Category Archives: Sport

Dublin’s Wordy Men

Dublin is famous for many things and over its thousand-year history it saw the building of the first two-chamber parliament (Houses of Commons & Lords) – now the Bank of Ireland, College green – in the 1730s; the construction of the Rotunda by Benjamin Mosse in 1745, which is now the oldest continuously operating maternity hospital in the world, and the production of Guinness, one of the best-known drinks in the world. However, its contribution to the written word is legendary with its three native-born Nobel Laureates for Literature giving it a unique place in history.

WBY - home on Sandymount Avenue

WBY – home on Sandymount Avenue

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was born in Sandymount and is considered one of the foremost of 20th century literature. He studied in London and spent summer holidays with his maternal grandparents in Sligo, a place that he often wrote about. With Lady Augusta Gregory he established the Abbey Theatre, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1923 that cited his ‘inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation.’ Voted as Ireland’s favourite poet his poem Easter 1916, written in the months after the event, capture the mood of the nation at that very tense moment. On the other hand one of his earliest works, Lake Isle of Innisfree (from 1888), a twelve-line written in style of the Celtic Revival that was then becoming popular is still the poem that most people are familiar with:

WBY

WBY

 I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee loud glade.

GB Shaw

GB Shaw

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was born in 33 Synge Street, but went to London where he worked as a theatre critic before starting to  write. He is best known as a playwright (he wrote more than 60 plays) with Man and Superman, Saint Joan and Pygmalion being the most famous. In 1938 a film version of Pygmalion was produced in Hollywood and it won an Oscar for Best Screenplay. He is the first person to have won both a Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar. In 1906 he moved to a house in Ayot St Lawrence, north of London, that late became known as Shaw’ Corner. He spent the rest of his life here and loved nothing more than tending the garden with his wife Charlotte. In 1950 he fell while pruning a tree, and he died shortly afterwards from complications associated with the fall. He was ninety-four! His and Charlotte’s ashes were scattered along the paths and throughout the garden they loved.

Samuel Beckettth

Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett (1913-1989) was born in Foxrock and went to Trinity College. A keen sportsman he is the only Nobel Laureate to have played first class cricket having featured in two matches against Northamptonshire. He was in France when WWII began and fought with the French Resistance and was awarded both the Croix de Guerre and the Medaille de la Resistance. He described his efforts during the war, rather humbly, as ‘boy scout stuff’. He had met James Joyce in Paris in the 1930s and had begun writing before the war began. In 1949, his bleak absurdist play Waiting for Godot was well-received in Paris. When the play was first performed in London in 1955 it was voted ‘the most significant English language play of the 20th century’.  His works consider the tragicomic conditions of life, that often combine a bleakness and minimalism which he captured so well. Beckett was at the forefront of ‘modernist’ writing style and a leading light in the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’. He lived and worked in Paris until he died on 22 December 1989 and he is buried in Montparnasse Cemetery. And on 10th December 2009 the new bridge across the Liffey was named in his honour.

Samuel Beckett BridgeB1

Samuel Beckett Bridge

 

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Oliver St. John Gogarty – A man of many talents

5, Rutland Square

5, Rutland Square

Oliver St John Gogarty was a man of many talents and he was born in 5, Rutland Square (now Parnell Square) on 17th August 1878, the eldest of four children. His father, Henry, was a successful physician and his mother Margaret was from Galway. Henry died when Oliver was eight years old and he was sent to school in Mungret College in Limerick. later, he transferred to Stonyhurst College in Lancashire which he described as ‘a religious jail’. He returned to Ireland in 1896 and studied medicine at the Royal University and Trinity College, and graduated in 1907. Afterwards, he went to Vienna to finish his study and specialised in otolaryngology (Ear, Nose & Throat). His consulting rooms were in Ely Place, and he was a member of staff at the Meath Hospital until he went to America.

He was a keen sportsman and enjoyed cricket, football (he played for Bohemians FC) and a fine swimmer who saved four people from drowning. He wrote poetry and his poem Tailteann Ode won a bronze medal at the 1924 Olympics in Paris. And as a member of the Dublin literary community he was friends with the great and good, including WB Yeats, AE Russell, James Stephens and James Joyce. When Gogarty rented the Martello Tower at Sandycove in 1904 he invited Joyce to stay. Joyce, however,  stayed only a few nights but used the place as the opening scene in Ulysses and immortalised Gogarty in his character Buck Mulligan.

