Month: September 2014

The Real Harvest Festival

It’s an event that happens each October in Skibbereen.  The celebration of bringing in the harvest in this rural community is marked on a Friday in October in Abbeystrewry Church of Ireland.  The church community provide a Turkey Supper which is enjoyed by hundreds and often into double figures.   Five hundred takeways are packed and carted off as soon as the side doors of the hall open at 5 pm.

For the rest of us there is a steady queue outside the front of the church hall as we line up in the hope of sitting in.  Inside the hall  rows of tables are set up horizontally across the room from one end to the other.  Along the left hand wall of the room long thin trestle tables are weighed with mis-matched dishes each piled high with food.  There are heaps of home cooked turkey, hams, potato salad, coleslaw, a medley of vegetables, salads, pastas, cous cous, in fact a rainbow coloured display of different foods which are stacked on to proffered porcelain plates.   In fact some people’s plates are piled so high with food, one couldn’t imagine that anyone could eat that much, but they can and they do!

We sit where we can fit in and amiably engage with others who are at a more advanced stage of their Turkey Supper.  The ladies of the  Church weave in and out and around the tables, topping up plates of soda bread, scones and cakes, refilling cups of tea, jugs of milk and guiding the lonesome into the company of others.

When the heaped plates are devoured, it’s time for dessert.   There is every kind of home cooked dessert imaginable from trifles, jellies, cheesecakes, meringues, gateaux of all descriptions and the good news is that seconds are permitted, that is if you have room.  And most people do!

Tea and cake and chat, a glass of wine if you prefer and the evening has just begun.   The ticket price for the meal includes entrance to the dancing which will kick off around 10 pm in the West Cork Hotel.  So perchance to dance away the night and dissolve the extra pounds consumed earlier.

Abbeystrewry Church of Ireland Turkey Supper is a fundraiser for the Church.  Church members, cook, make, bake, pack up the takeaways, prepare the tables and chairs for sit down, serve during the meal and do the wash up and clear afterwards.

I really enjoy the Turkey Supper as I think it is one of the best community events in the town.


Jim’s place

Dave, the coach driver, told this story when we were travelling from Uluru, Ayers Rock, to Kings Canyon in the Northern Territories.  From Kings Canyon we were travelling on to Alice Springs.

Each destination surprised me for different reasons, a lesson not to have preconceived ideas of place or people.

I always thought the story of Jim’s place would make a great film, and although not politically correct these days, from whichever angle you look – Jock Tamson’s bairns fits – if you think about it.

Jack Cotterill, together with his son built the original road through to Kings Canyon over a number of years.  He had leased land from an Aborigine and set up a small holiday complex.  He wanted all the world to see the beauty of King’s Canyon.  It was a hard life as they had dug the roads through by hand because they had no diggers or JCBs at that time.  But when the task was done, they were moderately successful.

Eventually Jack died and the Aborigine from whom the land was leased died too.  When Jim came to renew his lease, the grand-daughter of the Aborigine refused.  She wanted Jim out and to take over the holiday complex.  He took his case to court but she was within her rights to refuse to renew the lease.

Jim had buried his father, his young daughter and his memories over the years there.

There was however, a small clause, the original Aborigine who had leased the land to Jack Cotterill had insisted be included.  This was that when Jim was finished with the land he was to leave the land exactly as he found it.  Jim borrowed a JCB and raised the complex to the ground putting the land back as it had been first day.

Jim had a cafe when we were there in the late 1990s, simply known as Jim’s Place.

The government have since opened up the Kings Canyon Resort and made such a great job of camouflage that we didn’t realise the buildings were there until we were on top of them.

Our adventure at Kings Canyon when I was literally rendered speechless is for another time.kings-canyon-tours

Penticton, BC, Canada

Penticton BC Canada

It’s official.  Penticton BC is the new Napa, scoring higher temperatures, less rainfall than its US counterpart, and with Penticton’s wineries growing in numbers and reputation, it has become a major tourist destination for Canadians, Americans and visitors from Europe and beyond.  Predominately known in the past as a fruit growing region, and with towns like Summerland and Peachland fringing the Okanagan Lake, the success of its wineries has culminated in summer and autumn wine festivals, where local vineyards compete for the coveted gold standard awards.


