Rochfortbridge Short Stories

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Gerard K. O'Neill (1927–1992) was an American physicist and space
activist. As a faculty member of Princeton University, he invented a
device called the particle storage ring for high energy physics
experiments. Later he invented a magnetic launcher called the mass
driver. In the 1970s he developed a plan to build human settlements in
outer space, including a space habitat design known as the O'Neill
cylinder. He founded the Space Studies Institute, an organization
devoted to funding research into space manufacturing and colonization.
In 1965 at Stanford University he performed the first colliding beam
physics experiment. While teaching physics at Princeton, O'Neill became
interested in the possibility that humans could live in outer space. He
researched and proposed a futuristic idea for human settlement in
space, the O'Neill cylinder in "The Colonization of Space", his first
paper on the subject. He held a conference on space manufacturing at
Princeton in 1975. Many who became post-Apollo-era space activists
attended. O'Neill built his first mass driver prototype with professor
Henry Kolm in 1976. He considered mass drivers critical for extracting
the mineral resources of the Moon and asteroids. His award-winning book
The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space inspired a generation of
space exploration advocates. He died in 1992 after a seven year fight
against leukemia.

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Poem by Ailish O'Neill
Published in "Write a Poem 2008"
published by
Athlone Education Centre

Saint Patrick

A boy was brought accross the waves,
By Niall the Celtic King.
To Live and work among the slaves,
But Patrick, more did bring.
On Slieve Mish high he spoke to God,
Who set him this demand.
"Free the Irish from pagan Gods,
And Christianise the land".
Interview with our youngest published poet Ailish O'Neill.
Interviewer - Ailish, what inspired you to write this poem?
Ailish - Well my Daddy is a poet and loves history, he told us that we were "princesses" as we were once kings of all Ireland, he told us that "Nial" is the King we are named after and that it was Nial that brought Saint Patrick to Ireland.
Interviewer - Are you proud to have your poem published?
Ailish - Yes of course, it is hard to get a poem published and to have a poem about Saint Patrick published is the best.
Interviewer - Will you continue to write poems?
Ailish - Yes, as long as my Dad is alive and probably years after he is dead I will always hear him preach about how poetry and song is part of our culture,
Interviewer - What would you say to other children your age about Ireland and what it is to be Irish?
Ailish - I am lucky that I have a very famous Irish name but I would like more of my class to respect our culture - we are Irish and we should be proud of it but some people think it isnt "cool" so kids sometimes make fun of our culture and copy what they see on TV...thats not culture, thats "Monkey see - Monkey do"
Today in History - What a mixture American, French, English and of course Irish!
October 19th 1781
British general Charles Cornwallis formally surrendered his British army to a combined French and American force outside the Virginia tobacco port of Yorktown. Cornwallis’ second-in-command, Charles O’Hara, attempted to deliver Cornwallis’s sword to French general, Comte de Rochambeau. But Rochambeau directed O’Hara to American General George Washington, who coolly steered the British officer to Washington’s own second in command, Major General Benjamin Lincoln.

The Summer Solstice
Humans in prehistoric times built monuments to commemorate both the winter and the summer solstices throughout the world. 6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. WestmeathSolstice comes from the Latin words sol meaning sun and sistere meaning to cause to stand still. As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky.

Nature and religions, both ancient and modern, hold the solstices in great esteem. Modern day druids perform rituals based on old beliefs at Stonehenge each year. In the Americas, Machu Picchu and the Sun Dagger of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico show evidence of ancient astronomical design.

Legends and Lore

June has long been associated with marriages, and much midsummer lore has arisen from the greening time. The act of silently gathering nine kinds of flowers and placing them under a pillow is supposed to reveal in dreams the identity of the person to be wed. The honeymoon to follow was originally a time when the newly-weds would share foods prepared with honey so that their lives together might be sweet.

In the Catholic Church, St. John is associated with Midsummer and is believed to be the protector of lovers.

Shakespeare took the fairy legends and lovers' traditions and crafted them into A Midsummer Night's Dream where quarreling lovers, both mortal and otherworldly, madden each other through a potion brewed of magical herbs.

Herbs and flowers harvested on Midsummer Day were believed to have magical qualities. Specially gathered fern seed was believed to make people invisible and guide them to buried treasure, and wreaths and garlands of flowers were devised to bring health to households and ward off evil.

April Fools Day - How Did It Begin?

Unlike most of the other non-foolish days, the history of April Fool's Day, sometimes called All Fool's Day, is not totally clear. There really wasn't a "first April Fool's Day" that can be pinpointed on the calendar. Some believe it sort of evolved simultaneously in several cultures at the same time, from celebrations involving the first day of spring. The closest point in time that can be identified as the beginning of this tradition was in 1582, in France. Prior to that year, the new year was celebrated for eight days, beginning on March 25. The celebration culminated on April 1. 6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. WestmeathWith the reform of the calendar under Charles IX, the Gregorian Calendar was introduced, and New Year's Day was moved to January 1. However, communications being what they were in the days when news traveled by foot, many people did not receive the news for several years. Others, the more obstinate crowd, refused to accept the new calendar and continued to celebrate the new year on April 1. These backward folk were labeled as "fools" by the general populace. They were subject to some ridicule, and were often sent on "fools errands" or were made the butt of other practical jokes. This harassment evolved, over time, into a tradition of prank-playing on the first day of April. The tradition eventually spread to England and Scotland in the eighteenth century. It was later introduced to the American colonies of both the English and French. April Fool's Day thus developed into an international fun fest, so to speak, with different nationalities specializing in their own brand of humor at the expense of their friends and families. In Scotland, for example, April Fool's Day is actually celebrated for two days. The second day is devoted to pranks involving the posterior region of the body. It is called Taily Day. The origin of the "kick me" sign can be traced to this observance. Mexico's counterpart of April Fool's Day is actually observed on December 28. Originally, the day was a sad remembrance of the slaughter of the 6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeathinnocent children by King Herod. It eventually evolved into a lighter commemoration involving pranks and trickery. Pranks performed on April Fool's Day range from the simple, (such as saying, "Your shoe's untied!), to the elaborate. Setting a roommate's alarm clock back an hour is a common gag. Whatever the prank, the trickster usually ends it by yelling to his victim, "April Fool!" Practical jokes are a common practice on April Fool's Day. Sometimes, elaborate practical jokes are played on friends or relatives that last the entire day. The news media even gets involved. For instance, a British short film once shown on April Fool's Day was a fairly detailed documentary about "spaghetti farmers" and how they harvest their crop from the spaghetti trees. April Fool's Day is a "for-fun-only" observance. Nobody is expected to buy gifts or to take their "significant other" out to eat in a fancy restaurant. Nobody gets off work or school. It's simply a fun little day, but a day on which one must remain forever vigilant, for they may be the next April Fool!

Who Was Saint Patrick?

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Even though Saint Patrick the patron saint of Ireland and one of the most celebrated religious figures around the world, the factual information about his life and times is quite vague. Most information about St. Patrick has been twisted, embellished, or simply made up over centuries by storytellers, causing much ambiguity about the real life of St. Patrick. However, there are some elements of his story about which most scholars accept to be true. Saint Patrick is traditionally thought to have lived between 432-461 A.D., but more recent scholarship moves the dates up a bit. At the age of sixteen he was kidnapped from his native land of the Roman Britains by a band pirates led by Niall of the Nine Hostages (who was the father of the great O’Neill Clan of Ulster), and sold into slavery in Ireland. Saint Patrick worked as a shepherd and turned to religion for solace. After six years of slavery he escaped to the Irish coast and fled home to Britain. While back in his homeland, Patrick decided to become a priest and then decided to return to Ireland after dreaming that the voices of the Irish people were calling him to convert them to Christianity. After studying and preparing for several years, Patrick traveled back to Ireland as a Christian missionary. Although there were already some Christians living in Ireland, St. Patrick was able to bring upon a massive religious shift to Christianity by converting people of power. St. Patrick is credited with converting the nobles; who set an example which the people followed. But Patrick's desire to spread of Christianity was not met without mighty opposition. Patrick ran into trouble with the local pagan priesthood, the druids: and there are many stories about his arguments with them as well as his survival of plots against them. He laid the groundwork for the establishment of hundreds of monasteries and churches that eventually popped up across the Irish country to promote Christianity. Saint Patrick is also credited with bringing written word to Ireland through the promotion of the study of legal texts and the Bible. Previous to Patrick, storytelling and history were reliant on memory and orally passing down stories. Patrick's mission in Ireland is said to have lasted for thirty years.
It is believed he died in the 5th century on March 17, which is the day St. Patrick's Day is commemorated each year.

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

The worlds first official St. Patrick's Day parade was held in New York City in 1766.

Other Irish Saints

Saint Colmcille (Feast Day 9th of June)

St Colmcille was born in Gartan, near Letterkenny in Co. Donegal in 521 A.D. He was a decendant of Niall of the Nine Hostages, his father was a prince of Tir Conaill and his mother was a princess of Leinster. 6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. WestmeathHe was christened Criomhthann, and placed under the care of the priest who baptised him. He was permitted to play with children from the neighbouring village on one day per week, and when he came into sight, they shouted: "here comes Colmcille". [Colmcille means the dove of the Church]. When the priest heard this name, he decided that it was God's will that the child should be called this name, and that his baptismal name should be forgotten. Colmcille was sent to the monastery of St Finian at Moville to further his education, and then he learned the art of poetry in Leinster from Gemman, his master. He visited the monastery of Clonard in Co. Meath and he was ordained a priest. After his ordination, he studied for a time at the monastery of St Moibhí at Glasnevin. He returned to Donegal and was given a grant of land on the shores of Lough Swilly where he built a church and founded the monastery of Doire Colmcille. After seven years, he set about founding other monasteries in places such as Kells, Durrow and Lambay. Colmcille came to Swords in the year 560 A.D. and chose a site for an abbey overlooking the river where St Columba's now stands. The Abbey lands took in all of the modern River Valley parish, Brackenstown, Balheary as well as Swords. It consisted of a large church, with separate cells for the monks to live in. There was also a school, a mill, grain house and guesthouse. The Book of Kells (left) was written in honour of St Columcille. His feast day is celebrated on 9 June, and when 600 years after his death, the privilege of holding a fair in Swords was granted to the Archbishop of Dublin by King John, the day chosen was the feast day of St Colmcille.

St Brigid (Feast Day 1st of February)
6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Brigid was born at Fochairt, near Dundalk around 452. Her father (Dubhtach) was a pagan chieftain and her mother (Brocessa) a Christian slave in his household. Although Brigid's mother died when Brigid was a young girl she never forgot the Christian faith she had learned from her as a child. As she grew up Brigid herded sheep, pigs and cattle for her father and helped about the house. Brigid grew into a very beautiful girl whom many young noblemen wished to marry, but she refused them all because she wanted to serve God as a nun. Brigid showed love and kindneess to the poor as well as the animals she tended in her father's house. However this love of the poor often got her into trouble. A story is told of how Dubhtach, angry with her because she would not get marry decided to sell her as a servant to the king of Leinster. While he was bartering with the king, Brigid took pity on a passing beggar and gave him a valuable sword which her father had left with her. Her father was in a fierce temper when he found out his sword was gone. But the king thought that Brigid was good and kind and asked him to forgive her. Brigid's father eventually let her leave his house and herself to do God's service, in whatever way her bishop thought best. Brigid and some friends received the religious veil from St. Mel who said: "You shall be called Sisters of Mercy," gave them the white robes of nuns, and made them promise to give up their lives to serving God by prayer and works of charity. Bridget and her companions chose as their first home a house under a great oak tree, which they called Cill Dara "the Church of Oak" and which later grew into the town of Kildare. Her convent soon became the centre of religion and learning. She also founded a school of art, where metalwork and illumination of manuscripts was taught. Brigid was soon joined by several other women who formed themselves into a religious community, which branched out into several other nunneries throughout Ireland. All of these communities acknowledged her for their mother and founder. The courage and honesty with which Brigid challenged the selfishness of the rich and the purity of her way of life inspired many to become Christians. It was during one such conversation that the traditional St. Brigid's Cross came into being. Brigid was called to the bedside of a dying chieftain. While she sat by his bedside nursing him she picked up some rushes from the floor and began to plait them into the shape of a cross. The chieftain woke as she worked and asked her what she was doing. When Brigid explained to him the story of Jesus and his crucifixion and told him of the love and forgiveness of God, the man repented of his lifestyle up to then and became a Christian. Since then the simple rush cross has become a symbol of Brigid's love of God and people. The fame of Brigid spread far and wide. Bridget died in 524 an old woman still leading her community and actively involved with the poor and the needy. She was known as Patroness of Ireland and "Queen of the South". She is also invoked as a patron of scholars, poets, blacksmiths, healers, cattle, dairyworkers, newborn babies, and fugitives.

A Short Mother's Day History

(Sunday 2 March in case you've forgot!)

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Contrary to popular belief, Mother's Day was not conceived and fine-tuned in the boardroom of Hallmark Cards. The earliest tributes to mothers date back to the annual spring festival the Greeks dedicated to Rhea, the mother of many deities, and to the offerings ancient Romans made to their Great Mother of Gods, Cybele. Christians celebrated this festival on the fourth Sunday in Lent in honor of Mary, mother of Christ. In England this holiday was expanded to include all mothers and was called Mothering Sunday.

In the United States, Mother's Day started nearly 150 years ago, when Anna Jarvis, an Appalachian Indian homemaker, organized a day to raise awareness of poor health conditions in her community, a cause she believed would be best advocated by mothers. She called it "Mother's Work Day."

At first, people observed Mother's Day by attending church, writing letters to their mothers, and eventually, by sending cards, presents, and flowers. With the increasing gift-giving activity associated with Mother's Day.

St. Valentine

Patron Saint of Love, Young People, Happy Marriages

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath
Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family, assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. He was apprehended, and sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome, who, on finding all his promises to make him renounce his faith in effectual, commended him to be beaten with clubs, and afterwards, to be beheaded, which was executed on February 14, about the year 270. Pope Julius I is said to have built a church near Ponte Mole to he memory, which for a long time gave name to the gate now called Porta del Popolo, formerly, Porta Valetini. The greatest part of his relics are now in the church of St. Praxedes. His name is celebrated as that of an illustrious martyr in the sacramentary of St. Gregory, the Roman Missal of Thomasius, in the calendar of F. Fronto and that of Allatius, in Bede, Usuard, Ado, Notker and all other martyrologies on this day. To abolish the heathens lewd superstitious custom of boys drawing the names of girls, in honor of their goddess Februata Juno, on the fifteenth of this month, several zealous pastors substituted the names of saints in billets given on this day.

The Origin of St. Valentine

The origin of St. Valentine, and how many St. Valentines there were, remains a mystery. One opinion is that he was a Roman martyred for refusing to give up his Christian faith. Other historians hold that St. Valentine was a temple priest jailed for defiance during the reign of Claudius. Whoever he was, Valentine really existed because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.

The first representation of Saint Valentine appeared in a The Nuremberg Chronicle, a great illustrated book printed in 1493. [Additional evidence that Valentine was a real person: archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine.] Alongside a woodcut portrait of him, text states that Valentinus was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius the Goth [Claudius II]. Since he was caught marrying Christian couples and aiding any Christians who were being persecuted under Emperor Claudius in Rome [when helping them was considered a crime], Valentinus was arrested and imprisoned. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner -- until Valentinus made a strategic error: he tried to convert the Emperor -- whereupon this priest was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stoned; when that didn't do it, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate [circa 269].

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. WestmeathSaints are not supposed to rest in peace; they're expected to keep busy: to perform miracles, to intercede. Being in jail or dead is no excuse for non-performance of the supernatural. One legend says, while awaiting his execution, Valentinus restored the sight of his jailer's blind daughter. Another legend says, on the eve of his death, he penned a farewell note to the jailer's daughter, signing it, "From your Valentine."

St. Valentine was a Priest, martyred in 269 at Rome and was buried on the Flaminian Way. He is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses.

