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Thursday, 18 January 2007

Antrim: 65 years of marriage and 100 babies to boot

Robert and Maisie Cummins, who fostered one hundred babies over a twenty-year period, soon celebrate their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary. The couple, who met in Duncairn Gardens, have no celebration plans as yet, but they suspect a meal will be organised by their adopted son and six children. Maisie was acknowledged for her dedication to adoption, when she was awarded a British Empire Medal. The Cummins couple's retirement is far from quiet, with nineteen grandchildren and twenty-three great-grandchildren who visit at various times of the year. Almost twenty years ago Maisie was awarded the British Empire Medal for her fostering service.

Armagh: Adopted son's search for mother

John Harrison, who lives in Kent in the south of England, has recently come to Armagh to try to locate the mother who left him in the house in which he was born. John was just a year old when he left Armagh thirty-five years ago to be given a new home in England. In 1971 John's mother, a pregnant teen, went into labour and sought help in Anna Fowler's house in Churchill Park off the Garvaghy Road. Anna went to call for help but by the time she returned the girl had disappeared, leaving her baby behind. John's return to Armagh is part of a TV programme called Founders, which will be aired on the BBC this spring.

Carlow: Eighth title for Pat

At Tinryland recently Pat Byrne equalled the record set by Denis Shannon by clocking up his eighth consecutive Carlow Cross Country win. And another record was set in the same race, by local man Tommy Payne; taking third place in this race he retained his record of never finishing outside the top three in his twenty-five years of competing in the Carlow cross country event. This coming Sunday more than one thousand athletes, officials and supporters are expected in Tinryland for the Leinster Cross Country Championship and Juvenile Relays, and Pat Byrne will be taking part in the Senior Men's ten-kilometre race.

Cavan: Bailieborough looks to future

Rather than bemoaning the possible arrival of a large supermarket to the town, the retailers of Bailieborough are being encouraged to see it as revitalising the town centre and attracting more shoppers. Tesco is proposing to develop a thirty-thousand foot store just of the Main Street between the Shercock and Kingscourt roads, and having the store close to the centre rather than on an outlying site will boost trade for existing businesses. It is also expected to provide between one hundred and thirty and one hundred and fifty new jobs for the town and the proposed development has received the support of the Bailieborough Development Association.

Clare: Brendan Grace pub provides minibus for regulars

Brendan Grace's pub has introduced a successful transport service for its regulars. The popular pub located in Killaloe and owned by comedian Brendan Grace opened four years ago. Recently customer numbers had declined because of the clampdown on drink driving, which includes random breath-testing. Amanda Grace, Brendan's daughter, who runs the pub with her husband, introduced the mini-bus service in December. For €10 a month customers living within a three-mile radius of the pub can use the mini-bus as often as they like and receive a free drink upon their tenth visit.

Cork: First time win for Traveller as person of the month

January's Cork Person of the Month Award has been presented to Mary O'Sullivan, the first member of the Travelling Community to receive the prize. Mary, of Kinsale Road in the city, is a mother of five who has promoted and coordinated Traveller culture, education and community development over the past fifteen years. Stella Cherry of Fitzgerald's Park museum nominated Mary, because of the impressive project Mary ran involving one hundred and fifty Travellers. The main creation on display is a full-sized, colourful wagon. Mary also promoted health, leadership and development as secretary of the Cork Traveller Women's network.

Derry: City pub becomes an art piece

The customers of Derry city pub Tinney's Bar will have to sup their pints at a most unusual venue for the next while when the pub becomes an art exhibit at Void gallery. The pub's interior has been ripped out and re-housed inside the gallery as part of Null art group's Molly Aida project. The bar will continue business as usual, where pulling pints is all part of the show. The project is based on the movie "Fitzcaraldo", where the boat Molly Aida is moved across land and mountain to continue its voyage. Guest artists will host Art in the Bar, a series of interventions throughout the exhibition.

Donegal: 19th century event prompts 21st century research

A New Mexico scientist has spent the last three years investigating the report of a ball of lightning which, according to eye witness William Fitzgerald, an engineer, " ploughed a one hundred metre trench" down a slope of the Glendowan Mountains in Churchill in 1868. Dr J. Pace Vandevender has paid six visits to Donegal in the course of his investigations into the phenomenon which he believes was ball lightning powered by a mini black hole. He is due back into the area in March and he has been assisted on his visits by Churchill historian Niall McGinley. A similar event which took place some ten kilometres away in 1981 is also to be investigated.