However, the discerning wine buff has to be ahead of the pack as many of the best wines don’t make the Okanagan wine festival, and are sold out months ahead.   Wine tours are frequent and popular and probably the best way to gain an insight into the wines of the region.  With a drink driving zero-tolerance, being on an escorted tour or having a designated driver is a must.


Winery names like SYL, (See You Later), Red Rooster, Soaring Eagle, Black Widow, Dirty Laundry and Laughing Stock, always have an interesting story attached.   The ‘See You Later’ is supposedly named because the farmer’s wife departed with those words to her husband, as she left to join her farm hand lover and never return again.  ‘Dirty Laundry’ was so named because the site where today’s winery is was once where a laundry catered for the washing of ladies with a certain reputation.


Most wineries have a small charge for wine tasting which can be off-set against purchases or donated to some local worthy cause.  The drink driving zero-tolerance law has affected pubs and restaurants in the region much as the smoking ban affected the Irish pub trade, but enterprising restaurants now offer a takeaway service.  Everything in Penticton is within a ten minute drive, that is on a heavy traffic day, so takeaway trade works effectively.


The town sits between two lakes, the Okanagan lake to the north and Skaha lake to the south and lays within 70km of the US border in a valley gouged in the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago.  The larger town of Kelowna is to the north of the Okanagan lake and one may travel onwards from there to Revelstoke and the beginning of the Canadian Rocky Mountain range.


Summer temperatures are a comfortable 25 to 30 degrees and rainfall is light in Penticton.   Sandy beaches and safe bathing are plentiful with many beaches to choose from, even a nudist beach which we stumbled upon by accident.  The beaches have seated picnic areas, toilet and changing facilities and most have trees providing shade.


Bathing and swimming areas are clearly designated and some parts of the lake have diving board platforms set out a short distance from the beach.  Water sports of all kinds are enjoyed outside the swimming areas and all types of boats, including canoe, kayak or jetski are generally available for hire.   There’s lots of free water-based entertainment such as floating down the channel on a tyre or blow up raft, great family fun.


The whole town and surrounding areas turn out for the Grads, a great family event.  There are Rose Gardens in town where the teenagers dressed in their finery have their photographs taken and then they process through town in a variety of vehicles, horse drawn carts and carriages, tractors, trucks, sports cars – in fact anything with wheels and the more bizarre the better.    They celebrate ‘Dry Grads’ in Penticton with all the businesses coming on board, presenting gifts to be drawn for at the Grads Ball where no alcohol is allowed.  It’s illegal for alcohol to be consumed by anyone under 21 and the rule is strictly adhered to.


The town has golf courses open to visitors and is a mere 30 minutes drive in winter time from ski slopes.  The Okanagan Iron Man has been running for over 30 years and attracts participants from all over the world including two from Dublin in the 2011 Iron Man which took place August 28th in a blistering 33 degrees.   The other main festivals in the town are the annual Jazz Festival and the Elvis Festival but smaller festivals, growing in popularity, take place throughout the year.


There is a direct flight into the centre of Penticton, via Vancouver, British Columbia or by bus from Vancouver.  Penticton is about an hour’s drive along the lakeside, south of Kelowna, where there are also direct flights from other Canadian cities.



Nk’Mip and Anthony Walsh


It was reports from Cheltenham Festival which reminded me of Anthony Walsh, a name I came across on a visit to the Nk’Mip lands (pronounced “in-Ka-meep”).  The Okanagan First Nation people have lived from time immemorial on lands which are one hour south of Penticton, British Columbia, Canada and ten minutes north of the US Border.

Anthony Walsh was born in Paris, France, to Irish parents in 1899.  His parents were Joseph and Lucy Walsh, Joseph being a renowned horse breeder and trader.  It was on a visit to Paris delivering horses to the grandees of Europe, that Anthony was born.

