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Titanic’s death throes marked on land, sea
(Above: "Titanic Sinking" by Willy Stöwer.)
Belfast, Northern Ireland -- It seems that the world’s fascination with what was briefly its most luxurious cruise ship and the ship’s shocking demise is as strong as it was 100 years ago, but in a different way this time.
Belfast, where RMS Titanic was built, paid “heavy dues” for years as the ship’s creator, but time has finally decided to shine a kinder light, and Belfast has embraced the city’s ambivalent relationship with Titanic, showcasing the exquisite vessel that it was.
A number of factors seem to have fueled the trending Titanic nostalgia, most notably the centenary of the ship’s April 15 sinking in the frigid North Atlantic, with the loss of 1,500 of the ship’s 2,200 passengers. Also helping keep its history in the news cycle is the release this month of a 3D version of James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster movie, and the sheer personal drama represented by each life lost, with many personal stories gaining new audiences over the past few weeks.
Whatever the reason, people and news media worldwide, while remembering it as a colossal tragedy, have collectively put a sustained focus on the ship and its casualties, in a spirit of both commemoration and reexamination.
Among the most notable weekend commemorations: MS Balmoral, a cruise ship, followed the route of the Titanic and held a memorial service early Sunday morning, at the time of Titanic’s slipping beneath the sea, resting where the ill-fated ship sank, with passengers and crew throwing floral wreaths into the sea. Another cruise ship, the Journey, sailing from New York, joined in the service.
In Belfast, hundreds turned out for the unveiling of a memorial monument, music from a brass band, and a choir, which sang “Nearer My God To Thee,” a hymn Titanic’s band reputedly played as the ship slipped into the sea. Perhaps most significant, however, was the alphabetic listing of the names of the victims, regardless of class, a sign that the world is indeed a different place. WG
* Memorial ceremony marks Titanic's demise
* Raising the Memory of the Titanic, and a City’s Role in Its Creation
South's cultures unite at Mal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade
Jackson, Mississippi -- They say that everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and the more than 65,000 people this year at Mal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade, mostly African-Americans, suggest that’s no blarney.
The gala event, in Mississippi’s capital, Jackson, is now 29 years old, and each year there’s more to it—more costumes, more floats, more music. Most importantly, more money is raised for charity, and much more “green” pumped into the local economy, in excess of $7 million, in fact.
It has taken on the festivity of Mardi Gras, with people lining the streets waiting for the parade to begin while feasting on treats like funnel cakes and chicken on a stick.
Mal’s began in 1983, the brain-child of Malcolm White, currently the director of the Mississippi Arts Commission and co-owner of Hal & Mal's Restaurant, as a kind of quasi-celebration of the coming of spring combined with Saint Patrick's Day, for Irish luck. There was even a corporate-sponsored 5K run for this year’s event, along with a Pet Parade, and Trustmark Children’s Parade & Festival.
Tall, colorfully decorated floats are filled with folks in bright costumes, dancing and playing music. Those on-board throw beads and T-shirts into the crowds.
Mal’s carries forth an Irish tradition, but more -- people from diverse backgrounds come together to share their own culture’s unique way of having some good old-fashioned fun – the event is a celebration of shared humanity. What better way to dust off the cobwebs and usher in the re-birth of a new season. WG
Cobh keeps eye out for Clooney
By Maryann Tracy / WG Folklore Producer
(Left: George Clooney and President Barack Obama)
Nicholas Clooney left Tullahaught, County Kilkenny, in 1847, but one can be sure that there was no fanfare the likes of which will accompany his great-great-great grandson George Clooney, for his promised return to his ancestral home this month.
The newly famous Corrigan Brothers, the pride of Castletroy, County Limerick, have even written a song about it: “Welcome Home, George Clooney.” You may recall the Corrigan Brothers as the band who have garnered 3 million You Tube views for the their insanely popular “There’s No One as Irish as Barack O’Bama” video, celebrating the President’s roots in Moneygall, County Offaly. Our money’s on the “Clooney tune” to break the Obama record.
