Poem of the Day: Teeter – Totter

Teeter-Totter
bu John O’Brien, Jr.

Born in the Burren,
joy, laughter, song and story.
A rich heritage steeped in lore:
hedge schools and seanchie,
centuries old, rediscovered, relived, passed on.
Then,
stone tables barren
resounding echoes of barren acts of the stranger.
Burying, endless burying
children, hunger, hatred, hope
before finally
being waked in the shadow of a ship.

Up the plank
off to America,
down the plank
and into the Civil War.
Trading the aching silence of famine
for the cannon roar and cacophony of freedom
Fair trade?

The want of spuds,
or the want of bullets?
Mainly just the want of a chance to live.
Hundred thousands Union,
ten thousands Confederate.
Different beliefs.
Yet the song and the sorrow,
the laughter and the lacerations
are the same,
no matter the race, no matter the language
and they burst forth with equal finality.
Wait! I have but yet begun to live.

“Follow me where I go, what I do and who I know;

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Poem of the Day: Window in a Memoir

A Window in a Memoir
by John O’Brien, Jr.

Time stops for no man, woman or child
But the stories in “My Grandfather’s Emigrant Eyes”
or
“The Old Man”
slip away when they do.
Of lives lived, things that were that are no more
First fading in memories,
then just fading

History that I want to raise from the dead,
before they are dead.
History from before I ever lived.
For, when I am gone,
and they are gone,
the history will be gone too.
Too precious to lose without remembering, recording, preserving,
to be studied,
understood – history whose presence shaped
and reshaped,
to make the people and the land
what they are today.

Old practices, old beliefs,
rushed past by the trickling, falling sand
And were forgotten, almost.
I do not forget.
I know what I do not know
and seek to know it.
Not only for myself, but for my children,
and theirs.
Preservation of the memories
keep alive what has passed away.
I was raised on songs and stories,
a stored up library
given for others to borrow,
read, see,
relive and mostly,
as a window within a memoir –
to understand.

“Follow me where I go, what I do and who I know;
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Ohio Irish American News: Out & About Ohio December Events

Brooklyn – Hooley House!
1st – Cocktail Johnny, 7th – My Manic Episode, 14th – Samantha Fitzpatrick, 21st – School Girl Crush, 29th – UFC 155, 31st – NY Eve Hooley w/ Brigid’s Cross. 10310 Cascade Crossing, Brooklyn 216-362-7700. 1FunPub.com
The Harp
1st – the porter sharks, 5th -lonesome stars, 7th – the first friday irish session, 8th – james wailani, 12th – chris and tom, 14th – g.s. harper, 15th – fior gael, 19th -lonesome stars, 21st – kristine Jackson, 22nd – the porter sharks, 26th – chris and tom, 28th – chris allen. 4408 Detroit Road, 44113 www.the-harp.com


Stone Mad
2nd – Traditional Irish Session, 9th – Whiskey Lock, 16th – Thor Platter and Chris Hanna, 17th – Annual Chestnuts Roasting on Open Fire Holiday Party w Ohio City Singers 23rd – Walking Cane, 30th – Chris Allen, 31st – Annual New Year’s Eve Party. Live music entertainment every Sunday. Traditional Irish Session 1st Sunday of ea/month, Happy Hour Monday-Friday 4 to 7. 1306 West 65th Street Cleveland 44102 216-281-6500

Donal O’Shaugnessy: 21st – @Flat Iron, 22nd – @Sullys

Flat Iron Café
7th – Jimmy-O, 14th – Becky Boyd & Claudia Schieve, 21st – Donal O’Shaughnessy, 28th – Rob Duskey & Hard-Pac. Cleveland 44113-2406 216. 696.6968. www.flatironcafe.com
Treehouse
2nd – G.S. Harper, 9th – Chris Allen, 16th – Annual Christmas Party Ohio City Singers, 30th – Thor Platter, Jeff Sherman & Chris Hanna. 820 College Avenue, Cleveland, 44113 www.treehousecleveland.com
PJ McIntyre’s
1st – Barleycorn, 5th – Monthly Pub Quiz- hosted by Mike D, 6th – Kelly Wright & Friends, 7th – Sumrada, 8th – Charlie in the Box, 14th – OHIO CITY SINGERS 7-9 Family X-MAS show then Time Warp @ 10:30, 15th – Kreellers, 20th – Craic Brothers, 21st – Marys Lane, 22nd – Velvetshake, 23rd – PJS 5th Annual Customer Appreciation X-Mas Party, 27th – PITCH THE PEAT, 28th – Crazy Chester Band, 29th – POUT, 31st – NYE – T.B.A. 17119 Lorain Avenue, 44111 www.pjmcintyres.com
West Park Station
Wednesday -Station Karaoke Challenge! Thursday – Ladies Night w/ DJ Destro! Sunday – Magic Man Paul Gallagher from 6-8pm and Every Sunday MINUTE TO WIN IT 9pm 17015 Lorain Avenue Cleveland 44111 www.westparkstation.com. (216) 476-2000.
Flannery’s Pub
323 East Prospect, Cleveland 44115 216.781.7782 www.flannerys.com

