Saturday, February 27, 2021

Disconnecting Blog from Linkedin and Twitter #ImRetired

For several years I have been using the platform to automatically post all my blog posts to both Linkedin and Twitter. This was both to keep up some traffic on Linkedin and Twitter, and to save manually posting anything I wrote. Even though several of my posts over the years were not really suitable for a professional network like Linkedin (eg posts about family, and bells!), I felt that I had enough writings about education, video, data analysis, books, etc, to justify the automatic reposting.

As a retired person I feel I no longer need to keep up with everything on Linkedin. I am fed up of getting messages about recruitment, even though my status is "Retired". I am becoming less and less interested in posts from others, though I still love to see postings by former students announcing promotions and new jobs. I am not leaving Linkedin and Twitter altogether - I'm just not auto-posting any more starting March 1st. I can manually repost anything if I think it is suitable. I don't use Twitter that much, but I have found it handy for technical support and am keeping it for that purpose only.

Does a retired person need Linkedin? Comments welcome!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Sound of the Ballingate Bell

A newspaper article about a bell is of course lacking one major aspect of the story - sound. My "Ballingate bell calling the faithful in Zambia" story is about the quest to find the bell nearly 60 years after it left Ireland. But I also wanted to hear it!

Shortly after photographs and other evidence from the Franciscan Missionaries in Zambia helped us to trace the bell to a church in Malengwa, my Franciscan contact there Br Owen Mwene, made a short video. Several of his colleagues surrounded the bell as many were interested in the story of where the bell came from. I was delighted to hear the bell for the first time. It sounds just like any other bell, but after the long quest to find it I felt a strong attachment to it. 

There's quite a bit of wind noise in the video. It was my original intention to try and make a documentary of this story. One idea I had was to actually go to Malengwa to see and ring the bell for myself. I planned to collect recordings, I already have some of my father telling the original story, a neighbour recounting hearing the bell and what it was used for, and a retired friar telling me about life in Zambia (all done on my Google Pixel 3a phone). Once I realised that a documentary was not going to happen, I got the story published in The Wicklow People instead.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Bell Manufacturing in Ireland

The Ballingate Bell, now ringing in Malengwa in Western Zambia, was manufactured in the Murphy Bell Foundry in Dublin in 1889. This foundry was based at 15 Thomas Street - it is long gone and is now a car park according to Google Maps. According to the June 2002 edition of "The Ringing World" journal, John Murphy and his son John J. Murphy made bells for churches and cathedrals all over the world. Here's an extract from the article:

Rings of bells by Murphy included those for Melbourne in Australia, St Thomas the Apostle in Douglas in the Isle of Man, St Mary's RC cathedral in Cork, the fine-spired Church of the Immaculate Conception in Wexford, Mount St Alphonsus' Monastery in Limerick, Thurles cathedral in Co Tipperary, St Nicholas' in Cork and Ss Augustine and John in Dublin.

Murphy bells were also "awarded prizes at the Dublin and London Exhibitions and First Prize in 1900 at the Paris Exhibition".
The Ballingate Bell.

There were other bell foundries in Dublin including the Eagle Foundry run by James Sheridan in Church Street, and a bell foundry run by Thomas Hodges in Sackville Street (now O'Connell Street) before moving to nearby Middle Abbey Street. Clearly the church building boom of the late 19th and early 20th century fuelled the need for local manufacturing. In a time before telephones of any type, bells were also used as a form of communication. I recall visiting my Aunt Sr. Bridget in the Loreto Convent in Bray - straight after arriving a bell would ring out to signal to her that she had visitors. There were two rings, then a short pause, and then four rings - her number was 24.

Bells on top of houses were not uncommon, and many still exist today, though are no longer in use. Not far from Ballingate there are two bells located on what was the Coolattin Estate. On the roof of Coolattin House you can clearly see a bell when walking from the 16th to 17th tees in the adjoining golf course. Not far away on the road to Shillelagh there is another bell on what was the Building Yard. I'm sure there are many more around the country.

Coolattin House.

Close up of bell on Coolattin House.

