"From the fury of the Northmen, O Lord deliver us" was the sorrowful prayer of Celtic monks at night times in centuries past. The traumatised denizens of our garden would if they could utter the same despairing plea today.
For nearly two months, our garden has been sporadically raided by Vikings who under the cover of darkness enter its hallow grounds to steal and to kill innocent residents.
Totally cannibalistic, they gorge on the snails, slugs, worms and caterpillars that live there. Wearing the most sophisticated body armour, these vicious raiders are more than a match for any local garden resident who dares to attack them.
Feared by mini-beasts but beloved by most humans, the savage creature is none other than the hedgehog.
This mammal first arrived to our sacred Emerald Isle on board Viking ships, brought here by Scandinavian warriors as a food source. Though an invasive species, nevertheless they have like many human invaders to our shores, become more Irish than the Irish themselves, adapting well to our climate, fitting nicely into most (though not all) local ecosystems and are an integral part of the countryside.
Unfortunately their numbers, based on anecdotal evidence, have declined dramatically in recent years due to intensive farming, use of pesticides, habitat loss and traffic. Until last year the only hedgehogs I have seen for many years were dead ones lying on roads, the victims of car traffic.
But this adorable mammal has benefited hugely, as with so much flora and fauna, from the development of Terryland Forest Park since 2000. Its woodlands, meadows, hedgerows, wetlands and connectivity to the Corrib waterways have provided a lifeline and sa anctuary for biodiversity to thrive. The hedgehogs that arrive in my garden at night come from the nearby Suan-Sandyvale sector of Terryland. As Dr. Colin Lawton has said, “Build (the forest) and they (the wildlife) will come.”
Dr Elaine O’Riordan of NUI Galway is presently coordinating a survey of Irish hedgehogs in association with Biodiversity Ireland to find out about the distribution and population status of hedgehogs across the island of Ireland. If you see this mammal (dead or alive) please register it at https://bit.ly/38TMo2q
The protests against the dictator Alexander Lukashenko represent the most female-driven political revolution that I have ever witnessed.
Due to these endemic problems, the destruction yesterday means the country is facing a huge humanitarian crisis. We need to send support immediately. Hopefully we can find out soon the NGOs that we can send funds too. Probably the Lebanese Red Cross and Lebanese Red Crescent would be recommended.
The workshops will take place at the Data Science Institute subject to COVID-19 restrictions then current. If this cannot happen, we will host online workshops using virtual console simulators and reschedule the ones using the vintage computers to a suitable time in 2021.
Back to the Future - the 1980s revisited
Today so many good-minded tech savvy educators are working really hard to promote computer coding amongst our young people through coding clubs such as Coderdojo and by campaigning to have it accepted as a curriculum subject in schools. We see it as our mission to transform our kids from being passive Computer Users to active Computer Creators. Coding is a skill set that is increasingly beneficial in so many professions and will be even more so as the century rolls by.
But in some ways it can be seen as a ‘Back to the Future’ saga. For during the 1970s up until the mid 1980s, using a computer was synonymous with knowing how to code one. It was a programming language called BASIC that introduced personal computing. In a time when few people ever saw a computer let alone use one, John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz of Dartmouth College USA designed a language in 1964 that allowed everyday people to have computers carry out many different tasks from writing letters, undertaking research, solving problems and playing games. The language was known as BASIC (Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) and had commands with easy-to-relate to English words that related to their functionality (Print, Goto, If___Then, and later Input). Programming had lost its elitism (for mathematicians only) and could be understood and programmed by ordinary people. But what truly made it accessible to all was the invention of the microprocessor, which formed the basis of the first fully-assembled personal (table top) computers that started to appeared from 1977. The Commodore Pet, RadioShack Tandy TRS-80 and the Apple 11 that were launched that year were off-the-shelf low cost computers aimed at the ordinary consumer and schools. All three came bundled with BASIC. Within a few years the standard version of the language on most computers was Microsoft Basic invented by Bill Allen and Bill Gates.