***

Avon Lake
Ahern Banquet Center
Ahern Banquet Center is booking weddings and special events. Call Tony Ahern / Lucy Balser @ 440-933-9500. 726 Avon Belden Rd, Avon Lake 44012. www.aherncatering.com
Irish Heritage Club
Pot Luck Mondays / Taco Tuesdays / Friday Happy Hour. 726 Avon Belden Rd. (440) 933-3413.

Euclid
Irish American Club East Side
PUB: 7:30 – 10:30. 2nd – Mossy Moran, 7th – Craic Brothers, 8th – No Strangers Here, 14th – Donegal Doggs, 16th – Cahal Dunne Christmas Dinner Concert, 21st – Emerald Heart, 22nd – The Terriers, 28th – Loch Erie, 31st – NYE in the PUB. IACES 22770 Lake Shore Blvd. Euclid, 44123. 216.731.4003 www.irishamericanclubeastside.org
Paddy’s Pour House
922 East 222nd Street, Euclid, 44123
216.289.2569

Findlay
Logan’s Irish Pub
1st – Lone Raven, 15th – Drowsy Lads, 22nd – Highland Reign. 2414 South Main Street, Findlay 45840 419.420.3602 www.logansirishpubfindlay.com
Lakewood
Beck Center for the Arts
17801 Detroit Avenue Lakewood 44107 (216) 521-2540 www.beckcenter.org

Medina – Sully’s
1st – Marys Lane, 7th – Westside Steve, 8th – The New Barleycorn, 14th – Craic Brothers, 15th – Mossy Moran, 21st – Callahan & O’Connor, 22nd – Donal O’Shaughnessy, 28th – DJ, 29th – Pompous Ass, 31st – Music Men New Years Party – No Cover, Dinner Specials, Champaign Toast at Midnight. 117 West Liberty Medina, 44256 www.sullysmedina.com

Mentor
Hooley House
1st – Pat Dailey – 8:30 Ticket only Event. All starts @9:30: 7th – Chasing Kelly, 15th – BE Mann, 21st – Jeff Soukup Band, 22nd – Abbey Rodeo, 28th – Big in Japan, 29th – UFC 155, 31st – NY Eve Hooley. Every Tuesday – Open Mic w Nick Zuber, Every Wednesday – Trivia Night. 7861 Reynolds Rd Mentor www.1funpub.com (440) 942-6611.

Olmsted Twp
West Side Irish American Club
5th – Tony Kenny Christmas in Ireland Prime Rib Dinner & Concert, 9th – Annual Kids Christmas Party, 31st – New Year’s Eve w/ DJ Irish Mike 5-10. Great live music in the pub every Friday: 7th – Curbside Country, 14th – Bald Paul & Irish Blues Band, 21st – Pub Quiz, 28th – Emerald Hearts. WSIA Club 8559 Jennings Rd. 44138 www.wsia-club.org. 440-235-5868.

Willoughby
Mullarkey’s
7th – Mossy Moran, 8th – One More Pint, 14th – Eric Butler, 15th – Dan McCoy, 21st – Mossy Moran, 22nd – Donegal Doggs, 28th – Brendan Burt. Karaoke Wednesdays. Thursday Ladies Night w/ D.J. 4110 Erie Street www.mullarkeys.com
Croagh Patrick’s
4857 Robinhood Drive Willoughby, 44094 (440) 946-8250. www.croaghpatrickspub.webs.com

Columbus
Shamrock Club Events
1st – Halfway Home, 2nd – General Mtg 2pm; 8th – DOE Kid’s Christmas Party 12pm, 15th – Markley Christmas Concert 7pm. 21st – Kirby Session. Happy Hour Friday from 5-7pm! 60 W. Castle Rd. Columbus 43207 614-491-4449 www.shamrockclubofcolumbus.com


Peninsula – Happy Days Lodge
12th – Cherish the Ladies Celtic Christmas. 7:30 pm. 500 West Streetsboro Road (SR 303), Peninsula 44264.

