SPRING IN TREE, FLOWER AND SONG

Diarmuid Breatnach

As we have been shown this year, if we did not already know, Spring comes in its own time. Roughly around the calendar yes, but not exactly. It’s not like the clothing merchants, who withdrew the gloves in March and left people like me, who regularly lose them, with frozen hands unable to buy cheap replacements while the models stood in windows in shorts and bikinis.

But spring wild flowers are already out and have been for weeks, though the city is not a great place to see them. However in gardens, parks, canal banks and on empty sites, the dandelion, much disregarded as a decorative flower has been flaunting its bright yellow flower for weeks and will continue to do so for quite a while yet.

Some variety of Speedwell and Cat’s Ear (Photo D.Breatnach)
Furze (Aiteann) in bloom (photo: D.Breatnach)

In early April I spent a few days in Wicklow by the Dartry river. In a very short walk to Ashford I encountered eight types of wild flowers in bloom, including furze (or gorse), daisies,

Fumitory maybe (pink), mystery white flower on stalk and Groundsel on a bit of waste ground.
(photo: D.Breatnach)
The humble daisy (Nóinín) looking splendid on some waste ground.  (Photo: D.Breatnach)

groundsel, cat’s ear, speedwell, and of course dandelion. On a longer walk heading away from the river I came upon primrose, lesser celandine and wild or barren strawberry (not knowing how to tell the two apart at this time of year). And a mystery plant also (see photo). Swathes of wild garlic (creamh), grew both sides of the country road; I had long thought this plant a foreign import but it seems I was wrong. It certainly spreads when established however, as witnessed by this Wicklow road and wooded areas of Dalkey Hill where I have also seen large patches of it. My father transplanted some to our garden but rarely used it in cooking – or if he did, not often enough, for it soon took over large areas of the smallish garden.

Wild Garlic (Creamh).
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
Blue Tits even upside down on bird feeder (note that the tree is the Cherry Laurel, an invasive tree species).   (Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

 

At a Wicklow hotel garden’s bird feeder, blue tit, chaffinch and some other species flicked in to take a snack and flicked out again, making it very difficult to photograph them but which of course did not bother them at all.

Returning through Ashford (Áth na Fuinseoige) I came across one of our

Chaffinch (Rí rua) picking up some of the spillage from the feeder on the ground. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

feathered anglers, the smaller grey heron. Patience personified, this species stands in the water waiting for the appropriate moment to strike, apparently not feeling the cold. But perhaps this one did feel it, for it stood on the bank.

Grey Heron (Corr réisc) on the Vartry riverbank.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The Gael reckoned the start of Spring with the feast of St. Brigid (and probably the Goddess Brig before her), February 1st, when the ewes come into milk, with their expected birth of lambs. As Brigid/ Brig was associated with butter in some traditions it is possible that some early butter was made from sheep’s milk, though that is not recorded in records, as far as I know. The lambs and many other animals born in Spring had no choice regarding when to appear – that had been decided in the Autumn or Summer of the year before when their mothers mated. Birds, on the other hand, who are more vulnerable, mate in the Spring itself.

In Dublin city until perhaps a week ago, there was very little sign of Spring apart from the lengthening of the day. The blind wandering poet Antoine Ó Raifteirí (1779-1835), writing in the month of January, was already anticipating spring in one of his better-known poems:

Anois teacht an Earraigh beidh an lá dúl chun síneadh, 


Is tar éis na féil’ Bríde ardóigh mé mo sheol;


Ó chur mé ‘mo cheann é, ní stopfaidh mé choíche 


Go seasfaidh mé síos i lár Chondae Mhaigh Eo.

He’s thinking of heading home to County Mayo, he feels Spring coming but will wait until Bridget’s feast day to “hoist his sail” and since it’s in his head now won’t stop till he gets there. We might have been anticipating Spring ourselves in January this year and into February — though cold and wet enough — but if so we were in for a shock towards the end of the month and into March with “snow dumps”.

The birds have to set up their territory even so and in fact the robin (Spideog) was marking its territory in song sporadically through December and January, often enough even at night in the city and particularly near street or train station lighting. The polygamous wren (Dreoilín), if not already at it followed in February. The seagulls at their nesting sites on roofs were calling and mating in mid-March but may have been delayed a little by the snow; however they are hardy birds. Some blackbird males have been singing since March and now are all in full throaty song. In March also we heard the high-pitched “peeps” of those acrobats, the tits as they foraged for invertebrates through the branches of tree and bush and at the end of April, also the bursts of chaffinch song which remind us often of caged canaries — and why not, when the canaries are often taught that very bird’s song to sing.

