DSC_1202New Year 2016 was rung in with friends at Glenmalure Lodge in County Wicklow, where I met a former colleague from RTÉ who works there in a senior position. After a meal in the dining room, it was time to listen to the band in the Michael Dwyer Bar and take part in the festivities. When they played Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl I felt I was back in Belfast!

A year ago my father Desmond Fisher died so the family was in mourning over the New Year period 2015.


New Year 2014 Walk from Holywood along North Down Coastal Path near Seapark  Picture: Michael Fisher 

New Year 2014 was spent in Belfast. The day itself was marked with a walk along part of the North Down Coastal Path starting in Holywood and going towards Cultra, finishing with a drink at the Dirty Duck.


Lagan Towpath Walk New Year 2010  Picture: Michael Fisher 

A previous New Year 2010 was also spent in Belfast with the same group of friends. A walk along the Lagan towpath took us past the Lock Keeper’s Inn, before it became famous!



Former Forge in Aughrim  Picture: Michael Fisher


I passed through the village of Aughrim in County Wicklow yesterday and stopped at the hotel beside the bridge for a coffee. It was pouring rain and not very scenic. But when I visited in August it looked really well with lovely floral displays. One of the buildings I noticed was an old forge: or did it possibly have a connection with a former railway line?


Irish National Foresters’ Hall in Aughrim  Picture: Michael Fisher

There is also an Irish National Foresters’ Hall and a memorial to the pike men of the 1798 rebellion led by Michael Dwyer. The stone is surmounted by a ‘crown’ fashioned from bronze pikes. Kiltegan is not far from here, where St Patrick’s Missionary Society is located.  All pictures from August.


‘Crown’ of Bronze Pikes on 1798 Memorial in Aughrim Picture: Michael Fisher





Michael Fisher in Tyrone GAA jacket borrowed at the secret training location in Co. Wicklow

EXCLUSIVE! A New Year exclusive from fisherbelfast news! I have been on a secret mission today and have been shown the mountain hideaway where the Tyrone GAA senior footballers have begun training since St Stephen’s Day in their mission to win the Sam Maguire Cup. I am under strict instructions not to reveal the exact location in case of infiltration by spies from Kerry and Dublin. A full report will however be provided on request for Monaghan GAA whose supporters accompanied me this afternoon on an 8km walk in the pouring-rain.


Section of the Wicklow Way from Glenmalure to Moyne

The two hour trek led along the Wicklow Way up a mountain, Slieve Maan. But in the pouring rain and wind there was in the end no evidence of a Red Hand. The only one in sight was on the jacket I borrowed from the legendary Frank Quinn from Pomeroy. He even leaves copies of his beautiful Sam Maguire book with his photos of historic places such as Knockmany and Carleton’s cottage as an inspiration for all who make their way for wilderness adventures to deepest Wicklow, not far from the Glen of Imaal where the Irish army trains.


Sam Maguire book edited and with photos by Frank Quinn

Asked to compare his native ground around the Sperrins with the likes of Lugnaquilla, Mr Quinn, whose adventures to the Antarctic Circle featured in the Irish News a few years ago, replied: “sure the Sperrins are wee buns compared to the landscape we have here!!” Memories of the 1798 rebellion all around. So be prepared for a new wave of Tyrone football as the McKenna Cup gets underway in the coming weeks. It remains to be seen whether Wicklow GAA footballers will head Northwards for their training…….!


Sam Maguire Cup at Knockmany near Augher Photo: Copyright Frank Quinn

Update: Obviously this extra training over New Year at the secret location in County Wicklow has already paid dividends for the Tyrone team. Their first outing in the Dr McKenna Cup was on Sunday (3rd January) and this was the result at St Enda’s Park in Omagh:

Tyrone 3-17 Queens University 0-11  




Meeting of the Waters: Photo © Michael Fisher

Meeting of the Waters: Photo © Michael Fisher

Heading home from the Parnell summer school on Wednesday afternoon, I decided to revisit a spot I had not been in for a while in the Vale of Avoca. It’s known as the Meeting of the Waters and it has been immortalised in Thomas Moore’s song. I have discovered on the website of the Library of Congress an old recording of the ballad. It was made in Camden, New Jersey in April 1919 by contralto Merle Alcock for Victor records. The harp is played by Francis J. Lapitino and the conductors are Charles Adams Prince and Josef Pasternack. Credits: Source of original recording: Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara. Inclusion of the recording in the National Jukebox, courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment.