Martello Tower, Sandycove

Martello Tower, Sandycove

A close friend of Arthur Griffith he was an early member of Sinn Fein and became a Senator. In 1922 when Griffith died in early August he performed the autopsy, and he did the same for Michael Collins who died less than two weeks later.

Oliver St. John Gogarty

Oliver St. John Gogarty

In 1917 he and his wife Martha Duane, who was from Galway, bought Renvyle, a large house in Connemara. It was burnt down in 1923 during the Irish Civil War, subsequently rebuilt and operates to this day as Renvyle House. Gogarty had been in the USA since the start of World War II, collapsed and died on a street in New York in 1957. His body was returned to Ireland and he was  buried in Moyard, near Renvyle.

 

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From Kent to Chelsea

Shepherd Neame HQ - Beer Central!

Shepherd Neame HQ – Beer Central!

Although I have often been in a pub, until a few weeks ago I had never visited a brewery. However, while spending a  few days  with my cousin Paschal  in London, we went to Faversham, Kent and spent a few very pleasant hours touring the Shepherd Neame Brewery. It has operated since 1698 and is the country’s oldest brewer – and with beers like Spitfire, Spooks and the wonderfully named Bishop’s Finger (it’s so Carry On!) it would have been rude not to drop in.

We joined  twenty-or-so other visitors and after a short video history of the company we were off. I was elected as ‘Shepherd’ for the visit, making sure that nobody was left behind, or God forbid, fell into a vat (a tonne, actually) of beer. We were taken through the whole process, and it was fascinating to learn how the different roasting procedures (of the barley) could make such unique and distinct flavours. At the end of the tour we were each given six small glasses with a selection of beers and lagers. We sipped, swirled and, of course, swallowed the precious liquid and there was much ‘I like that one,’ comments from those around the tables. And, surprise, surprise I was given a bottle of beer for the ‘demanding work’ (not my words!) as Shepherd. A visit to a brewery and I come away with a free drink – now that’s what I call a result! Cheers.  

Roll out the barrells......

Roll out the barrells…..

Here they come!

Here they come!

 A few days later I was in London and heading towards the Thames, at Albert Bridge, with my friend Don. He had heard about a race Doggett’s Coat & Badge and was keen to see it, and thankfully we had a great day for it.  The sun shone and the breeze was gentle as we leaned over the most attractive bridge on the river  and, like the line of viewers with cameras at the ready, watched the race.

The race dates from 1715, making it the oldest rowing race in the world – the first Cambridge/Oxford Boat Race was not held until 1829! The race begins at London Bridge, passes under 11 bridges, before ending at  Cadogan Pier (a few hundred yards from Albert Bridge). It was conceived and financed by Thomas Doggett (an actor from Dublin) who used to travel along the river between Drury Land Theatre, The City where he worked for many years, and his home in Chelsea. 

Albert Bridge - the prettiest one of all

Albert Bridge – the prettiest one of all

Back then there were only a few bridges across the river and most people had to use the services of a waterman (we would call him a taxi driver) to get across. Legend has it that a waterman rescued Doggett after he fell into the river, but there is, sadly, no definitive proof of this. Anyway, he decided to organise a race (length 4 miles 5 furlongs) and offer the winner a prize of a red  waterman jacket, a large silver badge with the word ‘LIBERTY’ inscribed on it, and some money. Six apprentice watermen were invited to compete, for what has subsequently become a prestigious honour. It has continued to this day with the record winning time of 23 mins and 22 secs set in 1973. The race was usually held on the 1st August in celebration of  the accession of George I in 1714, but is now run on a Friday in July with an incoming tide to help the rowers.

On the day we went there was a big crowd on the river (in three large ‘Gin Palaces’) following the racers and a a few celebrities waited at the finishing line, including Prince Philip. The local Mayor, photographers and TV crews all added to a colourful event that next year will celebrate it’s 300 hundredth anniversary. Well done Thomas.

Winner alright!

Winner alright!

 

 

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Sail On!