Joe Dolan and The Drifters No Show Like a Joe Show The Story Dedicated to the memory of Joe Dolan (1939 – 2007) With thanks to Although Brendan Bowyer and Dickie Rock fans may argue, Joe Dolan is regarded as the greatest international star produced by the showband era. He has had numerous hits in Ireland and Europe, including the U.K. His career started in his native Mullingar with a band that would create two major musical forces in Irish music...The Drifters and The Times. The story of The Drifters started when the two Dolan brothers Joe and Ben, got together with some friends and entered a local talent contest which they won. The brothers knew they could make a go of music and quit their day jobs (Ben as a carpenter and Joe as a compositor) and formed The Drifters in 1964 with Ben on Sax and Joe as guitarist and lead singer. The other members of the band were: Sid Aughey (drums), Jimmy Horan (bass), Tommy Swarbrigg (trumpet), Joey Gilheaney (trombone), and Des Doherty (keyboards). The band's first record was an an old Del Shannon song, "The Answer To Everything," which went to No. 4 in the Irish Charts. With a hit single under their belts, the boys took the dancehalls and ballrooms by storm. In the following years, Joe released a string of hits, including "I Love You More And More Everyday", "My Own Peculiar Way", "Aching Breaking Heart", "Pretty Brown Eyes", "Tar And Cement", "The House With The Whitewashed Gable", "Love Of The Common People", and "The Westmeath Bachelor". In mid 1968, a crisis hit the band when Tommy Swarbrigg and the younger members of the band decided it was time for a change in direction and left to form The Times. Tommy contacted his brother, Jimmy, who was living in London, and he returned to front the new pop band. This move left Joe and Ben alone, and they went about rebuilding a new band, that would eventually go on to even greater success at home and abroad. They recruited: Frankie McDonald (trumpet), Gordon Coleman (guitar), Maurice Walsh (drums), Kieran Mc Donnell (keyboards), Seamus Shannon (trombone), and Patrick Hoye (bass). After adding a guitarist, Joe set down his six string and focused all his energy on singing. Joe Dolan and the "New" Drifters' first international chart success came in July, 1969, when they reached no. 3 in the UK charts with "Make Me an Island." Following this, the floodgates opened and Joe and the band continued to record hit after hit. During the Seventies, Joe continued to have hits in Ireland, Europe, South Africa and Australia. In the early seventies, the band suffered a couple of minor setbacks when Seamus Shannon left to join Brendan Shine's Superband, and was replaced by Liam Meadeand a year later Patrick Hoye left the band and journeyed to the United States to study at the Berklee School of Music, where he studied with the likes of Paul Ashford (who would return to form Stepaside) and John Farrell (of the Dazzle Band). Pat was replaced by Mick Bagnell (who also played with Margo for a spell). In 1974, Joe and the band hit another high when "Sweet Little Rock n' Roller" won the European Pop Jury. In 1979, the song would be covered by English group, Showaddywaddy and would become one of their most famous songs and their last top twenty hit. In 1975, long time drummer Maurice Walsh left the band to study music and was replaced by Jimmy Walsh, who would in turn be replaced by Tony Newman. In December, 1977, the band was changing again. Patrick Hoye had returned from the States and Ben asked him to join the band for an eight week tour of South Africa. He ended up staying with the band for the next eight years. A few months later, in 1978, Joe and the band became the first Western based band to play in Russia. [Tony Newman, who would go on to play with Joe for many years, sadly passed away in 2000.] The early eighties were a time of growth and transition for the band. Joe's fame was growing so quickly that it started to overshadow the importance of "The Drifters" as a separate entity. The band was touring constantly: Las Vegas, Russia, South Africa, Canada, Germany, etc. They even abandoned a tour of the Middle East (Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt) because the Ayatollah came back to Iran and changed everything. Joe Dolan's son, Ray, joined the band around this time and was added on percussion. Gerry Kelly, who had replaced Gordon Coleman on lead guitar headed off to the United States in the early 1980's and was replaced by Joe Meehan. By the time the mid 1980's rolled around the "Drifters" had more or less ceased to exist. What had started as The Drifters Showband, and then became "Joe Dolan and the Drifters," ended up as Joe Dolan (and his band). Pat Hoye left in 1985 to return to Boston. Joe died on St Stephens Day 2007 and his funeral was the largest seen in Mullingar, it was attended by family, friends and neighbours, fans, peers and press. Joe brought his native Mullingar to a standstill once again. "your fans cried for more at every show, but cried for you at your funeral"

Peace on Earth

Why are there the Twelve Days of Christmas?
6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

The Twelve Days of Christmas is actually a catechism song. Between the years 1558-1829, English Catholics were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Without regular mass, sacraments, or catechism lessons from the priest, there was little parents could do to help their children learn and remember all out their faith. This song was created to keep the Catholic faith in their lives, even though hidden for the time.

Instead of referring to a suitor, the "true love" mentioned in the song refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents symbolises every baptized person.

'A partridge in a pear tree' is Jesus Christ. A mother partridge will feign injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings. The children hearing this song would know that, and would understand the parallel between the acts of a mother bird, also as the partridge was considered the "King" of game birds and the pear tree was a common tree found in every garden, a partridge in a pear tree would be an unusual sight and likened to the birth of Christ in a stable and willing to sacrifice himself for others.

The other symbols continue the symbolism:

2 turtle doves----the Old and New Testaments;

3 French hens--Faith, Hope and Charity;

4 calling birds---the Four Gospels;

5 golden rings---the first five books of the Old Testament, which give the history of man's fall from grace;

6 geese a laying-the six days of creation;

7 swans a swimming-seven gifts of the Holy Spirit;

8 maids a milking-the eight Beatitudes;

9 ladies dancing--nine choirs of angels;

10 lords a leaping-the Ten Commandments;

11 pipers piping--the eleven faithful Apostles;

12 drummers drumming-the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree is a bundle of symbols showing what creation has to offer: light and the movement of angels, the gifts of orchard and field, forest and sea, all topped off by the star that pointed to the end of the journey, the place of peace. 6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

During Advent in the 11th century, scenes called mysteries, including one about Paradise, were very popular. A tree decorated with red apples symbolized the tree of Paradise. During the 15th century, the faithful began to put up trees in their own houses on December 24, the feast day of Adam and Eve.

However, the first Christmas tree as we know it, but without lights, appeared in Alsace (France) in 1521. It was introduced in France by the Princess Hélène de Mecklembourg who brought one to Paris after her marriage to the Duke of Orleans. In the 18th century, the custom of decorating a Christmas tree was well established in Germany, France and Austria.

In 1841, Prince Albert (originally from Germany), husband of Queen Victoria, set up a Christmas tree at Windsor Castle in England. From the royal court, the custom of Christmas trees spread quickly to the middle class and then to working people. For Victorians, a good Christmas tree had to be six branches tall and be placed on a table covered with a white damask tablecloth. It was decorated with garlands, candies and paper flowers.

The Christmas tree was introduced to the New World around the end of the 18th century even before it became a common practice in England. The various ornaments with which it was decorated were first made at home before being commercially produced. In the middle of the 18th century, Christmas20th century by electric bulbs. Other variations like outdoor and artificial Christmas trees as appeared around the beginning of the 20th century.

The Christmas Tree II

Why do we have an angel on top of the tree?

(Belvederes alternative view!)

When four of Santa's elves got sick, the trainee elves did not produce toys as fast as the regular ones, and Santa began to feel the Pre-Christmas pressure.

Then Mrs Claus told Santa her Mother was coming to visit, which stressed Santa even more.

When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two others had jumped the fence and were out, Heaven knows where.6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Then when he began to load the sleigh, one of the floorboards cracked, the toy bag fell to the ground and all the toys were scattered.6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Frustrated, Santa went in the house for a cup of apple cider and a shot of rum. When he went to the cupboard, he discovered the elves had drunk all the cider and hidden the liquor. In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the cider jug, and it broke into hundreds of little glass pieces all over the kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and found the mice had eaten all the straw off the end of the broom.

Just then the doorbell rang, and irritated Santa marched to the door, yanked it open, and there stood a little angel with a great big Christmas tree. The angel said very cheerfully, "Merry Christmas, Santa. Isn't this a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Where do you want me to stick it?"

And so began the tradition of the little angel on top of the Christmas tree.

The Three Wise Men

We three kings of Orient are

Bearing gifts we traverse afar

Field and fountain, moor and mountain

Following yonder star.

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

The Christmas carol "We Three Kings" tells the story of the Wise Men from the East who brought gifts to the baby Jesus. But who were the Three Kings, otherwise known as the Magi or Wise Men, and were they really royal?

According to tradition dating back to medieval times, their names were Balthasar, Gaspar (or Casper), and Melchior. They are often depicted as representing the three races. The Bible says they came from the East, but exactly where is not known. Arabia, Babylon, and Persia are popular choices. According to one tradition, Balthasar was king of Arabia, Gaspar was king of India, and Melchior was king of Persia.

An 8th century saint, Bede the Venerable, described the kings this way: "The first was called Melchior; he was an old man, with white hair and long beard; he offered gold to the Lord as to his king. The second, Gaspar by name, young, beardless, of ruddy hue, offered to Jesus his gift of incense, the homage due to Divinity. The third, of black complexion, with heavy beard, was called Baltasar; the myrrh he held in his hands prefigured the death of the Son of man."

The Bible, however, does not describe the kings or reveal their names. In fact, it does not call them kings at all, but simply Magi, or Wise Men. The Magi were a Median priestly caste who rose to power in ancient Persia (today's Iran). Their religion, Zoroastrianism, was founded around the 6th century BC by a Median man named Zoroaster. The Magi were held in awe as highly educated scientists and scholars who could interpret dreams and even control demons.

The Magi of the Nativity were probably important men in their own country and may well have been of noble or royal birth, but there is no evidence to back this up. The idea that they were kings arose in the Middle Ages and was based on earlier Biblical prophecies about kings bearing gifts.

We can't even say for sure how many Magi visited Jesus. The Bible does not specify three. According to Eastern tradition, the number was 12. The Western tradition of three wise men probably arises from the three gifts they brought to Jesus.

Tradition has it that in later years the Wise Men were baptized by St. Thomas the Apostle; all three became bishops and spent the rest of their lives spreading Christianity, and at the end of their lives they each saw the Star of Bethlehem again and were reunited. One legend says that they were over 100 years old when they met to celebate Christmas, then died within a few days of each other.

Their purported remains were brought to Constantinople by St. Helena, mother of the 4th century Roman emperor Constantine the Great, and later moved to Milan. In the 12th century they fell into the hands of Holy Roman emperor Frederick Barbarossa, who gave them to the Archbishop of Cologne, Germany. The archbishop built a cathedral for the relics in Cologne, where they remain to this day.

The carol "We Three Kings" was written in 1857 by an American minister, John Henry Hopkins Jr., for use in a Christmas pageant.

The Origins of Santa Claus - St Nicholas

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. 6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day. Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need. One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death. The townspeople of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Arab pirates from Crete came into the district. They stole treasures from the Church of Saint Nicholas to take away as booty. As they were leaving town, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into a slave. The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personal cupbearer, as not knowing the language, Basilios would not understand what the king said to those around him. So, for the next year Basilios waited on the king, bringing his wine in a beautiful golden cup. For Basilios' parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, filled with grief. As the next St. Nicholas' feast day approached, Basilios' mother would not join in the festivity, as it was now a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios' safekeeping. Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulfilling his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked up and away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terrified boy, blessed him, and set him down at his home back in Myra. Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king's golden cup. This is the first story told of St. Nicholas protecting children—which became his primary role in the West. Another story tells of three theological students, traveling on their way to study in Athens. A wicked innkeeper robbed and murdered them, hiding their remains in a large pickling tub. It so happened that Bishop Nicholas, traveling along the same route, stopped at this very inn. In the night he dreamed of the crime, got up, and summoned the innkeeper. As Nicholas prayed earnestly to God the three boys were restored to life and wholeness. In France the story is told of three small children, wandering in their play until lost, lured, and captured by an evil butcher. St. Nicholas appears and appeals to God to return them to life and to their families. And so St. Nicholas is the patron and protector of children. Several stories tell of Nicholas and the sea. When he was young, Nicholas sought the holy by making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There as he walked where Jesus walked, he sought to more deeply experience Jesus' life, passion, and resurrection. Returning by sea, a mighty storm threatened to wreck the ship. Nicholas calmly prayed. The terrified sailors were amazed when the wind and waves suddenly calmed, sparing them all. And so St. Nicholas is the patron of sailors and voyagers. Other stories tell of Nicholas saving his people from famine, sparing the lives of those innocently accused, and much more. He did many kind and generous deeds in secret, expecting nothing in return. Within a century of his death he was celebrated as a saint. Today he is venerated in the East as wonder, or miracle worker and in the West as patron of a great variety of persons-children, mariners, bankers, pawn-brokers, scholars, orphans, laborers, travelers, merchants, judges, paupers, marriageable maidens, students, children, sailors, victims of judicial mistakes, captives, perfumers, even thieves and murderers! He is known as the friend and protector of all in trouble or need. Sailors, claiming St. Nicholas as patron, carried stories of his favor and protection far and wide. St. Nicholas chapels were built in many seaports. As his popularity spread during the Middle Ages, he became the patron saint of Apulia (Italy), Sicily, Greece, and Lorraine (France), and many cities in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Following his baptism in Constantinople, Vladimir I of Russia brought St. Nicholas' stories and devotion to St. Nicholas to his homeland where Nicholas became the most beloved saint. Nicholas was so widely revered that more than 2,000 churches were named for him, including three hundred in Belgium, thirty-four in Rome, twenty-three in the Netherlands and more than four hundred in England. Nicholas' tomb in Myra became a popular place of pilgrimage. Because of the many wars and attacks in the region, some Christians were concerned that access to the tomb might become difficult. For both the religious and commercial advantages of a major pilgrimage site, the Italian cities of Venice and Bari vied to get the Nicholas relics. In the spring of 1087, sailors from Bari succeeded in spiriting away the bones, bringing them to Bari, a seaport on the southeast coast of Italy. An impressive church was built over St. Nicholas' crypt and many faithful journeyed to honor the saint who had rescued children, prisoners, sailors, famine victims, and many others through his compassion, generosity, and the countless miracles attributed to his intercession. The Nicholas shrine in Bari was one of medieval Europe's great pilgrimage centers and Nicholas became known as "Saint in Bari." To this day pilgrims and tourists visit Bari's great Basilica di San Nicola. Through the centuries St. Nicholas has continued to be venerated by Catholics and Orthodox and honored by Protestants. By his example of generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life. Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas' feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes for themselves! In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint's horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child.

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Ireland's most Haunted Castle
By Gearóid Ó Broin
taken from Ireland's Own Summer Annual 1988 Leap Castle, between Ballybritt and Clareen on the road to Kinnitty is regarded as Ireland's most haunted castle. The O'Carrolls, princes of Ely, built it as their main stronghold in 1250 A.D. It was erected on a most commanding site facing the Great Pass through the Slieve Bloom Mountains to the province of Munster. It has a massive tower and walls nine feet thick. The earliest recorded name of the locality is Léim UÍ Bhanáin (O'Bannon's Leap). The Bannons were the "secondary chieftains" of the territory, being subject to the ruling O'Carrolls. Gory murders are said to have taken place there - notably at a window high up in the tower. The Annals of the Four Masters record that the Earl of Kildare tried unsuccessfully to seize the castle in 1513 A.D. Fiercely attacking it three years later he managed to partially demolish it. But by 1557 the O'Carrolls regained possession. Some years later the Earl of Essex besieged it. But greater misfortunes were yet to come! Following the death of Mulrooney O'Carroll in 1532, bitter internecine struggles plagued the O'Carroll clan. Horrid fratricide murders took place through bitter rivalry for the chieftainship. Brother treacherously slayed brother within the castle confines. The "Agents of the Crown" were not slow to take full advantage of the O'Carroll's deplorable disunity, and promptly annexed their lands to the "territories of the Crown". According to local tradition a daughter of the O'Carroll Chieftain fell in love with an English Captain named Darby who was held prisoner in the O'Carrolls in the castle dungeon. She smuggled supplies of food to him, and eventually arranged his escape. As the lovers stealthily made their way out her brother chanced to meet them on the narrow staircase, and noisily raised the alarm. Darby promptly plunged his sword through the body of the youthful O'Carroll. The escapers then leapt to freedom from the battlements. Through the death of her brother she became heiress of Leap Castle which thus came into the possession of the Darby family, following her marriage to the English captain. Jonathan Darby, their son, who eventually became "Titulado of Leap" in 1659, was an avowed Royalist. During the Civil War he is said to have hidden his precious treasures in the grounds of the castle, aided by two servants whom he subsequently murdered to prevent them revealing the hiding place. From 1674 Darby served as. High Sheriff of Co. Offaly, and eleven years later he died at Leap. His descendants continued to maintain possession of it. During the mid 18th century his great grandson, also named Jonathan Darby, had the castle remodelled, giving a Gothic appearance to the windows and doorways of the medieval keep. The castle was badly burnt during the turbulent era of 1922. Leap Castle now has a weird reputation for frightening hauntings. An evil-smelling creature, half human and half beast, exuding an abominable stench, is said to roam its lower regions. Curious locals are said to have experienced them unwittingly. Moreover, the gruesome discovery of heaps of human bones on the floor of the wailed-up dungeon or oubliette, and of hooks (used for executions or hangings) in an adjacent field, known locally as "Hangman's Acre", have given added credence to the tales of these manifestations. There is certainly an extraordinary eeriness about the place which intrudes on the senses as one approaches the tower. Leap Castle now belongs to an Australian who plans to restore it and so dispel the obnoxious spectre. It was inevitable that the descendants of the Derby-O'Carroll elopement would find themselves in action on a wider stage than the Slieve Bloom Mountains and so they did. Henry Desterre Derby (above left) probably a great grandson of the original Derby of Leap, became an Admiral in command of H.M.S. Bellerophon which saw action under Nelson against Napoleon's fleet in the Battle of the Nile in 1798 where he was wounded. Nelson's personal get-well letter is an interesting sidelight to the Offaly man's reputation. Henry Desterre Derby's nephew John Nelson Derby who lived from 1800 to 1882, was a deeply religious man and a devotee of Cardinal Newman to such an extent that he founded the Plymouth Brethren

