2007-03-15 / The Walrus Says

The Walrus Says

By Jim Munro

Father Bill O'Neill says that Jamestown reminds him of him of his home, Malin Head in County Donegal, the most northern point in Ireland. "I grew up surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, our farm was about a mile from the sea," he explained.

He has been in Rhode Island since 1965 and his first assignment as a pastor was to St. Mark in 1984.

Who better than Fr. O'Neill to ask about St. Patrick whom we Americans of many backgrounds celebrate on Saturday by wearing green, eating corned beef and cabbage, drinking green beer and Irish whiskey, watching parades and hugging complete strangers.

"In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is a Holy Day of Obligation as well as a National Holiday. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. It is always marked by parades and my fondest memory, as a child, is running alongside the bagpipe band and especially watching the drum major twirl and beat the huge drum," Fr. O'Neill reminisced.

But, who was the man who became a patron saint? Fr. O'Neill described Patrick as being born in Patricius somewhere in Roman Britain to a relatively wealthy family. "He was not religious as a youth and, in fact, claims to have practically renounced the faith of his family. While in his teens, Patrick was kidnapped in a raid and transported to Ireland, where he was enslaved to a local warlord and worked as a shepherd until he escaped six years later."

Liza Minnelli surprised the cast of "Yours, Anne" when she attended the Saturday show of the Jamestown Community Theatre production. Afterwards, she joined the cast for a picture. Photo by Andrea von Hohenleiten Liza Minnelli surprised the cast of "Yours, Anne" when she attended the Saturday show of the Jamestown Community Theatre production. Afterwards, she joined the cast for a picture. Photo by Andrea von Hohenleiten Fr. O'Neill went on to say that Patrick returned home and eventually undertook studies for the priesthood with the intention of returning to Ireland as a missionary to his former captors. "It is not clear when he actually made it back to Ireland, or for how long he ministered there, but it was defi- nitely for a number of years. By the time he wrote the 'Confession' and the 'Letter to Coroticus,' Patrick was recognized by both Irish natives and the Church hierarchy as the Bishop of Ireland. By this time, also, he had clearly made a permanent commitment to Ireland and intended to die there. Scholars have no reason to doubt that he did."

Fr. O'Neill described how Patrick is the only individual we know from fifth-century Ireland or England and no other written records from Britain or Ireland exist from that century. There are simply no written records at all from Ireland prior to Patrick's.

"Experts agree, however, that the two examples of his writing that we have are clearly written by the same man, the man we know as Patrick. These two brief documents, Patrick's 'Confession' and his 'Letter to Coroticus,' are the basis for all we know of the historical Patrick."

But this dearth of a traditional biography doesn't in any way dampen the love held for St. Patrick and the enthusiasm for celebrating his day.

Returning to his memories of Malin Head to which he tries to return every year, Fr. O'Neill said that on St. Patrick's Day everyone wears a big cluster of shamrocks on their clothing. "We would go out early that morning and pick the biggest shamrocks we could find. Of course, real shamrocks only grow in Ireland!" He added that everyone wore live shamrocks to church and the common question among adults was "are you going to drown the shamrock today?"

"We children learned much later what 'to drown the shamrock meant'! Of course, it meant sprinkling it with Holy Water!"

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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The incomparable Liza Minnelli was in the audience at Saturday night's Jamestown Community Theatre's presentation of "Yours, Anne." She was the guest of her friend Ellie Krach, mother of Artistic Director Mary S. Wright. Reports received the next day said that the star was very gracious and volunteered to have her picture taken with the cast and audience members.

Come back soon, Liza.

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A reader told us there was a fabulous "moment" at Saturday night's performance.

When the play ended, the audience sat for an estimated three minutes in complete silence.

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Kudos to McQuade's customers who have been donating their change to the Fireworks Fund.

The market's clerks have kept the Rocket Dawgz' donations can going through the winter and came up with $110 that the Dawgz deposited as the first 2007 contribution to the Fireworks Fund.

This year's shoot will be on Wednesday, July 4, at Mackerel Cove with a rain date of July 5.

Send us your money so we can blow it up. Make your check out to Fireworks Fund and send it to Box 1776, Jamestown, 02835, or leave it in the Walrus pigeon hole at The Press.

KA-BOOM!!

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John A Murphy was late but no less welcome with "Side By Side."

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Libby LaMantia is still waiting. No one was in with the answer to who sang Rolly Polly and in what movie? Let's not let John Murphy's readers trump us again.

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R.I.P. Al Bates - the island has lost a very special person.

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Eileen Tiexiera asks if anyone else has voiced concern over the "cell tower" issue and other controversies surrounding electromagnetic pollution.

"I intuitively feel that it is all very dangerous and our children and children's children will some day be paying a very tragic and damaging health price."

She says that the Safe Wireless Initiative (SWI) has reams of information describing the "probable and unfortunate dangers of electromagnetic radiation."

Eileen added that for those interested in becoming more informed on the subject to check out www.safewireless.org. "We need to raise awareness in our community. Please do your part by becoming informed," she said.

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New members are bolstering the voices of the Jamestown Community Chorus as the group rehearses for its participation in RISings II April 29 at the East Providence High School and its own spring concert May 5 and 6 at the Central Baptist Church.

Joining the choristers are Prim Bullock and Philita Riley from Jamestown; Gale Goff from Newport; Charlotte Matteson, Charlestown; Jane Stewart, Warwick; Don Taft, Wakefield; and Jack Vanderbeck from North Kingstown.

The spring concert is titled "Going Home" and features some 15 selections of song and dance reflecting the various nationality backgrounds of chorus members.

The chorus rehearses Monday evenings at the Central Baptist Church.

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Lee White called from her condo in the Bay View to tell us two beautiful swans were napping in the water next to the Conanicut Marina gas dock. "I can't remember ever seeing swans in the open bay," she said.

They didn't call it the Bay View for nothing.

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Committee members Kathleen Brown and Matt Bolles are putting together a lineup of songs from musicals directed by Mary S. Wright when the artistic director is honored at The Toast of the Town March 31 at the Portuguese American Citizens Club.

So far, blockbuster tunes will include "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "Wouldn't It Be Lovely."

The co-founder of the Jamestown Community Theatre in 1990, Mary is being honored by the Jamestown Education Foundation.

For tickets or more information call Lisa Carlisle, 423-3353.

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Don't forget Caty Schnack's fund-raising dinner a week from tonight (the 22nd) at the Gaudet Middle School in Middletown.

Money raised will help the Jamestown seventh grader to be a student ambassador to Australia this summer.

The dinner starts at 6 p.m. and will be catered by the Outback Steakhouse. There will also be a silent auction and a raffle. Tickets cost $25 per adult and $10 for children under 10. Call Caty at 423- 3496 for tickets or to make a donation send your check to Caty at 36 Clarke St., Jamestown 02835.

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During last month, the Fire Department held several training sessions including a walk-through inspection by all the companies of the Jamestown School on Melrose Avenue, the Incident Command System, Fire Alarm Systems, SCBA use and hose and appliances.

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Call in your stuff for this column to 423-0383 or 829-2760. E-mail us at jtnwalrus@hotmail .com.

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