THE JACKEEN AND THE ACTRESS (a dream)

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

The festivities were being held in a small country town, probably in a hotel hired for the event – I’m not sure. I don’t even know what they were celebrating – their GAA team’s win? But that would be weird too, because I knew they weren’t from this town or county – I could tell that from the indulgent smiles of the locals passing in the street. Yes, at one point some of the gathering were in the street – I can’t remember why.

I was peripheral to the gathering – maybe a relative by marriage, someone’s partner (though I don’t remember being with anyone) or perhaps a visitor. But I was tolerepted – that’s more than tolerated but not the same as fully accepted. When the gathering turned to calling for singers and songs and I was prevailed upon to sing (which to be honest, didn’t take much prevailing), I could almost read the thought in the air afterwards: “That Jackeen can sing, all right.” And I was asked to sing again, which of course I did — maybe more than once.

I am pretty sure I wasn’t with anyone and I remember focusing at some point on a dark-haired woman whose eyes might’ve been blue, anywhere between thirty and fifty years of age, depending on genes and life-style and health but more likely the lower age of the range – and it definitely wasn’t makeup, of which she was wearing little.

We kind of clicked and were getting on well – she seemed intelligent and there was something definitely sexy about her but understated, like a strong current running underground. We became an item for a short while, obvious to people there but I don’t remember any intimate details – only a definite intimacy.

Then the scene somehow shifted and she got excited about the offer of a part in some production in the big city. I was glad for her, although it meant I was going to see less of her.

When I saw her next, it was in the big city, she and her male counterpart were still wearing the eye-masks and head-pieces from their performances, although in a public place, which was a little weird. They were laughing a lot … she was buzzing – they both were – and turned towards one another, me little more than an observer, though sitting at the same table.

For the next scene we were back at the gathering, which seemed to have moved on but little, and some of the women were tearing into her, verbally but at one point also physically; I’m not sure what about but part of it could have been about how she had treated me. I remember she got some clothes torn off her and marched past me (I had just arrived in the hotel lobby — or was it a big mansion now? — and caught the end of the altercation) ….. Yes, marched past me, tears taking a line of mascara down her face, wearing some kind of pink leotard with strips of outer clothing hanging off her …. Some of the women were jeering: “Look at her go, the great actress!”

Minutes later she stomped back past me again, her eyes flaring, head up and jaw jutting forward, heading back towards the women. “I’ll show them! I’ll show them!”

I watched her stomp past in that ridiculous pink leotard and fluttering strips of clothing and – you know what? Despite everything – I was mentally cheering her.

 

end

VARIATIONS ON A NAME

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Gaelic football team Sheares Brothers has been doing very well for a change. A reporter from the Irish Times is about to conclude his interview of the club’s Bainisteoir).

gaa-empty-field-changing-rooms
(Photo sourced: Internet)

Your club’s local nickname is “the Pats”, I’m told.

Yes, I’ve heard that too.

Is it true – what I’ve been told – that all your players, in your entire team, are called Patrick?

Well, now, many are named Patrick, right enough, but they are not all called Patrick.

[Reporter jots down in his notebook: ‘named not called – wtf???’]    Does that not cause problems, though, on the field? I mean, it must be difficult at times for your players to know to which of them the Captain is referring when he shouts out: “Patrick”.

[The interviewer smiles. He has shown the ridiculousness of this situation].   (Fucking unbelievable that this team got as far as its current position in the League! he thinks)

No, not all. Sure if the Captain called out “Patrick”, he’d be referring to himself! That would be a strange thing to do, for sure, to be talking to himself! Well, when with the team, anyway.

(This man is an idiot. An idiot managing a ridiculous team. Still, get the interview done, file the story. Then the pub ….)   Ok …. what if he wants to say, to indicate to a player, to pass the ball to the left midfielder? Would he just call the position – as in “Pass the ball to Left Midfield”?

Well, he might …. but he’d more likely say “Give Paudie the ball”. That’s Paudie’s usual position, you see.

Oh, right.

No, left.

(What a thicko!)     I meant “ok”. Your left Midfielder’s nickname is “Paudie”?

Well, it’s the name he goes by anyhow. Paudie Whelan.

So are all your players called a variation on Patrick?

Pretty much, yes.

Fifteen variations on Patrick?  And no repetitions?  That’s not possible, is it?

It seems to be.

OK, all right …. what about say, your Centre Forward?

Pa. Pa Walsh.

Hmm. Left Forward?

Packy Ó Braonáin.

Right Forward?

Emm …

(Got you now!)

Sorry, he’s just back from an injury. Patchy …. Patchy Stokes.

Left Half-Forward?

Patchik Mulhearn.

Centre Half-Forward?

Paddy plays that position – Paddy McGuinness.

Right Half-Forward?

Patch Hennessy.

(Has to run out of them soon).    Left Mid-Field?

You had his name already – Paudie Whelan.

(Smartass!)    Yes, of course. Right Mid-Field?