Victor Record Label: The Meeting of the Waters

Victor Record Label: The Meeting of the Waters

Thomas Moore was born at Aungier Street in Dublin on May 28th 1779. He was educated at Trinity College. His time at Trinity came amidst the ongoing turmoil following the French Revolution and a number of his fellow students such as Robert Emmett were supporters of the United Irishmen movement, although Moore himself never was a member.

Thomas Moore, by Martin Shee c.1817. © National Gallery of Ireland

Thomas Moore, by Martin Shee. 1818. © National Gallery of Ireland

Moore is considered Ireland’s National Bard and is to Ireland what Robert Burns is to Scotland. He is commemorated in several places: by a plaque on the house where he was born, by busts at The Meeting of the Waters and at Central Park, New York, as well as by a large bronze statue near Trinity College Dublin. Many composers have set his poems to music. They include Gaspare Spontini, Robert Schumann, Hector Berlioz, Charles Ives, William Bolcom, Lori Laitman, Benjamin Britten and Henri Duparc.

Thomas Moore Bust at the Meeting of the Waters Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Thomas Moore Bust at the Meeting of the Waters Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Avoca River starts life as two branches, the Avonmore (Abhainn Mhór, meaning “Big River”) and the Avonbeg (Abhainn Bheag, meaning “Small River”). These join together at the Meeting of the Waters in the Vale of Avoca, which is considered a local beauty spot, and was celebrated by Thomas Moore in the following verses:

There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet, As the vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet; Oh, the last rays of feeling and life must depart, Ere the bloom of that valley shall fade from my heart.”

Thomas Moore Memorial Park, Meeting of the Waters Photo: © Michael Fisher

Thomas Moore Memorial Park, Meeting of the Waters Photo: © Michael Fisher

The village of Avoca is situated on the river. The Avoca flows into the Irish Sea at Arklow where it widens into a large estuary, giving the town its name in Irish: An t-Inbhear Mór (the big inlet).

Bridge at Meeting of the Waters Photo: © Michael Fisher

Bridge at Meeting of the Waters Photo: © Michael Fisher


Michael McDowell Photo: © Michael Fisher

Michael McDowell Photo: © Michael Fisher

I have known Michael McDowell for over 45 years since we went to school together when I returned to Dublin from Wimbledon in 1967. Peter Mathews TD was in the same year and the three of us along with half a dozen or so more classmates joined the FCÁ together, but only a few completed a five year term, including some full-time duties with the army. I have seen therefore at first hand how much Michael believes in the concept of service to the state and loyalty to the nation.

Update: Since writing this the sad news has emerged of the death of one of our classmates, High Court Judge Kevin Feeney, who was a keen tennis player and had served in the same FCÁ unit I referred to. May he rest in peace. Michael McDowell had earlier told me about the recent death of another well-known Dublin lawyer who served with us in the Military Police, James Gilhooly SC. My sympathy goes to both families.

Steohen Collins & Simon Harris TD Photo: © Michael Fisher

Steohen Collins & Simon Harris TD Photo: © Michael Fisher

It was therefore very interesting to hear him speak at Avondale House at the Parnell Summer School alongside the Wicklow/Carlow East  TD Simon Harris (from Michael’s former party Fine Gael, which I recall he joined at UCD) and Stephen Collins, Political Editor of the Irish Times, on the subject of public service. My former RTÉ News colleague Bryan Dobson chaired the session. This is how the Irish Times is reporting his speech:-

In the Chair: Bryan Dobson, RTÉ News Photo: © Michael Fisher

In the Chair: Bryan Dobson, RTÉ News Photo: © Michael Fisher

The former Justice Minister told the summer school Ireland was not a “failed state” and its people should not accept phoney reform in abolishing the Seanad. Addressing the theme ‘Parnell & Kennedy: Lost Leaders’ this afternoon, and taking a cue from JF Kennedy’s dictum; “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”, Mr Mc Dowell called for a new sense of patriotism and loyalty to the Constitution. He said some commentators seemed to enjoy wallowing in what he termed as a ‘middle-class self-hatred’ or negativity. “It is easy to be critical; it is hard to be constructive, especially during times of economic crisis,” he said.