Schools all over the world started to teach programming. By 1983, most secondary schools in Galway had computer labs populated with computer equipment donated by Ballybrit-based Digital Equipment Corporation(DEC) where students learnt to code. The demise of BASIC and indeed programming in general across educational establishments happened with the rise of application software or what we know call apps from the late 1980s.
"Those who worked in the computer industry in Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s were greatly saddened by the recent death of Mike Mulqueen, the first Irish employee of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Mike wasn’t a tech guru but nevertheless his contribution to the growth of the Hi-Tech sector in Ireland was immense.
Mike, a native of Co. Limerick, came to Galway in 1971 as Personnel Manager for DEC which had just announced that it was establishing its European Manufacturing base in Galway. He was joined by a start-up team from the US and within three months he had recruited the first production workers. By Christmas staff numbers had grown to 140. More importantly Mike, as Personnel Manager, had started to establish the values and ethics of company president Ken Olsen, which had already permeated the young Digital in the US. He did that superbly well and helped create the work environment which so many of those who worked for the company in Ireland look back on with great pride and great fondness.
Digital was a fairly small player in the computer sector in 1971 but it went to become number 2 to IBM on a global basis. At the same time, with Mike still in charge of HR, the Galway plant had advanced from being a low-tech core memory manufacturer to a state of art hi-tech operation producing complex hardware and software for the EMEA region. It had become a centre for R&D.
The success of the Galway plant was used by IDA Ireland to demonstrate to the Apples, Intels and Microsofts of this world that Ireland should be their location of choice when opening up in Europe. They duly arrived and have gone on to prosper. Their presence in Ireland later attracted companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Paypal, LinkedIn and many others.
Mike treasured the many friends he made in Digital and travelled from his home in Limerick on a number of occasions to be with former colleagues, at the First Thursday coffee mornings in the Huntsman.
Members of the board of the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland would like to offer their sympathy to Mike’s sons, Billy and Michael, his grandchildren and the extended Mulqueen family."
Photograph shows Mike (right) signing into the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland for the DEC night in 2011 accompanied by the late Des McKane (centre) and the late Chris Coughlan (left) who was then Chairperson of the museum. All three gentlemen were employees of Digital Galway.
'Black Lives Matter Day': Online Garden Meeting with the residents of the Eglinton Direct Provision Centre.
I was disappointed that I was not at the 'Black Lives Matter' protest yesterday afternoon in Eyre Square as I thought, based on media reporting, that it was called off.
But anyway yesterday morning I was facilitating the first online (Zoom) meeting between garden volunteer residents of the Eglinton Direct Provision Centre in Salthill, garden supremo Kay Synott and artist extraordinaire Monica de Bath.
This has been our first get-together since the beginning of the Great Lockdown and it was so wonderful to finally met up once again 'face-to-face' with my Eglinton friends.
Eight residents were in attendance- Georgina, Jihad, Pretty, Beltar, Elizabeth, Innocent, Thom and Stanley.
A few others were unfortunately missing due to sickness including our good friend and the queen of hearts herself, namely Carole Raftery, a key member of the staff of the Eglinton.
The attendees agreed today on a set of guidelines and a roster to help build on the work that has been done over the last few months under the chairperson of Georgina. Kay has been brilliant during that period in ensuring the delivery of seeds and plants to the Eglinton whilst Monica has kept the spirit of 'art in nature' alive amongst the children of the Eglinton.
I have a special affinity with the residents, management and staff of this direct provision centre since I started volunteering there in 2004. Over the years I have seen so many hard-working people in the Eglinton get Irish residency, and contribute positively to the greater good of their new homeland. Today that tradition continues as the present garden chairperson Georgina will be leaving the centre tomorrow to start a new life elsewhere in Galway. I wish her the very best.
In my time there, I have made many life long friendships amongst residents and staff.
It was really lovely to see today also that the legacy of former residents such as Lyudvig Chadrjyan in putting so much effort in helping to start the community garden over five years ago is still bearing fruit (& vegetables!)
Celebrating Terryland Forest Park 2000-2020: a unique Green & Blue Hub for Galway city and environs.
