Last week we delved into a few whimsical doings from times past as a sort of winter gloom busters – it proved a popular item, so here’s a few more.

Well we had plenty of playboys midst the mayhem and uproar of our Katu item, but what about the uproar provoked by the first staging of Synge’s Playboy of the Western World? Though long regarded a classic, such acclaim was not accorded to it following its premiere at the Abbey. A newspaper report of the day- January 29 1907, recorded the scenes as they unfolded: there were uproarious scenes tonight at the performance of Mr. Synges’s play The Playboy of the Western World at the Abbey Theatre. The play deals rather unfavourably with Irish character, the central figure being a rough customer who has nearly murdered his own father and who account of this great feat is beloved by several women. The first performance passed off in comparative quiet, but after the unfavourable notices in the press a number of Gaelic Leaguers turned up to express their feeling upon it. Shortly after the opening scene hisses, groans and disorder broke out. There was stamping of feet and beating of sticks, and the din was terrific.

Mr Fay who took the principal part, essayed to get a hearing. He was understood to say that he was a Mayo man himself and that no insult was intended to his country. The police were called and they entered amid groans and took up positions in the pits.

At the end of each act the players bowed their acknowledgments ironically and the uproar thereby increased. The performance ended in this disorder. An example there of bringing the ‘house down’!

J is for Jacob

Jacob is a very distinguished Waterford name borne proudly by various branches of that name and it has been an honour and a privilege to have made the acquaintance of many and indeed the friendship of some. The name Jacob is nationally associated with the manufacture of biscuits and indeed, that business was started here in Waterford in Bridge Street on the premises where Lonergan’s Bakery stood alongside the Dominican church.

Though I have stories about a number of other famous Jacobs, today I would like to bring you the story of Rosamund. For me her tale was an unexpected encounter given her background but then again and wonderfully so, life can be full of surprises.

Rosamund Jacob (1888 – 1960) was a novelist and biographer who was born in Waterford city to a middle-class Quaker family. As a republican, she was a member of the Gaelic League, Inghinidhe na Heireann, Sinn Fein and Cumann na mBann – so she was well immersed in all things Irish. As a feminist, she was a member of the Irish Women’s Suffrage League and a friend of Hannah Sheeehy-Skeffington, one of its founders. She opposed the treaty and was imprisoned by the Free State government, but after the foundation of the state her attention turned to campaigning for civil liberties and for peace: she opposed the 1926 Censorship of Publications Act and also capital punishment and went on to become a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in the latter years of her life. These latter issues she espoused would have been very much in the Quaker pacifist tradition. As well as the feminist novels Callaghan (published under the pseudonym ‘F Winthrop’ in 1920) and the Troubled House (1938), Jacob published a biography of Matilda Tone, The Rebel’s Wife (1957). Rosamund sounds like a fascinating woman indeed, of whom I would like to learn more.

Last of the Apples

Someone in company recently made reference to an orchard being in such a such a part of their area and since long gone and reminiscing of the those days of childhood when it was deemed a great and daring adventure to rob an orchard though words like ‘rob’ was never used. In Cork it was ‘slockin’, Dublin it was ‘boxing the fox’. We decided that indeed the past was a different country and things were done differently. In retrospect, though we didn’t think so at the time, our behaviour could be viewed in a very positive light as we went to all that trouble of scouting out good orchards with good apples, then scaling walls, watchful and dreading the deadly dogs. Then, we had the clampering up trees, and shaking of branches. The man keeping ‘nix’ might yell telling us that the game was up and we’d scamper up and over walls for dear life, dreading the thought of being caught – the ultimate in humiliation for a daring young fellah. And come to think of it, all for some apples. In fairness it was the challenge, the thrill of the chase, catch-me-if-you-can but we always enjoyed the sweetness of the apple as much as the sweetness of the victory when we got away with it. Imagine the kids of today going to all that trouble for apples!! If only they would. They could be presented with the cream of the crop on silver platter as they sit at play stations and wonder what they had done wrong now to be offered such a derisory ‘food’ offering. Yes, slockin’ apples, if only life was still that simple in an age of lost innocence.

Einstein Says

Some of my favourites from Albert the Great: “A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?” “A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?” “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.” “All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.” “Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools.” “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.“ “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”

Go Seachtain Eile, Slan.