“The Window Crisis” and “The Miracle of the Porch”

This article first appeared in the 2014 edition of the “Banagher Review”

Babser Hynes House, the L'estrange townhouse, our former home in Banagher in Ireland

Babser Hynes House, the L’estrange townhouse, our former home in Banagher in Ireland, featuring the infamous windows and porch as written about in the article! Picture taken during the successful 2015 Banagher Horse Fair by yours truly!

Dad was a handyman in his spare time… handy to get as handy to do a job, though I gather most of what he built is still standing, which is more than can be said for a lot of what was built during the Celtic Tiger years!

His battles with conservationists were the stuff of legend. It was not a listed building, but was a townhouse of the L’Estrange family, and used to be terraced to three other houses that stood where the National School does today, which is why there is a high gable on the downtown side of the house. It was a butchers we gather with a family of Egans in the 1920’s or 1930’s before Babser Hynes had it…

As I said, it was not a listed building, but the locals into “keeping things as they are” tried to do that. During the 1980’s things was tough, and being sites beside three schools, one idea Dad had to get ahead was to open a chipper… and thats when the craic started!

First up was the windows: a local man who dad was good friends with but clashed with regular on such issues and shall remain nameless, put in an official complaint to the County Council, who then turned it down for planning. Wouldnt suit the house or something was the official reason, as the windows would be changed… but this chap, he had his facts wrong, and dad brought him in to show it, but by them with all the hassle, Mam had but a brake to the chipper idea, telling Dad he’d have to make his millions through hard work like everybody else… and so the international chain of Cartys Chippers never got off the ground!

OK, it was to be only one Chipper, but thats how McDonalds started out!

Back to the windows… when taking off the old plaster to replaster the inside walls, dad found the original brickwork. Instead of one big milti pane window, there was two narrow side by side windows, with round tops, semi Romanesque style.

Our historical enthusiast friend was lured to the house somehow – possibly telling him he was right and did he want to see the original brickwork it was of note!!! – given some Longford hospitality before being shown said window, and then given a piece of Longford diplomacy! The former anyone would want – visitors never left ours hungry – the latter no one would need, especially if allergic to swear words!

They remained friends however, if a bit strained for a while!

The next project on Dads list of improvements was the porch… but he knew the opposition there would be to it… So Dad saught solace and wisdom – as you do if you were Dad! – in the most logical location… the pub!

The porch, to spite Dads best efforts and replacement of all the lead, leaked something shocking. It was a lovely semi octoagonal design and looked ancient and suited the house, but it had to go. What Dad replaced it with had its beauty in his eyes, though others may have preferred the original.

Knowing this, dad went to the pub to do research for how to get around the dratted planning laws and those historical fanatics that broke his heart over the windows!

And in the pubs with friends, politicians, short cut takers and general shake down artists, none had a way around it, until he met the late Brave Dolan. The Brave told him of a clause in planning he had heard about (in another pub???) that said a structure could be taken down if its replacement was already standing when the existing structure was taken down… or wording to that effect.

Otherwise, if an objection such as the windows was put in, the original faithful to its detail would have to be reconstructed, plus fines paid to the county council.

Dad genuinely was scarred by the experience of dealing with the council the last time, was was adamant that he’d get around the system, and in a Eureka moment, hatched a plan.

It took him some years to get up the courage. Or more accurately, to talk ma into agreeing to it… but he got there in the end…

Now, outside our house, the school busses picked up the kids from the three schools. They all congregated outside our porch, with the smokers and the lovers indulging in a bit of both in our alley, the other kids keeping lookout!

So, when we went in home after school, some kids got a glance through, and saw a SECOND front door right behind the first one, to our massive embarrassment in school.

Being country folk, the parents were very private, and didn’t take in many visitors or visit others much. Those who were regulars know the score and to keep schtum. The others, were understandably very baffled indeed, including our neighbors the Ryans from whom Dad was evasive all of a sudden!

Something was afoot…

What dad had done in compliance with the quote of the council that the Brave had sold him, was come in a foot from the walls of the porch, and about two or three from the front door, and built a block porch, with a flat roof just under the original semi octagonal designed roof that was leaking so bad.

