Last things and final flings.
I came across the website Silversurfers – Over 50s Lifestyle & News Website I looked for the section on last things – end-of-life, death, funerals and memorials in their Lifestyle section – well where else! Alas, there was none. Does it mean that the over fifties are not ready to face their mortality?
My every day work revolves around death, funeral arrangements, bereavement, giving talks about our ceremonies and pastoral visits to non-religious people who are dying. I have given thought to what I want when I am dying and for my funeral and what I most certainly do not want like embalming, a hearse, men in black, wreaths etc.
The funeral business is still fairly conservative and many people who are planning a funeral go along with what’s being offered in those very busy and stressful few days in which to organise one.
We all need to be open to talk about death and to let those who will be making decisions for us and with us to know our wishes and thoughts on this crucial and inevitable phase of our life. I think that everyone should be concerned to let their next of kin know what are their end-of-life and funeral wishes. It would make things easier for them knowing that they were carrying out your expressed wishes and would confirm for other people that what was happening was what you wanted.
Our generation is very aware that we are living longer than previous generations and what might be in store for us as medical science intervenes. We are aware of diseases like cancer, Alzheimers and of the proliferation of residential care homes for elderly people. The majority of us do not want to die in hospital but it is where the majority of us die. I believe that it since the inception of the NHS after the war that these changes occurred. People mostly died at home and were cared for by family and friends after their death before the Funeral Directors took over this role. We have to start taking back control from those to whom we have handed it over.
We also know that some older people are breaking records and achieving things unheard of for our own parents and grandparents. We enjoy cruises, adventure holidays, attend UEA groups, book clubs, theatres, cinema and concerts, join choirs, embark on new hobbies, go fishing and have embraced the internet and new technologies. But we also need to face our mortality and plan for that too.
There are some great websites on this. One is Final Fling, founded by Barbara Chalmers, after attending a few bad funerals. It is for “people who like to be in control of life and death decisions” It suggests “Sort your paperwork, make plans, leave instructions, tell your story. Save others the bother. Know your options and stay in charge. And meantime, live life to the full”. Final Fling https://www.finalfling.com/
There is the very informative and entertaining one, founded by Charles Cowling, The Good Funeral Guide http://www.goodfuneralguide.co.uk/
It has a useful section plan and structure a non-religious ceremony.
The Natural Death Centre is helpful The Natural Death Centre. It has information on suppliers of crafted coffins eg. Respect Everybody Shrouds and http://www.feetfirstcoffins.co.uk
I think that researching and talking about the possibilities of what can happen at a funeral long before one’s time is fascinating. I do not like the standard coffin with ornate metal-looking plastic handles that are not even designed to be handled. To me it is another example of the fakery of funerals. I have a cardboard coffin in the attic. I would like to have a coffin coffee table but my family wouldn’t. I did once contact IKEA asking if they would consider producing a flat pack coffin. The reply told Madam that ‘the item she referred to is not one that is in our the future product plans’.
We do not have to have a funeral at all but could have a memorial ceremony instead. All FDs should be able to oblige but Poppy’s Funerals in London specialise in them.Alternative Funerals – Simple Cremation – Poppy’s Funerals …
Transport options for those who would like to eschew the black hearse and limousines are vans, estate cars and motorcycles http://www.motorcyclefunerals.com and vintage lorries http://www.vintagelorryfunerals.co.uk
One of the first changes that I would love to see happening is that non-religious funerals should be happening in people’s homes, gardens in residential homes, in pubs, community venues, hotel function rooms, gardens etc with a small group going to the crematorium for a brief committal and returning to the venue and reception afterwards.
This way there is not the time constraints of the crematorium, more scope for slide shows, music and speakers in a place that is not solely for the purpose of disposal of dead bodies by cremation. So often people do return to a pub or hotel for funeral ‘afters’ (it is not a wake!)
So, I think that we need to be talking about what we would prefer to happen and not accept the traditional sombre Victorian black funeral derived from a standard Church of England service or a Catholic mass. I think that all funerals should be about celebrating the person and include their lifestory and thoughts and memories of them from family and friends. There should be some humour in funerals as there is in life. A good funeral will include laughter as well as tears and sadness. Those attending should learn something new about the person who had died – their home and family life as well as well as their work life and their social life and interests.
It is good to hear about the person from different perspectives from spouses, children and grandchildren, colleagues and friends. It is often said to me that the person who has died would have appreciated the service. The obvious response is that we should be holding such dedication ceremonies while people are alive! I like to collect memorable phrases from funerals that I call ‘Oh bits from obits’ eg “ After father died mother and I enlisted in the Indian Army in Gwalia”. or “When Lawrence was told by his instructor to get a feel for the pedals he duly went down on his knees to touch them” ‘Oh bits from obits’.
I hope that some of you are ready to start the conversation on last things. So, Silversurfers let’s get creative, have fun and get talking about how you want your final fling.
When I saw this crazy gimmicky pool which is part of the Battersea/Nine Elms development I checked out these two letters from 1987 from my archives which I had retrieved for the 1000 Londoners film crew. www.1000londoners.com/londoners/jeanne-rathbone/
These letters are from 1987 when I served on two somewhat farcical and short-lived committees organised by Wandsworth Council Planning Department which related to two community committees for the Battersea Power Station site.They had long titles.
BATTERSEA POWER STATION
PROPOSED LEISURE AND ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE
COMMUNITY SPACE STEERING GROUP and the other was
The Community Space Steering Group letter
Battersea in Perspective Mural by Brian Barnes
We used to joke about where our COMMUNITY SPACE was going to be – attached to one of the walls or suspended between the chimneys
I recalled getting a call from Ernest Rodker who said: ‘ I am ringing about Battersea Power Station’ and I thought he was going to suggest that we should occupy it. I said:’Ernest, we could never heat the place’.
Margaret Thatcher Foundation
Remarks re-naming Battersea Power Station | Margaret Thatcher …
Thatcher’s laser launch
Mrs Margaret Thatcher sparked a four-engine fire alarm yesterday at the naming of the project to redevelop Battersea Power Station, south London, as the biggest tourist attraction in Europe.
Armed with the biggest laser gun in Britain, she fired a beam which detonated two mid-air maroons and dropped a white curtain to reveal the building’s new name, picked out in flame, while purple smoke plumes billowed from two of the 337 ft chimneys.
