Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blog moved to www.trueirishstories.com

I've moved the blog to www.trueirishstories.com - you can follow it from there from now on.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Deadline Extended to March 31st!

By popular request, I've extended the deadline on receipt of stories to the 31st of March. Please try and have your story in by then though, as we will need to get cracking on the selection process then.

Keep writing and keep telling your friends!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Its World Book Day - why not donate a True Irish Story in celebration

It's World Book Day today. If you haven't already, why not donate a story in celebration!

I'm planning on posting a couple more recently received stories this weekend - keep checking in.

About True Irish Stories for Haiti

We Irish all have at least one good true story to tell - whether it be funny, sad, poignant, surprising...

Share your true Irish stories with me and help raise money for a very worthy cause - Concern's Haiti Appeal. Just email me your stories at trueirishstories@gmail.com. For more information see here

Monday, March 1, 2010

US Adventures

I've been in the US this past week on business trip. Managed to make it back despite getting stranded in Minneapolis due to a snowstorm.

My trip took me through some good Irish-American strongholds - I've already got a few promises of some stories from people met in Boston & New York.

Please keep the stories coming!

About True Irish Stories for Haiti

We Irish all have at least one good true story to tell - whether it be funny, sad, poignant, surprising...

Share your true Irish stories with me and help raise money for a very worthy cause - Concern's Haiti Appeal. Just email me your stories at trueirishstories@gmail.com. For more information see here

Some of the stories received so far...

A number of people have been asking what kind of stories I'm looking for...

I can't tell you what exact type of story I'm looking for but I thought I'd post a small sample of some of the ones I've received already by way example :

So your story should be something like those ones...or then again nothing like those ones! See, that cleared things up, didn't it.

Anyway, please keep the stories coming to trueirishstories@gmail.com and keep telling your friends.

About True Irish Stories for Haiti

We Irish all have at least one good true story to tell - whether it be funny, sad, poignant, surprising...

Share your true Irish stories with me and help raise money for a very worthy cause - Concern's Haiti Appeal. Just email me your stories at trueirishstories@gmail.com. For more information see here

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Tale, a Tale...

Vanessa Delaney, Clontarf

A tale, a tale, have I, A tale of contemporary Ireland! I have many tales. But each one gets discarded because the participants are still alive and may not want to be included in my scribbles. Still I cannot resist telling this tale of two tales which is in essence completely true.

I think of a friend’s girlfriend 10 years ago, pregnant. A girl who had been told by her gynaecologist that she would probably never conceive. So when her parents heard their unmarried daughter’s news, they celebrated and said what a great man he was and all sorts of other wonderful things that make a man grow about 5 inches! His parents were distinctly not of like minds with her parents at the time when, over a half bottle of whiskey, I first heard the news of the imminent baby. His parents appeared to be ready to disown anything to do with his girlfriend and their soon to arrive grandchild. He was torn between protecting his girlfriend, now pregnant with their child, and maintaining what had up to then been a very close relationship with his, up until then, warm and loving parents. Now he was being asked to question their values and it felt as if he had to choose whose side he was on. It just didn’t seem right. I told him a story that I held up to myself as an illustration of how best to behave in times when you want to say to your family “to hell with the lot of you”. Or some worse wishes! With the confidence built up by my own personal experience and helped by a large glass of whiskey, I told him a story that promised him that if he ignored his parents’ disgust and visited and telephoned them as normal, all would be well. When the child is born, all will be forgotten and there will be no grandparents more doting.

The story I told him was this:
It was around 1986, we were all at that age when we were falling one by one into settled relationships. Some of us had a few failed relationships under our belts. Some were sticking with the one man and were heading straight for marriage. One friend, Gillian, wasn’t so lucky. There was no more welcoming shoulder to cry on when you had a broken heart or were simply in need of comfort. But despite her warm and bubbly personality, Gillian didn’t have a man of her own. Gillian was born with a large strawberry birthmark on the left hand side of her face and it seemed as if all too many people struggled to see beyond this. Nobody was probably more deserving of a good man than Gillian but they were just not appearing.

Then one night while out with friends, Gillian and Niall found themselves laughing and smiling in unison. They soon shared many laughs. Over the weeks and months that followed, at times we witnessed big dirty laughs and at times we witnessed that warm laugh that you hear when it is not so much that something is funny as that two people are just plain happy together. And so everyone should have been happy, delighted, elated. Especially, Gillian’s family. Their only daughter had found a good man.

