Sunday, May 25, 2008

Of Knights and Courtly Love.

She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely apparition, sent
To be a moment’s ornament.
I was twelve years old and imaginative when I first read that spiriting poem by Wm. Wordsworth. Recently it has been suggested that dear William lived his merry life in a ménage-a-trois, which included his wife and his dear sister. That information simply added luster to the above lines and drew smiles to my face; for if we attend to some poets contemporary to that time, and of similar bent, we meet Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, De Quincy et al., whose fertile imaginations were also seeded by intimate female susurrations to their ears, which is perhaps why we all have two to a head, and thankfully, only one tongue!
In a way, the scene was not dissimilar to that of the dreamy Land of Oc – Languedoc – at Provence in southwest France which was well favoured by nature in its climate, the soil rich in nutrient, and by attentive husbandry, the cities of Provence, each a distinct miniature republic with castle and court, rose to riches. They had their own language and literature and its people were learned and polite. They had abandoned the internecine warring habits of central Europe in favour of civilised peaceful co-existence. Languedoc became the land of the Troubadour, of song and of amatory poetry, of Ladies and of Knights, and of Chivalry…the story of dreams.
Much of the poetry was allegorical in style, but at the same time, the theme left little to search for in imagination, yet they held the reader spellbound.
One of the sweetest and earliest of Troubadour poems, Romance of The Rose, was written by Guillaume de Lorris (c.1230) and translated into middle English by Chaucer which makes it difficult to understand, but once understood, it is very beautiful. In a certain constructive way, it draws to mind Brian Merriman’s Midnight Court, although of a different genre, for the opening lines begin with a dream:
Within my twenty yere of age,
Whan that love taketh his corage
Of young folk, I went sone
To bed, as I was wont to done,
And fast asleep; and in sleeping,
Me mette such a swevening (a very rude word)
That lykede me wonders wel:
But in that sweven is never a del
That it nis afterward befelle….
The Rose (allegorically), represents a beautiful lady within the walled Garden of Amour where the visitor seeks her, and after many trials and tribulations meets her; but the Rose is enclosed and protected by many other thorny bushes.

In thilke mirrour saw I tho, (thilke/same)
Among a thousand things mo,
A roser charged full of rosis,
That with an hegge about enclose is.
Though I had sich lust and envye…

As with flowers, it is proper to cup ones hand around it without touching, allowing the heat to permeate, so causing a surprising reaction from the petals.
The Counts of Poitiers were patrons and leaders of the Troubadours, and of whom William 1X was the main progenitor and whose granddaughter, Eleanor of Aquitaine, inherited the title from her own father, William X in 1137. She became wife to King Louis V11 of France, and after their divorce she married Henry of Anjou, later to become Henry 2nd of England. During those times she wisely retained her title to Languedoc, and with it, her passionate support and love of its people and their independent way of life.
Such was the strength of the Languedoc economy, that surrounding states, including France desired to share in its success without having to work to attain it. Under the pretense of heretical practices, they caused Rome to become involved by way of the Dominicans. The Albigensian crusade began, and within a short space of time, the Albigensians were decimated, and with them, the people Langedoc, along with their fabulous culture. Michael Ward.

Matt’s Memories

Oldest and Best Market
I was watching Nationwide when I discovered they were featuring the Naas and Leopardstown Markets. The Naas Market at 56 years of age is one of the oldest and best in the country. In the background, I could see Mary Glennon, the Naas Independent Politician, moving back and forth. Mary was, and may still be, the Mayor of Kildare.

Group Photograph
Nationwide showed a 20 year-old group photograph of those involved in the Naas Market and unless I am mistaken one of those in the centre of the photo was our own Betty Cremins. Kathy Fisher was also featured. With 44 years to her credit, Kathy is one of the longest serving people in the Naas Market. Kathy I gather specialises in crochet, scones and jam making. Another featured on the programme was Hilary Pallister. I have often read about Hilary in the Bugle and of her involvement in the Brownies but I never met her before. Now thanks to TV, I was seeing her for the first time. Hilary specialises in plants and flowers for the last 16 years. The Ballymore Newsletter of September 9, 1989 has on its front-page a report on the Brownies signed by Rose O’Donoghue and Hilary Pallister.

Microlite Plane
For a long time we had been trying to persuade the Naas brother that he should fly and go to some of the more exotic places for holidays but he would not budge! One evening he was visiting the Pallisters and Simon invited him to join Simon in his microlite plane. The brother seemed to forget that he could say “No” so he said “Yes” and went up with Simon. Since then the brother has never looked back and has been here, there and everywhere by plane. So Simon “Thanks” - you succeeded where we failed.

Assumpta Terrace
Both the families of Michael Mullally and Jim Sheridan once lived at Assumpta Terrace. In the old days we used to call Michael Mullally Jim but now we call him Michael. Michael has a sister called Nora and a brother called Rob. They are the children of the late Bertie Mullally and his late wife. Nora and Michael and their spouses live in Newbridge while Rob moved from Jamaica to California a few years ago. Rob became an American Citizen on September 9, 2003.