The explosions caused four fire engines, a fire boat, an emergency rescue tender and several ambulances to race to the scene after 999 calls from alarmed local residents.
The power station, styled by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, is the biggest brick building in the world. Its main hall could accommodate a 22-storey building or engulf St Paul’s Cathedral with ease.
Mr John Broome, chairman of the Alton Towers leisure park, north Staffordshire, has taken five years since the power station closed to develop his scheme for its regeneration.
When completed in 1990 it will include 200 rides, shows and exhibitions, London‘s biggest ice rink, restaurants, shops and conference facilities.
Outside there will be acres of pleasure gardens and “white knuckle” rides. The complex will be linked by windowless bullet trains to Victoria Station.
Mrs Thatcher, wearing a white helmet, toured the eight floors of the gutted building, appearing on rusty iron platforms and plywood walkways high above her audience.
She earlier hailed Mr Broome as a man of enterprise and vision. However, just as she was saying that the building could contain 500 jumbo jets, one passed unhelpfully overhead.
Suggestions for the name of the building have included Alton Towers II, Tower Inferno, the Battersea Powerhouse and South Chelsea Fun Palace. However, in spite of the flamboyance of the launch, it is to be known simply as The Battersea, London.
Mr Broome promised that his project, already employing 1,000 on site and 4,500 jobs in future, would be opened at 2.30pm on May 21, 1990.
Mrs Thatcher said: “We have seen the past today. We will be back again in two years time to see the future.”
When completed in 1990 it will include 200 rides, shows and exhibitions, London’s biggest ice rink. The complex will be linked by windowless bullet trains to Victoria Station.
Suggestions for the name of the building have included Alton Towers II, Tower Inferno, the Battersea Powerhouse and South Chelsea Fun Palace. However, in spite of the flamboyance of the launch, it is to be known simply as The Battersea, London.
Mrs Thatcher said: “We have seen the past today. We will be back again in two years time to see the future.”
Mrs T never did come back to see the future of that fantasy scenario.
We do need some public artworks in Battersea/Nine Elms that commemorate Battersea’s radical political and social history. We need to remember the amazing, long-lived and indomitable Charlotte Despard who was aPoor Law Guardian and who was so committed to the poor of Nine Elms which had a large Irish population as she opened her two homes at 99 Wandsworth Road and 2 Currie Steet as canteen, youth club, classes and a nurse. One of her biographer’s Andro Linklater tagged her as Socilaist, Suffragette and Sinn Feiner. She was a tireless suffragette who endured prison sentences, an anti- fascist campaigner, a pacifist, she was anti-vivisection, a vegetarian and after her time in the Republic of Ireland after the civil war went to Belfast where she died aged 95.
Other Battersea notables people included Albert Mansbridge, founder of the Workers Education Association, John Archer, Thomas Brogan, Walter Rines – first Balck London Mayor in 1913, first Irish Nationalist Catholic Mayor in 1912 and tailor to the King and PM Chamberlain in 1905 the latter featured in a Californian newspaper. Caroline Ganley, a working class women, was first elected as councillors in the 1920s, became MP for Battersea in 1945-1951, the only serving MP to celebrate with her husband her 50th wedding anniversary in the House of Comons, became President of the London Coop, served as a JP, continued as a Councillor in Battersea till it was abolished in 1965 when she was 85 years old.
Battersea’s radical socialist heritage of first ‘direct works’ building, maternity hospital, own electricity generation etc along with our industrial heritage should be remembered and honoured by signage and public sculpting, mosaics and murals in this regeneration.
So, come all you developers and celebrate the wonderful heritage of Battersea and eschew the extravagant, vanity projects like the garden bridge and commission artists to honour and commemorate those great pioneers and characters of Battersea and what has been obliterated of our past.
Here is a video of me from 1000 Londoners produced by Chocolate Films. I had encountered Chocolate Films when they screened The optimist of Nine Elms from 1973 which starred Peter Sellers and was followed by a fascinating Q&A with the director Anthony Simmons
It was very enjoyable working with the young film makers most of whom were A level students. Although this is part of the 1000 Londoners it is also part of their NINE ELMS past and present. Number 96 is of Brian Barnes, Battersea’s own muralist and fellow campaigner concerned with Battersea’s heritage.
Chocolate Films organised an outdoor pop up cinema on Saturday 19th September in the evening of the morning that we had the unveiling of the plaque to Hilda Hewlett.
The large inflatable screen was showing a still of Brian Barnes mural ‘Battersea in Perspective’ which, of course, featured Hilda and and one of the planes from 1911 when she had her gained her pilot’s licence – the first British women to do so.
It was a balmy evening with a purple/pink sky. I was interviewed again about the campaigning then and now. I said I don’t like the word apathy to explain disengagement and feelings of powerlessness.
One obvious difference is the use of technology and videos. I mentioned the recent engagement of young people in the Scottish and Irish referenda and the JC election as Labour leader a reason for hope and referred to the Suffragettes and Femen tactics.
Met Sumi Tikaram at both events.
There were the 4 local 1000Londoners films of Brian, Gabriel, Ted and Jeanne. Then after interviews the London Calling shorts- interesting, moving but subjects were nearly all male. The Two Dosas was very funny.
We finished a busy but interesting day with a drink at the Duchess which is opposite the Power Station which is usually quiet on a Saturday – only us three and had a lovely chat with the two bar women.
Anna Parnell is one of my favourite Irish Nationalist heros along with Hanna Sheehy Skeffington. We went to a play entitled The Ladies Cage in 2007 in the Finborough Theatre which was about Anna and women’s role in Irish political life at that time. The title referred to her regular bulletin to the Celtic Monthly of her visits to the Ladies’ gallery in the House of Commons when she lived in London for a spell studying art and at the time her brother Charles had become MP for Meath. The play was by a group called Scary Little Girls and the play written by Maureen McManus with input from Margaret Ward, Irish women’s historian. We enjoyed the play and as I was leaving the theatre I noticed Mike Leigh beside me and I asked him if it gave him any ideas for a film!
As usual I have used various sources for this post. This is from Anna Parnell – Our Wicklow Heritage
Anna Parnell was born at Avondale near Rathdrum on 13 May 1852, the tenth of eleven children of John Henry and Delia Parnell. Her father died suddenly when she was seven years old, and the Parnells found themselves in much reduced circumstances. The heavily indebted Avondale estate, inherited by Anna’s thirteen-year old brother Charles Stewart Parnell, was let, while the family moved to a series of rented homes.
