Ohio Irish American News ~ A Story From This Month’s Issue: 10th Annual Little Sisters of the Poor is February 3rd

10th Annual Merry Ploughboys Fundraiser for The Little Sisters of the Poor is February 3rd

On February 3rd it will only be forty-three days to the biggest day of the year, St Patrick’s Day. What better way to put yourself in the mood than by attending the 10th Annual Merry Ploughboys Concert in aid of the Little Sisters of the Poor? In what has become a yearly extravaganza, the Dublin based band donates their time to help raise funds for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The Little Sisters of the Poor first arrived in Cleveland at the request of the Bishop of Cleveland, Amadeus Rappe, on May 20, 1870. Due to the increase in immigrant population at that time, there was an urgent need to care for the elderly poor. The first established Home for the Aged provided for them by the bishop was located adjacent to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.

Cleveland was the ninth home established by the Little Sisters in the United States. Formed in small and humble beginnings, the Little Sisters of the Poor continue to follow the example of their foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan, by providing a loving home-like atmosphere where residents can live out their days in peace and comfort. Their mission today is the same as it was in 1870—to serve needy elderly men and women of northeast Ohio.

Tom Arbeznik, the founding father of the annual event gave me some insight. After seeing the Merry Ploghboys’ play in Dublin he approached Liam (band member) and invited them to Cleveland to play. Tom’s Godmother was a Sister and he thought it would be a great to do a fundraiser for them.

Over the years the show has been held in The Powerhouse, Gray’s Armory and Brennan’s Party Centre . For the past five years it has been held at Windows on the River.

The Ploughboys have been playing Irish music together since 1989, in Dublin and beyond. In 2006 the band made a lifelong dream become a reality when they purchased the ‘Merry Ploughboy Irish Music Pub’ in Rathfarnham, approximately seven miles outside of Dublin City centre. For more information on the band and the pub see www.merryploughboys.com and www.mpbpub.com.

The show starts at 8pm with light snacks and a cash bar. Tickets call the Little Sisters of the Poor at 216-378-4739. There will also be a drawing on the night for a trip for 2 to Ireland, tickets are $10 each.

Ohio Irish American News ~ A Story From This Month’s Issue: Owens Sports

Happy New Year to everyone, I hope you had a safe and enjoyable holiday season. I must also send out a big happy anniversary to this very magazine, the Ohio Irish American News, Five years young and I think we can all agree the editor-in-chief Mr. John O’Brien Jr. has done a simply amazing job. I would like to take this time to thank John for asking me to come on board five years ago, although I do believe at the time he asked to do ‘one’ article, well I guess as my wife will tell you I’m not always good at listening.

Gaelic Games: Cleveland 2013
There’s been a lot happening in both the Irish sports world and indeed right here in Cleveland since we last met. For those in the Cleveland area I am sure by now you have heard the big news that the 2013 North American County Board (NACB) Finals will be hosted in Cleveland in 2013. For those wondering what the NACB Finals are, in layman terms, it is the North American Gaelic Games Championships, the playoffs for Gaelic games in North America.

In November’s article I wrote about how the NACB Convention was being held in Cleveland and that many motions would be voted on. Well one such motion was presented by yours truly. The motion was for the 2013 National Playoff’s to be hosted by the Midwest Division in Cleveland.

On the day of Convention, it came down to two cities, Cleveland and Seattle. Both cities made great presentations to the delegates, both deserved to win. Cleveland was selected in a vote of 96 to 30.

Small City Opportunity
I have worked on this bid for six years on behalf of our club, Cleveland St Pat’s, and on behalf of the Midwest Division. In previous years the Finals have been held in the ‘usual’ cities such as Chicago, Boston, San Fran and Philadelphia. With a recent change to the NACB by-laws, 2013 was open to bids from so called smaller cities, such as Cleveland and Seattle. Hosting the Convention this year gave us a big advantage, along with the fact that clubs from the bigger cities of Chicago and Philadelphia can drive here,

So what does this mean and why all the hoopla? The prestige end-of-season championships for all GAA clubs in North America, along with an increasing number of clubs from the Canadian GAA will be held here. Between eighty and ninety-five teams will come to Cleveland over Labor Day Weekend, 2013 to play a Gaelic Football, Hurling and Camogie (ladies Hurling).