The quaint seaside town was abuzz with throngs of people dying to get a glimpse of the “World’s Most Eligible Bachelor” (or at least, arguably, the best looking one) last weekend, but, alas, no George in sight! Rumors even included his sightseeing itinerary -- Titanic exhibitions, Fota Wildlife Park and Blarney Castle. Wrong, wrong, and wrong. Twitter tweeted, and The Sun newspaper went so far as to claim a sighting, but, alas, no George!
Maybe it was the work of an over-zealous journalist, or local official looking to boost Cobh’s Titanic Centenary Week, or maybe even those girls gettin’ all “swooney” as they get ready to welcome the Kentucky native, and nephew of equally famed singer Rosemary Clooney.
Be patient, ladies, there is a media expectation that the heartthrob will arrive, and head out on his great big motorbike to tour his ancestors’ birthplace.
Meanwhile, in the words of the Corrigan Brothers:
“It may not be Hollywood,
but Tullahaught is just as good
George’s welcome will
Be without compare …
“And every single Clooney will be there.
“Oh the girls are feeling swooney
As they welcome home George Clooney
To the county of Kilkenny
To meet the Clooney clan.” WG
* ‘Welcome Home, George Clooney’
* There's No One as Irish Barack OBama
Aussie brings tragic family saga back to Wicklow
Wicklow Town, County Wicklow -- In 1845, after being convicted of murdering her baby boy, Eliza Davis was exiled to Tasmania. Nearly 170 years later, Gail Mulhern traced her great-great grandmother's story to Wicklow gaol in Ireland, where her ancestor had been imprisoned before she was transported.
(Left: Van Diemen's Land, l852. Click on image for a larger view)
Mulhern, 61, travelled from Queensland to officially launch the story of Eliza Davis at Wicklow Historic Gaol on April 5. She first learned about Eliza’s tragic story when she met with historian Joan Kavanagh. That was when Mulhern first started doing some genealogy work 21 years ago.
Mulhern has made it her life’s mission to unearth everything she could about her troubled ancestor.
"This is the third time I've come to the jail. It is still emotional," Mulhern told the Irish Independent. Records indicate that Davis’ conviction was questionable, given that the child had been well-cared for, and that a witness had been found to have given false testimony in the case.
Despite Eliza’s fate, she married a convict from Yorkshire named Joseph Roebuck, and had three children with him, before he was committed to a mental asylum. She had 10 children in all, the next six with another convict from Yorkshire by the name of Amos Eastwood. She died in 1898 from heart disease.
According to Martina Robinson, of Wicklow's Historic Gaol, Eliza's story represents many similar tales of its prisoners and about 30,000 others exiled from Ireland and Britain between 1787 and 1868.
A tall sculpture of a faceless woman wearing a bonnet above the gaol's door is dedicated to the memory of those women who were transported to Australia and forgotten. WG
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Italian’s Affair With Irish Antiquarian:
A Q&A With Writer Francesca Diano
Writer and teacher Francesca Diano seems likely to be among Italy’s greatest living experts on Irish folklore, with her particular focus on the work of 19th century Irish folklorist Thomas Crofton Croker. She is what one might call in American slang “a chip off the old block,” the daughter of Carlo Diano, a famous philosopher and scholar of ancient Greek and professor at the University of Padua. He had a great influence on her interest in mythology and ancient cultures.
A graduate of Padua University, she lived in London for a time, where she taught courses on Italian art at the Italian Institute of Culture and worked at the Courtauld Institute of Art. In the late 1990s, she lectured in Italian at University College Cork.
A literary translator, having worked for well-known Italian publishers, she has done translations of many famous authors, including Croker. With Irish folklore and oral tradition among her main interests, she was lucky to find one of the few and very rare original copies of the 1825 first edition of Croker’s “Fairy Legends.”
