Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Bow Tie (or more vulgarly described as the Dickey Bow).

A few from my collection.
The Bow Tie was rarely worn when I was young in Dublin, only on special occasions such as dances in the Gresham and the Shelbourne Hotels. Modesty forbade me to wear one on other less formal occasions. It was seldom seen in the streets or houses of Dublin at the time but I admired its tidy shape and its many variety of colours.

I pick a favourite
When I went to London to the National Heart Hospital in 1946 as part of my post graduate training, I met another Dublin man older then myself. He was Walter Somerville who came originally from the North Circular road in Dublin and I first met him when he had returned from the war and had been appointed a junior consultant in the National Heart Hospital. He always wore a bow tie and he had a clean and open shirt appearance and his apparel had the effect of attracting a second look. As a physician, or one in training, it was customary to dress well and formally when dealing with patients – nowadays of course, one wears “scrubs” for hygiene reasons.

Raising the collar...
When examining patients it was necessary to examine other organs as well as the heart and chest. At the time I was opposed to the use of the waistcoat and I found it was embarrassing to be wearing a loosely fitted tie particularly when dealing with young females, as it interfered and touched off the patients abdomen. It occurred to me how efficient the bow tie was under these circumstances. So almost from the day I met Walter, I began to wear a bow tie, and I rejected the long and dangling loose tie. It is perhaps surprising that since that time I never wore an ordinary tie except at a funeral, and fortunately these were rare occasions.

Milltown Golf club centenary bow tie.
Learning to use a bow tie is not easy, and is certainly a good reason why they are not in more popular use. There are different types of bow ties, those that are made up from scratch, tied in the front, and tightened from the back – the “real” bow tie – this tie has to be dealt with carefully and skilfully and in most circumstances is slightly imperfect in shape but all the better for it. 

for the "cheats"
Then there are those that have already being made up and are clipped at the back.  This tie is easily recognised by its almost false tidy sharpness – the “cheats” bow tie - and finally there are those that are already made up and clipped to the shirt front  -  the “blasphemers” bow tie – they have few friends!

Against the clock...
On a slight aside, on one occasion at a bow tie competition, the winner took exactly 12 seconds to complete a “real” bow tie – an odd coincidence because it was also the exact same 12 seconds required after a regatta, for a young Trinity student to finish a pint of Guinness without spilling a drop from lifting the full glass until he put it empty back onto the table!

The Royal Society of Medicine
The Bow Tie was also valuable as a marker within the professions as well as elsewhere. Some organisations/clubs had bow ties with the club crest on them and there was a certain satisfaction in being recognised as a member of the organisation concerned. The Royal Society of Medicine had a fairly small and neat bow with the letters of the logo of the organisation clearly visible. Thus it was easy to meet a colleague and to feel a close interest in the membership. 

For many years in London, that bow tie was well known and regarded but sometime in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s I got wind from a friend that The Royal Society of Medicine intended to do away with the tie. With this information I visited the headquarters of the organisation in Harley Street and I enquired about the availability of the bow tie. They confirmed that they intended to discontinue its use. They were in dark green or dark red. I asked about the continual availability of the tie and on searching the drawer they stated that only five green and one red were still available. To the girl’s surprise, I bought the lot so that they were clear of further bow ties.

The bow tie when properly tied will exist for many years if correctly looked after. I still have many bow ties available to me.  My son Hugh had some stitched into a counterpane, providing a rather wide and perhaps bizarre picture in the bedroom. I continue to use a bow tie on my less occasional visits and meetings outside the home. Recently I was surprised when visiting my Milltown annual dinner that I had some difficulty in tying it properly. But I eventually achieved that nice, casual, carelessness which is a feature of a properly tied bow tie.

It was certainly well identified as one of my peculiarities in my early days but I overcame the embarrassment of being a perpetual bow tie wearer. In fact, it might have become a source of comment to others if it was missing during ward rounds and/or other areas. It is true to say that there are few people with the patience and the capacity to learn the skill of making the bow tie and therefore we shall continue almost certainly to be a rare breed indeed.

Friday, 22 April 2016

The woods today.

Stopping by Woods. A Guide to the Forests and Woodlands of Ireland. Donal Magner.

This review was written on July 7th 2012

(today's blog is illustrated with some of the Editor's favourite 'creepy' trees to be found in Wicklow woodlands)

I borrowed this book in the RDS and decided to order a copy for my son Richard. The book is not intended for reading and is more a reference source for those who are enquiring about our forests and major woodlands and who may wish to visit them. It is divided into 32 short chapters dealing with each county in Ireland in alphabetical order. Maps are provided for each county and there are numerous short maplets of many forests with numbers marking points of special interest.

The contents pages list each woodland and forest according to county. It would require most of a lifetime to visit all the areas included in the text.  The preface provides information about all our important trees, divided into native broadleaves and conifers, European natural broadleaves and conifers, and exotic trees outside Europe. A design of each of these trees with their characteristic leaf and fruit is provided. The author also provides a note on the recent revolution in forestry which has occurred in Ireland.