This many teams, of players, coaches, families and fans coming to town during a holiday weekend is huge for the local community and the economy. I have been fortunate to work in partnership with the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission on this bid, in terms of advice and resources. They estimate that an event at this time of the year will have $1.2 million impact on the community.

How to Get Involved
Such a big event also brings with it a lot of prep work, work that has already begun. Initial committee meetings will be held starting this month. At the time of printing, the date and time are yet to be confirmed – please email me at markowens@ireland.com if you are interested in getting involved in the planning side of the event or simply becoming a sponsor of the event. We will need help with such areas as vendors, transportation, crowd control, fundraising and marketing, amongst other things.

Our ultimate goal in putting on the event here in Cleveland is to give as much exposure to Gaelic Games as possible, games that have been in the area for nearly ninety years, but seem to have dwindled in popularity over the past years. We aim to put on an event that will paint a welcoming picture of the strong Irish community that we have here, along with showing what a great city we live in. Lastly, in terms of giving back, we will put any profit back into the game itself, with our main goal being to develop our existing facility at the West Side Irish American Club. This will help with the future of Cleveland St Pat’s Gaelic Football Club and the Gaelic Games here in our community. Cleveland St. Pat’s Men’s and Women’s Gaelic Football Clubs, Cleveland St. Jarlath’s Gaelic Football Club and the Akron Celtic Guards Hurling Club are all local teams we can be very proud of, and support.

As you can see, this will be a great event for not only the Irish community in the Cleveland area, but for all sports and cultural fans alike. During the actual Finals Weekend we are working on other unique ideas, such as entertainment at the games to tie in with the Cleveland Rock ‘N Roll theme, along with partnering with some of the local Kamm’s Corners businesses in creating a festival type village throughout the weekend for the athletes and spectators that will be in town for the weekend. It truly does have the making a fantastic weekend, one to make us all proud. Please help us make this a fantastic weekend.
In Other News

One of the biggest news storied in Irish Sports occurred last month with the draw for the 2012 European Championships, in which the Republic of Ireland qualified for having beaten lowly Estonia over a two game playoff. The Irish are paired with current Euro Champions Spain along with Italy and Croatia, a very tough drawing.

I am confident we will qualify and make the quarter-finals at least, but on paper it does not look good. In the upcoming months I will cover more on the June tournament and a complete analysis of the Irish teams.


First last month’s question: Golf in Ireland has had enormous success this past few years, with a new breed of golfers, but which Irish golfer owns the distinction of being the 1st Irishman to win of golf’s professional majors? Fred Daly, from Portrush in the north of Ireland, won the British Open Championship in 1947.

This month’s question: The Republic of Ireland last played in the European Championships in 1988, but failed to make it through the group stages. They were eight minutes away from qualifying for the semi-finals, until which team and eventual tournament winners scored a late winner?

*Mark Owens is originally from Derry City, Ireland and has resided in the Cleveland area since 2001, where he is employed by State Farm Insurance Companies, having previously spent time studying at John Carroll University. Send questions, comments or suggestions for future articles to Mark at: markowens@ireland.com.

Ohio Irish American News ~ A Story From This Month’s Issue: Terry From Derry Stained by time

By Terry Boyle

I’m not sure why this time of year is usually equated with darker emotions, but the progression through autumn towards winter somehow changes our perspective. As our conversation becomes more weather centered, not only do we seek to protect our bodies, but also our spirits. As we become more reflective, melancholic, we force ourselves to look forward, to transform the darkness into a future hope. Not only do we have to brave the elements, we also have to have fortitude against the tyranny of falling back, and retreating further into ourselves. Seasonally, we are drawn by the shorter days and longer nights to relate this time of the year with death, or dying. Whereas young love, rejuvenation happens after the cold, dark days are over.