The Building Yard bell.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

My great-grandfather Thomas Hurley 100th Anniversary

In this time of centenaries in Ireland, there are of course many smaller and minor centenaries that every family will have. Today, 20th February 2021, is the 100th anniversary of the death of my great-grandfather Thomas Hurley. He was just 54 years old.  His wife Bridget had died in 1916, leaving him with a family of six - including my grandmother Kathleen. He died in The Mercy Hospital in Cork due to septicemia as a result of a cut in his finger.  

Thomas Hurley was a Creamery Manager and lived in Newmarket, Co Cork. The house in Church Street (see photo below taken in 2008) where he lived was demolished in recent years. I can't tell for certain, but the modern day Kerry Foods Newmarket Cooperative Creameries Ltd premises is located right behind where this house stood. My Dad tells me that Bridget Hurley ran a small shop from their house.

Thomas and Bridget Hurley.
Death registration of Thomas Hurley. Source: Irish Genealogy.

At the graveside of Thomas and Bridget Hurley (2008).
Clonfert Cemetery, Newmarket, Co Cork.
Old Hurley House (2008), Church Street,
 Newmarket, Co Cork.

The family photos shown here were probably taken around 1910. My grandmother, Kathleen, was born in 1903 - so I'm guessing that she is about seven years old in the photo below. While very serious looking, I think you can tell that Thomas and Mary are very proud of their family. You can imagine the excitement of getting dressed up for the photography studio, and waiting probably a week or more for the photos to be developed and delivered. Another noticeable thing is Thomas's lack of hair - a gene which he unfortunately passed on to his great-grandson! In this family Charles went on to be a priest in Dublin. Tim became a doctor and moved to Wales where he practiced medicine. Hannah joined the Loreto Nuns. Eileen ("Mrs D" to us) married Joseph Dwyer in 1934, but was widowed shortly afterwards - she never married again and had no family. Pat never married. And Kathleen married PJ O'Loughlin (also from Newmarket) on 23 January 1930 - they moved to Tomacork just outside Carnew in Co Wicklow, and had six children (including my Dad Joe).

Thomas and Bridget Hurley with their six children.
Back row left-to-right: Charles, Hannah Mary, and Tim.
Front row left-to-right: Eileen, Pat, and Kathleen.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Relatives in the Missions

Two Murphy brothers from Newmarket in Co Cork, Patrick and Edward, joined the Franciscans in 1939 and 1946 respectively. I am related to them via my paternal great-grandmother Julia Murphy who is a sister of their father (Edmond). Two of their sisters joined the nuns in St Mary of the Isles in Cork. Patrick took the name "Hugh" and was ordained a priest on 5th June 1947. He went on the missions in December of that year and stayed there for the rest of his life. He died in 1990. Edward took the name "Theophilus" and was ordained a priest on 23rd May 1954 - he also went to Zambia in 1954. He retired to Cork, but died shortly afterwards in 2006. Fr Theophilus was the central character in my Ballingate Bell story.

I am fascinated by the faith and dedication of these two men who left everything behind in Ireland. The Murphy family was a very big one - their father Edmond was one of 14 children. Even though they had each other in Zambia, it must have been difficult to be parted from family and friends. Of course, in the 1940s and 1950s, the seminaries were full in Ireland. In 1956, there were 5,489 priests in Ireland - that's one for 593 Catholics (Newman, 1958*). 

Below are some photos that I came across during research for the Ballingate Bell story. I feel that these men could very soon be forgotten as the generations pass. All of the photos below were taken in Zambia and reproduced here courtesy of the Capuchin Archives. Two other people of note in the photos are Br Crispin Brennan, who was also a central character in the Ballingate Bell story, and a young Kenneth Kaunda who would go on to be the President of Zambia from 1964 to 1991.

Fr Hugh (left) & Fr Theophilus (right) with Br. Godfrey Sinvula (centre), in Senanga 1970s. 

Fr Theophilus (standing at left) and Br Crispin Brennan (seated mid-right).

Silver Jubilee of Br. Albert Hayes, in Maramba Livingstone, 13th May 1959, with Bishop T.P. O’Shea Top left:  Hugh and top right: Theophilus. On left of Theophilus is Br. Ronan Herlihy (from Castleisland). In the Middle row, far right: Br. Crispin Brennan from Carnew.

Fr Theophilus (second left) with the then future President of Zambia Kenneth Kaunda (centre).