This is primarily a reference book and should be in every library access to all of us interested in our native silviculture.  For the tree alickadoo it would be useful in his or her library and for the forester and those with a keen interest in our woodlands it might be needed in the car.

When I first went through the book I took the opportunity to congratulate the author – I had known him well when I was a member of the Irish Timber Growers Association. I added a note about the paucity of ivy in his many photos and I sent him a copy of For Love of Trees with the 2012 rider.

Dear Donal,

I have been looking through your Stopping by Woods with great interest and I felt I should write to you to congratulate you on such a valuable addition to my library. It is a long time since I was active in the ITGA but my interest in trees continues and has been passed on to my son Richard who has planted 140 acres of trees (of which 20% are hardwood) at Kilmichael on the borders of Wicklow and Wexford. He has also taken over my 30 acres of Sitka and Japanese Larch in Johnstown in West Wicklow.

I expect I sent you a copy of the enclosed monograph on ivy some years ago. I was interested to find that none of your trees had ivy apart from on ash on p.354 and a beech on p358. You were of course dealing largely with woodlands and forests where ivy is much less evident. But it is widespread in our hedges of hawthorn and hedgerow trees and in small woodlands, and has received little attention from farmers and landowners.  I am sending you a copy of the original book and a rider I added last month to bring the subject up to date.

I apologise for intruding on your valuable time but you must understand that in retirement over 24 years I have little else to do than  interfere into the lives of others.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Irish turf and the second world war.

The second world war commenced in September 1939.  At first there was little hardship in terms of food and other factors of living. Ireland had a plentiful supply of all our needs at the time but things changed gradually and by the end of the war we were seriously depleted of many of the necessities of life except for food or other matters relating to the countryside.  One of these was turf.   The country here, particularly within our major central plain is rich with turf and peat which might be described as heavy ancient bog which was useful as a valuable if somewhat low energy source compared to coal or timber.   

Where else but Ireland...
Up to 1946 or so, coal and other high quality fuels had become impossible to find and we were largely dependent on turf for heating and for similar purposes.  Turf  left a heavy residue which was in itself an inconvenience in its use.  Nevertheless most of our trains and ships depended on turf for fuel and continued to do so for another two or three years following the end of the war.

A lorry with its load of turf.
I thought it appropriate to refer to some of the difficulties created by turf during these years. We had no means of travel during our holidays except by bicycle.  I went for a 10 day holiday to Kerry and Cork and as I was cycling through the main street of Yougal, my ancient bike (which cost £1 previously at a police auction) cracked on the crossbar and made the bike impossible to use.  I was isolated with nothing but my two legs to get me the 120 miles back to Dublin. However, at the time turf was made available by contractors who carried the fuel to Dublin and other urban areas for necessary domestic and other needs.  As I walked with my bike from Yougal to Cork I was fortunate to meet one of these lorry’s carrying a load of turf.  The driver obliged me by throwing my bike on top of the load and driving me to the train station in Cork.  At that time the trains had nothing but turf to run their engines but the turf left such a massive amount of residue that the train had to stop every twenty miles so that the residue could be removed and fresh turf added to the rekindle the boiler.  The journey took exactly twenty four hours and here I was with my broken bike and a very empty pocket which allowed me little food and the more desirable pint of Guinness! 

Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Athlone.
A few months earlier I and three of my friends from the rowing club spent two days cycling to Galway, a distance of 130 miles.  One of my friends on this trip was on his honeymoon.  It required two days to get to Galway against a Westerly wind but when we returned home ten days later we reached the 130 miles from the railway station in Galway to the ballast office in Dublin in eleven and a half hours.  On this occasion we had of course a strong following wind and the eleven and a half hours included a stop of one hour or more when we climbed the campanile of the new cathedral in Athlone.  We arrived in Dublin at 11.30 pm and went straight to the railway station at Westland Row to meet the bride who had taken the train.  We waited five hours in the station until she arrived to find four exhausted but nevertheless grateful friends.

Turf mound Phoenix Park
I spoke about the turf lorries which carried the turf to the urban areas.  At the latter end of the war was the turf was stored at various sites in Dublin in large mounds in the Phoenix Park and elsewhere including the five acres of army field beside our house in Rathmines.  The mound formed a long line of many tons which was large enough to make a suitable terrace stretching the entire length of the five acre sports field.  We were constantly reminded of the arrival of the turf and the packing of it into this large area.  Eventually grass grew through the whole mound  and I suspect that much of the turf that was borne so laboriously by those special lorries is still there but I expect that much of it has been hidden by nature and the changing environment.  I suspect the turf policy was one of many other wasted policies introduced by our many governments and that the turf we depended on at Lissenfield  House was probably used sparingly or replaced by black market coal.