Last week we held the first online (Zoom) meeting of supporters of the Terryland Forest Park from surrounding areas and beyond. It was so beneficial to have residents from areas such as Dyke Road, Coolough, Castlegar, Gleann na Trá, Castlelawn, Ros na Shee(Sidhe), Sandyvale, Skellig Ard, Carraig Bán and Riverside who want to get involved in bringing Ireland's largest urban forest park to a new level of ambition by getting it recognised not only as a wildlife sanctuary and a People's Park with recreational facilities for all age groups, but also as a unique Blue and Green hub of international importance.
But it is envisaged also that the Terryland Forest Park and the Dyke Road could well become a hub for the Corrib waterways stretching into the heartlands of Mayo; the terminus for the Connemara Greenway with the construction of a bridge on top of the old railway pillars; and, working with local communities, a starting point for a network of walking and cycling trails along the 'boreens' of Menlo, Castlegar and Carrowbrowne. The pioneering Seven Galway Castles' Heritage Cycle Trail/ Slí na gCaisleán that begins and ends at Terryland Castle (see photo with Helen Caird's lovely drawings!) is now twelve years old.
Note: a huge poster of Slí na gCaisleán is on permanent display beside Terryland Castle.
Every large park must have a central multi-purpose building that serves as meeting point and so much more. We must now seriously look at converting the abandoned 19th century waterworks into a forestry/river interpretative centre with café, gallery, heritage museum, toilets and cycle rental/repair shop.
Details of the speakers and themes for this month's Zoom meet-up will be posted on this blog on Thursday. More volunteers and supporters welcomed!
One of the greatest video games of all time, Pacman is 40 years old this month and yet remains as popular as ever.
Created by Toru Iwatani and a team at the Japanese game company Namco, it was released on May 22nd 1980. It was the first game written to appeal to a female audience. Iwatani saw that the whole video games industry catered only for men and concentrated on sport and violent war themes. Only boys seem to populate the arcade machine halls. So he decided to develop a game with cute, happy looking bright coloured characters based around colourful foods such as deserts and sweets. One of the inspirations for the Pacman image was a pizza with a slice removed. The ghosts in the game were inspired by the television series Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Trees of Terryland Forest Park: Hawthorn (Irish = 'Sceach Gheal'). ‘The Fairy Tree’- Symbol of Magic and of Summer.
Harvesting the wild flowers, fruits, herbs, fungi, roots and leaves of the forests has been integral to the fabric of humanity since our species first appeared on the planet.
It is only over the last fifty years that as a result of technology ‘development’, in the form of refrigeration, mechanised transport, chemical fertilisers, intensive agriculture, urbanisation and the growth in supermarket shopping, we in our consumer society have lost an understanding of the seasonality of food, of the importance of sourcing food locally and of the natural edible resources that exist in our local woods, hedgerows, seashores, rivers and meadows.
Disconnect with Nature leads inevitably to habitat destruction and the extinction of species.
However, there has been over the last decade increased involvement by the general public in growing food locally and organically, precipitated by a growing awareness of the dangers being brought about by man-made Climate Chaos. During COVID-19, it is so lovely the surge in people setting up organic vegetable gardens at their homes. It is cool now to be a gardener!
1. Be moderate in what you take home as the berries and nuts that you are collecting are the natural food sources for much of the birds, insects and animals of the countryside and our urban natural areas.
2. Do not remove the whole plant; take only the edible parts that you require such as the fruits and leaves whilst leaving the roots and some of fruits and leaves so that it can grow again.
3. Many fungi and fruits are poisonous. So if you are unsure, take someone with you that is familiar with the culinary aspects of plants and fungi.
The Cowslip's Irish name tells you exactly what its association was with in rural Ireland in days gone by. "Bainne bó bleachtáin" means the "milk of the milking cow" and the flower was rubbed on a cow's udder on May Day to protect the milk.
Also known as St. Peter's Wort ('flower' in Anglo-Saxon) or St Peter's Keys, its connection with this most famous of Christian saints, who was given the keys to the kingdom of Heaven (symbolised in the official flag of the Vatican), is due to its pendulous shaped flower grouping on the plant.