Anthony grew up in Scotland and England but spent time in Dublin. He had a gentle nature and always felt he was a disappointment to his parents. Later in life he was to speak warmly of his Aunt Agnes Walsh of Dublin who championed him before his parents.

He enlisted in the Irish Guards in 1917 and eventually went to Canada in 1923. He had several jobs in Canada but it was at the Nk’Mip lands where I first came across the name Anthony Walsh and wondered what his involvement with a First Nation tribe had been.

Anthony Walsh began teaching at the Inkameep Day School in 1932 and is credited with changing the lives of the Nk’Mip.  He had little experience in education but encouraged the children to explore their Aboriginal identity through art and drama.  From 1936 to 1942 he submitted the Nk’Mip children’s artwork to the Royal Drawing Society in London and this has provided an important record of the tribe.  The children’s drawings and paintings were exhibited in Paris, London, Dublin, Glasgow and Vienna.

He left the Inkameep School in 1942 to join the Legion War Services to work with soldiers returning from World War II. In 1952 Walsh founded Benedict Labre House, a home for destitute men in Montréal. He worked there until 1967, when ill health forced him to retire. In 1975 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Concordia University. On March 24, 1976, he returned to Oliver for a reunion with residents of Osoyoos, Oliver and surrounding areas, and especially with former students of the Inkameep Day School.

In 1990 Walsh received the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honour acknowledging the efforts of Canadian citizens who have made a profound difference to life in Canada. Anthony Walsh died in 1994 in Montréal, at 95 and, according to his wishes, was buried in a homemade pine coffin in a community plot for the homeless at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery.

Nk’Mip First Nation


The Nk’Mip First Nation reservation is well worth visiting. It’s a prime example of an indigenous people stepping straight into the 21st century without compromising ancient traditions and values.


Working with the government and in tandem with business expertise the Nk’Mip tribe has fifteen businesses they operate on their lands employing hundreds of people of all nationalities.


Bob a ‘young’ elder of the Nk’Mip tribe escorted our group on a tour of the reservation visitor lands where the traditions of his people were explained in simple detail.  From the grasses which were the tribe’s paint brush to the trees whose leaves turned red, signalling the arrival of the salmon in the river, the paintings on ancient rocks, to identifying the different animal droppings on the trail, Bob carefully guided us through the desert in a melting 42 degrees.


We saw the Black cottonwood tree which is used to make canoes, the basalt rock used by the young boys of the tribe to make spears, and sat in two pit houses, one with a turf roof and both constructed such that despite the searing heat they provided cool shade, so much so that one of the younger members of our party asked where the air con unit was!


Bullrushes are dried and bound together to provide a table to eat off and with an animal skin cover doubled as a bed.  Each pit house would accommodate two or three families, with designated areas for the elders, male and female, who are greatly respected in their society.  Chief Louis has led this tribe through a period of great change but their visitor centre with a theatre and a separate simulated pit house, with visual displays of their culture and traditions, film and stills, contribute greatly to one’s understanding of their culture and tradition.


The Nk’Mip are one of eight First Nation communities in the Okanagan Valley and their lands are near Osoyoos, a small town about the size of Skibbereen.    Helicopter rides, a 9 hole golf course, accommodation, restaurants, health spa, horse riding and boat trips are amongst the Nk’Mip tribe’s businesses.


Today the Nk’Mip, a people of the lake and desert, are testament to moving forward into the 21st century, whilst protecting their community’s traditions and lifestyle.  Further information on how a humble Irish man changed the lives of the Nk’Mip people is available from and University of Victoria, BC, visual anthropologist Andrea Walsh (no relation to Anthony Walsh) has conducted extensive research on the indigenous people of the Okanagan.


Penticton and the Okanagan Valley are accessible by air from Vancouver, BC.





We’re all Jock Tamson’s Bairns

I was baptised Catholic, attended the village Sunday School run by the Baptists in the local primary school, because I could do so without crossing a road, and I went on summer camps with them until I was a teenager.