The Lesser Celandine, I think (Grán arcáin)
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

January was the time to hear adult foxes in the city, the somewhat frightening scream of the vixen and the two or three-times bark in quick succession of the dog fox. This month the cubs, born a month earlier, will venture out of their den and may be heard sometimes by night at play too, though this is more likely in the months to come.

The mystery plant with flower or hood bud (going by the leaves, not ‘Lords and Ladies’).
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
The Primrose (Sabhaircín) leaf, bud and flower.(Photo: D.Breatnach)
Wild (or perhaps Barren) Strawberry (Sú talún or bréige) in blossom.  (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The trees and ground plants apparently respond more to length and angle of sunlight to tell them it is time to grow from seed or to burst open into bud and some of them are doing so now in late April, for example the birch (Beith). Others delay and the ash trees (source of our camáin or hurley sticks and much else) are still in their black hard bud stage in late April and the oak waits along too. Trees that flower tend to do so first and put out leaf later, as the blackthorn (Draighneán donn) did in February with its little white blossoms which will develop into sloes (airne) later in the year. In March hawthorn (Sceach geal), willow (Sail, from which we get “The Sally Gardens”) and elder (Ceireachán), all of which may be seen in gardens or parks (and the elder growing even on empty sites) were already green-misting in tiny leaf and are now well advanced. The “candles” of the horse chestnut (Crann Cnó capaill), to be seen in parks and in some leafy suburb streets, are however forming alongside the tree’s large leaves right now at the end of April (Aibreán) and the rowan (Caorthann) and sycamore (Seiceamar) of the whirling seeds are also in stages of leaf.

Slender Speedwell perhaps (there are a number of different species). (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Spring is really coming for us but for many plants, mammals and birds, it is already here.

end

PS: When checking The Tree Council of Ireland for tree species names in Irish, I was shocked to find that they do not supply them. Nor reference the huge number of places across the land whose names in English are corruptions of the original Irish place names derived from the names of trees.

Links for more information:

Identifying wildflowers by month through the year: http://www.irishwildflowers.ie/this-month/april.html

Wildflower information, photo and names in Irish, English and Latin: http://www.wildflowersofireland.net/plant_detail.php?id_flower=220

Song of the Chaffinch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVyW9t5wX3U

Native trees in leaf throughout the year: http://www.thegardenshop.ie/native-trees

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Nóirín Gone O’Sullivan

Begone! She has gone,

That Garda Commissioner wan,

That Nóirín not-so-bán,

That Nóirín O’Sullivan (1).

(Photo source: Internet)

She’s gone, that Nóirín,

Decamped, fled the scene;

Wants to put it all past her,

The two-year job complete disaster.

 

Ducking and diving in the dance,

Six years, second-in-command

She was there at the right hand

Of Garda Commissioner Callinan.

But yet she claimed ignorance

Tried to stand a safe distance

From corruption and paedophile smear

Of a man who spoke out without fear.

 

Tried to sail on through the storm,

Claimed interference with police reform

But now she has finally gone:

Ex-Commissioner O’Sullivan.

 

(Photo source: Internet)

There has been too much exposure,

The State now is seeking closure,

Politicians and media must collude

The concerned public to delude.

Let the hue and cry die right down,

To yet another pass the crown,

Hope the people will not recall;

And that memory in time will pall.

But

This Force is rotten to the core,

So to remain for ever more,

To protect the rule of a rotten few

For which it was shaped in ’22.

DB 11/09/2017

 

FOOTNOTES

(A few days ago Nóirín O’Sullivan, Gárda Commissioner — the most senior position in the police force of the Irish state, gave six hours’ notice of resignation from her post.  She took over from Martin Callinan, who had also resigned his post in the midst of controversy over widespread false reporting of drink-driving stop-and-test by Gardaí; also the attempt to silence, discredit and smear as a paedophile Garda McCabe who exposed the frauds.  Another Garda officer who whistleblew was also hounded.  Subsequently, the scandal of the holding of bank accounts in individual officer’s names in which government police funds were being kept also erupted.)

THE MAROON TIDE

Diarmuid Breatnach

On 6th September 2015, the Galway GAA team played the Kilkenny team in the Croke Park national stadium.  I wrote this at the time but never posted it for some reason then and came across it to my surprise today.

Parnell s
Fans making their way along Cavendish Row and along Parnell Street on their way to Croke Park. (Photo D.Breatnach)
Fans making their way along Cavendish Row and along Parnell Street on their way to Croke Park. (Photo D.Breatnach)
Fans making their way up  O’Connell Street and along Cavendish Row on their way to Croke Park. (Photo D.Breatnach)

 

 

THE MAROON TIDE

A maroon tide swept through the city,

in numbers alone they would overawe

the wasp-coloured Kilkenny few.

