Now I’ve selected the best of my writings from my old blog, future posts here will be new.
Cheers for now
Now I’ve selected the best of my writings from my old blog, future posts here will be new.
Cheers for now
When I was a 1st year student at UCD, during Fresher’s Week (1990), I was talking to other first year students. There was a stand for the UCD LGB society. (Can’t remember the exact name of the society, but it’s the LGB society anyway.) They were giving out leaflets containing the 100 FAQs concerning ‘homosexuality’, but substituting ‘heterosexuality’ in its place.
Questions such as ‘What made you realise you were heterosexual’ and so on… made me laugh and I got the point immediately of the idiocy of the homophobic questions that members of the Gay community had to put up with. One of the group I was with took a leaflet, read it with a stern expression. (He was a mature student from New Zealand)
I thought nothing of it and went off to attend a lecture.
Later on, this student asked me if I would mind delivering an envelope to the LGB society. I was puzzled and asked him why did he not want to do it himself. He made some excuses, so I decided to give them the letter. (more fool me.)
There was no-one at the table, so I left the letter on the table and went about my business. Later on, when I returned, there was a row at the table with the letter in one man’s hand, and they looked so disgusted. I recognised the letter as being a copy of the handout, with handwritten answers.
The bollox wrote homophobic comments and answered the questions seriously, instead of seeing the point of the handout. I’m not proud for my part in this, I delivered such a horrible letter to them, causing hurt.
So… if you want me to deliver your messages I want to know:
1. Why can’t you deliver the message yourself?
2. If you have genuine reasons, what is the message?
3. Private and confidential? Find someone else.
Johanna O’Shea was accused of infanticide when her newborn son was found dead in a pool of water in the water closet at the Athlone Workhouse on 1st April 1895.
First, a bit of background.
Johanna O’Shea was born c1870 in Tullig, Co. Kerry. When her family discovered that she was ‘deaf and dumb’ they were not impressed. However, she was educated to a level where she was able to express herself in fluent English.
Now in 2012 it is unacceptable that the term ‘Deaf and dumb’ be used, but back in 1895, it was an acceptable term, and used a lot in official documents.
She was, unfortunately, disowned by her family for whatever reason, but one possiblity is the combination of her deafness, looks and innocence, and a lack of proper supervision. There might have been a sense of shame of having someone ‘afflicted’ like that in the family. This sense of shame was all too common.
Apparently Johanna was strikingly beautiful and hence extremely vulnerable, especially with no family protection. In her own words, in the police statement later on, she ‘let men catch her’. The last man to catch her in this fashion did so ‘three or four times’ and the man said ‘no harm or tricks done’, according to Johanna, in her statement to the police.
Being homeless and destitute, she ended up becoming an inmate at the Athlone Workhouse in Co Westmeath. One can only wonder about a woman like Johanna, and how she ended up in Athlone after being disowned by her family in Tullig, Co. Kerry.
Johanna had no idea of what happened during the night and early hours of 1 April 1895. She suffered cramps and needed to go to the water closet. To her surprise she saw ‘a mass or lump’ pop out of her and into the water. (her words in the statement) Not knowing any better, she closed the water closet, not knowing what exactly happened, and went back to bed.
It was when another inmate went to use the water closet that the newborn male child was discovered drowned. Johanna was promptly accused of infanticide, imprisoned for 42 days in Tullamore prison despite her protestations of innocence, while awaiting trial.
When she gave her statement to the police she wrote her statement, and the police typed it up, and called the workhouse Master, Mr William Donnolly, to interpret for the police officer as he read out his record of statement for Johanna to sign her name at the bottom.
After the facts were aired in court, Johanna O’Shea was acquitted by a jury on 2 July 1895, at the Mullingar Summer Assizes.
She was returned to the guardianship of the workhouse Master.
There is no record of her in the 1901 nor in the 1911 census returns. We do not know what happened to her.
No, there isn’t anyone here.
Are you sure?
No problem. I’ll go with you to the room for you to get your bag.
I don’t like these intruders hiding under chairs listening to everything we say! Close the door!
The house is empty except for you and me.
How do you know that?
While you were sleeping this morning I checked the whole house from top to bottom.
Ok. Get me a cup of tea.