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Padre Pio

Born: May 25, 1887 Died: September 23, 1968 Canonized: June 16, 2002 Feast Day: September 23 Patron Saint of: civil defense volunteers St. Padre Pio (Francesco Forgione) was born on May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy. Even as a child, Francesco had already shown signs of extraordinary gifts of grace. At the age of five, he dedicated his life to God. From his early childhood he showed a kind of recollection of spirit and a love for the religious life. His mother described him as a quiet child who, from his earliest years loved to go to church and to pray. Because he was able to see and communicate with, not only his guardian angel but also with Jesus and the Virgin Mary, as a young boy, Francesco assumed everyone had the same experiences. Once a woman who noticed his spiritual demeanor asked him, "When did you consecrate your life to God? Was it at your first holy communion?" and he answered, "Always, daughter, always." When he was fifteen years old, he was admitted to the novitiate of the Capuchin friars of Morcone and was admired by his superiors and his fellow students for his exemplary behavior and his piety. One of the novices stated, "There was something which distinguished him from the other students. Whenever I saw him, he was always humble, recollected, and silent. What struck me most about Brother Pio was his love of prayer." On August 10, 1910, at the age of twenty-three, Padre Pio was ordained to the priesthood. The celebration of the Holy Mass was for Padre Pio, the center of his spirituality. His Mass could last one and a half hours or more, due to the long pauses of contemplative silence into which he entered at various parts of the Holy Sacrifice. Everything about him spoke of how intensely he was living the Passion of Christ. The parish priest in Pietrelcina called Padre Pio's Mass, "an incomprehensible mystery." When asked to shorten his Mass, Padre Pio replied, "God knows that I want to say Mass just like any other priest, but I cannot do it." His parishioners were deeply impressed by his piety and one by one they began to come to him, seeking his counsel. For many, even a few moments in his presence, proved to be a life changing experience. As the years passed, pilgrims began to come to him by the thousands from every corner of the world, drawn by the spiritual riches which flowed so freely from his extraordinary ministry. To his spiritual children he would say, "It seems to me as if Jesus has no other concern but the sanctification of your soul." Padre Pio is understood above all else as a man of prayer. Before he was thirty years old he had already reached the summit of the spiritual life known as the "unitive way" of transforming union with God. He prayed almost continuously. His prayers were usually very simple. He loved the Rosary and recommended it to others. To someone who asked him what legacy he wished to leave to his spiritual children, his brief reply was, "My child, the Rosary." He had a special mission to the souls in Purgatory and encouraged everyone to pray for them. He used to say, "We must empty Purgatory with our prayers." Padre Agostino Daniele, his confessor, director, and beloved friend said, "One admires in Padre Pio, his habitual union with God. When he speaks or is spoken to, we are aware that his heart and mind are not distracted from the thought and sentiment of God." Padre Pio suffered from poor health his entire life, once saying that his health had been declining from the time he was nine years old. No doctor was ever able to give a satisfactory explanation for the illnesses that plagued him throughout his life. He was afflicted with extremely high and frequent fevers, chest pains, serious respiratiory and digestive problems, severe headaches, extreme weakness, crippling rheumatism, and more. Although the cause of his prolonged and debilitating illnesses remained a mystery, he did not become discouraged. He offered all of his bodily sufferings to God as a sacrifice, to help save souls. He experienced many spiritual sufferings as well. "I am fully convinced that my illness is due to a special permission of God," he said. Shortly after his ordination he wrote a letter to his spiritual director, Padre Benedetto Nardella, in which he asked permission to offer his life as a victim for sinners. He wrote, "For a long time I have felt in myself a need to offer myself to the Lord as a victim for poor sinners and for the souls in Purgatory. This desire has been growing continually in my heart so that it has now become what I would call a strong passion. . .It seems to me that Jesus wants this." The marks of the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, appeared on Padre Pio's body, on Friday, September 20, 1918, while he was praying before a crucifix and making his thanksgiving after Mass. He was thirty-one years old and became the first stigmatized priest in the history of the Church. With resignation and serenity, he bore the wounds for fifty years. In addition, God endowed Padre Pio with many extraordinary charisms including the gift of healing, bilocation, prophecy, miracles, discernment of spirits, the gift of conversions, the ability to read hearts, the gift of tongues (the ability to speak and understand languages that he had never studied), the ability to abstain beyond man's natural powers from both sleep and nourishment and the fragrance which emanated from his wounds and which frequently announced his invisible presence. When a friend once questioned him about these charisms, Padre Pio said, "You know, they are a mystery to me, too." Although he received more than his share of spiritual gifts, he never sought them, never felt worthy of them. He never put the gifts before the Giver. He always remained humble, constantly at the disposal of Almighty God. His day began at 2:30 a.m. when he would rise to begin his prayers and to make his preparation for Mass. He was able to carry on a busy aposotlate with only a few hours of sleep each night and an amount of food that was so small (300-400 calories a day) that his fellow priests stated that it was not enough food even to keep a small child alive. Between Mass and confessions, his workday lasted 19 hours. He very rarely left the monastery and never took even a day's vacation from his grueling schedule in 51 years. He never read a newspaper or listened to the radio. He cautioned his spiritual children against watching television. Padre Pio' CellIn his monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo, he lived the Franciscan spirit of poverty with detachment from self, from posessions, and from comforts. He always had a great love for the virtue of chastity, and his behavior was modest in all situations and with all people. In his lifetime, Padre Pio reconciled thousands of men and women back to their faith. The prayer groups that Padre Pio established have now spread throughout the world. He gave a new spirit to hospitals by founding one which he called "The Home for the Relief of Suffering." He saw the image of Christ in the poor, the suffering, and the sick and gave himself particularly to them. He once said, "Bring God to all those who are sick. This will help them more than any other remedy." Serene and well prepared, he surrendered to Sister Death on September 23, 1968 at the age of eighty-one. He died as he had lived, with his Rosary in his hands. His last words were Gesú, Maria–Jesus, Mary, which he repeated over and over until he breathed his last. He had often declared, "After my death I will do more. My real mission will begin after my death." In 1971, Pope Paul VI, speaking to the superiors of the Capuchin order, said of Padre Pio, "What fame he had. How many followers from around the world. Why? Was it because he was a philosopher, a scholar, or because he had means at his disposal? No, it was because he said Mass humbly, heard confessions from morning until night and was a marked representative of the stigmata of Our Lord. He was truly a man of prayer and suffering." The Pope at the tomb of Padre PioIn one of the largest liturgies in the Vatican's history, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio on June 16, 2002. During his homily John Paul recalled, how, in 1947, as a young priest he journeyed from Poland to make his confession to Padre Pio. "Prayer and charity–this is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio's teaching," the Pope said. Drawing approximately 8 million pilgrims each year, San Giovanni Rotondo, where St. Padre Pio lived and is now buried, is second only to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico in its number of annual visitors. St. Padre Pio's whole life might be summed up in the words of St. Paul to the Colossians, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church." [Thanks to Padre Pio Devotions ( for this contribution]

William Joyce - Lord Haw-Haw

Julius Streicher, who was executed at Nuremburg in 1946, had given himself the title "Jew-Baiter Number 1." If there was ever a figure in British politics who deserved the title it was William Joyce, alias Lord Haw-Haw. Dismissed by many historians as a comical, almost pathetic, figure in reality his life was far more complex. 6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath Joyce was born in New York of an Irish father and an English mother on 24 April 1906, but when he was only three the family moved to Ireland, settling in County Mayo. Joyce was educated at a convent school in Galway – the College of St. Ignatius Layola. It was here that during a fist fight with another boy that Joyce had his nose broken. He kept quiet about the injury and his nose never properly set – giving him the nasal broken drawl so familiar in his later broadcasts from Germany. The Joyce family were in Ireland at the time of the Sinn Fein insurrections and because they were Conservative and pro-Union they were very unpopular with the rebels. Joyce's early life was marked by violence, including an attack on his father's business and attacks on the family home by Sinn Feiners. When the British Prime Minister Lloyd George announced the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and the creation of the Irish State the Joyce family left for England. Joyce was then 15 years old. Far from being the puny figure described by the press during World War II, William Joyce was of average height and strongly built. During his youth he excelled at boxing, swimming and fencing. This was to hold him in good stead later when he was involved in many street battles. In 1923 at the age of 17, the same year as Hitler's attempted putsch in Munich and 9 years before Mosley formed the BUF, Joyce joined the 'British Fascisti Ltd' – a movement based on its Italian big brother. At a Conservative meeting at Lambeth's Bath Hall the following year a squad of fascists under the control of William Joyce became involved in a fracas with left-wing agitators. It was here that Joyce received the famous scar that ran down the right side of his face from the lobe of his ear to the corner of his mouth. The scar was received during fighting in the meeting and Joyce had no doubt that the perpetrators were "Jewish Communists." This incident had a marked bearing on his outlook. He was reminded of his hatred of "the enemy" every time he looked in the mirror until the day he died. Joyce left British Fascisti Ltd in 1925 seeing no way forward through their policies. He joined the Conservative Party, but left after a short period in 1931. He called the old men of the Conservative Party weak, grasping and dishonest men, who were betraying the nation to the agents of International Finance. When Sir Oswald Mosley launched the British Union of Fascists on 1 October 1932, Joyce was quick to join. 6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. WestmeathHe made a name for himself as a dedicated activist and a good speaker very quickly. A. K. Chesterton described Joyce as a "brilliant writer, speaker who addressed hundreds of meetings... always revealing the iron spirit of Fascism." In 1934 Joyce was promoted to the BUF's Director of Propoganda. With his savage anti-semitism and shrill voice at meetings Joyce began to alarm some members of the BUF. When asked about Jewish involvement in class war in 1934 Joyce snapped "I don't regard the Jews as a class I regard them as a privileged misfortune." It was during this time that the numbers protesting at major BUF meetings increased from a few dozen to a few thousand. Some of the enemies of the BUF came equipped with knuckle-dusters, metal bars and potatoes encrusted with razor blades. William Joyce gained the reputation of a savage fighter and was always the first to dive into a fracas with knuckle-duster at the ready.† The image of "Jewish Communists" who scarred his face was always in the back of his mind and he wanted revenge. Standing on his soapbox in Blackshirt battledress – a buttoned black suit with a high-necked pullover – his left hand in his pocket and his right clutching the microphone – he fed on the tension and heckling like a drug. The June 1934 Olympia conference which turned into a bloody fight and the violent rhetoric of Joyce destroyed the image of respectability that Mosley and the BUF were striving for. But this did not prevent Joyce from being appointed Deputy Leader of the BUF. Mosley and Joyce were completely different in character. Mosley was relaxed, humorous and charming whereas Joyce was impatient, intense and bad-tempered. Joyce's departure from the BUF in April 1937 came as a result of Joyce being dismissed from the salaried staff of the BUF. Bad election results, falling support and lack of money led to a BUF staff reduction of 143 to approximately 30. This and Joyce's personal differences with Mosley led Joyce to form the British National Socialist League. Despite Joyce having been Deputy Leader of the BUF between 1933 and 1937 and a brave fighter and powerful orator, Mosley snubbed him in his autobiography and denounced him as a traitor because of his wartime activities. When Joyce left the BUF in April 1937 he took approximately 60 members with him; the numbers dwindled quickly to about 20. Although the membership was very small they were loyal and worked extremely hard, and the League survived. It held many street-corner meetings, which resulted in many fights – fights which Joyce never shrunk from. Joyce made no effort to hide his admiration for Adolf Hitler and praised him whenever possible. Joyce had made up his mind long before World War II that it was the result of provocation by Jewry and International Finance. On 26 August 1939, approximately a week before the outbreak of war, Joyce and his family fled to Berlin after a tip-off that, under the soon to be introduced emergency powers, he would be interned for the duration of the war. It was an act that would lead eventually to his death and denouncement by many, including Mosley, as a traitor. Rightly or wrongly Joyce was adamant that Britain was being led into another pointless war and Neville Chamberlain's, and subsequently Winston Churchill's, governments were betraying their people. Friends in Germany put Joyce in contact with Dr. Erich Hetzler – Private Secretary to Germany's Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop. Two weeks after the outbreak of war he was appointed Editor and speaker for the German transmitters for Europe at Berlin's Charlottenburg. Joyce was still only 33 years old. His wartime broadcasts to England became infamous – he was nicknamed 'Lord Haw-Haw' by a Daily Express journalist because of his aristocratic nasal drawl. Unknown to the public at this time, his image was very different from the scar-faced fascist thug he was usually portrayed as. Although it was illegal to listen to his broadcasts in Britain they became very popular with British listeners. They always began with the words "Germany calling Germany calling," which because of Joyce's broken nose sounded like: "Jarmany calling, Jarmany calling." During his heyday Joyce had almost as many listeners as the BBC – and he caused alarm with his tales of a Fifth Column in Britain and his talks on how to treat bombing wounds. He caused panic with his apparently accurate descriptions of Town Hall clocks that had stopped and how many steps there were in a particular church steeple. After the Battle of Britain and the invasion of Russia, Joyce's broadcasts lost more and more listeners in Britain – but he still remained the number one broadcaster in Berlin and his anti-semitism never faded in its virulence – continuing to blame the war on "Jewish International Finance." For his efforts Joyce continued to live a comfortable life in Berlin and in September 1944 was awarded the Cross of War Merit 1st Class with a certificate signed by Adolf Hitler. As the war worsened he began to drink heavily and his marriage became a joke with both his wife and he having numerous affairs. During the final stages of the war, with the Red Army approaching Berlin, Joyce moved to Hamburg. He made a final broadcast on 30 April 1945 – warning that the war would leave Britain poor and barren now that she had lost all her wealth and power in 6 years of war, leaving the Russians in control of most of Europe. He signed off with a final defiant "Heil Hitler." Joyce was captured while going through a wood near Flensburg after the war; he received a bullet wound to the leg in the process. Joyce's fate at the gallows was then merely a formality and the British press whipped up all the hysteria they could – reminding people that he was a snarling traitor. The British Government passed the Treason Act 1945 the day before Joyce was flown back to Britain. Although Joyce was born in the USA, brought up in Ireland and took German nationality on 26 September 1939, he was charged with treason from 3 September 1939 to 2 July 1940, the date his British passport ran out, and sentenced to death. Joyce was confined in a death cell at London's Wandsworth Prison. In the cell next door was John Amery, the son of a British lord and the man who had tried to form British expatriates and sympathetic British POW's into a Freicorp to fight on the German side. Joyce was executed five days after Amery on 3 January 1946. He was adamant and defiant to the end. He showed no emotion when confronted by news and scenes from the concentration camps, blaming the deaths on starvation and disease caused by Allied bombing of communication lines. He also scratched a swastika on the wall of his cell whilst awaiting sentence. His last public message reported by the BBC was "In death as in life, I defy the Jews who caused this last war, and I defy the powers of darkness they represent." He was not yet 40 years old when executed. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the grounds of the prison.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Oscar Wilde was an Irish poet and dramatist whose reputation rests on his comic masterpieces Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). Among Wilde's other best-known works are his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) and his fairy tales especially "The Happy Prince." 6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Wilde was born on October 16, 1854 in Dublin to unconventional parents - his mother Lady Jane Francesca Wilde (1820-96), was a poet and journalist. His father was Sir William Wilde, an Irish antiquarian, gifted writer, and specialist in diseases of the eye and ear. Wilde studied at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh (1864-71), Trinity College, Dublin (1871-74) and Magdalen College, Oxford (1874-78).

In 1878 Wilde received his B.A. and in the same year he moved to London. His lifestyle and humorous wit soon made him the spokesman for Aestheticism, the late 19th century movement in England that advocated art for art's sake. He worked as art reviewer (1881), lectured in the United States and Canada (1882), and lived in Paris (1883). Between the years 1883 and 1884 he lectured in Britain. From the mid-1880s he was a regular contributor for Pall Mall Gazette and Dramatic View. In 1884 Wilde married Constance Lloyd (died 1898), and to support his family Wilde edited in 1887-89 Woman's World. In 1888 he published The Happy Prince and Other fairy tales written for his two sons. Wilde's marriage ended in 1893. He had met a few years earlier Lord Alfred Douglas, an athlete and a poet, who became both the “love” of the author's life and his downfall.

Although married and the father of two children, Wilde's personal life was open to rumors. His years of triumph ended dramatically, when his intimate association with Alfred Douglas led to his trial on charges of homosexuality (then illegal in Britain). He was sentenced to two years hard labor for the crime of ******.

Wilde was first in Wandsworth prison, London, and then in Reading Gaol.

