It’s old news now but was it only me or was anybody else uneasy at the sight of the Thomas Cook women protesters in Dublin being arrested and led out, one by one, to waiting garda vans. Each protester was escorted by a uniformed officer who held firmly onto their arms as they were taken into custody.

The women were protesting at the closure of the Thomas Cook travel shops and were occupying their former workplaces in search of a better redundancy deal. OK, they were in breach of a High Court injunction and the gardai on duty were only doing their jobs as directed by their superiors. And, fair enough, when they were brought, anxious and frightened, before the Judge, he was gentle and treated them courteously and leniently before setting them free.

What disturbed me though was the sight of so many gardai arresting the women so quickly and so publicly. If one sergeant and a garda had arrived quietly in a van the protestors would probably have gone along peacefully with anything they said because, basically, they are law abiding, decent people.

I’m not being overly ‘touchy’ here and I’m not criticising individual gardai who were following orders. But I would be a lot more impressed if the powers that be sent such large numbers of officers just as promptly every time the convoys of rich, bullyboy Travellers occupied private property. They strike fear and loathing into local populations before giving everybody a two-finger salute when they decide to depart, more often than not leaving a mountain of filth behind them. Perhaps I’m wrong but I don’t ever recall any of them being arrested and hauled before a court because of their ‘occupation’.

Perception is very important and last week’s incident left a suspicion that there may be one attitude towards peaceful, law abiding ‘offenders’ and another towards difficult and truculent Travellers.

Artane orphan who found fame as showband musician

Showband fans in particular will be interested in a new CD due to be released in a couple of weeks from musician and songwriter Danny Ellis entitled ‘800 Voices – My life in an Irish orphanage’. Over the years, Danny played with a lot of the top bands including The Airchords, Jim Farley, Roly Daniels, Kelly and the Nevada, The Miami Showband and Stage 2.

As a child, Danny spent eight years in The Artane Christian Brothers School in Dublin a place, it is now known, was one of the cruellest orphanages in Ireland. When the showband bubble finally burst, Danny toured the UK, Europe and the US for many years before settling down to teach and write in America. For the past five years he has focused on a single major work, ‘800 Voices’, which has many facets combining a studio album, live DVD, autobiography and a dramatic theatre show in which he chronicles his travails as a boy in the Artane Industrial School.

The album ‘800 Voices’ will be released on Friday, 21st August. I haven’t heard it myself but the following ringing endorsements have come from Riverdance composer, Bill Whelan, and former Horslips musician now RTE producer, Jim Lockhart.

“The sheer musicality of the songs together with his unique ability as singer and interpreter made a very strong impression on me. 800 voices is a touching autobiography and a visionary outlook.” – Bill Whelan.

“This album is amazing. It exceeds any sort of expectations in that it’s varied, always musically interesting, melodic, but above all honest and amazingly revealing and unsentimental and unbitter. I played it at home on Saturday the way you do when you have a pile of duty CDs to work through. When it got to the end I played it again, start to finish, and then again.” – Jim Lockhart

Jim Lockhart, Producer, RTE Radio/Television

Expensive Randy

I heard a couple of complaints from acquaintances about tickets prices for Country music star, Randy Travis, at the INEC Killarney on Saturday night last.

It was €65 per person per seat or €50 to stand which seems pretty steep to me because I’m pretty sure those prices don’t apply in Britain or on mainland Europe.

Still a blight on the land

The dreaded potato blight has been more or less contained since its devastating strike in this country in the 19th. century but it hasn’t been eradicated and a new aggressive strain has now emerged and is attacking crops along the east coast.

The strain is known as Blue 13 and was first identified in Northern Ireland late in 2007. It is believed to have arrived in this country from Britain and teams of scientists from Teagasc in Carlow and Queens University in Belfast are working together to try and keep it at bay.

Dr. Stephen Kildea of Teagasc explained that Blue 13 could survive through the winter when most other strains died off and that, combined with such a wet summer, had resulted in it being a particular threat this year. It’s a worrying time indeed for growers.

The oldest living All Ireland medal winner

A very interested television spectator at last Sunday’s All Ireland hurling semi-final in Croke Park was Martin White, formerly of Tullaroan and now of Glasnevin, Dublin. Martin has just celebrated his 100th birthday and is the oldest living senior medal holder.

He won senior All Ireland medals with Kilkenny in 1932, 1933 and 1935. Prior to the game Martin received a visit at his home from Kilkenny manager Brian Cody and team member Tommy Walsh which was a nice gesture on their part. All sports fans will wish Martin many happy returns.

Welcome to
The Golden Saloon

Tommy was out on the town on Saturday night last and when he eventually fell through the door at 2am, his wife was less than pleased. “Where the hell have you been and who do you think you are coming home in such a state”, she admonished.

“Mary, love”, he slurred, “don’t be mad at me. I’ve found the most amazing new bar. It’s called The Golden Saloon and it’s brilliant. Everything is golden and they have a great jazz band that even let me sing with them”, he gushed, clearly delighted with his new find.

“Hmmmmm”, said Mary, mellowing a little, “why is it called The Golden Saloon”? “Sweetheart, it’s great”, said Tommy, “they’ve got golden doors, golden walls, a golden bar and, listen to this, even the urinals in the men’s toilet are golden! It’s true, I’ll take you there for a drink tomorrow night.”

The next night Tommy was on his best behaviour as Mary and himself pushed open the front door of The Golden Saloon. Mary couldn’t believe her eyes because everything was as Tommy had said, a golden bar, golden doors and golden walls. He had forgotten to tell her that all the bar staff wore golden jackets. The only fly in Tommy’s ointment was that the band members kept glaring at him and when he sent his name up to sing on the back of a cigarette pack, the bandleader made a great show of tearing it up and throwing the pieces in the bin.

That apart, they had a great night and, when Tommy went to the toilet just before they were ready to leave, Mary confided to the barman that she hadn’t really believed her husband when he rolled in the previous night. “He even told me you have golden urinals in the toilets”, she said smiling. “No love, we don’t”, said the barman glancing anxiously at the band, “what happened was that when your husband finished singing last night, he was so drunk he relieved himself into the bandleader’s saxophone.”