AN IRISH CALENDAR 2014–2015
Dear Friends: My hope when I started the Irish Calendar four years ago was that I could convey a sense of Ireland and her people in pictures that told a story. Those stories were always obvious to me when I took to the photographs; I just pointed the camera at what I liked or thought was interested or humorous. Looking back through the pictures - many of which were taken without thought of publication - I found myself wanting to learn more about whatever my lens had captured. In researching everything from Viking invasions to wildflowers, I came to a much deeper understanding of the island where I grew up.
THE IRISH CALENDAR
Each year, Myles Hassett pays homage to his heritage by publishing an Irish Calendar of photographs and related stories about Ireland and its history. Read more and view a slideshow of each year below. If you would like an Irish Calendar or to be placed on the mailing list to receive one next year, contact us.
Severin's story is well told in his book, The Brendan Voyage - Across the Atlantic in a Leather Boat. This book is one of my favorites, not just for its inspiring journey, but also for Severin's commitment to build the boat using only authentic materials and methods extant during St. Brendan's time. You see, in addition to having a passion for sailing boats, I also built them in my youth, gaining a lifelong appreciation for those who work with their hands. This led me to seek out a model of the Brendan, which I was fortunate to obtain from the estate of Frank Gleeson, a furniture make and sailor from Galway who faithfully (and without the benefit of plans) crafted the leather boat as a scaled replica of the original.
AN IRISH CALENDAR 2015–2016
With over 3,500 miles of coastline, the Irish have always been seafarers, crossing oceans to connect with the world beyond their shores. Much of my young life was spent in boats, leading me to become a sailing instructor, which in turn brought me to the United States for my first job - teaching sailing at the Milford Yacht Club in Connecticut. Naturally, I've always been fascinated by adventurous stories of the sea, particularly the voyage of St. Brendan the Navigator, depicted on the cover.
St. Brendan lived between A.D. 489 and A.D. 570 in the southwest of Ireland, establishing a monastic settlement near Dingle, Co. Kerry. It is well-documented that early Irish had developed boats capable of crossing great distances in open water. According to an ancient manuscript, Navigatio Santi Brendani Abbatis, St. Brendan and a crew of 17 fellow monks voyaged to the Promised Land on one such craft.
Seeking to test whether this Promised Land was in fact the New World, modern-day adventurer Tim Severin and his crew set out in 1976 to cross the Atlantic in a leather-skinned boat, built using traditional materials and techniques. Traveling what is known as the "stepping stone" route across the Atlantic, Severin and his crew sailed from Brandon Creek in Dingle to the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. From there, they voyaged to the Scottish Hebrides and on to the Faroe Islands. Then they turned toward Iceland, moving on to South Greenland and finally to Newfoundland. While Severin couldn't provie that St. Brendan made this voyage, his success in reaching North America left little doubt that the early Irish may well have been the first Europeans to discover the New World - centuries before Leif Erickson or Christopher Columbus.
"One of my reasons for becoming a lawyer, first in Ireland and then in the United States, was the desire to make a difference by helping people fight for their rights. Today, I spend my time arguing in court when necessary, but also looking for ways to mediate and resolve disputes. In 27 years of practice, I've learned there is no compromise of principle in the peaceful resolution of differences, only the knowledge that not all battles need be fought to a bitter end, and the hope that people can reconcile and rise above whatever conflict brought them to my door."
AN IRISH CALENDAR 2016–2017
The theme for this year's calendar was inspired by the 100th anniversary of Ireland's 1916 Easter Rising, an event of great significance to Irish people everywhere. When I was growing up in the Irish Republic during the 1970s and 1980s, bombings and shootings were a daily occurrence in Northern Ireland. We were close to the violence, yet not part of it. This was our history in the making, but as children we did not understand it, nor was it taught to any of us in a meaningful way. The past was definitive - British rule was an abhorrence - but the present was ambiguous and messy. The grand ideals of 1916 were also difficult to harmonize with the killing and maiming of civilians for reasons that had more to do with retribution than rebellion.
Only by moving away from Ireland did I come to understand that the differences between the two populations on the island of Ireland are small. People, North and South, want the same things: to live peacefully, earn a decent living, raise their children in a free society and exercise democratic rights without fear of discrimination. Thankfully, these aspirations are closer to reality since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which brought an end to a cycle of violence that so brutalized my homeland.
Unknown to me, my future wife Carolyn and her sister were also at the concert. They waited outside the stadium until 3:00 a.m. and were rewarded by meeting the band, chatting about their family's Irish background and (I assume) flirting with four young men from Ireland who were not me. When Carolyn and I met many years later, we laughed about our stories of that night. Hers were of course better than mine because she actually met Bono, while I only got to write about him.
AN IRISH CALENDAR 2017–2018
In December 1987, I somehow qualified as a freelance correspondent for Irish media covering the U.S. finale of U2's Joshua Tree world tour. Little did I know that gig would be the start of my own life in America.