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

(Reading Gaol)

During this time he wrote De Profundis (1905), a dramatic monologue and autobiography, which was addressed to Alfred Douglas.

After his release in 1897 Wilde wrote "The Ballad of Reading Gaol", revealing his concern for inhumane prison conditions. Wilde died of cerebral meningitis on November 30, 1900, penniless, in a cheap Paris hotel at the age of 46.

His last word were – “either that wallpaper goes or I do”


William Willard Howard
Harper's Weekly 33 (May 18, 1889):
edited by Gene O'Neill

Watching "Far and Away" again with Tom Cruises bad Irish accent prompted me to give you this story - its true and really happened in 1889

In 1889 the opening to white settlement of a choice portion of Indian Territory in Oklahoma set off one of the most bizarre and chaotic episodes of town founding in world history. 6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. WestmeathA railroad line crossed the territory, and water towers and other requirements for steam rail operation were located at intervals along the tracks that connected Arkansas and Texas. Two places--Oklahoma Station and Guthrie Station--seemed particularly well located for eventual urban development. In the months before the territory was opened, individuals and groups representing townsite companies scouted these locations and prepared town plans for these sites. Congress had failed to provide for any form of civil government. Although the area had been surveyed into the standard system of 6-mile square townships and mile-square sections of 640 acres each, no sites for towns had been designated let alone laid out in streets and lots. The rules simply provided that at noon on April 22 persons gathered at the Arkansas or Texas borders would be permitted to enter, seek a parcel of unclaimed land, and file a claim of ownership in accordance with the applicable Federal laws governing the disposal of the public domain. Federal marshals, railroad personnel, and other persons lawfully in the territory before the opening ("legal sooners") were prohibited from filing land claims--a provision that was more violated than observed. This account is by a trained observer who was present on the day the territory was opened and who remained there for some time afterwards. It appeared less than a month later in the pages of Harper's Weekly and provides a vivid picture of what occurred. It documents the massive stupidity of federal policy with regard to the disposal of the public domain, but it scarcely more than hints at the tragic consequences to follow for the Indian tribes who had been forcibly relocated to Oklahoma under solumn promises that their land would be theirs forever. In some respects the recent settlement of Oklahoma was the most remarkable thing of the present century. Unlike Rome, the city of Guthrie was built in a day. To be strictly accurate in the matter, it might be said that it was built in an afternoon. At twelve o'clock on Monday, April 22d, the resident population of Guthrie was nothing; before sundown it was at least ten thousand. In that time streets had been laid out, town lots staked off, and steps taken toward the formation of a municipal government. At twilight the camp-fires of ten thousand people gleamed on the grassy slopes of the Cimarron Valley, where, the night before, the coyote, the gray wolf, and the deer had roamed undisturbed. Never before in the history of the West has so large a number of people been concentrated in one place in so short a time. To the conservative Eastern man, who is wont to see cities grow by decades, the settlement of Guthrie was magical beyond belief; to the quick-acting resident of the West, it was merely a particularly lively town-site speculation. The preparations for the settlement of Oklahoma had been complete, even to the slightest detail, for weeks before the opening day. The Santa Fe Railway, which runs through Oklahoma north and south, was prepared to take any number of people from its handsome station at Arkansas City, Kansas, and to deposit them in almost any part of Oklahoma as soon as the law allowed; thousands of covered wagons were gathered in camps on all sides of the new Territory waiting for the embargo to be lifted. In its picturesque aspects the rush across the border at noon on the opening day must go down in history as one of the most noteworthy events of Western civilization. At the time fixed, thousands of hungry home-seekers, who had gathered from all parts of the country, and particularly from Kansas and Missouri, were arranged in line along the border, ready to lash their horses into furious speed in the race for fertile spots in the beautiful land before them. The day was one of perfect peace. Overhead the sun shown down from a sky as fair and blue as the cloudless heights of Colorado. The whole expanse of space from zenith to horizon was spotless in its blue purity. The clear spring air, through which the rolling green billows of the promised land could be seen with unusual distinctness for many miles, was as sweet and fresh as the balmy atmosphere of June among New Hampshire's hills. As the expectant home-seekers waited with restless patience, the clear, sweet notes of a cavalry bugle rose and hung a moment upon the startled air. It was noon. The last barrier of savagery in the United States was broken down. Moved by the same impulse, each driver lashed his horses furiously; each rider dug his spurs into his willing steed, and each man on foot caught his breath hard and darted forward. A cloud of dust rose where the home-seekers had stood in line, and when it had drifted away before the gentle breeze, the horses and wagons and men were tearing across the open country like fiends. The horsemen had the best of it from the start. It was a fine race for a few minutes, but soon the riders began to spread out like a fan, and by the time they had reached the horizon they were scattered about as far as eye could see. Even the fleetest of the horsemen found upon reaching their chosen localities that men in wagons and men on foot were there before them. As it was clearly impossible for a man on foot to outrun a horseman, the inference is plain that Oklahoma had been entered hours before the appointed time. Notwithstanding the assertions of the soldiers that every boomer had been driven out of Oklahoma, the fact remains that the woods along the streams within Oklahoma were literally full of people Sunday night. Nine-tenths of these people made settlement upon the land illegally. The other tenth would have done so had there been any desirable land left to settle upon. This action on the part of the first claim-holders will cause a great deal of land litigation in the future, as it is not to be expected that the man who ran his horse at its utmost speed for ten miles only to find a settler with an ox team in quiet possession of his chosen farm will tamely submit to this plain infringement of the law. Some of the men who started from the line on foot were quite as successful in securing desirable claims as many who rode fleet horses. They had the advantage of knowing just where their land was located. One man left the line with the others, carrying on his back a tent, a blanket, some camp dishes, an axe, and provisions for two days. He ran down the railway track for six miles, and reached his claim in just sixty minutes. Upon arriving on his land he fell down under a tree, unable to speak or see. I am glad to be able to say that his claim is one of the best in Oklahoma. The rush from the line was so impetuous that by the time the first railway train arrived from the north at twenty-five minutes past twelve o'clock, only a few of the hundreds of boomers were anywhere to be seen. The journey of this first train was well-nigh as interesting as the rush of the men in wagons. The train left Arkansas City at 8:45 o'clock in the forenoon. It consisted of an empty baggage car, which was set apart for the use of newspaper correspondents, eight passenger coaches, and the caboose of a freight train. The coaches were so densely packed with men that not another human being could get on board. So uncomfortably crowded were they that some of the younger boomers climbed to the roofs of the cars and clung perilously to the ventilators. An adventurous person secured at great risk a seat on the forward truck of the baggage car. In this way the train was loaded to its utmost capacity. That no one was killed or injured was due as much to the careful management of the train as to the ability of the passengers to take care of themselves. Like their friends in the wagons, the boomers on the cars were exultant with joy at the thought of at last entering into possession of the promised land. At first appearances of the land through which the train ran seemed to justify all the virtues that had been claimed for it. The rolling, grassy uplands, and the wooded river-bottoms, the trees in which were just bursting into the most beautiful foliage of early spring, seemed to give a close reality of the distant charm of green and purple forest growths, which rose from the trough of some long swell and went having away to meet the brighter hues in the far-off sky. Throughout all the landscape were clumps of trees suggesting apple orchards set in fertile meadows, and here and there were dim patches of gray and white sand that might in a less barbarous region be mistaken for farm-houses surrounded by hedges and green fields. Truly the Indians have well-named Oklahoma the "beautiful land." The landless and home-hungry people on the train might be pardoned their mental exhilaration, when the effect of this wonderfully beautiful country upon the most prosaic mind is considered. It was an eager and an exuberantly joyful crowd that rode slowly into Guthrie at twenty minutes past one o'clock on that perfect April afternoon. Men who had expected to lay out the town site were grievously disappointed at the first glimpse of their proposed scene of operations. The slope east of the railway at Guthrie station was dotted white with tents and sprinkled thick with men running about in all directions.

Martin Luther King, Jnr

(15 January 1929 - 4 April 1968)

Martin Luther King, Jnr was born on the 15th January 1929, his grandfather began the family's long tenure as pastors of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, serving from 1914 to 1931; his father has served from then until the present, and from 1960 until his death Martin Luther acted as co-pastor. 6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. WestmeathMartin Luther attended segregated public schools in Georgia, graduating from high school at the age of fifteen; he received the B. A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College, a distinguished Negro institution of Atlanta from which both his father and grandfather had graduated. After three years of theological study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class, he was awarded the B.D. in 1951. With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955. In Boston he met and married Coretta Scott, a young woman of uncommon intellectual and artistic attainments. Two sons and two daughters were born into the family. In 1954, Martin Luther King accepted the pastorale of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Always a strong worker for civil rights for members of his race, King was, by this time, a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leading organization of its kind in the nation. He was ready, then, early in December, 1955, to accept the leadership of the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in the United States, the bus boycott described by Gunnar Jahn in his presentation speech in honor of the laureate. The boycott lasted 382 days. On December 21, 1956, after the Supreme Court of the United States had declared unconstitutional the laws requiring segregation on buses, Negroes and whites rode the buses as equals. During these days of boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, he was subjected to personal abuse, but at the same time he emerged as a Negro leader of the first rank. In 1957 he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement. The ideals for this organization he took from Christianity; its operational techniques from Gandhi. In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as well as numerous articles. In these years, he led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a coalition of conscience. and inspiring his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", a manifesto of the Negro revolution; he planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, "l Have a Dream", he conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times; he was awarded five honorary degrees; was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963; and became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure. At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jnr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement. On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated.

Heard about the time an Irishman stole the English Crown Jewels?

One of the greatest rogues in history was Colonel Thomas Blood, known as the 'Man who stole the Crown Jewels'.

Colonel Thomas Blood
Col Thomas Blood

Thomas Blood was an Irishman, born in County Meath in 1618, the son of a prosperous blacksmith. He came from an Anglo Irish Protestant family, his grandfather who lived in Kilnaboy Castle was a Member of Parliament. The English Civil War broke out in 1642 and Blood went to England to fight for Charles I, but when it became apparent that Cromwell was going to win, he promptly changed sides and joined the Roundheads. When Charles I was defeated in 1653 Blood was made a Justice of the Peace and was granted a large estate, but when Charles II returned to the throne in 1660 Blood fled back to Ireland with his wife and son. Here he joined a plot with the disgruntled Cromwellians and attempted to seize Dublin Castle and take the Governor, Lord Ormonde prisoner. This plot failed and he had to flee to Holland, now with a price on his head. in spite of being one of the most wanted men in England, Blood returned in 1670 taking the name Ayloffe and practised as a doctor in Romford! After another botched attempt to kidnap Lord Ormonde in 1670, where Blood narrowly escaped capture, Blood decided on a bold scheme to steal the English Crown Jewels. The Crown Jewels were kept at the Tower of London in a basement protected by a large metal grille. The Keeper of the Jewels was Talbot Edwards who lived with his family on the floor above the basement.
Tower of London

The Tower of London

One day in 1671 Blood, disguised as a 'parson' went to see the Crown Jewels and became friendly with Edwards, returning at a later date with his wife. As the visitors were leaving, Mrs. Blood had a violent stomach-ache and was taken to Edward's apartment to rest. The grateful 'Parson Blood' returned a few days later with 4 pairs of white gloves for Mrs. Edwards in appreciation of her kindness to his wife. The Edwards family and 'Parson Blood' became close friends and met frequently. Edwards had a pretty daughter and was delighted when 'Parson Blood' proposed a meeting between his wealthy nephew and Edward's daughter. On 9th May 1671, 'Parson Blood' arrived at 7am. with his 'nephew' and two other men. While the 'nephew' was getting to know Edward's daughter the others in the party expressed a desire to see the Crown Jewels.
6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

The English Crown Jewels

Edwards led the way downstairs and unlocked the door to the room where they were kept. At that moment Blood knocked him unconscious with a mallet and stabbed him with a sword.. The grille was removed from in front of the jewels and the crown, orb and sceptre were taken out. The crown was flattened with the mallet and stuffed into a bag, and the orb stuffed down Blood's breeches. The sceptre was too long to go into the bag so Blood's brother-in-law Hunt tried to saw it in half! At that point Edwards regained consciousness and began to shout "Murder, Treason!". Blood and his accomplices dropped the sceptre and attempted to get away but Blood was arrested as he tried to leave the Tower by the Iron-Gate, after unsuccessfully trying to shoot one of the guards. In custody Blood refused to answer questions, instead repeating stubbornly, "I'll answer to none but the King himself". Blood knew that the King had a reputation for liking bold scoundrels and reckoned that his considerable Irish charm would save his neck as it had done several times before in his life. Blood was taken to the Palace where he was questioned by King Charles, Prince Rupert, The Duke of York and other members of the royal family. King Charles was amused at Blood's audacity when Blood told him that the Crown Jewels were not worth the £100,000 they were valued at, but only £6,000! The King asked Blood "What if I should give you your life?" and Blood replied humbly, "I would endeavour to deserve it, Sire!" Blood was not only pardoned, to the disgust of Lord Ormonde, but was given Irish lands worth £500 a year! Blood became a familiar figure around London and made frequent appearances at Court. Edwards who recovered from his wounds, was rewarded by the King and lived to a ripe old age, recounting his part in the story of the theft of the Jewels to all the visitors to the Tower. In 1679 Blood's phenomenal luck ran out. He quarreled with his former patron the Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham demanded £10,000 for some insulting remarks Blood had made about his character. As Blood became ill in 1680 the Duke never got paid, as Blood died on August 24th of that year at the age of 62.

No-one has attempted to steal the Crown Jewels since that day - as no other thief had the audacity of Colonel Blood!

Brian Boru - The Last Great High King of Ireland

The lines between Irish Legend and Irish Myth have often been blurred, especially as the retelling of heroic deeds has been passed on through generations.

Brian Boru was no legend although his life deeds were legendary. He was very much a real man and was in fact the last great High King of Ireland and perhaps the greatest military leader the country has ever known.

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Brian Boru was born Brian Mac Cennétig. He mother was sister to the mother of Conor, the King of Connaught.

His brother, Mahon, had become King of Munster in 951, upon the death of their father, Cennétig. Together they fought against the invading Norsemen, who had imposed taxes in Munster. This struggle eventually led to the murder of Mahon in 975 Mahon by the Ostermen (Norse). Brian avenged his brother's death by killing the King of the Ostermen of Limerick, King Ímar.

From this point onwards Brian held Munster as his own, including the pivotal trade-centre of Limerick. He marched into Connaught and Leinster and joined forces with Mael Sechnaill II in 997. Together they divided Ireland between them.

The Norse settlers in Dublin especially ranged against Brian but were defeated at Glen Máma where the King of Leinster was captured. The King of Dublin, Sitric Silkenbeard, was soon defeated too.

In 1002 Brian demanded of his comrade Mael Sechnaill that he recognize him as King of Ireland. Mael agreed, partially because many of his own people viewed Brian as a hero who had restored Ireland to greatness after the Viking invasions. The rule of the UíNéill's was thus at an end as a non-O'Neill was proclaimed as King. The O'Neill's had been rulers for over 600 years.

He earned his name as 'Brian of the Tributes' (Brian Boru) by collecting tributes from the minor rulers of Ireland and used the monies raised to restore monasteries and libraries that had been destroyed during the invasions.

The Norsemen were not done yet however, and once more waged war on Brian Boru and his followers at Clontarf in Dublin in 1014. The King of Connaught, Tadhg O'Conor refused to ally with Brian against the Ostermen although Uí Fiachrach Aidne and Uí Maine did join with him.

Despite the lack of backing from the men of Connaught, the Munstermen won the day but lost Brian Boru in the battle. This battle was a major turning point as it finally subjugated the Norse presence in Ireland who were henceforth considered subordinate to the Kingships of Ireland. Their military threat had been ended and they retreated to the urban centres of Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, Wexford, and Cork. They eventually became completely hibernicized and integrated into Gaelic culture.

After his death and the death of one of his sons, his remaining sons, Tadg and Donnchad, were unable to assume the kingship which was assumed by Mael Sechnaill. He died in 1022 after which the role of High King of Ireland became more of a position in name only, rather than that of a powerful ruler.

Perhaps the best that should be said of Brian Boru therefore, is that he was the last great High King of Ireland.

As tomorrow is the 4th of July, here is a quick one for our American friend and families (and history students)
6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Why the 4th of July is Celebrated

Most people in the United States celebrate the 4th of July, but do you know exactly why the holiday is so important to their country? Imagine how you would feel if someone older than you (maybe an older sister or brother) kept telling you what to do all of the time and kept taking more and more of your allowance. That is how the colonists felt in the years leading up to 1776. Great Britain kept trying to make the colonists follow more rules and pay higher taxes. People started getting mad and began making plans to be able to make their own rules. They no longer wanted Great Britain to be able to tell them what to do, so they decided to tell Great Britain that they were becoming an independent country. The Congress met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and they appointed a committee to write a formal document that would tell Great Britain that the Americans had decided to govern themselves. The committee asked Thomas Jefferson to write a draft of the document, so he worked for days, in absolute secret, until he had written a document that he thought said everything important that the committee had discussed. On June 28, 1776, the committee met to read Jefferson's "fair" copy (he put his best ideas together and wrote them neatly.) They revised the document and declared their independence on July 2, 1776. They officially adopted it on July 4, 1776. That is why it is called "Independence Day." Congress ordered that all members must sign the Declaration of Independence and they all began signing the "official" copy on August 2, 1776. In January of the next year, Congress sent signed copies to all of the (13) states.