* Newman, J. (1958). Priestly Vocations in Ireland. The Furrow, 9(11), 710-721. Retrieved February 19, 2021, from

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Mission Bells in Zambia

While searching for the Ballingate Bell in Zambia, we came across three other bells that were discounted as being the Ballingate Bell for a variety of reasons. 

We established from the Capuchin Archives that my cousin Fr Theophilus Murphy was based in Mangango (Western Zambia) from 1962 to 1968, but that the Ballingate Bell was not there. Theophilus was based in Sichili from 1954 to 1961 - the bell here is mentioned in my Wicklow People article, but no photos were displayed. We discounted this bell as it is stamped with the date 1959. Interestingly, a crest on the bell indicates that it was manufactured in Saarlouis in Germany, and I wondered how it ended up in Zambia - it surely had its own story to tell.

The Sichili Bell

A second bell was located in Lukulu, where Fr Theophilus was based from 1968 to 1973. We ruled this bell out as well because of its colour, size, and shape. It turned out to have been manufactured by Rudolf Perner in what was then Czechoslovakia. Perner was a famous bell maker who specialized in bells for West Africa. It is not the Ballingate Bell, but I wonder how did it too end up in Zambia? 

The Lukulu Bell

A third bell was found hanging from a tree in Lumulunga – it was clearly stamped with the word “Zealandia” and the date “1875”. Though a possibility, we ruled it out due to its very wide shape. This bell is almost certainly to be from the SS Zealandia which was a ship built in Glasgow in 1875, but that ran aground in 1917 near Liverpool. It was carrying a cargo of mugs, sheep, and treacle. Again, I wondered how the ship’s bell ended up in Zambia, and what story this and the other bells could tell if they talked.

The Lumulunga Bell

I'm sure that there are many other bells in Zambia and other countries where missionaries worked and who brought what they could from home. It would be an interesting study to find them all and track down their original locations and how they made the long journey to their current location. 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Ballingate bell calling the faithful in Zambia via @WicklowPeople

Thanks to the Wicklow People, my story about The Ballingate Bell is now available on-line for all to read. So if you did not get your hands on a paper copy of The Wicklow People, you can read it here: 

Several photos from the print edition, are not posted, but I will be sharing these and more detail about the bell here over the next week or so.

Please share!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

My Story about the The Ballingate Bell in The Wicklow People

Over the past few months I have been researching for a story about a bell that somehow made a 5,000 mile journey from Ballingate House (where I grew up), near Carnew in South County Wicklow, to a church in Malengwa in Western Zambia. It was quite an experience for me and I finally managed to get it published in this week's Wicklow People.  To read the story you'll have to buy The Wicklow People (Feb 10th edition)!

Once a week has passed, and the print run for this week's edition of The Wicklow People is finished, I will write some blog posts about how this story was put together. The version in the paper is just 1,600 words and I had to cut it down several times and leave some stuff out to get this point. It is not just a story about a lump of iron, but about community, communication, faith, history, and the dedication of Irish missionaries who work in Africa. I also learned a lot about family - especially those who joined religious orders many years ago.

Monday, February 08, 2021

7 Days Later

Exactly a week after I launched a new series of videos on Programming in R, I wondered how the analytics looked for each of the 11 videos published so far. I have very modest expectations for this series of videos, probably just as well given the less than impressive start shown below. I am releasing videos once a day (Monday to Friday) for the next couple of months, so hopefully it will gain a little momentum as well.

Exactly 7 days after the launch, the total number of views is 666, and I have earned the princely sum of €1.26 from ads. It takes a long time for any video to accumulate views. During the same period, my most popular video (How To... Perform Simple Linear Regression by Hand) garnered 16,935 views and earned €25.35.

Here's how the performance for R videos looks so far:

While it is too early to make any clear observations, there is some evidence that Statistics is more popular. I intend a lot more statistics videos later in the series, but I will stick to my plan of release.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Programming in R - New YouTube Videos

The first five videos for my new "How To... Programme in R" series are now available on YouTube - I hope they are the first of many. They are recorded with Snagit and most are 6-8 minutes in length. Each video has a single Learning Objective, and the amount of code covered is mostly just few lines. 

The YouTube Premiere was a complete failure - just three people out of my 53,894 subscribers tuned in live, and there was just one comment from a viewer. My videos are entering a very crowded market, so it will be difficult to gain any level of success. Let's see!