It says much for my world that I attended school in Edinburgh unaware of the reason for the divide between Hearts and Hibs football teams. Somehow I was aware that a school friend I brought home was the daughter of Jew.  I didn’t really understand what that meant other than that Jesus had been a Jew according to Sunday school.  However I’d overheard she had two older sisters and her parents had really wanted a son each time so I empathised with her as I was in the same position.

My father was Italian but had died at a very young age.  I grew up overhearing how Italians only wanted sons and realised that because I was a girl, I was not quite what had been on the agenda.  I also grew up being told that because I was a girl my Italian family wanted nothing to do with us and that if we had been boys, they would have been never off the doorstep and our childhood would not have been so impoverished.

The absence of my Italian family in our lives might have been more to do with the fact that my agnostic mother had run the priests, sent to comfort us in the days after my father’s death, out of the house, yelling at them all the way up the path.

They’d had the misfortune to ask for money for candles and there was no money for food, never mind candles to pray for the dear departed soul of a young man who was taken from us through illness far too soon.   My Italian family were relatively wealthy for the times, unaware of our predicament and the poor priest would have naturally believed we were being looked after in similar circumstances.

My mother was too proud to ask for help but she did the best she could, as all mothers do for their children in whatever circumstances they find themselves in.

I grew up unaware of a brand of religion – and trotted off to church on a Sunday with whomever I felt sociable with at the time.   Often we couldn’t go to church because we simply did not have ‘best clothes’ to wear.

The full force and divide of religion was brought home to me when I moved to another Scottish city where Catholic and Church of Scotland schools were built side by side.  Generally there were daily fights on the way home from school.

Then the biggest drama and divide occurred one year before Christmas when I had young children of my own.  Because of decimalisation a large national company had recruited thousands of extra workers.  I watched aghast that year as the first to be laid off were my neighbours who were Catholic.  Church of Scotland members were kept on but realistically they had been working in the factories before the need for the huge influx of extra staff.

That was when it hit home that religion can cause problems.  There were many children in houses on our estate who had a very poor Christmas that year.

It was the most classic illustration of those who have and those who have not and that’s when religious troubles arise.

ITV’s programme on Cilla touched on the religious divide that prevailed in the late 1950s/early 1960s.  Both Cilla’s father and Bobby’s father stated their religious preferences for partners for their respective children were not the ones chosen by them.

‘We’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns’ is a popular saying in Scotland and is attributed to The Reverend John Thomson {Jock Tamson} who was a much-loved minister of Duddingston Kirk, Edinburgh from 1805 to 1840. He called the members of his congregation ‘ma bairns’ {my children}and this resulted in folk saying ‘we’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns’ which gave a sense of belonging to a small but special group. Nowadays, the phrase is often used to indicate we’re all the same under the skin.

I like to think of it that way.

IT and all that!

If you watched the episode of Cilla on ITV on Monday night – pure nostalgia for those of a certain era – two aspects might have seemed strange depending on how much of your three score and ten you have consumed.

Did people really hang around streets waiting for the phone to ring in the red and glass box?  ‘Cilla’ and her beloved ‘Bobby’ were waiting for a phone call from Brian Epstein for the chart listings of what was to be Miss White ‘s first No 1 on the pop charts of the day.

In the village I grew up in the phone box was the only means of immediate contact with family and friends.   Or more importantly to we teens, to receive a pre arranged call from a boyfriend or potential boyfriend.

If it was raining we would stand inside the phone box, gaze firmly fixed on the heavy black Bakelite handset willing it to come to life.  Others might begin to queue for their turn to use the phone. They’d jingle coins in their pockets, count and check they had the correct change to pay for the call and peer through the thickened glass to see if we were actually speaking to someone on the phone.  We ‘d haunch our shoulders, turn our faces away from those outside and form words silently pretending we were already speaking to a caller.  Handset to our ear, fingers pressed keeping the line open, we’d smile and nod pretending to be in scintillating conversation.  If the phone actually rang, our ruse was revealed and often we would have to pass the handset to whomever we had kept outside waiting in the rain.