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

(the original "Old Glory" being made for George Washington)

The Declaration of Independence is more than just a piece of paper. It is a symbol of the United States independence and commitment to certain ideas. Well, the signers of the Declaration of Independence wanted the citizens of the United States to have a document that spelled out what was important to our leaders and citizens. They wanted to be able to look at the Declaration of Independence and immediately think of the goals they should always be working for, and about the people who have fought so hard to make these ideas possible. The people who signed the Declaration risked being hanged for treason by the leaders in Great Britain. They had to be very brave to sign something that would be considered a crime! So if you ever look at the Declaration of Independence, think about all of the effort and ideas that went into the document, and about the courage it took for these people to stand up for what they knew was right -- independence!


If green is the color of Ireland, and a soft day the touch, and Guinness the taste, and traditional music the sound, then a turf fire must be the scent of Ireland. Poets love the Irish bog for its metaphoric possibilities; archeologists, for its preservation of the past; the government, for its exploitable natural resources; and the rural Irishman, for its source of free fue (especially true around the 'bridge, Milltownpass, Dalystown/Meedin).

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Turf, known also as peat, is partially decomposed vegetable matter, an early form of coal. Farmers who cut their own turf must devote about a week each spring to harvest enough sod to last a winter. A culture has arisen around turf cutting. Sleans (turf-spades) differ from area to area and a person's religion, we are told, can be determined according to whether he digs with the right foot or left. A turf cutter is expected to leave a "straight face" in the cutting bank for the next cutter, reinforcing a sense of community responsibility. The entire family takes part in turf cutting, the weaker members stacking the heavy sods on their ends to dry. A broken back, a girl from Kerry alleges, was preferable to a broken sod. After a summer of drying, the turf sods are hauled on the back of a donkey to the east side of the home for protection from the elements. Before turf was made available commercially, a wet summer meant a cold winter, for 50 days of clear weather are needed to dry the turf harvest.

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

The bogs of Ireland have yielded some remarkable archeological discoveries. Since the bogs are cool, wet, dark and slightly acidic, they alter the effects of bacteria and fungi so that materials in bogs decay only slowly. One farmer found ten foot wide antlers from an Irish elk, estimated by experts to be 10,000 years old. Even butter stored in a wooden container was found amazingly intact, more useful to grease an axle, however, than to butter a scone. In Mayo, archeologists have studied plank roads built of trees that used to flourish in Ireland, oak, ash, alder, dating back to 148 B.C. The oldest plank road unearthed dates to 1450 B.C., the Middle Bronze Age. One of the most precious bog-preserved discoveries is the Moylough Belt Shrine, which dates to the 8th century. Uncovered during turf-cutting in Sligo in 1944, the belt is on exhibit at the National Museum, Dublin. Seamus Heaney's comment about peat is more than poetic metaphor: "The peat is the dark casket where we have found many of the clues to our past and to our cultural identity." Like so many rich natural resources around the world, the peat bog is threatened. Today peat fuel accounts for 20% of Ireland's energy needs and it is used to produce 21% of its electrical needs. In the West, there is still much evidence of blanket bogs, stacks of peat, blue smoke from chimneys, and the sweet smell of a slow, even-burning turf fire. But in the last 40 years, 200,000 acres of bogland have been drained away. What took 10,000 years to create, modern technology can eradicate in a lifetime. At the end of World War II, the Irish government formed Bord na Mona to industrialize the peat industry. Using machines to harvest and dry the turf, the project has succeeded in creating a market for bricks and pulverized turf and has provided fuel for electrical generating plants. Bord na Mona may have done its job too well. Mechanical harvesting is "no respecter of antiquity" and it harvests turf more efficiently than an Irish family, so efficiently that the Midlands bogs are expected to be depleted in a decade. Conservationists worry about the fact that only 5% of the original 3 million acres of bogland survive in their natural state. Turf, so much a part of everyday life in Ireland, may in our lifetime be preserved only in song and story.

This one is for our Austrailian relatives and friends


(1854 - 1880)

edited by Gene O'Neill
6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath
On a cold June morning, more than 100 years ago a bushranger called Ned Kelly fought his final battle.
He was an outlaw who rode a horse, put on a suit of armour and fought police. Today, Ned Kelly is an Australian legend.
Ned, the eldest of eight children, was born to Irish parents in Victoria in 1854.
He was just twelve years of age when his ex-convict father died and his family settled near relatives at Greta, two hundred and forty kilometres northeast of Melbourne.
In Ned's time it was wild, rugged country and life was hard.
The best land was held by a handful of wealthy so called squatters.
But Ned's family was poor and the only opportunity they had to own land was as 'selectors'.Under the selection system families took up areas of land set aside by the government and paid them off bit by bit.
As part of the scheme they also had to improve the property by clearing it, building a house, putting up fences and growing a crop. If they didn't the land could be taken away.
For many it was an impossible situation with the plots of land too small, and the soil too poor for them to make a living.
Faced with poverty, selectors often stole horses and cattle from the wealthy squatters.
Ned was just aged sixteen, when he was convicted of receiving a stolen horse and served three years in prison before being released in 1874.
Whether or not he was set for a life of crime is hard to say, but one event had a dramatic effect on determining his future.
In April 1878, a police officer called Fitzpatrick accused Ned's mother of attacking him and Ned of shooting him in the wrist.
The first feature film ever made shows a version of events in which Fitzpatrick brings on the attack by assaulting one of Ned's sisters.
But whatever actually happened, the end result of Fitzpatrick's claims was that Mrs. Kelly was sent to prison for three years and a one hundred pound reward was offered for the capture of Ned.
From that time on Ned and his brother Dan kept to the bush.
On the 26 October 1878, together with friends, Joe Byrne and Steve Hart, they came across police camped at Stringy Bark Creek.
Ned believed the police intended to kill him and Dan so he called on them to surrender.
But three of the officers resisted, and in the fight which followed Kelly shot them dead.
The reward for Kelly and his gang rose to two thousand pounds and would later rise to an amazing eight thousand pounds, the equivalent, today, of nearly two millions dollars!
But Ned had many supporters and for almost two years they helped the gang dodge police.
During this time the Kelly gang robbed two banks.
The robberies were important in the making of the Kelly legend.
In defying authority, robbing the rich and by not taking any more lives the gang fitted the popular image of brave and bold bushrangers.
The robberies also give us an idea of how Ned saw himself.
At each robbery he gave one of his hostages a letter in which he explained to the government how he'd been persecuted by police.
He called Constable Fitzpatrick a liar and explained his killing of police at Stringy Bark as self defence.
He also called for justice for the poor, writing...

"I have no intention of asking mercy for myself of any mortal man, or apologising, but I wish to give timely warning that if my people do not get justice and those innocents released from prison, I shall be forced to seek revenge of everything of the human race for the future."

In June 1880 Ned made his last stand.

The Kelly gang was at the Glenrowan Hotel when they were surrounded by police. Prepared to fight, the four bushrangers wore suits of armour made from steel.
During the battle, Ned escaped through the police lines. But rather than fleeing into the bush, he returned a number of times to fight police. He was trying to rescue his brother and friends.
Eventually, he collapsed with more than twenty-eight bullet wounds to his arms, legs, feet, groin and hands.
Beneath his armour a green sash he wore was stained with blood. It was a sash he'd been given many years earlier for saving a drowning boy.
Ned was the only survivor of the siege. Joe Byrne had been shot early on and after Ned's capture police set fire to the Inn and the charred remains of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart were removed.
After Ned recovered he was convicted of the murder of one of the police officers at Stringy Bark, and despite protests by thousands of supporters, was sentenced to death.

In Melbourne Jail, on 11 November 1880 Ned Kelly was hanged. He was twenty-five years old.

Today Ned is everywhere. His giant form welcomes visitors to what is still called Kelly Country, where every ten years the Glenrowan siege is reenacted.
For many, the making of Ned Kelly the legend, raises questions about how Australians see themselves.

For some he's no more than a criminal but for others he continues to be seen as brave and daring and , a bit of a larrikin, someone distinctly Australian.

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Edited by Gene O'Neill

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

17th Century - the Reformation and the burgeoning new "religion" of science was a spreading influence across the face of Europe. The Church of England knew something had to be done to counter a world that might reach beyond its influence. If not now, perhaps sometime in the future. And what better counter to the world of reason, than the world of the supernatural. And what represented the world of the supernatural on this earthly plain? Well, witches of course (and perhaps the Catholics as well for good measure). The call against these women (and men) reached a fiery pitch during this century, perhaps brought originally to fore by King James. His fevered persecutions of those suspected of dabbling in the black arts and their supposed attempts upon his life saw no previous equal in Britain. Indeed, witch trials (and executions) in Scotland alone were second only to those of Germany (with its much larger population). The trial of the North Berwick Witches is particularly notorious. James accused a group of witches and warlocks of trying to sink his ship as he journeyed with his new queen from Denmark to Scotland by casting spells that brought up terrible storms (that did manage to sink his wedding/treasure ship). The tenor of the prosecution and subsequent trial set the stage for what was to come in the decades ahead. 15th Century Touchstone Pope Innocent VIII (pictured below)

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

issued his notorious Papal bull of 1484: Summis Desiderates. So salacious and shocking was it, that it was used as a preface to the book Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), published by two German Catholic Inquisitors in 1486. In it, it described in detail ritual satanic and sexual aberrations as practiced by witches - women in particular. In fact, pointedly and deliberately so. What else were all these people afraid of? A changing world? Women's place within it? A power structure altering away from the Churches of Europe (the largest landowners on the continent)?
1645-1647 The Reign of Matthew's Terror For such a notorious character, surprisingly little is k nown of Matthew Hopkins prior to his moving onto the bloody stage as (self-appointed) Witchfinder General.
The Civil War was still raging in England at that time and even in areas unaffected by direct military activity, the severity of the times and events carried tremendous weight - fear and economic upheaval are deadly, self-promoting friends, and in the countryside of England, sectarian fears (at the least) unleashed deadly men consumed with a dread focus - the rooting out of witches. There is a notion that Hopkins may have been a lawyer, or at least had some training in the profession, but no one really know. There are rumors and some documentation that he was the son of a minister. What prompted this singularly cruel man? The question begs to be answered, but there are just no good answers. It could have been the lure of money and cheap opportunism; a viscous nature uncluttered by remorse, decency or a bad conscience; perhaps even a misapplied and misinterpreted religious conviction - but that might be giving him far too much the benefit of the doubt. He certainly wasn't alone in his profession - there were others so inclined roving the countryside. We will probably never know. One of the first documented cases instigated by Hopkins was against a woman named Elizabeth Clarke. She was a one-legged widow, or so the story says (many women who came under suspicion of witchcraft were widows, or women who had no strong men or family to protect them), and the Witchfinder General soon had a confession out of her which stated she was a little too familiar with her "familiars" - generally considered to be demons in the guise of earthly beasts (cats, goats, etc.). The women were often searched for a third teat as proof of satanic connections (woe be it to anyone who had a not terribly uncommon superfluous third nipple) - it was this which "nurtured" the demon. Other signs and symbols were various marks found upon the body - any of what we now refer to as beauty marks, or even boils, and other slight skin imperfections (including dry skin splotches) made the witch finders highly suspicious - these were viewed upon as signs of unholy alliance and contracts with the Devil. To prove his case, Hopkins would insert a needle into the spot causing immense pain. In England, witches were often kept awake for days on end
6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath
till they confessed. Sleep deprivation is still a technique used by secret police and military forces, as well as in religious cults, in order to break down a person's will. Another well know method to discover a witch, was to bind the suspect and lower (or drop) them into water. If they drowned, they were proven to be innocent. If, by some miracle they did not drown, they were considered guilty - and then drowned deliberately. Other forms of actual execution were hanging, burning, and
6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath
drowning. In all it is suspected that Hopkins was directly or indirectly associated with perhaps as many of 200 executions - if not by his direct "examinations", then by his murderous, and seemingly omnipotent influence. He even published a pamphlet explaining how one would uncover a witch. Finally, some influential people and institutions began to tire of Hopkins and his ilk. Parliament itself published their own pamphlet questioning the practices of witch finder's in general. Even some brave clergymen went on record denouncing the rather ridiculous and arbitrary methods used to find these followers of Satan. They even hinted that Hopkins himself might be a witch! Stories vary as to whether or not Hopkins benefited financially from his evil activities - some say he did, others that he was on a holy quest, and monies obtained were slight. The End of the Witchfinder General . As might be expected, there are two conficting stories about the demise of Matthew Hopkins. One states that he returned to his home village, discredited, where he may have died in 1648 of consumption. The other tale - probably, dubious, but wonderfully fitting if true - is that he himself was accused of witchcraft, tied and "floated" - and of course drowned, which proved he wasn't a witch after all!

Americas Most Evil Serial Killer - The Night Stalker - Richard Ramirez

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Richard Ramirez career started in June 1984 when he broke into a house and raped then killed a 79 year old woman, Jennie Vincow, in a suburb of Los Angelos.

In February of 1985 he abducted two girls in separate incidents. The first was a six year old girl, taken from a bus stop near her school in a laundry bag, then molested and dumped at a nearby location. Two weeks later Richard took another girl, a nine year old, from her bedroom and raped, then dumped her, nearby.
On March 17 Ramirez was described by the survivor of the first "Valley Intruder" attack. Dayle Okazaki was murdered and her roommate, Maria Hernandez, was badly injured. While leaving the scene of this first killing Ramirez dragged Tsa Lian Yu from her car and proceeded to shoot her several times. Lian Yu was pronounced dead the next day.
Ramirez seemed so impressed with these attacks that he abducted another young girl 2 days later, raping her repeatedly before allowing her to leave, in what would seem like a celebration of the earlier attacks.
March 27 : The Zazzara murders. Ramirez beat 64-year-old Vincent Zazzara to death, then stabs his wife, Maxine ,44, to death. Ramirez proceeded to carve out her eyes and take them with him. The bodies were found two days later by their son.
On May 14 Ramirez broke into another house and killed the owner, William Doi, with a bullet to the head. Doi was able to make it to a phone first though, not allowing enough time for Ramirez to get his wife.
Just two weeks later, on May 29, Ramirez had some fun with an 84-year-old, Mabel Bell, and 81-year-old, Florence Lang(an invalid). Ramirez violently beat them and then scratched satanic symbols over them, and their house. The two were not found until June 2. Bell died on July 15, but Lang survived the attack.
On June 27 Patty Higgins had her throat cut, dying, in another "stalker" attack in her own home. And on July 2, Mary Cannon,77, was killed in similar style. Cannon lived less than two miles from Higgins.
July 7, Joyce Nelson, 61, was beaten to death at her home.
On July 20 Ramirez decided to do a double. First off he killed Chainarong Khovanath, 32, then beat and raped his wife. Not content with that he took their 8-year-old son into the next room with a bottle of baby oil. Mrs. Khovanath was forced to listen as Ramirez raped him, then he stole about $30,000 in cash and jewellery. Ramirez then drove to a neighbouring suburb and murdered Max Kneiding, 69, and his wife Lela, 66. The couple didn't even have time to get out of their bed.
On August 6 Ramirez screwed up and left both his victims wounded. Christopher Peterson,38, and his wife Virginia, 27, where able to give a description of their attacker, which matched that of all other survivors.
August 8, Ramirez strikes again. He kills Elyas Abowath, 35, shooting him then brutally beating his wife. It is after this attack that police announce that they are after a serial killer, linking six of the murders. The press dub Ramirez as "The Night Stalker".
On August 17 Ramirez struck in San Francisco, his first attack outside L.A., killing the amusingly named Peter Pan, 66, and badly beating and then shooting his wife. She survived her wounds and identified the 'stalker' from police sketches taken from the earlier survivors.
August 24, Ramirez wounds Bill Carns, 29, with three bullets to the head. He then raped Carn's fiancee, Inez Erickson, twice. As Ramirez drove away Erickson seen his car. It was an orange Toyota station wagon. A local teenager also noticed the car and it's driver. He took down then number plate and gave it to police. The end was near.
On August 30 police found the car abandoned. From it they lifted a single finger print. Ramirez was identified. They issued a APB for Ramirez and his mug shots were shown on national TV.
The next day Ramirez's picture was on the cover of every major newspaper in the state, and on every TV news bulletin. Ramirez had no idea of this until he walked into a liquor store and seen himself staring at him from that days newspaper. Ramirez panicked as other customers realised that it was him. He ran 2 miles in the next 12 minutes, then decided to steal a car. Unfortunately for Ramirez he was in a particularly tough neighbourhood and ended up being rescue by the police as he was being beaten badly by the local thugs. The 'Night Stalker' was caught.