Audience at Parnell summer school Photo: © Michael Fisher

Audience at Parnell summer school Photo: © Michael Fisher

He recalled the 1998 amendment to the Constitution which he said redefined the nation as one which aspires to include all the people of Ireland, “in all the diversities of their identities and traditions”. “Those words are important” he said, arguing that the State had opened up its sense of patriotism and republicanism “to build and develop on this island a republican State which is not mainly or exclusively Catholic, but is open to all traditions and identities”. But he said “a particularly striking historical nonsense” was the belief by the “post-Marxist left” that republicanism equated with socialism, and a failure to deliver on socialism was a betrayal of the Republic. “The two ideals are not equivalents” he said.

He said loyalty to the State and the Constitution demanded loyalty to the institutions of government which “by and large have served the citizens well”. He also said the Constitution had not failed the people and the three pillars of government – legislature, the executive and the judiciary – were not failed institutions “in concept”.

Felix Larkin, Academic Director Parnell Summer School  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Felix Larkin, Academic Director Parnell Summer School Photo: © Michael Fisher

Mr McDowell said proposals for reform may be worthy and legitimate only if they were motivated by a desire for improvement in the way the State functions. But he said the proposals to abolish the Seanad based on cost were “threadbare and illegitimate”. He said the actual cost of the Seanad was about €1.60 per year for each citizen and “abolitionists” wanted to postpone any supposed savings for three years – spending €14 million now on a referendum to achieve “small savings” in three years, he argued.

“Do we really want now to slam the door shut on non-TD expert participants in Government such as [former minister] James Dooge?” he asked. “Do we also want to turn down the possibility of having Northern voices such as Gordon Wilson or Seamus Mallon, or people such as Mary Robinson and Ken Whitaker in our parliament?” He suggested abolition of the Seanad was “a crude attempt to ride the wave of public disillusionment with phony reform based on phony cost arguments”.

Michael McDowell at Parnell summer school Photo: © Michael Fisher

Michael McDowell at Parnell summer school Photo: © Michael Fisher

Mr McDowell said he believed loyalty to the State involved a duty on every citizen to participate and be responsible in shaping the democratic process, but “corrosive cynicism about politics” damaged democracy. “Our commentariat, in the last analysis, must acknowledge that we as citizens choose our politicians” he said, adding that politicians were not the enemy. “Politics is the process that we as citizens choose it to be. We should not cannibalise the Constitution in the name of reform,” he said.

Stephen Collins, Political Editor, Irish Times Photo: © Michael Fisher

Stephen Collins, Political Editor, Irish Times Photo: © Michael Fisher


Rosaline Kelly, Jim Corrigal (President) & Michael Fisher Photo: © Kevin Cooper

Rosaline Kelly (Belfast 2005), Jim Corrigal (President) & Michael Fisher Photo: © Kevin Cooper

Tributes have been paid to Rosaline Kelly, the first woman elected President of the National Union of Journalists.  Ms Kelly (90) died at St Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, County Dublin following a short illness. Ms Kelly worked as a magazine journalist in London and served as President of the NUJ from 1975 to 1977. On retiring from active journalism she returned to Ireland.  She lived in Wicklow and was instrumental in establishing the retired members section of the NUJ in Ireland. She was also made a Member of Honour of the union.

Barry McCall & Rosaline Kelly at her 90th birthday

Barry McCall & Rosaline Kelly at 90

NUJ President Barry McCall described Ms Kelly as an NUJ institution and said her passing would be mourned throughout the union. Mr McCall said:  “Before the phrase ‘glass ceiling’ was coined Rosaline Kelly was setting a headline for woman activists. She was elected to the union’s National Executive Council in 1972 and quickly established a reputation for commitment, energy and a direct debating style which was to become her hallmark.  Rosaline had a long association with the NUJ Standing Orders Committee and was regarded as an expert on procedures. She had a strong commitment to the welfare of members and this was reflected in her deep involvement in the union’s charities and in the establishment of a retired members section in Ireland.  She never lost her enthusiasm and only ill health prevented her from attending our delegate meeting in Newcastle on Tyne last October. It would have been her 50th consecutive delegate meeting.  Rosaline Kelly was an NUJ institution and her passing will be mourned throughout the union.”

 NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet also paid tribute to Ms Kelly. She said: “Rosaline Kelly was one of the outstanding characters within the NUJ. She retained throughout her life an abiding commitment to the principles of social justice. Rosaline was fiercely proud of the NUJ and took particular pride in the Code of Conduct.  Rosaline believed in the highest professional standards and was a strong supporter of our work at the Leveson Inquiry. Decades after her retirement from journalism she was sharing her advice and wise counsel. Her presence at union gatherings will be greatly missed.”

