Monday, 27 December 2010

A Very Hurley Merry Christmas to You All

A very Merry Christmas to all readers of my humble blog.

That's all family and friends, all Hurleys, and anyone of great taste.

I hope you all had a Happy and Holy Christmas and that St Nicholas brought you all enough little presents to make the Holy Feast memorable.

My one tip for next year for those of you with children: take them to Midnight Mass.

We had to wake the children up at 8am (previous years they woke us up - 6, 5 and even 4am taking their toll!).

We didn't even have to snooze off Christmas dinner on the sofa.

I threatened to do an Old Pa Hurley trick and have my photo taken wearing my Christmas presents. One year he has underpants, socks and a watch. They sight of him posing for a photo is indelibly seared on the memories of all present. I might sue for damages in a few years time...

But as I only had a shirt and a pair of doctor martens, I think the children would have called the police.

P.S. For those of you hanging on my every culinary word (I know, my kitchen skills are fabled, i.e. I can burn water) we had beef and duck for Christmas dinner. Very, very nice! My tip every year is to make mountains of extra roasties to eat cold for a couple of days with the leftover meat etc. Yum yum stretch my tum.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Hello Smiler! This IS Private Daniel Roderick Hurley

The soldier at mid-right in this photo, with the broadest smile, is indeed Private Daniel Roderick 'Roddy' Hurley, A Company, 9 Para Battalion, 6th Airborne Division who died on the 7th June, 1944.

Please say a prayer for the repose of his soul.

It's Nearly Christmas!

I am still a child at heart and so I still get excited by Christmas, and get caught up in all the joy of the Nativity.

Being an ardent Pro-Lifer I was pleased to see this poster too: a great reminder of how Christ too was an unborn child (and a humble one at that!).

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Were D.R. Hurley & T.W. Smith Good Mates in A Company?

9 Para Battalion, A Company.
I have posted this picture before.

Just today the grandson (Stephen Smith) of a member of A Company (Thomas William Smith) got in touch after viewing this blog to say that he thinks my uncle (Daniel Roderick "Roddy" Hurley) is standing next to his grandfather in the above photo, they are in the 2nd row down from the back, 2nd and 3rd from the right respectively.

Here is a close-up of the two men:

T.W. Smith & D.R. Hurley?
I am going to ask family members to confirm that the man in the middle-right of this close-up is indeed my Uncle Roddy, but it sure looks like him.

Here is Uncle Roddy in his individual photo in uniform for you to compare:

It certainly seems that we are finding out more about Private Daniel Roderick Hurley.

Many thanks to Stephen Smith for his help. It's tempting to think that his grandad and my uncle were good friends. They certainly must have known each other!

As a fitting P.S. I'm happy to say that the author Neil Barber is ensuring that the above photo of Uncle Roddy is going to be put on view, with other members of A Company, 9 Para, at the Merville Battery museum in Normandy.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

St Peter's Church, Roath, Cardiff

St Peter's Church, Roath
It's been quite a few years since I've been to St Peter's in Cardiff.

It has changed quite a bit from images I've seen on the internet since I went there as a child, and was married there in 1994.

The beautiful stain glassed windows and breath-taking Pieta statue (the Virgin Mary holding the dead Christ, taken off the Cross) is still there, but the decor has changed for the better as far as I can tell. I seem to recall white-washed walls and ceilings.

As this picture shows the ceilings now have motifs, including a 'Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus' above the altar.

There is similar decor (on a purple backdrop) around the Pieta.

Michelangelo's original 1499 Pieta in St Peter's Basilica, Rome
Sadly there is no history section at the moment on their main site. Hopefully this is something that will change in the future as St Peter's is the oldest existing Catholic Church in Cardiff and so I'm sure has a great history to it.

St Peter's Parish Roath
St Peter's Parish Archives/Records

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Remembering Newtown: The Story of a Near Forgotten Community

...the Irish newcomers quickly made Newtown their own. "Little Ireland", as it became known, had a school and its own church, St Paul's. The church in particular was central to the devout Catholic community. Musical and sporting talents like boxing legend Jimmy Driscoll were also nurtured. It was, as resident Mary Sullivan - whose Irish grandmother emigrated there - recalls, "a town within a city."
Above Right: World famous boxer Jim Driscoll, outside his pub in Newtown with the famous 'Cork Pipers'.

