There were long days, and even longer nights, before it reached the light of day, but ‘Mayo Comrades of the Great War’ more than justifies the painstaking research which its authors invested in their flagship book.
PJ Clarke and Michael Feeney were drawn together by a shared interest in the Mayo dead of the First World War. Little did they know, early on, what a long journey they were about to undertake and there must have been occasions when their joint determination flagged a little, when the prospects of seeing their research find its way to the printed page seemed daunting.
All of that has been put behind them now when, at Castlebar Library last Friday night, as in Ballina a week earlier, the magnum opus was formally launched to the deserved acclaim and unstinted admiration of those in attendance.
A lavish hardback of some 360 pages, the joint authors lay out in their foreword what the book is all about. Its purpose, they say, is simply to honour, pay tribute to and remember all Mayo men and women who either died or played a part in the great battlefields of the Great War.
‘Mayo Comrades of the Great War’ could easily have turned out to be a dry-on-dust roll call of Mayo heroes of a war which is now a fading memory. The fact that it is not is a tribute to the two authors whose detailed research of names, regiments and battles is leavened with backdrop material, human interest stories, songs and ballads and photos and letters from the battle front to fascinate even the most detached casual reader.
The tone for the book is set by Captain Donal Buckley, a man who has done more than most to give due honour to the brave Irish who fell in that war, and who is honoured with the task of writing the foreword.
The depth of commitment that went into the researching of this book by PJ Clarke and Michael Feeney is, he says, quite staggering. But most of all, he says, is that they have finally settled a debt which this country owes to the forgotten heroes who marched off to war with the cheering and the applause of the crowds ringing in their ears and who returned - those who lived to return - four years later to be despised, isolated and written out of history.
The scores of thousands of veterans in heaven will look down on this book and on its authors, says Buckley, and say “Thank you, at last we are remembered. Justice has been done. We can rest”.
There are photographs and posters, letters and newspaper tributes, almost 40 pages of stirring war poetry written by Mayo people about Mayo people, an account of the growing movement towards remembrance of the fallen and contemporary accounts of the lost, the families they left behind, and the young wives and children who were never again to see their departed heroes.
Poignantly, the book includes the story of Private Patrick Feeney of Castlebar and the Connaught Rangers, killed in action in July of 1916. He was the grandfather of co-author Michael Feeney and his story, like that of all the others, is a reminder that when we talk of Mayo’s war dead, we are talking of our own. He had gone to war confident in his youthful optimism that he would soon return to his wife and three small daughters. But fate had other plans and it has taken until now, 90 years on, for his sacrifice and that of his comrades to be acknowledged in his home county.
Beautifully printed and published by Pádraig Corcoran of Ballina, ‘Mayo Comrades of the Great War’ will stand for decades to come as a fitting monument to the fallen.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
Radio’s abundance of riches?
There is no shortage of radio stations these days. But for those doubters who hold the view that there cannot be listenership enough for all to thrive, the reality of the vast sums being paid for radio stations tells its own story.
No great surprise then that competition was so keen for the right to the latest licence to be put on offer by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland. The Youth Radio franchise - and surely it is stretching it a little to say that the description encompasses 15 to 35-year-olds - is for the north west region and will operate for ten years.
The successful applicants, 105FM, had to fight off some fairly heavy competition from three rivals, one of which had the backing of Louis Walsh, a man who has turned his flair for young music to his substantial advantage.
The new station will cover the counties of Mayo, Galway, Sligo, Roscommon, Leitrim, Donegal and Longford. However, the way entertainment technology is changing so rapidly, one might wonder just how much interest young people will have in listening to conventional radio in ten years’ time.
No doubt, the successful bidders have done their homework and, no doubt, the BCI has given serious thought to the viability of yet another radio station where no less than five existing stations are competing with each other already.
But the market for radio is hardly infinite and there must come a point where, if the jam is spread too thinly, there won’t be much taste left for anyone.
Why moving west makes good sense
Castlebar auctioneers, Barney Kiernan and Brian Moran stole something of a march on their colleagues when they were consulted by the Irish Times for an extensive article on FTBs - first time buyers - and how they manage their mortgages.