DSC02865

Dun Laoghaire harbour

There’s nothing better than a heat wave to get people to the seaside, and the last few days Dublin has experienced just such glorious weather. With temperatures regularly touching 30 degrees I spent a few hours in sun drenched Dun Laoghaire catching some rays and enjoying the regatta. Organisers could not have hoped for better conditions with Dublin Bay a riot  of colourful sails billowing in the warm breeze, and  not a puffy cloud in sight. It was a splendid image – postcard stuff! From early morning to late afternoon boats came and went from the different clubs in the harbour, in what was the most successful regatta in years.

Many people watched the racing from the East Pier which was, not surprisingly, crowded with walkers and sun worshippers. The ice cream seller at the top of the pier was doing a roaring trade, no doubt hoping like the rest of us, for the weather to hang around for a few more days. The weather up until now had been so hit and miss, more miss I would suggest, and the smiling faces everywhere really did lift the soul. Shine on!

DSC02873

Across the bay to Howth

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Golf – now and Zen!

Part 3

 Set of golf clubs

Over the next few days I became aware that I was paying attention to things when I picked them up; my briefcase, a bag of groceries or a bottle of wine. It wasn’t just about their weight anymore as I began to ‘feel’ their existence in my fingertips. It felt as though I was developing another sense, and in a sense I suppose I was. If this was what Zen was talking about then I couldn’t wait to meet him again.

‘And how are you?’ he asked.

I wrung my fingers like a pianist about to play. ‘Good, thanks.’

He grinned. ‘I see you’ve been working – feel different.’

I nodded. ‘Sure does. I feel…better. I’m more aware now about what I have in my hand.’

‘That’s exactly what we’re trying to get, because when we do it will make swinging a club so much better.’ He sounded pleased. ‘Take a club out and let me see your grip.’

I did as he said and carefully wrapped my fingers around the grip of my eight iron. I undid my grip a few times until I was finally comfortable and swung the club easily back and forth a few times.

Zen looked at my hands. ‘Now roll your wrists – left, now right.’

Again I did what he said.

‘Well I don’t see any sign of white knuckles now….that’s an improvement.’ He quickly snatched the club out of my hands. ‘That’s better, much better.’

I was stunned and my face showed it.

‘It’s alright, don’t worry. It just proves the point that I made the last time about holding the club too firmly. If your grip is too strong you cannot really appreciate the nuances of the swing. You might as well be swinging an axe, and we both know that swinging a golf club needs more subtlety than that. Agreed?’

‘Agreed.’

We went to the driving range and with my club Zen made another beautifully, balanced swing. Could I, would I, ever be able to swing that club the way he was doing, was a thought that kept running through my mind as ball after ball fizzed into the blue and straight down the fairway. It was a dream, I knew, but one that was maybe a little closer to achieving with Zen’s guidance. He handed the club back. ‘Ok, it’s your turn.’

I was nervous, but excited.

‘Relax, breathe easily….it’s about control.’

I took a few deep breaths and slowly exhaled. I could feel my pulse slow down and gripped the club the way I had been practising for the last few days. Don’t rush it, I told myself, and looked down the fairway.

Zen smiled encouragement.

I took a last look down the fairway, exhaled and swung.

I don’t really remember what happened next but I felt the club make contact with ball which zoomed off the tee, straight down the fairway before making a big, ugly turn to the left.

‘A bit of a hook that, but otherwise pretty good,’ Zen said when he turned.

‘Thanks,’ I said, my throat suddenly as dry as a bone.

‘Yeah, that was pretty good. And how did it feel…different?’

‘Better…it felt much better.’

‘Excellent, I think I might make a golfer out of you yet.’

It was my turn to smile.

‘What many people do not realise is that in order to play this game properly they have to unlearn certain things.’

Unlearn, what do mean?’

‘Well, just like you have learnt to grip the club lightly in order to improve and increase your feel, that meant unlearning your old grip.’

I nodded, not certain where this was going.

‘It’s all about change and most people do not like change. They fear it and are comfortable with what they know. Others, like you, however, embrace it and grow.’ He checked his watch. ‘I’ve got to go now, but keep that idea in mind until next week.

I practised for almost an hour after Zen had left and wondered, not for the first time, was I getting instruction in golf or philosophy. I wasn’t sure, but Zen was one interesting character and I was determined to learn as much I could from him, and maybe how he got his nickname. Now that was something to think about, I said to myself, as I finally hit a ball that flew straight down the fairway. I was pleased and already looking forward to my next lesson/lecture or whatever with Zen.

