Thursday, December 4, 2014

Update on Irish Advent Calendar in Irish (Gaeilge) and English (Bearla)

There is an online Irish Advent Calendar here:

Story behind this Irish Advent Calendar:

Thanks mostly to my wife, we have enjoyed reading an Advent Calendar every year leading up to Christmas.

Several years ago I got the idea to make an Advent Calendar in Irish. As often happens, I never got around to do anything with the idea.

Yet, I didn't forget the idea.

A year later, maybe more, I mentioned my idea to Pastor Jim and I think to my own pastor, Pastor Karyl. Later, Pastor Karyl, gave me an Advent Calendar that is basically like a trifold card.  I think it's the one that has a baby angel with halo and wings, standing by one lamb and holding another lamb, on the cover. Inside there are conifers behind a scene of animals and cute kids surrounding the baby Jesus in a manger.  There are little doors with animals or sprigs of holly on the doors.  The doors are numbered 1 to 24 and under each opened paper door is a little more of the story in words. Yah, it's very much on the cute side.

How un-tech, eh? A story that unfolds (pun intended) day by day for almost a month.

You might not get the idea until you see the little ones really enjoy opening the doors by number. Hey, at a certain age, this is a big achievement!  

I hope to reach that age again.

In September 2012, I started to translate the calendar's phrases and I wrote my version of the Irish right on the card next to each door.

This created some high emotion when my wife thought I was marking up our family Advent Calendar. Hopefully the two calendars are the same, or I owe my wife a new Advent Calendar . . . in English. I still haven't found the second Advent Calendar card. Hmmm.

Still I knew my translations were pitiful.

Roslyn, Nancy and Jonathan from my online Irish class agreed to help me correct my translations.  I thank them for all their thoughts and hard work.

At about the time the group translation was about to kick off, the thought occurred to me that I wanted to have the English version and Irish version displayed day by day. If I posted or put this Advent Calendar out there, I'd be infringing on the copyright for the version written in English.

I went on a personal crash course on the Advent story, reading different versions of the New Testament Bible and other writings on the Internet.  All this so I could write an original version in English of Advent for use as a calendar.

I learned that the donkey, which everyone is certain is in the story, that Mary rode on from Nazareth to Bethlehem, is not mentioned in the Bible.  Most scholars and others think it makes sense given Mary's advanced stage of pregnancy and the distance, but it's unstated in the Bible.

I also learned there is no inn keeper mentioned.  The statement in the Bible is that there was no room at the inn.  And the Greek word for "inn" might mean "guest room in the back." Some people think that Joseph's whole family was back home for the census, like a government imposed family reunion, and Joseph and Mary came late, so they got to sleep in the room where animals also slept. Either way, Jesus was wrapped and placed in a manger, right?

Speaking of the census, there was a problem with the Greek word for census as it could be translated as "tax."  That and a Jewish scholar thought the purpose of the census was so that a tax could be levied.  A fair number of versions of the Bible say Joseph was going to be Bethlehem to be taxed, don't you know, while most scholars today agree the trip was for a census.  

I feel bad about, that for space reasons and presumably to keep the story devoid of downers and violence, the Advent story in these calendars generally avoids the side plots with Elizabeth bearing John the Baptist and King Herod having all the children in Bethlehem killed.  Still, the good part is that as an adult, that leaves those parts to be discovered and to enrich appreciation of all the characters and the story.

Roslyn helped me polish the Irish translations of this final version and I owe her great thanks.

Ideas that have been proffered to me or have occurred to me:

1. The Facebook version could have art along with the story. Vicki gave a couple of images of her artwork to use. Thanks Vicki! 

If anyone else has original artwork or images to add, please contact me at the e-address below!

2. Frieda said cloth Advent Calendars used to be made in the Pawling Avenue Methodist Church in Troy, New York, USA.  She suggested there could be an Irish Advent Calendar wall hanging.  The wonderful and talented sewers at the Pawling Avenue United Methodist Church sewed several of these and one was gifted to the day care center in the Forthspring Community Center on Springfield Road in Belfast, Ireland.