As the English poet, Robert Herrick, advocates, springtime is the time to ‘gather the rosebuds while ye may’, as opposed to Shakespeare’s ‘winter of discontent’. As the shades of night gather so too do the portents of gloom and despair. Faced with such bleakness, we are look for inspiration, for a gentle light against the blackness.

The creative among us have cast the winter months in the role of the Victorian villain, stealing goodness and mercy from the best of us. It becomes a world where Scrooge reigns supremely, a dark soul desperately in need of enlightenment, and salvation. And yet, even here the corruption of the monster is dramatically enhanced, so that we might reach into the very depths of this mutant creature to find the hidden self. The hibernated humanity, keeping alive the hope, that at heart we are capable of change.

If it’s not the lighting of bonfires as our ancestors did, we fight against the night in an effort to raise our morale. Sometimes we try too hard, and our false light diminishes into empty commercialism. Real values become cheapened, and we simply decorate the surface but remain fundamentally dissatisfied. What religion and literature seek to offer us are symbols that work to inspire us, and give us something more than the glitter of tinsel. While we lighten our homes, our streets, with lights; refusing to let our own light be devoured by the long season of cold and barrenness, we need to find a way out of the Narnia, kill the winter witch so that we can re-claim and resurrect what makes us human.

There’s something invigorating about the literature we celebrate at this time of the year. I recently went to see a dramatic interpretation of A Christmas Carol at the Goodman theatre in Chicago. I was interested in seeing how such a socially challenging story would be interpreted on stage. To be fair to such a well-known establishment, it’s hard to be both entertaining, and commercially viable. When one thinks of Dickens one thinks of not his genius for storytelling, but his social conscience. The miscreant, Scrooge, becomes the vehicle to highlight the blindness of a society who ignores social inequalities. His preoccupation with the plight of child labour was enough to enact legal changes for the betterment of children.
With this in mind, it was difficult to watch a sentimentalized rendition of one of his stories without feeling as though we had lost the plot. It is ironic that a story whose moral is one of the vacuities of indulgence should be presented with a set that was almost decadent. The grittiness of the moral was lost to special effects, and heartwarming aspirations of racial diversity. Bob’s Cratchit’s became the melting pot of the American dream. Victorian England becomes changed to a liberal re-writing of history, and social reality. How ironic to find a story about poverty incarnated into a financial extravagance.

Unfortunately, I was musing about these things when someone asked me what I thought of the production. I didn’t know how I felt about it until I started speaking. There were two women in front of me who were listening in. I could see that my comments were not appreciated. This is the Goodman for God’s sake, and it’s Christmas after all. Take your ‘bah humbug’ somewhere where it’s wanted. It’s for the children. Where’s your Christmas spirit? To be honest, I really didn’t care one way or the other until I realize that there was some kind of unspoken code at work. Let’s not ruin the moment, the fantasy.

Theatre, it seems, is still a place where we can hide from the truth. When the play ended, one of the ladies said to me ‘it was gritty enough for me’. I’m sure that it was. If we have to see the poor then it should be under the transforming lights of a theatre, and under the mask of make up. It certainly makes poverty more attractive, and less unsightly. It was certainly a production that scared the Dickens out of the moral. I wonder what our celebrated Jonathan Swift would have made of such a show. The man, who disgusted with poverty, wrote A Modest Proposal, a tract that suggested that Irish Catholics procreate and use their offspring as a part of the food chain. Offensive, deeply satirical, but written by a compassionate man who was sickened by the apathy of the more fortunate, and the less thoughtful.

If we have to have Scrooges, wealthy curmudgeons, then let them be true to life, and not some Disney caricature. If winter is a time to reflect, and be thankful for what we have, then let’s give more than that a thought to those who have not.

