Krunchie with Yachts

Krunchie with Yachts

Proinnsias - Krunchie As

"Proinnsias" sounds the same as "Krunchie as," except with a P instead of a K. I was christened "Francis Killeen," but adopted the Irish form of this name "Proinnsias Ó Cillín." ("Cillín," which means "treasure," sounds exactly the same as "Killeen"). Some people have difficulty pronouncing "Proinnsias," and some children in my neighbourhood called me "Krunchie," a nickname that stuck.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Christmas in the Trenches 1917

Includes Krunchie on Tin Whistle and Reading Poems and Letters from the Front: 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Saint Patrick as Whistleblower

Saint Patrick was no literateur and wrote very little. His two surviving manuscripts both arise out of his whistleblowing against corrupt Roman/ English general, Coroticus.

Patrick had converted the people of Antrim, who, thereupon turned away from violent ways, when Coroticus attacked the new Christian community, slaughtered many and took others, - young women, - as slaves, to sell to the Picts of Scotland.

Patrick wrote an epistle to the English Church denouncing this act of piracy and demanding that the young women be returned out of slavery.

... Therefore these words I, with my proper hand,
Have framed and written, for delivery
To these the soldiers' of Coroticus ;
[20] I say not, to my fellow-citizens,
Nor fellow-citizens of pious Romans,
But rather fellow-citizens of Fiends,
Because of their ill deeds, who, barbarously,
In manner full of hatred, live in death,
[25] Companions of the Scots and Picts apostate,
Intent to glut their savage souls in blood
Of innocents unnumbered, by myself
In God begotten and in Christ confirmed ... .
...  Wherefore, beseech you, all that holy are,
And all of humble heart, that with such men
Ye hold no flattering converse. You, with them,
Eat not nor drink ; nor of them take their alms,
Until with rigorous penance, and with tears
[70] Effused, they make atonement, and set free
These new-baptized handmaidens of Christ,
For whom He died and suffered on the cross. ...
(From the translation of Sir Samuel Ferguson)

 Coroticus was a powerful man, a benefactor of the English Church, with many friends in high places. His response to Patrick's attack was as the powerful corrupt always respond, - to launch a vitriolic campaign against the whistleblower's character. He accused Patrick of going native, as becoming as pagan and savage as the Irish themselves, and, indeed, as having attended sun-worshipping ceremonies in his youth. As a consequence charges were formally brought against Patrick and he had to attend before a Synod of bishops in London to answer the charges.

His second, and most famous manuscript, The Confessions of Saint Patrick, was his defence to these charges.

The good bishops of the church and civil authorities in England concerned themselves not with bringing the piratic mass-murderor and slave-trader to justice, but with holding a tribunal into the political correctness of Patrick's ministry.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Shanty-town Slums for Dublin?

Could we see the development of shanty-town slums in Dublin, like they have in Nairobi/?

The short answer is Yes!

In 1960, there were no slums in Nairobi, a beautiful city with a sunny, but quite cool, climate, on a fertile plateau in Kenya. Inapproriate government policy and failure to deal with the housing needs of a growing population led to the present position where over half of the three million population of the city live in shanty slums.

A brief comparison of the history of Dublin and Nairobi shows that, with poor urban government, it could happen here. Note some important ingredients:

  • Zoning laws that restrict the land available for housing;
  • Housing regulations that prevent the building of affordable housing;
  • Lack of title of residents to the place they live.
Administrative changes in these three areas could quickly resolve the slum issue in Nairobi and other places. Failure to deal realistically with the growing population would lead to slums in Dublin.

Dublin housing history:

18th century Kips:
The Cromwellian and Williamite wars of the 17th century caused a great influx of homeless people into Dublin. The word "Kip" originally referred to a sleeping place or boarding house. In Dublin of the early 18th century it came to mean a building where homeless people were provided shelter for the night. These often had no beds. For a modest sum, you were provided with a space along a bar. With others, you slept standing while leaning against the bar. The kips were notorious for robbery and assaults and for prostitution. The Penal Times (18th century) were peaceful and prosperous. Dublin mushroomed and quality of life improved. Land and houses were owned by protestants and the bulk of the population were Catholic tenants.

19th century Slums:
Following the Act of Union in 1800, the population continued to grow, but the economy declined. By the end of the century Dublin had the worst slums in Europe (and the most notorious Red Light District).

1930s, 40s, 50s
Public housing converted the green fields of Cabra, Drimnagh, Crumlin, Raheny, Coolock, etc., into houses. Tenants were enouraged to buy the houses from the local authorities and these areas became largely owner-occupied.

