Sidelines

Published in Issue 1 (January/February 2014), News, Volume 22

Errol got all the fame, but his father, Theodore Flynn, a respected academic, deserves recognition too. So think Tony and Vicki Harrison, Australian writers who have penned a biography of Prof. Flynn, father of the Hollywood legend, who taught at Queen’s University, Belfast, in the 1930s and ’40s. Flynn senior was born in Australia but his grandparents came from Leitrim and Meath. Their research on the professor’s own amazing life in science also unearthed the existence of a daughter, Rosemary, who, although sister to the famous film star, kept a low profile and remained an anonymous member of the family until rediscovered by the Australian couple.

More and more records are becoming available not just to researchers but also to the general public via the internet. The digitised 1926 and 1927 diaries of the Irish composer Aloys Fleischmann (1910–92) have been put on-line thanks to Róisín O’Brien of UCC. Fleischmann came from a family of immigrant German musicians resident in Cork since 1879. He was a composer, musicologist and scholar of traditional Irish music, and professor of music at University College Cork. He was also founder and conductor of the Cork Symphony Orchestra and founder of the Cork Orchestral Society, as well as a number of other musical organisations in the city. The diaries were written during his last two years at school. About 200 photographs selected from Fleischmann family albums illustrate them on the website. To view the Fleischmann diaries on-line archive, visit fleischmanndiaries.ucc.ie.

It is also worth noting that the catalogue of the Leinster House library and its documentary archive can now be accessed via oireachtas.ie. Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett officially launched the addition to the website recently. Having already put the official record of the Oireachtas on-line some time ago, Ireland is leading the way in the digitisation of democracy. In a related story, the archives of Eamon Donnelly, a Newry man who helped found Fianna Fáil, have been donated to Newry and Mourne Museum.

The war in Syria is a terrible human tragedy but world heritage is also losing out, as the violence has seen historic buildings, museums and libraries become casualties of war. The fabric of buildings is damaged but their contents, from historic artefacts to books and manuscripts, are being destroyed too. While some attacks are deliberate, most appear to be the result of indiscriminate bombardment of built-up areas. It is estimated that there are 10,000 archaeological and historical sites in Syria. It is impossible to protect them all, and day after day more are damaged and destroyed. There have been calls for sanctions against the armed forces that destroy such sites but in reality little can be done.

Is there life on Mars? Well, MARS—Millmount Archaeological Remote Sensing—may help to throw light on life in times past. A new project is using the latest technology to explore the archaeology of Drogheda’s well-known landmark. Dr Conor Brady of the Humanities and Social Sciences Research Centre and archaeological geophysicist Kevin Barton of Landscape and Geophysical Services are teaming up with the Old Drogheda Society and Drogheda Museum Millmount to literally get to the bottom of this famous monument. Hugh de Lacy built a castle there in the late twelfth century but it is also the legendary burial place of Amhairgin, one of the Tuatha dé Danaan, who introduced song and poetry to Ireland, and there is the possibility that the mound may contain a passage tomb. Ground-penetrating radar, electrical resistivity tomography, seismic tomography and microgravity will help researchers to uncover Millmount’s secrets.

The soccer season in England is at its height, with goals galore every week, but who scored the very first league goal? The timing of the first official goal has always been in dispute, as five matches were played on the FA’s first league day, 8 September 1888, but diligent research by Robert Boyling, a newspaper library researcher, conclusively proves that Bolton Wanderers’ Kenyon ‘Kenny’ Davenport scored the very first goal in the world at a league football match, against Derby County. Using newspaper reports and official programmes, Boyling has established the time of kick-off and when the goal was scored to show that Davenport’s ball hit the back of the net before anyone else.

Technology again! Maybe we should rename this column. But a new app for mobile phones in Dublin was recently launched by Fáilte Ireland. Costing €4m, the app, called Dubline, guides people on a tourist trail of the capital’s gems. Whether on a phone or iPad, the user can access audio and video feeds from the app to get the full story at every stop along the way, which takes in historic sites, museums, galleries, etc. But what about the poor old flesh-and-blood tour guides? Is this the end for them?

Nothing must stand in the way of progress, not even St Patrick’s Well. Historian Gary Branigan warns that the Luas line due to pass Trinity College will destroy the holy well, located beside the university’s wall on Nassau Street, which is known as Sraid Thobar Phadraig in Irish. Clearly the Railway Procurement Agency did not have an Irish–English dictionary handy when planning the route. The foundations of the new track will probably cut off the spring supplying the well, according to Mr Branigan. The last time the well ran dry, in 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical poem about it. So all you budding poets out there get ready . . .

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