Tag Archives: Ireland

5 July: From our sports pages

We don’t generally cover sport in the Mirror, but this generous editorial from the Irish Times was worth sharing with our readers. Let’s hope their optimism about English Society proves well-founded. (Pink was the colour of the Birmingham sports paper, The Argus, when I was growing up.)

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13 February: a place for me.

Heartfelt thanks

One of my favourite stock images, this heart was left on our step by a neighbour after a gift of homemade preserves. More recently, last summer, five year old Abel found beach pebbles eroded into a heart shape. Months later he discovered one of them and gave it to his mother, ‘because I love you, Mummy.’

A heart of stone, a heart of pebbles, to stand for a flesh and blood heart. This old Irish hymn, translated by Eleanor Hull expresses the mixed emotions of the poet contemplating his or her relationship with Jesus. For many of us life has been a toilsome path these last months, we may well request, ‘Peace on my head, light in my heart.’

Let’s pray for all whose lives continue to be toilsome. Even the dustiest, least frequented church is a sanctified temple; with Christ’s help any of us can be a temple sanctified to him, welcoming those who seek him.

How great the tale, that there should be,
In God’s Son’s heart, a place for me!
That on a sinner’s lips like mine 
The cross of Jesus Christ should shine!

Christ Jesus, bend me to thy will,
My feet to urge, my griefs to still;
That e’en my flesh and blood may be
A temple sanctified to Thee.

No rest, no calm my soul may win,
Because my body craves to sin;
Till thou, dear Lord, thyself impart
Peace on my head, light in my heart.

May consecration come from far,
Soft shining like the evening star.
My toilsome path make plain to me,
Until I come to rest in thee.

                                                                                    Eleanor Hull From the Irish

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Fireside Gathering Concert

Irish Chaplaincy will host a ‘Fireside Gathering’ concert on February 5th 2021 at 7.30pm. Headlining again is the London Celtic Youth Orchestra, and we’re delighted as well to have Thomas McCarthy on the bill. Thomas, an Irish Traveller, singer and storyteller was named Traditional Singer of the Year in the Gradam Ceoil Awards 2019. Various other talented musicians and poets will complete the line-up, there will be a special message from the Ambassador and it promises to be a great and uplifting evening. The event will be Live on the Irish Chaplaincy Facebook Page and is free to watch. Follow the Fireside Gathering link to find the flier.

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22 November, St Cecilia: Viva la Musica

Further musical reflections from Eddie Gilmore of the Irish Chaplaincy; a good one for Saint Cecilia, even if it was written a while ago. Viva la musica!

Music is especially evocative during Advent, although for some people the memories touched can be bittersweet, as I discovered on a prison visit a couple of weeks before Christmas.

We were in HMP Wormwood Scrubs for the regular Irish Chaplaincy Traveller forum and I’d brought my guitar in to play to what turned out to be a very lively group! One or two of the younger guys were being a bit overly boisterous but I didn’t let it put me off. I just kept singing and I just kept smiling, as I looked around the group making eye contact. It was reassuring to see that a couple of the men were quietly singing along to the Irish songs. I’d planned as well to go into a medley of Christmas songs, both traditional and modern (assuming that everyone would be in the mood for some Christmas music); but was pulled up short when one guy exclaimed “we don’t want to be reminded of Christmas when we’re in here”. “Can I at least do ‘Fairytale of New York’”, I pleaded, and happily they relented, and were singing the chorus with gusto. I think I managed to win them over because when it came to the refreshments they were almost fighting each other to make me a cup of tea. I ended up with four! One of which had so much sugar in it, it was undrinkable! Not to matter; I was really touched, so too when there was a whip round for mince pies for me, before any leftovers got secreted into jogging trouser pockets to be smuggled back to the cells!

