‘Amhran na bhFiann’, our national anthem, is one hundred years old this year and the centenary has been marked by An Post with a new 55c stamp. Originally written in English by Peadar Kearney in 1907, the ‘Soldier’s Song’ was later translated into the Irish language by Liam O’Rinn. Peadar Kearney, along with Patrick Heeney, also wrote the music.

The song comprises three verses and a chorus, but it was the chorus that was formally adopted as the National Anthem in 1926, replacing ‘God Save Ireland’. The Irish Volunteers had adopted the song in 1914 but it wasn’t until 1916 that it became known when it was sung in the GPO during the Easter Rising. The English version was first published in 1912 in the Irish Freedom newspaper and in 1923 the Irish version appeared, for the first time, in the Irish Defence Forces magazine An tOglach.

Heady days for Drogheda United

As the hard working and dedicated management committee volunteers at Waterford United continue to strive to keep the Blues going, they must be somewhat envious at the resources available to Drogheda United. Now playing out of United Park, the Drogheda board was recently refused planning permission to build a new €30m football stadium and 5,000 houses on a new, 160 acre site, near the town at Bryanstown.

The Drogs have now dropped their plan for the houses (for the time being, at least) and are to re-submit their application for the stadium only which they should get through without too much bother. With a possible planning permission granted by October this year, the club will go ahead immediately with construction work, which will take about a year, and the stadium should be open for matches in the 2009 season. No pun intended but heady days, huh.

Punk-art dolmen!

A major but enjoyable row is underway in Sligo the transformation of a 5,000-year-old dolmen into an artistic, punk-rock exhibit. The Labby Dolmen at Castlebaldwin is one of the largest of its kind in the country and is steeped in mythology. It is so called from the Irish word ‘leaba’ and tradition has it that Diarmuid and Grainne used it as a bed while fleeing from Fionn MacCumhaill. Like the vast majority of national monuments, it is located on private property, in this case lands owned by the artist Turlough Moore.

What Mr. Moore has done is cover the dolmen and its seven supporting stones in tinfoil. Anthropologist Mary Quinlan said she got the fright of her life when she visited the 70-ton monument and discovered it looking like a spaceship or baked potato. Ms. Quinlan lodged formal complaints with Sligo County Council and with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government claiming that the dolmen looked ridiculous but the authorities decided that the landowner was acting within his rights.

Mr. Moore dismisses the criticism and says his concept, ‘Punk Rock’, is an art installation. To cover a Neolithic object with foil, to obscure the texture and highlight the form, challenges any antiquated references within the post modern context by an organon surrealist. And, in case anybody doubted that assertion, Mr. Moore also insisted that augmenting rock with material disclosed its intended function and revealed the original idea juxtaposed to confront the audience with paradoxes arising from unlikely choices of material or from allusions to discrepant periods in art history or from cultural contradictions instigating flexibility of form. Really, it couldn’t be clearer!

Spare a thought for farmers

As the ‘damp and soft’ summer continues, farmers across the country are facing a winter of hardship as a consequence. Many farmers are struggling to harvest silage and hay and, if the weather doesn’t pick up soon, they will face into a very difficult winter indeed. IFA spokesperson, Adrian Leddy, said last week the situation was very serious. Already, there were many farmers who would have no winter fodder.

The ground was very heavy and, at the time of writing, there hadn’t been a full, dry day across the country since June 11th.. Mr. Leddy said things were so bad on some farms that cattle had to be brought indoors and, with that, came the considerable cost of feeding them grain or barley.

Surge in US military flights through Shannon Airport

The value to the economy of US military flights through Shannon Airport was emphasised recently with the release of figures by the Shannon Airport Authority. The number of US military personnel going through Shannon in the second quarter of this year increased by 135 per cent compared to the three months of January, February and March. According to the information released, the number of personnel passing through from March to June was 63,827 with over 27,000 being accommodated in the month of May.

The Authority’s executive chairman, Pat Shanahan, said that Shannon Airport outdid every other airport in the world in terms of service levels for the various military carriers and it was military business that kept the Shannon Airport Authority in profit. However, he pointed out that levels last year were down 17 per cent on the previous year. The profit from US military traffic was €9m in 2005 but it would be in the region of €7.4 million for last year. Mr. Shanahan said it was not a predictable sector of the airport’s business but it was a business they were happy to be in and they would continue to capitalise on troop movements as long as the government sanctioned it.

Use of pure plant oil growing

I read that Naas Town Council is following the example set by Cork City Council which has converted its fleet of vehicles to bio-fuel. The Town Engineer, Colm Flynn, pointed out that the initial modifications would be costly in the short term, about €2500 per kit, but PPO was cheaper, less of a pollutant and would be better for the environment in the long run. It could also be sourced one-hundred per cent in Ireland. Interesting and I bet it won’t be too long before a lot more local authorities follow suit.

A close shave, in every sense of the word!

An embarrassed travelling salesman was before Castleisland District Court last week after he unknowingly led gardai on a slow car chase as he was having his morning shave behind the wheel of his car! A Kerry native now living in Limerick city, the salesman was observed by gardai driving his car in what was described as a ‘swaying’ manner at Tooramore, Castleisland, at 11.15am on December 7th. last. The patrol car followed the defendant’s car that was travelling within the speed limit but he failed to notice the gardai were on his tail until, eventually, they accelerated and came abreast of him. At that stage, they discovered that the defendant was having a shave and had been too engrossed in the act to notice their presence.

The contrite defendant pleaded guilty to driving without reasonable consideration for other persons and Judge James O’Connor said he would give him the benefit of the Probation Act once a fine of €600 was paid.

Crossed wires

Two elderly women were waiting for a bus on the Quay one day last week when one said to the other: ‘Have you read all this stuff in the newspapers about couples having mutual orgasm?’

‘God, I haven’t. Anyway, since poor old Jimmy died, I don’t bother reading anything that has to do with couples’, sniffed the second woman sadly.

‘I don’t mean to upset you but when Jimmy was alive did you have mutual orgasm’, pressed the first women.

‘Ah, no, we didn’t’, said her friend, ‘we had Canada Life.’