Ohio Irish American News ~ A Story From This Month’s Issue: Stories From the Corner Bard

Stories from the Corner Bard
By Sean McCabe

Here we are, it’s 2012 finally, the year many folks have been dreading. The world is going to end in December. After all, it’s the end of the Mayan calendar., December 21, to be precise. Doomsday movies have been made based on this prediction, to capitalize I suppose on the prevalence of doomsday anxiety.

However, say the Mayan scholars, it’s a false prediction. The end of the Mayan calendar does not mean the end of the world, just the end of a cycle in history. A new page in civilisation, they assure us, will begin on December 22, 2012, or thereabouts. Out with the old, in with the new.

My research into all this, as I’m sure you can tell, has not gone any deeper than browsing through articles on the subject in between checkings of my e-mail. When I do see articles about the 2012 prophecy, I start thinking, however.

The occultist, end of the world types are certain the world is about to end. Look at all the earthquakes and tsunamis we’ve been having recently, they say, not to mention hurricanes and extended droughts. Isn’t this what was foretold: an increase in natural disasters to accompany the last days?

And then of course there’s the impending collapse of the western economies that economic experts in the media keep warning us about, what with the Eurozone debt crisis in Europe and Republicans and Democrats not being able to agree in the US … one could go on and on, and add a religious dimension too. We have gotten so materialistic in the west to the point where we have turned our backs on God; therefore God has turned his back on us (I saw a preacher say this on YouTube).

One quick answer to this last point for me anyhow, is not so much that God has turned his back on us; but that big corporations have sent jobs that should remain in America oversea, all with the profit motive. A lot of people have been hurt by globalism, but definitely not managers of big corporations. Greed always seems to get in the way of general human progress. I think that people who think only in terms of monetary profit are people who have turned their backs on God.

Anyhow, back to 2012.
The whole world just feels to be very unstable these days, when you look at it from a political, economic or environmental standpoint. Maybe if there was less media in our faces all the time – for example, can we avoid checking the latest headlines when we check our e-mail? I can’t.

A few years ago, I read a newspaper maybe twice a week and didn’t watch much TV. Now, thanks to my need to stay cyber connected, I’m a news junkie. There’s no getting away from the media in today’s world. My advice for the new year (to myself anyway) is to keep the cell phone and computer turned off as much as possible; when working on the computer, pick up the guitar while on a five minute break, instead of checking the mail or the news, and stop twittering…

Maybe I can make my own mind up on things then… And as for 2012 being the end of the world as we know it..? I’ll answer that in my January 2013 column.
Have a great 2012!

Ohio Irish American News ~ A Story From This Month’s Issue: Blowin In, I Resolve

By Susan Mangan

At times I feel both blessed and cursed, charmed and deluded, foolishly optimistic and gut wrenchingly cynical. I am a walking caricature of the harlequin masks: comic and tragic, prone to over dramatization and embellishment. Creative souls tend to be a bit too sensitive, too introspective. The pot is neither black nor white, but a myriad blend of slate, steel, or dove grey. The answer is not yes or no, but perhaps.

I cast blame on my family tree for my indecisive nature. Born and reared on the streets of Chicago, I have roots that stretch to the foothills of the Missouri Ozarks. I am a city girl with a country heart. Italian, yet not, I am olive skinned and light-eyed. Depending upon my mood, I have an appetite for butter beans with bacon or squid braised with tomato sauce.

Married to a first-generation Irishman, I have experienced real Ireland. I am enthralled with the sea and the changing tides. On farm or mountainside, I love to breathe in the acrid smell of sheep and cattle, the linen-fresh scent of field and hay. I inhale so deeply that my lungs begin to hurt with the power and purity of it all. This new year, I resolve to continue my love affair with nature and humanity, to remain open to new experience, and to relish every oddity that makes me, Me.