It was another era of course and a time when you would not have dared to keep an adult waiting in the rain.

IT and communications have moved on, amazingly and wonderfully, in the past fifty years or so.  Even as I automatically type ‘IT’ I have moved on as that would have gained me a black mark and a dramatic red slash across any typing handed in for correction from my shorthand, typing and book- keeping schoolteacher.  Punctuation was king.

Technology is king today even stretching to the world of hospital X-ray.   I have had a fair few over the years and thought I knew the routine. One used to have to sit half dressed waiting until the radiographer checked whether you had moved or breathed out at wrong time.  If so the whole process was repeated.

In a pristine bright room I follow the instructions, ‘arms forward, deep breath, relax,’ and I drop back into the wheelchair.   Seconds later I can dress and wait to be taken back to the ward.   The X-Ray has been checked on screen instantly in the radiographer’s booth.  Another miracle as these IT advances mean results are so accurate and more instant than the time it took Epstein to inform Cilla, ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ had reached number one in the charts, but that was even before the era of ‘Top of the Pops.’

The religious divide, the second aspect from Monday’s programme, is for another post.




A reminder nothing is forever

It’s a hot steamy day in Colombo, Sri Lanka and we are visiting a Buddhist Temple.   A relative, a beautiful six year old little girl has recovered from dengue fever.   She spent a few critical days in intensive care when she should have been centre stage at her aunt’s wedding.

Her sisters and the other flower girls were dressed in beautiful satin outfits heavily decorated with bright shining jewels, bare midriffs and their heads adorned with garlands of blue and white flowers whose perfume assailed the senses.  The little girls’ outfits were made by the bride’s mother.

The child is still frail.  Her large beautiful dark eyes seem almost luminous but she is back home with her loving family.

Her grandparents, an elderly aunt, my son and his bride together with elderly me have arrived to give thanks for the child’s recovery.

I am introduced to aspects of Buddhism.  Apologies if I am incorrect but this is I as I understand it as explained to me.

Firstly we remove our footwear. Most people wear clothing that is predominately white in colour and there is an air of reverence but also a sense of purpose.

The tree which we are to encircle I am told is the tree the Buddha sat under and the only tree native to this country which has no purpose or usefulness other than to give shelter.   It produces no fruit, no food, and its wood and bark have no use, not even for carving or burning.

In a country with 22 million souls nothing is wasted.

Vendors adjacent to the Temple sell flowers and other items to be offered to the Buddha.  But firstly the ritual of walking around the huge base of this tree, stopping to fill jugs with water to pour on the roots of the tree to sustain it.

The flowers have their stems removed and are placed ceremoniously around the altar which circumvents the base of the tree.  They will wither and die before tomorrow in these temperatures.  Others peel fruit, unwrap food all of which will rot and die.   Reminders that we are not here for ever and that love and kindness will make our journey passing to the next life easier.

Oil lamps are lit, and will too burn out and die.  People sit around deep in thought, some  shed a tear and others pray in silence.

We walk barefoot over stoney ground and then back track to find a path which is kinder to our soft Western feet, to the entrance to the Temple.

We enter a riotous mosaic of colour which covers each and every wall and the roof.  Images of previous Buddhas stand or sit, some life size, in various poses.  I am told which poses it is forbidden to photograph.   I am also not permitted to photograph any person’s face in the Temple.  I can understand that as this is a holy place and I am intruding on another way of life.

‘Buddhism is not a religion but a way of life’ explains my new daughter in law.

There is a huge statue of a Buddha laying on his side filling the width of this cavernous Temple.  Too much to photograph other than in half a dozen shots.

My new daughter in law explains Buddhists too are waiting for the arrival of the final Buddha much as Christians await the return of Jesus.

We slowly leave this holy place and head back to our minibus.  The elderly aunt confides it is her 80th birthday the following day.   She is congratulated and hastily presents are put together to mark this special occasion.