There was a man sitting next to me who had not seemed very happy when I’d been singing and I assumed he just didn’t like the songs or didn’t like me or whatever! But after the drinks he suddenly said to me “you’ve a queer good voice but this just reminds me of being in the pub”. Another came over to talk to me. He’d been one of those singing along and he was a good bit older than the rest. He explained to me “ah, the young guys get a bit over-excited”. We had a really nice chat. It was his first time in prison and he said “it’s like spending 23 hours a day in a bathroom”. That was certainly a striking image of the reality of being in prison.

The week before the Scrubs gig I’d been singing in a care home in Kensington for people with dementia, which I always enjoy. I do mainly Irish songs for the benefit of the Irish people there but everyone in what is a very international group of residents appreciates the music. As I was going round greeting people on arrival one of the Irishmen, clearly in a cheeky mood, motioned to the lady next to him and said to me “give her a kiss”!

This group were very much up for Christmas songs! People were singing along with the so-familiar melodies; and when it got to ‘Jingle Bells’ even some of those who are normally quite subdued were joining in and moving their arms, with their faces lighting up in recognition. It was a lovely moment. So too when a Columbian lady (the one I’d been encouraged to kiss at the start!) came up to me and said in Spanish (she appears to have reverted to her mother tongue in her later years) “the singing  was beautiful. May God bless you”.

We’re currently planning our second annual St Brigid’s Day concert, which will take place on January 31st 2020 at St James’ Church, Piccadilly: a ‘Celebration of Irish music, poetry and dancing’. Like the events mentioned above, it will bring people together and, I have no doubt, touch the heart and the soul and raise the spirit. Amongst the variety of talented performers on the bill we’ll have the young people of the London Celtic youth Orchestra and the ‘more mature’ members of the Irish Pensioners Choir’. It promises to be another wonderful occasion.

How blessed I am to have contact with such incredible people in such a rich variety of situations and to have music as one of the means by which we encounter one another and share in our common humanity.

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John Hume R.I.P.

John Hume

The death has been announced of John Hume, Irish peacemaker. May he be at peace with his Lord. There’s nothing we can dd to what others have said, but the following words are from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance Speech.

“I want to see Ireland as an example to men and women everywhere of what can be achieved by living for ideals, rather than fighting for them, and by viewing each and every person as worthy of respect and honour. I want to see an Ireland of partnership where we wage war on want and poverty, where we reach out to the marginalised and dispossessed, where we build together a future that can be as great as our dreams allow.”

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8 July: Reels from home

There’s a lot of it about; nostalgia that is, but we also want to go deeper than that; what has shaped us, or our parents, in the past, how will it work out for our children. What seemed like normal life back then is a source of fascination and indeed joy today, and not just the frocks and hairstyles!

The London Irish Centre has partnered with the Irish Film Institute to bring film heritage to Irish communities in London and across the UK. Under the headings ‘Ireland of Yesterday’, ‘Watch Irish History Unfold’, and ‘Rediscover Television Adverts’, the Reels from Home collection includes materials which date as far back as the early 1900s. It includes both professional and amateur films documenting all aspects of Irish life including tourism, industry, sport, entertainment, and much more.

The films have been selected to engage with the London Irish Centre’s objectives to promote and advance education in Irish art, language, culture and heritage.

Reels From Home contains materials from IFI Player collections including The Bord Fáilte Film Collection, The Irish Adverts Project, The Father Delaney Collection, The Loopline Collection Vol. 1, and The Irish Independence Film Collection.

Speaking about the collection’s release, Gary Dunne, Director of Culture at the London Irish Centre, said: ‘”The London Irish Centre is delighted to partner with the Irish Film Institute on the Reels From Home initiative. For over 65 years, the Centre has been a cultural bridge between London and Ireland, and strategic and programming partnerships like these play a key part in connecting our audiences with high quality Irish culture. The Reels From Home collection is bespoke, dynamic and engaging, and we look forward to sharing it with audiences in the UK through a series of co-watching screenings.”