Call me an old romantic ("old?" I ask pleadingly, "romantic?" Mrs Hurley asks cynically) but I like to think that just as the Welshman, St Patrick, took Catholicism to the people of Ireland, so the new Irish settlers of the 19th Century brought the Catholic Faith back to a Wales that had it ripped from them in the 16th and 17th Centuries.

Just as St Patrick took the heathen Irish and created a land of monasticism and devout Faith, so the Irish settlers would bring at least some of the Welsh, amongst whom they settled, mixed and married, back to the Faith of Our Lady of Cardigan, Our Lady of Bala, and Our Lady of Penrhys. In that noble aim, born initially out of economic necessity (even survival!), the small enclave of Newtown, Cardiff, played its part.
Remembering Newtown by Maxine Roper

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Newtown: Cardiff's 'Little Ireland'

St Paul's Church, Tyndall Street
Newtown was an area of Cardiff between Splott and the Docks, known as 'Little Ireland.'

My dad has often spoken of his childhood in Newtown and when travelling on the "new" flyover that goes from Cardiff jail to the new revamped Docks with the Welsh Assembly building etc. one can see the area where Newtown used to be.

The area was demolished (I got the impression of slum clearances, but perhaps that is unfair) the year I was born, 1970.

Did my Irish grandfather end up living in Newtown with his Welsh wife because the Irish tended to gravitate there? Or were the rents cheaper? Or was it a work-related move?

Furthermore, it's interesting to read that Newtown was established by the Marquis of Bute, specifically for Irish workers. In the superb essay When the Heart Stopped Beating, published in the South Wales Echo, Dan O'Neil marks the irony of the Marquis of Bute who built Newtown for the Irish workers escaping the Irish famine all but begging forgiveness for bringing in "Papists" -- when his own son would convert to the One, Holy, Apostolic, Catholic Church.

Certainly reading a booklet on the Catholic history of Cardiff some years back, there was an editorial from the (19th Century) South Wales Echo which tried to paint the growth of the Irish population in Cardiff in general, and the establishment of a Catholic Church in particular, as if the Spanish Armada were en route again, as if the gunpowder plot were happening again: it was full of hysteria and hyperbole akin to an Al Qaeda cell being discovered in the city.

Altar boys in Newtown

The following site (see link at end) gives an excellent overview of Newtown, a community torn down 40 years ago.

Here's a piece from the When the Heart Stopped Beating article:

The last Mass was celebrated in Saint Paul’s Church, Newtown, on Sunday, October 22, 1967.And that, more than anything else, more than the sight of old houses falling, familiar pubs reduced to dust, men, women and children moving from the homes where they were born - that, more than anything else spelled out that this was truly . . . .The End. For Saint Paul’s was the beating heart of Little Ireland. When it was built it signalled that the men and women from the Ould Sod had come to stay.  They had come fresh from the terrible famine, that calamity imprinted on the world’s mind as the Great Hunger, and they had built the vast docks which were to make Cardiff the coal capital of the world; and they brought their customs, and their religion with them.

Newtown, Cardiff

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Can Christmas Get Any Better?

You know the saying 'if Mohammed cant go to the mountain...'* Well, if there isn't a GKC Christmas Party (see my last post), then it is a duty of every red blooded Catholic to create one in the bosom of his own home!

Let's think of the ingredients we need:
1. Good food (that should be a given anyway, surely in a good - or bad - Catholic household). Funnily enough I was watching Fern Britton interview Clarissa Dickson Wright about her life and the Two Fat Ladies, and how they, her and Jennifer Paterson, were Catholics, went to Mass when filming, had to have the Saints Days on the scripts - if you get a chance watch it on iplayer. I was surprised to see such a moving, heartwarming programme which gave a positive light to our Faith.

Anyway, good food abounds at Christmas (following our shriving at Advent- a local retired Bishop often says that in Welsh, Advent was known as Winter Lent, i.e. a time of preparation for the Feast of Christmas). If between meals always have a stash of pork pies handy in the fridge. 