‘She’s 83 not 80 tomorrow.  She was born in 1931, but she’s stayed at 80 for the past three years’, whispers her younger sister.

it seems that women are the same allthe world over!

Flight SQ222

Singapore_airlines_logo1Every time I have flown since 1999 I have had to sit in an aisle seat. It’s the only way I can cope with flying.

On a sunny April day 15 years ago my friend Julie and I were aboard Flight SQ222 as it gathered speed and with a wrenching thrust a petrel blue Botany Bay grew smaller in the distance as we left Australia behind, heading for Singapore.

A tall man sat next to me and because Julie is claustrophobic I took the middle seat so she could have the aisle seat. I was disgruntled at the prospect of spending the next seven hours stuck in the middle of the row..

Rob, the window seat man tells me he has his pilot’s license, he’s been with the Flying Doctor Service to stations all over the outback. He’s thrilled because he’s been invited to the cockpit once the crew have served the first meal.

We hit a lot of air pockets and the plane bumps along. The screen on the centre aisle shows our exact position and expected arrival time in Singapore.

After our meal the steward invites Rob to the flight deck. The Singapore Airlines stewardesses serve drinks. They are slim dark haired girls who sway along the aisles with that gentle grace common to these Far Eastern women.

Rob comes back and we get up to let him into his window seat.  ‘Was that as good as you thought it was going to be?’ I ask. He seems strangely solemn, doesn’t look at me, only nods and turns to stare out the window. I wonder what has gone wrong as he seems so serious. What can he be looking at as it is now quite dark. I return to the Meg Ryan film on my screen.‘We’re going down! Why are we going down? That screen says we still have nearly four hours to go to Singapore, Carol! They’ve switched the screens off!’ cries Julie.

I turn to Rob, nudge him and ask if he knows what’s happening. He turns, shakes his head and continues his vigil staring into the darkness below.‘This is your Captain speaking,’ says the tinny voice from the speakers. ‘We are dealing with a technical problem and are going to land shortly. I have no time to explain as I am busy dealing with the problem. Please fasten your seatbelts, put your chairs in an upright position and listen to the cabin crew for instructions.’

‘I told you we were going down,’ says Julie as she clicks her seat into its upright position.

‘What button did you press when you were up there Rob?’ I tease, but he stares at me with fear andterror growing in his face as I hold his gaze.

The normally sedate cabin crew race up the aisles, grabbing glasses empty or full without eye contact. Sleeping babies are lifted from cots, strapped into their mothers’ laps as air hostesses indicate oxygen masks instructing the mothers to attach their own mask first.

I wake the slumbering young German couple in front of me explaining that there’s some kind of emergency and we are going to land.

They look at me as if I am some kind of crazy woman and then take in the silent drama all around us. Still rosy faced from sleep they fasten their seatbelts and hold hands.

The plane lumbers on, rattling as if its bolts are being unscrewed and slowly, slowly we descend into the darkness.

A large man suddenly unfastens his seatbelt and stands opening the overhead locker. As he tries to pull his flight bag a steward pounces, wrenches the bag from him, pushes the man back in his seat and replaces the flight bag in the overhead locker slamming it shut. He stands over the passenger speaking sternly to him and then grim faced scans the rows of seated people as if daring anyone else to move.

‘All crew to emergency exits.’ We watch the crew strap themselves in, faces set, backs stiff with tension as they stare unseeingly to a point above our heads.

‘Can you see anything down there Rob? He must be landing this plane somewhere. Is there a runway that will take a plane as big as this?’ I nudge Rob again.

‘There are lights over there, the fire engines and ambulances are waiting for us. It’s Darwin, the only place we can land. But we’re still too high! Oh! No! He’s taking us out to sea!’

Rob turns to me, naked terror in his eyes. He thrusts his trembling hands into mine, his body shaking and shivering.  ‘We’ll never survive a sea landing. There are too many of us.’

Then he relaxes a bit. ‘We’re turning around so he must be going back to try to land at Darwin.’

What’s happening?’ asks Julie from my left side.