3. Make this calendar an instrument of peace and reconciliation among the Irish by making the daily messages in three languages: English, Irish (Gaeilge), and Scottish Gaelic. I think the inclusion of all three languages would be very symbolic of the peace that is possible if all the sides of the Irish conflict cooperate. Anyone know of someone fluent in Scottish Gaelic who could help with this project?

4. Possibly this multiple language version could be a book with each page representing a day and having illustrations.

5. A bigger dream would be to make Advent Calendar's in multiple languages wherever there are conflicts between different cultures around the world to spread the message of peace.

So much for my Irish Advent Calendar saga.  If you have an idea of how to spread the Irish Advent Calendar or Advent Calendars elsewhere, leave a comment to this blog, or contact me at shamrockroad(at symbol here) .

Let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas or a merry whatever holiday you celebrate to praise and respect God.

Rod / Ruairí

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Review of "101 Things You Didn't Know about Irish History"

Writing this review of the non-fiction paperback titled, "101 Things You Didn't Know about Irish History," written by Ryan Hackney and Amy Hackney Blackwell, is a challenge.

If I tried to entice readers of this blog with the entertaining facts from the book, I'd be having to say, "Spoiler Alert" all the time.

Still, it is a book you should read.

Before I read the book, I knew some parts of Irish history, but I probably knew "enough to be dangerous," as the saying goes, because I could conflate causes and effects and confuse places and times. So as not to mess it up, I tried not to talk about things I wasn't sure of, and that was most of Ireland's history.

Now, I'm not an expert from reading this book.  One book could never do that. However, I have a better appreciation of the history of Ireland and a handy reference book so I can find the right slot when I'm asked in the future to focus upon any part of Irish history.

I admire that the book deals with the sectarian divides that rend Ireland, especially in Northern Ireland, with even handed explanations and a plethora of facts. Maybe the authors' American perspectives have served them well. Maybe the authors are removed enough from the present day conflicts to sort through all the conflicting Irish viewpoints and stay neutral. Whatever the cause, the result is refreshing.

The coverage of topics is wide and not just about battles and dates. The important persons are all included. However, the common people and a wide range of institutions are related as well. The times discussed vary from the end of the most recent ice age up to the present time at the book's writing (the book's copyright is 2007, and is noted to have been abridged or adapted from the Everything Irish History Book copyrighted 2004 by the same two authors).

The format of the book is helpful.  There are 101 labeled segments or chapters in 236 pages, so the average is a little over 2 pages per segment.  The pages are on the small side, but the fonts are clear.  Reading a segment can definitely be fit into the small spaces of a busy person's day.  Still, the flow of the topics builds, so those who want to read a lot at once won't feel slighted.

There are almost no illustrations.  I think they could have added a particular illustration: a timeline to graphically illustrate the topics discussed in the segments.

My wife says I'm such and engineer, but personally I find the use of bulleted or numbered lists is relatively sparse. The bulleted list on Oliver Cromwell is a devastating indictment.  More use of these lists may have helped organize and relate thoughts.

The mention of the Irish language (Gaeilge) throughout and the inclusion of a very small Primer of the Irish language (and another of Irish Proverbs and Blessings), will help explain to the uninitiated that Ireland has another language from English and a long cultural history.

I would have been okay with a longer book if it expanded he discussion of the Troubles, the peace process, and the modern Irish politics.  Or maybe these authors would do that in a new book?

My final observation is that the entire book, although non-fiction, does show that the authors did inherit the Irish knack for story telling, and there are some doozies they tell. Whether you read it under a fluorescent light in a hotel room or near the glow from a peat fire, enjoy the stories of a real country coming to grips with the past and the future.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Review of "O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare"

On the surface "O Come Ye Back to Ireland:  Our First Year in County Clare" is a book about a married couple moving from New York City to a small farm in the west of Ireland. But on a deeper level it's about the changes in relationships that result from a life changing decision.

At first, the differences in the new place swell in importance. The driving on the "wrong" side of the road. The accents and local expressions.

Then the wetness, the unrelenting wetness slowly drives them crazy.