Rosaline Kelly 1923-2013

Rosaline Kelly 1922-2013

NUJ Irish Secretary Séamus Dooley expressed sympathy on behalf of the Irish Executive Council. He said: “Rosaline spent her working life in England but in retirement she became active in Ireland, becoming the voice of retired members and ensuring that their interests were represented at all times. She hated the term ‘Woman President’.

“I was a President who happened to be a woman. You won’t find the term ‘Woman President’ in the Rule Book,” she once chided a branch officer who thought he was doing the right thing by referring to Rosaline’s historic role in breaking through the male dominated fortress that was the NEC. But there is no doubt she was a role model for women in a male dominated industry.  She will be remembered for her qualities of integrity, her selfless dedication and her commitment.”

 “In Ireland Rosaline and (former Irish Secretary) Jim Eadie formed and shaped the retired members section.  As Chair for more than a decade she dominated committee meetings.  I recall watching with fascination as she whipped into shape seasoned union activists. She was a stickler for procedure and protocol and refused to grant special dispensations to anyone – President,  General Secretary or committee member, who she deemed to have transgressed  her standing orders.”

“With the former Irish Secretary Jim Eadie she led the way in ensuring that retired members continued to play a role. She will be remembered for her style, her humour and her forthright manner.  Rosaline disliked the term ‘woman president’ but there is no doubt she was a role model for women in a male dominated industry.  Her integrity, her selfless dedication and her commitment made Rosaline a role model for all union members and it’s for those qualities that she will be remembered”, Mr Dooley said.

Imbued with a sense of justice and fairness Rosaline was also a long standing supporter of the union’s charities, which she served with distinction. Kevin Cooper’s picture at the top shows her on a visit to Belfast, when she accepted a cheque for £7000 on behalf of the NUJ Provident Fund, being the proceeds of the Belfast Press Ball 2004. That commitment reflected a deep personal and largely private faith. While delegates recovered from late night carousing Rosaline would inevitably find a church in whatever obscure corner in which ADM or the Irish Delegate Conference was being held to attend Sunday Mass. On her return she would occasionally tease atheistic colleagues that she had prayed  for their souls or lit a candle for members of SOC as they tried to conclude Sunday’s agenda.

Séamus Dooley also recalled how Rosaline liked visiting the NUJ offices and kept in touch with staff and retired employees. She never arrived empty handed and usually brought boxes of sweets.  When the new Irish office was opened she presented the IEC with her collection of vintage style NUJ posters. Recently the Dublin office got around to framing them and they hang in the foyer in her memory.

Rosaline Kelly presents NUJ posters

Rosaline Kelly presents NUJ posters

Rosaline’s remains were brought on Friday evening to St Patrick’s church in Wicklow town. Requiem Mass was held  at 10am Saturday April 13th in St Patrick’s,  followed by cremation at 12.30pm in Mount Jerome, Harold’s Cross, Dublin.

Among the mourners at the removal were her niece Evelyn and her nephew Patrick, a former NUJ President (1973-74) John Bailey (and his wife Maureen) who was a great friend of Rosaline, John Brophy, Kieran Fagan, Patrick Kinsella and myself representing her many NUJ colleagues.

Damien Tiernan (Irish South East branch) who kept in contact with Rosaline in her latter years was among the mourners at the Mass in Wicklow, where a guard of honour paid her a final NUJ tribute. It included the IEC Cathaoirleach Gerry Curran. John Bailey delivered a eulogy and at the crematorium, Seamus Dooley gave a short oration, followed by former Irish Secretary Jim Eadie. Rest in Peace.

Irish Times death notice: KELLY Rosaline – April 11, 2013, aged 90, Wicklow, London, Drogheda. Member of Honour and first woman elected President of NUJ, (peacefully), after short illness, in St. Colmcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown. Reposing at McCrea’s Funeral Home Dublin Road, Wicklow Town with removal to St. Patrick’s Church, Wicklow Town today (Friday) at 6.15 o’clock arriving at 6.45 o’clock Funeral Mass tomorrow (Saturday) at 10 o’clock followed by cremation Service at Mount Jerome Crematorium, Harold’s Cross, Dublin at 12.30 o’clock Rosaline will be a force missed by her niece Evelyn and nephew Patrick and the wider family, friends, neighbours and trade union colleagues here and abroad. Family flowers only. Donations, if desired, to Bothar – care of McCrea’s Funeral Directors, Dublin Road, Wicklow Town, County Wicklow. Rest In Peace. 