2. A wee tipple. You can toast the great man with a wee dram or perchance a healthy glass of Brains SA. If you are unfortunate enough to live outside Wales, then see your local ale specialist about procuring supplies of Brains SA, it really will be worth your while.

3. Put Christ back in Christmas. With the growing secularisation of our society (which GKC warned about 100 years ago) many people bemoan the taking of Christ from celebrations. The most extreme example was Birmingham's "Winterval."  As well as sending out cards with the Holy Family on, make sure your home has a Nativity Scene and, where possible, your Christmas decorations (and Advent calendars) have a Christian flavour.

4. And don't forget GKC. Read a little (or a lot!) of the great man at Christmas. Maybe a novel (try The Flying Inn) or a poem (try The Battle of Lepanto) or why not even go the whole hog and try a book (try the Everlasting Man). According to the Wikipedia page on the book:
In a letter to Sheldon Vanauken (December 14, 1950) [1] [C.S.] Lewis calls the book "the best popular apologetic I know," and to Rhonda Bodle he wrote (December 31, 1947) [2] "the [very] best popular defence of the full Christian position I know is G. K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man."
5. Make sure Christian Carols are sung, played, in short are present in your home. Some favourites include Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Holy Night, Silent Night, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Oh Come All Ye Faithful/Adeste Fidelis, The First Noel, Joy to the World, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen... All of which place the Infant Christ at the centre of Christmas.

6. Don't forget Confession during Advent, and Mass throughout of course. All the celebrations, quaffing etc. lead to Christmas Mass and the remembrance that the infant Christ went on to give us the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Follow these 6 steps and you too can have a Happy, Holy, Wise, Merry and Joyful Christmas.

*Not being a Muslim it was a moot point whether to use a heathen quote, but I once asked a Mohammedan at an eatery in Brick Lane if he knew of this quote, and he responded that despite studying the Koran he had never heard of it. That's my get out clause anyway.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

GKC Christmas Party? Wine & Pork Pies Surely!

I was very excited on seeing the headline "GKC Christmas Party."

Being a huge GK Chesterton (aka GKC) fan - though not as huge as the great man himself, whose cause for canonisation is well under way - I envisaged a wonderfully warm, witty gathering of great minds and friendly faces, quaffing wine (very continental and dare I say Catholic) and pork pies (quintessentially English and against all the dietary fads that GKC would have poked fun at).

How disappointed was I to find out that the GKC Christmas Party was in fact being held by the Greenville Kennel Club - the clue being in the name.

Oh well.

My tweeds, extra padding and GKC wig will have to go back to the hire shop.

Still it could have been worse - I could have booked the ticket to America, or even to Australia for the GKC Christmas meet. I was excited to read that they would be having fish n chips.... though what/who is "Barwon Heads Pup" and how you would eat it has left me perplexed. Sounds positively Korean.

All of which GKC, the king of the paradox, would have found highly amusing.

Here he is at his best with The Problem With Modern Man:

‘But the new rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book in which he insults it himself. He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble, and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble. The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.' (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 1909).

"Rebel" students take note...

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Photo of Private D.R. Hurley, 9 Para Batallion , 6th Airborne Division

This is Private Daniel Roderick Hurley, my uncle, who died in Normandy on the 7th June 1944.

Family members will see the resemblance of his brothers in the 19-year-old's face.

Known as Roddy (his father - my grandfather's - first name was also Daniel) it seems that he died of his wounds on the 7th, so may have been fatally shot or had shrapnel injuries etc. at the assault on the Merville Battery on the 6th, or received his fatal injuries the following day at the village of Hauger where 9 Para was faced with some form of 'Ostruppen' (volunteers from Poland/Russia/Turkmenistan - details unknown at present).

If family members, researchers, veterans etc. want to be sent a high resolution jpeg by email please drop me a line.

A special thanks to Uncle Pat and Aunty Mary (recently decamped to the wilds of Lancashire!) who supplied the hard copy of this photo.

Please say a prayer for the repose of the soul of Roddy Hurley.