop was at Carrigaline - I didn't go into the town, but at the eastern edge there are two interesting features at the Corsshaven Road. Once there was a railway here and there is a mural of a Dragon Fly and a Kingfisher on the remains of the old "Black Bridge". On the other side of the wall the outline of a train can be made out. The old railway line from Carrigaline to Crosshaven is now a cycle/walk way.

Mural on the "Black Bridge".

Locomotive ion the Crosshaven Road.

Approaching Crosshaven the road runs along the estuary of the Owenabue River. There are lots of boat moored in the estuary making for lovely reflections in places like Drake's Pool below. The pool is named after Sir Francis Drake who hid his ships here in 1589 when being pursued by a Spanish fleet. 

Drake's Pool.
The village of Crosshaven is set in a lovely sheltered location. It has always been a place for Corkonians to go, and it was a very busy place while I was there. Not really knowing where I was going I toured around the coast lanes and came across Fort Meagher, which is is recognized internationally to be one of the world's finest examples of a classical coast artillery fort. Is is closed now, but there are plans for a military heritage centre here.


Fort Meagher.
My final stop of the day was at Church Bay - this is directly opposite Roche's Point on the other side of Cork Harbour. Over the hill with the tower in the photo below is the Trabolgan Holiday Park - this was previously the Irish speaking Scoil na nÓg which I attended as a boarder from September 1971 to June 1972. The school closed in 1973. We had occasional visits to the weather station at Roche's Point which involved walking over the hill. We would look at the shipping going in and out of the harbour and of course look across the harbour to the point where I took the photo below. Little did I know it would take me 44 years to actually get to the other side!

Roche's Point Lighthouse.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Checking out Cobh #161

On Friday I made the long trip to Co Cork to revisit some locations for more photos and to see places of interest. On my previous visit in 2012 I skipped parts of the Cork coast near Crosshaven, and I had few photos from Cobh - so it made a nice day out to go back again. 

First stop was at the Titanic Memorial garden. Cobh (formerly Queesntown), was the last port of call for the Titanic in 1912. 123 passengers boarded here of whom 79 were drowned. All the names are listed on a glass memorial at the centre of the garden. There is also a Titanic Experience attraction in the centre of the town.

Titanic Memorial Garden.

The Titanic Experience.

Cobh also has a memorial to the sinking of the Lusitania on 7th May 1916. Many of the dead and survivors were brought ashore at this spot - 170 of the dead are buried in a nearby cemetery. It is also a short walk from here to the imposing St Colman's Cathedral. Building began on the cathedral in 1867, but it wasn't until 1915 that it was consecrated. It was designed by Edward Pugin (son of the famous architect - A.W.N. Pugin) who designed many other churches in Ireland.

Lusitania Memorial.

St Colman's Cathedral.

Having enjoyed a walk around Cobh is was time to depart for the second part of my trip and head to West Cork. I took the short Passage West Ferry to avoid going around via Cork City and the Jack Lynch Tunnel. This ferry service was opened on 17th March 1993, and at the pier there is a bust of Bryan Foley who was the lead campaigner for the introduction of this service. The crossing only takes a few minutes and is worth the €4 fare. My destination is Church Bay on the west side of Cork Harbour, it is directly across from Roche's Point on the eastern side. More about this part of my trip tomorrow.

Waiting for the Passage West Ferry.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

South Wexford #162

Yesterday I had a took the bike on the Wexford to New Ross road - I can't recall being on this road before. I stopped by some of the interesting sights on the way. First off was a stop at the bridge at Ferrycarrig near Wexford town. On one side of the bridge is a round tower, and on the other is the castle which overlooks the Slaney River. A castle was first built here by Robert FitzStephen who was a Norman invader in 1169. The present ruin of Ferrycarrig castle stands on the North bank dating to the 15th century and was constructed by the Roches of Wexford. 

Round Tower at Wexford Heritage Park.