That’d be Pád Óg Trainor.

That’s P, a, u, d ……

No. P, á, d; Ó, g.

Right.

Right Half-Back?

No, I meant just “Right” , as in “OK’.

Right.

(Is he taking the piss?)    Well ….. where was I?

Midfield.

Yes …. thanks …. Right Half-Back?

I thought you said ….? Never mind …Paudeen Sullivan.

Centre Half-Back?

Pád …. Pád Carney.

P, a, u ….

No, P, á, d; C, a, r ….

I know how to spell Carney, thanks.

Oh, ok.

Left Half-Back?

That’s Patrick … our Captain. Patrick Burke.

Left Corner-Back?

Ah ….

(Have I got him?)

Ah, sorry ….

(Aha! At last!)

Pat Sheehan. His name slipped me mind there for a minute, sorry.

Oh …. Ah. Good. Full Back?

Páraic Ó Flaithearta. Will I spell it for you?

(Fucking smart-ass! I’ll get it from their website. Just let me run him out of Patrick variants first.)    No, it’s ok, I know my koopla fokol, gurra mah hugut.

Muise, tá fáilte romhat. Bail ó Dhia ort.

Well …. let’s carry on. Right Corner-Back?

Pádraig. Pádraig Lehane.

(Got you now!)  Pádraig. The same as the man next to him, the Full Back.

No, that’s Páraic. P, á, r, a, i, c.

Oh!  Ok, yes, I see. My mistake. Goalie?

Patsy O’Farrell.

Yes. Well, thanks. Yes …. I don’t suppose your substitutes are called Patrick?

No, neither is.

Oh, good.

Sorry?

Good … good story, thanks. I must be going ….

Don’t you want to know their names?

The subs?

Yes.

OK, yes I suppose. Yes, please.

PJ Hanley and Packer Dunne.

I …. see …. ‘PJ’ as in ….. Patrick Joseph?

Dead on!

Um … Well …. Thanks for your time. All the best for your next game in the League. I don’t suppose, heh, heh, your Junior team are all variants of Patrick too?

Ah, not at all! Of course not. Sure, that would be awful confusing. No, there’s Michael Fitzgerald, Mick Smith, Mickey Doyle, Mícheál Connors, Micilín Seoighe, Mikhail ….

End.

 

Appendix:

 

The Sheares Brothers GAA team.

Packy Ó Braonáin, Pa Walsh, Patchy Stokes.

Patchik Mulhearn, Paddy McGuinness, Patch Hennessy.

Paudie Whelan,                         Pád Óg Trainor.

Patrick Burke, Pád Carney, Paudeen Sullivan.

Pat Sheehan, Páraic Ó Flaithearta, Pádraig Lehane.

                       Patsy O’Farrell.

Subs: PJ Hanley, Packer Dunne

COLOURS OF STRUGGLE

Diarmuid Breatnach

Information picket (with table across the road) organized by Anti-Internment Group of Ireland in September 2014 at Thomas St./ Meath St. junction, Dublin. They returned there in December and in January supported a picket in Cork, handing out leaflets on the Craigavon Two injustice.
Information picket (with table across the road) organized by Anti-Internment Group of Ireland in September 2014 at Thomas St./ Meath St. junction, Dublin.
MEP maybe Kobane Rally London
Palestinian and Kurdish flags at a Kobane solidarity rally in Trafalgar Square, London in 2014. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The flag of the ICA, flown over Murphy's Imperial Hotel in 1916
The flag of the ICA, flown over Murphy’s Imperial Hotel in 1916

 

 

 

 

I’m no shade of green,

though neath such flags I’ve oft times been,

and ‘neath the Plough in Gold on Green,

and some years back

Also the black,

aye and the red-and-black;

or Palestinian red and black and white and green,

c-n-mb-irish-republic-tricolour-flags-crowd-gpo-copy
Cumann na mBan, “Irish Republic” and Tricolour flags displayed at Dublin’s GPO by Moore Street campaign supporters. (Phoro: D. Breatnach?)

Or the Basque crosses white and green upon red …..

In solidarity I have flown all those flags I’ve said

But when all’s said and done —

though hard to choose just one —

from my heart and from my head:

I choose the workers’ Red.

Sept 2016

 

A number of the Basque flag, the Ikurrina, flying in Dublin during a solidarity protest. (Photo: D.Breatnach)
A number of the Basque flag, the Ikurrina, flying in Dublin during a solidarity protest. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

 

Anarcho-Sindicalist and Anarchist black flags (Photo source: Internet)
Anarcho-Sindicalist and Anarchist black flags
(Photo source: Internet)
bagladeshi-women-men-red-flags-mayday
Bangladeshis on Mayday demonstration. (Photo source: Internet)

‘JUST FOUR HOUSES’ — A SCENE FROM THE EASTER 1916 RISING

Diarmuid Breatnach

Introduction (for those who might need it):

In the last days of the 1916 Easter Rising, with the GPO in flames, the garrison had to evacuate and did so through Henry Place.  When they came to Moore Street, it was being raked by machine-gun fire from a British Army barricade at the junction with Parnell Street.  Consequently, the garrison entered the first house in the terrace to the their right, No.10 and tunneled from house to house until they reached the end of the terrace, No.25.

