“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” St. Matthews Gospel Chapter 7: v 1-2
Regularly we receive requests, mainly from Tipperary expatriates, inviting us to recommend titles to books about Tipperary, its past history and its undoubted scenic beauty.
In relation to our past, one such compelling book comes highly recommended, from the pen of ex-BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith, published some three years ago. It is “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee,” now also about to be launched as a new film directed by Stephen Frears and entitled ‘Philomena.’
In the film version the main role of Philomena Lee, an Irishwoman in her 70′s, is played by the Oscar-winning actress Dame Judi Dench, supported by actor, comedian and producer Steve Coogan.
Both the book and film tell the heart rending story of Anthony Lee, a three year old boy who was born in the mother and baby home, run by the nuns and known as Sean Ross Abbey, here in Roscrea, Co Tipperary. It details in particular the trials of his unwed mother Philomena, who was forced to give up her baby for adoption, a few years after his birth.
At the time of Anthony’s birth, readers must understand that the democratically elected Irish government of the period were paying the church £1 a week for every woman in its care, and two shillings and sixpence for every baby in similar circumstances. This same Irish government, however, were not so generous to the babies born of unwed mothers, who choose to run this gauntlet of assumed shame while remaining outside this prescribed ‘mother and baby home,’ system.
In the 1950′s young unwed mothers were harshly judged by the vast majority of Irish society, not just Roman Catholics. As horrible and tragic as this compelling story will read, one must remember that society, the nuns and the church who undertook this social remedy, did not perceive themselves as evil, instead the motivation behind their actions, while misguided, was mostly seen from the point of view as being for a child’s future betterment.
The girls’ parents, because of perceived social family shame and secrecy, together with these nuns truly believed that these adopted children would possibly be better off with the stability of a two parent family. The nuns firmly believed as did unnecessarily embarrassed families that by hard work in these religious establishments girls would somehow atone for their sexual transgressions and thus redeem themselves morally in their lifetime. Of course these actions undertaken did not take into account the feelings of the mother and child. Both then and even in more recent times, with the church’s role in these adoptions emerging and with much of the incriminating paperwork disappearing in somewhat unexplained circumstances, the church continues to guard itself in its role played in these adoptions.
When she became pregnant as a teenager in the Ireland of 1952, Limerick native Philomena Lee, aged 19, was sent to Sean Ross Abbey convent in Roscrea Co. Tipperary, to be cared for as a ‘fallen,’ woman. Having given birth, she was permitted to care for her new born for three years until the Church took him from her and sold him, like countless others, to America for adoption.
After giving birth, these ‘fallen women,’ mere girls, were allowed to leave the convent, but only if they or their family could afford to pay the nuns £100. Those who couldn’t afford this substantial sum, which were the vast majority, had to leave these girls in the convent for three years, where the latter occupied themselves in kitchens, laundries, greenhouses or making rosary beads and religious artefacts, while the church kept the profits from their labours.
Like all the other girls in similar circumstances, Philomena Lee would be made to sign a ‘Renunciation Document,’ agreeing to give up her son, while swearing on oath: “I relinquish full claim for ever to my child and surrender him to Sister Barbara, Superioress of Sean Ross Abbey. The purpose is to enable Sister Barbara to make my child available for adoption to any person she considers fit and proper, inside or outside the state.” From the end of the Second World War until the 1970s, such oaths would now entitle these children born out of wedlock to be the property of the church and now with or without the consent of their mothers, these babies could be sold. In fact the only condition laid down by the then Archbishop McQuaid was that adopting parents should be acknowledged as fully practising Roman Catholics.
Philomena cried when Anthony was taken from her that Christmas period of 1955. She was not told he was being taken and it was felt that it was in her best interests that she should not be allowed to say goodbye.