Ever wonder where they got their names from?

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

(a) The days of the week and (b) The months of the year. Well now. Monday is from the Latin dies lunae, "day of the moon". Tuesday is modelled on the Latin dies Martis, "day of Mars". Mars was the Roman god of war, but this name did not appeal to the Germanic people, who substituted the name of their own god, Tiu. Wednesday was modelled on Latin dies Mercurii, "day of Mercury". Once more, the Germanic people didn't like the idea of a Roman god giving his name to their week-day, so they substituted the name of their own god, Wotan (or Odin). Thursday followed the pattern. The Romans called the day dies lovis, or the day of Jupiter; the Germanic people equated Jupiter with their own thunder God, Thonar, and called the day after him. Friday was called by the Romans dies Veneris, "the day of Venus", goddess of love; this did not satisfy their northern neighbours, who gave the day the name of their own love goddess, Friya or Frigg. Saturday was a literal translation of dies Saturni, "day of Saturn"; neither it nor Sunday, dies soiis, "day of the sun", was changed by the warlike northerners who gave us the English language.

As for the months, January is from Latin Januarius, from the name of the Roman god of doors and beginnings, Janus. February is from Latin Februarius, based on Februa, the name of an ancient purification ceremony held during this month. Mars is from Latin Martins mensis, "the month of Mars", Roman god of war. April is from Latin Aprilis, probably from Greek Aphro, a shortened form of Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love. May is from Latin Maius, based on Maia, a Roman goddess of bounty and growth. June is from Latin Junius, named from the Roman goddess Juno. July is from Latin Julius, Julius Caesar in fact. August is named from the first Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar. September is from Latin September, from septem, seven. October is from Latin October, based on octo, eight. November is from Latin November, based on novem, nine. And December is from Latin December, based on decem, ten.

Ever wonder where they got their names from (part 2 - more useless info)

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

For centuries, until about 1550, writers of English didn't know what to call an egg. There were two words for what the hen laid, and there was quite a battle for superiority until in the end egg won the day. The Anglo-Saxons called the thing an aeg By the Middle Ages this had been transformed into an eye, and its plural was eyren. The trouble was that a group of unwelcome visitors had brought with them from Scandinavia another word for the oval-shaped food people liked with their breakfasts: an egg. For hundreds of years people couldn't make their minds up about what to call the blessed thing. Indeed, as late as the end of the 15th century, the printer William Caxton couldn't sleep at night as he worried about which word to use in his books; one way or the other he was bound to upset his readers. Egg finally won the day. The other word, the verb found in to egg on, to encourage somebody by daring him or her to do something, is not related, but it also comes from Scandinavia, from the Old Norse eggja, to incite.

Eamon De Valera (1882-1975)

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Eamon de Valera was born in Manhattan, New York, on 14th October 1882. His father was Juan de Valera, a Spaniard who had studied to be a sculptor but due to ill-health he had reverted to teaching music. In September 1881, Juan de Valera had married Kate Coll from Knockmore, near Bruree, Co. Limerick, a young girl who had emigrated to America two years earlier. His father died when de Valera was only two years old and his mother decided that her son would be better off at home in Ireland. She sent him to be reared by his grandmother, Elizabeth Coll, who lived in a labourer’s cottage at Knockmore. De Valera attended the national school at Bruree and from there went to the Christian Brother’s School at Charleville. He walked the seven miles there and back everyday since the Coll’s could not afford a bicycle. At 16, he won a scholarship to Blackrock College, Co. Dublin. He went on to become a professor of mathematics and lectured part-time at Maynooth and various Dublin colleges. At school and later he was a keen rugby player. In 1908, he joined the Gaelic League, the beginning of his life-long devotion to Irish. One of his teachers was Sinead Flanagan, herself a teacher and four years his senior. They fell in love and were married in January 1910. De Valera joined the Irish Volunteers at their first meeting in 1913. He took part in the landing of guns from the Asgard in July 1914. He commanded the Boland’s Mills garrison during the 1916 rising. After the surrender he was sentenced to death, but later it was decided to sentence him to life imprisonment instead. In prison, de Valera began to show his leadership qualities. De Valera was released from prison in June 1917 and was elected Sinn Fein deputy for East Clare. At the Sinn Fein Ard-Fheis in October 1917, de Valera was elected President of the party and at the end of the same month he was elected President of the Irish Volunteers. When the British Government proposed to extend conscription to Ireland in early 1918, de Valera led the successful opposition to this proposal. On 17 May 1918, De Valera was arrested and deported for internment to England, where he was to remain up to February 1919.

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

While he was in jail he was elected for East Clare in the general election. On 21 January 1919, the assembled deputies met in the Mansion House, Dublin, and formally set up the Government for the Irish Republic. After his escape from Lincoln Jail on 3 February 1919, de Valera returned briefly to Ireland and was elected President of the Dail. Early in June 1919, he travelled to the U.S.A. to seek financial and political support for an independent Ireland. He returned to Ireland in December 1920 to take his place as the President of Ireland. From the very start the Dail had to face a number of serious problems, the lack of experience of the new government. The War of Independence was raging at this time with the regular British forces being assisted by the “Black and Tans”. The “Black and Tans” were ex-army men brought into Ireland to assist the British in the War of Independence. A truce was declared on 11 July and negotiations were opened with the English Prime Minister, Lloyd George, and his government leading up to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December 1921. The Treaty was accepted in the Dail, 64 in favour and 57 against. Arthur Griffith was elected President in the place of de Valera. Under the Public Safety Act of 1923, the Minister for Home Affairs, O’Higgins, had the power to arrest anybody the Government thought to be a threat to law and order. De Valera was arrested in Ennis on 15 August 1923 and not released until July 1924. Despite this, Clare elected de Valera top of the poll in the general election on 27 August 1923. De Valera continued to represent Clare for the rest of his active political career. As part of the Anglo-Irish Treaty which ended the War of Independence all members of the Oireachtas were obliged to take an oath of allegiance (swear loyalty) to the King of Great Britain. Towards the end of 1925, de Valera and the I.R.A. found that they were on opposite sides on this issue and Sinn Fein was split in two. De Valera had made remarks which suggested that if the oath were removed, he would sit in Dail Eireann. In March 1926, he resigned as President of Sinn Fein over this issue and decided to launch a new party. In May 1926 at a meeting in Dublin, de Valera founded a new political party called Fianna Fail. The aims of the party were: A united Ireland as a Republic. To restore the Irish Language and develop the Irish culture. To develop a social system where there is an equal opportunity for all. To have a fair system of land distribution in Ireland. To make Ireland as self-sufficient as possible, with a proper balance between agriculture and other industries. In November 1926, Fianna Fail held its first Ard-Fheis and de Valera was elected President of the new organisation. In the general election of June 1927, his party won 44 seats and Cumann na nGaedhael won 47 seats which was a large drop for them. When de Valera and his fellow Fianna Fail deputies arrived at Leinster House, they were refused permission to take their seats unless they first took the oath. They then retired and Cumann na nGaedhael formed the government. Fianna Fail, however, continued to campaign for the removal of the Oath. In order to spread their ideas, the Fianna Fail party founded a daily newspaper, the Irish Press, in September 1931. Fianna Fail, supported by the Labour Party, formed a Government in 1932, having earlier overcome their objections to the Oath by simply signing a book containing the oath, which they declared an “Empty Formula”. In office, the party finally removed the oath by legislation in 1933. On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded Poland and began the Second World War. On 2 September in Dail Eireann, de Valera declared that the 26 counties would remain neutral. This policy was generally accepted. Many people, while disliking the Nazi regime in Germany, still distrusted Britain and resented the partition of Ireland. The war years became commonly known in Ireland as “The Emergency”. Each person was given a special ration-book due to the shortages of everyday items. The post-war years brought continued economic problems with rising prices, emigration and growing unemployment. This did not make de Valera and his government very popular. When a sudden general election was called by de Valera in 1948, Fianna Fail gained only 68 seats out of 147 and the anti-Fianna Fail parties came together to form a coalition government. In June 1959, he was elected President of Ireland. He received many visitors including Presidents Charles de Gaulle and John Kennedy. He was re-elected President in 1966 at the age of 83. He received honorary degrees from universities in Ireland and abroad. After 14 years as president (the longest time allowed), he retired from office in June 1973.

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Eamon de Valera died on 29 August 1975 at the age of ninety-two. He was buried in Glasnevin cemetery after a state funeral.

Following todays historic meeting between Bertie Ahern and Ian Paisley at the site of the Battle of the Boyne - here is a very short history of the battle:

The Battle of the Boyne 1690

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

On the first of July 1690 near Oldbridge, then a small village five miles East of Drogheda, King William of Orange and King James II fought in one of the most well-known battles in Irish (and European) history. Twenty-six thousand, mainly Irish and French catholic troops under King James, fought against the thirty-six thousand Dutch and English protestant soldiers of King William.

Prior to the battle King James' army had marched through Drogheda and they took up position on the northern face of Donore hill just south of the river. James spent the night in the little church there. On 30th June 1690, William's army arrived from Ardee and set themselves up along the northern side of the river stretching from King William's Glen up towards Drogheda. Before the battle itself King William was riding close to where the obelisk is now and was wounded slightly by James' soldiers. Late in the evening of the first of July the Williamite army, better trained and equipped, began to take control. King James and his army retreated to Dublin through the Pass of Duleek. They were finally defeated at Aughrim in 1691. That defeat decided the fate of Catholicism in Ireland with the introduction of the penal laws. The obelisk erected in 1736 marks the most important point in the battle field.

By Special Request - one for the girls
The Real Story of Princess Pocahontas

Pocahontas was born about 1595-96, a daughter of the Chief over some forty Algonkian Indian villages; these were spread about the shores of the rivers now called the James and the York, which flow into Chesapeake Bay. Her father called Powhatan after his chief village named her Meto-aka and later "Pocahontas", meaning "Playful little Girl". Powhatan’s rule was threatened by the arrival of the Spanish, French and English mariners, exploring for a NorthWest passage to the (East) Indies. After the death of Elizabeth 1, the end of England’s struggles with Spain and Scotland released capital and manpower for trade, and the conversion of the "savages". The English claim to North America was split between two companies; one based in Bristol, took North Virginia. In spring 1607, three London ships appeared in Chesapeake Bay and though permitted to land, Powhatan discouraged their would-be settlers from staying. When they started to build a fort the Indians attacked, but were repulsed by ship’s cannon. The ships sailed home before the winter, leaving 105 men – no women having been brought – who were only saved from starvation by the success of Captain John Smith in obtaining corn from more distant Indians. John Smith was exploring and seeking trade when one of Powhatan’s chiefs captured and killed his two companions. About December 29th 1607, he was brought before Powhatan, and afterwards reported that tribal chiefs held a long consultation. Then two big stones were brought in, and tribal chiefs held him. He was forced down on them with executioners apparently ready to kill him with clubs. At this point, a young girl ran from Powhatan’s side and placed her head over his. He was released and given to understand that he and Powhatan were to be friends and he would be free to return to his base. It seems possible that Powhatan arranged this "sparing of his life" ritual as a prelude to Smith’s being recognised as a friend and being received into the tribe. John Smith recorded that Pocahontas had saved other lives by giving warning of Indian attacks. In 1609, John Smith was elected President of the Jamestown Council. He was badly injured by an explosion of gunpowder, and was put on a ship for home; it was widely believed that he had died. Readers who are familiar with the plot of the Disney cartoon film will note that this is roughly the point at which the story is left. In reality the story of Pocahontas’ life is worth telling further. The settlers' numbers rose to 600 that winter. Then all but 60 died of starvation: but in 1610 a further 150 arrived. That year Pocahontas, when 16 was married to Kocoum, an Indian about whom nothing is known; apparently he died within the next three years. In 1612 the colony was in surprisingly good shape when another Captain, Samuel Argall brought reinforcements, and went exploring for food among Indians on the River Potomac. Hearing that Pocahontas was visiting those tribes he resolved to ransom her for eight English held by Powhatan. Argall used a friendly Indian Chief and his wife to persuade Pocahontas aboard his ship and took her to Jamestown in March 1613. There she was treated as an honoured guest, and assured that she would be in a position to bring back friendship and faith between Powhatan and the English. During the next year, she was in the care of Alexander Whitaker, a Calvinist minister, who began to instruct her in the Christian faith. She also met John Rolfe, then 28, who had arrived with his wife in 1610, possibly from Heacham, Norfolk. On the outward voyage their child, Bermuda, was born and died on that island, and his wife died after arrival in Jamestown. Rolfe brought tobacco seed from Trinidad to produce a leaf more palatable than the coarse local variety. Tobacco saved the colony: in 1616, it exported 2,500 lbs., 1617, 20,000 lbs., and in 1618, 50,000 lbs. John Rolfe fell in love with Pocahontas and obtained permission from the Governor to marry her. Powhatan consented and sent his two sons to witness the marriage. She was first baptised Rebecca, and then the wedding took place in April 1614. They left for England with the Governor, and a dozen Indians, in April 1616. At this stage they had an infant son Thomas. While in England, Pocahontas and her entourage of Indians was the subject of much curiosity. She was presented at the court of King James as "the first Christian ever of the Virginian nation". She also met John Smith again, but it is known that the meeting was a disappointment to her, Smith denying the close association with her father. She was presented to the Bishop of London, at which point it was noticed that that Pocahontas was unwell. In March 1617, the Rolfes prepared to leave London on Argall’s ship the "George". They were to return with Virginia’s Governor and his family. At this stage Pocahontas’ health was deteriorating. She was suffering from tuberculosis, to which the Indians appeared rather prone. Pocahontas was brought ashore at Gravesend, either dead or dying. She is thought to have been buried in the vault beneath the chancel of the local parish church - St. George’s. Her son, Thomas returned to Virginia where he is understood to have numerous descendants. The original church was destroyed by fire on 24th August 1727 and later rebuilt.

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Above is the actual entry recoding the burial of Princess Pocahontas at Gravesend, England

Custer's Last Stand Battle of the Little Big Horn

Located in Southern Montana Territory on the banks of the Little Big Horn River, the Battle of the Little Big Horn also known as Custer's Last Stand took place on 25th June 1876. Custer

Historians generally agree that Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer (Custer is often wrongly referred to as General Custer, he had been promoted to acting Brigadeer General during the American Civil War and reverted to Lt Col in 1865) disobeyed General Alfred Terry's orders and split his command of the 7th Regiment of the U. S. Cavalry which numbered over 650 men total into three battalions: A, M, and G were commanded by Major Reno, D, H, and K were under Captain Benteen's command and C, E, F, I and L Cavalry were under Custer's leadership. Custer chose to ignore his scouts' reports about the size of the Indian encampment Located on the banks of the Little Big Horn River was the largest concentration of Indians from six tribes that history has ever recorded. Present were the Cheyenne, Sans Arcs, Miniconjoux Sioux, Oglala Sioux, Blackfeet and Hunkpapa Sioux. It has been estimated that there were anywhere between ten to fifteen thousand Indians with over 2,500 warriors. Captain Benteen and his Cavalry were sent to the west to scour the southern bluffs for Indians, Major Reno was to cross the river and attack the southern end of the Indian camp and Custer was originally going to support Major Reno but later decided to attack the middle of the encampment with his Cavalry. Major Reno never succeeded in attacking the village as he realized an Indian trap was set for him. Major Reno ordered his Cavalry dismounted and went immediately into a defensive formation instead of an offensive attack as ordered by Custer. Losing a third of his Cavalry in the timber and in a running fighting river crossing struggled for survival. The Indians waged an outstanding battle. Major Reno did not regain control of his resources until reaching a bluff on the other side of the river. Major Reno's Cavalry were able to regroup and fight a pitched battle. Survival was being held by together by a thread. Captain Benteen realizing that he had been sent on a fool's mission returned and found Major Reno's men in desperate straits. Regrouping and sharing information, neither Captain Benteen or Major Reno understood why Major Reno had not been supported by Custer's Cavalry as had originally been planned. Satisfied just to hold the bluff for the next three hours Major Reno and Captain Benteen Cavalry held off the Indians until nightfall. The Indians swarmed from everywhere, coming across the river and up into the gullies. Custer never reached the river but was forced to higher ground downstream by the Indians. Offensive position in the front with a defensive rear guard was assumed in the high open ground. Sioux chief, Gall attacked and over ran the rear guard, L and I Companies while Crazy Horse attacked the offensive commanded by Custer himself. In the end all 197 men on the hill were killed that day in less than 20 minutes. The next day, Captain Benteen and Major Reno Cavalry were hammered again by the Indians. The time was midday when suddenly all was quiet and the Indians were gone. On June 27th , General Terry and his Cavalry found Custer and his Cavalry men on the hill. Captain Keogh's horse Comanche severely wounded, was the only survivor.