Ongoing Traditional Irish Sessiúns – Bring your instruments and play along!
Akron Hibernian’s Ceili Band Sessions, Wednesdays 7:30 pm. Mark Heffernan Div 2 Hall 2000 Brown St, Akron 330-724-2083. Beginner to intermediate
Croagh Patrick’s – 2nd Tuesday of every month 8 – 10pm
Bardic Circle @The Shamrock Club of Columbus Beginner – friendly, intermediate level Irish session meeting every other Thursdays 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Wooster Street Center, 1124 E. Wooster St., Bowling Green 2nd & 4th Monday, 7:00 – 8:00
Stone Mad – 1st Sunday of the month Holleran Traditional Irish Session, 7pm
The Harp – 1st Friday of every month, 9pm
Logan’s Irish Pub – 3rd Wednesday of the month, 7:30 pm
Oberlin’s Traditional Irish Session – Sundays, 3 – 5 pm. Informal all experience welcome: www.oberlin.net/~irishsession Bibbins Hall, 77 West College Street, Oberlin 44074

“Follow me where I go, what I do and who I know;

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Sites I love:  www.ianohio.com www.clevelandirish.org

December Issue of the Ohio Irish American News has arrived

‘Tis the last rose of summer left blooming alone
All her lovely companions are faded and gone
No flower of her kindred, no rosebud is nigh
To reflect back her blushes and give sigh for sigh

As I sang The Last Rose of Summer, a near record high warm spell of 73º, with predictions of 46º tomorrow. I know it’s the last gasp of an Indian summer.

With Thanksgiving coming quickly and Christmas right after, I have mixed feelings of thanks for all the blessings, and thank God THIS year is ending. We put our 6th year behind us with introspection and celebration.

Cleveland took a mighty, historic hit from Hurricane Sandy, but there is always someone worse off. Our friends on the East Coast were hit harder, so I am praying for them, and thankful we survived both Hurricane Sandy and the hurricane of our economy that is slowly ebbing. SO many similes as we reach out to new advertisers. And new ways to make the OhIAN bigger, better and of more benefit to our community hit hard, but refusing to be hit fatally. Please let us know what you would like to see in the OhIAN, we welcome your feedback.

The word buckeye is derived from the name given by Ohio American Indians to Colonel Ebenezer Sproat, the first sheriff in Ohio – the Indians thought he had the eye of the buck as he marched to bring law and order to the Ohio Territories, around 1788. The first sheriff officially took office in Cuyahoga County in 1810.

This issue is our 72nd, six full years of great blessings and great struggles. A new day, and new opportunities, new strategies for a better tomorrow. We have been so blessed by so much vocal support for the OhIAN, and have seen the economy and business reinvesting in growing.

How do we turn the vocal support to active support? With your help, let business owners know they should advertise in the OhIAN, and send them our way; we can do so much more, we just need you.

In the 2012 election season, this battleground of Ohio was more important, more historic, more crystallizing than ever. Over $1 billion was spent. While I appreciate how the advertising dollars were a boon to businesses here in Ohio, I imagine if we only took a third of it, we could give $1 million dollars to every man, woman and child in the United States! I mean that literally.

Wouldn’t that feed both the child AND the economy? Imagine a surcharge on every ad of a third, donated to the very issues the candidates are talking (truly, or not) about? I doubt they would spend less, but I bet they would build a better nation.

Folks would be fed, organizations funded, issues truly have impact rather than just message. The Fund for America would reform politics far beyond theory right down to the man on the street so many political leaders talk about, but rarely reach.

Enough of the melancholy. I have resolved to be more joyful and the joy found in these pages, from times past and events present throughout this month offer great hope to live, laugh and love throughout this great state.

Nollaig Shona Duit (Merry Christmas) to all,

John

“Follow me where I go, what I do and who I know;
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Sites I love: www.ianohio.com www.clevelandirish.org

The Folded Napkin … A Truckers Story

The Folded Napkin … A Truckers Story

I try not to be biased, but I had my doubts about hiring Stevie. His placement counselor assured me that he would be a good, reliable busboy. But I had never had a mentally handicapped employee and wasn’t sure I wanted one. I wasn’t sure how my customers would react to Stevie. He was short, a little dumpy with the smooth facial features and thick-tongued sp
eech of Downs Syndrome.