Slowly, the initial shyness and subsequent openness of their new Irish friends begins to reward their patience.

Still, the missed conveniences and special worlds in New York nag Christine and Niall. The lost excitement of densely populated New York gnaws at them. The variety and ease of food, in the metropolitan center they used to live in, is sorely missed.

Some images of Ireland, formed before they crossed the Atlantic, might not materialize.

Will Niall bond with the land? Could it start with the backbreaking work of cutting, drying, and collecting turf to burn through the long dark winter? Even with expert help, the task appears hopeless to achieve. 

Will Christine always be grinding out the existence that rural life demands? Can she catch up and get ahead enough to produce art strongly connected to the land and its people?

All these quandaries are told in the organic weave of unflinchingly truthful stories.  

Stories are the root core of memoir, but the stories in this book relate the surprises, the connections, the struggles, the disappointments, and the breakthroughs that are as stirring as any great fiction.

If you have an interest in the real Ireland, not just the tourist attractions, you will enjoy this book.

If you may have little or no interest in Ireland, think on this - from the lessons of people of different cultures relating, experiencing the lows and highs of emotion, and finding grace in the face of vast change, you will enjoy this book.

"O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare" Paperback,
 233 pages, a memoir by Niall Williams, Christine Breen
Look for it at your local used or new book store! My store for new books in the USA is Market Block Books.
Other reviews? Goodreads

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ties Between Ireland and America Formed In World War II

I think many Americans tend to think of Ireland in the 19th century as when America and Ireland were most connected because so many Irish came to America in that century.

Perhaps the connections have been forming and reforming as long as America has had European settlement.

Another connection came to light when I had the opportunity to read two copies of articles which were printed in the  area newspapers for Middleboro, Massachusetts, USA.

The articles describe that Alton Logan of Center Street, Middleboro became a celebrity in Carrickfergus, Ireland.  Alton Logan was stationed at Prospect Camp in Carrickfergus in 1942 as an American GI. The Methodist Church ran a canteen at which Alton formed many friendships.  The strength of those friendships was so great that Alton kept in touch by writing to the friends for decades.

After being away for twenty years he revisited Carrickfergus.  That's when he heard there was a plan to build a new church hall.  Alton was so committed to his friends that upon his return to America, he started raising funds among the American GIs he knew had been stationed there.  He gave talks, accompanied by slides and films, to general audiences and raised even more money.

The Methodist Church in Carrickfergus was so appreciative of the funds he sent them, they didn't forget.  Whenever he went back for a visit he was treated as an old friend.  They told him the hall belonged to him as much as any member of the local congregation.

Officials and notables of the Carrickfergus would turn out to greet him.  On one trip with his brother Harold Logan he met with the Mayor and Councillor Sam Murphy, Deputy Mayor and Councillor Charles Johnston, village administrator Geoffrey Gordon, and Methodist Minister David McCune, all of Carrickfergus.

The Church also held a get together to show their appreciation.

And like old friends everywhere they would tease him.  Once he asked for his old room in the Dobbins Inn in Carrickfergus and was told it was reserved already.  When he got there from America, it turned out it had been reserved for him!

Alto Logan was consistently a contributor throughout his life. When age and heart disease started to take their toll, he knit mittens for the children of Middleboro.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


will be appearing at

Celtic Hall, Colonie, NY USA

Thursday, March 13, 2014

7 PM

"Lúnasa are internationally acknowledged as being the finest Irish instrumental band of recent times."

"...  the blend of intelligence, innovation, virtuosity, and passion has brought them to the forefront of Celtic music."

Contact Celtic Hall at (518) 250-5890 for tickets at a discount or pay full price at the door.

Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner

Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner

Saturday, March 15, 2014

4:30 PM to 6:30 PM

520 Pawling Ave., Troy, NY 12180 USA

Use the side entrance on

Woodlawn Ave.

Adults $10
Kids 6-12 $5
5 and Under - Free
Eat in or Take Out

Corned beef and cabbage
Irish soda bread

Tickets are available at the door or call the Pawling Avenue United Methodist Church at

In Honor of St. Patrick's Day

Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh!