Over 40 Bray Heads U3A members had a wonderful visit on 20 June to the magical woodland garden which Alfred Cochrane has developed over many years at his Corke Lodge home, which contains both ancient trees and ones which he has planted over a few decades. Our warmest thanks to Alfred for so graciously hosting this visit and for his introduction to the garden, its history and its trees - and he even succeeded in organising a warm sunny morning for the occasion!
As Alfred had declined to accept any entry charges, group members who participated in the visit generously agreed instead to make voluntary contributions towards a Group donation to Alfred's favoured charity - Our Lady's Hospice Foundation and we are most grateful for these generous contributions, which raised over 380 Euros for the Hospice. Thank you all!
We had a wonderful, exhilarating, talk 13 June, by Dr Matthew Jebb, Director of the National Botanic Gardens, who shared with us his lifelong passion for plants and their 'extraordinary world'.
At this meeting too, registration of members for the year ahead commenced, as did a member survey which will be factored into a review of the Group's first year in operation which the Co-ordinating Team will carry out later in the summer, which in turn will feed into preparations for our first AGM in September.
On 30 May, paleo-botanist and TCD Botany Professor, Jennifer McElwain, delivered a fasinating and topical talk, telling us about the work she has been involved in for many years studying fossil plants, what this has revealed about climate change on our planet since life on earth began, and how this is relevant to us in the context of current climate change. Her talk took us on a journey through eons of past climates and atmospheres as revealed by fossil plants, describing how plants adapted to these changes, how this may be able to prepare us for the climate challenges which our planet face and how it may offer some ways to mitigate them.
On 16 May, Alfred Cochrane told the story of his interesting Cochrane family - of Cantrell & Cochrane (C&C) fame -, their home at Woodbrook House on the outskirts of Bray, their lives and their role in the town, and their exotic branching out into Lebanon, where Alfred was born, and where both his father and older brother served as Honorary Consuls of Ireland. Based on numerous photographs from the family albums and homes which have never been seen before beyond the family, Alfred's talk was both informative and entertaining. Alfred is an architect who has practiced in Ireland, Italy, the UK and Lebanon, mainly on urban renewal and restoration projects and, in retirement, he paints, writes and gardens at his historic home, Corke Lodge beside Woodbrook House.
Stained glass re-appeared in Ireland in the 1840s after hundreds of years of absence. In her very informative and beautifully illustrated talk on 2 May, Finola Finlay early and later stained glass in Ireland, what is a distinctively Irish about it and covering the work of many Irish stained-glass artists, especially Harry Clarke and his studio, Evie Hone and the amazing contemporary works of George Walsh.
The photos are of Finola and works by Harry Clarke and George Walsh
As the need for immediate and effective action to combat climate change has home irrefutable and not nearly enough is being done, our Bray Heads U3A decided it was time for us as a Group and as individuals to consider what we ourselves can do in practical terms to play a role in this so, very shortly after this idea was raised, we added meeting to discuss this to our programme of events. The dual purpose of the meeting was, firstly to set out the facts about climate change and the sort of global and national measures that need to be taken to stop it becoming a calamity; and secondly to brainstorm what we as individuals, and collectively as a Group and community, can do about this ourselves and to try to pull this together into an action plan or checklist.
In the first part of the meeting, there were excellent presentations by our members Richard Webb and Jane and Bill Grimson, with Richard talking about the causes and effects of climate change and the evidence which supports what is happening; Jane drawing on her work with Mary Robinson's Foundation to talk about on climate justice and the effects of climate change on those who have done little or nothing to cause it, whether it is people in developing countries or our grandchildren; and Bill adding some useful words of wisdom.
In the second part of the meeting - the most important part - Siobhán Quigley facilitated a discussion in which ideas from members participating in the meeting were asked to suggest specific actions which we can take in our daily lives, as members of a community, and as citizens in terms of direct and indirect measures to tackle climate change and many useful ideas emerged. It was agreed that our Group should become actively involved in this issue, possibly setting up a sub Group, that we will work to produce a plan of action and a checklist of possible actions that we can take, and most urgently given the local and EP electons being held on 24/5, beginning by lobbying and questioning candidates and canvassers, with a second urgent focus placed on making a submission or input into the Wicklow Climate Adjustment planning process currently underway. So more to follow on this initiative.