I wasn’t worried about most of my trucker customers because truckers don’t generally care who buses tables as long as the meatloaf platter is good and the pies are homemade. The four-wheeler drivers were the ones who concerned me; the mouthy college kids traveling to school; the yuppie snobs who secretly polish their silverware with their napkins for fear of catching some dreaded “truck stop germ” the pairs of white-shirted business men on expense accounts who think every truck stop waitress wants to be flirted with. I knew those people would be uncomfortable around Stevie so I closely watched him for the first few weeks.

I shouldn’t have worried. After the first week, Stevie had my staff wrapped around his stubby little finger, and within a month my truck regulars had adopted him as their official truck stop mascot. After that, I really didn’t care what the rest of the customers thought of him. He was like a 21-year-old in blue jeans and Nikes, eager to laugh and eager to please, but fierce in his attention to his duties. Every salt and pepper shaker was exactly in its place, not a bread crumb or coffee spill was visible when Stevie got done with the table.

Our only problem was persuading him to wait to clean a table until after the customers were finished. He would hover in the background, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, scanning the dining room until a table was empty. Then he would scurry to the empty table and carefully bus dishes and glasses onto cart and meticulously wipe the table up with a practiced flourish of his rag. If he thought a customer was watching, his brow would pucker with added concentration. He took pride in doing his job exactly right, and you had to love how hard he tried to please each and every person he met.

Over time, we learned that he lived with his mother, a widow who was disabled after repeated surgeries for cancer. They lived on their Social Security benefits in public housing two miles from the truck stop. Their social worker, who stopped to check on him every so often, admitted they had fallen between the cracks. Money was tight, and what I paid him was probably the difference between them being able to live together and Stevie being sent to a group home. That’s why the restaurant was a gloomy place that morning last August, the first morning in three years that Stevie missed work.

He was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester getting a new valve or something put in his heart. His social worker said that people with Downs Syndrome often have heart problems at an early age so this wasn’t unexpected, and there was a good chance he would come through the surgery in good shape and be back at work in a few months.

A ripple of excitement ran through the staff later that morning when word came that he was out of surgery, in recovery, and doing fine. Frannie, the head waitress, let out a war hoop and did a little dance in the aisle when she heard the good news. Bell Ringer, one of our regular trucker customers, stared at the sight of this 50-year-old grandmother of four doing a victory shimmy beside his table. Frannie blushed, smoothed her apron and shot Belle Ringer a withering look.

He grinned. “OK, Frannie, what was that all about?” he asked.

“We just got word that Stevie is out of surgery and going to be okay.”

“I was wondering where he was. I had a new joke to tell him. What was the surgery about?”

Frannie quickly told Bell Ringer and the other two drivers sitting at his booth about Stevie’s surgery, then sighed: “Yeah, I’m glad he is going to be OK,” she said. “But I don’t know how he and his Mom are going to handle all the bills. From what I hear, they’re barely getting by as it is.” Belle Ringer nodded thoughtfully, and Frannie hurried off to wait on the rest of her tables.

Since I hadn’t had time to round up a busboy to replace Stevie and really didn’t want to replace him, the girls were busing their own tables that day until we decided what to do. After the morning rush, Frannie walked into my office. She had a couple of paper napkins in her hand and a funny look on her face.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“I didn’t get that table where Bell Ringer and his friends were sitting cleared off after they left, and Pony Pete and Tony Tipper were sitting there when I got back to clean it off,” she said. “This was folded and tucked under a coffee cup.”

She handed the napkin to me, and three $20 bills fell onto my desk when I opened it. On the outside, in big, bold letters, was printed “Something For Stevie.

Pony Pete asked me what that was all about,” she said, “so I told him about Stevie and his Mom and everything, and Pete looked at Tony and Tony looked at Pete, and they ended up giving me this.” She handed me another paper napkin that had “Something For Stevie” scrawled on its outside. Two $50 bills were tucked within its folds.

Frannie looked at me with wet, shiny eyes, shook her head and said simply: “truckers.”