A struggle is taking place currently to have the whole terrace saved and declared a national monument, a battlefield site in the context of the Historic Quarter.  In 2007, the State made only four houses a national monument, No.s 14 to 17 and at the very end of 2015, bought the four run-down houses from their speculator owner at a million Euro each.  The Government plans to make them into a commemorative centre, in the course of which they wish to demolish buildings 13, 18 and 19.  Speculators have planning permission for a giant shopping mall from O’Connell Street to Moore Street and from Parnell Street to Henry street, which envisages the demolition of the entire terrace except for No.s 14-17.

In reply to campaigners, Minister for Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, has stated that some of the buildings are of post-1916 construction and therefore are of no historic value.  In opinion pieces in the Irish Times, one week after the other, Frank McDonald and Diarmaid Ferriter wrote articles supporting the Government.

JUST FOUR HOUSES — a sketch for three actors

AT HENRY LANE/ MOORE STREET INTERSECTION

(Sounds of shells crashing, flames roaring, combustibles exploding, rifle fire, the chatter of machine-guns)

Irish Volunteer A: “Bloody hell, it was hot in the GPO!”

Irish Citizen Army Volunteer: “Hot as Hell. We were lucky to get out alive, with ammunition about to blow.”

Volunteer A: “We can’t stay here in this laneway in the open, though.”

ICA Volunteer: “No, let’s get under cover quick! Into that terrace there … Moore Street this is, right? Sixteen houses ….

Volunteer B: “No, we have to occupy just four houses in this street.”

Vol. A: “Only four? But there’s nearly 300 of us here!”

Vol. B: “I know. But orders …”

Vol. A: “Damnation! OK, best bash that door down, No. 10.”

Vol. B: “No, not that one.”

Vol. A: “Why not?”

Vol. B: “Only Numbers 14 to 17.”

ICA Vol: “But they’re in the middle of the terrace. We’d get shot to pieces by the British machine gun up at Parnell Street – and we have to carry Connolly’s stretcher so he’d get shot too!”

Vol. B: “Yeah, they’ve already shot up The O’Rahilly’s lads.”

Vol A: “Whose orders are these? Who says we should all pile in just four houses in the middle of the terrace?”

Vol. B: “Somebody called Humphreys …. and a Mac Donald …. and a man called Ferriter. Something about only those four houses being of historic significance.”

ICA man: “What? Bloody rubbish – look, go and ask Connolly what he thinks. He’s the Commandant of this garrison, not that lot, whoever they are.”

(A few minutes later)

Irish Volunteer B: “Well, what did Connolly say?”

Vol A: “His exact words? ‘Don’t be stupid lad – break down the door of No. 10 there and tunnel along the terrace, from house to house, aye, all the way to the end – No. 25, isn’t it?’ ”

ICA man: “That’s more like it – I knew we’d get some sense out of Jim – I mean, the Commandant.”

Vol A: “Thanks be to Jayzus for someone with sense in charge. Who the hell are that other lot and where did they come from, that Humphreys, MacDonald and Ferriter?”

Vol B: “I dunno. Give’s a hand with this door before we get shot out here, gabbing …”

(Sound of nearby hammering, wood splintering …)

MOORE STREET — A VISION (Part II)

MOORE STREET – A VISION

Part II

(Looking into the future, a couple of generations on)

 

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

THE GPO EVACUATION AND MOORE STREET LAST STAND

Our tour group gathered in the GPO for the Evacuation & Last Stand part of the tour; one can take this tour on its own or as part of longer tours. We said goodbye to Rónán, who handed us over to our Evacuation Guide, Pela.

Aerial view of Moore Street in the days when the speculators and supermarkets had only just begun to reduce it (Photo from Internet)
Aerial view of Moore Street in the days when the speculators and supermarkets had only just begun to reduce it (Photo from Internet)

Our tickets were checked and we were handed audio earphones, receivers and issued with our instructions – stay with the group, obey the instructions of the guide, etc.

Our group had about thirty people in it and ours had the only young children, although there were a few in their late teens.  About half or more looked like tourists and some asked for the foreign-language options of receivers.  There was one man in a wheelchair.

As instructed by the guide in a number of languages, we tested our receivers to find the volume settings appropriate for each individual. This took a bit longer for our two younger girls. Then our guide motioned for us to listen to our earphones … and the narration began. Gradually, we were pulled back across the decades until we were in that amazing Rising, taking place in what had once been considered the second city of the British Empire, rising up against that very same Empire, one of the largest the World had ever seen.

