September 6th 2021
Today is a business meeting.
Forthcoming Speakers and Events
Sep 12th Annual Duck Race on River Dodder at Milltown.
Sep 13th Paddy Furey, Croquet (that ancient Irish game which you are invited to try after lunch.)
Sep 20th Brian Cooke, Director General , Society of Irish Motor Industry Electric Vehicles
Sep 27th Alan Kirkpatrick, Men’s Sheds
Oct 11th Polio Plus, the need to continue
Oct 18th Katrina Buckley, Men’s Aid
Oct 25th Public holiday – no meeting
Nov 1st Business meeting
Nov 8th Shabnam Vasisht - Digging up the Raj in Deansgrange cemetery.
Nov 15th Dr Richard Conway – Disorders of the immune systems – a mystery.
Dec 6th Speical General Meeting
Dec 15th Christmas lunch.
President Alexander was in the Chair last week.
Visitors and Apologies
Last week, back in the Grand Canal Hotel again – at last. We got a warm welcome on our return from the hotel staff. There was a total of 33 people at the lunch made up of 29 members and four guests.
Our guests were introduced by PP Bernadette. These were Maura O'Neill, wife of PP Tom O'Neill and former president of Inner Wheel (who needs no introduction!), Cormac Trant (soon to be a member), Rotarian Dennis Shannon from Virginia, USA who is here helping his daughter find accommodation for her forthcoming year in TCD and UCD and Rotarian Nasir Barmkrai from Kew Gardens in the UK, now living in Sandymount and “looking for a nice club”.
Bernadette also welcomed two Rotarians that we have not seen in a while, Rossella and Derek (Bell).
Twelve apologies had been received by Hon Secretary Tony: PP Derek Griffith, Vasily Ogievsky, Patrick White, Ola El Garawany, Dorothy Hannon, Rana Al Damin, PP Ted Corcoran, PP Mariandy Lennon, PP Paul Loughlin, Caroline Barnardo, Willy Widmer, and Veronica Kunovska.
Rotary Rangers’ Schedule
Sep 7th Sugar Loaf Mountain, Kilmacanogue.
Sep 14th Hill of Howth
Sep 21st Kanturk and Scarr Mountains, Oldbridge, Lough Dan.
Sep 28th Deerpark, Powerscourt.
Thought for the day
Cormac Trant gave the thought for the day. We were, he observed, living through an historic moment with the ending of US involvement in Afghanistan. This war had been triggered by the attack of the World Trade Centre on 9/11/2001 and had lasted 20 years – a lifetime for many young people in Afghanistan who will have known no time in their lives when there was no war. It was also a time when young women could go out alone and could get an education. Thinking of the fears many young Afghanis, particularly women, must now have, he is haunted by his own good fortune and he realises how important it is to appreciate even small things that make us happy and make our lives good.
• President Alexander noted that hurricane Ida had hit the southern USA 16 years to the day after hurricane Katrina wreaked such enormous damage in the same region. He asked us to keep the victims of Ida in our thoughts.
• Alexander asked people to let either him or Hon. Secretary Tony know if they would be coming to lunch next week as the hotel needs reasonably accurate numbers.
• He noted that a seven-day letter had gone out for Cormac Trant.
• President Alexander gave us a quick update on the Plastic Soup initiative which now includes 26 clubs. Work continues on clearing plastic from rivers and oceans. One of the rivers being worked on is the river Nile in Egypt.
• PP Bernadette said that she has a collection of sets of six books for sale at €25 each. The money raised will go to the Dolly Parton library in Tallaght. Each pack is a random mixture of books from those donated to her by members and others so you take pot luck!
• PE Delma spoke to us about the Samaritans. Every day, the Samaritans receive about 10,000 calls from people looking for help. Often a call is triggered by a crisis, but many calls are just people needing somebody to talk to. The Samaritans are not just there for the moment, they provide continuing support of people who are struggling with mental health problems. Over many years they have helped to keep the suicide rate in Ireland down. Two members of our club are also members of the Samaritans. Currently the Samaritans are looking for help in providing professional training for their managers. Carr Communications provides such training at a special rate. Managers are there to help employees manage their own stress and to deal with particularly difficult situations. A training session costs €500 for eight people. If we can raise this, Delma believes that we can get a matching grant from District that will raise the amount for €1,000 with which they will be able to train 16 people. If members are agreeable, she plans to do this by passing around a basket at a forthcoming Rotary luncheon.
