Frank Brandon’s Column

20 years on from 9/11, the world is as troubled now as it was then

Our man Frank recalls the trauma of the 9/11 terror attack 20 years ago, an amazing sporting weekend for Irish women, and a poignant farewell to a local man…

It’s Monday evening as I write, and some programme on telly (that I wasn’t really looking at) is asking the question, “Where were you when the twin towers came down?” – an event which, amazingly, took place twenty years ago this week.

For some reason, the same question is asked about President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Elvis Presley’s death in Memphis, and Princess Diana’s fatal car crash in Paris – all such important, traumatic experiences. However, with almost three thousand people perishing in the terror attacks on the 11th of September 2001, the collapse of the twin towers has to go down as the most appalling of all the modern-day tragedies.

Funnily enough, I can remember where I was for all four tragedies. In November 1963, when JFK was shot, I was in school in Roscrea, a first year student aged just 12. When I heard about Elvis’s death in August 1977, I was sitting on a high stool having a pint in what was then Keane’s of Athleague (now The Bridge House). In August 1997, when the ‘People’s Princess’ was killed in that still dubious car crash in Paris, I was sitting on the couch in my sitting room. Now I had to think a little bit to figure out where I was for those three events, but there was no need for any soul-searching for the twin tower disaster.

For that terror attack, I was flat on my back in Roscommon Hospital. I’d been suffering from cellulitis, a condition which, of my long list of ailments, was definitely the worst of my life so far. I had felt unwell for a little while, but of course said and did nothing. When I eventually presented myself to Dr. Daly in Ballygar, he immediately sent me off to hospital, an act that I am still convinced saved my life. By the time I was admitted, I was so sick that I nearly didn’t care if I survived or not. Anyway, the fantastic staff in the hospital sorted me out, and by the Sunday (after being in for a week or so), I was well enough to watch Galway hurlers lose the All-Ireland to Tipperary by three points. Two days later on the Tuesday, the twin towers collapsed.

There was no television in the ward I was in, but I can remember being told by a nurse to come out quick to a communal telly, as something awful was happening. To tell the truth, in common with many people around the world, I thought at first that I was watching a film. It took some time for us all to realise that we were watching real events, that we were seeing real people jump to their deaths from several storeys high – in a bid to avoid being incinerated by the burning aviation fuel.

Thankfully I was released a few days later, but there can be no doubt that that particular day in 2001 changed the world in so many ways for so many people. As the 20th anniversary approaches this weekend, let us pause to remember all of those who perished in those attacks, and those who died in the Pentagon, and in the fourth plane crash in Pennsylvania.

A sobering thought is that nothing much has changed since 2001. The threat of terror attacks is still as big as ever, Afghanistan is becoming an ever-larger humanitarian disaster, there is still widespread hunger and poverty, the rich are getting richer, and as ever, the poor are getting poorer. However, life goes on. I suppose it always will. But for this one day, let us reflect on the happenings of 9/11 and hope we never see the likes again.


One of the best sporting weekends of my life

I have mentioned this before, but in my younger days it was almost unheard of for women or girls to play sport. Sadly, all sports were virtually the sole domain of the male gender.

Gradually, but ever so slowly in Ireland, women began to emerge in certain sports. We started to see sportswomen like Philomena Garvey, who became Ireland’s first professional lady golfer in 1964, and Rosemary Smith, who was a champion international rally driver in the 1960s. However, it was much later before women in sports became fully acceptable and recognised.

And so it was that last weekend I had one of the most memorable and enjoyable sporting weekends of my life. First, the lady footballers of Meath and Dublin put on a classic All-Ireland final on Sunday. Then, the lady golfers of Europe and the USA played out a spectacular and enthralling Solheim Cup.

The football final was just fantastic – a Meath win was almost unthinkable, but the quality of the football was truly amazing, and there is little doubt that next Saturday’s men’s game will be a lot less entertaining. Three things in the ladies game should be adopted by the men to speed it up: the pick-up from the ground, the kick-out off the hands, and the use of the hooter to bring an end to the procedure. Meath were worthy winners. Their athleticism, skill, determination, and fitness were unbelievable. It was the best game of football I’d seen in years.

Then came the drama and excitement of the Solheim Cup, which had me on the edge of my seat for the weekend. The fact that Cavan woman Leona Maguire was the undoubted star made me so proud to be Irish. In the end, Europe won the cup by a 15 to 13 score, and nobody played as big a part as the very modest, but supremely focused, Maguire. A mention here too for the marvellous Katie Taylor, who won again at the weekend.

And so I have to say thanks to all the footballers and golfers (and Katie) who  provided such quality entertainment for millions of people at the weekend. It was fitting that it all happened around the time that the FAI agreed to pay our soccer international teams, male and female, the same match fees. Well done ladies, you all deserve to take a bow.


Jimmy’s poignant return home

I have told you many times of Martin Logan, a native of Mount Mary, and a man who has a huge following in the UK. Martin and his Mayo-born wife Annette present the very popular, ‘Irish in the UK’ programme on Sky TV, a show that goes out on Channel 191 every Thursday evening at 7.30 pm.

This week here in Creggs, we saw another side to the Logans, as they were instrumental in having the ashes of local man Jimmy Noone brought home to be buried in his family grave in Kilbegnet.

Jimmy spent a large part of his life in Manchester, where he worked for many years with Martin Logan and Martin’s father. Like a lot of us, Jimmy never lost his love for Creggs and always expressed a wish to come home to be buried with his family. Sadly he passed away some time ago, but Covid regulations meant he could not come home until last Monday, when we, his neighbours and friends, gathered at Mass in Kilbegnet Church and Kilbegnet Graveyard to pay our respects and say our goodbyes.

Thanks to Martin Logan’s generosity, we were all treated to a beautiful meal afterwards in Mikeen’s, and it was so uplifting to see how the Irish can look after one another. If you haven’t seen it yet, look out for Martin’s show – you will not be disappointed.


All-Ireland final tickets to be won!

Our local GAA club are holding a big draw for two All-Ireland Stand tickets for Saturday’s All-Ireland final.

You can get your tickets online or off club members, so please consider getting a ticket and showing your support for a very good local GAA club. If you win, hopefully you will see Mayo finally bridge the 70-year gap since they last won the Sam Maguire!


And finally…

Out here in Creggs we lost another link with our local history when Mary Small, nee Kiernan, passed away suddenly last Monday week, a passing that greatly saddened her neighbours and many friends.

Mary’s parents, Gerry and Agnes, were great friends of our family back in the day, and Agnes was like a second mammy to me when I was a child. Gerry, as our local barber, also used to cut my hair (those were in the days when I used to get it cut).

We went back a long way with the Kiernans, and there is no doubt that Mary carried on the same traits as her parents. She was kind to a fault, always in good humour, very funny, and a person it was a privilege to know.

To her husband John, sons John and Dean, daughters Jacinta and Aoife, brother Marty, and all the extended family and friends, I express my deepest sympathy – Mary will be greatly missed. May she rest in peace.