It was the fourth day of the Rising and many of the buildings in the city centre were ablaze. Through our earphones, against a backdrop of booming cannon and crashing shell, chattering machine guns, rifles’ crack and whining ricochet, we could hear the crackle of flames. Irish Volunteers’ voices reported that the glass in Clery’s building opposite had melted and was running across the street like water. The ledgers the Volunteers had placed in the GPO windows to protect against bullets were smouldering. Other voices added that despite fire-fighting efforts the roof was on fire and the roof lead melting. We could almost smell the smoke. Then finally, the order to evacuate given in an Edinburgh accent – James Connolly, the socialist commandant of the HQ of the Rising, the General Post Office.

In the hubbub of people getting ready to evacuate some voices stood out: Elizabeth O’Farrell, giving instructions about the moving of the injured James Connolly; calls to evacuate by the side door and caution about crossing Henry Street, with machine-gun sniper fire coming all the way down Talbot Street from the tower of the train station at Amiens Street.

A man’s voice in our earphones says “It’s lucky we have oul’ Nelson there to shield us some of the way!” and we hear a few people laugh.

Then, The O’Rahilly’s voice, calling for volunteers to charge the barricade at the top of Moore Street and a chorus of voices answering, clamouring to be chosen.

Now we are out in a group and crossing Henry Street. The man in the wheelchair, having politely declined offers to push his chair, is propelling his wheels strongly along with his leather-covered hands.  It is weird to see the pedestrian shoppers and sightseers of the Twenty-First Century as half our minds are back in the second decade of the Twentieth. Across this short stretch to Henry Place we went, the crack of rifles and chatter of machine guns louder now in our earphones. And explosions of shells and of combustibles. The garrison scurried across this gap carrying the wounded Connolly on a bed frame and Winifred Carney, carrying her typewriter and Webley pistol, interposed her body between Connolly and a possible bullet from the train station tower.

With the rest of our tour group, Sadhbh and I cross into into Henry Place, holding the kids’ hands, following the route of the evacuation. Immediately we stepped on the restored cobbles of the lane-way, the sounds of battle receded somewhat.

“No bullets can reach us here!” shouts a voice in our earphones.

“No, but bejaysus them artillery shells can!” replies another.

Other shouts a little ahead warn us that gunfire is being directed down what is now Moore Lane from a British barricade on the junction with Parnell Street.

The bullet-pocked "white house" in Henry Place, facing up Moore Lane
The bullet-pocked “white house” in Henry Place, facing up Moore Lane (Photo North Inner City Folklore Project)

A sudden shouted warning about a building ahead of us, to our left, facing Moore Lane.

“See the white house? The bastards are in there too,” shouts a strong Cork-accented voice, almost certainly the young Michael Collins. “Let’s root them out. Who’s with me?”

Another chorus of voices, a flurry of Mauser and Parabellum fire, then only the steady chatter of the machine gun up at the British barricade and the sound of bullets striking walls.

The Cork sing-song voice again. “I can’t believe it — The place was empty, like!”.

“Aye, it was so many bullet’s hoppin’ off the walls made us think the firing was coming from inside,” a voice says, in the accents of Ulster.

Then an unmistakably Dublin working class accent: “Would yez ever give us a hand with this!” followed by the creak and rattle of wheels on the cobblestones as the cart is dragged across the intersection. Now we can hear the machine gun bullets thudding into the cart. 

“Quick now, cross the gap!” comes the order and the dash across the gap begins. Nearly 300 men and women? Someone is bound to get hit and yes, they do and we hear that one of them died here.

British barricade at junction of Parnell Street and Moore Street, Easter week, 1916
British barricade on Bachelors Walk Easter week, 1916 and widely thought (including by me until shown otherwise by another history enthusiast) to have been at junction of Parnell Street and Moore Street (photo from Internet).  There were similar barricades at the junction with of Parnell Street with Moore Street and with what is now Moore Lane, fire from each from machine gun and rifles.

 

Across the gap, nowadays mercifully free of enemy fire but still feeling vulnerable, we follow Pela, our guide, to the corner with Moore Street. In character, she peers carefully around as we hear machine-gun and rifle here too, but Mausers and Parabellum as well as Lee-Enfields.

“Gor blimey!” exclaims a London accent, reminding us that some of the Volunteers had been brought up in England. “O’Rahilly’s lads are getting a pastin’. None of ’em made it as far as the barricade!”

An Irish voice: “Into these houses then – no other way! We have to get into cover to plan our next move.” This is followed by the sound of a door being hit and then splintering as they break into No.10, the first house on the famous 1916 Terrace.

“Careful now,” Elizabeth Farrell’s voice, followed by a groan of pain as Connolly is manoeuvred through the doorway.

Pela sends the man in the wheelchair up in the lift and leads us up the stairs. When the lift and the last of our group arrive we proceed across the restored upper floors from house to house, passing through holes in the walls, as the GPO Garrison did in 1916 – except that they had to break through the walls themselves, working in shifts. Through a few unshuttered windows, we can see the busy street market below us going about its business, apparently oblivious of our passage above them. But then, thousands of tour groups have gone through here over the decades. Through the double glazing one can just barely hear the street traders calling out their wares and prices.