And then one sunny morning – I will never forget the divilment in his face as we went to school – he went outside and sat on the wall. With some quote of the temple being torn down and rebuilt in three days, Dad told the Ryans and I think the Kellys too, and anyone that would listen… that he would better that miracle, and tear down and rebuild the porch in a day!

Always one for the cryptic, usually with a gag at the end of it, all smiled and dared him. With great ceremony, he went INSIDE, and beat the walls from the inside out… and so forth until he demolished the old porch, with the new one standing already, to the mirth of all watching!

Mission accomplished, miracle displayed… and the better got of the council using their alleged wording, which he died without ever knowing or caring was it true or not!



Plastic Bag: Ballinamuck

Walking in to the village of Ballinamuck last year, I saw a lone plastic bag blowing in the street. A once more common sight thanks to our tax is less common today. But are we greener? We bin to bale, which is then exported, often to be burned on beaches in India and West Africa, if not dumped overboard out at sea. The amount of energy used to transport these, and the way they are disposed means it would have been far more environmental and less harmful to nature to have them all blowing about as the last of their kind was as I walked past it on the way to the shop on a Saturday evening…

It blew around on an empty street
The black and white dog barked as I pass
Heading to the shop on a Saturday night
Wonder is there an evening mass
Not that I planned as such to go
If there was, I had shopping on my mind
As I returned back to my cottage
The image of that bag in the wind was on my mind.

I saw it not as a dancer
As some of an artistic mind might
But I thought of it as a rarity
Once more common was the sight
I thought of the advances we have made
In our efforts to be green, the modern crusade
And smiled at the thought of how much we think
And how little progress in that direction we have made.

The other bags that should be blowing around the street
Got binned, in colour coded bins as advised,
Collected and baled, to be exported abroad
How little green the solution few have realized.
Somewhere on an open beach, maybe in Bombay
The bale is burned by peasents, toxic fumes in an Indian sky
That we have made progress in recycling we fool ourselves
Once more conned by a capitalistic lie.


The other side of the debate on plastic bags (Canada)

To earn a living a priest burnes western plastics for a recylcing company at the mouth of the Ganges. Image: Getty

To earn a living a priest burnes western plastics for a recylcing company at the mouth of the Ganges. Image: Getty – Credit: SANJAY KANOJIA / Stringer



This Too Shall Pass – #zenquote #zen

Elyane S. Youssef writes for Elephant Journal, and one article of zen quotes caught my eye, and I wrote a series of poems on them, of which this is one…

The troubles and fears that to your eyes bring tears
They too shall pass

The joys of the heart when love does start
They too shall pass

The horrific wars and killing that destroys, God willing
They too shall pass

The eerie peace when the fighting does cease
They too shall pass.

Be not drunk on joy, or let trouble your peace destroy
They too shall pass

This too shall pass... #zenquote

This too shall pass… #zenquote



Monks Who Have Never Loved Will Never Understand

“How can you suffer because of something that doesn’t exist?” ~ Buddhist Monk Elyane S. Youssef met in Nepal

Read her article here

A Buddist monk once asked Elyane S. Youssef the question “How can you suffer because of something that doesn’t exist?”... and I said to myself... he has never known love, especially unrequited...

A Buddist monk once asked Elyane S. Youssef the question “How can you suffer because of something that doesn’t exist?”… and I said to myself… he has never known love, especially unrequited…

What is desired but not achieved
The heart sore in desire can make
When we with a hope its possible ourselves have deceived
Our peace of mind we from ourselves we take.
We think, therefor it is, it seems insane
Even though it does not exist
Because we desired it, it exists though on a single plane
That is the point a Bhuddist monk once missed…



Veil Through Which We All Pass

Recently a friend of mine passed, Victor Mather, who I knew from a world beyond politics, in which he was very active opposing water charges and banks evicting homeowners here in Ireland. As I wrote of another who passed. Enda now has another enemy less, but beyond the veil among the brethern of Angels or whatever is there in the great mystery beyond life itself that awaits us all, there he rests and waits for us who all follow in our own time. A pleasure to have known him. R.I.P.

Veils of Life

The veil though which we all pass
These red leafed times, is at its thinnest, some say
Those who pass through still walk with us
As we mourn their passing and pray.

