Camino Rambling

Camino Rambling

This section of short stories started by accident when my old school-friend, Dr Danny McAllister, practicing in England, reneged on an anticipated visit to our shared ancestral parish home in September 2012. His excuse was that a long-planned 500 mile stroll was to take precedence over yet another visit to the homestead to poach a few tasty wild salmon from the River Moy. Each to their own, I thought to myself, until Danny later explained that his walking expedition was actually a re-enactment of a historical pilgrimage across northern Spain. Danny was sufficiently daft / possessed / fit / brainwashed (delete as per reader’s choice) to attempt to walk alone and uninterrupted from the French side of the border near to Pamplona all the way west to Santiago de Compostela. I was educated to learn that this countryside / countrywide walk is known as El Camino de Santiago to the ancient ramblers.

Danny’s walk along well-worn pathways was scheduled to take a little over a month, allowing for permissible overnight rests. I decided to accompany Danny (not in person!) by relaying the news from his South Sligo ancestral farm parish at regular intervals by way of a diary report. I was wary of this undertaking; maybe more-so than Danny’s physical challenge – because nothing much ever happens in a quiet outback in the West of Ireland, far off the beaten tracks which Dr McAllister was attempting to conquer, does it?

It was only when Danny reached the holy grail of the Atlantic Ocean, and I read back my diary notes, that I too had a “religious” experience and appreciated that a helluva lot happened in our isolated Irish community in the space of one month. My epiphany moment made me realize that the more distance there is between houses (typically 200-500 metres here), the closer the community. Every birth, courtship, wedding, illness or death is verbally communicated around the parish within a matter of hours of any formal announcement or insider knowledge being proclaimed. The well-being of the occupants of every secluded home is monitored from the village meeting points, namely the shops and pubs (some of which are shops and pubs). Help is always at hand.

I have lived in apartments and terraced streets in other parts of the world, and I never even knew the names of some next-door neighbours despite being more than familiar with their raised voices through seemingly paper-thin walls.

And so … I simply relayed the parish news to Danny, as it happened, and how I interpreted it. Danny told me he welcomed the light relief provided by my missives, and so did his fellow walkers when he shared the regular updates at his overnight hostels. In fact, Danny’s fellow-Camino pilgrims from around the world now want the GPS co-ordinates of our little corner of the world. Danny warns that there could be an invasion of lost souls looking for enlightenment. Whoever they are, they will be welcomed and cared for. That’s just the way of life here.

Click on Camino Rambling below to catch up on what’s been happening in the parish ….

Start at 26th September 2012 in order to follow the Camino trail, then:

28th September 2012

30th September 2012

1st October 2012

4th October 2012

6th October 2012

9th October 2012

16th October 2012

20th October 2012

22nd October 2012

26th October 2012

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Irish Fake News in 1887

The concept of fake news reported in the media is not a new thing. For time immemorial, journalists with the power to promote their opinions to the masses have abused this privilege. Modern-day social media has just highlighted this phenomenon with the likes of President Trump never happy if some journo or blogger dares to question his scary New World Order.

Back in 1887, in Ireland, Tory or Conservative politicians were being bombarded with cries for help from mega-wealthy landlords whose poverty-stricken (mainly Catholic) tenants could not afford to pay their exorbitant annual rents to occupy their ancestral homesteads. Westminster rapidly passed laws to permit violently enforceable evictions of debt-ridden tenants on Irish country estates. The right-wing Press did its bit to convince the world that Catholics were “bad” and part of a dying religion, while Protestantism was the way forward for all God-fearing decent folk. In other words, Catholics deserved what Catholics got, however brutally delivered – because they were not rich and didn’t live in mansions, and establish newspapers and promote capitalism.

I spotted the article below originally written by an Irish Times journalist in January 1887. On first reading, it seems to simply state a few indisputable statistics – but on closer examination, you can see how the numbers were manipulated to present a rosy picture to blinkered Protestant readers which was far from the truth. Fake news at its worst.

Hang on a minute ..

Let’s review those facts:

  • An increase of 45 million Protestants worldwide to 150M represents a quadrupling. Really? More like a tripling, or thereabouts, I’d say.
  • By comparison, an increase of 60M Catholics to “only” 180M total represents a gain of one-fifth. No – there are one fifth more Catholics than Protestants worldwide according to these uncorroborated figures. The Catholic population has actually increased by 50%.
  • 75% of Protestants can speak English in 1881. How wonderful! If only he could get those German founders of the religion to speak English, then the reporter could really boast about his righteous Anglican religion.
  • 168,500,000 of Catholics could not speak English in 1881. How awful. Shocking!
  • In 1801, about a third of the British & Irish population were Catholics. Probably about right – and no problem to any true Christian – BUT …
  • The author of this piece reckons that 91% of the remaining population were Protestant. I would dispute that. There were several religious denominations in 1801, and a fair proportion of agnostics and pagans.
  • The population of the British Isles trebled from 1801 to 1881. The population of predominantly Catholic Ireland halved – but this is not mentioned.
  • Some called it a natural disaster, others genocide – but the mid-19th century Great Famine of Ireland is not referenced in the Irish Times religious survey report. 1.5 million Irish Catholics were wiped off the island’s population statistics within a few years, a million of whom suffered avoidable premature death; a further 1.5 million disappeared during the following decades through continued enforced migration.

A left-wing Catholic reporter in 1887 could have summed up the stats as follows:

Following the cruelest of extermination plots, the Catholic population of Ireland remains at around 3.5 million, as it was at the start of the century. More remarkably, the percentage of Protestants in the British Isles has not changed significantly during this time despite the faith’s followers not having to endure mass starvation.

Which variation is fake news?

Gearoid O’Neary is not aligned with either denomination mentioned above. He prefers to focus on the truth.

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