We pass through those hallowed rooms, listening to ghosts. Here and there a hologram appears and speaks, echoes of the past. Dummies dressed in the uniforms of the Irish Citizen Army, the Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, Na Fianna and Hibernian Rifles are on display here and there. Imitation Mausers and Parabellums and Martinis, each one carefully made and to the same weight as the original, are there. They are security-chained but we know people are free to pick them up and feel the weight, as Rory does, to imagine carrying and firing one. But not to be flash-photographed, which is not permitted here. Replica Cumann na mBan medical kits are on display, open so one could inspect the replica contents.  The houses also have period furniture, fireplaces, beds …. chamber pots …. kitchens with utensils … bedrooms …..  There are dummies dressed too in civilian clothes of the time typical of that area — women, men, children (even the dog that the last Volunteer to leave Moore St. fed).

We see magnified historical newspaper headlines, photos, badges and medals.  A map of Dublin with fighting locations flashing on them, some of them going out as they fall, the dates appearing above them to show when that happened.

Snatches of poetry, of song come to us as we cross from room to room, from house to house. And for our eyes, the holograms of the Proclamation, the portraits of the executed 16 and many others who fought and died or who survived, flags, the Tricolour, the Irish Republic, the green-and-gold Starry Plough, waving in the wind above Clery’s ….

Half-way along the terrace we come to the discussion between the leaders, creatively reconstructed on the basis of some witness statements.  Pearse wishing to surrender to avoid further loss of civilian life, Clarke arguing, a sob in his voice, Connolly saying maybe they should wait for Sean McLoughlin to get back (he is out reconnoitering a breakthrough route) ….  Then the arguments with some of the other Volunteers, Mac Diarmada having to use all his powers of persuasion.  Oh, such emotion in such short discussions!  Then the decision, and Elizabeth O’Farrell volunteering to go with the white flag to open negotiations with the enemy …. even though a couple and their child have already died beneath a white flag in that street.

Shortly afterwards, the faces of the sixteen executed come into view, suspended in the air in front and a little above us.  We stand there while passages are read out from their trials, letters from their condemned cells, words to relatives ….  Then the dates appear above them and we hear the fusillades as by one their faces blink out, until finally only Casement remains, the image of the gallows and then he too is gone.  All is dark for a moment, then all sixteen faces appear again, over a background of the three flags of the Rising, to a swelling chorus of The Soldiers’ Song, in English and in Irish.

At the end of the Terrace, we descend again and here view the O’Rahilly monument plaque and in our earphones hear the words of his final letter to his wife read out – he wrote it as he lay dying from a number of bullet wounds. I found my eyes moistening again as they had several times during the tour and some of the others were visibly crying – including foreign tourists.

The O'Rahilly Plaque in O'Rahilly Parade, at the north end of the Moore Street 1916 Terrace. It bears the words and script of his dying letter to his wife. (Photo D.Breatnach)
The O’Rahilly Plaque in O’Rahilly Parade, at the north end of the Moore Street 1916 Terrace. It bears the words and script of his dying letter to his wife. (Photo D.Breatnach)

The end of our tour lay ahead, through the underground tunnel under Parnell Street to the Rotunda. Here the Volunteers had been publicly launched and recruited in 1913 and here, in 1916, the GPO/ Moore Street garrison had been kept prisoners without food and water for two days, while G-Men of the DMP came down to identify whomsoever they could from among the prisoners.

Now the recordings in our earphones ask us to listen to the guide for a moment as she collects our earphones and receivers. Having gathered the sets and put them away in her bag, Pela asks us all to give a moment’s thoughts to the men and women and children of the centenary year of the Rising, 2016, who had fought to preserve this monument for future generations. Pela tells us that her own grandmother had been one of the activists.

Incredible though it may now seem, the whole terrace except for four houses had been about to be demolished to make way for a shopping centre, which would also have swallowed up the street market. It had taken a determined campaign and occupations of buildings with people prepared to face imprisonment to protect it for our generation and others to come. The State of those years had little interest in history and much in facilitating speculators. She invited us to applaud the campaigners, which we did, enthusiastically. She then asked us to turn around and view the building we had left. There was a plaque on the wall there “Dedicated to the memory of the men, women, girls and boys of 2016 ……”  In bronze bas-relief, it depicts the 16 houses with activists on the scaffolding erected by those who intended demolition, with a chain of people of all ages holding hands around the site and in one corner, a campaign table surrounded by people apparently signing a petition.

Once through the underpass and inside the Rotunda, the tour officially over, we thanked our guide and made for the Republican Café. Sadhb and I found we couldn’t say much, as our minds were half back in 1916. Rory was quiet too but Eva and ‘Brigie’ seemed unaffected, brightly debating what to choose from the menu in the Rotunda café, or what souvenir they fancied from those on display.