I am not alone in my search for self. Each New Year’s Eve, people universally usher in new hopes and dreams, not forgetting the challenges of the year that passed, but choosing to forge onward and hopefully upward. Poet William Butler Yeats spent his lifetime searching self. At once a revolutionary and artist, mystic and naturalist, Yeats sought company with men and women of letters and with the commonest of men. He found beauty in the peasant and truth in the waterfall:

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand
And hooked a berry to a thread . . .
Though I am old and wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where [the glimmering girl] has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands. . .
(Song of the Wandering Aegus, W.B. Yeats)

Despite civil war and personal unrest, Yeats never stopped seeking how to best articulate a world laced with dichotomy, a world where “a terrible beauty is born.”

This past spring when my son and I had the opportunity to visit Dublin, I enjoyed the treat of a lifetime. Dublin’s National Library was hosting a Yeats exhibit. Dark and mystical, the room was filled with full- size black and white photos of Yeats and his people. Glass cases burst with original manuscripts and first editions of Yeats’ collections of poetry.

I admired the yellowed parchments and lined texts replete with cross outs and personal musings of my favorite poet. A recorded voice, thick with an Irish brogue, repeatedly recited verse from the many stages and moods of Yeats’ career, “the last stroke of midnight dies. All day in the one chair/From dream to dream and rhyme to rhyme I have ranged in rambling talk with an image of air . . .”. That day, I left the old grey–pillared National Library floating on a magic carpet of Yeats’ own device, a world in which his Celtic Twilight came to life.

One never knows how life’s road will turn. Were we gifted with the second sight, fey, visionaries who could prepare for moments of fear or delight, would we face the coming year unafraid? In the silence of the night, my mind has played tricks on me. Caught between the haze of dreams and the light of reality, we see loved ones who have passed on, heard voices from the past urging us on the correct path to follow. Why is it that our troubles seem greater at the midnight hour whereas the dawn brings recognition and illumination?

When the world appears overwhelming and the ghosts of my past come knocking, I seek the comfort of a good story. One of my favorite authors, Patrick Taylor, writes an enchanting series of books about the fictitious Ballybucklebo, Ireland. His characters are engaging and larger than life. Easily, the reader falls into the adventure and camaraderie of Taylor’s world. In “An Irish Country Girl,” Taylor delves into the myths and superstitions of old Ireland. His heroine is Maureen O’Hanlon, a girl on the brink of womanhood. Maureen discovers, like the women before her, that she is fey, gifted with the second sight. Her young maidenhood is marked with great joy and tragedy. She fears, but comes to welcome her gift. Like many of us, she is exhausted trying to fit into the neat puzzle of life, but finds she cannot, because she is different and beautifully unique.

This year I resolve to embrace life’s uncertainty with equal measures of gusto and poise. I resolve to pray more and welcome life’s challenges without so much fear. I resolve to keep one eye open to new experience and one eye secured by the past. I resolve to continue to find beauty in humankind. In the words of Scottish poet Robert Burns, I resolve “to tak a cup o’ kindness yet to the days of auld lang syne.”

*Source consulted: Kiely, Benedict. “Yeats’ Ireland.” New York: Potter . 1989.
Susan holds a Master’s Degree in English from John Carroll University and a Master’s Degree in Education from Baldwin-Wallace College. She may be contacted at suemangan@yahoo.com.

Ohio Irish American News ~ A Story From This Month’s Issue: The Ohio Scottish Arts School

The Ohio Scottish Arts School: A Truly Unique Experience
By Barry Conway

Over this past summer, I had the opportunity to teach at the Ohio Scottish Arts School or OSAS. Being a life-long Ohio resident, piping enthusiast, and a member of OSAS Alumni, you’d have thought, that I would know a great deal about the school. The reality is that I didn’t know what a unique and wonderful school OSAS has become. “Unique in what way,” you may ask?

The first Ohio Scottish Arts School was held in 1978, after the successful debut of the Ohio Scottish Games (OSG) in 1977. The 1977 OSG were profitable and it seemed appropriate for the competition to support Scottish culture go beyond the one-day competition. This support continues today, with many scholarships offered to competitors at the OSG to attend the Ohio Scottish Arts School.