Walking towards the medieval city, there were many pilgrims. Amongst these pilgrims, wearing sackcloth, were a father and his daughter, Matos and Lehen. After months of walking across the countryside they were relieved to see the castle and the River of Rylaan at long last.
They approached a wooden medieval barge ferrying people across the River of Rylaan. To Matos’s surprise the clerical authorities were unwelcoming and only wanted their thithe (a single metal coin) and their details.
Lehen was terrified and whimpered, and Matos found it hard to comfort her, but Erik, a fellow pilgrim, from the Norse party on the barge with them, regaled her with tales from his land, and she soon forgot her fear and enjoyed the man’s storytelling. She settled down, and waited as the ferry crossed the very wide river. They were told it would take them about six turns of the large hourglass, a quarter of the day, to get across the river.
Presently the monks gave the hungry and thirsty pilgrims a broth, but Lehen did not like the look of the food so she pretended to eat it under the watchful eye of the monks, but Erik wolfed his down and asked for more. The monks merely turned their backs on him, so Erik looked around and saw Lehen’s untouched bowl. Ensuring that she did not want it, he grabbed it before she had a chance to warn him, and started eating it. He suddenly turned blue and started choking. The monks ran up to him and whispered amongst themselves. One monk turned to Lehen and addressed her roughly, “Did you not eat your broth?” Before Lehen had a chance to reply, Erik gave the death rattle and expired. The monks forgot about her and looked at the corpse, before removing it from the decks, taking it below.
The monk who addressed Lehen returned to her and apologised for his abrupt manner, and spoke with Matos for a while, clearing the air. Somewhat mollified, Matos accepted a little metal figurine on behalf of Lehen, offered by the monk, Friar Kuct, as a peace offering. The monk bowed at the pair of them before returning belowdecks. Lehen took one look at the metal figurine and blanched. She could not explain why but she just did not like it, nor did she want it. Lehen wanted him to throw it away, but he did not heed her warning. Matos put it in his pocket.
Suddenly, the clerical authorities stopped the barge in the middle of the boat and told Matos and Lehen they would have to change boats, as the other boat will bring them directly to the castle, since the barge they were on were not going to the castle after all, but to the small hamlet at the other side a way up past the castle. Matos objected but he had already paid his tithe so he could hardly object, being in the middle of the river. Matos realised he and his little daughter were trapped and had little choice but to comply.
The monks pulled out a wooden plank, but it was constructed like a corridor, with wicker basketwork forming what appeared to be loosely woven walls and ceiling, but loose enough to clearly see expressions of trepidation on the part of the girl and anticipation on the part of the father, leading out from the barge over the river towards the other barge.
Unbeknownst to the hapless pilgrims, the plank was on a hinge, so they were unceremoniously tossed into the river, as the other barge was just a little bit too far away for the plank to reach it.
Swallowing a bit of the river, Matos and Lehen gasped and floated helplessly in the very wide river, trapped in the strong current, until a row boat came along and the boatman rescued them. Indignant, Matos berated the people of the first barge, only to be told by the boatman that their experience was a test.
Matos wasn’t impressed, but Lehen was struck by the term “The guilty sank while the innocent floated.” Being a child, she blurted her opinion, that she heard it was the opposite, and that it was only because they lived beside a lake at home, and regularly went swimming that the water held no fears for them.
The boatman smiled genially at her, then hoisted up a flag, with the symbol of Rylaan. At once, cheers were heard from the barge, then Friar Kuct sounded a horn three times.
“You have passed the test! You are worthy of Rylaan!”
The rowboat brought them to the castle at the curve of the river. Getting off onto the specially constructed pier, they were welcomed by a special greeting party, chanting “Rylaan, Rylaan!”
The smells, the noises and the sight of the frenzied crowd chanting the name repeatedly, scared the little girl, who clung to her father tightly, hugging his arm with a look of terror on her face. He held on to her comfortingly as he was of the mindset that Rylaan was part of the pilgrimage so there shouldn’t be anything to worry about, then, as he reminded her. “I don’t like it, Father! Don’t leave me!”
