Sunday 25 August 2019

Glee is just an act... these rebels are real

LITTLE Persephone has taken to watching 'Glee', goodness help us.

For those readers who are who are sheltered from the invasive effects of such programmes, it may be necessary to explain that Glee is a television series about an American high school where the student members of the glee club (hence the title) sing and dance.

The scenario offers a good excuse for the actors to jump around a lot and re-hash pop songs. The cast of Glee deliver a soullessly note-perfect version of Queen's Somebody To Love, for example. They have raided the Ike & Tina Turner back catalogue to pasteurise River Deep Mountain High. They have aped Elton John/Kiki Dee's Don't Go Breaking My Heart. And so on and on and on to the extent that at least six albums of harmless covers have been released.

By now, nine-year-old Persephone considers herself quite an expert on the programme and the characters who populate the TV screen. This requires taking an interest in such topics as queer bashing, teenage pregnancy (of course), cheer leaders and the often brutal courting rituals of young people in Ohio.

As a concerned father, I repeatedly remind my impressionable daughter that ' these are not real people', to the extent that this has become a family catchphrase. Please do not mock: the paternal reminder ' these are not real people' is required. No set of people with such perfect teeth could possibly be really real, surely.

So who is 'real'? THE PUBLICATION of Eric And Barbara: Attached To Scrap trains a camera or two on a world as far removed from Glee as Delaney's Donkey from the chariot race in Ben Hur. The book and companion DVD have been compiled by Kiltealy native Sharanne Long out of admiration for her neighbours Eric Binions and his niece Barbara. Her efforts make for a homely dual portrait of a pair who inhabit a reality at infinite remove from the contrived campus antics at William McKinley High.

The author/artist/photographer has devoted her skills to presenting Eric and Barbara exactly as they are, rather than how some TV producer might like them to be. So, prepare to meet Eric the pipesmoking, cap-wearing countryman. And here's his gentle foil Barbara who accompanies him on trips to buy scrap metal and curios.

They share their world with a multitude of cats. They are surrounded by old water cisterns and broken up cars. They are farmers who love their animals so much they can hardly bear to bring their stock to the mart, let alone the meat factory. They look like a couple of extras from The Riordans, the agrisoap series of the Sixties and Seventies, though they have survived happily into the 21st century.

Eric and Barbara may not be run of the mill but they are certainly real. Thank you, Sharanne, for taking the time to present such a striking set of pictures and video recordings. Eric And Barbara: Attached To Scrap comes with an introduction by Kevin Ryan. It is published by Mocurry West. ANOTHER, more troubled reality is presented in the recently published Rebels, issued in imposing hardback by Penguin Ireland. It was compiled, rather than written, by Fearghal McGarry, drawing on interviews taken in the Forties and Fifties with people who took part in the fight for independence in 1916.

The material assembled by the Bureau of Military History was locked away for decades and only taken out when all the protagonists were dead. The quotations unearthed from this treasure trove by McGarry give a flavour of the human side of events that continue to resonate down to the present day. And Co. Wexford is well represented in the mix.

Here is Volunteer Seán Whelan from Enniscorthy, whose grandfather had a Schneider rifle ready to fire for Ireland's freedom back in 1867, though his fervour for the fight was never tapped. Seán's mother had a fund of patriotic songs to pass on to her son, so that he in turn was primed to respond when the call finally came at Easter 1916.

Here is Cumann na mBan member Máire Fitzpatrick from Church Street in Enniscorthy, whose father was 'a member of all the organisations that helped to free Ireland' and whose parents made sure that everything their six children wore came from Ireland. She left school as soon as she could to run her local branch of Cumann na mBan, giving first aid lectures.

Here is John O'Reilly who was captured by British forces after the Enniscorthy revolutionaries surrendered. He and his comrades were brought to Arklow for export to internment in Britain. As they were marched through the town under military escort, they were surprised and heartened to be applauded and cheered all the way to the quay and the waiting HMS Aurania by the crowds that lined the streets.

Others whose statements feature include: Volunteer Thomas Doyle who ran a dancing club as a cover for Republican activity; James Cullen of the IRB; Thomas Dwyer, Peter Galligan, all of Enniscorthy; and Bob Kinsella of Ferns.

Their simple statements reach out to us from a very different era.

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