Down: SK8 Bus glides into town

In an age where many children favour computers over sports, the development of the skate bus in Newcastle serves to promote physical activities for young people. The SK8 Bus is a joint project between Newry, Mourne and Louth councils to transport young skaters to an indoor skate park in Newcastle called 56skate. Mayor Michael Carr approved of the new bus, saying it will bring groups together to skate in a safe environment. The scheme will create further opportunities for participation and promote development of the sport. Nicola McAlinden, Cross Border Sports Development Officer, came up with the SK8 bus idea.

Dublin: Swan's rush hour rescue

Commuters were in for a shock recently when a swan caused a traffic jam on Dublin's Lower Baggot Street. Up to 30 drivers left their vehicles to find help for the young bird. Passer-by Martin Malone was the hero of the day though. He came to the rescue, using a pub tablecloth to scoop up the frightened swan. The swan, who witnesses say seemed thirsty and tired, was carried back to the canal. For once the traffic jam didn't seem to bother commuters. As one driver said, a swan flapping around on Lower Baggot Street isn't a sight you'd see every day.

Fermanagh: Young fashion designer beats 2,000

A senior pupil in St Patrick's Primary School, Mullanaskea, Enniskillen has beaten some two thousand other young pupils in Fermanagh in a competition to design a new kit for the county team. Shannon Green, who is taught by Stephen Dolan, made it to the final fifteen and was eventually named the county winner of the Co-operative Insurance Kit Out the Stars competition. For her innovative design Shannon won a full set of navy football gear for her school, with a value of more than £400, and a replica kit of her favourite football team, Arsenal, for herself.

Galway: Super salesman returns to Tuam

Neil Carney, who sold forty-seven loads of sand to the Middle Eastern country Qatar as part of the organisation for the Asian Games, is soon to return to his native Tuam. Neil, from Meadows Avenue, was appointed logistics manager for the prestigious event and the sand, sourced from Belgium, was required for the equestrian events. So successful was the event that Qatar is now proposing to make a bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. Neil, who first went to the Persian Gulf country in October 2005, had previously worked on event management for the successful Special Olympics when they were held in Dublin.

Kerry: Tarbert native dubbed 'Queen of Balochistan' in Pakistan

Known to many locals as 'Mummy Jennifer,' Jennifer Musa from Tarbert has been a household name in Pakistan since 1970 when she became her region's only female member of parliament. She also acted as a chief negotiator in war-torn Balochistan between conflicting tribes. She married her husband, a philosophy student of Oxford, in 1939 and he and Jennifer returned to his homeland in Pakistan where she went on to be a strong supporter for the ethnic Balochi people's rights. Jennifer's husband Qazi Musa died in a car crash in 1956, but Jennifer, now eighty-nine years old, stayed in Pakistan so her son could be near his grandparents.

Kildare: Brigidine Sisters to celebrate bicentenary

This year's Féile Bríde, which celebrates the feast of St Brigid, will mark the bicentenary of the arrival of the Brigidine Sisters in Kildare town. The town will play host to a week-long series of events up to Brigid's Day on February 1. Daniel Delany, the then Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, established the Congregation of St Brigid on February 1 1807 and this year's Féile Bríde festival has the theme "Seeding and a new spring time." Events will include a drumming workshop on January 26, a 'peace and justice conference' in collaboration with the charity Afri, music, workshops, and a candle-lit ritual on Brigid's Eve at the well.

Kilkenny: Order of Australia Medal for Kilkenny man

An Order of Australia Medal has been awarded to a retired Kilkenny man living in Australia for nearly thirty years. Michael Nolan, Honorary Consul General for Ireland in Western Australia, received the award for his outstanding service to the Irish community in Western Australia. He met and helped thousands of Irish ex-pats in Australia while based in his Perth office. The seventy-five year old, who left Kilkenny more than fifty years ago, received the position of Honorary Consul General for Ireland from the Governor General. Michael's brother is Pat Nolan, a well-known face in Kilkenny, who was tourism officer there for many years and is Chairman of the Celtic Festival.

Laois: Multicultural gathering celebrates priest's jubilee

The congregation which gathered in the church in Borris recently to celebrate the silver jubilee of parish priest Father John O'Brien included many Polish and Indian immigrants who are an integral part of the parish. Father John, born in Portlaoise, concelebrated the Mass with Father Phil O'Shea and afterwards the congregation went to the Green Drake. There Father John was presented with a Waterford Crystal table lamp and candlesticks, and a travel voucher. The celebration was organised by the Parish Council and music for the night was provided by Ceoltais Ceoltóirí.

