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November 16th 2020

Alan Harrison

Our speaker today is Barry Owens of IASIO, on Prisoner Liaison Project.

Forthcoming Speakers and Event
Nov 23rd Gabe Hau, Rotary Club of Melbourne, “Creating a Peacebuilding Club.”
Nov 30th St. Andrew’s Day: President Alan Davidson will speak on one of his favourite subjects. Dec 7th Combined Annual/Special General Meeting.
Dec 14th The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu.

Rotary Rangers Walks
Due to the above new restrictions on movements of our population, PP Brian sends the message that regretfully it is not possible for our Rotary Ranger's weekly walks to continue. There is nothing to stop individuals walking within 5 KMs of our homes, but not
as a group.

There were 22 member attendees on 9th November and one visitor Poonam Sood. Our former member, Stan Mason, was our speaker.

Hon Sec Tony McCourt gave apologies from Frank Bannister and Past President Ethna Fitzgerald.

Thought for the Day
President Alan gave the thought for the day last week. It was the same day that the Berlin Wall came down 1989. The wall had been dividing Berlin since 1961. President Alan was in the US when the Wall came down. This year the day before was Armistice Day. Alan was heartened that our Taoiseach had been present in Enniskillen to lay a wreath. We in Rotary have a mission to fulfill and it requires us to be patient with those that we meet and encounter.

President’s Announcements
President Alan announced with regret that the Christmas tree charity collection will not take place this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the club is looking at other ways to support the charities for whom the need is greater than ever.

President Alan also expressed condolences to Rotarian David Booth on the death of his brother in law.

Member’s Wishing to Speak
Rotarian Rana Al Damin spoke about a young writers’ competition for school age students. They will be asked to write a short essay or paragraph on “feeling good”. Rana is looking for suggestions of schools to take part. She has been sent a package which provides details and which Rana will circulate to the selected schools.

Rotarian Delma Sweeney spoke on behalf of the Rotary Foundation committee. the committee is organizing a Christmas party on Wednesday 16th December commencing 7:30pm. Tickets will cost 25 euro and also there will be non- attendance tickets for 20 euro. Each participant will be asked to perform a party piece lasting between 2 - 5 minutes. Members are asked to let Delma know what they intend to perform as their party piece. There will also be 2 musical interludes. These will be provided firstly by our member David Booth with his guitar and secondly by Fiona McAuslan on violin and, as Fiona is Scottish, this will have a Robbie Burns flavour. Fiona is a former member of the NCO. There will also be a raffle open to all participants. Please see notice circulated by Honorary Secretary Tony.

Last week’s Speaker
Our speaker last week was introduced by Past President Tom O'Neill. Stan Mason is a former member of our club. Tom and Stan and their wives are neighbours in the County Kilkenny village of Inistioge. Tom explained that he had known Stan for many years and was delighted to welcome Stan to our online meeting.

Stan Mason, in thanking the club for inviting him to speak about his family business, also said that he had spoken to the club about 20 years ago. He recognized many faces from that time, on his screen, and was also happy to note that there were many new faces. He also explained that he had been prevented from continuing his membership of Rotary, in the days when the club met in Jurys Hotel in Ballsbridge, as he had been unable to park his car after lunch when returning to the location of his business, then in Parliament St.

Stan’s business, namely Mason Technology, had it’s earliest establishment in the early 1780s. The business had been started by a French man M. Almont, who had opened the shop which specialized in lenses. He later returned to France. It was Stan’s great great…grandfather who took over the shop. In 1894 it moved from Essex bridge (Capel St) to Parliament St and from there to Dame St, opposite to the Olympia theatre, near the entrance to Dublin Castle. This building was gutted by a fire in 1965. After a spell in a number of locations, the business moved to its current location in a former synagogue on the South Circular Rd, Dublin.

Stan’s grandfather had incorporated the business in about 1935 and optics and measuring equipment became the dominant part of the business. After the fire in the Dame St premises which had three departments, namely photographic, optics and measuring equipment, the business was located in a number of different premises around south Dublin. After the move this was reduced to two departments with a shop on Dawson St. When the business commenced in South Circular Rd it had about 30 employees. Anyone who has seen the inside of the current building agrees that it is stunning, whereas outside is still very much a synagogue. Stan has had many visitors from abroad to view the inside. The scientific instruments department was closed down and the business concentrates on highly accurate measuring equipment now to weigh anything from a tiny particle to a car. At present total staff is 98.

If you need a microscope which costs in the region of half million euro, Stan is your man. However, most of these are sold to universities which in turn carry out work under contract for businesses which would not have a regular use for such an expensive piece of equipment. Servicing has become a large part of their business. About 35 staff are employed full time in this department.