From the 19th century, a large segment of the housing of Dublin was in rented accomodation. In 1914, rent restriction was brought in and this was extended continuously up to the 1960s. As a result, the housing landlords were impoverished and the stock of rented houses deteriorated  and declined. A housing crisis emerging in the 1960s was met by the building of the high towers in Ballymun. This provided places for the people to sleep, but failed to provide normal urban living facilities. Unfortunatelfy, what could have been an excellent development was just a huge collection of kips (i.e., sleeping places).

1970s and 80s
The growing population of Dublin was not being catered for by the city plan; insufficient land was to be zoned for housing. Individual initiatives (Liam Lawlor style) succeeded in re-zoning large tracts of land in West Dublin, against the wishes of the city managers and planners. Without these initiatives, we would have seen a huge homelessness emerging and an immense bubble in property prices in Dublin.

The Noughties
A redevelopment of Ballymun ran out of steam. Instead of improving the existing tower blocks and adding the needed urban amenities, the blocks were torn down and replaced by much of the same (well, with some improvement). For many young people seeking temporary accomodation in Dublin, bed-sits provided an affordable solution. The regulators, however, seeking to make things better, prohibited any further letting of bedsits. This removed a large stock of affordable housing from the market, one element in the emergence of homelessness. There is now no affordable short-term accomodation in Dublin. The financial crash left thousands of house-purchasers unable to repay their mortgages. NAMA was set up to save the banks and purchased the bank loans at a discount. It could have re-sold  to  the house-owners at a profit for the state, but still at a discount on the original cost. Instead, it sold at a discount to Vulture Funds, re-introducing 19th century landlordism. House-purchasers, unable to repay their mortgages, were evicted, the main cause of our current homelessness. Meanwhile the  population of  Dublin is increasing more rapidly than the stock of houses, meaning we are headed for Nairobi style slums.

Coming soon: shanty living in Dublin
In Nairobi, with nowhere  to live, the homeless people built their shacks from sticks, corrugated iron, cardboard and plastic, along the banks of the rivers, on the flood planes, and in other open places. We can expect Dublin's shanties, if affordable housing is not  provided to meet the rising population, along the Dodder, the Grand Canal, the Tolka, Ringsend Park, Bull Island, and any open spaces available. Imagine 100,000 people settling on the lawns of St Stephen's Green. The Board of Works comes along, supported by the police, bulldozes the shacks and drives the homeless people off. Where do they go? Onto Merrion Square, the banks of the Grand Canal and the Dodder: until they are bulldozed out of there.

A Brief History of Nairobi
Nairobi was an uninhabited swamp, served by a network of small rivers, on a fertile plane, with a sunny but cool climate. It was part of the lands of the Maasai, a nomadic people. These did not believe in the ownership of land, but drove their herds of cattle and goats over the plains. "Nairobi" is a Maasai word that means "cool water." A railway was being built from Mombasa (then capital of the territory) to Uganda, and a depot and camp was set up at Nairobi. Around the camp, shacks and bazaars quickly developed.

1900 - 1926
A Town Committee was set up to organise the place. The jurisdiction of the town was declared to be a 1.5 mile radius surrounding His Brittanic Majesty's Commissioner's office. A town hall, hotel, banks, trading centres, Catholic Church and school, and other facilities were provided and the town developed very rapidly.

Nairobi was given the status of a city by Royal Charter, March 1950. (In 1964 Kenya became independent and Nairobi's Mayor indigenous. In 2013, the title of Nairobi City Council was changed to Nairobi City County).

1960 to now: growth of slums
Conflict, tribal clashes, drought, rural depopulation, refugees from wars in neighbouring states and other events brought floods of people into Nairobi. Land was not provided for the new people to make their home. They had to settle illegally on open land. They had no title to this land, but have to pay large rents to speculators who claim to be owners of the land, most of which was, in fact, public open space. Any attempt to build proper buildings is frustrated, because the land grabbers, who claim ownership, often through corruption, move in with eviction orders and bulldozers and demolish whatever buildings the slum-dwellers erect.

Visiting Nairobi in 2002, I stayed in a house in the grounds of the Mater Hospital, beside the slum of Mukuru. "Mukuru" is a Swahili word meaning "Dump." The City Council had many years ago declared that the area was unfit for housing, being located beside a dump. This meant it was open space on which homeless people could settle and build their shacks. Now around half a million people live here in that dump.

I woke on my first morning in Nairobi to the shock of a large mass of men marching by my window. "What's going on?" I said to my sister, Mary, "Have I arrived in the middle of a revolution?"