Ferrycarrig Castle.
I then stopped at Johnstown Castle. I had been here before, so it was just a quick visit (I still had to pay €3 entry) to take a few photos - below was the best.
Johnstown Castle.
Later I passed the Browne-Clayton monument near Cushinstown - I had to stop and go up to it. A gate prevents people from climbing up the staircase, but it is an imposing structure with magnificent views in all directions of South Wexford.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Meath Coast #163

The coast line of County Meath is about 10 kilometers long - the second shortest in Ireland after County Leitrim (4 kilometers). It is also a continuous beach from the mouth of the Boyne to the border with County Dublin. My first stop was at the mouth of the Boyne at Mornington to see the Maiden's Tower and Lady's Finger (the latter looking more like a phallus than a finger!). These two structures may have been navigational aids for ships entering and leaving the River Boyne. The original name of the Maiden Tower was Mayden Tower, so seemingly nothing to do with young ladies.

The Boathouse and Maiden's Tower.
Lady's Finger.
I stopped in Bettystown at Reddan's Bar for a soup and sandwich lunch. The village has a holiday feel to it - Reddan's is close to an amusement park and the roads have sand blown in from the beach at the edge. 

Reddan's of Bettystown.
Further south I stopped at Laytown to admire the long beach - horse races are held here each September. It was a beautiful day and in the distance I could see the Cooley mountains and the Mountains of Mourne. I also admired a sculpture by Linda Brunker called "Voyager" looking out to sea. 

Laytown Beach.
"Voyager" by Linda Brunker.
After Laytown I had to head inland to Julianstown as there is no bridge across the River Nanny. There is not much left to see before the border with Dublin, I stopped at the Mosney Centre, but did not go in - I was last here when I was a youngster on a school trip in the 1960s.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Visit to Drogheda #164

On my previous visit to Drogheda as part of my round Ireland tour I took very few photos, so yesterday I set that right be spending a bit more time there. First stop was to see St Oliver Plunkett's head in St Peter's Church - I must have been one of the few school children in Ireland that was never brought to see this relic. Oliver Plunkett was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on 1 July 1681, aged 55, the last Roman Catholic martyr to die in England in what was known as the Popish Plot. HIs head is a bit gruesome, and difficult to photograph.

Not too far away is the imposing 13th century St Lawrence's Gate - this was built outside the original gate of what was once a walled town. It must have been an awesome sight for our medieval ancestors to see. Below is the magnificent railway bridge over the River Boyne - the bridge is known as the Boyne Viaduct. It is 30m (98ft) high and was completed in 1855. It was the seventh bridge of its kind in the world when built and considered one of the wonders of the age.

Drogheda is an interesting town and I'd like to have spent a bit more time there. It has an elaborate one-way system for traffic around the narrow and busy streets. On my bike it was easy to get around and park. Definitely worth a return visit!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cooley Peninsula #165

Having toured the east and south east coast in 2012, I am writing up my experiences with a view to publishing early next year. While travelling the coastline I did not take enough photos, or visit enough interesting places, to make up material for the book. So I am currently engaged in revisiting some parts of the coast to garner more material for a book.

Yesterday, on my return from Belfast, I visited the Cooley Peninsula. In particular I wanted to check out the Cooley Distillery Museum and Fitzpatrick's Bar. On the way I spotted the statue of the Cooley Bull from the Táin legend near Bush.

The Cooley Distillery does not have tours, but the nearby Martin's Bar has a small museum and shop and I decided to pop in. The "museum" is very small, but interesting nonetheless. I had an obligatory photo in the whiskey barrel and even bought a bottle of Kilbeggan whiskey as a souvenir.

Further along the road is the fantastic Fitzpatrick's Bar - easily the most colourful bar I have ever been to. Lots of flowers and "ye olde" displays - it must have taken many years to gather all this together. The Cooley Peninsula is one of Ireland's best kept secrets. We hear a lot about West Cork, Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher, and loads of other well known locations. But at only an hour from Dublin, Cooley should be better known. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Visit to Belfast Harley-Davidson #166

Today I made the 140 mile trip to see some bikes in Belfast Harley-Davidson, which is near Antrim town. It was a long way to go, but on the hottest day of the year so far it was great to be out on the road. I took a test ride on a Road King, which I loved. Something to think about! Lots of other lovely bikes here too.

I had a long wait for the test ride as the battery was dead on the bike - they had to put a new one in after about an hour. I rode the bike to Randalstown and back along the M22 motorway - the Road King is a beautiful machine on the road. I think I prefer it to my Heritage Softail. The sterling-Euro exchange rate at the moment is a bit more favourable following the #Brexit vote. 