• Gerry McLarnon said that PP Ken Hunt is not well. Ken was 91 last week, but his health is declining. Gerry asked us to please remember Ken who would appreciate hearing from members. Somebody added that PP Victor Hamilton is not well either. No more details were available at the moment.
• Gerry also said that older members may remember when we had a steady stream of Rotary scholars passing through the club. Many of these have stayed in contact. One was Sean Burns who went on to be a highly successful tennis coach in the USA. Sean’s father Brian, a lawyer, businessman and philanthropist was featured in Patricia Harty’s 2000 book, “The Greatest Irish Americans of the 20th Century”, died last week at the age of 85. See https://www.irishcentral.com/news/brian-burns-irish-american-philanthropist for more information.
• PP Tom drew our attention to the upcoming talk by Paddy Furey on the subject of croquet. Paddy has invited members to join him for an introductory game in Herbert Park Croquet Club immediately after the lunch. Tom encouraged members to come along.
• One of our visitors, Dennis Shannon said that Cormac’s remark about the event that triggered the American intervention in Afghanistan reminded him of 9/11. He had worked as a video journalist and he could remember being in the vicinity of the bombings after the event and trying to make sense of it all. He has also worked on the story during hurricane Katrina. He had been on the ground in the aftermath and had gone back a few years ago to see how the re-build was going. During and after Katrina, he had been impressed by the huge amount of support that had come from outside the region. Even the smallest things, like the donation of a bottles of water, are appreciated. You can see it in people’s eyes.
• One of our other visitors, Nasir Barmkrai, said that he had been a teacher and an accountant. He was interested in history, particularly in the works of the Scottish historian William Dalrymple, the Tudors and the American war of independence. Nasir was born in Pakistan and Dalrymple wrote many books on the Indian history and on religions in the region.
Celebrating Scotch and 3M
At this point, as promised in the last Zoom meeting, PP Alan Davidson produced a bottle of his famous limited edition MMM Scotch whisky – bottle 29 of 333 – the only bottle 29 that there was or would ever be. He was going to go around the room pouring a dram for any partakers. If there was any whisky left at the end, it would be donated to the good cause of Frank Bannister who had paid a princely sum for bottle number 48 at the charity auction a few months ago.
On My Own Time
Early in the pandemic, we published a piece by PP Mark Doyle on ice diving. We thought at the time that we might use this as a springboard for other articles about members’ hobbies - focusing on less common pastimes (a euphemism for excluding golf). In the hope that it may inspire other members to tell us about their hobbies, we are this week publishing a second in this series.
On My Own Time: PP Tom and Chess
When we did a profile of PP Tom O’Neill several months ago, we mentioned in passing that he played rather a lot of chess and that we could come back to this topic. Tom learned to play chess at the age of 12. He was taught by a Guinness brewer named Fred Wilcox, the lessons taking place in the O’Neill family pub in Cornmarket in the Liberties. (In a curious coincidence, Frank Bannister was also taught to play chess by a Guinness cooper named Ford). Fred, a friend of Tom’s father, had been selected for the Irish team to compete in the chess Olympiad (effectively the world chess championship) in Buenos Aires that was due to start on the 1st September 1939 - two days before the second world war started. Tom recalls Fred as the most moral man he ever knew. One of the substitutes for the team was suffering from TB and Fred turned down his own place on the team in order to let his friend join the team and play in Argentina – something that was to help his friend recover from the disease. As Tom says, he learned to pull pints and push pawns at the same time.