Leitrim: Post Office closes to avoid more burglaries

A family-run post office in Aughamore has recently closed because the owner, seventy-three-year-old Abigail Notley, feels there is a real chance of it being raided. The Dubliner, who has lived in Aughamore for more than forty years, says she and her staff feel like easy targets in the post office. Abigail's family has run the post office for the past ten years, and also runs the Top o' the Hill bar and shop. The business, on the main Dublin to Sligo road, has been in the family for seven generations, and Abigail says she was sorry to disappoint her loyal customers with the closure.

Limerick: Brass band bound for Boston

The Irish population of Boston is in for a real treat this St Patrick's Day. St John's Brass and Reed band will the first Limerick band ever to participate in the St Patrick's Day parade in Boston. The band played recently for actor Russell Crowe who visited West Clare. American businessman Billy Higgins invited the band to play in American's second largest St Patrick's Day parade and has arranged the trip for March 14. The group will also play in various other Boston concerts. St John's was established over one hundred years ago and consists of forty-two band members, who are looking forward to their trip.

Longford: No meat, no drink, no cigarettes leads to a long life

According to her daughter Bridgie Galvin, the secret to Mary Brady's long life was that she lived on a diet of porridge and potatoes and never drank or smoked. Mary, who is now a resident of St Joseph's Hospital in Longford town, celebrated her one hundredth birthday earlier this month. The youngest of the five children of John and Mary Brady of Lisoarty, Aughnacliffe, she attended Corratober national school, between Arva and Gowra. She spent most of her life working the farm in Aughnacliffe, moving to live with her daughter in Farnagh thirty-five years ago; she had one son, Francie, who died in 1999.

Louth: Gate Lodge to be transformed into pub

A planning application has been submitted to create a pub out of the Gate Lodge at the front of Boyne Valley Hotel. The protected structure was built in the 1880s and had once been used for extra accommodation by the hotel. Most recently the structure was left idle and the wner of the building, Michael McNamara, has put in an application to Drogheda Borough Council to convert it and extend the rear of the lodge to use it as a neighbourhood pub. Plans show that one single storey will be demolished and a pedestrian entrance and ten car parking spaces will be created. The pub will serve the area around Stameen and the Dublin Road and hotel customers.

Mayo: St Murdach's goes national at Easter

The televised Holy Week and Easter services for this year will be broadcast from St Muredach's Cathedral in Ballina, the first time that the annual ceremonies will come from the west of the country. Principal celebrant will be Father Brendan Hoban and the broadcasts will take in four days, from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday. A special committee is to be appointed to oversee the venture and to liaise with RTE, who will send a camera crew to Ballina before Easter to film some scenes in the town and the surrounding countryside. At the beginning of Holy Week the RTE workers will set up all the necessary equipment including scaffolding, cables, lighting and cameras.

Meath: Principals celebrate centenary

A party organised in Kilmessan to celebrate a one hundredth birthday last week was attended by two former school principals from the same family. Gerry Smyth, who was the reason for the celebration, is a former principal of Dunshaughlin National School, while his son Vincent, who organised the event, is the former principal of Longwood Vocational School. In addition, Gerry's late wife Lucy, was principal of Dunsany National School. Gerry was joined by his eight children, twenty-five grandchildren and some of his seventeen great grandchildren for the occasion. A member of Summerhill Active Retirement Group, he won gold medals in the European and World Senior Games in both 2002 and 2003.

Monaghan: Some of railway line to be preserved

It has been agreed by the town council in Carrickmacross that no further development will be carried out on the former railway station, which is now derelict. It was also proposed by the mayor, Matt Carthy, that a protection order be placed on the route of the old line from Carrickmacross to Inniskeen, although some development has already taken place on this road out as far as the new roundabout. The councillors believe that such a move would aid the campaign to bring back the railway to the town. To date only the railway line that runs across bridges in Monaghan town had been protected.

Offaly: Bouquets for Ferbane

Both the county's Chief Fire Officer, Denis Cunningham, and the management of the nursing home have praised the people of Ferbane for their reaction to the fire which took place at the end of December. The fifty residents of the Gallen Priory House Nursing Home had to be evacuated when a minor fire broke out and they were initially taken to the Ferbane Heritage Centre. Here they were looked after by members of the local community who arrived to keep them company before they were transferred to alternative accommodation; Londis also provided refreshments for the residents.

