A Very Strange Saint Patrick’s Day Tale

In a far-off land, the villagers were lazy, uncouth, and irresponsible as all their needs had been fulfilled by a very generous king. Their vineyards were overcome with weeds, their flower gardens overcome with insects, and their fields lying fallow. Their nutrition was poor, there were no flower decorations on holidays and no holly and mistletoe at Christmas.

Ann Glover: The Irish washerwoman hanged as a witch in Boston

During Oliver Cromwell’s occupation of Ireland in the 1650s, Ann Glover and her husband were deported to the Caribbean as indentured servants. They had a daughter Mary, and Ann worked with her husband on a sugar plantation in Barbados. Of course, they were native Irish speakers.

Star Trek’s Irish “Scotty”

The Starship USS Enterprise boldly went where no man had ever gone before for the first time in 1966 when ‘Star Trek’ made its inauspicious debut on American TV. Garnering only moderate success, it was quietly cancelled after three seasons. Through re-runs, worldwide showings and word of mouth praise, its popularity grew however to become one of the most successful media franchises of all time. The line-up of characters, who were diverse at a time when diversity on the small and big screen was unique, is now embedded in folklore.

Nellie Bly, the Irish/American pioneer journalist

Nellie Bly was born as Elizabeth Cochrane on May 5th 1864 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Irish have settled in Pennsylvania since pre-American Revolution days. Many settled in the booming industrial town of Pittsburgh and worked in the iron and steel mills, the mines and the railroads.

The Legend Unveiled King Arthur

Arthur, like Robin Hood, is a world famous hero whose deeds have been magnified by generations of storytellers who dearly believe that such a person existed. In fairness to most of them, it is quite probable that the character is based on an actual person, a Celtic King who once united his countrymen against the invading Saxons, a man of action, mystery, and romance who slew monsters and wicked giants, and who led the great struggle between good and evil, and won.

The Lost Gold of the Big Horn River

The American Wild West, a place that was vastly different from the Hollywood myth of today, one of the most famous stories that make up American History is that of General George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of Little Big Horn, which tells the story of how Custer led five companies of the 7th Cavalry against a combined force of Sioux and Cheyenne Indians on the 25th June 1876 in the valley of the Little Big Horn River, (known today as Last Stand Hill), when the brief fight was over, Custer, fourteen officers and 233 of his men lay dead.

The 1885 West Wicklow Election

After the Fenians had failed to win independence by revolutionary method, agitation moved in the direction of the ballot box. Political life in Ireland in the last quarter of the nineteenth century was dominated by the Land League and Home Rule movements.

Fred Astaire’s Cork Connections

The American singer and actor Fred Astaire is widely regarded as the most influential dancer in the history of films. Born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1899, Fred’s parents and his sister Adele moved to New York in 1905. Both Fred and Adele trained as dancers. Soon they broke into the vaudeville circuit as a “brother and sister” dancing act. The Astaires made their debut on Broadway in 1917 and this was followed by huge successes in many shows.

On a quiet street, where old ghosts meet

This famous quote has become a cliché, but it does capture that sense of strangeness we experience when contemplating our past lives.


Kitty watched the flicker in the dark from the new Sacred Heart light at the end of the stairs; her lips moving in quiet prayer and the odd crackle from her fire the only sounds. With his steps at last sounded outside she grasped her beads more firmly and sat up to face him.

The Russian O’Rourke

The former principality of Breifne consists of modern Leitrim, a large part of West Cavan and a small slice of Longford. Before these counties were created, around 1580, the O’Rourke chieftains ruled Breifne. It was a long history of clan rivalry, internecine murder and intrigue. Detailed family trees listing numerous O’Rourkes have been constructed and posted up on the Internet.

The School around the Corner

Dublin-born Paddy Crosby attended St Paul’s Christian Brothers School in North Brunswick Street. Locals always called this school “Brunner”. Years later, when he had finished his studies in St Patrick’s Training College and UCD Paddy taught in St Paul’s until his retirement. Paddy was a keen hurler and handball player.

Lough Derg – the inspiration for Dante’s Inferno

Last year marked the 700th anniversary of the death of the Italian poet Dante, an occasion celebrated throughout Italy with open-air readings, on-line conferences and the publication of books and papers. What isn’t perhaps widely known is that an inspiration for the first book of his Divine Comedy is a legend associated with the cave (since destroyed) known as St Patrick’s Purgatory, on Station Island, Lough Derg.

My take on Big Jack Charlton

In the year 1607 we had the historic Flight of the Earls, an event which opened the door for the Plantation of Ulster and the sad consequences that followed. In the early 1980's the late Liam Reilly, lyricist and performer, wrote about another flight of earls. His song was a lament for the departure of our many young people who were departing these shores due to a poor economy and consequent lack of opportunity.

The Irish Diaspora – A living history

When we imagine the Irish diaspora we cannot help but be brought back to one of the most traumatic times in our history. The Great Famine of 1845 resulted in death, malnutrition and mass emigration, reducing the population dramatically; Ireland's population fell from almost 8.4 million in 1844 to 6.6 million by 1851. About 1 million people died and perhaps 2 million more eventually emigrated from the country. When faced with shocking statistics like this many things come to mind, the first being erroneous British policy over consecutive years.