Jim Sheridan
Jim Sheridan is a son of the late Guard Sheridan and his late wife. Jim has a sister called Mena and a brother called Michael. Both Michael Mullally and Jim worked with the Millennium Park in Naas where Michael was the headman there and both of them took early retirement at the same time a few years ago at which point I lost contact with Michael. (Prior to that I had visited both of them at Millennium Park).

Contact Re-established
When Michael heard from his brother Rob that I had been unwell, he and Jim re-established contact with me and treated me to a lovely dinner at the Glenside Pub where I was treated like royalty. The name Paddy Conway formerly of Dowdenstown came up as Paddy is a regular at lunchtime and I have often met and chatted to him there.

Paddy Geraghty
Recently Nora and her husband Paddy Geraghy had a holiday in California with Rob and his wife Marykay that they enjoyed very much. Paddy’s late father lived at the Crescent, Newbridge, next door to a first cousin of my late mother, Eileen O’Brien. Eileen has one older sister called Nancy Greene who lives at Castleknock in Dublin. These are the only relations at that level that I now have. On the way home, Paddy suffered a major heart attack and has been slowly recovering from it for the last six months.

Slide Show
Recently Rob sent me a lovely album and slide show of Paddy and Nora’s visit to him. Like myself, Michael Sheridan once worked with Dublin County Council. Michael is now retired and Mena who was a nurse at Clonsilla Hospital is also retired.

The Sullivans
As far as I am aware we have no Sullivan family of Barrack Street nowadays. Once upon a time it was otherwise. We had a family consisting of George Sullivan (or O’Sullivan), his wife - her Christian name was Rita I think, their two daughters Rita Salmon and Nuala Mackenzie and two sons Mel and Georgie.

Guard Sullivan
George was a guard and one of several guards in Ballymore-Eustace at the time including Guard Carroll of the Golden Falls, Guard Sheridan of Assumpta Terrace and Guard Glancy of Chapel Street. Sergeant Higgins was the Sergeant for the area until about 1954. Matt Fitzpatrick then took over as Sergeant. Guard Mick Noonan came to Ballymore-Eustace later on, then Guard Vincent Kavanagh. John McCarville was attached to Blessington.

The Races
Like myself, George was fond of the horses and I often chatted to him or saw him at the Naas and Punchestown races. I cannot remember when George died but I do know he died several years before his wife.

Rita married Naas solicitor, Martin Salmon. We were all shocked in 1963 when we learned Martin had died suddenly aged 38. His friends erected a wooden plaque in his honour at the Courthouse in Naas shortly after he died. When the Courthouse was being renovated this plaque was broken. Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave unveiled a replacement bronze plaque in Martin’s honour in 2004. The new bronze plaque by sculptor Mary Ferris now stands at the Courthouse.

Nuala is the youngest member of the family; she married Judge MacKenzie who sadly died on August 9, 2003. Nuala herself qualified as a solicitor and now has her own legal firm.


The late Mel was the eldest boy and in his younger days he was one of our top handball players. He went to America in the middle fifties and as far as I know he joined the American air force as a pilot.

Georgie was the youngest boy and was an electrician. In his younger days he went to England where he stayed for many years before returning to Ireland where he died on November 23, 2004.
The Gordons
The Gordon family had a pub and grocery shop where The Thatch now is. For many years Eddie Gordon and his wife Eileen ran the family business. Eddie was only 55 years old when he died on February 7, 1981. In due course, Eileen sold the pub and shop and went to live in a two-storey house in Hillcrest.

Three of their children went to Australia Margaret, Eileen and Johnny. Margaret was nursing and met her husband Steve Laming there. A couple of years ago Margaret returned to Ireland and the last I knew she and her husband were living at Coughlanstown. Eileen has her own business in Kalgoorlie near Perth. Patricia is married to a man named O’Brien while Eddie (Junior) lives at Liffey Heights.

Liam Burke
Liam Burke of Weaver’s Row died on the same date as Eddie Gordon but a year later. When the Handball Pub Tournament was in full swing Liam was very much to the fore in running it while Eddie Gordon was a keen supporter of the tournament. Liam’s wife Mary Burke (nee Heydon) died in Naas Hospital on March 11, 2007 aged 83. When she married Liam in the early sixties, Mary came to live in Ballymore-Eustace.

The Brownes
Jim (Senior), now eighty-six, usually drops in to the village each day and before I had my stroke I often saw him arriving. His wife, the late Maisie, was fond of the horses and in days gone by I used meet her on a Saturday at the betting office in Blessington.

Thanks to our common interest in handball John was the one I knew best. In 1961 he won an All-Ireland minor hard doubles with Jackie Byrne. 1969 saw him score a close win with Eamonn Deegan in the All-Ireland junior hard doubles. In 1962 himself and my late brother Paddy were narrowly beaten by Tipperary in the minor hard doubles final. In the mid-eighties, the good Limerick pair, the Quish Brothers, narrowly beat himself and Tommy O’Rourke in the senior hard doubles final.