The Rotunda in the past, before it became incorporated into the Moore St. Historical Quarter and the Parnell Square Cultural Quarter.
The Rotunda in the past, before it became incorporated into the Moore St. Historical Quarter and the Parnell Square Cultural Quarter. (Photo D.Breatnach)

There’s a Moore Street and Dublin Street Traders’ Museum and there are films one can see all day in the Rotunda, often too lectures, reenactments, plays …. We’d had enough for one day, however – we were full. It was truly an unforgettable experience and I knew that for Sadhbh too and probably for Rory, it was something that would remain forever alive in our memories. The girls? Years from now, who knows ….. but they had certainly not been bored, anyway.

End.

ALL OUR HISTORY — a short poem

Round Tower, Timahoe, Co. Laois
Round Tower, Timahoe, Co. Laois

Diarmuid Breatnach

ALL our history is important,

not just 1916,


teaching us what we are


and what we have been.


How we came to reach the now,


of those who fought

or those who bowed,


through bloody pages,

down through the ages;


it relives the struggle to be free


and whispers soft what we might yet be.

British Embassy Dublin petrol bombed 1972
British Embassy Dublin petrol bombed in rage at Bloody Sunday, Derry 1972
Some of the wonderful children's artistic impressions of the Rising on display at the launch
Some of the wonderful children’s artistic impressions of the Rising on display at the launch of “Our Rising”.

THE MAROON TIDE

Diarmuid Breatnach

On 6th September 2015, the Galway GAA team played the Kilkenny team in the Croke Park national stadium.  I wrote this at the time but never posted it for some reason then and came across it to my surprise today.

Parnell s
Fans making their way along Cavendish Row and along Parnell Street on their way to Croke Park. (Photo D.Breatnach)
Fans making their way along Cavendish Row and along Parnell Street on their way to Croke Park. (Photo D.Breatnach)
Fans making their way up  O’Connell Street and along Cavendish Row on their way to Croke Park. (Photo D.Breatnach)

 

 

THE MAROON TIDE

A maroon tide swept through the city,

in numbers alone they would overawe

the wasp-coloured Kilkenny few.

“It’s on the field we’ll win the fight,

although outnumbered in the stands”

was the response of the Cats

to the mass of Galway fans.

And give them their due,

the final score proved them right.

The maroon tide swept out again

to coach and train and car

or hotel and bar.

A Galway fan wiped away a tear

and told me they’d be back next year.

End.

THE GANG, THE BOSS AND THE MICE

Diarmuid Breatnach

Around 6am I awoke, still half in the script and trying to figure a way to win through. But not for long, as I was driven stumbling by the urea imperative – I had to go to the toilet. In the hallway I switched on the light, still thinking about the situation I had been in and, turning into what I thought was the open doorway, immediately stubbed my toe and nearly my nose on the door. After suitable curses, I stood in front of the enamel directing the hose while I thought about the damned situation.

I had debts. And there was a gang …. or gangs … and I was kind of in one of them and the big boss was putting the squeeze on me. Now, in my other life, the waking one, I’ve never really been in a gang, not even in my teens, although that’s not to say I didn’t have anything to do with them. I did – running from them, hiding from them, sometimes fighting and (of course) getting beaten up by them.

My social class set, the lower middle class, didn’t have gangs. The working class had them and curiously, the upper middle class had them too. The Geldoff types (he was from my home town). And since I didn’t usually have money to go to dances and discos, the dangerous times in my hometown were mostly daytime. The Geldoff types hung out in the Bamboo café across the road from Murray’s record shop, where us gangless lower middle class hung out. And the working class had no café or record shop, just their areas – the ‘Noggin, York Road ….

They weren’t anything like the legendary Ringsend or Dolphin’s Barn, but they were tough enough in my book. Ringsend lads came to the Top Hat Ballroom in my hometown once to settle a score and chased the locals all the way up to the ‘Noggin and the Farm, over a mile away. Local folklore had it that as they queued up in Ringsend earlier that evening to get into taxis for the foray, old dockers had handed each youth a docker’s hook.

There were times when walking down the main street in Dún Laoghaire had felt like something out of High Noon or some other western film, when the hero doesn’t want to go out in the street, he knows death is waiting there – but he has to. In his case, it was duty or some kind of fatalism sending him out there. In my case, it was fear of isolation. I didn’t want to end up cut off from my contemporaries – the boys and, yes, especially the girls. Where they hung out, I would have to go. Of course death wasn’t waiting for me, unless it were accidental …. only a beating.

Anyway, I deviate. Which doesn’t make me a deviant, by the way ….. Anyway, back to the script.

One of the things I was being pressured about had to do with promoting the gang leader’s mice. Yes, mice. Don’t ask me – I didn’t write the script.

For some reason the boss’ mice needed to be distributed, to take over everywhere. And one of the places Big Al wanted his mice installed was in a closed down fairground. It was in my area, so of course Big Al thought it was my responsibility to do it.