That was three months ago. Today is Thanksgiving, the first day Stevie is supposed to be back to work. His placement worker said he’s been counting the days until the doctor said he could work, and it didn’t matter at all that it was a holiday. He called 10 times in the past week, making sure we knew he was coming, fearful that we had forgotten him or that his job was in jeopardy.

I arranged to have his mother bring him to work. I then met them in the parking lot and invited them both to celebrate his day back. Stevie was thinner and paler, but couldn’t stop grinning as he pushed through the doors and headed for the back room where his apron and busing cart were waiting.

“Hold up there, Stevie, not so fast,” I said. I took him and his mother by their arms. “Work can wait for a minute. To celebrate you coming back, breakfast for you and your mother is on me!”

I led them toward a large corner booth at the rear of the room. I could feel and hear the rest of the staff following behind as we marched through the dining room. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw booth after booth of grinning truckers empty and join the procession. We stopped in front of the big table. Its surface was covered with coffee cups, saucers and dinner plates, all sitting slightly crooked on dozens of folded paper napkins.

“First thing you have to do, Stevie, is clean up this mess,” I said. I tried to sound stern. Stevie looked at me, and then at his mother, then pulled out one of the napkins. It had “Something for Stevie” printed on the outside. As he picked it up, two $10 bills fell onto the table.

Stevie stared at the money, then at all the napkins peeking from beneath the tableware, each with his name printed or scrawled on it. I turned to his mother.

“There’s more than $10,000 in cash and checks on table, all from truckers and trucking companies that heard about your problems. “Happy Thanksgiving,”

Well, it got real noisy about that time, with everybody hollering and shouting, and there were a few tears, as well. But you know what’s funny? While everybody else was busy shaking hands and hugging each other, Stevie, with a big, big smile on his face, was busy clearing all the cups and dishes from the table. Best worker I ever hired.

Plant a seed and watch it grow.

Ohio Irish American News, December Issue Tomorrow

December Issue of the Ohio Irish American News Out Thursday: Stories on Ben Franklin & Ireland, The Kerry Christmas Carol, A Tale for Christmas, Christmas Chutney, Santa’s Little Helpers, If We Lose the Irish, Irish Melodies, On This Day in Irish History, Out & About Ohio and more. Pick up your copy at over 240 locations in and around Ohio. Cover Photo by Marilyn Bellamy

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone. We have much to be thankful for in as we approach our 6th Anniversary next month, and of having the privilege being able to share the culture we love with our friends. God Bless America, God Bless Ireland, God Bless you.

Ohio Irish American News: A Story from This Month’s Issue: Owens Sports: Sunday Bloody Sunday

Owens Sports
by Mark Owens

Gaelic Games History – Bloody Sunday at Croke Park
Over the past few months a lot has been written regarding 2013 North American Gaelic Games Championships that will be held in the Cleveland area over Labor Day weekend. I thought that over the next few months I might take the opportunity to throw in the odd history lesson on the Games.

This being the November edition of the Ohio Irish American News, what better story to kick this off with than the significant events of Bloody Sunday that occurred at the headquarters of the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) on Sunday November 21st, 1920. On this day, the Dublin football team was scheduled to play Tipperary, with proceeds of the game being donated to the Irish Republican Prisoners Fund.

The Lead Up
On the night before the match the infamous Michael Collins sent his ‘Squad’ out to assassinate what was known as the ‘Cairo Gang’, a team of undercover British agents known to have been working and living in Dublin. A series of shootings took place throughout the night which left fourteen members of the British Forces dead.

In response to this, ‘The Crown Forces’, led by the Auxiliaries (and supported by the ‘Black and Tans’) were called into action in Dublin on the morning of the match, with orders to go to Croke Park and search the crowd for known IRA men, gunmen and weapons. Throw-in for the match was scheduled for 2.45p.m. but when three IRA men, Sean Russell, Tom Kilcoyne and Harry Colley, were informed by their contacts of the planned search of Croke Park, they came to Croke Park and pleaded with Luke O’Toole, General Secretary of the GAA, to cancel the match, to no success.

The atmosphere around Dublin and in the stadium in general was said to be very tense, with a lot of uncertainty following the previous nights ‘activities’ and shootings. The fear of revenge must have been prominent in people’s minds as was common during that time of the struggle. O’Toole came to the conclusion that any announcement to cancel the match and evacuate the stadium would only lead to mass panic, and that a crush could develop at the turnstiles.