Life lets us drift into and out of each others lives
Unveil a path among the violets, walk with us some of the way, then part
Mentioned every so often is passing, when we hear they passed
It brings a stop to thought, a thump to heart.

Scarlet faced, tearful, we know not the day or the hour…
Cliche from the Good Book: yet so, so true
But we pass paths when God needs them to walk into another’s
So, let is be glad that that person once we knew.

Veil of white, the last of life
We shall all pass when our time has come
Let us be sure we know the words of our prayer
That shows the ways of the roads we arrived from.



Saintjohnstown – So Beautiful A Name

Saint Johns Church of Ireland Ballinalee

Saint Johns Church of Ireland Ballinalee. Image from their Facebook page.

My mother grew up outside the Longford village of Ballinalee. She always said she preferred the English name on it, St. Johnstown… called after the Church of Ireland church, built on the reputed site of a Greyfriars monstry dedicated to St, John the Baptist…

Little village, from here her family came
St. Johns Town… so beautiful a name
My mother thought, though with her I did not agree
I saw the pastoral beauty she did not in the Irish name Ballinalee
Town of the Ford of the Calves – its as if they before me stand
The calves drinking without a care I understand
Beauty is in the ear of the beholder, but a sound is a name
Everyone has their favourites for the place from which they came.
It was here St. Samhthann took Clonbroney after fiery vision seen
By Fuinnech who stepped aside, who heretofor abbess had been
Neath the shadow of Cairn Hill, from which morning sun towards the island shadows cast
Where Maeve was slain by slingshot slung cheese in the legendary past…

I grew up where we moved to a few months after I was born
On Shannon banks, a mile above, where the devil himself was beat its said one morn,
Banagher on the Shannon – Fort Falkland – or just plain Banagher Town
Pocket Borough bore all three names since the days before the Crown
Perhaps all should be known by all names so history is not lost
By fads, crazes and laziness to the ether of ignorance knowledge is tossed!


St. Samthann
St. Johnstown Pocket Borough



Red Path of the Stag

The story of why the Stag motif is on clans of the Eoghanacht family arms... a rather gorey practice from pagan times to mark new land...

The story of why the Stag motif is on clans of the Eoghanacht family arms… a rather gorey practice from pagan times to mark new land…

Set free, running free, blood flowing, fleeing fast in fright
Wild eyed, pursued, the stag takes to flight
The tribesmen of the Eoghanacht in hunt they pursue
To mark out the boundaries of land according to traditions they knew
He who slays the stag with the move of his hand
He shall be king of this blood marked land
Shed in the chase by the wounded stag
Of whom and of whose killing the chieftains shall brag
Their issue the stag in their arms they will bear
The world shall know that once, a lone stag died there.

Wounded Stag - Rosa Bonheur

Wounded Stag – Rosa Bonheur – Buy this image >>>



Whiff of Scandal – Government, Orgies, Dead Pigs, Talking to Bees and about the Homeless – At the Cinema watching Legend

Legend - the story of the Krays on film

Legend – the story of the Krays on film

The Krays are the stuff of, as the film title suggests, legend, and it was a must see when the film of their rise and fall, came out.

The verdict? If the film does not scoop a few Oscars, it wil be the biggest crime in British history since the killing of Jack the Hat McVittie that brought the Kray criminal empire to its end.

How the hold got onto British society was through blackmail, and ironically as the film was being shown the current scandal of the British current prime minister undergoing a hazing into a sorority in college with a ritual involving a dead pigs head and some dubious sexual practices, the only positive that can be got from it is that at least it was not a live pig. What power would the Krays or their ilk have wielded if they had that information to hand, and not just a mere boring gay orgy story?

The jokes going around Facebook and Twitter are second to none, my own favourite being from Dave Plunkett, a local comedian here in Ireland:

Watch where Cameron puts his hands...

Watch where Cameron puts his hands…

“So what if the prime minister had sex with a policeman?” (pig being slang for police)

Not in the News – Homeless in Ireland, Faux Concern at possible Urban Legend, and the Giddy Biddies exhibition in Shop Street

The real scandal of course is the homeless, both in Britain and Ireland, with the hard right championing them all of a sudden now that the refugees are coming. “Look after our own” is one of the slogans being chanted.

All very well and good – but one has to ask, if the refugees went tomorrow and were not here, would the new champions of the Irish homeless still be so caring?