280 Years Since the Capture of Crotty the Robber

This spring marks 280 years since the capture and execution of William Crotty, the famed highwayman better known as Crotty the Robber. Crotty, somewhat of a Robin Hood figure in folklore, enjoyed an estimated five-year criminal reign in Waterford, Kilkenny and Tipperary from his stronghold in the Comeragh mountains.

A Sixties Journey

Growing up in the 1960s was a magical time when I think of all the friendly faces that once dotted the countryside and like the wildflowers of the summer have now passed on through the passages of time. Back then, it was not uncommon to hear both men and women who were on bicycles or walking the country roads, singing or whistling a tune as they went on their way. Something you don’t hear today.

Cary Grant – The Star of Hollywood’s Golden Era

Hollywood heart-throb, Cary Grant was born Alec Leach on 18th January 1904 in Bristol, England. His mother was Elsie Maria, his father Elias James Leach who worked in a factory. Although Cary left school at 14, he was an avid reader all his life. In his youth he joined a troupe of knockabout comedians, where he learnt acrobatics and pantomime. After performing in London Music Halls, in 1920 he emigrated to the US where he appeared on Broadway in the show “Good Times”.

A Flying Visit

On 20 May, 1932, aviator Amelia Earhart, aged 34, set off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, on a solo trans-Atlantic flight bound for Paris in a red LockheedVega 5B single-engine plane. Having endured almost fifteen hours across the Northern Atlantic Ocean, inclement weather conditions of ice and northerly winds caused technical hitches, leaving Miss Earhart with no option but to land her plane.

The life and career of Frederick Minturn Sammis

Whilst many will have heard of the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi, relatively few will have heard of the name Frederick Sammis. For those familiar with the story of the Titanic disaster and the inquiries which followed, Frederick Sammis is probably best remembered for the role he played in helping to arrange the sale of surviving wireless operator Harold Bride's exclusive story to the New York Times.

Remembering the Past

In these years of centenaries the well known heroes of the Rising and of the War of Independence are being written and talked about. And rightly so. But there are many others who are practically forgotten. They served the country in tough times, some gave their lives, others made their lives miserable and very difficult forever afterwards, and many lost loved ones. Families were decimated and homes broken up.

Isolde O’Farrell: The first Irish voice on radio

At 7pm on Valentine’s Day February 14th 1922, Britain’s first scheduled radio station 2MT first began broadcasting every Tuesday night from the small Essex town of Writtle. The station was the experimenter arm of the Marconi Company with Captain Peter Eckersley in charge. Each night the station would go on air at 7pm with Marconi’s publicity man in London, Arthur Burrows, despatching gramophone records to be played and artistes to perform live.

The scene of a Cromwellian massacre rises from the ashes

Part of a County Kilkenny town's heritage that was in decay and might have been lost forever has been beautifully restored.

The Treaty Debate – Ireland’s Great Unknown

“World history is a battle between two forms of love: love of self to the point of destroying the world and love of others, to the point of renouncing oneself.” -  St Augustine This truth goes a long way to explaining the tragedy, which unfolded as a consequence of the signing of the Treaty of 1921.

Andrew Cherry and the “Green Little Shamrock”

We can’t imagine St Patrick’s Day without a shamrock. But what about a song for the shamrock? “The Dear Little Shamrock” was written by Andrew Cherry who was born in Limerick on 11 January 1762. His father, John Cherry, was a printer and bookseller and had planned that his son would have a career as a clergyman. However, the family had some financial problems and so, at the age of eleven, young Andrew had to leave school and travel to Dublin where he became apprenticed to an old friend of his father’s, a Mr Potts, printer and bookseller in Dame Street.

Civil War in Cork

Shortly before midnight on the eve of St Patrick’s Day 1922, the Parnell Guards Fife and Drum Band were parading around the streets of Cork city. This band was based in Fair Lane on the north side of the city. They were just one of dozens of bands in Cork City at that time. As their name suggests, they were loyal to Parnell and the Home Rule movement and by 1922 their loyalty lay with the pro-treaty side of the Irish Civil War.

Just who was St Patrick?

March 17, St Patrick’s Day, and all over the world people are celebrating Ireland’s patron saint. But, just who was St Patrick?

Manhattan, New York – Home to the first St Patrick’s Day Parade

The first St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York took place 249 years ago, in 1762. The Parade, which marches up 5th Avenue, from 44th Street to 86th Street, is now a New York tradition, watched by more than two million people. It is the largest and most popular of the city’s many parades. The St Patrick’s Day Parade is held to honour the patron saint of Ireland and the Archdiocese of New York, and celebrates Irish faith, culture, history and heritage.

Laurel and Hardy in Ireland

I was watching a documentary on the film director Mike Leigh recently. He saw Laurel and Hardy perform live in England when he was a boy. The main surprise he felt at seeing them in the flesh after having watched all those two-reelers over the years (over 100 between 1927 and 1950) was the discovery that they weren’t actually black and white people.

Clare Island at the time of the Famine

Clare Island was a well populated island between 1700 and 1845. The island was self-sufficient in the 1790’s and had sufficient food and fertiliser to meet the needs of the people. They leased and owned the land in common under the Rundale System. They tilled the soils using the lazy beds and they lived closely together in clusters or clachans that were common in the west of Ireland at the time.