The following article was written by Gerry McGeough as part of the anniversary celebrations for a local school - January, 2015
Derrylatinee - A Long Tradition of Learning in The Brantry
In the course of a relatively recent discussion with an academic from Trinity College Dublin on the cultural aspects of local history, an interesting observation emerged that set me thinking about the origins of formal education in the Brantry.
Amid the twists and turns of our conversation around the topic I happened to mention that in my home area of south-east Tyrone, the tradition of Kayley-ing (from the Irish ar do chéile - visiting/togetherness) was quite common well into my late teenage years and, indeed, beyond, albeit in dwindling form. Neighbours would gather in particular houses for banter, general conversation and plain old gossip. Inevitably, snippets of local history, the background to peoples’ blood ties and familial relationships to one another would arise for discussion and clarification for the next generation.
My learn-ed friend was familiar with this social activity once common across rural Ireland. His interest piqued, however, when I mentioned that from time to time older people at these events would burst into poetry, rhyming off stanza after stanza of obscure poems with remarkable clarity and memory. What struck me most about these poems was the frequent references to the classics in the form of “great Parthenon” and the like, which was particularly impressive given that those doing the reciting were people who had never received any formal education beyond the age of fourteen, if even that. Moreover, few of them were widely travelled, and most had spent the bulk of their lives close to the land and far from the “hallowed halls of erudition” that they also quoted in the course of their poetic deliveries.
The academic was genuinely impressed by this piece of information and at once informed me of its significance. He assured me that this was reflective of a very ancient tradition of learning in that particular part of the country. I was both surprised and immeasurably proud to know this, but at a loss as to how this could be the case.
Dwelling on the matter afterwards, I recognised that the scant information we have on schools in the Brantry area was hardly going to provide many clues. Beyond the old Derrylatinee School, located a few hundred yards up from the current site and in operation during the late 1800s, there was very little to go on.
Ironically, though, this old school may provide something of a link to the source of the tradition that the academic alluded to in his observations. This was the school that my grandfather, John McGeough, attended in the 1890s. His was a remarkable generation, and among those in attendance with him was an individual by the name of Joseph McVeigh, a first cousin of John’s future wife and my grandmother, Margaret Carberry.
The Joe McVeigh in question died a wealthy self-made businessman in New Jersey in the United States in 1975, having left the Brantry never to return, in the early 1920s. A great Patriot and Republican, he always maintained that England would “only be driven from Ireland at the point of a bayonet”!
His story has yet to be told, but his name has appeared from time to time in the history books and makes for fascinating reading. Heavily involved in the War of Independence and Civil War, his activities took him through an adventurous web of intrigue and danger, from the Brantry to the U.S. to Germany and back. His is a tale for another day, but suffice it to say, his personal courage and uncompromising individualism reflected traits and hallmarks not uncommon among people in the Brantry.
Among those traits was a deep love for his home area and a real pride in its history. This was all the stronger for the fact that he was reared in a house in Gort that stood on the site of the legendary Franciscan Friary of Gort Tamhlacht na Muc, overlooking Friary Lough.
It is this Friary, I contend, that has left an indelible impression and a tradition of learning upon this area. For generations people have spoken about the Friary and passed on the legends and lore associated with it.
In addition to this we have the facts. In my youth, older people always spoke reverently about “Friar O’Mallon’s Journal”, without knowing much about its content.
Today, we know it as Cín Lae Uí Mhéallain, and are more familiar with its recordings. It was written by Fr. Tarlach Ó Méallain, during the turbulent years of the 1640s, following the 1641 Rising. It is unique not only for its historical value, but also for the fact that it is penned in the now extinct East Ulster dialect of Irish. There are many references in it to the Brantry, and the original script is kept in University, College Cork.
What’s of note here is the fact that there was literacy in the Brantry at a time when few people across Europe could read or write. Moreover, the Brantry Friars were in direct contact with the great Irish Colleges on the European Continent, and letters were constantly being exchanged between them. They were also up to their necks in fomenting the rebellion, and were at the epicentre of intrigues involving the Irish soldiery in overseas exile. These latter, whose regiments figured prominently in the armies of Spain, France and Austria, were constantly planning an invasion of Ireland, to free it from English dominance and restore the old Gaelic Catholic order.
The Friars were also famous for their work among the people, and it doesn’t take a great leap of the imagination to picture local children being taught literacy skills. There were practical reasons for this, given that Tyrone Friars on the Continent had taken it upon themselves to produce Catholic religious tracts in Irish, in order to counter the effects of the Protestant Reformation among the populace at home. What good would these be if people couldn’t read them?
The tradition of learning in a remote area would have persisted over the centuries despite the Penal Era suppressions and persecutions. It would have manifested itself in oral tradition and given rise to the epic poetry recitals referred to earlier.
Whether by coincidence or design, therefore, it is wholly appropriate that Derrylatinee Primary School should be dedicated to St Francis, the Brantry Friars’ original Founder.
Friday, January 16, 2015
Blair, On The Runs And Gerry Mcgeough: Criminalising Republicanism Through The Back Door
Sean Bresnahan looks at the OTR issue. Sean Bresnahan is a Tyrone republican who frequently contributes to online discourse.
Much ado the past few days about Blair, 'On The Runs' and the peace process, but let's keep in mind that without the Troubles there would have been no OTRs to begin with. And also that some should have profited from this scheme but instead were thrown to the wolves by their own, likely deemed unworthy of inclusion by an arbitrary decision-making process that excluded potential adversaries at the behest of the Sinn Fein leadership.
Many in the Unionist community take issue that a 'deal' on OTRs was reached at all, when the truth is the scheme did not go anywhere near far enough. My issue with OTRs is not that it let anyone off the hook but that it didn't go far enough and (like everything else the leadership negotiated) we got the short end of the stick.