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Genghis Khan

In 1206, a man known as Temujen was crowned Genghis Khan - "emperor of all emperors". His mounted Mongol army swept
out of the steppes of Asia in an apocalyptic wave to conquer two thirds of the known world. Recent finds in the arid lands
of Inner Mongolia are casting a new light on Genghis Khan. Although he was a conquering emperor, Genghis Khan was also a
supreme military strategist and clever politician. He was the product of a rich cultural and artistic heritage dating back 6000 years.

Genghis Khan – The man
Genghis Khan was born in the early 1160's (it has been argued between 1162 and 1167,
but recently agreement has been made for 1167), the son of the Kiyat-Borjigid chieftain Yisugei.
He was named Temujen because, at the time of his birth, his father had captured a Tatar chieftain of the same name.
Legend says that the newborn Temujen had a bloodclot in the palm of his hand, an omen that he was destined to be a hero.
When Temujen was a boy, his father was poisoned by a group of Tatars, and the Kiyat tribe broke up and scattered,
abandoning their chief's family and leaving Temujen's mother, Ho'elun, to raise her children alone.
Accounts of Temujen glorify him as intelligent, brave, and an adept fighter, even from an early age,
and as such a potential threat to the leaders of other tribes of the steppe. As a young man, despite extreme hardships,
he repeatedly met perils and endured crises through force of character and willpower.
In 1189, after he was elected the new leader of the Kiyat, he embarked on a series of military campaigns to unify the peoples of the steppe. In 1206, after a series of skilful victories, Temujen was acknowledged as supreme leader of the steppe at a khuriltai,
a traditional meeting of tribal leaders to decide upon the future military and state matters.
He was given the title of Genghis Khan meaning "emperor of all emperors" or "oceanic ruler".
Genghis Khan's campaigns and those of his descendants led to the creation of an immense empire that stretched from Hungary to Korea.
According to legend, Genghis Khan passed through the Ordos area during his final battle campaign and
was so taken with the beautiful grasslands that he dropped his horsewhip. When attendants went to fetch it,
Genghis told them to let it be and expressed a desire to be buried in the Ordos grasslands.
The attendants buried the horsewhip on the spot and erected a ceremonial stone mount over it. Since the early Qing dynasty (1614-1911), there has been a shrine to Genghis Khan's memory located at the site where this event is purported to have occurred.
Genghis and his army defeat the Tangut kingdom of Xi Xia; the capital of the Jin empire, Zhongdu; and, in 1218, the Kara-Khitai empire.
In 1221, a caravan of Khan's traders were executed. When a Mongol ambassador seeking justice was killed, a bloody war ensued with Khan's army slaughtering entire populations.
In the year 1226,Western Turkistan now belonged to Genghis. He devastated the Xi Xia state. Near the end of the assault on its capital city, Ningxia, the ailing Genghis Khan died - August 18, 1227. Soldiers transported their dead leader back to Mongolia, killing all those who crossed their path. His remains have still not been found.

The Mongolian Empire stretched from Hungary to Korea. It included most of Asia and extensive parts of eastern Europe. It was the second largest land Empire in human history.

Gulliver's Travells

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath


Jonathan Swift

Swift was a regular visitor to Gaulstown and indeed wrote a few short verses about his stay there during the reign of George "Nimrod" Rochfort. Swift also concelebrated the wedding mass of Robert 1st Earl of Belvedere, but did you know - it was while sitting on the shore of Lough Ennell (near Mullingar) at the beach in Ladeston, gazing at the folks on the Dysart shore on the beach at Lilliput, that Swift saw his first image of the land of the little people. the folks at Lilliput looked so small from the shore at Ladeston and the greatest works ever produced by Swift were born - Gullivers travells. rather that tell the story here I'll just give you a link to possibly the best Swift site on the web.

6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath


There was a time in ancient Ireland when the people believed in magic and in druids and spells. These were the days of the Tuatha De Danann tribe, the Goddess Dana and of Lir, the Lord of the sea.

Lir's wife, Eva, had given him four beautiful children Fionnuala, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn. One day the two eldest, Fionnuala and Aodh, went swimming in Lough Derravaragh a small lake in the beautiful Kingdom of Meath. They met a messenger who told them that they were wanted by their father. When they went home they found their father upset and very disturbed.
'What is wrong father?' they enquired
'Your mother is not of this world anymore....she has gone to rest'
'What do you mean father?' they asked
Lir explained that this was what humans called 'death' but that since they were immortal that their mother had gone to recover, possibly for a thousand years or more. The elder children were to look after their young brothers, Fiachra and Conn.
The children kissed their mother for the last time and then left.
As the children grew Lir's spirits declined until one day he met Aoife, the sister of his wife. Aoife was possessed of magical powers and soon enough it was known that she and Lir would marry. The new family thrived under the influence of their new mother but not for long as guilt and jealousy about the children's real mother took its toll on Aoifes health. She fell into sickness for a year but recovered only to start to become old before here time.
Aoife was a changed woman now and one day suggested that she and the children should visit their grandfather. On the journey they stopped by a lake and she encouraged the children to go for a swim. The four children played happily in the water, not noticing that their stepmother was now standing at the waters edge wearing her fathers magic cloak.
'For too long you children have stood between your father and I, but not for much longer!' she cried.

'We cannot be killed by you...' Aodh replied,
'...we are the Children of Lir and if you harm us our ghosts will haunt you!'

'I’m not going to kill you.....' she shouted
'......but I am going to change you!'

At this she bowed her head and started an incantation. The children looked at each other in fear as they saw a red and gold circle envelope them on the water. They saw Aoife open up her cloak from which the great light of a fireball emerged and hurtled towards them, burning all in its wake.
The fireball hit the water and caused masses of steam to rise about the children and they soon lost all feeling in their legs, arms, shoulders and head. They soon regained their sight only to see Aoife laughing at them. Aodh tried to attack her and flailed his arms about furiously but nothing happened except the splashing of water. He turned to look at his brothers and sister only to see that they had all been turned into the most beautiful swans ever seen.
Aoife scowled at them again and told them that they were to spend nine hundred years as swans, three hundred on Lough Derravaragh, three hundred on the Straits of Moyle and three hundred on the Isle of Inish Glora. To end the spell they would have to hear the bell of the new God.
'I leave you with your voice however, and the most beautiful singing ever heard' she said.
Lir searched for his children that day, but Aoife told him that they had been attacked and killed by wild boars. Fionnuala, now in swan form, approached her father and told him what Aoife had done. Lir was furious and banished Aoife into exile as an evil demon of the air.

Lir faithfully visited his children and the power of his love ensured that their time on the lake was one of bliss. He knew though that the 300 years of the first phase had passed and that the next phase of the spell was about to begin. The swans left for the Straits of Moyle, never to see their father again.
Their time on the Northern Straits of Moyle were not so joyous, with frequent storms separating them, only for they to join up again. Another 300 years passed but they had survived together.
They departed the cold straits and made their way towards Lough Derravaragh. They flew over the land, hoping to find their father's fort, but it was now nothing more than ruins. They wept because they knew the time of the Tuatha De Danann was gone.
They travelled West to the waters of Inish Glora and found refuge on a small saltwater lake where time passed slowly. One day an old man named Mochua visited the lake and the children enquired of him if he was a follower of the new God. The startled man asked if they were the children of Lir and they told him that they were.

'Are you a holy man?' asked Fiacra.
'I am...' came the reply.

The children knew that to break the spell that they would have to hear the bell of a new God toll in their own land.
Mochua told them all about his new God and all about Saint Patrick who had brought his faith to their country.
The children became excited as they knew that this was the new God their stepmother had told them of. They stayed with Mochua for many years who gave them sanctuary in a small chapel which he had built. He intended to make a bell and collected old swords, shields and other metal to make it. The bell was now completed and was about to be rung when another disaster occurred.
A Warrior dressed in armour entered the chapel. He had come for the children who were famed for their wonderful singing.

'I am Liargren, King of Connaught' he shouted,
'My wife desires those swans and I will have them.
Give them here or I will tear this building down.'

Fionnuala looked at Mochua and then said that they would agree to go away with this King. Liargen was amazed to hear her speak but soon composed himself and ordered his men to take the children away. They were being loaded onto a carriage when suddenly, the church bell tolled loudly.
Time seemed to stand still, but in another instant a great white mist had been blown off the nearby lake and enveloped the children as it had done 900 years before. The mist changed into all of the colours of the rainbow before a great wind gusted it away.
The children had at last been transformed back into human form.
Liagren fled immediately, never to return. Mochua baptized the beautiful children who had begun to age rapidly and so it was that the children of Lir, the last of the Tuatha De Danann died soon afterwards, their legend to live on forever.


The Enduring Mystery of Jack the Ripper
Contemporary illustration of discovery of a body

The name 'Jack the Ripper' has become the most infamous in the annals of murder. Yet, the amazing fact is that his identity remains unproven today. In the years 1888-1891 the name was regarded with terror by the residents of London's East End, and was known the world over. So shrouded in myth and mystery is this story that the facts are hard to identify at this remove in time. And it was the officers of Scotland Yard to whom the task of apprehending the fearsome killer was entrusted. They may have failed, but they failed honourably, having made every effort and inquiry in their power to free London of the unknown terror. Sir Neville Macnaghten Over the years the mystery has deepened to the degree that the truth is almost totally obscured. Innumerable press stories, pamphlets, books, plays, films, and even musicals have dramatised and distorted the facts to such a degree that the fiction is publicly accepted more than the reality.


Suffice to say genuine suspects are far fewer than the prolific authors of the genre would have us believe. In fact, to reduce them to only those with a genuine claim having been nominated by contemporary police officers, we are left with a mere four. They are:
  • Kosminski, a poor Polish Jew resident in Whitechapel;
  • Montague John Druitt, a 31 year old barrister and school teacher who committed suicide in December 1888;
  • Michael Ostrog, a Russian-born multi-pseudonymous thief and confidence trickster, believed to be 55 years old in 1888, and detained in asylums on several occasions;
  • Dr Francis J. Tumblety, 56 Years old, an American 'quack' doctor, who was arrested in November 1888 for offences of gross indecency, and fled the country later the same month, having obtained bail at a very high price.
Inspector Donald SwansonThe first three of these suspects were nominated by Sir Melville Macnaghten, who joined the Metropolitan Police as Assistant Chief Constable, second in command of the Criminal Investigation Deptment (C.I.D.) at Scotland Yard in June 1889. They were named in a report dated 23 February 1894, although there is no evidence of contemporary police suspicion against the three at the time of the murders. Indeed, Macnaghten's report contains several odd factual errors.
Kosminski was certainly favoured by the head of the C.I.D. Dr. Robert Anderson, and the officer in charge of the case, Chief Inspector Donald Swanson. Druitt appears to have been Macnaghten's preferred candidate, whilst the fact that Ostrog was arrested and incarcerated before the report was compiled leaves the historian puzzling why he was included as a viable suspect in the first place.
The fourth suspect, Tumblety, was stated to have been "amongst the suspects" at the time of the murders and "to my mind a very likely one," by the ex-head of the Special Branch at Scotland Yard in 1888, ex-Detective Chief lspector John George Littlechild. He confided his thoughts in a letter dated 23 September, 1913, to the criminological journalist and author George R Sims.
For a list of viable suspects they have not inspired any uniform confidence in the minds of those well-versed in the case.
Indeed, arguments can be made against all of them being the culprit, and no hard evidence exists against any of them. What is obvious is the fact that the police were at no stage in a position to prove a case against anyone, and it is highly unlikely a positive case will ever be proved. If the police were in this position in 1888-1891, then what hope for the enthusiastic modern investigator?
To clear the confusion for the new student of the case we have to return to factual basics. Just who was 'Jack the Ripper,' and what were the 'Whitechapel murders'?

The crimes

What has to be understood is the fact that the 'Ripper' murders and the 'Whitechapel murders' are not the same thing, although the latter does include the 'Ripper' murders. So to set the scene, the list of the eleven Whitechapel murders, (all of which at some stage have been looked upon as 'Ripper' murders), was as follows:
Date Victim Circumstances
Tuesday 3 April 1888 Emma Elizabeth Smith Assaulted and robbed in Osborn Street, Whitechapel.
Tuesday 7 August 1888 Martha Tabram George Yard Buildings,
George Yard, Whitechapel.
Friday 31 August 1888 Mary Ann Nichols Buck's Row, Whitechapel,
Saturday 8 September 1888 Annie Chapman Rear Yard at 29 Hanbury Street,
Sunday 30 September 1888 Elizabeth Stride Yard at side of 40 Berner Street,
St Georges-in-the- East.
Sunday 30 September 1888 Catherine Eddowes Mitre Square, Aldgate, City of London.
Friday 9 November 1888 Mary Jane Kelly 13 Miller's Court,
26 Dorset Street Spitalfields.
Thursday 20 December 1888 Rose Mylett Clarke's Yard,
High Street. Poplar.
Wednesday 17 July 1889 Alice McKenzie Castle Alley,
Tuesday 10 September 1889 Unknown female torso Found under railway arch in Pinchin Street, Whitechapel,
Friday 13 February 1891 Frances Coles Under railway arch, Swallow Gardens, Whitechapel.

Throat cutting attended the murders of Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes, Kelly, McKenzie and Coles. In all except the cases of Stride and Mylett there was abdominal mutilation. In the case of Chapman the uterus was taken away by the killer; Eddowes' uterus and left kidney were taken; and in Kelly's case, evidence suggests, the heart.
Detective Inspector AberlineThe murders were considered too much for the local Whitechapel (H) Division C.I.D, headed by Detective Inspector Edmund Reid, to handle alone. Assistance was sent from the Central Office at Scotland Yard, after the Nichols murder, in the persons of Detective Inspectors, Frederick George Abberline, Henry Moore, and Walter Andrews, together with a team of subordinate officers. Reinforcements were drafted into the area to supplement the local men. After the Eddowes murder the City Police, under Detective Inspector James McWilliam, were also engaged on the hunt for the killer.
Every one of these murders remained unsolved, no person was ever convicted of any of them. Thus It must be said that we simply do not know which of them for certain were the work of a single killer. Over the years, mainly as a result of Macnaghten's beliefs, the 'Ripper'-victims have been listed as
  • Nichols
  • Chapman
  • Stride
  • Eddowes
  • Kelly,
with Tabram having gained favour more recently as a possible sixth in the opinion of some historians.

Non-Ripper murders

Certainly the evidence indicates that Smith was murdered by a group of three young hoodlums. The police investigated a suspicion that Tabram was murdered by a soldier. Mylett, who was not even murdered according to the Assistant Commissioner Robert Anderson, was probably strangled by a client.
McKenzie's wounds indicated yet a different killer.The 'Pinchin Street torso' was undoubtedly an exercise in the disposal of a body, and Coles was possibly murdered by a male companion, James Thomas Sadler, who was arrested and, certainly for a while, suspected of being the Ripper.

The name

Almost certainly the one single reason for the enduring appeal of this rather sordid series of prostitute murders is the name Jack the Ripper. The name is easy to explain. It was written at the end of a letter, dated 25 September, 1888, and received by the Central News Agency on 27 September, 1888. They, in turn, forwarded it to the Metropolitan Police on 29 September.
The letter was couched in lurid prose and began "Dear Boss......" It went on to speak of "That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits......'' ('Leather Apron' was a John Pizer, briefly suspected at the time of the Chapman murder). "I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled..."; and so on in a similar vein. The appended "trade name" of Jack the Ripper was then made public and further excited the imagination of the populace.
The two murders of 30 September 1888 gave the letter greater importance and to underline it the unknown correspondent again committed red ink to postcard and posted it on 1 October. In this communication he referred to himself as 'saucy Jacky...' and spoke of the "double event......." He again signed off as Jack the Ripper. The status of this correspondence is still being discussed by modern historians.

the letter sent to the Central News Agency

The message on the wall

Immediately after the Eddowes murder a piece of her bloodstained apron was found in a doorway in Goulston Street, Whitechapel. Above the piece of apron, on the brick fascia in the doorway, was the legend, in chalk, "The Juwes are The men that Will not be Blamed for nothing." A message from the murderer, or simply anti-Semitic graffiti? Expert opinion is divided.

The hype

It was at this time that the panic was at its height and the notoriety of the murders was becoming truly international, appearing in newspapers from Europe to the Americas. Even at this early stage the newspapers were carrying theories as to the identity of the killer, including doctors, slaughterers, sailors, and lunatics of every description.
A popular image of the killer as a 'shabby genteel' man in dark clothing, slouch hat and carrying a shiny black bag was also beginning to gain currency. The press, especially the nascent tabloid papers, were having a field day. With no Whitechapel murders in October there was still plenty to write about. There were dozens of arrests of suspects "on suspicion" (usually followed by quick release); there was a police house to house search, handbills were circulated, and Vigilance Committee members and private detectives flooded the streets.
The discovery of a female torso in the cellars of the new police building under construction at Whitehall added to the air of horror on 2 October, 1888. The floodgates to a deluge of copy cat 'Jack the Ripper' letters were opened, and added to the problems of the police.
An unpleasant experience befell the Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, builder George Lusk, on 16 October, 1888, when he received half a human kidney in a cardboard box through the post. With this gruesome object was a letter scrawled in a spidery band and addressed "from Hell ....." It finished. "signed Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk." The writer claimed to have fried and ate the other half of the "kidne," which was "very nise." The shaken Lusk took both kidney and letter to the police. The police, and police surgeon felt it was probably a hoax by a medical student, although others believed it was part of Eddowes' missing organ.