Star Fundraiser
In 1988 I won the Leinster Masters 40 by 20 doubles title with John. That was the last major title that I won. Over the years John has served on handball committees on many occasions. John was also one of our top fundraisers especially when the 40 by 20 alley was being built.

From 1990 to 1992 John won four All-Ireland titles. In 1991 he scored a double All-Ireland success by winning both the All-Ireland Silver Masters “A” Soft Singles and 40 by 20 Singles titles. I have photos of one of these wins (against Paddy Walsh of Sligo) at which his mother Maisie and wife Pat were also in attendance.

John’s last hurrah came in the year 2000 when himself and Eamonn Deegan again teamed up to win the Emerald Masters “A” Soft Doubles title. That brought John’s grand total of All-Ireland titles to seven.

Jim (Junior)
Jim (Junior) also played handball but never bothered playing it competitively. He had a varied working career. I’m pretty sure he did a stint with my father in Naas. He also worked for a time in England before returning home.

John’s sister, Phil Loughlin, lives in Liffey Heights and has worked for the handball committee. Her late husband Billy’s 20th anniversary occurred on February 9. I believe John had five sisters in all.

Met Michael Molloghan of Braemor Avenue on February 1 and he told me he buried an older brother in December and he was going to Leitrim that day for the funeral of a first cousin of his.

Best Wishes
Best wishes to Liz Deegan (nee O’Connor) who recently received treatment in St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin.

Reading the February Bugle I realised my article on the two families raised by Mr and Mrs Patsy Murphy at Liffeydale contained an important error. Mr and Mrs Patsy Murphy’s own family consisted of four girls namely Rita Lawler, Maureen Burke, the late Frances Higgins and Teresa Flood and four boys namely John, Meahall, the late Paddy and the late Martin. My article referred to a family of seven children as opposed to eight children.

Reading of the death of top jockey, Bobby Beasley (R.I.P.), on January 9 aged 72 reminded me of a visit he made, along with my late brother Dan, to my parents in Ballymore-Eustace in 1972. At the time Bobbie was a recovering alcoholic. Earlier he had retired from racing but, being off the drink for 5 years, he made a comeback. Second time around, Bobbie rode until 1975 winning the Gold Cup for the late Pat Taaffe on Captain Christy in 1974. First time around in 1961 he rode Nicholas Silver to win the Aintree Grand National. At 28/1 that was my first big win in the race.

The death occurred on January 25 of Dorrie Talbot (nee Kaine) R.I.P. Most recently Dorrie was at the Willowbrook Nursing Home. Dorrie is survived by her brother Jack Kaine and was pre-deceased by her sister Nellie Kaine who died on July 7, 2003. Both Dorrie and the late Nellie were major figures in the local Ballymore-Eustace Church of Ireland scene.

The death occurred on January 26 of Breda Cullen (nee Gill) of Naas and formerly of Galway and Tinahely R.I.P. Breda was ill for only a short time and was a friend of both my older brothers. Her husband George, son Michael, brother Tomás and sister-in-law Yvonne survive Breda.

The death occurred on February 7 of Mary (Babs) Sheridan (nee Sheridan) of Granard, County Longford R.I.P. Babs was an older sister of Esther McKiernan (my youngest brother’s mother-in-law) of Churchtown, County Dublin. Her family, brother, sisters and extended family survive Babs.

Dick Humphreys of Mount Merrion died on February 27, 2008, at St. Vincent's University Hospital, Dublin, after a brief illness R.I.P. Dick was the father-in-law of my niece Liz (Naas). His wife Deirdre, sons - Richard, Mark, Frank and Joe, brothers - Jim, Michael and Niall, sister Mary, grandchildren - Carmel-Deirdre, Thomas, James, Jack, Isobel and Megan, daughters-in-law - Liz, Elizabeth, Andreja and Emer survive Dick. Dick was pre-deceased by his sister Eithne and brother David.

Tommy O’Brien of Kilkenny died on March 7, 2008, at Waterford Regional Hospital, after a brief illness R.I.P. Tommy was a very well known and committed handball official over a very long period of time. He was also a Teacher and Principal of the Kilkenny C.B.S. Highlight of Tommy’s career came in 1984 to 1987 when he was President of the Irish Handball Council. It was Tommy who presented Pat Kirby and myself with our trophies when we won the World Masters 40 by 20 title in 1984. For over thirty years Tommy was Secretary of the Leinster Handball Council and knew and influenced all the top handballers of the day including Duxie Walshe (Kilkenny) and our own Tom O’Rourke. His brothers - Donal, Liam Declan, Tadgh and Finbarr, sisters – Grainne O’Neill (Kilkenny) and Reidan Condon (Clonmel) and extended family survive Tommy. Tommy was pre-deceased by his brother Conor on November 6, 2006. Maureen O'Brien (nee Waldron) of Kilkenny, who was Tommy’s mother, died on July 22, 2002.
Happy Easter!

May I wish all our readers a very happy Easter on March 23 which is earlier than we have been used to of late.

© Matt Purcell (February 24, 2008).

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