"No," said Mary, "These men are walking into the city to work."

It transpired that 100,000 men walk every day from the slum into the city to work!

"If they have jobs," I aked, "why are they living in the slum and not in proper houses."

"Because," came the answer, "property is too expensive in Nairobi. People with unskilled work can't afford houses."

So: the main reason for the slums is lack of affordable housing. This is caused by failure to zone land for housing to compete with existing housing areas. It is also caused by the failure to allow poor people to own their own plot so that they can build for themselves houses of better quality than the present shacks, if not of a quality to satisfy housing regulations.

Lack of land zoned for housing (on the open plains) to compete with existing urban areas means that land and buildings are grossly over-priced.

Nairobi City

Thursday, 7 July 2016

The Hungry Month

July was called the "hungry month" in the west of Ireland.

The hedge-rows were full of blossoms, but there was little on the table.

Last year's potatoes were nearly used up and what was left of them were soft and soggy. The new year's potatoes would not be ready until August at the earliest. (Some seaside areas, however, had earlier potatoes).

The milk was flowing well, however. The cow and goat were very efficient machines at turning grass and herbs into a wonderful and tasty set of foods: Cream, butter, drinking milk, curds, cheese perhaps,  buttermilk, milk-water (whey and lactose solution left over after extracting other foods from the liquid milk).

Six million peasants, before the famine, (more than halved in number afterwards) lived almost exclusively on potatoes and milk. There were many ways of making tasty meals out of potatoes: boiled in the skin, baked, roasted in butter or fat, sliced and fried, part-boiled and part fried, boiled and mashed, shredded and fried in butter (boxty), shredded and baked (rostie), and so on.

"Boxty" comes from the Irish words "bocht tí," which means "poor person's house." Poor land would not grow wheat, and a poor man could not afford to buy flour. Boxty was made from a mixture of freshly shredded potatoes and cooked potatoes, formed into a cake and slowly fried in butter on the pan. It wasn't bread, but it resembled griddle-bread in appearance and made a tasty meal. Still available and appreciated in the west!

A very special potato dish was reserved for the month of July, i.e., Colcannon (also permitted at Hallowe'en, but then with more mature cabbage or kale).

Colcannon is distinguished from ordinary mashed potatoes (and more particularly from mashed potatoes carelessly made, with excessive moisture retained or over-mashed) called "Stampy." The soft potatoes are firstly hardened up by soaking in cool water overnight. Then they are boioled in their jackets, peeled and lightly mashed, and left under low heat to dry to the correct moisture level. The thinnings from the onion patch (spring onions) and the outer leaves of the young cabbages are picked, chopped, and lightly cooked. Most importantly, a good quantity of cream off the top of the milk is whisked until it is thick ("whipped cream"). The whipped cream and the greens are gently mixed into the potatoes, to make a delicious meal, served hot to the table. Open  a crater in the top of the conical pile of potato on your plate, and into the crater drop a good dollop of butter. Delicious!

Pictures taken today by the Royal Canal between Glasnevin and Ashtown: July blossoms.

Did you ever eat Colcannon, made with the thickened cream?
With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.
Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the melting flake
Of the clover-flavoured butter that your mother used to make?

Oh you did, I know you did, so did he and so did I.
And the more I think about it, sure, the nearer I'm to cry.
Oh, weren't them the happy days when troubles we knew not,
And your mother made Colcannon in the little skillet pot.

Well did you ever take potato cake or boxty to the school,
Tucked underneath your oxter with your book, your slate and rule?
And when teacher wasn't looking, sure, a fine big bite you'd take,
Of the clover-flavoured buttered sweet potato cake.


Well did you ever go a-courting as the evening sun went down,
And the moon began a-peeping from behind the Hill o' Down?
As you wandered down the boreen where the leprechaun was seen,
And you whispered loving phrases to your little fair Colleen.


About Me

My photo

Born in Phibsborough, Dublin, 1943. Qualifications: BL and M Sc (IT).
Land Registration Consultant, poet, inventor and artist.Member of the Invincibles old-time band.
Attended St Peter's primary and O'Connell secondary schools.
Member, down the years, of church choir,Knights of Malta, Dáil na nÓg, Irish Language societies, residents association, action groups, musical societies and drama groups, board of National Museum.
Chaired many groups, including Residents Association, IMPACT trade union branch, Art Societies.
Ran folk club in Slattery's of Capel Street, late 1960s and returned for Poems and Pints. Led Claremont Residents Association to win Tidy Areas Competition.