Inquests fuel press speculation

Popular and lengthy inquests were held by Coroner Wynne Baxter on the victims falling under his jurisdiction, which was the majority of them, and he fuelled the press coverage to fever pitch. He was not grudging in dishing out his criticism of witnesses. By the time the murders came to an end in 1891, the proprietors of the Working Lads' Institute had had enough of the noisy, unruly, proceedings and informed Baxter that he could find a different venue for his next inquest.
The murder of Mary Kelly, in November 1888, was accompanied by mutilation of such ferocity that it beggared description, and, for once, left the press short of superlatives. The murder had been committed on the day of the investiture of the new Mayor of London and the celebrations were soon overshadowed by the news of the Ripper's latest atrocity.
The Metropolitan Commissioner of Police, Sir Charles Warren, resigned at the time of the Kelly murder, after a long history of dispute with the Home Office, and was replaced by James Monro.

The panic subsides

After the Kelly murder, and many more abortive arrests, the panic began to die down a little and a more quiescent atmosphere began to reign. In early 1889 lnspector Abberline left, to take on other cases, and the inquiry was handed over to Inspector Henry Moore. His last extant report on the murders is dated 1896, when another 'Jack the Ripper' letter was received. There were brief flurries of press activity and wild suggestions that the 'Ripper' had returned on the occasions of the subsequent murders. However, Sadler was the last serious suspect arrested, and his seafaring activities obviated him from blame for the 1888 murders.
It will be seen from the foregoing that this is a mystery, when stripped of its fictional trappings, which provides all the raw material the imaginative writer or armchair detective could hope for. So popular is the subject that meticulous and scholarly research is carried out on the background of all the characters named in the story. Detailed plans are drawn and Victorian census returns and post office directories are consulted. The newspapers of the time are trawled for every scrap of information. Every minor detail revealed and added is hailed as a major triumph of research, sometims even justifying a book.

The files and other source material

New Scotland Yard have no files on the murders, nor details of the inquiry. The documents have been transfered over to the Public Record Office at Ruskin Avenue, Kew.

MEPO 1/48 Commissioner's letters, confidential and private, 1867-91.
MEPO 1/54 Out Ietters, 1890-1919.
MEPO 1/55 Letters to Home Office etc., 1883-1904.
MEPO 1/65 Letters from Receiver to Home Office etc., 1868-91.
MEPO 2/227 Police reinforcements for Whitechapel after Pinchin St. murder 1891.
MEPO 31140 Files on each of the Whitechapel murders (that on Emma Smith missing).
MEPO 3/141 Whitechapel murders, miscellaneous correspondence and suspects.
MEPO 3/142 'Jack the Ripper' letters.
MEPO 3/3153 Documents on the Whitechapel murders returned to Yard in 1987.
MEPO 3/3155 Photographs of Whitechapel Murder victims (original of Stride missing).
MEPO 3/3156 Copy of photograph of Elizabeth Stride

There is much material to be seen in these files though probably as much again is now missing, some as a result of petty pilfering and others were simply destroyed in past years.
Many books have been written on the subject, and they vary in quality. Some concern individual suspects, whilst others are aimed more for the student and researcher, and contain most of the facts available, thus avoiding expensive and time-consuming research.
However, the serious historian is directed to the primary Metropolitan Police (MEPO) sources listed above, as well as the Home Office files which are also available at the Record Office.
For recommended further reading:
  • 'The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Source book', by Stewart P Evans and Keith Skinner, published by Robinson, 2001.
  • 'Jack the Ripper: The Facts', by Paul Begg, published by Robson Books, 2004.
  • 'The Jack the Ripper A-Z' by Paul Begg, Martin Fido and Keith Skinner, published by Headline, 1996, with a new edition due to be published in 2007.

Borrowed from the Metropolitan Police archives


Do you remember when you were a kid, with one TV Channel (RTE, it didn’t even start until about five or six in the evening), but the best programmes were

Laurel and Hardy and the cartoons. 6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Remember when we were eating dinner every evening Bugs Bunny saying he should have turned left at Albuquerque. 6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

Well if he had turned left…….

The LincolnCountyWar – A Very Short History of Billy The Kid

The Territory of New Mexico, in the mid-1870-80s, experienced a wave of rampant lawlessness, unparalleled in the

history of the United States. One must walk a mile in their shoes before coming to conclusions about the lives of men and boys in that era.

Henry McCarty, alias Kid Antrim, alias William H. Bonney, alias Billy The Kid, born in the eastern United States, went to New Mexico in the

1870's and started out on his own from Silver City. 6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

(Billy The Kid)

In Lincoln, he became involved in the famous Lincoln County War. This was a time of political strife and financial power struggles. In most cases,

one must kill or be killed. Upon the death of John Tunstall, Billy vowed vengeance on every man who participated in that cruel, wanton murder.
Later, the Kid was involved in the death of Morton, Baker, McCloskey, Brady, Hindman and Beckwith. The vendetta led him through the heart of
New Mexico. At Blazer's Mill, near Mescalero, Brewer and Buckshot Roberts met their destiny. The Rio Ruidoso took them to
Dowlin's Mill, the Hondo Valley led to the Chisum South Springs Ranch near Roswell (The 1950s UFO sightings area). The Pecos River trail
winds up to Old Fort Sumner, where Joe Grant caused his own demise. A dim trail off east to Los Portales Springs hideout. Seven Rivers crossing,
near Carlsbad, once tallied 200,000 head of cattle from Texas following the Goodnight-Loving, Chisum trail in a day. Patrick Floyd Garrett,
born in Alabama, led a successful life as a buffalo hunter in Texas, before drifting into New Mexico. His election as Sheriff of Lincoln County drew him into
this legend. He was a dedicated Sheriff at the time New Mexico needed such a man. The White Oaks skirmish on December 1, 1880 caused an accidental
shooting at the Greathouse Stage Station, near Corona. The trail goes on to Anton Chico, Puerto de Luna, Sunnyside Spring and Old Fort Sumner,
where Tom O'Folliard fell in an ambush. The connections of Wilcox-Yerby ranches and Brazil Spring played a part in the surrender at Stinking Springs,
and the end of Charlie Bowdre. On to Las Vegas, by wagon, to Santa Fe by railcar, through Albuquerque, on to Old Mesilla for trial.
Under heavy guard they trudged through La Luz, Alamogordo, and back to Lincoln, where Billy performed his daring escape, after the death of
Bell and Olinger. Now, with a wanted poster for Billy The Kid, Pat Garrett was hot on the trail back to Old Fort Sumner. There, on July 14, 1881,
Pat Garrett, in the Maxwell house, killed the the Kid, and certainly, he is buried there, in Old Fort Sumner. Garrett left his mark on New Mexico in many ways;
one of significance is, his daughter Elizabeth wrote O Fair New Mexico, the state song. So the Legends live on!!!



Did you know that the shortest story published was by Ernest Hemingway, world famous writer and poet and author of books
such as "For Whom the bell tolls", "The torrents of spring" etc. also wrote and published the shortest story ever published by a
recognised author. the book was entitled baby's shoes and the entire text of the book was:-

for sale, baby's shoes - never worn...

a total of six words that says more than a novel to anyone who has ever lost a baby at childbirth or miscarriage.


Chrildrens short stories - follow the link below


The Gunfight at the OK Corral - By Geneoneill

Newspaper coverage of the fight. The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a gunfight that has been portrayed
in numerous Western films. It has come to symbolize the struggle between law-and-order and
open-banditry and rustling in frontier towns of the Old West where law enforcement was often thin,
and where some of the urban -vs.- rural and North -vs.- South tensions of the American Civil War were
still very much active.
The actual event occurred on Wednesday afternoon, October 26, 1881, in a vacant lot, known as lot 2,
in block 17, behind the corral in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, United States.
Some of the fight also occurred in Fremont Street in front of the vacant lot. Some thirty shots were fired
in thirty seconds. Although only three people were killed during the gunfight, it became more famous than
many other gunfights that resulted in larger numbers of people killed,
Wyatt Earp, Morgan Earp, Virgil Earp, and Doc Holliday fought against Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury,
Ike Clanton, Billy Clanton, Billy Claiborne, and Wes Fuller.

Ike Clanton, Billy Claiborne, and Wes Fuller ran away from the fight, unharmed.

Both McLaurys and Billy Clanton were killed, while Holliday, Morgan Earp, and Virgil Earp were wounded.
The key incident leading up to the shooting was an attempted stagecoach robbery on March 15, 1881, in
which two people were killed and a prime suspect escaped from jail afterward.
In the aftermath, accusations about who was involved in the robbery floated about, with Doc Holliday made a
suspect after his girlfriend Big Nose Kate accused him, but then later recanted.
After the gunfight, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday (the two men not formally employed as law officers, and also
the two least wounded) were charged with murder. After extensive testimony at the preliminary hearing to decide
if there was enough evidence to bind the men over for trial, the presiding Justice of the Peace Wells Spicer ruled
that there was not enough evidence to indict the men.

Later, a grand jury followed Spicer's finding, and also refused to indict.
Spicer, in his ruling, criticized City Marshal Virgil Earp for using Wyatt and Doc as backup temporary deputies,
but not for using Morgan, who had already been wearing a City Marshal badge for 9 days.
A few weeks following the grand jury refusal to indict, Virgil Earp was shot by hidden assailants from an unused
building at night – a wound causing him complete loss of the use of his left arm.
Three months later Morgan Earp was murdered by a shot in the back in Tombstone by men shooting from a dark alley.
After these incidents, Wyatt, accompanied by Doc Holliday and several other friends, undertook what has later
been called the Earp vendetta ride in which they tracked down and killed the men whom they believed had been
responsible for these acts.
After the vendetta ride, Wyatt and Doc left the Arizona Territory in April 1882 and parted company,
although they remained in contact.
Billy Claiborne was killed in a gunfight in Tombstone in late 1882 by gunman Franklin Leslie. In less than six years,
Doc Holliday died of tuberculosis in Colorado.
Virgil lived without the use of his arm, although continued as a lawman in California, and died of pneumonia at
age 62 in 1905, still on the job as a peace officer.
Wyatt Earp traveled across the Western Frontier for decades in the company of Josephine Marcus, working mostly as
a gambler, and eventually died in Los Angeles of infection, in 1929, at the age of 80.


This could be fact or maybe fiction any way its an Irish legend

How Cuchulainn got his Name.

Setanta Setanta and the hound

When Setanta was small he lived with his mother in Dundalk. When he was still very small he said
he was going to join the Red Branch Knights, the army of the king of Ulster, Conor Mac Nessa.
But he had to get into the boys army called the "Macra" first, so one day he set off on foot to
Eamhain Macha,
where the king lived. While he was on his way, he would hit the ball, run as it was landing and then
he would hit again. When he got there the Macra boys were playing a game of hurling so he joined in.
He was the best and he was always getting goals. He was the best so everybody turned on him.
But he was able to fight them off. The King said to Setanta, "I am putting you into the Macra". One day,
Culann who was the king's blacksmith, was holding a great feast, and Setanta was invited.
The King was going but Setanta was playing hurling. He said he would follow him there.
So when the game was over he went to the feast. When he got there the Culann's hound
attacked him. Setanta hit the ball at the hound with his hurley and it went right down his
throat and he was nearly dead. So he hit the hound's head off the pillar. When the guests
heard the noise they came out to see what was happening. They were surprised to see
Setanta had killed the hound. Culann said, " Who will mind my house?". So Setanta said,
"I will guard your house", so he was called Cuchulainn which means the hound of Culann.
Story wrote by a 3rd class student from Newry Co Down, this means the kids up there in
the 6 counties still have an interest in things Irish.


Choctaw Indian Nation and the Great Famine in Ireland

By "geneoneill" - Fact-

It was good to see this link (on Links page) about the famine, useful and factual information there!, a little
known fact about the same famine was that that Choctaw tribe of Mississippi donated their whole tribes
yearly economy of US$710 to the Irish Famine Refief fund.

The background to this was that :

1. Mississippi became a state of the union in 1817. this undermined the Choctaw huntings ground and led
to hostilities until 1830.

2. The treaty of Dancing Creek of 1830 "guaranteed" Choctaw hunting grounds but most of what was
guaranteed by the US govt wasn't even in Mississippi. This led to disputes and most of the tribe moved
on foot, through harsh conditions, to the Indian Nations (modern day Oklahoma) where they got jobs on the
railroad along with Irish and Chinese immigrants.

3. In 1847, midway through the famine, a group of Choctaws collected $710 and sent it to help starving
Irish men, women and children. It had been just 16 years since the Choctaw people had experienced near
extinction themselves on the march of death to the Indian Nations, and they had faced starvation.
The Choctaw understood what was happening to their Irish co-workers families back home
… It was an amazing gesture. By today's standards, it might be over a million Euro.

4. By the end of the US Civil war in 1865 the Choctaw were considered part of the "5 civilised indian tribes"
(Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Siminole) by the US Govt especiaclly around the circles of
Boston and the Irish US community in New England.

5. On 23 May 1995 President Mary Robinson visited the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma to thank them on
behalf of the Irish people.

Irish Dancers entertaining Choctaws

Photo shows part of the crowd watching Irish Dancing when President Robinson visited the Choctaw Nation
in Oklahoma in 1995.

The Choctaw march

There is no food,

where do we hunt?

United States says "believe"... we can't:
We have to move to promised land to the nations, sixteen months,
many dead braves,

the United States lied

WE died.

By White Eagle


6 - SHORT STORIES (FACT OR FICTION) - Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath
Lament for the Death of Eoghan Ruadh O’Neill

By Thomas Davis

“DID they dare, did they dare, to slay Eoghan Ruadh O’Neill?”
“Yes, they slew with poison him they feared to meet with steel.”
“May God wither up their hearts! May their blood cease to flow,
May they walk in living death, who poisoned Eoghan Ruadh.”

“Though it break my heart to hear, say again the bitter words.
From Derry, against Cromwell, he marched to measure swords:
But the weapon of the Sassanach met him on his way.
And he died at Cloch Uachtar, upon St. Leonard’s day.

“Wail, wail ye for the Mighty One. Wail, wail ye for the Dead,
Quench the hearth, and hold the breath—with ashes strew the head.
How tenderly we loved him. How deeply we deplore!
Holy Saviour! but to think we shall never see him more!

“Sagest in the council was he, kindest in the hall,
Sure we never won a battle—’twas Eoghan won them all.
Had he lived—had he lived—our dear country had been free:
But he’s dead, but he’s dead, and ’tis slaves we’ll ever be.

“O’Farrell and Clanricarde, Preston and Red Hugh,
Audley and MacMahon—ye valiant, wise and true:
But—what are ye all to our darling who is gone?
The Rudder of our Ship was he, our Castle’s corner stone.

“Wail, wail him through the Island! Weep, weep for our pride!
Would that on the battlefield our gallant chief had died!
Weep the Victor of Beinn Burb—weep him, young and old:
Weep for him, ye women—your beautiful lies cold!

“We thought you would not die—we were sure you would not go,
And leave us in our utmost need to Cromwell’s cruel blow—
Sheep without a shepherd, when the snow shuts out the sky—
O! why did you leave us, Eoghan? Why did you die?

“Soft as woman’s was your voice, O’Neill! bright was your eye,
O! why did you leave us, Eoghan? Why did you die?
Your troubles are all over, you’re at rest with God on high,
But we’re slaves, and we’re orphans, Eoghan!—why did you die?”


Where did the time go?

By Belvedere - Prose-

The loving starts as soon as you see the colour of pregnancy test.

Yes you are going to be a daddy, your wife tells you with mixed feeling of how you will react.

You wait patiently for nine months through every mood change and weird longings for food not yet invented.

In a moment of thought you ask the Lord to forgive your sins and let the child be normal.

You get the call one night that this is it.

All the reading of women’s needs and wants at this time are forgotten.

All the names you chose don’t seem right.

Will it have ten fingers and ten toes? Will it be alright?

Will I have a son or daughter only God knows?

Will it be born tonight?

The midwife calls you into the delivery room after walking the hall for what seems like forever.

You see you wife in the pain of childbirth, oblivious to the moment with gas and pain.

The head appears. Then the midwife says “push hard”

At last you are a daddy, but is everything ok?

“Congratulation” says the nurse you have a beautiful baby girl.

For the next few days you are on top of the world

Every one you meet says “well done” Then down to raising the child

First tooth,

First word,

First step,

First holiday,

First day at school,

First Holy Communion,

First period,

First boyfriend.

First time she didn’t come home for Christmas.

First grandchild.

First at the chapel for your funeral.

Where did the time go?

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