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Image of the Month: County Carlow scenery – illustration to launch the inaugural Lisnavagh Sketching Competition (Info - Lisnavagh House and Gardens‘ Facebook page).
10th April 2013
Another long lapse since our last homepage update, missing both the annual festivities of St Patrick’s Day and Easter – but we have in fact been very busy, and are delighted to report (finally, only a year and a third behind schedule!) that ByRoute 16 is virtually complete, subject only to a couple of minor details along the newly added western stretch of ByRoute 16.2. We also hope to finish ByRoute 17 fairly soon.
Regular visitors will also spot a number of changes, repairs, improvements and updates; however, we have to admit that maintenance has fallen behind as the website has grown, and we are therefore seeking volunteer assistants. We aim to start work in the near future on ByRoutes 20 – 26, and are particularly anxious for helpers from Northern Ireland, especially Belfast & Environs. We would also appreciate contributions about districts in and around Dublin, Cork and Galway cities. If interested, please contact email@example.com
Christmas 2012 Query (reposted and rephrased): Can anyone tell us the name of the powerful Irish film made in the 1970s / 1980s involving a priest on horseback and a seemingly simple-minded girl in an C18th / C19th rural family who becomes enchanted / literally carried away by the wild and wonderful fiddle music played by one of the Straw Boys at a dreamlike gathering which appears to start as her sister’s wedding party and grows increasingly orgiastic, with a goat-headed pagan deity / Satan presiding?
Our Easter 2012 Query, seeking identification of these ”abandoned college ruins on the Ballyman Road near Bray” (below), received a suggestion that the site could be Jubilee Hall, until recently occupied by the Elian Spanish School. Can any other reader confirm / add to this information?
(Photo by Simon Mortimer)
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Previous Image of the Month: “Magdalene Laundry, early 20th century” (Photo - www.ozebook.com)
6th February 2013
Today’s publication of the long awaited McAleese Report into Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, where Irish girls and women were for all practical purposes imprisoned and enslaved for the “sin” of sexual activity, while their children were removed at birth and often illegally exported for adoption, is by far the most significant event of this year in terms of coming to grips with our national identity.
Here are some principal findings of the report into the ten laundries run by four religious orders, the last of which only closed in 1996: since 1922, 10,012 women inmates (excluding the two laundries operated by the ironically named Sisters of Mercy); 2,124 put there by the State, and some 1000 by their own families; 13.5% of entrants had no living parents; the average age on entry was 23.8, with the youngest being 9 and the oldest 89; 7 months was the median duration of the stay; at least 879 deaths occurred in the laundries since 1922, the youngest at 15 and the oldest at 95.
In the detailed report Senator Martin McAleese (the former President’s husband) recognizes the “deep hurt they [the women] felt due to their loss of freedom, the fact that they were not informed why they were there, lack of information on when they would be allowed to leave, and denial of contact with the outside world, particularly family and friends.”
That such practices were not only allowed but actively colluded in and even policed by the Irish state for most of its existence since independence is shameful proof of the country’s voluntary abasement to religion at its fanatical worst. The few surviving victims most certainly deserve generous compensation.
Mid-C20th Dublin Laundries
Fifty years ago, the capital’s dirty sheets were washed and ironed by about 25 companies, including the Kelso Laundry in Rathmines and Darty / Dublin Laundry (1888-1982) in Milltown. The laundry in the High Park convent near the Archbishop’s Palace in Drumcondra was one of the belatedly notorious Magdalene Laundries, as were those tun by contemporary institutions in Donnybrook and Dun Laoghaire.
The “Swastika Laundry (1912)” had its distinctive red delivery vehicles emblazoned with a swastika, meant as the ancient Sanskrit solar symbol of good luck, health and prosperity. The foundation year was added to the corporate name in 1939.
Heinrich Böll, writing about living in the west of Ireland in the 1950s in his Irisches Tagebuch / Irish Journal, recalled that while in Dublin before heading to County Mayo he ”was almost run over by a bright-red panel truck whose sole decoration was a big swastika. Had someone sold Völkischer Beobachter delivery trucks here, or did the Völkischer Beobachter still have a branch office here? This one looked exactly like those I remembered; but the driver crossed himself as he smilingly signalled to me to proceed, and on closer inspection I saw what had happened. It was simply the “Swastika Laundry,” which had painted the year of its founding, 1912, clearly beneath the swastika; but the mere possibility that it might have been one of those others was enough to take my breath away.”
The company (one of whose owners also had a successful racehorse called Swastika Rose) continued to trade until c.1970 (this writer clearly remembers their battery-powered electric vans), and the tall industrial chimney over their former Shelbourne Road premises bore their logo until c.1988.
