Category Archives: Irish

Friday poem 16: W B Yeats “When you are old and grey…”

A lovely classic, but also a classic put-down in its way.

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.


Posted by on September 11, 2009 in Irish, poets and poetry


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My “Irish Correspondent” is very sad…

And who can blame him?

I am not a fan of the UK myself.

But this does not mean that I get myself a gun and go out at night shooting British soldiers or policemen. It makes no sense at all to behave in such a way. And anyone who claims that the cruel murders committed by a number of Irishmen on Saturday evening at the gate of the British Army’s Massereene Barracks (home base of the 38th Regiment, Royal Engineers) in Co. Antrim (north of Belfast) have anything whatsoever to do with politics or the Irish desire for self-determination and a united Irish nation is both a fool and a liar.

Read the rest of his post: Back to the ‘Bad Old Days’?

The romance of revolution has, we must always remember, its dark side: it inevitably becomes a blood feud. Where that ends no-one ever knows. Ireland has so recently recovered from its painful past, and has enough problems, as we all do, dealing with a very different painful present.

No-one expected things to be perfect, or to be without plenty of ‘teething problems’. But after the strongest exponents from both Northern communities – the former arch enemies DUP and Sinn Féin – managed to bury the hatchet and work together constructively in the Stormont administration, even the most serious sceptics began to think that there could be a peaceful future for the Six Counties.

The dream lasted for 22 months, and with every day the hopes for normality and prosperity grew a little larger.

But then came last weekend, and with it the return of guns – and the nutters who use them – to the North of Ireland.

What is encouraging is the tide of revulsion. See Dignified defiance as Belfast falls silent after killings in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.



Since I wrote this the Irish Correspondent has updated.


Posted by on March 12, 2009 in current affairs, Europe, Irish


The Writing Show : The View from Ireland, with author Kevin Stevens

This is a great interview, ranging through many books and authors. But who, some may be asking, is Kevin Stevens? The short answer is that he is an ex-pat Boston writer who now lives in Ireland. I have recently read his first novel, The Rizzoli Contract (2003). Even if I had worked out who was at the bottom of the mess a bit soonish, I still loved it. The blurb:
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Irish Convicts to NSW 1791 – 1831

This database contains details of Irish convicts who were transported to New South Wales in the period 1791 – 1831. It is very good.

Whitfield, Jacob Ship: Isabella I [1822] 1820 Tyrone Co Sentence: Life Occupation: Ploughman.

I doubt he would have made much use of the family crest I showed you yesterday.

What a different Sydney he arrived in!

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Posted by on January 6, 2006 in Australia and Australian, Crime and/or crime fiction, History, Irish, local, personal, Surry Hills


My Ancestry

Guess I will be revising this before long, though I have mostly got it right. Distant cousin Bob Starling has just sent me the result of his extensive researches on CD-ROM and hard copy. He has really gone back:
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Encounter: 30 October 2005 – Human Rights in an Age of Terror Transcript

This is now online, and SO relevant. As Mary Robinson says:

We just need to get back to the international human rights standards that are a considerable achievement of humankind. It’s important to reinforce the true values of our societies. If we compromise those then we have done a terrible disservice and made us all less secure in the longer term, so that the undermining of rule of law and of no torture and no detaining people endlessly without trial, without any reference to their families etcetera…I mean, (look) how far these matters have gone. So we need to reassert the standards.

And here is that teacher in a Brisbane Islamic school that I said last Sunday deserves a medal.
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Posted by on November 5, 2005 in Australia and Australian, current affairs, education, fundamentalism and extremism, human rights, interfaith, Irish, Islam, Multicultural, peace, Political, radio, terrorism


Ambassador of Conscience Award: Seamus Heaney

Read the wonderful poem “From the Republic of Conscience”.
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Posted by on November 2, 2005 in human rights, interfaith, Irish, poets and poetry, writers


William Butler Yeats: "The Circus Animals’ Desertion."


I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,
I sought it daily for six weeks or so.
Maybe at last, being but a broken man,
I must be satisfied with my heart, although
Winter and summer till old age began
My circus animals were all on show,
Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.

* * *

Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder’s gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

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Posted by on September 16, 2005 in ex-students and coachees, Irish, personal, poets and poetry, Political, Shakespeare, Top read, writers


Islamic leaders must denounce extremists: Howard


Having myself a week or two back referred to Melbourne’s Sheikh Mohammed Omran as a bigoted old tosser, I guess I have to agree with John Howard on this one. On the other hand, I do not find John Howard so quick to condemn equally irresponsible sewage when it departs the poxy brains of Christian or pseudoChristian right wingers or racist psychotics and sociopaths and then spews out in sermons, newspapers, TV current affairs and radio talkback… Andrew F**** is but the most recent example. Back in 1996 M and I would have appreciated a stronger rebuke against Pauline Hanson, and her even more feral followers, than was forthcoming from Honest John who 1) not so secretly rejoiced in what Pauline was destroying and 2) played the situation to the hilt for his own electoral gain.

Of course it could be argued that Sheikh Omran has as much right to his opinions as I do, or John Howard, or Andrew *r*s*r, or the nearest taxidriver, or the drunk in the local pub, or anyone else…

WE have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another. — Jonathan Swift

It could even be argued that if we lose sight of that, the terrorists have in a way won.

It could be argued that a world where it is lethal to be a wandering young Brazilian on public transport — the cops may decide you are a terrorist and gun you down — is already cracking up and losing the plot…

It could be argued that asserting that the War in Iraq has actually made a useful contribution to the War on Terror is patently crazy…

It could be argued that evolving into some form of police state is not the best way to protect democratic values.

All sorts of things could and should be argued. But one thing is certain: NO SUICIDE BOMBER IS A MARTYR. EVERY SUICIDE BOMBER IS A MURDERER.

In fact it could be argued that ALL bombers, layers of landmines, and technocrats of mass destruction, even ours, are murderers…

The Quakers would argue that, but much more gently than I have done. But they would be right nonetheless. Jonathan Swift made the point rather well in Book II of Gulliver’s Travels:
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Posted by on July 24, 2005 in Australia and Australian, British, Christianity, culture wars, faith and philosophy, fundamentalism and extremism, Irish, Islam, Political, satire, terrorism