#AtoZ 1968 – “T” is for The Troubles

“You’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people.” ~ Astronaut Frank Borman, on seeing the entire earth from outer space as he and the crew of the Apollo 8 returned from orbiting the moon.


In 1968, protests were seemingly everywhere, and Northern Ireland took note. A civil rights movement was started, and protests called for greater equality for the Catholic minority. The previous year, activists in Belfast drew inspiration from Martin Luther King and his civil rights movement.

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association demanded equal voting rights, fairer public housing, an end to ‘gerrymandering,’ and an end to discrimination in employment.

By 1968, the civil rights movement was beginning to gather support, and in August 1968, they were invited to hold a march in early October. A Protestant group announced plans to march the same day, and subsequently, all marches were banned.

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On the day of the march, a few hundred civil rights protesters planned to walk from the predominantly Protestant area of Derry to the center of the city. Marchers were confronted by rows of police officers. The police used batons and a water cannon in an attempt to disperse the marchers and violent skirmishes broke out. “The Troubles” would last another thirty years, ending (most would agree) with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

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Here’s the #13 song from Billboard’s Year-End Top 100 Singles of 1968

“Mony Mony” by Tommy James and The Shondells

Slan, Agus Beannacht de leath, Maeve Binchy

MAEVE BINCHY, who died Monday at the age of 72, was an Irish novelist best known for her humorous take on small-town life in Ireland, her descriptive characters, and her often clever surprise endings.  Her novels, which were translated into 37 languages, sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, and her death was mourned as the passing of Ireland’s best-loved and most recognizable writer.

Her books have outsold those of other top Irish writers, such as Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, WB Yeats, and Roddy Doyle.  She was featured on The New York Times bestseller list and in Oprah’s Book Club.

My friend said that “her characters were like friends!”  How true.

“Light a Penny Candle” (1982), was Binchy’s debut novel.  It followed two girls, Elizabeth White and Aisling O’Connor, growing up in the aftermath of World War II.  The book was rejected five times. She would later describe those rejections as “a slap in the face […] It’s like if you don’t go to a dance you can never be rejected but you’ll never get to dance either.”

“Circle of Friends” was written in 1990 and made into a movie in 1995.  It was set in rural Ireland in the 1950s.  Minnie Driver, who gained 25 pounds for the lead role of Bernadette “Benny” Hogan, was thrilled to play a “great big, warm character” at the age of 22.

Many of Binchy’s novels “Evening Class,” “Scarlet Feather,” “Quentins,” and “Tara Road”  featured recurring characters: Elle Brady, Nora O’Donoghue and Aidan Dunne are some.

Novelist Patricia Scanlan said Ms. Binchy was extremely generous to aspiring writers, and would give them great encouragement and advice.  She said Ms. Binchy had once described writing as a “big pie, with plenty for all of us.”

Ms. Scanlon continued, “The greatness about Maeve was that she had empathy, and any reader who read her understood perfectly where she was coming from because she touched the lives and the hearts of people.”

She certainly touched mine.  Goodbye and God bless you.

Y is for William Butler Yeats

A Drinking Song

Wine comes in at the mouth   
And love comes in at the eye;   
That’s all we shall know for truth   
Before we grow old and die.   
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

W.B. Yeats was born in Dublin in 1865.  He studied painting, following in his father’s footsteps, but realized he preferred poetry.  Though he never learned Gaelic, his writing drew extensively from Irish mythology and folklore.

His verse reflected a pessimism about the politicial situation in Ireland in the 1920’s, and he was influenced by Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, although Yeats never abandoned his strict adherence to traditional verse forms.  He was appointed a senator in 1922, and is remembered as a major playwright (he was one of the founders of the famous Abbey Theatre in Dublin) and as one of the very greatest poets—in any language—of the century.  Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1923 and died in 1939 at the age of 73.

When my husband comments on the sad state of our society today, I usually tell him, “Honey, it’s no country for old men.”  This is a poster from the 2007 movie by the Coen brothers.   The movie is based on a 2005 novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy (born in Providence, RI), and the book’s title comes from the first line of Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium.”


THAT is no country for old men.  The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.