Friday, January 28, 2011

Shafted! A miner's story of life-saving and a weighty question by Victor Sullivan

Shafted! A miner's story of life-saving and a weighty question.

© Victor Sullivan

The Mine Foreman wearily reached the top of the fifth ladder in the mine shaft and paused for breath. The new Urhan Copper Mine was not deep enough yet but each day it grew deeper and deeper. The ladder rungs were wet and slippery. Water seeped from the hard rock of the shaft wall and trickled and dripped down into the blackness below. His source of light was the candle stuck into a lump of clay on his hat but above him was a small circle of daylight where he would eventually emerge into fresh air, the heather of the hillside and that magnificient view across Kenmare Bay towards the mountains of Kerry. But it wasn't the scenery that motivated him towards the surface. It was the thought of the warm comfort of the sheebeen and its other liquid comforts.
The Foreman had got into the habit of sneaking to the illicit premises during the mid-day break while the shaft of the new mine was less than five fathoms deep. Drinking during working time was strictly banned but so far nobody had reported his sheebeen visits to the Mine Manager, Captain Spranza.
As he reached for the next ladder-rung a sudden yell above made him glance up in time to see a black shadow falling towards him. Locking one arm in the ladder he grabbed the falling man with the other and with his massive miner's muscles managed to stop the man's fall and drag him onto the ladder. Both rescued and rescuerer clung to each other as they came to realise what had happened. Death had been avoided. Injuries were painful but slight. Some muscles might ache for a few days, bruises would fade and grazes would heal; nothing new for anyone working in the Urhan Mine.

News of the incident in the shaft reached the ears of Captain Spranza and he sent for the Foreman next morning.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Parade in Cork by Marie Guillot

A Parade in Cork: A group marching in the streets. What for?

by Marie Guillot, © December 2010
Illustrations by Marie Guillot and Victor Sullivan

At the corner of Cork City Hall, the marching band sets off. Our crowd is now moving. Slowly at first, then faster, as the men in uniform are leading the pace. We are instructed: “Walk four abreast, all of you. Four abreast.” Our eagerness is boundless: each foursome is making an effort to keep the cadence. But something is amiss. Soon, there are stragglers, crossing the bridge in dribs and drabs. Turning into Oliver Plunkett Street, we are somehow gathered again. The four abreast has become between-two-and-six across. It works better that way.

The Christmas shoppers are watching us, not knowing our purpose. Protesters? Doubtful. Usually, protesters are not preceded by military music and not followed by a large firetruck, all lights flashing. A Santa Claus parade? A new kind then: the marchers are only carrying ancient books, all dull-coloured. Nothing really to attract young children. The organisers are distributing leaflets to the onlookers, who read them and smile at us. Now they understand: the old books are being transferred from Anglesea street to the Grand Parade library in commemoration of the burning of the Carnegie library in 1920. They were donated after the fire by generous families (not only Irish, but from other countries as well), to start a recovery.

Having reached its destination, the parade is brought to a halt along the stalls of the Christmas Market. For the cameras, the participants raise up their books, all jolly in unison. They enter the library to reinstate them, one by one, a symbolic gesture in memory of the donations. Several public readings follow, some read by descendants of the donors. All texts are expertly selected, bringing history to the occasion. They remind us how a tragedy can trigger determination and bring goodwill out of an extended community towards the restoration of its city.

To recuperate from these emotions we are then invited beside the festive Christmas tree, to share wine and mince pies. The elderly books rest on a table, worn out from their many journeys. A few fanatics among us take advantage of the quieter time to look at them and exchange impressions. In particular, a book about Cork City (published in 1801) is almost torn apart between two admirers. Such is the destiny of books.