In addition to climate change graphics. the photos show:
- members of the Bray Heads U3A Sub-Group Team: Bill and Jane Grimson, Richard Web and Siobhán Quigley
- Group members Helen Ryan and Verity Swan
- Richard Webb with Professor Chris Stillman
- Siobhán with members Margaret Merne, Mary Kelly and Verity
- Bill and Jane Grimson with our IT man, Joe Murray
On 18 April, we heard Dr Conor McCarthy delivering a powerful, insightful and very even-handed talk on the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and the impact which this had on the indigenous Palestinian population. For the Jewish settlers in the historic land of Palestine, and the Jewish people more generally, the creation of the State of Israel - in these years immediately following the horrors of the Holocaust - was a moment of glory and hope. For the indigenous population of Palestinian Arabs, what happened to them then and since is the 'Nakba' or Catastrophe, which drove a majority of them off their lands in a process which continues to this day. Drawing on modern scholarship - much of it by Israeli historians - Conor courageously and effectively challenged the many myths that surround these historic, and often tragic, events, including: that Palestine was 'a land without people for a people wihout a land'; that the Palestinians weren't a distinct people or a settled population; that they 'just ran away' from the lands that Israel was granted; and that Israel's forces, desperately outnumbered, beat off six Arab armies.
Conor McCarthy, who teaches English at Maynooth University, has lectured in universities in Ireland, Britain, France, Canada, the United States and in the Middle East. In addition to contributions to a range of academic journals and current affairs publications, he is the author of The Cambridge Introduction to Edward Said (2010). He is a founder-member of both the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and Academics for Palestine.
On Thursday 11 April, around 40 Bray Heads U3A Group members visited the lovely exhibition ‘Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again' for a guided tour and a linked workshop at the Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre, very kindly organised by the National Library of Ireland and led by the wonderful Sophie Doyle and Kathryn McCance from the Libary's staff.
The exhibition - which is a partner project between the National Library of Ireland, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and Bank of Ireland - celebrates the life and work of one of Ireland’s greatest writers - our late, beloved, 'national poet' and Nobel Prize for Literature laureate, Seamus Heaney (1939-2013). Featuring, in part, sophisticated, interactive, audio-visual technology, the exhibition also includes original manuscripts, letters, unpublished works, diary entries, and photographs, along with a number of personal objects, such as the desk at which Seamus Heaney wrote in the family’s attic home in Sandymount; a lamp, which once belonged to WB Yeats; and a portrait by Louis le Brocquy, are included in the exhibition.
As expected, Professor Ian Robertson's presentation on The Confidence Trick/Bridges to the Future to our Bray Heads U3A Group on 4 April was as informative, intriguing and entertaining as we had expected. Drawing on his expertise in the dual fields of clinical psychology and neuroscience, he describing current times as 'the Age of the Mind', with scientific research now confirming the extent to which we can control the direction and quality of our lives through choices that we make and with confidence, as compared with the previous Ages of the Gods, Physics and Biology respectively, where man-(and woman)-kind believed that their lives were largely pre-determined, respectively, by deities, the laws of physics or our genes, the result being a fatalistic approach to life, belief that one's future was not in one's own control, which became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The good news that Professor Robinson was bearing was the evidence that confidence that we can control and better our lives through the choices we make is also a self-fulfilling prophecy. For anyone who would like to learn more about these issues and the research linked to it, a link to Professor Robertson's presentation can be found on the Archive page of this website.
Best of all Professor Robertson declared that being a member of The Bray Heads U3A Group, engaging in our lifelong learning programmes and our activities and interacting with others, is good for our health and keeps us young - so that is now official! We knew that of course but it was good to have this verified by an expert like him.
Amongst his many impressive credentials, Professor Robertson, who is originally from Scotland, is a clinical psychologist; the Founding Director of the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience; leader of the Technology Research for Independent Living (TRIL) and a number of major research programmes; Co-Director of Global Brain Health Institute created by him/TCD and the University of California at San Francisco, which is the recipient of major sponsorship by Atlantic Philanthropies; a visiting Professor at a number of universities in Europe and North America; a former regular science contributor to the London Times and the British Medical Journal; and the author of many popular science books include 'Mind Sculpture', 'The Mind's Eye', 'The Winner Effect', 'The Stress Test', with another in preparation called 'The Confidence Trick'.
In a lively and engaging talk on 21 March,TCD Professor Emeritus of Geology, and Environmental Scientist, Christopher Stillman trackws the 4.5 billion year history of the universe, the formation of our planet Earth, the emergence and evolution of early life on it and, comparatively recently around 2 million years ago, the appearance of the earliest humans.
