“Anois teacht an Earraigh beidh an la dul chun sineadh Is tar eis na Feil Bride ardoidh mo sheol
O chuir me im cheann e ni stopfadh me choice
Go seasfaidh me sios i lar Conndae Mhuigeo
Thus Antoine O Reachtabhra (1784-1835) a folk poet from Cill Aodain near Coillte Mac.
For those of my compatriots with a cultural deficit I will render the above in Sacs-Beurla (literally “the twittering of the Saxon.”)
“Now approach of the Spring, the day will be stretching
And after the Feast of Brigid I’ll hoist my sail
From putting it into my head I won’t stop
Until I stand down in the heart of County Mayo.”
Folk poet though he was, Raftery held to the scientific observations of learned Gaels of yore who reckoned that Spring started
in the Northern Hemisphere on St Brigid’s Day, February 1st by the Gregorian Calendar. If Midsummer is 21 June and Midwinter 23 December
Raftery’s reckoning can’t be faulted.
I think Irish people of my generation have no problem with it, but the Devil only knows what strange notions some younger people have.
My Lancashire wife however, dates the beginning of Spring to the March Equinox and our disagreement echoes an earlier dispute between Irish
and British Christians on the other side of the Pennines. Northern Britain was Christianised by Irish missionaries such as Colmcille and St Aidan
fro bases in Iona and Lindisfarne. The Irish,who had long studied astronomy, calculated Easter one way and the Romansanother way, and by wa
y of gratitude to those who had taught them to read and write and not speak with their mouths full, didn’t theEnglish side with the Romans. T
here was quite a lot of ill feeling, and a Synod of the Church was convened at Whitby in Yorkshire inAnno Domini Jesu Christi 664.
For the sake of peace the Irish went along with a system imposed from without.
Those who remember the Penny Catechism issued by the Archdiocese of Dublin when John Charles McQuaid was Archbishop, may recall
that it stated that Our Divine Lord’s Incarnation occurred about 4,000 years after the creation of Adam and Eve. I doubt John Charles McQuaid
believed that, as the story began with Dublin-born James Ussher (1581-1656) a Protestant Archbishop of Armagh, and he was never known to agree
with Protestants on anything.
I doubt any of my old classmates still believe Ussher’s calculations, or that any Anglican Bishops do. But I understand that many Protestants do
and believe also that ancient Hebrews and the Four Evangelists wrote in English.
Ussher was one of the most learned men in the Europe of his time, but he died before the foundation of The Royal Society of London for
Improving Knowledge whose Motto is “Nullius in Verba” meaning “Take Nobody’s Word for It.” Karl Marx may have plagiarised the motto
when he wrote an autograph for a child saying “believe nothing” while his friend Engels wrote “take it Aisy” , a saying learnt from his Keady,
Co. Armagh, sweetheart, Mary Burns. That’s by the bye, but the Royal Society believed in reasoning from observed physical objects and phenomena
rather than uncritical reading of Holy scriptures.
In 45 BC a Calendar was adopted by the Roman Empire when Rome was still a Republic, at the instigation of Julius Caesar, after he had
consulted with an Egyptian astronomer, but time was reckoned from the believed foundation of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) about 700 hundred
years earlier.Dating time from the birth of Christ began in the 6th Century AD and spread theoughout Christendom.
For 1500 years or so after Julius Caesar, the Julian Calendar was observed in the Western World, but its minor inexactidude each year
accumulated until a new Calendar was required. So some Jesuit Scholars risked freezing their extremities high at night on their newly-built and
Jesu Basilica in Rome to observe the heavens. Just as Julius Caesar took credit for the work of the Egyptian astronomer Sosigines, so the
Pope, Gregory Xlll, took credit for the work of the Jesuits, and the Calendar universally accepted today is named after him.
But the Gregorian Calendar took time to catch on amongst slow learners. Adopted in Italy, France, Spain and Portugal in the Year of Our Lord
1582, the Holy Roman Empire, Switzerland, Holland and Flanders in 1583, Hungary in 1587, the Protestant German and Netherland states and
Denmark in 1700, it was not adopted in Britain and her dominions until 1752. During the French Revolution a new Calendar was introduced which lasted in
those places where the revolutionaries triumphed and lapsed when they were defeated. In Dublin’s GPO in 1916 Desmond Fitzgerald observed
a comrade taking his cue from the French, but it was ignored. It might be noted that the GPO was seized at NOON, Dublin time on Easter
Monday 1916, which was 12.25 PM in Greenwich.Ireland adopted Greenwich Mean Time shortly afterwards.
In 1918, Turkey under the secularist Attaturk, and Russia under Lenin, adopted the Jesuit “Gregorian” Calendar and Orthodox Christian Greece
followed in 1923.
I’ve seen to my annoyance that “AD” has given way to a Begrudger’s “CE” or Common Era. I await the renaming of Aaron Copland’s piece
as ” Fanfare For The Common Little Man.”
The British Government’s marking of the end of the Second Christian Millennium by placing Greenwich as its centre was crass .
The skies have been studied from Greenwich Observatory but the place reeks of ignorance, I was down in Greenwich to see some
Tall Ships there and picked up a leaflet issued by Greenwich Observatory.
It advertised an event for 12 PM.
I can’t recall whether it was a screening of HIGH NOON or MIDNIGHT COWBOY.
Beannachtai na Feile Bride oraibh go leir.
Domhnall O Cinneide
La Fheile Bride 2016.
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