In the early years, the OSAS moved around, as did the OSG. due to growth. But since 1983, OSAS has made its home at historic Oberlin College, one of the country’s premier music and fine arts institutions. The first OSAS offered classes in dancing, drumming, and piping. Fifty-eight students attended that year.

This year, 145 students from twenty-two states and Canada attended this summer in dancing, fiddling, harping, piping and drumming. The diversity in the disciplines of instruction creates an atmosphere based more on the celebration, preservation, and development of Scottish culture, music and lore much more than just a school of piping and drumming. This manifests itself with impromptu sessions held nightly.

The nightly session combines the talents of the school with both instructors and pupils participating. Scottish Smallpipes, harps, fiddles and bouzoukis combine to fill the campus with music. This will often create the urge for some highland dancers and their instructors to dance during the session as well. At periodic intervals, the session players will sing a tune.

The piping program is also set up in a way unique from other schools where students are grouped by skills and experience. Instead of rotating instructors through to work with each, an instructor is assigned a group for the entire week for the morning session. “The Ohio School gives students a chance to truly work on refinement of skills over the week. Allocating a teacher to a group of students for the entire week truly allows for detailed attention to this group. I found that by the end of the week students were well on the way to “refinement” of new music.” Says Bob Worrall, an experienced instructor.

In the afternoon, students sign up for classes in various topics from Tone & Tuning, Introduction to Piobaireachd (literal translation is ‘Piping” or “what pipers do”), Intermediate and Advanced Piobaireachd, How to Set up a Pipe Band, Modern Trends in Pipe Bands, Maintenance, Competition Preparation, Technology and Piping, Playing for Dancers, Recital Tunes, What Judges Look For, and Working With Drone Reeds.

”The elective class format in the afternoon allows students to address general topics or points of interest” says Drew Duncan, the schools Director of Piping and Drumming, and one of its instructors. “We have selected a faculty with diverse piping backgrounds which allows us to offer many topics students find interesting for both the band and solo piper.”

Late afternoon sessions are offered to the most advanced students to work one on one with instructors. It is here solo competitors can refine their more difficult competition and concert pieces.

Another highlight for the piping and drumming students is a chance to get together and play as a full group of pipers and drummers in the town square of Oberlin and work on pipe band related issues (unison, blowing, tonal set up, etc.). These sessions are run by piping instructor Steve MacNeil.

“Playing in the park in the town square gives all the pipers and drummers an opportunity to work on playing a core set of tunes while playing with others” says MacNeil. “It is also a great way to reach out to the local community who have been great supporting the school through the years”. Listeners in the park often include administrators at the school as well as town locals who are interested in a free concert.

Beginner students in the school are grouped together with younger players in the introductory course. More advanced young students are divided by skill level. The non-beginner adult students are put into the adult group, run by Steve MacNeil. This group pokes fun at itself by naming this group “The Advanced Adult Remedial Group” or “AARGH!” class.

The drumming classes are small and allow for a very low student to teacher ratio. This low ratio gives students a lot of one-on-one time with instructors. “This was my first year instructing at OSAS, and the entire experience was a treat,” says Brown. ”There is a real strong community and family feel that you don’t always experience at other schools. There’s great communication and planning from the organizers. I’m already looking forward to being back next year, catching up with the students from this year, and hopefully meeting many more new ones.”

Also unique to the school are the many scholarships available to school participants. The Ohio Scottish Arts School is a non-profit corporation organized under Sec 501(c)(3). There are many annual gifts as well as endowed gifts, which makes the scholarships possible in the areas of piping, drumming, dancing, harp and fiddle.

For more information about OSAS, go to http://www.ohioscottishartsschool.com/

Irish Band, Irish Dancers, open bar, and ME! 2Nite!