In an intriguing and topical talk on 7 March, Professor Emerita, Judith Devlin, discussed the collapse of communism in Russia and the break-up of the Soviet Union and what has followed it. In the wake of President Gorbachev's moves to restructure and reform the communist system, to open up the country and to end the Cold War, hopes were high in the early '90s that Russia was moving in the direction of liberal democracy and new kinds of global relationships but this is not what has happened. A quarter century after these changes began and a brief flirtation with liberal democracy, Russia instead reverted to authoritarianism, as former KGB officer, Vladimir Putin, continues to centralise and consolidate power in his fourth term as President.
Judith, who is from Bray and who is a Bray Heads U3A member, studied in Dublin, Paris and Oxford, before joining the Department of Foreign Affairs as a young diplomat and being posted some years later to the Irish Embassy in Moscow, just as Gorbachev's perestroika got underway. Having the opportunity there to observe first hand this period of intense change and transformation and to study the history of Soviet and pre-Soviet Russia, Judith decided to return to academic life and, since then, has researched and taught the history of Soviet and post-Soviet Russia at UCD. Amongst other pursuits, Judith is currently working on a book on Stalin.
Following their retirements from professorships in Computer Science at TCD and Engineering at DIT in 2015, Bray Heads U3A Members Jane and Bill Grimson fulfilled lifetime ambitions to travel first to Antarctica, then Alaska and the Arctic and what they describe as 'the amazing worlds of higher latitudes'. They were inspired, in the case of Antarctica, by the amazing story of Irish explorers Shackleton and Crean’s famous expedition and escape from what seemed an impossible position; with Alaska, it was the extraordinary story of how USA bought Alaska from the Russians in 1867 for $7.2 million, not appreciating its enormous natural wealth; and their Arctic journey around the Norwegian fiords by the beautiful images of the Norwegian fiords. Jane and Bill tell us that their talk will be a mixture of travelogue, scheduled and unscheduled dips in the freezing ocean, history and culture - and, knowing the two of them, it is sure to be a lot of fun!
On 14 February, our Bray Heads U3A member, artist Brigid O'Brien, led a very enjoyable informal drawing class, in which over 30 members of the group participated - the first of our Group's meetings to feature a hands-on activity rather than our usual Talk. Brigid started by outlining her approach to drawing - that everyone can do it, that it should be fun, and that the best practice is always to have a small pad and pen/pencil on hand and to make a habit of roughly sketching simple objects and scenes around us, from the breakfast table on, passing around some of the small notebooks she has drawn in over a number of years to indicate how basic and everyday these can be. The drawing task she then set focused on the hand - reminding us of its key importance in almost every aspect of our lives - asking participants each to choose a fruit or vegetable from a basket which she had brought with her, to hold it in the hand which they would not be drawing with, and to sketch the hand holding this object, which everyone did with rapt attention and quiet good humour, with Brigid offering feedback and guidance. With the class deemed to have been stimulating, encouraging and enjoyable by who those who participated in it, Brigid was asked to lead a follow-up one, which she has very kindly agreed to do.
We were greatly privileged to have had as our guest speaker on 7 February, the hugely popular writer, broadcaster and lecturer, Tim Thurston, best known for his wonderful Lyric FM programme "Gloria". In his inimicable style, Tim shared with us his life-long passion for the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, colourfully recounting the life-story and musical career of that great composer, outlining his enormous influence on music of many sorts, and playing excerpts from some of his glorious compositions. The playlist of the recordings which Tim played can be found attached to the entry on this talk on the Events page of this website.
1. Johann Sebastian Bach
2. Tim Thurston during his talk to the Bray Heads Group on 7 February
3. Tim talking with Group member Barbara McAllister after his talk
4. Tim meeting Group other Group members after his talk
In his moving, and very well received talk to The Bray Heads U3A Group on 24 October - three days ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day - Oliver Sears recounted the moving story of his mother, Monika - a Holocaust survivor. She was born in Poland the year that World War 2 started, her father was arrested and shot by the Nazis within a month of the German invasion, and her resourceful mother went on the run with her with false identification papers through the Warsaw ghetto, daringly escaping from a train taking them to the Treblinka concentration camp and eventually reaching safety in London. Oliver told the story from his own Second Generation perspective, illustrating it with a short video, 'Objects of Love', and a range of slides featuring old family photos and more recent ones taken during a return visit by Monika to Poland.
London-born Oliver runs his fine art gallery in an elegant Georgian building in the centre of Dublin, presenting exhibitions by contemporary Irish and international artists. He has lived in Ireland for over 30 years and currently lives in Dublin with his Irish wife. A former member of the board of Holocaust Education Trust Ireland, Oliver is a frequent contributor to radio programmes and newspapers.
