Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Really Begins-Bell, Book and Candle in the Cathedral

Last Sunday was the night when the Christmas season begins in style for a Kilkenny City councillor. The annual 'Nine Carols and Nine Lessons' service of the Church of Ireland community, but open to all takes place in the wonderful setting of St. Canice's Cathedral. It was presided over by the relatively new bishop, Michael Burrowes, whose consecration I unfortunately missed in February last. The singing by the cathedral choir, and by children from the Model National School was uplifting and the ideal start to the real Christmas-that of the sacred rather than the shopping frenzy and all that other madness.

The real treat came at the end of the night however, when we were invited into the bell tower, quiet a climb from the main church, where the bell ringers or 'change ringers' showed us their art in action. This was the first time that our council was invited into the private area of the church in its 400 year history. We then climbed a little higher to see the actual bells, which are up to 500 years old. Thanks a million to all the change ringers for their hospitality. I'd love to get there for the annual new year's ceremony on new year's eve at 11.30, followed by the midnight ringing of the bells.

By the way thanks to Harry Reid for the magic photos.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Murder in our midst-Sad farewell to Alan

I always said I'd try to blog it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Yesterday and today have had very little of the first, but far too much of the second and third. The murder of Alan Cunniffe, less than a quarter of a mile from our front door has left the city in shock, and me as a private citizen, and as a public representative deeply upset. In my 41 years so far, I've never personally known a person who was murdered until now, and I've also rarely known somebody with whom I struck up a genuine friendship in such a short time.

Alan was of course the son of a wonderful Roscommon man. Tom was the first Kilkenny City person I met when I was 'courting'. A trip to Tom's shop in John's Green resulted in my Kerry accent being immediately detected. Thus started a half-hour conversation about the 1980 All-Ireland final when Roscommon had thrown us the fourth of the 4 in a row. It also began a 15 year pattern of chats about football, which got more frequent when I moved here 5 years ago. You couldn't help liking Tom, and it was no surprise that Alan turned out to be a chip off the old block when he took over the reins last year, after Tom's early death from cancer.

The last 24 hours have been surreal. I had my last of almost daily chats with Alan on Thursday night when I picked up a few bits and pieces from the shop. In one of those moments which typified Alan, he sold a lotto ticket to the customer before me, and pressed a wrong button giving extra by mistake. He said he would buy the mistaken ticket himself, but I offered to buy my first lotto ticket in years. As I was the last customer of the night, Alan thanked me profusely for covering his mistake as he saw it. We had a brief chat and Alan asked after Mar and the kids, as always. Only a few nights earlier, Alan had spotted me walking away from the locked shop door a couple of minutes after closure at 9 o' clock. He immediately ran to reopen for the bottle of wine I wanted, not to make more money, but to provide a service to a customer. That summed him up.

I didn't believe yesterday that Alan would pass away in the few hours he was battling in St. Luke's Hospital. Talking to friends and neighbours today, they stressed the huge efforts made to save Alan's life. As for why Alan engaged his killer, who are we to know what entered Alan's mind in those fatal seconds or minutes. What I do know for sure is that protecting his family business, his workers interests, and standing up for all that is best in life was what Alan was all about.

This weekend is a tear-filled one for all of us in Kilkenny who were lucky enough to have known Alan as a friend, neighbour, and business man with a heart of gold. To his Mum Muriel, his brothers Declan, James, Enda and Thomas and to his sisters Anne, Muriel and Emily my heart-felt sympathy. Gan aon dabht oireann an sean ráiteas do Thomás Ó Criomhthain do Alan-'Ni bheidh a leithéid aris ann'. Slán go fóill Alan, go gcifimid a chéile aris.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ceol Beo-Na Flowers hit town

I've blogged here about Hothouse Flowers in the past. They're my favourite Irish band of the 80's, and they have remained consistently one of the hardest-working bands of the nineties and early 21st century. It's hard to believe it's 22 years since the lads appeared as 'Fonn Tonn' to win Slógadh, singing blues as Gaeilge with a batch of trumpets, sax players etc. in a Blues Brothers set-up. They won the Dublin final by beating a John Denver/Stockton's Wing sub-standard set-up fronted by the current Deputy Mayor of Kilkenny!!

Soon after they were playing a very popular support to Fleetwood Mac open-air in the RDS, and seemed set to follow U2 as our next big breakthrough in international music. Despite the success of 'Don't Go', and a string of great songs, it never seemed to quite happen on that scale, but the lads remained huge favourites with Irish listeners, playing some of the best live shows I've ever seen.

They put on a great show last night in Lyrath Hotel, despite a very disappointing turnout on the stormy night it was. The sign of true pro's is that they always give it their all, and this politician and music fan has sore legs today from the bopping.

Mar leaideanna a labhair Gaeilge go fliúrseach, mar an chéad ghlúin do Ghaelscolaiocht sa tir, bhiodar mar eiseamláiri domsa agus mo chomhleacaithe a raibh ag casadh ar ais i dtreo na teangan. Choimeádadar dilis chomh maith don gceol traidisiúnta, á mheascadh mar chuid lárnach dár gceol úr féinigh.

Tá baint ar leith agam féin leis an ngrúpa, mar gur thugas ceann dos na céad gigs dóibh a sheineadar go poibli, i gcoláiste Froebel cúpla seachtain i ndiaidh dóibh Slógadh a bhuachaint. Nios tábhachtai fós, mhúineas cailini Fiachna Ó Braonáin agus Jadzia dár ndóigh (Kasia agus Liadain) i nGaelscoil Osrai. Is daoine iontacha iad araon.

Liam of course also gave us great help with the campaign against RTÉ's removal of the Rattlebag programme.

Revisiting that particular episode, I have given Derek Mooney a very patient few months, but I have to say that the programme is dire. The mish-mash of reality singing lessons, inane quizes and MOR music is exactly what we all feared. The promise to include loads of coverage of local arts events has disappeaered from my limited listening. The only saving grace is the Friday afternoon 'Mooney goes wild' section, which was already there anyway on Saturday. Meanwhile, the late-night arts offering by Pádraig Breathnach has great content, but how many people are listening. Even sombody like me who loves the arts rarely has the energy or inclination to listen so late. It will be interesting to see the next detailed JNLR figures. Maybe RTÉ and Anna Leddy might then have the good grace to admit they were wrong, and give us back Rattlebag or a similar programme in the waking hours.