Friday, 24 February 2017

Ballybunion, Cameras, a Lenten Story and Listowel's Plaza Cinema

Rough Seas at Ballybunion 

Photo: Mike Enright


An Old Ciné Camera

Did you watch the old video footage of the frozen river Feale in 1963
This little film was made by a young Jimmy Hickey on the below Kodak Brownie.

The 8 minute film strip ran reel to reel and when you reached the end you rewound it with the winder shown below.

I think you'll agree that camera technology has come a long way since 1963.


Some Spring Colour in The Garden of Europe


Reminiscences  from Delia O'Sullivan

Lent and Laughing Gas

By Delia O’Sullivan (published in Lifelines, an anthology of Writing by the Nine Daughters Creative Writing Group)

In 1950s Ireland Lent was a time of penance, prayer and self restraint. For forty days and forty nights we were encouraged by the nuns to give up sweets – a scarce resource anyway.  We were to give our pennies to the missions instead. The mission box was adorned with pictures of little naked, smiling shy black children. It was brought out after morning prayers. Each offering was carefully recorded. The nun said that this was important, as, on reaching the half crown mark we would then have bought our own black baby. Michael’s mother was the local maternity nurse and he did well from all her clients, so he was a clear winner and the only person to reach the target. Michael was told that he could now name the baby but we were all very disappointed to learn that the baby would not be travelling. He would stay in Africa. The nun said that maybe someday Michael would visit him.

When we reached our teens, we found the dancehalls closed for Lent. The showbands headed for the major English cities. But every rural village in Ireland had its own dramatic group. The plays and concerts were not frowned on by the clergy as they brought in much needed funds for churches and schools. This was a wonderful time for us. As part of the Irish dancing troupe we travelled on Sunday nights with the players. We sold raffle tickets, met “fellas” and experienced a freedom that our parents didn’t even dream of.  We got bolder, inventing concerts in far-flung area, returning later, saying there was a cancellation.

In 1959 we were student nurses in London. During Lent we could enjoy the dances and the showband scene denied in Ireland. But, with only two late passes a week we were restricted. However we found ways around it – mainly by signing for a late pass in the name of a fellow student who never went out. One of these was Mrs. Okeke.

As young country girls in Ireland most of us had never been beyond the nearest small town. In our small rural Catholic environment, foreigners were the occasional English or American husband or wife, brought on holidays by an emigrant. They spoke with strange accents and didn’t seem to understand the rituals of standing and kneeling at mass. In Ireland I had only ever seen one black person, Prince Monolulu, adorned with a headdress of feathers and very colorful robes, performing the three card trick at Listowel Races. We were now part of a multi national society in a huge teaching hospital. It overlooked Highgate Park where we watched the squirrels climb trees and nibble at shoots. We also saw a steady flow of visitors to the grave of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery. We integrated well, most of us being of the same age group.

The exception was four Nigerian ladies who were older and dour. They never smile. One of them, Mrs Okeke asked us why we stared and , if we laughed, she called us silly girls. Off duty, they dress in bright robes and huge turbans. They chewed on sticks to whiten and strengthen their teeth. They cooked spicy foods on the gas rings which was supposed to be used only for boiling kettles. When reprimanded by the Home Sister, they pretended not to understand.

It all came to a head on the day  the anaethestist was giving us a demonstration of the different types of anaesthetic. We were encouraged to participate. As Mrs. Okeke’s hand went up for a demonstration of laughing gas, we all kept our heads down. A small whiff and she was laughing hysterically, displaying a number of gold teeth. We laughed until our sides were sore. Suddenly her face took on its usual dour look but by then we were unable to stop laughing. She couldn’t retaliate with the anaesthetist present.

Some days later we met her on her way back from the Matron's office.  She had been asked to explain why her name had been signed for seven late passes in a row, even though she was convinced that she had never had a late pass. Her perplexity deepened when one of us suggested that she was suffering from the after effects of laughing gas.


Help for a Family who have suffered an appalling tragedy


Remembering The Plaza

During the week I posted an old picture of Listowel's Plaza/Ozanam Centre. Here is the story behind its construction from Vincent Carmody's Snapshots of an Irish Market Town


Michael Martin met some local people on his walkabout in town yesterday

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