In Stan's daughter Sarah, an eighth generation of the Mason family has now joined the business, making the business probably unique in the annals of Irish business.

In answer to questions, Stan said that most of his staff are Irish, but they have some Poles and some Americans with specialized skills. And in answer to how his company had managed to prevent principals taking over the market from his company, which acts as agent for larger corporations, Stan explained that Ireland and Greece are unique in Europe in still having native distributors. ( Ed - what does this say about business in these two countries ?). In answer to a question from Past President Ted Corcoran, as to what changes might Stan foresee in his business in the next 50 years, Stan explained that he is currently cocooning in Kilkenny and unable to see that far!

“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.”

St Winifrid’s (Winefriede’s) Well

The Wells of Dublin
Earliest humans had to live close to streams and other waters until they learned to sink wells. In Dublin, the River Liffey, tidal for nearly four miles up to Islandbridge weir, was unfit for drinking. So also, were the lower reaches of its city tributaries. Because of the prevailing restrictive water rights, the filthy conditions and scarcity of local clean watercourses, the practice of sinking wells to tap spring water became increasingly necessary. This was aggravated by the progressive development of the city when it began to outstrip the quantity of available clean drinking water. The popularity of wells increased with the provision of greatly improved sewerage and surface-water drainage which reduced the possibility of contamination of the springs. Groundwater in the city is still relatively uncontaminated and is still used for watering golf clubs today. Another modern use is as a thermal heat exchange to warm buildings.
St Winifred’s Well
In 1757 Dr. Rutty refers to an ancient well dedicated to St. Winifred. The well was rediscovered about 20 years ago in Eustace Street, Temple Bar by Dublin Corporation Drainage Division and the Post and Telegraphs, who alerted the Roads Division prior to the cobble stoning of the street. Dublin Corporation then exposed and lit the well. This well was well constructed and in good condition, being dry, stone walled, circular and one- and three-quarter metres outside diameter. The water level matched the high tide in the nearby river Liffey. It is approximately 15 feet deep, holding a variable depth of about 8 feet of water. The site of the well is on the edge of the Steyne river lands and also near the tidal reaches of old Poddle and Liffey confluence.
It remains a matter of conjecture as to the accurate origins of St. Winifred’s Well, a Welsh Christian Saint. Springs the world over are often considered sacred, full of spiritual power and this spring is likely to have a Celtic religious history. The well may have been Christianised by the Augustinian Holy Trinity Friary (established in 1229) nearby. The Augustinian monks and the early Christian Norse had Welsh connections. Another possible source for the naming of the well may be by Sir Maurice Eustace, (c.1590 – 22 June 1665), Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Eustace Street bears his name. He was detained for several years in Chester, near Holywell, Wales, for his political affiliations.
The well is called after a revered saint, who was the daughter of a chieftain and a niece of St. Beuno in Holywell, Wales in the 7th century. Her suitor, Caradog, was enraged when she decided to become a nun, and decapitated her. A well of 81 tons of water per minute sprang up where her head fell. Winifred's head was subsequently re-joined to her body due to the efforts of Saint Beuno, and she was restored to life. Seeing the murderer leaning on his sword with an insolent and defiant air, St. Beuno invoked the chastisement of heaven, and Caradog fell dead on the spot, the popular belief being that the ground opened and swallowed him. St. Winifred later founded a convent and died in 660 AD. Many miraculous cures are attributed to her well in north Wales.
St. Winifred’s feast day is 3rd November.
Adapted from “The Rivers of Dublin” (1991) by CL Sweeney, (father of Delma Sweeney) and republished in 2017 by the Irish Academic Press.

Kerry Wisdom Department: You Must Listen to Thunder

You must listen to thunder was another favourite saying of my grandmother’s. It was her way of saying that when people are expressing various opinions contrary to yours, rather than waste time arguing against them, in most cases, just listen and let their arguments wash over your head.

This was a good strategy. Attempting to win arguments about very minor matters is an exercise in futility. Yet, how many of us do this? And the result? Both sides remain unmoved. Stress levels are increased. Friendships are strained. And for what?

It takes two to tango as the saying goes. Argumentative people are ten-a-penny, often speaking from deeply held convictions. Other times they speak, not from any real knowledge of the subject, but from an emotional state. Their minds and views are not for changing and it’s completely pointless attempting to do so.

Unfortunately, however, our egos can get in the way compelling us to continue the argument until we have won it, or think we have won it. Then what? Has the world changed in some way?

Better save your energy, keep your blood pressure levels steady and, like my grandmother, just listen to the thunder. Like all thunderstorms, this too will pass.

[Reprinted from his book Hiring a Car and Walking After It with kind permission from PP Ted. Hiring a Car and Walking After It, is available for purchase at]

“It is not death that we should fear, but that we should fear never beginning to live.”

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