Like everything else it was done on Britain's terms with a carrot thrown in to keep us happy – or more accurately to keep THEM happy and to secure their position, with no threat of two years in gaol for some. The greatest leadership in history my arse. Spin that yarn to Gerry McGeough, who spent two years in Maghaberry thanks to their ineptitude. Or was it ineptitude? Perhaps something more was afoot.
The dogs in the street know McGeough was shafted to put him out of the picture politically, while Michelle Gildernew, the Adamsite darling, could only be the better-positioned for it. God forbid an independent-minded voice within the republican movement. A calculated political move which raises its own set of questions regarding the relationship of the leadership to the state and a disgrace from start to finish – from the original selection convention in June 2000 to the carting away in the back of a police car at the count in Omagh nearly seven years later. I’d venture the two are connected at some point, if only in terms of the agenda being served.
That aside, the reasoning in McGeough being gaoled is it sets his actions as an IRA Volunteer inside the paradigm of an acceptable British law. In this narrative McGeough is breaking the law and being suitably punished whereas state agents, like his direct opponent, are elevated to a higher moral plateau – as are the mechanisms used to ensure a conviction. That OTRs pose a threat to this narrative is the source of the recent hullabaloo.
The key aim of the British is to frame the conflict as a criminal undertaking and the arrest, political show-trial and unsafe 'conviction' of those like Gerry McGeough is part of its strategy. Many, out of blind loyalty to the leadership and its pathetic negotiating abilities, are sadly content to go along with that, regardless of how it impacts on the legitimacy of men like Pete Ryan, Jim Lynagh, Martin McCaughey and their actions.
This approach would see such men happily subjected to British Diplock Courts today, if they'd somehow managed to escape the death-trap set for them, went on the run and returned home years later thinking it was safe to do so – absent of course that all important letter, which some were deemed worthy of and others not. Would Jim and Pete have been deemed worthy? Would Martin? Who knows but who would trust it.
Some would have it they should just be grateful no matter, sure what’s two years away from your family and loved one’s anyway. That's the pitiful notion those like Sinn Fein Councillor Michael McIvor promote when publicly claiming McGeough done alright and should be thankful for his lot – whether they see it or not.
Constitutional issues aside, the 1998 Agreement was poorly negotiated around such issues as prisoner-releases and conflict-related 'offences'. It created a situation whereby it was acceptable practice for a British Diplock Court to try and convict this man, and others such as Scotchy Kearney, using all the various legal manipulations and lowering of the standards of 'law' long employed against and objected to by republicans.
That some now accept the legitimacy of these legal processes is a victory for Britain and a shafting of the IRA Volunteers who stood up against and called such reactionary 'laws' for what they were and are – repression. That ‘letters of comfort’ are set to be withdrawn while the republican leadership continues to sit in Stormont is just the broom-handle being rammed up their backsides all the harder.
Under the British-imposed narrative, in which republicans now acquiesce, the state had a right to prosecute its violence whereas republicans had none – not even to defend themselves and their community. The evidence around Bloody Sunday, collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane and the refusal to grant inquests into a plethora of state killings speaks for itself, the British justice system is designed to protect its own and set them apart from 'terrorists' like Gerry McGeough, who are to be gaoled while the state and its agents walk free.
Those who consider the underhand mechanisms employed to stick McGeough and his like behind bars as acceptable fare, and anything other than the product of inept negotiating at best, the deliberate removal of a political foe at worst, are either fooling themselves or are that far removed from the republican struggle they no longer care about the broader picture.
What amounts to the effective collapse of the OTR scheme, at the behest of political Unionism, serves the same end for Britain as the gaoling of McGeough and Kearney, to show republicans their place within the British law, which can be altered and employed against them at will, if and when required. The only difference on this occasion is that ordinary Volunteers were not alone in being shafted, this time the leadership was shown its place in the order of things too.
New Year's Greetings from Gerry McGeough
Here's wishing you all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year! The past year, 2014, was of course the one during which the British were supposed to have left Ireland. At least that was the on record promise made some time ago by a leading Sinn Féin figure. Oh well, ho-hum!
Now we must bide our time until 2016 when an even more prominent Sinn Féin figure has publicly promised a British withdrawal from the Six Counties. While one is prepared to give the benefit of the doubt in all instances, it's probably true to say that very few people seriously believe that the British State will begin to vacate its forces from Ireland in about twelve months from now.
The real wonder is that supposedly astute politicians would tie themselves to such definite dates in the first place. Sooner or later all those who have placed their faith in these individuals will be disappointed by them.
Sinn Féin leaders come and go of course, albeit at a glacial pace, and the fate of the Irish Nation is far more important than the ambitions of individual egotists.
It is to be hoped that 2015 will mark the beginning of a serious debate that will end the cult of leadership and the curse of factionalism within the wider Irish Republican family.
The cause of Irish freedom remains a noble one and Irish Republicans are a formidable people, forged in the fiery tradition of true Patriotism. Unity is strength. Let's work towards it in 2015.
Éirinn go Brach!
Christmas Greetings from Gerry McGeough and Family
Nollaig Shona Daoibh! We wish the very warmest of Christmas greetings to all our friends throughout Ireland, the United States and beyond.
At this time of year we thank God for the gift of true friendship and acknowledge that we have been blessed to have known so many good and decent people who have stood by us through thick and thin. May God bestow bountiful blessings upon you all.
During this season I have been reflecting on the historical fact that Ireland and the Irish are never stronger than when they totally embrace Christianity, which lies at the very root of our ancient culture and national identity. This Faith we must never abandon.
A very Happy and Joyous Christmas to everyone.
Vivat Christus Rex!