But, no, Gillian and Niall are different religions and her family was horrified that she would even consider marrying outside her religion even though the number of eligible males of her religion in Ireland can at best be described as seriously limiting, even if you are a stunning looking drop dead gorgeous model. Her extended family said things about Niall that are best not repeated. Horrible letters were sent from sister-in-laws with all sorts of threats. Gillian’s mother didn’t ring Gillian but still Gillian did ring her mother. Many phone calls ended in tears although her mother would not always have been aware of Gillian’s tears. There were long silences from a mother to Gillian, her only daughter. It went on and on. There was much hurt. There was much confusion. Gillian spoke openly and honestly to Niall about it all. He felt deeply for her and said that much and all as he loved her, he could never ask her to choose. Throughout this time, Gillian never missed a birthday or a family occasion. She sent her brothers, nieces’ and nephews’ birthday presents as usual. She held her head high and rode slowly and painfully through it all.

Gradually her family realised that this guy was there to stay and gradually they were drawn to seeing him as the warm, loving man he is and was. The seeds of bitterness had been planted but when Gillian hadn’t watered them, they had withered and died. I remember the happy wedding as the father of the bride walked proudly down the aisle with his beautiful only daughter.
And so it has come to pass for my whiskey sharing friend and his now wife and now, two children and their doting committed Grandparents.

Our Lady of Dublin

Nuala Ní Chonchúir, Galway

Whenever I go abroad I like to visit churches in order to feed my fascination for religious iconography. In particular, I am always very taken with statues of the Virgin Mary. Something about her melancholic eyes and slender form as she cradles her baby reaches inside me and makes me want to linger and stare.

In Brussels a few years ago I hauled myself off the main drag in search of the church of Saint Catherine. I knew it was home to a statue of the Holy Mother and Child called the Black Madonna. The church stood on a quiet market square and inside we found the carved stone statuette. She was partitioned behind glass in the central nave presumably to save her from her previous fate. In 14th century Belgium this sensuous Black Madonna was tossed into the River Senne by Protestants but somehow landed on a clod of peat and was rescued and given a secure home in Saint Catherine’s church.

We have our own Black Madonna in Ireland, a fact that was brought to my attention by my father. Her domain is the Carmelite Church on Dublin’s Whitefriar Street and she is known as Our Lady of Dublin. This magnificent statue of the Virgin and Child, reputedly carved from German oak, dates from the time of the Reformation. The statue’s wooden body is stained a deep, dark brown as rich colours weren’t allowed in churches during Reformation times. She is placed high in a shrine and her dark body is highlighted by the jewelled crown on her head and the white marble and golden mosaic that surrounds her. Our Lady herself appears subdued but the child Jesus, who is tucked into the folds of her robe, seems to be leaping in her arms. Similar to Belgium’s Black Madonna, Our Lady of Dublin has an interesting past.

Her original home was St. Mary’s Abbey on the north side of the Liffey. During the 16th century when monasteries were destroyed and their treasures stolen or ruined, Mary’s Abbey was used as a stable. The statue of Our Lady of Dublin was taken from the abbey and the length of her wooden back was hollowed out. She was placed face down in an inn-yard and put to use as a trough for feeding pigs. In this way she was almost certainly saved from being destroyed.

In the mid 1800’s the wooden statue with its hollowed back was discovered in a pawnshop on Capel Street by Father John Spratt, the prior of Whitefriar Street. The same man, incidentally, who brought the remains of Saint Valentine to Dublin. Father Spratt transported the unusual statue across the Liffey to his church and gave her a safe home there.
A couple of years ago, when I knew my partner was going to pop the question, I warned him to ‘pick somewhere good’. In the event, we went to Dublin. On a dark December night, just before Christmas, he brought me in a taxi from our posh hotel to Whitefriar Street and, there, under the watchful eyes of Our Lady of Dublin and Saint Valentine, we got engaged. I couldn’t have asked for a more thoughtful spot to seal our love.

When I re-visited the shrine recently and gazed at the virgin statue, basking in the lively atmosphere of the church, I couldn’t help thinking that we have a habit in Ireland of under-selling the riches we possess. After all, treasures are treasures no matter how large or how small they are. We may not have a Notre Dame or a Canterbury, but we are lucky enough to have Whitefriar Street Church and Our Lady of Dublin.