As a teenager, he joined the Eoghan Ruadh chess club. The Eoghan Ruadh club offered a wide range of activities to young people fielding hurling, football, camogie and chess teams. While playing (chess) for the club, Tom was to win an all-Ireland club championship medal (see above). This occurred when he came on as a substitute in the second replay of the final against Queen’s University, Belfast in 1954. It was Tom’s win that broke the deadlock. In the years 1953 to 1955 Tom, then at Synge street CBS, captained the school chess team, a team that won several Leinster Schools Senior Championships. During those years, several members of the Synge Street team were also selected to play for the Ireland Schools team in the four nations Glorney Cup against England, Scotland and Wales. Sadly, Ireland were perennial runners up.
By 1953 Tom was playing chess four to five days each week, in club, school and individual competitions, winning the Leinster intermediate championship and schools’ individual trophy. In 1955 he was runner up in the Leinster Senior Open chess championship. Following this win, he was invited to play for Ireland in the chess Olympiad that autumn in Moscow. Sadly, he could not afford to go and there was no government funding for such a trip at the time. The Leinster Senior Open was Tom’s best ever individual result and the 2nd last time he played in an individual competition until the following century. His final individual win was in the Oireachtas championship in 1956 after which he gave up individual competitive chess until 2012, 56 years later. That year he entered The Irish Veterans championship, with (to use his own words) disastrous results .
In 1956, Tom captained and played board one (the top player) for UCD in the Irish University championship against UCC, TCD and QUB in Belfast. These were serious, but fun tournaments. UCD were usually the winners, but not that year. Tom continued to play in team competitions for his clubs. In 1959 he was a member of the UCD team that won the Armstrong Cup, the Leinster Senior Club Championship. This was the 70th year of this competition and it was the first time in all of those 70 years that UCD had won it. This was a much desired result as, at the time, TCD had won it five times. Today, both universities have six wins to their credit.
While in UCD, Tom led the team that competed in the British universities annual championships in Cambridge and Manchester in 1954. It was the first time that UCD had entered this competition.
An interesting aside (for those of you who know the game) at this point. In the 1960s, the American Grand master Bobby Fisher, exploded onto the chess world and changed several aspects of the competitive game. One of the things he changed, in 1973, was the 30-year domination of the World Chess Championship by Russians. He also changed several practical aspects of competitive chess for the better. His major innovation was the elimination of the envelope containing the sealed move, used to facilitate an adjournment (and allow – as can be seen in the Netflix series, The Queen’s Gambit, a player to consult overnight with others on strategy for the next day). In addition, Fisher invented a new type of chess clock. In competitive chess after a player makes a move, he or she presses a button that stops their clock and (re-)starts their opponent’s. Today the clocks add a time increment every time a player makes a move. This increment can be 5, 10, 12 or 15 seconds. Why does this matter? Up to the time this change was made, in a game with a large number of moves, one or both players could start running out of time (each player then had a fixed time allocation that varies with the nature of the competition). This could result in one of both players needing to make faster and faster moves and occasionally a player losing a game simply because he or she ran out of time on their clock (this happened to Tom in the 1956 universities competition). As a result of Fisher’s innovation, all games since have been finished in one sitting. And for those who like statistics, there are 1,700 chess Grandmasters in the world of whom 37 are women and precisely zero are Irish. In fact, Ireland has never produced a Grandmaster.
Having graduated, Tom joined a club for UCD graduates, the Collegians and again was on the team that won the Armstrong cup in 1964. He was elected president of the Leinster Chess Union for the year 1966/1967. Tom then ‘retired’ from club chess to focus on a demanding business career. In 2010, now a veteran, he joined the Dun Laoghaire chess club. It had been over 40 years, since he had played for a club, but he was soon back to winning ways when Dun Laoghaire won the Heidenfeld cup (Leinster 2nd Division competition) in 2012. These days he serves as chairman of the club and “super sub”, as he puts it, for the club’s three teams.
Tom keeps his hand in by playing on line up to three nights a week on both chess.com and lichess.org (the Leinster Chess Union site). He finds it particularly pleasing that membership of the club and the union have both grown during the (hopefully just about to finish) lockdown.
If any member would like to try their luck, Tom says that he is available for a game any time.