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Golf – now and Zen! (part 2)

Continuing my golfing journey under the guidance of my teacher, Zen Hogan, I have been practising hard and looking forward to my next lesson.

Wilson Golf Clubs

My Wilson Golf Clubs

Zen Hogan & the Arc of a Drive r – Part 2

 

After my first meeting with Zen Hogan I was keen to learn and Dad was happy to give me his old clubs. They were Wilson ProStaff and he had used them for years, and kept them in really good condition. ‘Treat them well and they will treat you well,’ he often said as I watched him cleaning and adding a little oil to prevent corrosion. It was a useful lesson and one I appreciated when I took a club into the back garden and practised with it. It looked great; the grip firm and holding and the blade and grooves clean and ready for action. The steel shaft glinted in the sunlight, and I knew when I swung it easily back and forth that I had to do justice to this beautiful club. I wasn’t so sure about feeling some kind of ‘oneness’ as Zen had talked about, but there was definitely something that intrigued me. And I wanted to know more.

I watched some videos that Dad had bought and stood in front of the television and copied the stance and movement of the instructors. The low ceiling prevented any swinging of clubs and I had to go into the garden to practise what I had just seen. I swung back and then forward and tried to feel what was happening. It was interesting but I knew I had a long way to go and looked forward to my next lesson and maybe hitting some balls.

‘That’s looking pretty good,’ said Dad who had come home and was watching me from the kitchen.

‘Thanks,’ I replied.

‘Looks like the beginnings of a swing,’ he added.

‘A thing of beauty,’ I said grinning.

‘I’m not sure about that just yet…but definitely a thing,’ he said and left it at that. He wasn’t one for false praise and I knew that he was happy seeing me practise. ‘Keep at it, son, you’re doing fine.’

I nodded and went back to work wondering all the while what Zen was going to say.

 Zen and I walked to the practise range which, thankfully for me, was empty. ‘I hear that you’ve been practising,’ he said ‘let me see what you’ve got.’

I’m not one to get nervous, usually, but as I reached for my eight-iron I could feel my heart speed up and my breath got tighter. He never said a word but stepped back, and waited.

All the confidence that I had brought with me from the practise in the garden seemed to disappear and I made an ugly, rushed swing. I lost my balance and finished by almost falling forward like some unsteady drunk. It was embarrassing and my only saving grace was that there was no ball involved. It probably wouldn’t have mattered as far as the ball was concerned, as I no doubt would have missed by a country mile. It was horrible and I wondered why fate had conspired to play such a trick on me, and especially in front of Zen.

‘Try again,’ he said calmly ‘and relax. It’s the most important thing to do. Swinging the club and hitting the ball are indeed vital, but if you are not relaxed then nothing can be achieved. Absolutely nothing,’ he added and those words were meant to stick.

I nodded and deep down felt as though I had been let in on some secret. My swing, if that’s what you call it, had been so bad that I expected Zen to turn around and leave me to it. But no, he took out my driver and after a few gentle practise swings swung effortlessly and finished perfectly poised like a ballerina. I marvelled yet again at his easy grace and wondered if I could ever get close to being like that. It was a pipe dream, of course, but something that looked so good I was willing to put in some work to see how far I could go.

‘Let me see your grip,’ Zen said and reached down to see my hands.

My hands moved back and forth as he moved the club. ‘You grip the club too hard,’ said ‘it’s much too strong. When you do that you cannot feel the club as anything other than a weapon in your hands and not an extension.’ He pulled the club but I did not it go.

‘Extension, what do you mean?’

He grinned and shook his head. ‘Last time I said that the swing is about a ‘oneness’ – do you remember?’

‘Yes,’ I replied, the word thick in my dry throat.

‘Well, it seems that you have not appreciated what I meant. And what I mean is this’ he added ‘is that you and the club need to work together otherwise you have no chance.’

What was he talking about? ‘I was working with the club,’ I said but not sure it that was the answer.

‘Of course you were, but not the way you should. You need to hold it, of course, but not strangle it like you did. Doing that means that your focus is on holding the club tightly and not on swinging it correctly. You cannot do both things.’

I was flummoxed. ‘Can you show me, please?’

Zen stepped closer and rested the club in his palms and then wrapped his fingers carefully around the grip. ‘Now pull it away from me,’ he said.  

I grabbed the club and pulled it free.