It’s been a while since our last homepage update, but we have not been idle. While we regret that there is still little progress to report on ByRoute 16 or ByRoute 17, a lot of work has been done on other pages, notably sections of ByRoute 1, ByRoute 2, ByRoute 3 and ByRoute 4 dealing with parts of Counties Wicklow, Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary and Cork.
Previous Image of the Month:”Wren Boys” taking part in a parade to celebrate the Hunting of the Wren on 26th December. Although sometimes called ”Straw Boys”, the latter name is said to pertain to a different tradition of masked musicians who perform at wedding celebrations.
26th December 2012 – St Stephen-s Day / Boxing Day
Yuletide Greetings from Northumbria, a wet and cold but very attractive part of northern England where we are spending our Christmas holidays this year. The last 50-odd days have seen only a little progress on our Byroutes, but we are happy to report a good deal of work on new pages about Ireland’s Holidays, Special Days etc.
Previous Image of the Month: Autumnal Irish graveyard.
31st October / Hallowe’en 2012
Hallowe’en (the vigil / eve preceding the Christian Feast of All Hallows / All Saints Day) was apparently first celebrated as such in Ireland in the C8th AD, but is believed to have its origins in the ancient Celtic autumn festival held on the night before the first day of the month known as Samhain (“the end of Samradh / Summer”), and is still called Oíche Shamhna (“Samhain’s eve / night”) in Irish Gaelic.
Halloween fantasy & reality
Samhain festivities marked the end of the farming year, when harvested crops were placed in storage for the long winter ahead and livestock brought in from the pastures to be selected for slaughter or breeding; the flames of old fires were extinguished and ceremonially re-lit by druids, and the souls of the dead were released from the Otherworld and became visible to mankind.
According to some bonkers American websites run by deranged “Christian” Evangelical fundamentalists, “Sam Hain was the Celtic God of the Dead, worshipped … with dreadful bloody sacrifices at Halloween.” Evil hooded Druids, often draped in animal skins, would go from castle-to-castle seeking virgin princesses to rape and sacrifice, leaving candles made from human fat to burn in the windows of those who submitted and painting hex symbols on the doors of folk who refused to coöperate to mark them for murder by demonic ghouls, who would leave their own kind in peace.
This and similar versions of the origin of spooky costumes, “trick-’r-treating” and “jack-o’-lantern” pumpkins appear on a number of websites claiming e.g. that Roman Catholics secretly adore ancient Babylonian / Egyptian deities, that the Vatican invented Islam, Free Masonry and Communism to persecute Protestants, that all non-Christians are devil worshippers, or that the entire Rock & Roll industry is run by Satanists who cast a curse on every recording as it is released!
In fact, “trick-’r-treating” used to mean that children would actually perform “tricks” (e.g. sing songs, turn somersaults, play card tricks etc.) in order to get treats (fruit / nuts / sweets / cake etc.), while “jack-o’-lantern” illuminations date from the C17th, when they were carved from root vegetables known in Ireland as turnips and elsewhere as swedes (from Swedish turnip), rutabagas or yellow turnips (Brassica napobrassica).
Snap-Apple Night by Daniel Maclise (1806-1870), showing a Halloween party in Blarney in 1832. The children on the right are bobbing for apples. A couple in the middle are playing a variant, which involves retrieving an apple hanging from a string. The people on the left are playing divination games.
These festive traditions, doubtless accompanied by drunken revelry, were taken by Irish emigrants to America, where they were widely adopted but also met with the anti-Catholic bigotry of the descendants of the early Puritans who banned Christmas and the late C20th Taliban-like stupidity and ignorance of those who read hate-mongering tracts by Jack Chick and his ilk.
On a more commonplace note, we can report another reasonably productive month in terms of updating, plus advances made on ByRoute 16 and ByRoute 17 and new material added on Mullingar & Environs. However, we must apologise to regular visitors for our absence from the Internet for three days last week, due to technical problems beyond our control.
Previous Image of the Month: Working sheepdogs. (Photo by Meagan Stroud)
30th September 2012
31st August 2012
A peaceful and indolent month, largely wasted in terms of Website progress. Apart from running repairs and minor improvements, the only notable advances made were a general review / update of Visitors Information and a determined attack on Ireland: Top Saints.
31st July 2012
A wet summer to date has proved rather dispiriting, but progress has nonetheless been made on ongoing improvements to the pages listed under Ireland’s Islands. The number of daily “hits” continues to grow, and our Facebook page is also getting more and more “likes”.
As for the weeks ahead, we are optimistic about the Irish participants’ chances of winning medals in the 2012 Olympic Games – Good Luck! – and for improved weather in August! We are looking forward to a peaceful holiday period to add significantly to this website.