The photos show:
1. Monika with Oliver at a talk which she gave in TCD in June 2018. Monika currently lives in Chile; and
2. Oliver after his talk to The Bray Heads U3A group on 24 January.
In the first of our series of Talks in 2019, historian, writer and broadcaster, Mark Duncan, got us off to a great start with an informative and engaging profile of ‘The GAA in Irish Society - Past to Present’ - the country’s most important sporting, cultural and social organisation and its enormous impact on Irish life. Mark Duncan was a central figure in the creation of the GAA Museum at Croke Park and the co-author of two critically acclaimed books on the GAA - 'The GAA: A People's History' (2009) and 'The GAA, County by County' (2011). The author also of several books on major areas of Irish history, Mark is also currently a Director and Content Editor of the Government-funded/RTÉ-supported online project for the Decade of Centenaries and, linked to that, he has appeared recently in RTE documentaries on the historic 1918 Election and Ireland After the Rising. Amongst his many other achievements, Mark has made Bray his home!
On 13 December, Bray Heads U3A Group members celebrated the first four months of our new Group's activities and our first Christmas together, with communal carol-singing, some solo performances, storytelling, poetry and seasonal readings by the Golf Club fireside, all organised by Léonie - our Meetings Co-ordinator. Three large baskets of children's gifts, generously donated by Group members at the event for the VPD's Christmas Appeal, were delivered later that day to the VDP with huge appreciation.
Displayed are some of the photos taken at the event by our member, Kevin Wolahan - thank you, Kev! - which include a couple of group photos, as well as individual ones of: Léonie O'Toole-Bates, the event organiser; and readers: Ines Collins, Mary Mullen, Dick Bates and Patti Moynihan. A photo collage of the event appears on this website's Home page.
In a fascinating, wamly-received talk on 29 November, recently-retired Irish Ambassador David Donoghue shared his insider perspective on the many years of negotiations leading up to the signing of The Good Friday Agreement in 1998 - the key breakthrough in the 30-year conflict in the Northern Ireland. After many years working on issues relating to Northern Ireland and Anglo-Irish relation at a number of different stages in his career, David was appointed as the joint-head - with a British counterpart - of the Anglo-Irish Secretariat in Belfast in 1995 and, in this capacity, he was directly involved in the behind the scenes negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Twenty years after the signature of that historic Agreement, David recounted the ups and downs, the milestones and the issues involved in the process, very colourfully highlighting the different but vital roles its its succcessful negotiation played key by key figures like President Clinton and his envoy, George Mitchell; Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and new British Prime Minister, Tony Blair and some of the Northern Ireland party leaders. Considering the effectiveness and impact of the Agreement twenty years on from its signing - especially at a time when the Northern Ireland Assembly is suspended and the Brexit issue has resurrected old divisions and tensions, David expressed the view that the GFA remains one of the few examples of successful conflict resolution in the world today and confidence that it will survive Brexit intact.
Apart from covering issues relating to Northern Ireland and British-irish relations in the course of his distinguished diplomatic career, David also served as Director General of Irish Aid, the Department's Political Director, Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Germany and Austria and, in his last post as Permanent Represntative to the United Nations in New York, where he played a lead role in some key international negotiations, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Migration Pact. He has graciously agreed to return to talk to The Bray Heads Group next year on the UN.
On 15 November, genealogist Tony O’Hara delivered an interesting and excellently-illustrated talk to The Bray Heads U3A Group on the major Irish records that are now available online for genealogical research, providing practical information - and a hand-out - about the various sites and archives now much more easily accessible online than they had been in the past and responding to many questions from members. He very much encouraged members interested in their family history, who haven't yet delved into it - or have not made much progress with it - to try these sources.
Tony, a retired IT Professional, is an active member of the Genealogical Society of Ireland (GSI) and a director there with responsibility for the lecture series which occurs on a monthly basis. He has also acted as a genealogy adviser in the National Library and is a former President of the Irish Organization of Geographic Information (IRLOGI).
1. Tony O'Hara, after his talk to The Bray Heads Group on 15 November
2. Mary Mullen, Group Secretary and Anne Byrne, Finance Co-ordinator, greeting members on arrival
3. Our great photographer, Noreen Casey, with Joe Murray, IT Co-ordinator
4. Group members Margaret and Richard Webb
On 1 November, we were privileged to have as our guest speaker Catherine Day, former Secretary General of the European Commission, who talked about key moments and issues in the development of the EU; the highs and lows; the politics and compromises that take place behind the scenes; and of course the currrent major Brexit issue and its likely impact. It is hard to get much closer to the centre of power in Brussels than Catherine was in her SecGen role and her insider's perspective on these key issues in her talk, delivered in a light and engaging style and illustrated very effectively with political cartoons, made for an impressive, warmly received presentation by one of our most admirable public figures.