Diano was curator for Collins Press, Cork, of the facsimile edition of “Fairy Legends,” which was released on the bicentenary of Croker’s birth [Editor’s Note: Croker was born at Cork on January 15, 1798]. For the occasion, she was interviewed by The Irish Times about her interest in Croker and Irish folklore. Her Italian translation of Croker’s work was launched at the Irish Embassy in Rome.
She has lectured extensively on art, literature, translation studies and Irish folklore. Her work been published in journals and newspapers. She writes poetry, in Italian and English, short stories and essays, and has served as art critic for some well known Italian artists.
In May, she will present on Irish funeral traditions and keening, a focus of Croker’s, at an international meeting in Tuscany on the 10th anniversary of the death of Italian-English writer and scholar Elémire Zolla.
Diano has her own blog, “Il ramo di corallo” (The Coral Branch) and is a teacher at the Art High School in Padua. The Wild Geese Folklore Producer Maryann Tracy decided to learn more about Diano’s fascinating Irish focus. Here’s what she learned:
The Wild Geese: You mentioned that everything connected to Ireland is a joy for your soul. How did you develop this love of Ireland?
Francesca Diano (left): Yes, it’s true. Ireland has this power of attraction and fascinates many people. I suppose this has something to do with its beautiful, intact nature, but also with a special energy radiating from the island. But, as far as I’m concerned, there is much more. It’s a long story, starting in London, in the early 70s, when I lived there for some years. I’m Italian, but although I love my country, since the first time I went to UK, I felt a strange sense of belonging. It was in London that I found this very special book. It all started from it. I’ve always loved fairy tales, myth and legends, and the past. The very distant past, but at the time I didn’t know much about Irish folklore and traditions.
Yet, as soon as I started to read this book, something clicked inside me. Like a faint bell ringing deep inside. I was extremely puzzled, because the anonymous author’s elegant style, encyclopedic culture and the same structure of the work clearly revealed a refined education and a great knowledge of the subject.
I have a very enquiring nature (I love detective stories), and discovering the name of the author was a challenge. At that time, the Internet had yet to come, as well as personal computers, so it was very difficult to do research from abroad. I was back in Italy then and from here I couldn’t find any clue about this work. In fact, in my country it was totally unknown. It took me 15 years to unveil the mystery, but all along those years of research my love for Ireland grew stronger and stronger. It was, you see, like digging for a treasure, or going on a quest, but that country, where I had never been before, didn’t seem unknown at all. It seemed like a place I knew and that was gradually coming back into my life. The time had come for the soul to find its way back to my soul country. That was how I got interested in Irish folklore. It was an act of love. Like if I was just rediscovering a great and long lost love.
The Wild Geese: How did you acquire Croker’s “Fairy Legends”?
Francesca Diano: It was while living in London that, on a late summer afternoon, I met for the first time an Irishman without a name. I was unaware at that time that he would completely change the course of my life.
I met him in an antiquarian bookshop in Hornsey, so the bookseller was actually a go-between. I had befriended the bookseller, and we shared a passion for old books, for things of the past, for the lovely smell of old dusty paper. In that shop I could dig into the past – a past that proved to be my future.
Often, on my way back from the Courtauld Institute, where I worked, I stopped there and he displayed his treasures in front of my adoring eyes -- prints and books that rarely I could afford, as he was well aware of their value and he wasn’t very keen on parting with the objects of his love. But he liked me, so, that afternoon, knowing that soon I would return to Italy after my years in London, he went at the back of his bookshop, and after a while he emerged with a little book that he handed me with great care.
“I am sure you will like this very much,” he told me with a knowing smile. He charged me only £3.6. This book is now worth hundreds and hundreds of pounds. I often wonder, thinking of how this book dramatically changed my life, if the bookshop in Hornsey and the bookseller really ever existed, or were they just a fairy trick.
The Wild Geese: Why is Croker’s work so significant?