NEW BOOK SIGNING, with Great music, dancers, door prizes and more. 34th Anniversary of the Irish American Club-East Side Celebration! Saturday, January 21st. Featuring Callahan & O’Connor Irish band, Irish Dancers Door Prizes and ME! I’ll be signing my books, First Generation and Festival Legends: Songs & Stories. Doors open at 7:30pm. Tickets are $18 for non-members. Includes open bar and appetizers. Irish American Club East Side: 22770 Lake Shore Blvd. Euclid, OH 44123. 216-731-4003 www.irishamericanclubeastside.org
Really need your help to get the word out – PLEASE SHARE!

Rest in Peace and Laughter, Auntie Shee

After a lifetime of playing the lottery, My dear Aunt Sheila hit the jackpot; she has gone to heaven. Her jokes and stories, chatter and constant laughter will keep the Holy Family groaning and bemused.

I haven’t seen Auntie Shee in a very long time. She was sick, and struggling, and in many ways, alone, in Montreal, where my mom was born. She was the funniest aunt a little kid could ever ask for. Always telling silly little jokes, always full of laughter and stories. We used to go visit, every Easter break. Her 2nd floor apartment didn’t have enough room for all 6 of us, but we made room. We always prayed it would snow like crazy, so we couldn’t go home, and back to school. She was as excited as we were. Out the back, we climbed the railing, and slid down the piled snow into the alley. A tiny, foot off the ground chain link border ran around the front of the apartment building, cosmetic, but the joy of jumping over it when we arrived, and the heart-breaking tears that fell when I would purposefully walk thru the gap between it when we were leaving, knowing I would never see Auntie Sheila again for a whole year, till we came back next Easter, was clearly defined in my mind. I have a massive hand made knitted blanket on my bed, which Auntie Shee made for me decades ago. It keeps me warm all winter, and loved all year. I’m sorry I didn’t come see you Auntie Shee, I love you.

A Story from This Month’s Issue … Illuminations ~ The Aud

The Aud – A Failure to Communicate
By: J. Michael Finn

Failure to communicate could have served as the motto of the 1916 Easter Rebellion. Communication before and during the rebellion was either non-existent or contradictory. No one knew exactly what was going to happen or when. Even some of the leaders were confused. You could make the argument that the lack of communication was one of the reasons the rebellion failed. At the very least it was a contributing factor.

One of the biggest lapses of communication was the mix up over the German arms shipment that was supposed to arrive to save the day and ended up at the bottom of Queenstown (Cobh) Harbor. On the evening of April 20, 1916 (Holy Thursday) a German freighter, the Libau, disguised as the neutral Norwegian freighter Aud, made its way into the Bay of Tralee. It paused, just off the island of Inishtooskert and then sailed into Tralee Bay. The ship began signaling the coastal village of Fenit using two green lanterns.

The Aud’s illicit cargo was an estimated 20,000 rifles, 1,000,000 rounds of ammunition, ten machine guns, and explosives. The majority of the rifles were the Russian Mosin-Nagant 1891. The Germans had captured these rifles from the Russian army at the Battle of Tennenberg. The shipment was carefully disguised on the ship’s manifest as “pots and pans.”

The Aud’s captain, Karl Spindler, a lieutenant in the German Naval Reserve, had been instructed to look for two green lanterns from the shore in reply. Upon this signal a pilot boat would arrive and guide them into the harbor where the Aud’s cargo of guns and ammunition would be landed. Sadly, the two green lanterns on shore were hanging unused in the hall of the Irish Volunteers in Tralee. The Volunteers on shore had been told to look for the ship’s signal on the evening between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.

What went wrong? Because of the war there was no direct communication between Germany and Ireland. German communications regarding the arms shipment and the plans for German aid had been transmitted through the German embassy in New York and given to John Devoy, the exiled Fenian and head of Clan na nGael in America.

It was decided that Devoy would communicate with the IRB leaders in Dublin via couriers due to the likelihood that the British might intercept any electronic communication. This method was safer but required an ocean voyage between each message.

Through a courier Devoy was instructed to advise Berlin that the arms shipment should arrive sometime between dusk on Holy Thursday and dawn on Easter Monday. This Devoy communicated to Berlin and gave them the date of the Rising as Easter Sunday at 6:00 PM.