The Game
Mick Sammon, the Kildare referee, threw in the ball at 3.15p.m. Eye-witnesses suggest that five minutes after the throw-in, the stadium was raided by the British forces, with the shooting breaking out almost immediately. The British had entered the stadium at the Canal End. When the shooting began, the crowd surged away from that end of the stadium, hoping to make it over the wall at the railway end of the stadium. Ultimately, fourteen people lost their lives as a result of the shooting in Croke Park that day.

Included in the dead were Michael Hogan, a player on the Tipperary Team (whom the Hogan Stand was later named after in 1924); Thomas Ryan, shot on his knees whispering an act of contrition to Hogan; Jane Boyle, due to be married five days later, and fourteen year old William Scott, so badly mutilated that it was at first thought he had been bayoneted to death.

Enquiry
Two military enquiries were established into the shootings and the findings of these enquiries, made public in 2003, are the main primary source for the events of that day. The findings of the enquiry and the statements released by Dublin Castle often contradict one another.

In a series of ‘official statements‘, the British Authorities offered three possible scenarios for the bloodshed; the raiding party returned fire at IRA pickets placed outside the stadium; the raiding party came under fire in the stadium itself; upon the raiding party’s arrival, three warning shots were fired by an IRA man in the crowd, and this caused the impending stampede. In all Dublin Castle scenarios however, one thing is constant, the British claim they had come under fire first.

There are obvious doubts and inconsistencies in the ‘official’ version of events that day. One centers around the claim made by Dublin Castle that thirty revolvers had been found in the stadium. This caused particular annoyance amongst the public and the media who begged the question; if thirty such revolvers were actually found and recovered by the British, then why were they not presented to the enquiry and why was no-one arrested when found with a gun? The purported aim of the raid was, after all, to search for guns and gunmen.

The events of the day had a profound impact on the people of Ireland; it seemed as if the British authorities had deliberately chosen an easy target; a stadium full of innocent people to exact revenge for a military loss suffered the night before. From all reports, Bloody Sunday shocked the British public too. While it is too simple to say that it helped end the War of Independence, it must certainly be considered a key factor.

Further Information
If you are interested in learning more about these events and others related, there are numerous websites that offer different versions, perspectives and evidence. One that I have often gone to for resources is www.historyireland.com. It is a free site that requires a sign up through email, which then allows you access to various articles and archives. It’s definitely a site where you could go looking for one item and end up spending hours looking at multiple ones.

Trivia
First last month’s question: Giovanni Trapattoni is the current manager of the Irish national football team, but who did he replace to take the job in the first place? The answer is Steve Staunton. The Drogheda born former Liverpool player managed the team from 2006-2007, he was a shock appointment from day one, in the eyes of many Irish football fans, given his complete lack of managerial experience.

This month’s question: In the above article I mentioned that the Hogan Stand at Croke Park was named posthumously after Michael Hogan, the Tipperary played killed on Bloody Sunday. Who is the Cusack stand named after?

*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. Mark is the Chairman of the 2013 North American Gaelic Games Finals to be held in Cleveland. 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: The Jackie Clarke Collection, Balina, Co. Mayo

THE JACKIE CLARKE COLLECTION, BALLINA, CO MAYO
By Niamh O’Sullivan

Imagine having learned the history of your country not by reading textbooks, or sitting in stuffy lecture halls – but by touching, reading and studying those objects held and loved by people who were actually there, in those heady, threatening times. That has been the privilege I enjoyed and quite took for granted, until I left my position in the museum in Kilmainham Prison in July, 2006.

I got to hold a tiny gold seal inscribed with the words Alas My Country, designed and owned by Robert Emmet, briefly on view in Kilmainham’s bicentenary exhibition of his 1803 execution; I leafed through a tiny prayer book signed in Famine times by leading members of Young Ireland whilst they awaited transportation in Richmond Prison in 1849; I held in my hands the crucifix upon which Patrick Pearse carved his initials, waiting in his darkened cell to be put to death in May 1916, and I read original diaries of young women incarcerated in Kilmainham during our savage Civil War.

Jackie Clarke (1927-2000), an extraordinary Mayo man from Ballina, must have had an even more heightened sense of this first-hand practical history learning, as he went about determinedly building up a personal collection all his own, consisting of items he found of interest throughout his life time.

I am now delighted to find myself working on the breath-taking new Jackie Clarke Collection, located in Pearse Street, Ballina. Under the guidance of Director Sinead McCoole and her colleagues in Mayo County Council, this stunning collection is scheduled to open to the public at the end of this year.

