My earliest memories of St Steven's day would certainly include the 'wren' or 'wran' boys coming around to the doors of the houses early in the morning. You would first hear them at the neighbouring houses, getting louder and louder until the racket would arrive at our door. I call it a racket because they would beat out the time of the song on the front door with a large bunch of ivy. The song they sang in my part of Cork was quite often unrecognisable but quite often went like this:
The wran the wran the king of all birds,
Up in the holly and ivy tree,
Whether its big or whether its small,
Give us a copper and we'll leave ye alone.
Knock at the knocker,
Ring at the bell,
Give us a copper,
For singing so well.
In our lane one house was always avoided, as the woman of the house was well known for emptying the contents of a chamber pot out of the upstairs window over the unwelcome callers. She became known locally as 'Molly Chamberpots'.
I see Ireland like a living entity; a mother who provides for her children with all that they need. However, like all petulant children we don't always choose that which is good for us, but instead follow our own whims. We make foolish choices based upon the predatory suggestions of bigger children abroad, then blame each other when everything goes pear shaped. Like the children of any family, there will be amongst the children of Ireland disagreements and sibling rivalry, there will be fallings-out and even estrangements.
In these turbulent times, we must put an end to the blame and accusations, and putting aside the old discordances of the past, we need to unite in the rebuilding of this nation - this family of Ireland.
I watch in sadness as our leaders spend more time on recrimination than on showing the example of positivity. I watch in frustration the greed of financial speculators, as they try and squeeze the last drop from the tit of our Mother Ireland. And then I watch in pride the entrepreneurial spirit of those who, struggling against great odds in these troubled times, start up businesses and enterprises in the cities, towns, villages and parishes throughout this land. These men and women are the true heroes of our time. These men and women are our true leaders.
Ireland is indeed a living entity and I am proud to be one of Her children.
If you were to ask me what my ideal woman would be, it would not take me long to reflect; for my answer would be the same as it would had you asked me about a man. A woman, like a man, is a fellow human being - a person. Therefore, my ideal person is one of honour and courage; a person who is trustworthy and idealistic. While I may have preferences as to physical characteristics, these are secondary and temporary.
When I think of an ideal woman, I think of people like Rosa Parks, who in December of 1955 refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus, to make room for a white passenger. I think of a young woman, Anne Frank, who spent two years hiding in an attic, during WWII, before her capture and death in March 1945. Anne´s diary, translated into 67 different languages, has been an inspiration to so many. I think of contralto Marian Anderson, who despite segregation, worked scrubbing steps before finally singing her way out of poverty in South Philadelphia.
I think of the many millions of women around the world, working in factories, shops and offices; in hospitals, hotels and restaurants. I think of those women struggling to bring up families in these difficult times. I think of my own mother, who strove against all the odds to provide me with an education and who instilled in me a love for others.
I find it an insult to our humanity when the advertising, fashion and cosmetic industries, who in the interest of profits, objectify women treat and them like uneducated brainless human accessories.