Paul Healy’s Week

Recently…

I was mowing the lawn recently when a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time drove up. He had a welcome gift.

It’s a few years since Strokestown native Mike Lennon (the visitor in question) told me about a project he was working on ‘behind the scenes’. I’ve known Mike for over 20 years. We worked closely together on the annual Roscommon Yearbook (later ‘Roscommon Life’) and on other publications. He’s alwaysworking on a project (or so it seems).

Mike, a passionate Roscommon man, is extremely generous with his time, utterly meticulous in his research. The writing projects he gets involved in are all welcome and valued additions to the body of work which exists on Roscommon-related issues.

Now Mike has excelled himself. The gift he had for our household was an advance copy of his new book. His gift for us is also a gift to this county, and to future generations (but you can get your own copy!).

His ‘Dictionary of Roscommon Biography’ is an extraordinary publication. Basically it’s a collection of biographies of deceased prominent Roscommon people/people who had significant careers in Roscommon.

There are 5,000 individual entries in a book which spans over 900 pages. It’s a breathtaking publishing achievement, the result of phenomenal research by Mike over many, many years. The book will be a brilliant resource for people for decades to come. Congratulations, Mike! (A launch will be held later this year; further details in forthcoming issues).

 

Friday

 

It can be fascinating to hear (or see) how others view us!

In this instance, the ‘others’ are the good people of the renowned American network NPR (National Public Radio).

NPR recently produced a documentary (called ‘Hello, Neighbour’) which focuses on the Meitheal-like response in Roscommon during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The documentary, a very impressive production, concentrates on how the local community rallied to help the over-70s, that section of our society who abruptly found themselves labelled as ‘cocooners’ when requested by the Government not to leave their own homes.

When NPR heard of the response in Roscommon – and of the emergence of a radio programme specifically aimed at the cocooners – they saw the potential for a documentary.

NPR explained to its vast listenership across America: “People over the age of 70 were considered ‘extremely vulnerable’. They were asked to ‘cocoon’ in their own homes, not to leave for any reason – no shopping for food or even taking a walk. In County Roscommon, with one of the oldest populations in Ireland and the highest percentage of people over 80, neighbours leapt into action, self-organising an all-out effort to keep the ‘cocooned’ following the rules and comfortable at home”.

NPR explained that the outpouring of good neighbourliness went beyond delivering meals and doing people’s shopping – while also creating some unexpected consequences.

“Neighbours took care of people’s ponies and their cars, brought them salmon cutlets and bouquets of cherry blossoms. Whatever it took to keep the cocooned happy and indoors.

“But for many independent older people, used to their freedom and privacy, this kind-hearted but determined takeover of their lives was unsettling. Did everyone suddenly see them as elderly? As vulnerable? And how could they ever return these many favours?”

The documentary highlights a Roscommon Lions Club initiative which led to the creation of ‘The Rossie Way’, a daily programme on RosFM. This programme, presented by Seamus Duke and Dan Dooner, which was aimed at ‘cocooners’, had a positive lifestyle focus, with as little mention of Covid-19 as possible!

‘Hello, Neighbour’ features some excellent, thoughtful contributions from Roscommon Lions Club members and local ‘cocooners’. It’s a beautifully-made documentary and it certainly is an eye-opener in terms of how ‘others’ view our county, our people and our way of life! (It’s all positive).

* You can hear the programme in full if you go to the NPR website.

 

Saturday

 

A documentary on Live Aid (BBC Four) was an engrossing programme, a nostalgic revisiting of an extraordinary day in 1985 when star-studded simultaneous concerts were held in England and America in aid of the famine-stricken in Ethiopia.

Live Aid was the brainchild of the great Bob Geldof, one of a number of contributors to a highly entertaining two-part series. This was a repeat, and sadly some of the contributors, including David Bowie, are no longer around.

The programme brought us back to an epic day when some of the world’s top acts were persuaded by Geldof to sign up to the ambitious (and ultimately very successful) project.

It was poignant to see Billy Connolly, prominent both in ’85 and in this documentary, but now sadly a very ill man. Midge Ure was a humorous contributor (now). As for the flashbacks to ’85, it was obvious (now) that the lads from Status Quo were…eh…very merry. Bono was a pain, Bowie was super, and Freddie Mercury was simply sensational.

What Geldof (now Sir Bob) achieved was amazing. Nice that he was knighted, but it’s a pity that Jack Charlton – oddly – never received that honour.

 

All weekend

 

News on Saturday of the passing of Jack Charlton led to an outpouring of emotional tributes across Ireland and the UK. The former Leeds United and England footballer became an honorary Irishman due to his achievements as Republic of Ireland manager and the immense bond between Charlton and the Irish people.

The Roscommon People has tributes from Seamus Duke (page 16) and Frank Brandon (page 20). Meanwhile, the Barstool Boyos, who have been dealt a blow by the news that the pubs won’t after all be reopening on Monday, muse on Jack’s impact and legacy (page 2). And on page 35, Big Jack is the subject of my ‘Heroes’ series. Thanks for the magical memories, Jack. This nation loved you. Rest in peace.

 

All week

 

As we go to press, it’s all happening on the political front. Last night, Taoiseach Micheál Martin sacked Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen. Today, Dara Calleary was appointed as new Agriculture Minister. Meanwhile, news too (see page 1) that the Government has decided to defer the reopening of pubs and nightclubs (which was meant to take effect next Monday) to the 10th of August.

And, going back to the Cowen saga, the most used phrase amongst politicians/political hacks over the past 24 hours has been: “What changed between 2 pm and 8 pm on Tuesday?”

It’s been a breathless, old-style return to power…by FF!