At a time when many people are spending much of their time indoors due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Reels From Home brings a new channel of content to the Irish community that is free, entertaining, informative, and easy to access and navigate. The project follows in the footsteps of the 2018 Reel Memories initiative, presented by the IFI in partnership with Nursing Homes Ireland, which brought a selection of curated IFI Player material to nursing home residents across the country.

Commenting on the project, Kasandra O’Connell, Head of the IFI Irish Film Archive, added: “We are delighted to be able to bring the collections of the IFI Irish Film Archive to a new audience in the UK , particularly at a time where people may be feeling more isolated than usual. As someone who was born in London to Irish parents, the UK’s Irish community is one that I have been eager for the archive to work with, and partnering with the London Irish Centre gives us a wonderful opportunity to do so.”

Highlights of the collection include Alive Alive O: A Requiem for Dublin, which captures the colourful street traders of Dublin and their fight to maintain their merchant tradition in the face of aggressive economic development;

Ireland in Spring presents a celebration of all things Irish and a delightful window on 1950s Ireland;

and a 1970s advert for Bass ale featuring the legendary band The Dubliners performing in the iconic Dublin bar O’Donoghue’s.

Reels from Home is now available free-to-view on the IFI Player and via the IFI Player suite of apps developed by Irish tech company Axonista. More details will be on the London Irish Centre.

London Irish Centre

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9 June, Going Viral XXXIX: Marta, Martha!

Another extract from Rev Jo Richards’ daily updates. The Good Shepherd statue is in St Mildred’s Church, within her benefice.

Good morning to you all, and hope this finds you well, as we are here. 
With respect to the possibility of opening our church buildings for private prayer: thank you to those who have offered to help with cleaning, which  we will need to do, and continue to do as and when we do open.


Our reading this morning for morning prayer was that of Mary and Martha, and the phrase that leapt out at me when reading it was “Marta, Martha, you are worried and distracted by so many things; there is need for only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her”  Luke 10:41-2. This has certainly been a time for some, and by no means all, to sit quietly at the feet of Jesus, and listen, to be, rather than constantly doing. We can (and I for one) can so easily be distracted by so many things. We are after all, ‘human beings and not human doings’ (one of my favourite sayings of Richard Rhor). Today in our liturgy we have been asked to remember Saint Columba, of the Iona community, who founded monasteries both in Ireland, and on Iona, which to this day remains a place for pilgrimages and retreats. Please find attached some information regarding retreats from St Augustine’s College of theology, for retreats from home.
Morning Prayer:https://youtu.be/t8RPstCVxqE
Scams: Please be aware that there are scams around re track and trace (see attached, from Jeanie Armstrong), but please do be careful
God Bless you all, and keep connected, keep praying and keep safe
Jo🙏🙏🙏

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Going viral XXIV: Gardeners’ catch-up time.

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baby robins will soon be around our gardens and allotments. Their parents want them to stay in touch; for humans of a certain age, it is the adult children who want to stay in touch and not let the oldies take too many risks.

Both of us retired, both gardeners, both riding to the local supermarket before the crowds but after the baker has started work. It went without saying that there was never enough time in the garden or allotment for either of us, and we agreed on the importance of keeping in touch. His family are at a distance, mine close at hand, but they do worry! ‘Dad, you shouldn’t be going to the shops, you can get it all on line; we’ll do it for you.’ We agreed that while we can do it we will do it: shopping, gardening, walking. My 70+ friends in Dublin may not go to the allotment which is usually their base for the afternoon! Their daughter leaves their shopping on the doorstep.

Keep in touch, and take no stupid risks.

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Going viral V: cast a cold eye

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There’s a virus about, so maybe we don’t want to look at skulls or gravestones right now. But Henry Brown of this town (Fordwich near Canterbury) has some fine lettering above his plot as well as the two skulls. Whatever else was wrong in England in January 1720/1, there were skilled stonemasons about, and they needed no W.B. Yeats to urge them to cast a cold eye on death.