In her talk to The Bray Heads Group and the lively discussion which followed it on 25 October, Michael Jansen drew on her experiences living in, and reporting on, the Middle East for over 50 years, presenting eyewitness accounts of a number of historical events and figures that have shaped, defined - and so often racked - the region, referencing in particular events in Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Cyprus, Egypt and Syria.
1. Michael Jansen (right) during her talk and discussion with The Bray Heads U3A Group on 25 October, with Isolde Moylan, who introduced her
2. Michael's latest Book ' Windows on Interesting Times about her life in, and reporting on, the Midlle East for over half a century
3 & 4: Michael signing copies of her book after her talk
5: Group members Ita & Des McGarry (left and right) and Michael Sullivan (centre) after Michael Jansen's talk
In a fascinating and highly entertaining talk to The Bray Heads U3A Group on 18 October, Dr Seamus Cannon posed, and answered, the question ' Who in their Right Mind Would Want to Read Joyce's Ulysses?', encouraging members who haven't tried to read it or who may have given up on it to experience for themselves its genius, originality, use of language, characters, its encapsulation of both local and universal themes, its portrayal of early 20th century Dublin, and its humour, enlivening the talk further with recorded readings and music from the work.
1 & 2: Dr Seamus Cannon after his talk to The Bray Heads U3A Group on 18 October
Marking the centenary this year of women in Ireland (or at least some of them) being permitted to vote and stand in elections, Prof. Yvonne Galligan's interesting talk to The Bray Heads U3A Group on 4 October documented the story of women in Irish law and politics since then, drawing on useful statistical and other data to trace some significant advances, other slower-paced developments and some setbacks along the way in relation to the status of women in Ireland and their role in the political life of the country.
1. Professor Yvonne Galligan after her talk to The Bray Heads U3A group on 4 October
2. Yvonne Galligan (right) with Group Co-ordinating Team member, Jane Grimson, who introduced the talk
In a fascinating talk entitled 'Plants, Potions and Snails - the Central Role of Nature's Pharmacy in Modern Medicine' on 20 September 2018, Dr Helen Sheridan, with a storyteller's gift, outlined the intriguing global history of natural medicines from pre-history to current times and her own work in the development of one such medicine.
1 & 2: Dr Helen Sheridan talk to The Bray Heads U3A group
3. Helen Sheridan after her talk with Group members, Mary Ashall and Dick Bates
4. Mary Byrne and Nikki Gordon at the talk
Marking both the launch of The Bray Heads U3A group and the anniversary this year of the Brabazon family being granted the house and lands of Kiruddery in 1618, Fionnuala Ardee, who married into the family and lives at Kilruddery, recounted the story of the Brabazons from their earliest recorded history, their 400 years at Kilruddery, their role in the development of Bray, and the current actvities which the estate engages in, with Fionnuala serving as its CEO.
1-3: Fionnuala Ardee delivering her talk at the Launch of The Bray Heads U3A Group on 6 September, and after it
4: Jennifer and Fergus Curran at the Group Launch
5: Léonie O'Toole-Bates and Marion Corrigan
6: Liz McManus, Isolde Moylan & Sean Lenihan
An open Preview of The Bray Heads U3A Group on 21 June attraced a large attendance, resulting in 120 signing up as Group members and a tough decision having to be taken by the Co-ordinating Team to suspend membership registration due to space limitations at Bray Gold Club.
1.Bray Golf Club President, Eamonn Geraghty, welcoming participants at The Bray Heads U3A Group Preview on 21 June
2. Members of the Bray Heads U3A Co-ordinating Team with some of the external speakers at the Preview. Left to right: Sam Olinger-O'Brien, Age Action Ireland; Donal Denham, U3A DLDK; Isolde Moylan, our Team Leader; Joe Murray, IT Co-ordinator; Linda Uhlemann & Kay Mullaly, Bray U3A (Fassaroe); Mary Mullen, Group Secretary; Anne Byrne, Finance co-ordinator; and Leonie O'Toole-Bates, Talks Co-ordinator. Missing from photo are Co-ordinating Team members Jane Grimson and Andrew Byrne.
3. Some new Group members at the Preview