Francesca Diano: Thomas Crofton Croker was an incredible man and a unique character. Since he was a young boy, he was fascinated by antiquities and old curiosities, so he started to collect them very early in his life. His family belonged to the Ascendency, but he developed a great interest in old Irish traditions and tales, a subject not at all considered at that time, if not with [disdain]. In his teens, he toured Munster, sketching old ruins and inscriptions, collecting tales and superstitions from the peasantry, noting them down, an interest quite unusual for an Anglo-Irish. Then, on the 23rd of June 1813, he went with one of his friends to the lake of Gougane Barra, to attend a “Pattern,” such was called the festivity of a Patron Saint. … WG
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FIVE LAMPS ARTS FESTIVAL, DUBLIN, Through April 27. The festival is marking its fifth year as one of the main festivals in Northside Dublin. Celebrating the Five Lamps landmark and surrounding community, this festival showcases a range of art forms, including literature, dance, opera, traditional music, visual art and theatre. Among the offerings: a photographic exhibition of Dublin’s Dockworkers, which opens Wednesday in Marino College.
‘WHO DO WE THINK WE ARE? ECONOMICS FAMILY-STYLE,’ COLLOQUIUM, MANHATTAN, Saturday. Sponsored by NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Writers, artists, and scholars explore the economics of the Irish and Irish-American family. Speakers discuss how finances influenced family decisions regarding emigration, marriage, and property, and how these in turn affected the wider community. Best-selling author Mary Higgins Clark shares a keynote talk about her family's experience. Also, at Glucksman Ireland House, Thursday, at 7pm, in “Making Ireland English: How the Aristocracy Shaped 17th Century Ireland,” Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, of Trinity College Dublin, looks at how the aristocracy helped make Ireland English during the 1600s.
‘DANCING DAYS’ FESTIVAL, GALWAY CITY, IRELAND, Thursday Through Saturday. Contemporary dance performances, talks and events, featuring leading Irish dancers and choreographers. Curated by Galway’s Dancer-in-Residence Ríonach Ní Néill, the event is hosted at Black Box Theatre and will examine the role of contemporary and traditional dance forms in Irish culture and society today.
‘TINKERBELLE VERSUS THE CELTS: FAIRY LORE AS ORAL HISTORY ‘ WORKSHOP, CINCINNATI, OHIO, Saturday. 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., at Irish Heritage Center of Greater Cincinnati, led by Northern Kentucky University Celtic Studies instructor and Irish language instructor Mike Simonton. To register, call 513-533-0100. Cost is $20. Also at the center, on Sunday, 2 p.m.-6 p.m., a commemoration of the Easter Rising. The afternoon will feature history, stories, film excerpts, poetry and song.
SEND YOUR FREE EVENTS LISTINGS for inclusion in TheWildGeese.com’s weekly newsletter to newsletter@TheWildGeese.com, by Wednesday midnight, for the following week’s edition.
THIS WEEK'S IRISH HISTORY PUZZLER: On April 18, 1690 Justin MacCarthy (Lord Mountcashel) led his regiment and two other Irish regiments into service with France. Name the commander of either of the other two regiments.
Send your answer to newsletter@TheWildGeese.com. All correct answers received before Thursday midnight ET will be entered in a drawing to win Derek Warfield's new CD: "Washington's Irish: Songs, Music & Story of the Irish Fight for American Liberty." Each person is restricted to only one guess per week and each winner is prohibited from playing for four weeks following their winning entry.
SEND YOUR FREE EVENTS LISTINGS for inclusion in TheWildGeese.com’s weekly newsletter to editor@TheWildGeese.com, by Wednesday midnight, for the following week’s edition.
LAST WEEK'S QUESTION: In Cobh Heritage Center is a message in a bottle said to be sent by a Titanic passenger. What was that passenger’s name?
The correct answer was: The correct answer was "Jeremiah Burke." Congratulations to Terry O'Hara, whose name was name was drawn from last week's correct responders. Terry wins the Titanic Centenary Chart from Know Thy Place.