Philomena’s son Anthony would now vanish from Ireland; sold to an American couple from St Louis, Missouri, USA, to re-emerge under the adoptive name of Michael Hess. Anthony (Michael Hess) would go on become a Senior Counsel to both the George Bush Snr and Ronald Reagan administrations. Philomena and Anthony, despite much searching for each other, would never be reunited, though both he and his mother visited Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co Tipperary several times over the decades, both individually inquiring about the whereabouts of each other.
Truly a heart rending remarkable true story and a ‘must read‘, for all book lovers in Tipperary and further afield.
Highly recommended as a stocking filler for all those loving dedicated mothers out there, with Christmas just some eight weeks away.
‘The Walking Dead‘ Season 4, shattering all ‘Ratings Records,’ in the US on Sunday night last, attracting some 16.1 million viewers. To Thurles people this will come as no great shock, since at least some of this same acclaim can be attributed to the stunning performance given by a Thurles, Co Tipperary actress, the very lovely Ms Kerry Condon.
(Left pic) Actress Kerry Condon, – Group (L-R) Actors Nick Nolte, Kerry Condon, Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Farina and Tom Payne pictured at the Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, California.
Ms Condon, (Born January 4th, 1983) will be well remembered here in Thurles for her annual talented performances as a teenager in local school plays and her community routines spent as a performer in the now defunct “John Player Tops,” where she took on roles in song and dance routines with others including Una Healy of the Saturdays, in the local Premier Hall in the town.
Ms Condon who was nominated in 2011 for an IFTA for Best Supporting Actress of her portrayal of Grace Thomas in ‘The Runway,’ appears in the ‘The Walking Dead‘ as Clara, a mentally unstable female survivor and character driven to the brink of lunacy, while trying to survive a zombie apocalypse.
‘The Walking Dead,’ Season 4, created by Frank Darabont, based on the popular graphic novel of the same name, follows police sheriff Rick Grimes and a hard pressed small band of survivors, that face the constant daily threat of the flesh-eating ‘Walker,’ is expected to go on air next year on RTÉ Two.
Ms Condon, who won ‘Best Supporting Actress,’ at the 2009 Lucille Lortel Awards for her performance in the Atlantic Theater’s Off-Broadway production of “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” will be even better known for her performance as Octavia in ‘Rome,’ and her other screen characters of course which include Theresa in Frank McCourt’s ‘Angela’s Ashes,’ Masha in ‘The Last Station,’ Rachel in ‘This Must Be The Place,’ the Cafe Waitress in the comedy, romance and crime drama ‘Intermission,’ and Mairead Reilly in ‘Ballykissangel,‘ to name but a few.
Ms Condon we follow your career with pride – well done.
W5, Ireland’s award winning science and discovery centre has acquired the services of Thurles-born model maker Mark Maher for an enchanting new model display called “Once Upon A Christmas.” W5, for those not familiar with this incredible exhibition centre, is part of the Odyssey, Northern Ireland’s Landmark Millennium Project, based in the Abercorn Basin, beside the River Lagan in Belfast.
So what has Mark Maher been getting up to recently. Well Mark has spent the last three years working in New Zealand as special effects artist for none other than Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of “The Hobbit.”
Master model and effects craftsman Mark Maher from Thurles, Co Tipperary
Mark has now been enlisted by W5 for his expertise as a miniature model maker and sculptor to recreate scenes for a brand new Christmas experience, where families will step into a world of ‘fairy tales’ and ‘happily ever afters’ as they stroll round a mythical castle square filled with Christmas ambience in the Odyssey Centre.
Wandering throughout this square will be wonderfully costumed fairytale and storybook characters, both meeting, greeting and posing for photos with all those who visit. To reach this castle square in the centre, visitors will enter through a display of old-style fashioned Christmas windows and discover model sets from six classic children’s books and fairy tales.
Each of these beautifully detailed models have been lovingly created by Mark especially for W5 and will feature scenes from Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Peter Pan, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and The Snow Queen.
Mark has been working on these models at W5 now since July of this year and already some of his work has been described as “simply breathtaking.”