Big Al, photo taken during one of his philosophical debates
Big Al, photo taken during one of his philosophical debates

The thing is, that abandoned fairground already had mice, as I tried to tell Big Al. I’d hardly ever actually seen one but you could hear them, rustling, scratching and sometimes squeaking as they fought.

Big Al wasn’t interested. Were they HIS mice?

Well, no ….

Well, didn’t I see the problem?

I nodded. I could see I had a problem and I’d have a worse one if I didn’t do as he wanted.

Big Al’s mice arrived next day delivered by motorbike courier, in a plastic bag. Yeah, I know … but remember — I’m not the script writer.

I took some of the mice out. They were sleek, strong, well-fed, pinky-white mice. I carried the bag to the empty fair ground and let some of them out, to see how they got on. They scurried eagerly down lots of holes and there was suddenly a lot of squeaking underground. Then silence.

After a while, one came back, mauled and bloody. I waited but no others arrived. I put the rest of Al’s mice on the ground so they could avenge their mates. I had no choice, unless I wanted to tell Big Al I had disobeyed his instructions.

Those mice knew what was waiting for them and not a single one went down any hole. They milled around above ground. Then they found an unopened can of beer left by some inebriated street drinker, bit through into it …. and proceeded to get really, really drunk.

Some of Al's mice before they discovered the beer can
Some of Al’s mice before they discovered the beer can

They were still drunk when Big Al dropped by to see how his mouse colonising was progressing.

“What the fuck is going on?” Big Al and his bodyguard were looking in amazement at his carousing, stumbling mice.

I told him what had happened. He shook his head, muttered something, shook his head again, then went off grumbling to get some more mice – maybe Super-mice, or Ninja Mice, or something.

I knew the drunken mice would be history. If a cat or a kestrel didn’t get them …. well, Big Al had a low tolerance for failure. I should have felt sorry for them …. and I kind of did … but also a kind of contempt. The fairground mice had lived a hard life, braving flood and ice, finding what food they could, breeding, tunneling, avoiding alley cats, kestrels …

Big Al’s mice had been fed high-protein diets, reared in secure environments, built up muscle, each probably outweighed the biggest fairground mouse by a couple of ounces. But those scruffy, lean, dirty mice had finished off the advance guard of Al’s mice in minutes. And the rest? Didn’t even have the courage to make a fight of it but went and got drunk instead!

I left them to it. Al would be back and he’d probably want to supervise the operation against the Fairground Mice himself. That was fine with me. I didn’t like the job and I secretly wished the native mice well.

Anyway, I had other problems to deal with. I still had to organise my area for Big Al’s other operations – or else. I didn’t know exactly what the “else” might be and truth to tell, I didn’t even want to think about it.

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

In the end, I couldn’t do it. I could fool myself that I could manage the area for Al in a more decent way than somebody else working for him …. maybe. But I would still have to become too much like Al himself to do it. So, one alternative only – get out, go on the run and hope Big Al or his goons couldn’t find me. I didn’t even know where I was going to go – just out.

In my benighted life, I had one bit of success.

I ducked into a shop and got to use their phone. That’s right, no mobiles – maybe this script was set in the 1980s …. Not that I remember seeing big hair, shoulder pads or baggy trousers …

Anyway, I phoned up the electric phone company and got to speak to the Area Manager about my bill …. yes, the actual Area Manager! I told him I was going out of business and after a little haggling he agreed to accept 20% of the bill in payment and to wipe the slate clean.

Then I phoned my cousin, also my best friend and told him I was getting out. He was disappointed in me. Really, really disappointed. I could imagine him shaking his head.

“What about community organisation, man?” he asked.

“I can’t do it, Mort. Big Al is too much to go up against.”

“I can’t believe it – and you from a long line of trade union organisers.”

That got to me because, in the script, it was true. My Da had been a union organiser most of his life. My Ma too. And one of my Grandas as well. Strikes, union meetings, pickets, marches, police stations and courthouses had been a part of my childhood, almost as much as school throughout the year and the seaside in summer.

In real life, of course, my Da had been many things but never a trade union organiser. Active trade union member, yes – organiser, no. And my Ma – well, maybe if there had been a Housewife’s Union …. she would have probably been the General Secretary.

Anyway, in the script, Mort shamed me. And talked some more. And I argued. And he put forward a plan.

For some reason, this plan, which of course required community organising, needed a public appeal by television. Mort said I should do it. I told him I couldn’t – I’d freeze on camera and anyway I was too closely involved. I begged him to nominate someone else. He thought for a little while.

“Ok, but you have to go with whoever I choose – no backing out.”

“Sure! Thanks!” I gulped, relief flooding me.

His next words ejected that relief right out again.

“Ask your Ma.”

After I recovered from the shock and hung up, I went to see Ma. This was Ma in the script and nothing like the Ma I had in the real life, the one who was born in the Basque Country and spoke English with a German accent, because her Da had been a German.