Later on, in their private antechamber in the castle, they were given the same broth that the people ate on the barge. While Matos tucked in with relish, being a man with a big appetite, Lehen refused to eat anything, preferring to eat only her bread. While they were both chewing, monks looked in on them and satisfied they were both eating, they left them. Sitting down, Matos took out the little metal figurine that was jabbing at him in his pocket, and placed it on the floor beside him.
Matos looked at the bowl his daughter refused to touch, and queried her not eating this nourishing broth. (She took after her father in this respect, hence his concern at her loss of appetite.) She told him she did not want it, preferring to eat the last of the bread Mother baked. Smiling at her indulgently, he agreed to let her eat what she wanted.
Suddenly Matos started choking, and there was little Lehen could do, as she was only a child, except wail “Father! Father!” as he slowly died, like Erik did on the barge.
Suddenly, mystified, Lehen watched while her father’s corpse shrank, getting smaller and smaller until it became the same size as the figurine, and the appearance changed to that of the figurine, and turned into metal!
Lehen realised that the two figurines were both Erik and her father! She screamed and a novice nun came in, realised what happened, and helped Lehen carry the two figurines in her little purse, and the underground resistance movement helped return Lehen to her horrified mother.
There were six girls in my class.
There were three different uniforms worn in that class.
Let me explain.
I went to a Deaf school.
Girls were split up according to how much they were able to hear/speak.
The school was (and still is) an oral school. Oral as in teaching the children through spoken English, not through Irish Sign Language. The teachers spoke to the children, and the children replied back in spoken English. (This is pointed out here, to stop assumptions that since it was a Deaf school, that the children are automatically taught using sign language.)
There were three main sections at the school.
1. The partially deaf oral (at Rosary School, a building about 500m away from the main school which housed the other two groups),
2. The profoundly deaf oral, at St Mary’s, the Old School,
3. and then there were the girls who were taught using sign language. at what was called St Pius. (at the back of the top floor, quite separate from the profoundly deaf oral. They were deemed oral failures.)
The school had separate break times for the two groups in the same building, so that they did not meet.
You’d think that all the pupils had the same uniform. No.
You’d think that the three groups had their own uniform (Rosary school, Old school and St Pius.) No.
It’s more complicated than that.
From what I can gather so far, all the girls at the school had the same uniform until around the 1960s apart from separate clothes for the babies and the older children. (I have to clarify this further.)
From the 1960s to 1987:
Day pupils were not required to wear uniforms at all.
Boarders had to wear uniforms. They had different uniforms according to which unit (boarding house) they slept in. These units were divided according to age and how much you were able to hear.
From 1987 onwards day pupils had to wear a uniform of some sort.
1988, all pupils had to wear a grey uniform with the same tie. Styles differed according to the shop you bought the uniform from.
In September 1993, the uniform was changed so that ALL pupils at the school wore the same clothes. Navy and Green with crest and red kilt. – no ties. Junior = Navy, Senior, Green.
So in my class, (1980s) there were day pupils with no uniforms, (Pre-1987) and the boarders with their own uniforms and since they stayed in different units they had different uniforms.
Hence three different uniforms in the one class (my class) in 1988.
When I was 8 years old, running up the stairs at home, I suddenly stopped and looked at the stained glass windows, before sitting down on the stair.
I remember thinking…
‘Most people I know are Catholic. Mammy and Daddy are Catholic. Simon and Jon are Protestant. The Dankers are Jewish. We are all people and have different Gods.’
Before you say this is a simplistic view of things, it is, remember I was 8 at that time.
I then thought to myself,
‘If we all have different religions and pray differently, then which god is the right God?’
It was then I stopped believing with unquestioning faith.
I made my First Holy Communion that year, already an agnostic.
There are 50 heads staring into the machine.
50 heads bob down, then bob up looking back at the machine.
Bob back up.
Bob back up.
’33’ 16′ ’56’ ….
Down. Up. Down. Up. Like synchronised swimming, but no.
Welcome to the world of Deaf Bingo.
This I do not like.
That I do.
Those… Hmmm, I’m not sure about.
These are a few of my favourite things.
African and Asian women bleach their gorgeous skin in an attempt to appear whiter.
Asian and Native American people change their eyelids in an attempt to look more ‘Western’
White people burn their skin in order to appear browner.
Yes, some do it in order to feel better. However, is it the only option available?
Beauty comes in all forms and shapes. Inner as well as outer.