‘Rob thinks we’re going to land in Darwin,’ I whisper in her ear.

‘They should bring us down away from the town. If we all die so be it but don’t have another Lockerbie,’ says Julie.

The lights cut out in the plane and we continue in darkness save the eerie green of the emergency lighting. Then the silence multiplies as the engines cut out. I am too terrified to speak and stare ahead thinking I will never see my family again.

Silence pulsates all around us. No babies are crying, the children are silent and no one speaks. No prayers break the pulsating fear that echoes through the steel tomb. We float as if on a glider, smoothly downward awaiting gravity’s cruel thrust. As if in slow motion we bend forward heads resting against the seat in front, arms clasped unfeelingly in full crash position.  We land smoothly, gently and slow to a standstill. One by one we raise our heads and stare into the darkness around us.

‘What happened Rob?’ I ask.

‘A fire alarm went off in the hold when I was on the flight deck I couldn’t tell you. They’ve got the hold open now and there are no flames, so I think maybe it was a false alarm. I would laugh if I could stop shaking. I was so frightened. I thought we would all die.’

I feel Julie fumbling about on the floor and ask her what she’s doing.

‘You have to take your shoes off to get down the emergency chute, but my feet are so swollen I can’t get my shoes off.’ she explains.

‘Oh just leave them on. Let’s get out of here as quickly as we can.

Postcript: Six months later, the official report into the cause of the fire alarm going off on the hold is thought to be bees which were being transported in dry ice. The dry ice had set off the fire alarm and resulted in the emergency landing of flight SQ222 at Darwin airport.


Barbara Zanuttigh

Barbara Zanuttigh

In these heady days of high temperatures and water shortages it’s difficult to think of the ever present threat of coastal flooding.  As West Cork residents and businesses know only too well coastal flooding damages not only buildings and engineering structures, but also the environment and the ecological balance.

Thanks to a European Union (EU)-funded initiative, namely the THESEUS project, there is now a one-stop-shop whereby flooding risks may be identified at different time scales – from one year to 100 years.

The new THESEUS Decision Support System (DSS) is a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based tool. “This tool will help decision makers input all the conditions they are dealing with so the short, medium and long-term effects of building or developing within coastal communities could be identified,” says THESEUS project coordinator, Barbara Zanuttigh, Assistant Professor at University of Bologna, Italy.

The tool enables developers, builders and local authorities to minimise coastal risks and take into account physical and non-physical drivers such as climate change, subsidence (undermining and sinking of land due to flooding), population and economic growth. “The THESEUS DSS is intended as a vehicle for communication, training, forecasting and experimentation,” adds Zanuttigh.

In addition to the DSS tool, a guidelines book, compiled by the project team, will assist coastal managers in the application of THESEUS methodology for coastal risk assessment and in the selection and design of mitigation options. The policy briefs developed are expected to support decision makers by identifying weaknesses and strengths of the existing policies and the key challenges to be addressed.

Last, but not least, the information booklets, also produced by the THESEUS team, “aim to raise the general public’s awareness regarding the scale of the risks involved and help towards a more sustainable future,” concludes Zanuttigh.

Has the wheel turned full circle?

The Celtic Ross Hotel, Rosscarbery, West Cork

The Celtic Ross Hotel, Rosscarbery, West Cork

The 2002 Rosscarbery Autumn School was held at the Celtic Ross Hotel over the weekend of 11th to 13th October.

“Has the Wheel Turned Full Circle?” was the topic of discussion over the weekend, as a series speakers examined the influence of Land Use on the development of modern Ireland in political, social and economic terms.

Mr Liam O’Regan, Editor of The Southern Star, chaired the Saturday morning session which was entitled “Landlordism, Land Agitation & Cap-Doffing in the late 19th Century.” Mr O’Regan spoke initially on a family story of cap doffing. He said, “At agricultural shows around West Cork at the end of the 19th century, to be a “gentleman” you had to have 100 acres. If you didn’t, you were a farmer or a peasant. My own great grandfather, whose name was Gerry Hegarty, was actually a peasant, but by some sleight of hand he was actually able to get into the gentlemen’s class. He beat the landlords in relation to pigs, cows and various other classes. There was a rule at the time that if a tenant beat a ruling landlord, the landlord was entitled to confiscate the animal and that happened to my great grandfather, so he became known as “Gerry the gentleman”. I think the same rule of confiscation applied to the Cork and Bandon Shows.”