And this script Ma was easy-going, unruffled …. Still, she took some persuading before she agreed. And while she was getting ready for her TV appearance – having her hair done, rehearsing her appeal, buying new shoes (who was going to see her shoes on TV?!!) — I was down on the street in my area, doing the rounds, talking to shopkeepers, community workers, youth, pensioners ….

Of course, Big Al was going to get to hear what I was doing. But the gamble was that my Ma’s appeal would be broadcast before he could make his move …. and after that, it would be much more difficult for Big Al to demonstrate the full meaning of that “else” with which he had threatened me. And hopefully the community would start to solidify and be able to resist. Doing nasty things to me wouldn’t be that productive any more. And whatever else Big Al was, he was a pragmatist.

Yes, of course, there’s always the unpredictable emotional element ….

I was pondering that when something pulled me half out of the script.

It was around 6am and I was still half in the script and trying to figure a way to win through. But not for long, as I was driven stumbling from my bed by the urea imperative – I had to go to the toilet.

In the hallway I switched on the light, still thinking about the script I had been in and, turning into what I thought was the open doorway, immediately stubbed my toe and nearly my nose on the door. After suitable curses, I did the business in the toilet and thought about the events in the script.

Then I wondered whether I could somehow get hold of the scriptwriter and how I could make him pay for what he put me through.

Had I met him? No, never. How did I know he was male? I don’t know, but for some reason I was sure he was. Which is strange, because nobody in my life had ever fucked with my head the way some women had. But yes, he is male – I’m sure of it. Now, where could he be hanging out ….?

End.

“SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW” WAS WRITTEN BY A ‘RED’

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

DID YOU KNOW IT WAS A ‘RED’ WHO WROTE “BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE ME A DIME?” WELL, NOT SO SUPRISING, MAYBE. BUT HOW ABOUT THE SONGS FOR “THE WIZARD OF OZ” and “FINIAN’S RAINBOW”?

 

Yip Warburg, author of lyrics of many songs, including those in the Wizard of Oz.
Yip Harburg, author of lyrics of many songs, including those in The Wizard of Oz musical.

Yip Harburg, born in the poor Lower East Side Manhattan to Russian Ashkenazi Jew migrants, was a socialist and the writer of the lyrics of the songs in The Wizard of Oz and worked on the music too.

In fact, a lot of the production team and actors were “pinkos” of some kind, including Judy Garland.  The “Brother Can You ..” melody was based on a Russian lullaby. In this Amy Goodman interview on Democracy Now TV (see link bottom of piece), Yip’s son Ernie Harburg talks about his father and included is quite a bit of footage of Yip himself, talking and singing, as well as footage of the first Wizard of Oz film.

When some people think it appropriate, while supporting the Palestinians, to synonymise the words “Jew” and “Israeli”, confusing the ethnic grouping of Jews with the fascist, racist and colonist ideology of Zionism, they are ignorant of or forget not only those Jews who combat Zionism today like Finkelstein and Chomsky but also the public criticisms of Zionism and the creation or actions of the state of Israel expressed by Albert Einstein, authors Erich Fromm, Howard Zinn, Isaac Asimov, Philip Roth, I.F. Stone; violinist Yehudi Menuhin; journalists Joe Klein (Time magazine), Roger Cohen (NY Times); Richard Falk (UN Special Rapporteur), historian Gabriel Kolko and many, many others. Those Jews are following a tradition: political and religious dissidence was endemic in Western Jewry and Jews have been to the forefront in socialist movements in Europe and in the USA, as well as in the struggles against racism and for civil rights in the latter.

“Music makes you feel; words make you think; songs make you feel the thoughts,”  said Yip Warburg.  At the time of the Depression in the USA (caused by the financiers, surprise, surprise), with massive unemployment and poverty, the authorities and some of the public wanted songs like “Happy Times Are Here Again” and no-one was writing songs about the suffering except for his father, says Yip’s son Ernie Harburg. Not on Broadway, maybe, but in some speakeasies, in some bars and on some radio shows, the blues and folk singers were composing and singing those songs, some writers like Steinbeck were writing their stories and photographers like Dorothea Lange, Jack Delano, Gordon Parks and others were recording their faces.

People were out on the streets and picket lines too, shouting, marching, holding placards, getting their heads busted by cops and sherrifs and goons and breaking some of their heads back too. Sometimes the protesters and campaigners were shot and sometimes even executed. As the financiers swing us around to those times again, we celebrate the victories and learn from the defeats, take pride in the courage of all those who fought and mourn those who fell, whether they fought against the police and municipal authorities, the witch-hunters like McCarthy and the ignorant red-haters, the National Guard, the FBI …

Scene from the Musical Theatre production of Americana, which featured Warburg's song "Brother Can You Lend Me a Dime?"
Scene from the Musical Theatre production of Americana, which featured Warburg’s song “Brother Can You Lend Me a Dime?”

And we singers, singing the lyrics and melodies of others and of our own, written in the past or in the present, give honour to the fighters in whole periods of struggle even as, in the book of history, the first lines in the next chapter are being written.