“It’s on the field we’ll win the fight,

although outnumbered in the stands”

was the response of the Cats

to the mass of Galway fans.

And give them their due,

the final score proved them right.

The maroon tide swept out again

to coach and train and car

or hotel and bar.

A Galway fan wiped away a tear

and told me they’d be back next year.

End.

REMEMBER

Famine emigrants monument on the north quays of the river Liffey, Dublin, with superimposed image of African woman and children. Image from Memet Uludag on Facebook.
The Great Hunger (1845-1849) emigrants’ monument on the north quays of the river Liffey, Dublin, with superimposed image of African woman and children (image from Memet Uludag on Facebook).
Diarmuid Breatnach
Remember? Remember when we were migrants?
Remember when we fled murder and rapine
and many another terrible scene
When death and torture were at hand
and we sought succour in other lands?
Remember?
Remember when our little nation
was devastated by starvation.
disease and desolation,
our hope in emigration ….
Remember?
Remember when we died by
mountain, valley and sea
and we braved
the rolling waves
to go where we might be free?
Remember, oh do you remember?
Escape, the vote,
in leaky boats
in anything to float,
fear in throat,
today they launch
for our shores.
Remember? We must remember!
end

STILL MARCHING AGAINST WATER TAX — 100,000-130,000 CONVERGE ON O’CONNELL STREET

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

Any hope that the Irish capitalist ruling class and their current government had that people had given up — or even had just got tired of marching — were dashed on Sunday 29th August 2015.

Hundreds of thousands gathered again from far and near; banners were on display from the West, South, North-East and North-West, Midlands, and of course many parts of Dublin and the East coast.Water woman face on

Water woman looking to left

The main march columns started off from two train stations: Connolly Station, to the east of the city and Heuston, to the west. The latter contingent crossed the river at the station then marched eastward towards the city centre along the southern quays while the other marched westward along the northern quays and then crossed the river to the north side further upriver (Essex Bridge) and turned towards the city centre. Both columns had contingents and individuals joining them en route while others went straight towards O’Connell Street, they were greeted by a musical performance from the main stage by Don Baker and other musicians, also a performance by a rapper.

Aerial shot of rally in O'Connell Street (photo: Communities Against the Water Charge)
Aerial shot of rally in O’Connell Street (photo: Communities Against the Water Charge)

STATE REPRESSION

State repression was focused on at times: the Jobstown 23 banner got strong applause from bystanders at various points along the route, another banner denounced Garda violence including pepper-spraying and a number of speakers spoke about Garda repression, including one who talked about the Special Branch opening files on anti-water tax resisters.

This banner got strong applause from bystanders at various points along the route
This banner got strong applause from bystanders at various points along the route

Stop Garda Violence banner

As usual on large demonstrations of this kind, the Gardai refrained from violence or bullying and in fact were in very low profile, in stark contrast to their behaviour and numbers when dealing with smaller numbers in local resistance to water tax and the installation of water meters.

ELECTIONS, TRADE UNIONS

Among the speakers there was of course much mention of elections and getting rid of the current capiltalist government and also statements about the fight for the Republic in history, compared bleakly to the situation in Ireland today with unemployement, emigration, cuts to services, homelessness, privatisation. John Douglas, Gen. Secretary of Mandate and President of Mandate covered many of those issues, including the Dunne’s Stores dispute and the sudden closure of Clery’s in a rousing speech. However, those two are cases in point illustrating the weakness of the Irish trade union movement today: Mandate had one day’s strike in Dunnes’ many weeks ago and have won no gains as yet, while Clery’s managed to sack their workers without the union leading even a sit-in to hold the building and stock as a bargaining chip

Belfast Trades Council banner on the demonstration -- they also had a speaker on the platform
Belfast Trades Council banner on the demonstration — they also had a speaker on the platform

A new presence on this demonstration was Belfast Trade Council, who were made very welcome and who had a speaker on the platform. He said that there was no EU directive to tax the water and that in the Six Counties they had defeated the water tax. He was not long speaking when the heavens opened and rain poured down on demonstrators and bystanders alike.

Three heads plus Galway group

SUMMARY

What today showed is a strong will to resist across the country and across a great age spread, but with noticeably lower numbers across the teenage and young adult band, as well as a relatively weak leadership of the movement.

It remains to be seen whether RTÉ and newspapers will give a reasonable estimate of the numbers and coverage or instead do the usual of quoting ridiculously low figures or remain vague about them while giving minimal space to what was a large event, with participation from around the nation, as part of the biggest civil disobedience campaign in the history of this State.