Like most girls of their class at the time, Anna and her elder sister Fanny were educated at home by a succession of governesses. They were, however, fortunate in that their American mother permitted a degree of independence rare at the time, and both girls were encouraged to read widely and to pursue their studies in literature, history and politics. In particular, Anna and Fanny shared with Charles a keen interest in Irish nationalism, and at the age of sixteen Fanny published her first poems in the Fenian newspaper, the Irish People. She became a prolific author of verse, much of it on patriotic themes, and her most famous poem, ‘Hold the harvest’, published in 1880, was described as the ‘Marseillaise of the Irish peasant.’ However, her health was poor and, though politically committed, much of her short life was spent out of Ireland.
New York Ladies’ Land League
With the outbreak of the Land War, Anna moved from being an observer of political events to a participant. The Irish National Land League was founded in 1879, with Parnell as president, and the aim of securing ‘the land of Ireland for the people of Ireland’ by a programme of peaceful and constitutional action. In the short term, however, a series of poor harvests and falling agricultural prices left many tenants facing eviction for non-payment of rent, and in 1880 Parnell arrived in New York to seek Irish-American support for the campaign and to relieve hardship. Anna and her sister Fanny were already in the US, and immediately threw themselves into the effort, working closely with Michael Davitt, the Land League’s secretary and principal organiser. In an effort to maximise American support, Fanny decided to establish a women’s league, and in October 1880 the New York Ladies’ Land League was founded, with Delia Parnell as president, and Anna and Fanny spearheading a successful campaign which raised thousands of dollars for transmission to Ireland.
The Ladies’ Land League
In late 1880 Anna returned to Dublin, where the expectation was that the government would shortly take the decision to imprison the leaders of the Land League. Inspired by the example of the American women’s organisation, Davitt proposed to establish a similar body in Ireland, which would keep the agitation alive and distribute grants to evicted tenants and their families. With some reluctance, Parnell and the other leaders agreed, and on 31 January 1881 the Ladies’ Irish National Land League was founded, with Anna Parnell as its effective leader. When arrests began shortly afterwards, the Ladies’ Land League set about its appointed task of processing applications, supplying money for relief purposes and distributing literature. Finding the Land League records to be deplorably kept, the women compiled their own ‘Book of Kells’, with detailed information on every Irish estate, described by Davitt as ‘the most perfect system that can be imagined.’ In spite of the male executive’s ambivalence and criticism from some Catholic church leaders and many newspapers, numbers grew rapidly, with more than five hundred branches of the Ladies’ Land League throughout Ireland by the beginning of 1882. Members included the poet Katherine Tynan and eighteen-year old Jennie O’Toole from Baltinglass, who as Jennie Wyse Power would play a leading part in the nationalist movement and in the early years of the Irish Free State.
In October 1881 Parnell himself was arrested together with most of the leaders of the Land League, and in retaliation issued the No Rent manifesto. The Ladies, who had not been consulted about this move, were faced with the prospect of trying to enforce a policy which had little chance of success, but they soldiered on, assisting evicted tenants and their families, organising the provision of huts in which they could be housed, and providing for growing numbers of male prisoners and their dependents. In December the Ladies’ Land League was also suppressed and a number of their members were arrested and imprisoned, but the ban failed to end their activities: as the nationalist United Ireland pointed out, while the men of the Land League had ‘melted away and vanished the moment Mr Forster’s policemen shook their batons’, the women ‘met persecution by extending their organisation and doubling their activity and triumphing.’
As the campaign dragged on, relations between the Ladies and the Land League worsened. With evictions giving rise to widespread agrarian violence, Parnell’s need to reach a resolution with Gladstone became more pressing, and in April 1882 he and the other leaders were released from gaol as part of an agreement to end the agitation. Shortly afterwards the Ladies’ Land League, disillusioned by the outcome of the campaign, expressed its wish to disband, and after prolonged wrangling succeeded in doing so. The gulf between the Land League and the Ladies was epitomised by the estrangement between Anna and her brother which lasted until his death ten years later. According to his wife, Parnell regretted the breach, and tried unsuccessfully on a number of occasions to repair it, but Anna ignored his letters and refused to acknowledge him when they met accidentally. After his death, however, she did write to the Irish Times to object to the choice of Glasnevin as his burial place: his body ‘belonged to the Irish people’, she said, only if their having killed him gave them a title to it.
Her sister Fanny’s death in July 1882, combined with the stress of the campaign and its aftermath, left Anna in a state of physical and nervous collapse, from which she did not recover for several months. For the rest of her life, she lived mainly in England, sometimes under a false name and at times in considerable poverty. Although she remained in contact with former Ladies, such as Jennie Wyse Power, she played little part in nationalist politics, and the response when she did campaign for the Sinn Fein candidate in North Leitrim in 1908 persuaded her that ‘the character of Irishmen is at present incompatible with any great change for the better in Ireland.’ However, Michael Davitt’s charge, in The fall of feudalism in Ireland, that the Ladies had encouraged agrarian violence, galvanised her to produce her own account of the Land League years, The tale of a great sham. In it she argued that the Land League in fact failed in its objective by neglecting to pursue the No Rent Manifesto to its logical conclusion. She also complained about the hostility of the Land League leaders towards the Ladies throughout the campaign: regarding the women as subservient assistants rather than equal partners, they had relied on them to carry on Land League policies in their absence while seeking to reassert control over them as soon as this should become practicable. Failing to find a publisher for her work, she entrusted the manuscript to Helena Molony, editor of the nationalist woman’s paper Bean na h-Eireann. Molony, too, was unable to get the work published, and in the upheavals which followed, the parcel disappeared from view.
Death and reputation
In 1910 Anna moved to Ilfracombe in Devon. On 20 September 1911 she accidentally drowned while swimming, and was buried in the churchyard there a few days later. Her passing received little attention: as Katherine Tynan wrote a few years later, ‘her life ought to have been written, for she was a great woman, and yet I think that she herself would have preferred that her name be writ in water.’ And so, for many years, it was. The centenary of the Land League in 1979 passed with scarcely a mention of Anna Parnell, and it was not until the publication – finally – in 1986 of the rediscovered Tale of a great sham that a reassessment was possible of a woman regarded by some contemporaries as the equal in ability and judgement of her celebrated brother, and without question a central figure at a pivotal moment in Irish history.