The date 1720/1 does not indicate that the mason did not know exactly when Henry Brown left his town. It just shows the confusion that prevailed between England and Continental Europe in the years between Pope Gregory XIII introducing the calendar that bears his name in 1582 and its adoption by Britain in 1752. Although the Gregorian was more accurate and sorted out most of the slippage between the earth’s year and the calendar year, the British were not going to accept this crazy, Catholic, continental innovation. Not in 1720/1 anyway.

Why was I in Fordwich? Despite the virus, I’m still allowed exercise and I was preparing the way for a L’Arche pilgrimage, and Fordwich to Canterbury is the last 5 km stage. No major hazards is the good news!

Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid,   
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago; a church stands near,
By the road an ancient Cross.
No marble, no conventional phrase,   
On limestone quarried near the spot   
By his command these words are cut:  

Cast a cold eye   
On life, on death.   
Horseman, pass by!

W.B. Yeats Under Ben Bulben

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15 February: If Music be the Food of Love

Another post by of the London Irish Chaplaincy, one of the L’Arche Kent diaspora; just a day too late for Valentine’s!

 

I was struck by two recent comments about the power of music, one from a 99-year-old Kerry woman; the other by a young man from Belfast.

I’d written in my last blog, also about music, how I was looking forward to a couple of carol singing events in care homes just before Christmas. One of them, at St Teresa’s in Wimbledon, particularly stood out. Paul, Rory and I were joined by one of our lovely volunteers, Christine, who’s originally from Dublin and who faithfully comes every Friday to chat to the mainly Irish residents. I’d planned a repertoire of Christmas songs, both old and new, but as we were waiting for everyone to arrive I decided to warm up with some Irish songs. It was immediately clear that this was a group who didn’t need any warming up. Everyone was both moved by the music and moving. Feet were tapping and arms were waving as people sang along to the familiar tunes. Sheila from Kerry had requested ‘The Galway Shawl’ in honour of a recently arrived Galwayman and I happily began with that, in honour too of my own Dad. And then for Sheila I did a couple of songs from Kerry: ‘The Black Velvet Band’ and ‘Golden Jubilee’. For the Dubliners present we sang ‘Molly Malone’; and for the several people from Cork (I remarked to the wonderful Sr. Pat, the Director, that the name of the home should be renamed St Finbars!) there was ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ (not literally, I’m afraid!). The house was absolutely ROCKING (and anyway, who needs whiskey to have a good time!). I slowed it down with ‘Sweet 16’, before launching into the Christmas set. It was quite simply the most joyful and uplifting experience imaginable.

One of the Cork ladies confided to me later that she was normally quite shy but had so much enjoyed the singing and dancing. And as for Sheila, she said (and I remembered it word for word, it was so heart-warming):

“We were expecting carol singers and then you fellas turned up! The singing was heavenly. You had us lifted out of our chairs and flying through the air like angels. You’ve made our Christmas perfect.”

We’re looking forward now to our second St Brigid’s concert, at St James’ Church Piccadilly on January 31st. There will be a host of talented performers, ranging in age from the young people of the London Celtic Youth Orchestra to the more mature members of the Irish Pensioners Choir. One of those on the bill, Belfast-born actor Anton Thompson McCormick just wrote to me to say:

“31st will be a delight, people coming together and celebrating the good things – how else to start the decade?”

In the midst of writing this piece I was sent the copy of a letter addressed to me that had been sent to the ICPO (Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas) office in Maynooth from a man in a prison in the North of England. He wrote:

“After reading your article in the ICPO Christmas newsletter 2019 I was impressed that the guitar you had used for the last 24 years had been put to more good use by taking it into Wormwood Scrubs”, and he goes on to ask if I could come and perform to him and the other 25 Irish prisoners there, explaining that “my friends and I are very keen on the idea and it would give us a more positive vibe to take forward”. He ends with the words “Thank you for sharing your story and in fact your guitar”. I was incredibly touched by that and it shows again that we just never know the impact we might have on somebody’s life.

So as we start another new year and if music be indeed the food of love then let us PLAY ON!!!

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