The concert was taking place in Tempe, Arizona and was being filmed for what would become the movie Rattle and Hum. I managed to wrangle a press pass, allowing me to report for Ireland's national broadcasting service, RTA (Raidio Teilifis Eireann), and for the Cork Examiner newspaper, now the Irish Examiner.
Arizona State University's Sun Devil Stadium was filled to capacity for two nights running, and what a concert it was! Nobody at the time was bigger than U2 - they put on a show for the ages. From Where the Streets Have No Name to Pride (in the name of love), they performed their own particular brand of Celtic magic for the 50,000 fans gathered in the stadium.
I actually missed the band's encore because of the need to file my story by the Irish newspaper's print deadline - backstage, via fax, a new technology at the time! Later that night, I gave an interview on Ireland's national radio station, surprising friends at home who didn't even know I'd left the country.
AN IRISH CALENDAR 2018–2019
2018 marks the twentieth anniversary of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Ireland after generations of sectarian violence. When I was growing up in Southern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s it was almost inconceivable that a political solution could be achieved between Northern Ireland’s two warring factions: Protestant unionists who wanted to remain aligned with the United Kingdom, and Catholic nationalists who sought a unified Ireland. Yet seemingly intractable differences were set aside when the protagonists finally came to accept that continued conflict was far worse than compromise in the name of peace.
Although the peace has lasted 20 years, it is fragile. But there is now a generation of young people in Northern Ireland who have grown up without daily threats of mayhem in their lives. By breaking the cycle of violence, there is every reason to believe that integration and reconciliation between the Protestant and Catholic communities can be built on an increasingly solid foundation. The theme of this year’s Calendar is one of bridges between places and peoples, and that by journeying together a new way forward is possible.
In this year’s calendar, I pay homage to those bridge builders who engineered the process that led to the Good Friday Agreement. The politicians of Northern Ireland, including nationalists Gerry Adams and John Hume, and unionists David Trimble and Peter Robinson, found they had more in common when they sat across from one another than their political differences would have suggested.
Meanwhile, politicians in the Republic of Ireland (led by Bertie Ahern) and the United Kingdom (under Prime Minister Tony Blair) merged their separate agendas, displacing centuries of mistrust and antipathy. These politicians were motivated by another leader: U.S. President Bill Clinton, who sent Senator George Mitchell to chair the peace process. As Senator Mitchell points out in his excellent book Making Peace, many others were engaged in the arduous and often heartbreaking process of bringing an end to the violence, notably those who suffered loss but who were nonetheless willing to forgive in the name of peace.
George Mitchell’s role in negotiating the Good Friday Agreement inspired me to focus on resolving disputes through mediation. As an outgrowth of my litigation practice, I recently formed Acordia Dispute Resolution, L.L.C., with a dedicated suite of conference rooms to facilitate my work as a neutral mediator. It seems to me that the world could use a little more peace, and I hope to contribute to that through Acordia.
"Bridges and their symbolism have always fascinated me. They are built to overcome obstacles and connect people. The goal of my newly formed mediation law practice is to help bridge differences and resolve disputes for everyone's benefit."
Trees are age-old symbols of ancestry. They are rooted in one place, but disperse their seeds far and wide. Like human beings, trees tend to thrive in groups. Scientists say that trees are interdependent and are linked together underground, with the oldest trees acting as hubs from which younger trees draw support.
The hub of Arizona’s Irish community is the Irish Cultural Center and McClelland Library. The Library includes the Frances H. McClelland Genealogy Centre, founded with the purpose of helping people find their Irish roots and to inspire individuals to write their family histories.
The cover image above was made by my dear friend, Tim H. Murphy. The Dark Hedges in Ballymoney, County Antrim is an avenue of beech trees planted by the Stuart family over 200 years ago, recently featured in the HBO series Game of Thrones.
AN IRISH CALENDAR 2019–2020
The theme of this year’s Irish Calendar is Light On Ancestry (in Irish, Solas Ar Shinsearacht) and features photographers who entered a competition sponsored by The Hassett Law Firm in conjunction with Arizona’s Irish Cultural Center and McClelland Library. Each month features a winning image and a related story of Irish ancestry, as told by the photographer.
Irish ancestry means different things to different people. For some, it’s a way to explain (or perhaps embellish) their immigrant experience. For others, it’s a unique history to be treasured in an increasingly multicultural society. Or it may simply be a good reason for drinking green beer on St. Patrick’s Day! Whatever its meaning, Irish ancestry is claimed by over 40 million Americans, all of whom are rightfully proud of their heritage.
The power of America’s historical connection to Ireland is evident from the many who have experienced the sensation of “coming home” when they land on the Emerald Isle. Although they live thousands of miles away, the Irish diaspora feel genetically at home among their ancestral family. In Ireland, it’s said that “you can take the man out of the bog, but you can’t take the bog out of the man” as a way to express how we are intrinsically tied to the place of our origin. This year’s Irish Calendar aims to capture that connectedness through pictures and stories, illuminating our shared ancestry.