I decided to take a country road back home and avoid the motorway to Belfast - big mistake: I got lost taking a wrong turn in Antrim. Sign posting is poor in this part of Northern Ireland, It wasn't until I got to Lisburn that I got back on track. Lots of blue, white, and red colour about - it's been just a week since the 12th July celebrations. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Book Review: "Washington - A Life" by Ron Chernow #167

Image source: Amazon.
The life of America's first President is described brilliantly by Ron Chernow in this biography of George Washington. There is absolutely no doubt that Washington was a hero to late 18th century Americans, and this book brings to life a fascinating historical character.

Ron Chernow loves Washington - he creates a mighty Pulitzer Prize winning book that I enjoyed very much. You have to remember that Washington was a real person. He fought in the Seven Year War for the British against the French, he kept the Revolutionary flame alive throughout very difficult times, and he was the first President. So much packed into 67 years. Washington was a perfect example of a patriotic American who sacrificed so much for his country.

Except for slavery.

Washington owned slaves - he was awkward about slavery and expressed many times that he would like this institution to fade away. He freed his slaves on his death, but otherwise did nothing to improve their lot. While an excuse can be made that this was a thing at the time, it is nevertheless a blot on his character.

There is much to admire in the character of George Washington - he was a natural leader, modest, honest, loyal, patriotic, and clever. I admired him throughout almost every page of this book - I can't help but contrast him to the two candidates for the next presidential election in America: Clinton and Trump. Neither could hold a candle to this colossus of American history. 

There are other fascinating historical characters from this period of American history, and I have ordered the Kindle version of Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton - I can't wait to read it.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Leinster Final: Dublin 2-19, Westmeath 0-10 #GAA #168

Dublin footballers eased to a 15 point win over Westmeath in a rare day in the sunshine in Croke Park. In what was predicted to be a one-sided contest, a plucky Westmeath team at least kept the score down to a one point difference at half time. The first half was poor - Dublin looked to me to be a bit out of sorts and made lots of mistakes. The second half was very different - without moving into top gear Dublin moved ahead and suddenly the game was over. The margin of victory emphasized Dublin's dominance in the second half - in truth it was not a contest. Dublin picked off their scores with ease, while Westmeath struggled to create chances. The most entertaining thing in the second half was the appearance of a streaker - he was rather tamely led off by stewards.

38k plus attended the game - we even had a good attempt at a Viking chant. Nothing too much for the crowd to get excited about - the happy Dublin fans know there are sterner tests ahead. On the evidence of today, Dublin were not as dominant as they should have been - a small crumb of comfort for Tyrone, Mayo, and other teams still in the championship. 

Hill 16 waiting for a Dean Rock free kick.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Summer Time - Get Ready for Winter #169

Cooling down after a day
sawing sticks. Enjoying a cider
in Conway's, Kildavan.
I spent most of the day today in Ballingate down in the bog sawing sticks with my Dad Joe and my brother Joe. This is part ritual, part practical, part necessity. Both my Mum and Dad's house, and the brother's house are heated by solid fuel - logs are what they use as they are in plentiful supply on the family farm. I also take a small supply for the fire in my own house. 

Today was sweltering, but nevertheless this is one of my most enjoyable activities. My Mum's delicious tea and rhubarb tart started the day before we went to cut up an oak tree. I quickly counted the rings on the stump and the tree is about 80-85 years old - the same as Dad (85). We filled a trailer load and came back to Mum's kitchen for her fantastic vegetable soup. We returned to the bog for more and by late afternoon we were exhausted and hot - we agreed that only a pint could get us back to normal. We adjourned to Conway's Pub in Kildavan where we solved all the problems of the world while quenching our thirst.

On a serious note, today's work was part of preparing for next winter - we need several more days like this to stock up for the winter. While I do not use solid fuel in my own house, I do have an open fire and like to have Ballingate sticks in the fireplace - I filled up the boot of my car with birch and oak logs. On some cold day next January or February, I will throw a log cut today onto my fire, and remember a lovely day with my Mum, Dad, and brother Joe. 

Is this dog (Gypsy) happy about something? Dad and Joe working hard!