But, around the first week of April, Patrick Pearse changed his mind regarding the shipment, reasoning that a Holy Thursday delivery was too early. He feared the arms shipment would be spotted and give away the Easter Sunday plans. Pearse sent a courier to Devoy advising the Germans not to arrive until sometime between Holy Saturday evening and Easter Monday. The courier arrived in New York on April 14; five days after the Aud had already left Germany. Since the Aud had no wireless equipment the Germans decided there was nothing they could do to stop the shipment and advised Devoy accordingly.

The Germans had also sent a submarine, the U19, containing Roger Casement, the IRB’s man in Berlin and the person who coordinated the shipment. The submarine was supposed to rendezvous with the Aud. Casement and several companions were to be landed on the beach near Tralee along with the arms. The submarine arrived on time, but the captain of the sub made no attempt to contact or signal the Aud. He noticed the ship, but thought it was a British destroyer. Instead he continued to look for the green lantern signal from shore, which never appeared. Disgusted, with the whole affair and fearful of discovery, the sub captain landed Casement and his companions on the beach, where they were discovered and soon taken into custody.

Meanwhile, Captain Spindler decided he had waited long enough. The Atlantic was starting to fill up with armed British ships and he was getting nervous about his ability to continue to bluff his way out of trouble.

On the evening of Good Friday, Spindler decided to weigh anchor and he set a course for Lisbon. An armed British trawler, Lord Heneage, began pursuing them, but Spindler opened his boilers and soon left the slower ship in his wake.

The Lord Heneage radioed ahead to the other ships that a suspicious vessel was headed south west. The armed British sloops Zinnia and Bluebell joined the pursuit. The Zinnia stopped the Aud and for a while it looked as though Spindler would talk his way out of this problem.

It was finally decided that the Aud would sail to Queenstown Harbor, escorted by the Bluebell. There the Aud would be searched, and if nothing was found, it would be released. The Aud began following the Bluebell. At the entrance to the harbor Spindler suddenly brought the Aud to a full stop. The captain of the Bluebell noticed that Spindler was lowering his lifeboats and all of the crew had changed into German naval uniforms. A German battle flag had replaced the Norwegian flag on the mast.

As Spindler and his men were boarding the life boats explosives were set off below decks where charges had been placed in case of such an occurrence. It took only ten minutes for the Aud and its cargo to sink below the waves. The guns and ammunition were now at the bottom of the harbor, of no use to anyone.

Spindler and his crew were taken prisoner and detained as prisoners of war for the balance of the war. During his imprisonment Spindler made two unsuccessful attempts to escape. The wreck was depth charged by the British navy to scatter the arms and to prevent submarines from using the wreck as cover.

Karl Spindler wrote a book about his experiences in Ireland called Gunrunning for Casement in the Easter Rebellion, 1916 (1921). In his book Spindler credits his ability to ply the inspecting British officers with scotch whiskey as a reason the Aud passed several inspections without being discovered. You can read more about the Easter Rising in Max Caulfield’s Book, The Easter Rebellion, Dublin, 1916 (1963).

*J. Michael Finn is the Ohio State Historian for the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Division Historian for the Patrick Pearse Division in Columbus, Ohio. He is also Chairman of the Catholic Record Society for the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio. He writes on Irish and Irish-American history; Ohio history and Ohio Catholic history. You may contact him at FCoolavin@aol.com.

“At Each End of the Rifle”, men at war with their brother

I am currently booking festivals and performances for “At Each End of the Rifle”, a 40 minute spoken word presentation of song, story and verse, highlighting the similarities between men on opposite sides of war with their brothers. Coming to a festival and cultural hall near you (if you invite me).

Cleveland, DublinOhio, Pittsburgh and Pen-Mar Irish Festivals are already booked. You can reach me here at john@songsandstories.net or my website www.songsandstories.net.

Thank you,