Dr Larry Geary, of the History Dept, UCC, is the author of the Plan of Campaign, 1886-1891 and editor of Rebellion and Remembrance in Modern Ireland. His book, The Sick Poor and Medical Relief in Ireland 1718-1851 will be published by Cork University Press next year. Dr Geary, who was the first guest speaker of Saturday, spoke about the decline of the political and social ascendancy of the gentry. He spoke of the massive changes in attitude to landlords and to the ascendancy class which occurred within a few years. He quoted public pronouncements which had been made by a number of Catholic priests who were involved in the land agitation of the 1880’s.

Nationwide public meetings were popular manifestations of nationalist fervour and promoted solidarity amongst tenants and fostered agitation. Accounts of these

public meetings were published and enabled a message to be sent out that unity and organisation were essential if tenants were to achieve their aims.

Land grabbing, that is the taking of farms from which others had been evicted, was regarded as the ultimate evil and land grabbers were rigorously boycotted or sent to a moral Coventry. Dr Geary detailed specific instances of boycotting and detailed the ongoing difficulties for those involved, which in some cases required boycotted children to be escorted home by the police for their own safety.

The changes that occurred within a single decade were summed up by Lord Carlingford, an expatriate Irish Protestant landlord. He likened the Ireland of October 1885 to a “foreign and enemy country” and his class and England, “the subject of hostility and hatred.”

Again in October 1885, Parnell addressed a tenant gathering in Kildare, during the course of which he stated, “the great and all absorbing topic in Ireland is the land question. The land question is at the root of all other questions.”

Local Historian, Graduate of History in UCC, and author of 6 books, Michael Galvin spoke on “Unusual Aspects of the Land War”. Mr Galvin examined all aspects of the Land War, i.e. boycotting, evictions, outrage, violence, land grabbing, rack renting, execution sales, landlords, the Land League and later the National League, the labour question the Church, Home Rule, the Plan of Campaign, emigration, the socio-economic environment, the Poor Law Unions as well as the make up of the main players most notable Charles Stewart Parnell himself.

Whilst many Landlords were praised by hard pressed tenants for rent abatement, reduction and in some cases oversight of chronic arrears, by the early 1880’s it was evident that Government thinking on labour legislation was well ahead of that of farmers and landlords at Poor Law Union Meetings, who feared such legislation would bring about extra local rating.

The complexity of the times was often evident in frequent labour feuding as to who should get which cottage and when. Neither was Home Rule a clear cut issue in

these years, its aspirations ranging from radical separatism to the mild constitutional Repealism of Butt and Parnell.

Early Buttism drew from a large if unclear well of Repealers, Fenians, Protestants, Catholics, Presbyterians in the Home Government Association but for all that Butt’s appeal was minoritist, not populist.

The Land League and later the National League was extremely complex during these years in both its proceedings and modus operandi. Much of its problems arose from a lack of unified homogeneity with regard to the broad thrust of policy. Those who did not join the League or adhere to its strictures were not only not helped when in dire trouble, but punished with the universal weapon of boycott.

Mr Galvin quoted specific instances during this complex and contradictory period where boycotting was not directed solely against the landlords who together with their agents only suffered about 15% of its impact, labourers a high 35% and tenant farmers themselves a massive 50%. The nature of the violence was complex too during the land war.

C S Parnell, the main player in the land war was a remarkably complex character drawing support right across the political spectrum and seeming to be all thins to all men. Mr Galvin stated that Parnell was pragmatic in his reaction to unfolding land reform telling his people to give it a chance so to speak, yet egging on the Government that if more was not granted, violence would result.