Christmas is a time of giving and receiving

Posted on: 5th December, 2016

Category: A West Cork Life

Contributor: Tina Pisco

It’s not quite 5pm, but the back of the house is already shrouded in darkness. The front, which faces south, is still bathed in the dying pink glow of another spectacular sunset. Outside is freezing cold, but here in the kitchen it is nice and cosy (as long as you’re wearing a few extra layers).  The fire is lit. The dogs are asleep on the rug. All is quiet save for the purr of the Aga. We are entering the deep mid-winter. It’s time to get into the Christmas groove of sparkly lights, family gatherings and overindulgence.

The darkness of mid-winter is harsh, but it holds the promise light. After the Solstice the days start to lengthen again. The New Year beckons, full of hopes and plans. I usually get a little pre-Yuletide thrill around this time, but this year the festivities didn’t seem quite as enticing and I’ve been finding it difficult to get into the spirit of things. 2016 has been no picnic. This year has been pretty grim, both on a personal level and on a world level. Many of my nearest and dearest have had a really rough time of it, and the daily news just adds more distress on the mind-boggling pile of shocks we’ve already endured. 2017 looks more precarious than appealing. With so much insecurity floating around, it is easy to feel disheartened.

However, I have found a way of lifting my spirit by getting off my backside and checking out what is happening in my own community. Serendipity brought me to the Lodge in Clonakilty. What I found there, tucked away behind the bend in the road out to Inchydoney, has stopped my miserable navel- gazing and given me lots of reasons to feel hopeful.

The Lodge Clonakilty is the only direct provision centre in West Cork. It has been operating for about 15 years and presently houses around 85 people, half of them children. In the few short weeks that I have been going there I have met people from Iraq, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Bangladesh and Kyrgyzstan. Don’t get me wrong, direct provision is a stain on the Irish Nation that must be removed…I have heard heart-breaking stories of those who have been deported after spending four years in Clonakilty; their belongings thrown into black bin liners, their children not given the time to say goodbye to their friends and school mates. But I have also shared in some joyous moments. So here is some really good news this Christmas:

After nine years in direct provision in The Lodge, Clonakilty, one family from Bangaladesh  (a mother and father with their school age children) will be together with their adult married daughter, safe in the knowledge that they have been granted asylum. They have been doubly blessed, as they have found two houses side by side in Clonakilty. A couple from Iraq are celebrating receiving the husband’s papers, which allow him to stay in Ireland with his wife who had been granted asylum earlier in the year. Their two sons, one in primary school, the other in secondary, are delighted as well. They have been in the Lodge for three years. Finally, a wonderfully entertaining man from Zimbabwe has been granted asylum after only a year. “Did you hear the good news?” he asked, beaming a mile-long smile, as I met him last week. “I have been given my freedom!”

As I told friends about my new friends in the Lodge, I realised that many of them had found a similar way to beat the 2016 blues. Two friends have gotten involved with homeless charities. Another has started spending time with the elderly in a home. Others have become more active in schools and local charities. All of us have felt the same shift in our general sense of doom and gloom. Christmas is a time of giving, but it works both ways.

So if you’re feeling like the world doesn’t quite make sense, or don’t quite feel the festive spirit in the darkness of this year – go out and get involved. Call on a neighbour. Gather your friends. Check out local charities and associations that are working to make our part of the world a better place. Here’s a list to get you started:

Friends of the Asylum seekers. Contact Bridgid Madden  087-70907499.

Cork Simon Community

Irish Red Cross (working to bring Syrian Refugees to Ireland)

West Cork Women Against Domestic Violence Project 027-203136.

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11th October, 2017  ·  

Submarines, American Sailors, and the Underwater War in Irish Waters, 1917-1918
by Dr John Borgonovo in The Parish Centre, Clonakilty
on Thursday Oct 26 2017 at 8.30 pm

In 1917, unrestricted submarine warfare by German U-boats brought the United States into WWI and created a crisis in Britain. To defeat the submarine menace, an American naval fleet was dispatched to County Cork, bringing about 10,000 sailors with it. This talk will explain the circumstances of this extraordinary event, and how Cork residents dealt with their unexpected American guests.

Dr John Borgonovo is a lecturer in the School of History at UCC. His publications include Spies, Informers, and the 'Anti-Sinn Féin' Society: The Intelligence War in Cork City, 1920-1921; The Dynamics of War and Revolution: Cork City, 1916-1918; Exercising a close vigilance over their daughters: Cork women, American sailors, and Catholic vigilantes, 1917-18; Something in the Nature of a Massacre: The Bandon Valley Killings Revisited (with Andy Bielenberg). His latest publication (with co-authors John Crowley, Donal Ó Drisceoil and Mike Murphy) is the highly acclaimed and magnificient Atlas of the Irish Revolution. In July of this year, he organised a very successful conference on Winning the Western Approaches - Unrestricted Submarine Warfare and the US Navy in Ireland 1917-1918.
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11th October, 2017  ·  

Apple Juicing Day in Clonakilty next Sunday Sept 30th. All welcome to bring their apples from 2-6pm to the Clonakilty Community Garden (on entrance road to Clonakilty Lodge).

Building on the success of its inaugural 2016 event, local voluntary environmental organisation Sustainable Clonakilty invites people to bring along their apples and press them to extract their own juice to take home, using the group's Apple Press.

Volunteers will be at hand to assist in the procedure. Bring along your apples washed; clean containers to freeze your juice (milk/juice bottles or cartons, plastic bottles with caps); clean, sterilised glass bottles to pasteurise with swing caps or suitable for 26 mm diameter metal cap.

A limited number of new 3 litres juice bags that are suitable for freezing and pasteurising, can be purchased for a nominal fee on the day also.

This is a free community event and donations will be welcome to cover costs.

For further information, please contact Xavier at or text at 086/0476124.
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26th September, 2017  ·  

Dúchas Clonakilty's first lecture for the Autumn promises to be of huge interest to all: Emerging from the Shadow of Tom Crean – The Parish Centre, Clonakilty, Thursday September 28th 8.30pm.

Lecture by Aileen Crean O’Brien & Bill Sheppard

In May 2016, Kerry man Tom Crean, along with Ernest Shackleton and four other crew members, landed the James Caird lifeboat on the rocky isle of South Georgia. The navigation of that small boat, across 1500 km through icy winds and towering seas, is regarded as the greatest ever feat of navigation. They then trekked across the forbidding and inhospitable mountains and glaciers of South Georgia to seek help for the rest of their crew, who were left behind on Elephant Island after their ship, the Endurance, was crushed by the Antarctic ice.

One hundred years later, Crean’s grandaughter, Aileen Crean O’Brien, set off with her sons and partner to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps. Join Aileen and Bill to hear of their adventures (and misadventures) on the Southern Ocean and the island of South Georgia.
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7th September, 2017  ·  

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