Jackie Clarke began to accumulate material relating to his beloved Ballina in particular, and Irish political history in general, as a youngster around twelve whilst still attending school in the 1940’s. He possessed an instinctive and wholly astute sense of the innate worth of the many thousands of items he amassed over the years right up until his death in 2000; which range from an original newspaper of the 1600’s, to posters and other material relating to the hunger strikes of the 1980’s and beyond.

Any time I ever found myself wondering: did Jackie ever manage to get hold of…? the answer was a resounding, yes – he did. Jackie’s collection has been gifted to his much-loved home town and county by his widow, Anne Clarke, on condition that the material remains in Ballina.

The Archives in Kilmainham came about through the donations of many people over the years from 1960 onwards. What I still find slightly overwhelming is the fact that everything in the vast Jackie Clarke Collection – every book, document, pamphlet, object, everything –was gathered, sought after and acquired by just Jackie himself, with his fine-tuned eye and devotion to Mayo and his country at large.

Centrepiece to the Collection is an original 1916 Proclamation, and they also have the only 1917 Cumann na mBan Proclamation I have ever seen. The actual newspaper section alone could engage you for years: there are copies of the original Northern Star, edited and owned by Samuel Neilson in the 1790’s. Samuel Neilson was awarded the honour of becoming the very first political prisoner in Kilmainham in September 1796 thanks to that very newspaper.

Jackie collected a number of issues of Young Ireland’s The Nation, published during the Famine. There are bound copies of the three and a half month run of John Mitchel’s paper, United Irishman, the first issue of which appeared in February 1848. This paper ceased after the arrest of Mitchel, the first man tried under the Treason Felony Act of 22 April 1848. (A copy of that Act is bound together with the papers themselves) Mitchel’s legendary sacred wrath can be glimpsed here; all the copies I read contain contemporary reports of the Famine throughout the country.

There are also bound copies of The Irish People, a newspaper that caused O’Donovan Rossa and Charles Kickham, among others, to be locked up in Kilmainham, awaiting trial for treason-felony. During his trial, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa claimed he had a right to read through all publications, including those in The Irish People, which had been used in evidence against him. It took him a little over eight hours.

A red, white and blue cockade, separated now from the French uniform hat belonging to Theobald Wolfe Tone, is one of the most prized items in the Collection. This small object, which fits neatly into the palm of your hand, should have secured its famous wearer a prisoner of war status, or at the very least death by firing squad, instead of the ignoble death by hanging, which he refused to tolerate.

The Collection includes an autograph book signed in London just prior to the 6 December 1921 Treaty. Here are the signatures of over one hundred men and women, connected to the deputation taking part in the proceedings, still together, still filled with hope for Ireland – just before the end of innocence. The final page of this same autograph book is one of the most distressing ever witnesses to Irish history: somebody present at that 7 January 1922 voting session back in Dáil Éireann has recorded in miserable, aching, tiny blue-ink dashes the votes offered for each side, amounting to the close 64 – 57 result in favour of the Treaty. But even more harrowing, in a terrible prophecy of what is yet to come, written at the very edge of that last page, in the same recriminating blue ink can be seen: The last moment of the betrayal of the Irish people.

One item which gave rise to debate is, we think, a print. An original letter, turned into a handbill by the Anti-Treaty side as propaganda in the Civil War. The letter appears genuine, even if the propaganda version is only a print. It was written on 1 February 1923 in the Quartermaster’s Office of the Military Barracks, Dundalk, to the Quartermaster, Dublin Command, Collins Barracks. It states: I enclose herewith Accounts for whiskey which was purchased … and supplied to the Firing Squads who carried out the executions here. (On 22 January 1923 James Melia, Thomas Lennon, and Joseph Ferguson of the Anti-Treaty side were executed by the Free State Army in Dundalk)

I do not think I will ever be able to talk about this item, I can barely even write about it. What happened to the hopes and dreams of all those who joyously signed the first half of the above-mentioned velvet-covered autograph book? And what are we doing, even today, to try to bind up these terrible wounds? I would highly recommend to all of the many of you Ohioans, whose families originally hail from County Mayo, a visit to the Jackie Clarke Collection in Ballina, Ireland.

Photos courtesy of Tara O’Reilly, The Jackie Clarke Collection

 

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