Not that there isn’t plenty of work for everyone, as both pointed out, with demand for property in Castlebar still following a steep upward curve.
Unsurprisingly, the piece honed in on the twin issues of how much easier it is to live in the country than it is to live in Dublin, and of how much property values have gone through the roof regardless of where in the country you choose to live.
A survey by Bank of Scotland found that employees in the public service - nurses, teachers, Gardaí and fire-fighters - were being priced out of the market in all of the State’s bigger cities. With prices like €360,000 for a one-bed apartment in Glasnevin, €420,000 for a two-bed townhouse in Finglas, and €680,000 for a house in Ranelagh, it’s easy to see why.
In contrast, Erica Forde had bought a four-bed semi at White Horse Lane in Castlebar for €235,000; her fellow teacher, Ruth McNamara had paid €236,000 for a three-bed in Turlough.
But both ladies were only too well aware of how the price tags have gone up over the years.
Erica Forde’s parents had paid under €11,000 for a four-bed bungalow in Castlebar in 1976. Three years earlier, Ruth McNamara’s family had bought a three-bed in Swords for €7,618. How property prices have changed in the intervening years!
Galway’s grip on Mayo Campus
The Director of the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Marian Coy, paid what has been regarded as a positive visit to the chamber of Mayo County Council last week. But whether she succeeded in quelling a growing unrest about the status of the Castlebar campus at GMIT remains to be seen.
The old resentment that Castlebar is somehow the poor relation in the GMIT family has been fanned of late by reports that the key decisions on the nursing school in Castlebar are being taken in Galway. There has been concern that, following the departure of the Castlebar Head of Campus, Dr Katie Sweeney, the administrative duties had been transferred back to HQ in Galway.
Paddy McGuinness, a man whose name is synonymous with the establishment of the third level facility in Mayo, put flesh on many of the Castlebar worries when he told Ms Coy that there was no parity of esteem between the two campuses and, although he was assured that such was not the case, there is a distinct feeling that we have not heard the last of the Mayo rumblings of dissent by any means.
Concerts set the tills singing
It may not have been fully appreciated in the past, but the commercial spinoffs from showbiz made themselves felt in Castlebar over a recent weekend.
Three consecutive sell-out nights at the Royal Theatre by country singer, Charley Pride, showed that there is much more to be spent by happy punters than just the admission price at the door. The patrons who travelled by bus and car from points distant like Limerick and Donegal meant that accommodation in the county town was booked out for weeks beforehand, while pubs and restaurants found a welcome boost in the end-of-season musical bonanza.
The normal weekend shopping crowds were greatly augmented by the free-spending music fans, who showed they were not averse to some serious retail therapy on what for many was a rare visit to Castlebar.
Pat and Mary Jennings of the TF Royal Theatre have consistently shown flair, sound judgement and more than a little courage in booking some of the world’s biggest performers into the Castlebar venue. What the Castlebar business community is quickly coming to realise is that patrons are more than happy to make a weekend of their concert-going treat, and that they have no hesitation in splurging out in what is now the shopping capital of the west of Ireland.
Children show the way to safer roads
Could we improve our appalling record of road safety by starting in the schools?
For the senior pupils of Derrywash National School, the answer is a resounding yes, made all the more emphatic in the results of a detailed research project which the pupils have just completed in the last few days.
Backed by the Road Safety Authority, Mayo County Council, the Gardaí and related agencies, the 24 pupils will present their findings by way of a set of six recommendations at their school on Monday next.
The school authorities believe that, quite apart from the merit of the findings in their own right, the results could be a turning point in how road safety is perceived and how the younger generation could develop a crucial role in reducing the toll of death and serious injury.
Indeed, there will be nothing to prevent the Derrywash recommendations from providing the blueprint for schools all over Ireland.
The theme of the presentation - ‘By Children, for Children’ - may be a reminder that, in seeking the elusive formula for reducing death on the roads, the answer might be nearer to hand than we ever thought possible.