A Good Match – Weekly Photo Challenge

I see this as the perfect match, MY DOG’S EARS. I often watch her, even when she is at rest, with her ears twitching on her head like the Radar on R2-D2’s lid.

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The ears of a Berger Blanc Swiss

OK, it’s not a great picture for a photo challenge, but as you can imagine, she doesn’t stay still for long! In fact, I would go as far as to say, she knows how a camera works, and moves as the the shutter clicks.

Going back to her ears, they never seem to relax, and are permanently ON. One ear will hear a noise, and fix dead still on her head, while the other will scan around under complete control trying to verify any threat. This happens constantly.

Thinking about it now, I’ve always had dogs with this type of ear, and very wolf-like heads, “Oh, Grandmother, what big ears you have” I hear you cry, but it’s someimes good to have the wolf on your side.

Though, remember ladies,  there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves [that get voted for] who are the most dangerous ones of all.

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Against the Odds – Weekly Photo Challenge

I’ve been thinking about this subject, trying to work out what to do, a picture of a Lottery ticket, a poker hand or a set of dice. Then I thought, life is a bit of a lottery. What are the chances of being lost at sea, two days after your son was lost? Must be against the odds.

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Memorial to S.S. Formby and S.S. Coningbeg

So what were the Formby and the Coningbeg? Sister ships, from the Clyde Shipping Line, working between Waterford and Liverpool. Exporting livestock, outward to Liverpool, returning with manufactured goods from England, for the Irish market. The Coningbeg was captained by Joseph Lumley, the 2nd Engineer on the Formby was his son William Lumley.

The fortunes of Waterford have always been linked with it’s river and the trade from the sea. So it comes as no surprise that generations of families, earned their livings at sea, but you don’t expect to loose your life and ruin your family’s future through that work.

The two steamers were in Liverpool, making ready for their last journey home before Christmas, a trip they had done many times. S.S.Formby left first, heading out into the Irish Sea, to be followed by the Coningbeg once it had finished loading.

The odds of getting home were somewhat shortened, by the presence of a German U-Boat in the Irish Sea. U-62 spotted the Formby off the coast of Wales on the 15th December 1917. This is what was written in the U-Boat’s log book:

6pm  15/12/1917

Dark night, westerly wind force 3-4. Shortly before dark a big darkened freighter observed. Pursued attack position. Speed and course 230° of steamer observed.

7.58pm 15/12/1917

Bow shot No.1 tube, C/06D Torpedo 2.5m depth. Opponents speed 11knots, interception angle 80°, distance 500m, hit in engine room. Vessel of unknown nationality. After clearance of smoke of the explosion 3-4 minutes after the strike, ship sinks with all hands.

The Coningbeg sat out a storm in Liverpool, before leaving for home on the 17th, the Captain not knowing of the fate of the Formby, and his son William. They entered the Irish Sea unaware of the stalking U-boat.

8pm 17/12/1917

Very dark, westerly wind force 3 clear. Saw a large darkened vessel, 220° and steamed up to attack. Vessel loaded deep and steaming at 12 knots.

11.45pm 17/12/1917

Night is so dark, target is only recognisable at 1000m with night glasses. Stern tube IV C/06D Torpedo 2.5m depth, distance 500m, angle 80°. Hit amidships. Vessel in flames, breaks in two immediately and sinks with all hands.

83 people lost their lives in those vessels, 67 from Waterford. Their families gathered on the Quay in Waterford, outside the Clyde’s office, but no news came. The body of Annie O’Callahan, Stewardess, was washed onto a beach in Wales, the only body to be recovered. After Christmas the Clyde shipping company declared that they were not coming home, what had become of them was still unknown. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that the 83 were given Service Medals, from England, allowing the families to be given War Pensions.

So, what were the odds of that happening? Well greatly increased, when you add the skill of the captain of the U-Boat, Ernst Hashagen. He could easily be seen as the villain of the piece, but even if he was just following orders, you have to admit he was very good at his job. He is thought to have come to Waterford in the 1940’s, making enquiries about the ships. He went into Phelan’s Barber Shop, run by the son of one of the victims, and told him of his time on U-62. I’ll leave you with his words.

It’s rather dreadful to be steaming thus alongside ones victim knowing that she has ten maybe twenty minutes to live, till fiery death leaps from the sea and blows her to pieces. A solemn mood possesses those few on the bridge. The horror of war silences us.

The moment that the liberating “Fire” rings out, the torpedo is already leaping from it’s tube and on it’s way. No word passes between us. Great experiences render one dumb. We know we did our duty.

Solitude – Weekly Photo Challenge

Is it just me, or are we using the same words again? Anyway, like I said last time, I don’t get much time to be alone. Looking at the bigger picture, are we ever really alone?

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Taken from my garden, looking south towards the Atlantic Coast, Waterford, Ireland.

My cousin saw this picture after I took it last year, and she said “That must be the worst photo ever, there are no people in it!”. She may be right, but I find it hard to believe that there aren’t any forms of life out there in the vastness of space.

Visible in the sky in the picture are Mars, Saturn, Antares and the Moon. You may not believe in Martians, but you must be thinking of The Clangers and the Soup Dragon. No, just me then?

My favourite time of the day, is often alone at night, with the dogs and a cloudless sky above me.

 

Repurposed – Weekly Photo Challenge

When you think of a Workhouse, I’m sure most of you think of Charles Dickens and a grimy Victorian England. Workhouses were not just a phenomenon of English inner cities, they exported them to their colonies as well, this is the Kilmacthomas Workhouse in rural County Waterford, Ireland.

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Kilmacthomas Workhouse, County Waterford, Ireland. Opened 1850

Workhouses have haunted my imagination for years. I imagine walking up to these doors, storm raging, nothing but the clothes I’m wearing, unable to feed the kids, knocking on the door to try and get in. Why did Ireland need Workhouses? We have the best land for growing crops, and people who have an affinity with animals. So why in 1850 did we have to build this evil place? Then, why if we needed it so much, did it close in 1919?

I think to understand those years in Ireland you have to look at the population numbers over that time. The population of the area of the country that is now the Republic of Ireland, was in the region of 6.5 million people. The census of 1911 records the population as 3.1 million. What country can cope with loosing half it’s population in 60 years.

History tells us the Potato Famine lasted six years, from 1845. The figures show our population dropping every year until the 1961 census, the first year that showed any increase was 1966 (the year I was born, so well done Mammy) when it went up to 2.9 million. As a comparison the population of America in 1966 was 196.6 million.

Why did the Workhouse close in 1919? Following the Easter Rising, in 1916, Ireland was given more control of it’s own affairs, until full independence in 1922. The whole Workhouse system was abolished by the new Irish Parliament in 1920, but it carried on in the six counties in the north the 1940’s.

Anyway, closed it was, and it has been repurposed.  Today you will find many different people in these buildings, artist studios, childcare, bike hire, even an aviary.

 

Is there anything left to show for the inmates of this place? Well there is, a single mass burial ground, holding 70 years of death. There is a head stone there now, but that is a recent addition.

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The gates to the burial ground, adjacent to the Kilmacthomas Workhouse.

It’s very hard to find out how many bodies are in this graveyard, as they were not placed in individual graves, but you can imagine the scene from this quote:

Corpses, without coffins, were carried day after day to be thrown into mass burial pits in the workhouse grounds.