I doubt it myself.

A story cropped up in Galway – a housemate told a story of an Irishwoman and her children asleep in a doorway Friday night, and I went online to see was it true, and if she was on the streets that night, could someone look after them. Whatever about a druggie or alcoholic, when its a mother and children we definitely have to do something.

I posted on all the Galway groups – and tagged a few folk as well. Instant response from a Presbyterian minister who had his folk in Galway on standby should the family be found, and from a girl I know through pro-life cirlces who was not in the city but knew of a refuge group called “Anchora” that was operating in the city for women and children, but which I could not find online.

I shared on the Offaly CAHWT twitter account, and expected the story to go viral. The silence was deafening. Some commented that it would not be refugees anyway, some queried was the issue the woman and children, or the fact they were on Shop Street, and such like. The reaction left me numb.

I walked the Shop Street area that night, spoke with many of the buskers who know all the homeless, but they saw nobody.

I could not verify the story, and thought it maybe an urban legend. But why would such a story grow from nowhere?

As union rep over the past few years with SIPTU, I have seen some strange stories develop, always with a simple line, hard to dispute, and impossible to verify – and the “system” is always at fault.

I hoped this story is such a case, and while walking the streets over the Saturday and Sunday nights, I passed by a young couple asleep under the Treasure Chest windows, and reflecting on their plight, wrote the following verse: Treasure Sleeps on Chest of All She Needs There, but for the grace of God and all that…

Galways Giddy Biddy collective held an exhibition in a container where members were locked in and lived in for 24 hours to highlight the rfugee crisis. It got national and international coverage, and maybe the woman and children in a doorway story was a reaction to that. I dont know, in a way I hope it was.

I kept updating on Facebook about this, but the response was muted at best, bar the aforementioned folk who were quick off the mark with positive response, and a few encouraging words from Australia and America.

Listening to the Buzz about the Bees

"Telling the Bees" exhibition in Galway Arts Centre

“Telling the Bees” exhibition in Galway Arts Centre

Talking of art – I went down to see Brigid O Gormans show in the Galway Arts Centre “Telling the Bees” – centres on an old folk belief which I had never heard of before, that when someone died, one of the family had to go to the hive and tell the bees or they would leave.

It seems it is a British belief, but may exist in Ireland too.

Id never heard of it before, and for one as much into folklore as I think I am, its brilliant to always learn more. Intrigued, I said Id go down and learn more, having written a few whimsical pieces before such as To Be, or not to be, a Bee as well as Queen Bee and the Drones, among other verses.

The issue of Monsato and pesticides killing bees and the consequences of us losing them is something Ive followed, though unsure of the accurancy of the doomesday senario. Then an idea struck me, what if its the fact we are too busy to talk to the bees anymore in this age of instant communication, and that is why they are leaving en masse? The new verse Bee Conversations poses that question…

The exhibitions themselves were of glass poured over timber and brass structures, I assume representing honey, gold paint on stretched lines for the same effect, but the part I liked was the short 8 minute video on loop that told the story and dwelled on emptiness, ruin and such themes.

Do get down to see it if you can, if it comes to your area.

I have no major film, bar the new Bond movie, and the movie of Bolger in the States, on the must see list coming up, though I always thought that a great movie could be made on the Gorbals and the Irish mafia there back in the day. It might be made yet… we never know. There are stories there by the bucket load, many with a Longford and Donegal connenction!

Little John Nee and Culture Night

Talking of a Donegal connection, I got down to see Little John Nee at Culture Night in the Rowing Club in Galway, and was perplexed at the yarns he tells, though they did get better as the night wore on. Stephen Murray done an excellent poetry set, and told the true story of getting thrown out of a party after doing a reading, that was an orgy and he didn’t know about that till after, and walking up on a park bench maving messed himself. And you lot all thought poetry wasn’t rock n roll! That#s the kind of thing that normally happens to me!



Bee Conversations

By some believed, when one had died, the bees had to be told
Or umbridge taken, they would leave, not liking being ignored
Id never heard that tale before, before an exhibition I went to see
For all I knew I know now what I didn’t, a legend, a belief about the bee.