‘You see, now. I was not able to do that when you held the club. It was too strong and most importantly lacked feel.’

‘Feel?’

‘Yes, feel. Just like the feeling in your fingertips you should be able to feel the club at all times. Then it’s an extension of your hand and this, believe me, is what you need to get. Ok?’

I could feel my grip loosen and how much better it felt. Yes, I did believe and watched as Zen took a few more swings, each one a copy of the one before and each one a thing of beauty.

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Golf – now and Zen!

My story of getting into and learning golf was unexpected. Like many things that one does not plan for mySet of golf clubs opportunity came when my father’s game improved hugely (in hs eyes!) and he persuaded me to take some lessons at his club. He had been helped by a new member, Daniel ‘Zen’ Hogan, who was a retired surgeon and brilliant golfer. I learned much from this man and not only about playing golf, for he was a great story-teller and wonderful human being. Along my journey there were plenty of ups and downs, humour and many wise words to take in. This is the first instalment, so if you are ready, read on…and don’t forget to keep your head down!

Zen Hogan and the Arc of a Driver.

 

‘It’s a thing of beauty, son,’ my father said ‘a real thing of beauty.’ How often did I hear my father say these words in the garden as he waggled his golf club back and forth before making a swing? Countless is the answer and he always had a little smile on his face as he did. ‘If you’re going to play golf you’ll have to get lessons from him,’ he said ‘it’s the only way.’

            Dad had always been a good golfer with a handicap of around 11 or 12, and, like others, was keen to improve. But it wasn’t until he met his mentor that his game took a giant leap forward and he seemed to find something. At the time I didn’t know what it was but he certainly was calmer about stuff and life was better. For him and all of us.

            I liked sports but couldn’t really decide on what I liked best; tennis was fun, especially doubles when my partner was okay; football was competitive but players were sometimes unnecessarily abusive, and rugby, well, that was too damned dangerous with scrums collapsing and the thought of a broken neck too much to consider. So I eventually, to my father’s great delight, agreed to take some lessons at the golf club and he arranged for me to meet the man with a swing that was ‘a thing of beauty.’

You don’t always remember meeting somebody for the first time, but when I shook hands with Zen Hogan I knew I would never forget it. He was tall and elegant, a little over six feet, and his dark hair was short and neatly combed. He smiled, no maybe it was a grin, when we met and nodded to my father that his work was done.

‘So you want to learn how to play,’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ I replied, immediately aware that he did not mention the word golf. That was different, I thought, and was intrigued.

Now he definitely grinned.

‘Good. And if you are to play, and play well, you must first understand that you have to learn what to do…and do it.’ He raised his brow, questioning.

I nodded, but not sure why, and waited.

‘This game is about you and to know the game is to know about yourself. I can show you what you need to know and you must practise and then find it. It is a journey and the more you put into it the more you will get from it. You will learn about you can do and realise that there is always something to learn. And that in a nutshell is it.’

I didn’t know what to say and just nodded my head, again.

‘Good, now this is where I want to take you,’ he said and leaned down, placed a tee in the ground and placed a ball on it. He stepped back, waggled his driver a few times and was ready. ‘Straight down the middle,’ he said calmly and pointed right down the fairway.

‘Sure,’ I said suddenly trying to keep the excitement from my voice.

Zen stood over the ball, breathed out a few times, took a last look down the fairway, and swung the club. I remember it now in slow motion and I still get a chill. The club came back evenly, not too fast, and at the top of his swing there was the slightest pause, before he began his downswing. His hips moved forward and then the club came whizzing along on a perfect arc before he hit the ball. Bang! The ball rocketed away, a speeding white bullet against the blue canvas above. He finished perfectly balanced with the club around his shoulder and watching the ball as it soared before landing, of course, in the middle of the fairway about three hundred yards away.

I was dumbstruck and felt my mouth fall open. I had seen players do this sort of thing on television but I never expected this. It was unforgettable.

‘You see, it’s easy,’ he said and tapped the club on the ground. ‘It’s you and the club, it’s about oneness.’

I could only nod, but had no idea what he meant. But I did know that I wanted to find out more about this ‘oneness’ thing.

‘That’s all for today. I just wanted to let you see what you can do, and next time we’ll begin.’

We shook hands and all the way home I couldn’t wait until the next time when I could see and learn from Zen Hogan and the arc of a driver.

 

 

           

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