St Louis Convent Carrickmacross

St Louis Convent Carrickmacross

It was only after we had said our farewells to Rosaline and I was talking to Jim Eadie that I discovered she had a Monaghan connection. Her niece confirmed that her aunt who came from Drogheda had attended the Convent of St Louis in Carrickmacross as a boarder. The boarding school closed in 1979. The nuns who came to the town in 1888 helped to establish the famous Carrickmacross lace by setting up a lace school. So because I was passing Carrickmacross on my way back to Monaghan after the service at Mount Jerome, I stopped at the convent and reflected on whether that was where Rosaline had learned her skills of managing conference standing orders and re-writing motions to ensure they were correct!

Former NUJ President John Devine who was another great friend of Rosaline’s and was among the mourners in Dublin reflected on those skills she had:-

“Rosaline, whom I have know since she came on the NEC, was from a generation that could parse, analyse and conjugate and she did not let anyone forget it. She did The Times crossword up until a couple of months ago and still drove her car through Wicklow Town and did most of her own shopping until last Autumn. Have any of you seen the streets of this historic town? She emerged from Magazine and Book at a time when “the suits” were on the wane. M and B generationally, socially and politically was new order just as Hutt and Heald and co. were orthodox and holding on magnificently to the power they wielded in the NUJ. Rosaline’s trade unionism wasn’t based on whims, or short-term causes, or single issues. Her commitment to the uplifting of wages and conditions for media workers across the board required the discipline she applied to what she did on the shop floor. Sloppiness or populism she discouraged within her sphere of influence, not always successfully but mostly. I worked with her on the NEC and on Standing Orders in the days when the ADM could be an organisational nightmare and learned to admire her ability to spoon-fillet people who tried to be smart-assed when their co-operation was being required when several motions and amendments were being composited. The only combination I saw sharper than Rosaline and the late Phil Cutler were Rosaline and Pauline Norris, both lifetime pals. Towards the end of last summer she invited herself to stay with myself and Fran in Bangor, Co. Down. That was her way. She said soon after arrival: “you know I have never seen Lough Neagh the biggest lake in these islands.” I told her that would be arranged. Next day we went to the shores of Lough Neagh first at Lurgan and then near Maghery. We had lunch, for which she paid, and then she adjourned to the external balcony of Edenmore Golf and Country Club in the middle of beautiful pastoral countryside and puffed and puffed on her cigarettes. The receptionist, after providing the second light of the afternoon, brought her a cigarette lighter which she assured Rosaline she could keep. Her great friend John Bailey, whom she appointed to look after her affairs when the end came, organised for himself, Maureen his wife, Lionel Morrison and Liz his and myself and my wife Fran to go to Wicklow last November to organise a 90th birthday party for Rosaline without her knowledge. We took a house for a week and moved into Wicklow and lived as natives. Rosaline had been expecting Fran and I to come down anyway to take her out for a meal but we never mentioned birthday. Once the party was organised, to which The President, and John Brophy were invited and attended, I phoned Rosaline and told her would be along to pick her up. When driving out of her road I turned right heading out of the town. She said “you’re going the wrong way.” I said I had to make a call and say hello to a few friends for a few minutes and maybe she would be good enough to come with us. She agreed. Liz, whom she did not recognise answered the door, and welcomed her enthusiastically. Then when she entered the room and saw all the old friends she was dumbfounded for all of a minute (some class of a record for Rosaline) before announcing that it was the best birthday she ever had. I had my ups and downs with Rosaline during the long years of our acquaintance but she would never let me quit. She never let anybody quit. On the shores of Strangford Lough she sang: ” The sea oh the sea, is grá geal mo chroi, Long may it roll between England and me, it’s a sure guarantee that some day we’ll be free, Thank God we’re surrounded by water.” When chided about being ungrateful to England, where she made her life and developed some of the great friendships of her life, she just laughed.” (John Devine April 12th 2013)

John Devine, Lionel Morrison & Barry McCall with Rosaline

John Devine, Lionel Morrison & Barry McCall with Rosaline