Roscommon: Lilly the robot scoops Young Scientist award

Lilly the robot was one of the top two projects in the senior Social and Behavioural Science Category at the BT Young Scientist of the Year Award. The creators of Lilly, Aisling Farrell, Emer Nugent and Riona Tully, are students at the Convent of Mercy Secondary School in Roscommon town and the title of their project was "Reactions to humour generated by humans as against robotic sources". The school had good reason to celebrate as a second group of students took the other top prize in this category; Laura Naughton, Siobhán Gaughan and Amy O'Connell's project was entitled "Irish - Is There A Difference?"

Sligo: Queen Maebh's grave spoiled by removal of stones

The top of Knocknarea mountain has been covered with names and messages spelled out in stones that belong to the legendary Queen Maebh's grave. Experts say the climbers have caused serious erosion to the four-thousand-year-old national monument. Heavy foot traffic and rain have also caused a deep scar on the mound. The grave is said to contain Queen Maebh's body, which was buried upright and faced Ulster. According to archaeologist Tamlyn O'Driscoll the site could even collapse in on itself. She believes erecting bilingual signs that explain the site's significance could solve the problem.

Tipperary: Plan to be submitted for Lough Derg water park

David Lehane and Adrian Lannon are to submit a planning application to the county council for the development of a €60m water park on the site of the current Derg Marina. The new facility, which will create a minimum of sixty jobs according to the developers, will comprise a spa facility, restaurant and bar and ninety apartments. Lehane and Lannon have said they will consult both councillors and the community on their plans, which are at present being drawn up by a Limerick firm of architects; the consultation process will include the distribution of a newsletter to all the homes in the area.

Tyrone: Former coma patient to do charity run

A man originally from Omagh but now living in Edinburgh who only woke up from a coma twelve months ago will participate in a five kilometre charity run this weekend. Paul McGale, of John Street, was involved in an accident in 2005 which left him in a coma at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh for a month. After four months of rehabilitation, the former chemistry teacher at St David's High School in the Scottish town of Dalkeith made a good recovery. Paul, whose family run The Terrace bar in Omagh, will take part in the Great Winter run to raise funds for the Astley Ainslie hospital, where he was a patient.

Waterford: New feature for Dungarvan

As the result of a national open competition co-ordinated by the County Arts Office, a Clare-based artist has been commissioned by Dungarvan Town Council to provide an artistic work to be located at White's Orchard, off O'Connell Street in the town. William Gilchrist, originally from Scotland, submitted a work entitled "Fruits after Harvest" which will comprise eight large white apples, more than one metre in diameter, scattered on a green area as though they had just fallen from a tree; the apples will be made using structural steel and reinforced cement.

Westmeath: Collinstown resident tries out his Irish

Manchán Magan, a documentary maker from Collinstown, is featuring in an interesting television series which set out to test the figures given in the census for Irish speakers. "No Bearla", on TG4, saw Manchán travel all over the country endeavouring to conduct his life entirely through Irish, with varying results. In Galway, where one would suppose there might be a greater understanding of Irish, he was able to get away with singing vulgar lyrics while busking on Shop Street, and it was only in the Meath village of Rath Cairn that he met schoolchildren who were able to converse fluently with him, though their parents had difficulty understanding what was going on.

Wexford: Ploughing contest raised over €6,000

Bannow Rathangan Vintage Club raised €6,080 last Sunday for Wexford Hospice Homecare with a vintage ploughing competition which took place on land loaned by the Cullen family at Killag, Duncormick. There were over fifty participants in the contest who had raised money and paid for an area to plough. Michael O'Brien of Adamstown was the only competitor who arrived with a pair of horses, with most of the contestant using vintage tractors. The money raised was presented to two representatives of Wexford Hospice Homecare in Sinnots of Duncormick on Sunday night.

Wicklow: Two world records not enough for Ian

Ian McKeever from Lough Dan already holds the world records for climbing five peaks in Britain and Ireland in just over sixteen hours, and the twenty-six peaks of Ireland in just under ninety-nine hours. Now he is to set off to the Antarctic to begin a bid on the record for the highest summits in seven continents. The race will begin when Ian reaches the top of Mount Vinson, and from there his quest will take him to South America, Africa, Australasia, the Caucasus, Mount Everest and, finally, Denali in Alaska. He hopes to complete the challenge before the end of June, making him not only the first Irishman to achieve the seven summits but also giving him the fastest completion time.

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