End

Video of unaccompanied rapper Stephen Murphy at rally

At the Mayo v. Dublin GAA football game in Croke Park the following day, on Hill 16.
At the Mayo v. Dublin GAA football game in Croke Park the following day, on Hill 16 (Photo from Right to Water FB page)

 

(Postcript: In their on-line report, RTÉ showed a photo of a packed O’Connell St. and said the organisers were claiming around 80,000.  Also, at the Dublin GAA football match of Mayo v. Dublin the following day in Croke Park, attended by Enda Kenny, whose seat is in that county, Dublin supporters unfurled a giant banner of Right to Water).

 

(Photos unless otherwise stated: D. Breatnach)

WHEN EAGLES SING — Kurdish singer and fighter Viyan Peyman falls in battle/ Cantante y Luchadora Kurda falla en batalla

Viyan Peyman, famous fighter-singer of the YPJ, fell in battle against Islamic State in Serekaniye (Yazira canton) on Monday 6th April 2015, according to news agency Hawar News.

Viyan Peyman, famosa luchadora y cantante del YPJ cayó én lucha contra el Estado Islamico el lunes 6 de Abril 2015, según la agencia de noticias Hawar News (miren enlace al fondo de este corto trozo para las noticias en castellano).

When Eagles Sing

(I ndil chuimhne Viyan Peyman/Gulistan Tali Cingalo)

A bird fell from the sky —

the birdsong now has died. 


A songbird but also a fighter — 


When eagles sing 


our struggle is made lighter.

She flies now in different skies,


skies of our memory,


of our heart, spirt and mind


where her song cannot be silenced


for Kurds or for humankind.

Diarmuid Breatnach April 2013

Viyan’s real name was Gulistan Tali Cingalo (Gulistan means “garden”) and she was from Mako city in the part of Kurdistan located within the Iranian state’s territory.

The song she sings in the video was composed by her; the lyrics say:

“Oh, mother, woe to me!


My heart cries today — what disaster has fallen upon us!


I will sing today of the resistance of Kobane,

that it may be a poem recited for the world and humanity, oh mother!


Today again our Kurdish boys and girls have made their chests into shields

against the tanks and bombs …
Oh, mother, woe to me!


Today I imagine the mothers of Kobane crying in the streets;


I imagine the boys, the girls, the elderly screaming in pain and rage.


I see the tears of the children of Kobane as if they were the Euphrates river, 


flooding the streets of Kobane!


Oh, mother, woe is me!”

Information and song lyrics translated from Castillian text sourced here: https://comitesaharaui.wordpress.com/…/cae-en-combate-la-c…/

“BELIEVE” — short poem by Donal O’Meadhra

From their homes stolen lives.
Injustice never new.
Not one crime done nor crime seen.
A sentence served undue.

Witness blind and judge astray.
Trial a kangaroo.
You want a reason to believe?
My friend, I’ll give you two.

Two sons of Craigavon Ireland,
Our voices now are due.
The cry should shout until it cracks
For justice to the two.

It happens time and time again,
Shadows of me and you.
Where once stood four and then the six,
The mirror shows the two.

Together we can make this right.
As one we’ll see it through.
You want a reason to believe?
My friend, I’ll give you two.

Believe poster J4C2

 

The poem is about the incarceration of the “Craigavon Two”, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wooton.  On the 30th of March 2012 both men were convicted and given life sentences.  They were accused of the fatal shooting of Constable Steven Carroll in Craigavon on the 9th of March 2010.  The evidence was a hotch-potch of questionable material including an “eyewitness” who only came forward a year later after both Republicans had been in jail for a considerable time, a man whose evidence was contested by that of his wife and of his own father.

The case against them was so riddled with inconsistencies and suspect material, alongside new evidence of police interference with witnesses for the Defence, that there were high hopes of both men being cleared and freed when the appeal concluded in October last year.  However, to the shock of many, including a number of Independent TDs (members of the Dáíl, the Irish parliament) and the late Gerry Conlon, their appeal was denied.

The campaign is on-going and supported by a number of organisations and individuals.  It was in support of the Two that Gerry Conlon, formerly of the Guildford Four (and a subject of the film In the Name of the Father), made his last public statement days before he died.

Their campaign website http://justiceforthecraigavontwo.com/we-are-innocent/

“Where once stood four and then the six” in the second-to-last stanza is a reference to the Guildford Four and to the Birmingham Six, ten people (all Irish save one) who in 1974 were wrongly convicted of bombings in Britain and were finally cleared only fifteen and sixteen years later.  Also wrongly convicted were the Maguire Seven (which included Giuseppe Conlon, Gerry’s father, and teenagers) and Judith Ward (a woman who was mentally ill at the time).