History Ireland Irelands History Magazine.
by Danae O’Regan, a post-graduate student of Irish Studies at Bath College of Higher Education.
Anna’s League was not merely a fund-raising organisation but a militant force. She trained rural women to come out of their homes and play an active role in withholding rent, boycotting, and resisting eviction. When resistance failed she organised the provision of temporary housing and support for those evicted. She also provided support for Land League prisoners and their families. The women of the League faced hostility on all sides, from government forces, the church, the press, and probably, indeed, from most of their contemporaries, but Michael Davitt was to say in The Fall of Feudalism in Ireland (1904): ‘Everything recommended, attempted, or done in the way of defeating the ordinary law and asserting the unwritten law of the League…was more systematically carried out under the direction of the ladies’ executive than by its predecessor’. But their success had its disadvantages. Anna’s methods were exceedingly expensive and funds were running low. Rural violence had increased to such an extent that the British government began to panic. Irish politicians began to see the activities of the women as a danger to their long-term plans. Finally, as part of the Kilmainham Treaty, Charles Parnell agreed to do away with the League. In 1882 it was dissolved. Anna never again had any communication with her brother.
The images that have survived
Anna had become a modern, militant woman activist. But this was not what the nineteenth century wanted of a woman. When she disappeared from politics her male colleagues must have given a sigh of relief, and society quickly forgot her.
Social attitudes have now reversed. Anna has taken over the role of heroine for our times, and Fanny has been moved to the sidelines. In a way one can see that these Parnell sisters mark a watershed for women in the political sphere. Both were equally effective activists in their different ways, both were probably equally important to the work of the Land League, and the two types of female action they represent continued into the twentieth century. Times were, however, changing. The traditional philanthropic middle class woman, of which Fanny was an outstanding example, did not disappear, but it is Anna, prepared to challenge authority, break down barriers between male and female spheres of public life, and pave the way for radical change, who speaks to us most clearly today.
Adrian Mulligan The Ladies Land League and the development of Irish Nationalism. The crucial role they played has been at best relegated to a historic footnote ignoring the history of poiltical activism by such Irish women contributes to a situation today in which they are woefully under-represented in the Republic of Ireland , as evidenced for example by the fact that of 166 TDs most recently elected only 21 are women.
I found this strange piece by St John Ervine (1883-1971) published in 1925. He had a particular hatred for Delia Parnell and accused her of being the source of her children’s antipathy to England and English domination of Ireland.He was a playwirght, biographer and critic from a working class Belfast who was a socialist Home Ruler in his youth and friend of fellow Fabian George Bernard Shaw but became a rabid Unionist in later years. He had a plaque commemorating him in East Belfast March this year.
Parnell: His Family by St John Ervine Published by Ernest Benn Ltd, 1925
They had a distinguished ancestry on their father’s side and on their mother’s side, but they had inherited from it a physical weakness and a strongly emotional and morbid nature which impelled some of them dangerously near to lunacy. It was their misfortune that their easily-disturbed minds should have been dominated, during their most impressionable years, by a mother who could give them no better purpose in life than to “hate England,” and was herself mentally unbalanced.
Mr. Barry O’Brien, her son’s biographer, met her in 1896, two years before she died of burns at Avondale. She was then over eighty years of age, and “animated by one fixed idea, a rooted hatred of England; or rather, as she herself put it, of ‘English dominion.’” When Mr. O’Brien enquired of her why her son had such an antipathy to England, she replied, “Why should he not? Have not his ancestors always been opposed to England? My grandfather Tudor fought against the English in the War of Independence. My father fought against the English in the year 1812, and I suppose the Parnells had no great love for them… It was very natural for Charles to dislike the English; but it is not the English whom we dislike, or whom he disliked. We have no objection to the English people; we object to the English dominion. We would not have it in America. Whey should they have it in Ireland? Why are the English so jealous of outside interference in their affairs, and why are they always trying to dip their fingers in everybody’s pie? The English are hated in America for their grasping policy; they are hated everywhere for their arrogance, greed, cant and hypocrisy. No country must have national rights or national aspirations but England. That is the English creed. Well, other people don’t see it; and the English are astonished. They want us all to think they are so goody-goody. They are simply thieves.”
A review by Myles Dungan of Patricia Groves, Petticoat Rebellion – The Anna Parnell Story states:
She was portrayed as the wilful extremist to her brother’s canny pragmatist, the strident harpy to her sister’s gentle poet. For many years it was the fate of Anna Parnell to be compared unfavourably to her tragically short-lived brother and sister, Charles and Fanny. In fact she was, according to Roy Foster, ‘in many ways . . . the most formidable character in the family’. Anna Parnell was principled, resourceful, dogged and, ultimately, disappointed and disillusioned by those who had been happy to capitalise on her indefatigable energy and organisational abilities.
Five people attended her funeral, her family being unaware of her death. Later her sister, Theodosia Paget, erected the headstone and a plaque was placed on it in 2002 by the Parnell society with a quote from Anna: –
- Patricia Groves, Petticoat Rebellion – The Anna Parnell Story, Mercier Press , Cork, 2009.
- A. Parnell, Tale of a Great Sham, Dublin, 1986.
- Jane Côté, Fanny and Anna Parnell: Ireland’s patriot sisters, Gill and Macmillan Publishers, Dublin, 1991.
- Jane Côté & Dana Hearne, Anna Parnell in Mary Cullen & Maria Luddy (eds.)
- Women, power and consciousness, Dublin, 1995
- Danae O’Regan, Anna and Fanny Parnell in History Ireland, Spring 1999.
- Margaret Ward, Unmanageable Revolutionaries: women and Irish nationalism, Pluto Press, London, 1983
London Mayor, and wannabe PM Boris, gushingly extols the Jeremys in his Evening Standard election interview on behalf of the Tory White Boys Network. He cringingly praised Paxman as ‘ a genius’ and saying he is ‘absolutely brilliant. So is Clarkson. Bring back the Jeremys’. It has become ‘de rigeur’ for Tory politticians to show their laddish machismo, as Cameron did, by endorsing the petrolhead misogynist bigot Clarkson. These guys enjoy being called rotweillers and grumpy old men. They see them as terms of endearment. I am nauseated by the adulation of these powerful, over paid middle class, establisment, media figures like this pair of Jeremys.