We panic in these modern days, with chemicals and pesticides
The bees are dying, to save them we are trying, nature her time she bides
Perhaps in the time of busy society when success and riches mankind is seeking
The bees are merely getting up and leaving us all, for to them we are not speaking?

At 'Telling the Bees' in Galway Arts Centre' #bees #bee

A video posted by Thomas Carty (@tomjcarty) on



Treasure Sleeps on Chest of All She Needs

There is a lot of “we must look after our own first” going around now that the refuggees from Syria are on their way. A folk invisible to all – about whom Id written Outcasts in from the Cold – eyes now important that there are others from outside. The new care for our own homeless is good to see, and iof the refugees go I hope it lasts.

I passed by two of our own tonight settling down to sleep as the sun set around 7pm on Shop Street, under the Treasure Chest shop, those who had nothing… Neither do the refugees, both need our help.

Simons Homeless Forecast: donate to these or even share the link to help the homeless

Shots out of focus as I was walking and didnt want to appear to obvuis that I was photographing them. Homeless Couple Asleep under Treasure Chest shop windows on Shop Street in Galway tonight

Shots out of focus as I was walking and didnt want to appear to obvuis that I was photographing them. Homeless Couple Asleep under Treasure Chest shop windows on Shop Street in Galway tonight

I think we can look after both.

A story done the rounds yesterday of an Irishwoman with her children sleeping rough on Shop Street here in Galway the night before last. I spread it online to try and root up support. A presbyterian minister from Tullamore got some of his folk on standby, a NUIG student active in the pro life cause, and one of the Occupy activists (allbeit after 24 hours) responded, there was a few likes, and no reshares or retweets online. Of the comments most were about the refugees being looked after but not our own.

Iwalked Shop Street from 8 to 10pm found no sign of them. Spoke with some of the Buskers who know all the homeless and they knew nothing of it, so it must be an urban legend. I hope it was.

Why did it develop? The exhibition “Infinity” on Shop Street highlighted the refugees case – some from the Giddy Biddy collective lived in a container for 24 hours, and passers by including numpty here, dipped thumbs in ink and left their mark on a board as a “thumbs up” for the cause, and it got nationwide coverage on RTE. I assume the urban legend – if thats what it is – sprung up as a reaction to that.

If it is a real story, I hope they got help. There is a group called Anchora Im told by the pro life girl in Galway that helps women but I cant find it. If I do Ill post.

Passing by the couple tonight inspired these words…

Love sleeps rough on a Galway street
Neath the Treasure Chest shop on Shop Street
I pass by, another staring stranger in the wetting rain
He looks up… our eyes meet
He looks sad, yet looks happy
All he needs is her, his treasure, with him there
On a concrete street, wet, cold, neath cold falling rain
As walkers by like me blankly stare.

Some talk of anger there are no refugees
Who end up like Irish sleeping rough
Who never cared before, or if they did kept it very quiet
Mutter slogan, look after our own first, but is it real or bluff?
A story spread, our own, a mother and her wains
– Like what died in Longford at our house in famine times –
Sleeping in a doorway, I spread the word online
Where normally I spread smutty memes, jokes and rhymes.

There was few likes or comments to my post
Delayed response from the political minded and no shares
But a man of Christ responded, and a woman too
Their advice or assistance offered if true this state of affairs.
There was no sign of them when on the streets I walked
None others had heard the story that I heard who there music played
It was probably – I hope it was – a mere urban legend
To berate treatment begrudged to refugees by small minded folk dismayed.

So I of the lovers who sleep in the rain tonight as I passed by
Mere poems of their tragic love and lives poems write
I moved not by new found rage at good treatment of refugees
Who I’d not cared about but now see their plight.
I seen them and cared before, but the story know
That if drunk or drugged in hostels they cannot stay
There are no wet hostels in the West, and those in Dublin are too rough
I have no answers bar to not condemn them and a silent prayer to say.

Native Americans say who sleeps skin to earth sleeps as one with the world
So they sleep, separated from the clay by concrete laid by man
As they are by addictions created for profit of society
Paid for by their pain, that’s not Gods plan.
He keeps her from concretes hardness where neath her he lies
She, a blanket keeps him warm, biting wind on her back
They have the love even if only fleeting that they who have little share
That many passing by richer in money, of the riches of spirit lack.