Of course Mark’s other work can be seen on the big screen (Trailer above) when the much anticipated “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” gets its cinema release on December 13th next. In this forthcoming screen episode the Dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf have successfully escaped the Misty Mountains, and Bilbo has gained the One Ring and they will all continue their journey to get their gold back from the Dragon, Smaug.
Visitors can get up close and personal with Mark Maher’s mini masterpieces for W5 when the festive fun starts at the Odyssey centre on Saturday November 23rd next.
Note: This model collection will go on tour as “Once Upon a Fairytale,” later in the year, as it has strong links to the National Curriculum for Literacy and Creativity.
In our everyday busy worlds, sometimes we all need a little reminder of just how well off most of us really are, despite job losses, austerity and a huge reductions in our living standards.
Our video hereunder shows a clip from “No Limbs, No Limits,” a documentary film, shortly to hit our screens, which tells the inspiring story and giving us a glimpse of the extraordinary life of Joanne O’Riordan, from Millstreet, County Cork, narrated by her brother Steven.
Joanne O’Riordan is not just any normal teenager and not because she has no limbs, due to being born with the rare condition Tetra-amelia syndrome.
At just 15 years old, Joanne first shot to fame back in 2011 when she confronted and indeed shamed Taoiseach Enda Kenny into reversing budget cuts to disability allowances. On the very week of her 16th birthday, she spoke at a UN conference in New York on women in technology, receiving a standing ovation. She was the Rehab Young Person of the Year winner at the People of the Year awards in 2012 and has made multiple appearances on the Late Late Show. Today at just 17 years old she is a popular weekly columnist with The Examiner newspaper.
Which brings me next to an important Rehab event taking place here in Thurles on Friday October 11th next. The event is a Table Quiz in aid of RehabCare, Stradavoher, Thurles, which takes place at Skehan’s Bar in Liberty Square.
This quiz begins sharp at 9:00pm so start checking out your current affairs, sport, history, geography and the history of Boybands etc
Tables of four competitors will cost just €20 or €5 each per each competitor taking part.
There will be a host of fabulous Raffle and Spot Prizes on Friday night, including holiday hotel breaks, so please, please do support this very worthy cause, as your assistance is very much required.
A very pleasant comedy drama, entitled “Life’s a Breeze,” centring on a squabbling family on the hunt for their mother’s lost savings of nearly €1,000,000, arrives into Irish cinemas today, July 19th.
Starring, Fionnula Flanagan, Kelly Thornton & Thurles born comedian Pat Shortt, “Life’s a Breeze,” is directed by Lance Daly, offering its audience a viewing duration of some 87 minutes of laughter.
While not scheduled to view in IMC Thurles just yet, this well told story highlights true family relationships when matters of finance and inheritance eventually are forced to take centre stage.
Kelly Thornton plays the role of the 13-year-old schoolgirl Emma, bribed by her lazy easygoing uncle Colm (Pat Shortt) to take her Nan (Fionnula Flanagan) out for the day, so he and other siblings can give her somewhat cluttered Georgian abode a badly needed tidying.
Nan, as you can imagine, finds their interference somewhat unwelcome, and soon informs them that her mattress which had contained her life savings of close to a million Euro has been dumped. The family’s initial disbelief turns quickly to panic, as they devise ways to track down this lost future family fortune.
Uncle Colm makes matters worse by announcing on a radio show that the cash has gone missing and very soon an army of money loving unscrupulous & unprincipled individuals are soon greedily knee-high in recycling waste, searching for Nan’s little nest egg and leaving her family’s chances of recovery even more difficult. Yes and it doesn’t just stop there.
This film is hilariously funny, believable and superbly carried out by three powerful performances from Ireland’s No1 rural character comedian Pat Shortt, acting legend Fionnula Flanagan and newcomer Kelly Thornton, latter who makes her début after being spotted on the street by the film’s casting director.