I had blogged about anti-Irish racism Anti-Irish racism. | Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone and being invited to speak on News Night about it when an Irish maths professor Des MacHale brought out another of his dreadful Irish joke books. His Worst Kerryman Jokes book published by Mercier Press is available on Amazon for 69p.
This was sometime in the 90s when I was still doing my Sheela-na-Gig act. What I am about to reveal is that Paxman is really quite cowardly and was seemingly threatened by this Irish comedienne.
“Anyway, getting back to my anecdote this nutty Professor of Maths from Castlebar has a most nerdy obsession to collate puerile jokes, mainly ethnic and Irish compilations as a sideline probably to ingratiate himself with his students or just to gain attention. He was invited to be a spokesperson in defense of racist/ethnic jokes/humour and given further opportunities for remuneration over and above his salary from the University Of Cork. However, on this occasion he was not available for comment for the Newsnight programme so they invited a Welsh Professor to defend the position that Irish jokes are not racist and me, as a comedian Sheela-na-Gig, to put the opposite view.
As I was invited as a comedian I asked Paxman if I could do two very quick visual gags with an English and Irish reference. In my act I used a novelty penis and made a further gag about how it made me think of the Irish deputy Prime Minister who was called DICK SPRING and for balance I showed the British audience a packet of cigarettes called MAJOR implying the Irish were ‘taking the mickey’ by naming a cigarette packet after John Major the Prime Minister at that time.
When I spoke to Paxman for the briefing he reacted vehemently against this and he put his researchers on ‘handbag duty’ to make sure that I didn’t make a move to reach for my props. Perhaps he doesn’t like to be upstaged or his programme seem to irreverent I was disappointed.
I compared the Irish and the Welsh stereotypes saying that the Irish being portrayed as stupid, drunken, violent and potential terrorists had more serious effects compared to the Welsh being depicted as ‘sheep shaggers’. He got caught in a ‘have you stopped beating your wife’ scenario by having to reply that he didn’t mind at all if he was perceived as a ‘sheep shagger’ !!
I have this abiding memory of Paxman and team viewing me as a potential hijacker and being under surveillance to make sure I didn’t reach for my handbag. Women’s handbags and their contents can be dangerous.
I do hate these powerful interviewers/talk show hosts who play god. Smarmy Gay Byrne with The Late, Late show was my Irish bete noir. Here he is interviewng Fry recently and he looked askance/gobsmacked by the response he got.
I was prompted to do this when I read about the death of that lovely Galway actor Mick Lally who died untimely and suddenly at 64. His family held a Humanist funeral for him. I remember seeing him acting with the Druid Theatre Company in The Coachman which was a tiny space at the back of a hotel in Domnick Street. I had assumed that the Druid founders had come directly from UCG Dram Soc but it transpired that he had acted in Taibhearc na Gaillimhe and was approached by Gary Hynes and Marie Mullen to form Druid.
He was a big man who played, inevitably, those roles reflecting his physique, personality and his blas as a native speaker from Tourmakeady which is a gaeltacht – an Irish speaking area. I encountered his sister Rita many years ago as an activist in the Irish community in London.
We saw him in Wood of the Whispering in 1983.
Garry Hynes writes: Mick Lally was a lion of a man. In the early 1970s, he strode through the streets of Galway with his tawny mane, beard, long coat and growing reputation as an actor and significant member of Galway’s arts/music/pubs/whatever you’re having yourself scene.
Lally attended St Mary’s College in Galway and University College Galway, where he read Irish and history. In extra-curricular time, he acted in the Irish-language college drama society, and won the British and Irish intervarsity boxing championship. He would later comment that acting, even in ensemble, was not unlike being alone in the ring.
From 1969 Lally taught at a vocational school in Tuam, County Galway, meanwhile acting at Galway’s Irish-language theatre, An Taibhdhearc, until in 1975, with Garry Hynes and Marie Mullen, he founded Druid Theatre Company, which transformed the way in which Irish and international, audiences received both classic and contemporary plays. Their first production was a challenging, chthonic reappraisal of JM Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World, in which he played Christy Mahon, revisiting the play in 1979 as Old Mahon and again in 2005 in the DruidSynge celebration of the playwright’s entire canon on stage and film. Druid went on to lead the way in Irish theatre, and forged an international reputation for presenting new and classic works.
Film also claimed Lally’s attention. In 1978 he played opposite Cyril Cusack, Niall Toibin and Donal McCann in Bob Quinn’s Irish-language Poitín; in 1990 with Julie Christie, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Iain Glen in Pat O’Connor’s production of William Trevor’s Fools of Fortune; in 1994 with Albert Finney, Michael Gambon and Brenda Fricker in the Wilde-inspired A Man of No Importance; and in 2004 with Colin Farrell in Oliver Stone’s Alexander. These were cameo roles, complemented by similar TV appearances in James Plunkett’s Strumpet City and Thomas Flanagan’s The Year of the French. His TV portrayal of James Duffy, in Joyce’s story A Painful Case (1984), is regarded as a classic interpretation of a classic character.
I remember him in POITIN as Irish Women In Wandsworth screened this film in a few of the libraries in Wandsworth back in the eighties. Indeed, I had to collect the film from Bob Quinn from the Irish Club in Eaton Square.
I was heartened that his family held a Humanist funeral for him in the Crematorium in Dublin lead by fellow Humanist celebrant Brian Whiteside. By all accounts there were wonderful, honest, poignant and humorous tributes paid to him and his memory. There they could pay proper tribute to him, without the false promise and religious stuff which would have been so wrong for an atheist/humanist who thought religion was codology.
Whenever a Humanist funeral of a well loved and well known person happens in Ireland it will always publicise Humanism and the increasing numbers of good, honest, moral people who reject religion and the supernatural. It helps others to come out as humanist/atheists although it still seems like there is a long way to go as parents still insist on imposing the shameful infant exorcism on their babies when they have them baptised and then won’t withdraw them from the awful Holy Communion/Confession medieval stuff now coated in kitsch mini-Bride/Groom outfits.
Mick was an atheist who did not believe in an afterlife, and in a radio interview, regarded religion as nonsense and “codology”.
Up the Junction screening with Nell Dunn presented by the Battersea Society at the Dyson Building Royal College of Art Battersea Bridge Road 25th February 2015 at 7.30
The Battersea Society is presenting a screening of the film UP THE JUNCTION with Nell Dunn for a Q&A at the Dyson Theatre in The Dyson Building of the Royal college of Art Hester Street/Battersea Bridge Road on Wednesday 25th February 2015 at 7 for 7.30. Admission £5. Great value. Please reserve place by ringing Maureen on 7228 4873 or email email@example.com
Come along and see this iconic and evocative film of life in Battersea in the 60s in Battersea with a Battersea audience with Nell Dunn.
The College has a new, purpose-built campus in Battersea, which houses the School of Fine Art – the Painting, Photography, Printmaking and Sculpture programmes – as well as InnovationRCA and the Moving Image Studio. Dyson Lecture Theatre and River Foyer at Hester Road are accessible via lifts.
It should be an interesting evening with this screening in Battersea of this film made in 1968 usually described as ‘gritty’ with Nell Dunn of the adaption of her book who also wrote the screenplay. Today the film is often fondly remembered by fans of sixties cinema for its south London setting, colorful mod fashions, beehive hairdos, boastful bikers and jazzy psychedelic pop score by Manfred Mann. But UP THE JUNCTION has more to offer viewers besides an abundance of great style and an unforgettable soundtrack.
Nell Dunn left her middle-class home and moved to Battersea where she began to write about the area and the people she encountered there. Some critics understandably accused her of ‘slumming’ after Up the Junction was published but Dunn’s writing is sharp, perceptive and nonjudgmental. She had a wonderful ear for dialogue that painted an intimate portrait of the working-class women she befriended.
Nell Dunn recently wrote a play HOME DEATH Award-winning writer Nell Dunn on her new play, Home Death She wrote Home Death because after the death of her partner Dan at home, she realised that she knew so little about how to comfort and take care of the dying. She began to ask other people, and what she learned she put into the play. The main impetus was curiosity – a desperation to know. This has, of course, very much resonated with those of us involved in death and funerals.
Kimberley Lindbergs wrote: UP THE JUNCTION presents a gritty snapshot of postwar Britain. The film adaptation centres around a pretty, well-heeled and naïve 21-year-old woman named Polly (Suzy Kendall) who decides to abandon her swinging lifestyle in Chelsea and move to Battersea. Polly sees poverty stricken Battersea as a kinder and simpler alternative to the posh and pompous world she grew up in but the war torn houses that litter the streets and the ragged faces that occupy them tell us another story.
Director Peter Collinson is probably best known for his classic crime caper THE ITALIAN JOB (1969), which starred Michael Caine. Collinson, who came from a broken home and grew up in an orphanage, was no stranger to poverty and adversity so it’s not surprising that he was drawn to Nell Dunn’s vivid descriptions of life in South London. Dunn was one of the few women writers who came to prominence during the British New Wave, which is often associated with Angry Young Men such as John Osborne, Kingsley Amis, Alan Sillitoe and David Storey.
After getting a humble job at a candy factory, Polly befriends two fun-loving sisters (Adrienne Post and Maureen Lipman) and falls for a working-class lad named Peter (Dennis Waterman).Up The Junction Intro – YouTube
Polly’s innocence, determination and optimism are refreshing to Peter but her sheltered existence has also made Polly somewhat immune to the hardships faced by her less fortunate neighbors and their budding romance is complicated by Peter’s desire to have the kind of luxurious life that Polly happily left behind starring Dennis Waterman, Suzy Kendall, Adrienne Posta, Maureen Lipman and Liz Fraser.
The motorbike clip coming on a fracas.Up The Junction Clip – YouTube
The bigoted landlords, abusive husbands, lack of gainful employment and back alley abortions might not make much of an impact on pretty Polly but the film doesn’t shy away from showing us the bleaker aspects of this poor London borough. The film ends on a downbeat note suggesting that any happiness is hard gained and fleeting no matter what side of the tracks you come from but Polly’s naiveté remains intact.
The Power Station clip . Up The Junction Scene 2 – YouTube
This should be a great evening as the oldies reminisce about Battersea then and the younger folk look amazed at how things have changed – how radical, socialist Battersea became gentrified and and is now a Tory Borough vying with its neighbour Westminster Council as it oversees a huge transformation of north Battersea from Nine Elms at Vauxhall back to the Power station site in one of the biggest regeneration sites in Europe.
I worked as a laboratory technician in Gartons Glucose, next to Price’s Candle Factory, in 1966 and have seen those changes too as I arrived from Ireland initially in 1962. Price’s was built on the site of York House, a London home of the Bishop of York and where it has been claimed Henry V111 first met Anne Boleyn.
My friend Joan O’Pray was pregnant in 1967 when Up the Junction was being filmed as she walked through Clapham Junction Station Approach and was asked if she could be filmed walking along as they told her they were making a film about a pregnant woman! However, she didn’t make the final cut but she will be at the screening.
The two women I have chosen as heroines who have inspired and fascinated me are called Anna and Hanna. Anna Parnell and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington both played their parts in Irish history, in the history of women speaking up within a colonised country in its struggle for independence but fighting for autonomy and equality for women within that – always a struggle between nationalism and women’s rights.
Anna, born in 1852 had set up the Ladies Land League so when her brother Charles Parnell MP and other leaders were imprisoned in 1881, as predicted, the Ladies’ Land League took over their work. Offices were given to the women but little help. The women held public meetings and encouraged country women to be active in withholding rent, in boycotting and in resisting evictions. They raised funds for the League and for the support of prisoners and their families. They distributed Land League wooden huts to shelter evicted tenant families and by the beginning of 1882 they had 500 branches, thousands of women members and considerable publicity. Anna, whose nationalist fervor exceeded that of her brother, parted on bad terms with him over politics, and lived the rest of her life in the south of England under an assumed name. She never married.. She wrote an angry account of her Land League experiences in Tale of a Great Sham, which was not published until 1986. She drowned at Ilfracombe, Devon in 1911. Anna’s is a sad story from an earlier time compared to Hanna’s.
Hanna’s life is more documented as she played a pivotal role in Irish history at the time of the struggle for independence and for women’s right to vote and for equality and the name Sheehy-Skeffington is embedded in Irish history as she and her husband Francis were a couple who both fought for women’s equality and he was killed by the British in 1916.
Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington was born Johanna Sheehy on May 27, 1877 in Kanturk, Co. Cork, the first of six surviving children born to David Sheehy and Elizabeth (nee McCoy). The Sheehy’s owned and operated a successful milling business.
Hanna’s father was a staunch Irish Republican who was active in both the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and the Irish Land League, militant organizations opposed to oppressive British rule in Ireland. As a consequence of his activism and outspokenness he was imprisoned on a number of occasions for incitement and sedition. After the abortive IRB Rising in the late 1860′ he fled to the United States to avoid arrest and imprisonment. When things quietened down in the early 1870’s he returned to Ireland. After the “New Departure”(1) of 1879 he became an Irish Parliamentary Party Member of Parliament, first representing south Galway and after that Meath.
In 1887 when Hanna was ten years old the family moved to Dublin where she attended the Dominican Convent in Eccles Street. She was an excellent pupil who demonstrated an innate talent for languages.
When Hanna was 18 she developed symptoms associated with incipient tuberculosis. As German physicians were in the forefront of diagnosing and treating tuberculosis at that time, Hanna was sent to the Rhineland for what was generally a prolonged period of treatment in a sanatorium setting.
After she returned home in 1896 she enrolled at St Mary’s University College in St. Stephens Green to study modern languages, specifically, French and German. St. Mary’s College was established by the Dominicans in 1893 to promote higher education for middle-class Catholic women. As a private Catholic College, St. Mary’s was not granted a royal charter, therefore could not award recognized degrees. In order to graduate she took her final exams at the Royal University of Ireland from whence she received a BA degree in 1899. The Royal University charter enabled Irish students to sit the universities examinations and receive degrees.
After receiving her BA degree Hanna attended University College Dublin (UCD) in pursuit of an MA in modern languages. Part of her studies were conducted in Paris and Bonn. On her return to Dublin in 1902 she was awarded a first class honors MA degree in modern languages.
As a qualified teacher she was employed as on a part time basis at the Dominican Convent school in Eccles Street, the school where she received her secondary education. She soon discovered that as a female lay teacher her career options were limited as the Catholic Church controlled all aspects of Catholic education. All that was available to her and other qualified lay teachers were temporary assignments that ended when a qualified nun appeared to fill the position on a permanent basis. After completing her assignment at the Dominican Convent she continued her career as a teacher of French and German at the Rathmines College of Commerce.
This institutionalized discriminatory situation that she was confronted with while at the Dominican Convent caused her to question the political system that, not alone, tolerated but condoned such blatant gender inequalities. That experience was an awakening of sorts that led her, over the next 8 years, to abandon constitutional nationalism and its institutions in favor of a more radical approach to bring about a more equitable society.
Up until 1912 the focus of the Irish Party and most Irish politicians was in achieving Home Rule without regard to its inequities. The Home Rule charter acceptable to John Redmond and the Irish Party did not include gender equality — women were barred from voting in general elections. By 1912 the “New Departure” initiative of 1879 was coming apart. The IRB, after a period of dormancy, was again re-emerging as a ‘physical force” alternative to the ineffective and flawed constitutional approach.
In 1903 Hanna married Frank Skeffington, a university register. As an expression of equality in all aspects of their relationship they symbolically joined their names to ‘Sheehy Skeffington’ .
Both Hanna and Frank joined Ireland’s only suffrage organization, the Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association. The aim of the organization was to campaign for women’s suffrage and to advance women’s position in local government.
In 1908 Hanna and Frank together with Margaret and James Cousins, set up the Irish Women’s Franchise League (IWFL) as an independent, militant suffrage organization modeled on the British-based Women’s Social and Political Union. It addition to its suffrage underpinning it embraced the labor movement, Irish nationalism and the revival of the Irish culture.
In 1912, the British House of Commons passed a Home Rule Bill for Ireland excluded equal rights for women. Women were denied the right to vote thus denying them the rights of Irish citizenship. On June 12 , 1912, in an act of defiance, members of the IWFL took to the streets smashing windows in Dublin Castle, the United Irish League and other citadel’s of male power. Hanna was adamant that Dublin Castle, the bastion of British power in Ireland , was to be her target. As a result of her actions she was imprisoned for two months in Mountjoy Jail and also lost her teaching job. At a suffrage meeting in Phoenix Park before her imprisonment she stated her actions were in line with the Irish struggle for national freedom. The defiant actions of the women of the IWFL on that day in June of 1912 was the beginning of the decline of John Redmond Irish Parliamentary Party who unequivocally opposed equal rights women.
Hanna was imprisoned for a second time in November of 1913 for an altercation with a member of the British security forces. She went on hunger strike and was released after six days.
Both Hanna and her husband Frank opposed the War in 1914. Frank was imprisoned for protesting the recruitment of the Irish Volunteers that Redmond encouraged, notwithstanding the fact that Home Rule for Ireland, Redmond’s hoped for crowning glory, was set aside by the British at the onset of the 1914 war.
As a committed feminist Hanna was critical of the subservient role of Cumann na mBan to the Irish Volunteers, but, nonetheless, supported their aims. Although she and her husband did not take a direct part in the fighting during Easter Rising of 1916, neither did they stand idly by. She took it upon herself to bring food and messages to the various outposts while her husband Frank tried to stop looting. A declared pacifist Frank was arrested while trying to stop looting, and the following day, Wednesday, was summarily executed by a firing squad on the orders of a British officer. After the Rising Hanna shed any reservations she had regarding the use of physical force to achieve the stated purpose of the Rising — a sovereign Irish Republic that embraced gender equality in a pluralistic society.
Towards the end of 1916 Hanna undertook a tour of the Unites States in response to an invitation from the Friends of Irish Freedom. From January 6, 1917 to June 27, she spoke at over 250 meetings. Her tour started in New York and continued through New England, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, the Pacific Northwest, California and back to again to New York. The theme of her narrative, which, remained consistent throughout her tour, dealt with the evils of British Militarism, the British governments sanction of her husbands murder and Ireland’s just struggle freedom and sovereignty. She raised $40,000 during the tour that she handed over to Michael Collins, who, at that time was the Secretary to the National Aid and Volunteers Dependents Fund.
During her tour the British tried to everything to stop her from speaking. They also tried to prevent her from informing the American public of Britain’s brutality towards their Irish opponents and their blatant disregard for human rights and democratic principles. On her return they tried, but failed, to prevent her from entering Ireland. Shortly after arriving back in Ireland she was arrested and imprisoned with Countess Markievicz, Kathleen Clarke, Maude Gonne in Holloway Jail in London. After starting a hunger strike she was released.
In September 1918 she joined Sinn Fein and shortly afterwards was appointed to its executive In May of the 1919 she was appointed Organizing Secretary primarily responsible for the organization’s propaganda campaign. Her anti-British speeches during the War of Independence caused her to go on the run to avoid arrest and internment.
In 1920 Hanna was elected to the Dublin Corporation serving on the Technical Education Committee and the Public Libraries Committee. She also acted as judge in the Republican courts in south Dublin and was hired as a French teacher at the Technical Institute in Dun Laoghaire.
After the Anglo-Irish truce was signed to stop the fighting in July of 1921, Hanna played a prominent role, as an intermediary, in the peace negotiations between de Valera, President of Dail Eireann and Lloyd George the British prime minister. Despite her involvement in the negotiations she and the women of Cumann na mBan opposed the subsequent Anglo-Irish Treaty, the establishment of the Free State, the partition of Ireland and the Oath of Allegiance to the English King.
At the onset of the Civil War in April 1922, Hanna and other Republican women tried, unsuccessfully, to stop the fighting. Despite her aversion to war she supported the Republicans who continued to struggle for the Republic proclaimed in 1916. At the request of De Valera she undertook a second tour of the United States which lasted from October of 1922 to May of 1923. During that tour she, together with Linda Kearns and Kathleen Boland, visited 23 states raising funds on behalf of the American Committee of Irish Republican Soldiers and Prisoner’s Dependant Fund. The women who crisscrossed the country raised $123,000.
After the Civil War she was barred from teaching because she sided with the Republicans and refused to swear allegiance to the English king.
The British buttressed Free State government that took over in 1923 was misogynistic, anti-republican and opportunistic. The brutality directed at women opponents during the Civil War far exceeded that meted out by the British during the War of Independence. There was no place in the dominion state for those who supported or fought for the Republic proclaimed in 1916.
In 1925 Hanna was elected to the Dublin County Council where she served alongside other republicans women including Constance Markievicz and Dr Kathleen Lynn. She also worked with the Women’s Prisoners Defense League founded by Maude Gonne to help Republican prisoners and their families.
In 1926, her desire to better challenge Cumann na nGaedheal, the Free State party in power, overcame her trepidation to join the executive the newly formed Fianna Fail party headed by de Valera whose apathy towards women was no secret. Uncomfortable from the onset for having joined she took the opportunity to resign when De Valera proposed that newly elected TD take the Oath of Allegiance to the English king in order to enter the Dail. After that she threw her support to the republican cause helping to edit An Phoblacht. When An Phoblacht was suppressed by the Free State she single-handedly published the Republican File.
Hanna considered the Fianna Fail led government that took over 1932 to be more theocratic than democratic, provincial in its outlook and buoyed by censorship fear. She was a leading opponent of De Valera and Bishop John McQuad’s constitution of 1937 that essentially relegated the role of women to kitchen duties. In 1933 she was imprisoned for a month by the Unionist government for crossing the border to speak on behalf of republican women prisoners.
Hanna continued to deliver speeches in Ireland, Canada and the United States and made her living as a journalist, writing about independence, suffrage and feminism. She visited the USSR in 1930 with another women I greatly admire Charlotte Despard who is much associated with Battersea and was the Labour candidate here in 1918.
Hanna died in 1946 on Easter Saturday 20 April leaving a legacy of sacrifice, bravery and a list of achievements befitting of a true Irish hero.
In a lecture at UCD Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington remembered – History Ireland in 1996 her daughter-in-law Andrée recalled Hanna with great affection: ‘She was very helpful, but she could also be quietly critical. When I told her that I and some friends were forming the Irish Housewives Associations she said, “You’re not wedded to the house, you know!”’.
Andrée remembered, ‘It was startling to see on her mantelpiece a photo of a British officer in uniform. This was Major Sir Francis Vane, who had ordered an enquiry into the murder of her husband. He did all he could to see that justice was done, and it cost him his position in the British Army’.
Incidentially, her grand daughter Michelene, who is a botanist at NUI Galway, has said she has “struck a blow for all female academics” after the Equality Tribunal found she was discriminated against on gender grounds when she was overlooked for a senior lectureship. 4 NUI Galway ordered to promote lecturer overlooked over … and so the fight continues and her grandmother would, I have no doubt, approved of her actions. She now has a petition Petition · Micheline’s Three Conditions · Change.org DO PLEASE SIGN.
Three leading feminist historians contributed to the event: Margaret MacCurtain, Rosemary Cullen Owens and Margaret Ward, who is writing a biography of Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington. Margaret Ward said her view of Hanna had changed during her research. ‘I think there is an assumption that if you are a feminist, a socialist, an anti-vivisectionist, and you are married to a man who is a strong pacifist, that you too must be a pacifist and not be a nationalist except possibly after 1916. In fact Hanna always had nationalist sympathies, but her starting point in evaluating any situation was, “How would it affect women?”. We need an annual Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington summer school. It would cover so many important things in Irish life: Hanna as an educationalist, Hanna as an inspiration to feminists, Hanna as someone who intervened in nationalist affairs, Hanna and the labour movement. That would be a fitting memorial to her.’
These three have written much about Hanna and admired her and the role she has played in the history of Ireland and Irish women.
Like many republican women, she remained true to her beliefs. She was immune to the lure of power, money or other inducement so enticing to so many her male contemporaries. That is why she is such an inspiration for Irish women who still are fighting the causes for women’s equality and under representation in political life and against the ethos of the patriarchal Catholic church and its terrible legacy of child sexual abuse, of the incarceration of women, forced adoptions, maltreatment in the Magdalen Laundries with the connivance of the government, with the refusal to allow abortion rights etc. We need the inspiration of women like Anna and Hanna to remind us of the long struggle but also the achievements of our fore sisters.