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Irishman who became the ‘Bard’ of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Songs of the Snowy Mountains
The Settlers
Editor: Shannon O’Boyle

Reviewer: J.A. O’Brien

An important new contribution to the history of Australian folk music and to Australian folklore generally, “Songs of the Snowy Mountains: The Settlers”, tells the story of Ulick O’Boyle a prolific writer of songs poems and ballads. Compiled and edited by his daughter Shannon O’Boyle the handsome book tells the history of the man and his times and includes pages of the words and music of 24 songs together with a superb collage of photographs.

The huge Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme was started in 1949 and completed in 1974. Covering more than 5000 square kilometres it has been described as ‘one of the modern wonders of the world’ –there is only two per cent of the massive project above ground. It was an enormous undertaking that would change not only the landscape of the Snowy Mountains but the very culture of Australia forever.

During its construction, more than 100,000 people from 30 different countries including Australians, worked on its 90 miles of tunnels; drilled and blasted through granite rock. Towns were moved or submerged beneath sixteen large dams and seven power stations; two of which were underground; together with a pumping station were all part of the infrastructure. The project diverted the waters of the Murrumbidgee, the Snowy and the Tumut rivers, to provide irrigation water west of the Great Dividing Range, and to generate hydro-electric power for use in New South Wales, Victoria and the national capital Canberra.

Into this feverish activity in 1962, came a young Irishman, Ulick O’Boyle, from County Roscommon, to work as a concrete worker. During the five years he worked on the scheme, O’Boyle observed the interaction of people from many nationalities that lived in the construction camps and nearby small towns. Working and living together in the freezing cold or stifling heat of the capricious mountain climate these ‘New Australians’ forged a vibrant multiculturalism.

O’Boyle was a very talented man with the heart and mind of a poet. In poetry, ballad and song he wrote his impressions of the places, the people and the work that was being done. His fellow Settler, Paul Davey, says, “Ulick captured the atmosphere of the life of Snowy workers, the diverse nationalities, the loves and heartaches, the dangers and terrors, the comedies and tragedies.”

To perform the songs he had written, together with his wife, Anne Rutherford, and a fellow worker, Peter Barry, they formed a group, The Immigrants, that later became The Settlers. They released their first album on the RCA label in 1966, followed by five more over the next thirty years.

The songs tell the stories of The Big Construction Game, the fate of The Dozer Driver Man, Olaf, and the tragedy of The Ballad of Big Pedro. Interspersed with these gripping tales of the lives of workers are songs of young love, Old Talbingo and the pain of parting/renewing Winter Back in My Heart. Then a change of mood to the ‘colour life and laughter’ of the times with The Cooma Cavaliers, The Thredbo Slop and Friday Night – Long Weekend.

But O’Boyle also reminds us of the price of progress with touching songs and poems like Jindabyne Farewell (one of the old towns submerged) and Jack Bridle’s Farewell to a way of life on the land. A well-informed man he comments on life and social issues with wry humour in Long Gone Pom and Dear Hoffman and poignantly in Paddy Went Home in the Rain, Young Jack Frost-Texan and Hard Rock Drilling-I’ve Done It. There are 24 songs on a CD that comes with the book, or it can be purchased separately.

Ably accompanied by Anne Rutherford, Peter Barry and later Paul Davey, O’Boyle’s instrumental skills match his lyrics to perfection. Behind it all is the admiration he felt for those who came together from so many countries to build the wondrous Snowy Mountains Scheme. The last lines from the song 1949 say it all:

There is something of value left behind
When you come from the breed of the building kind
That built and worked and made the Snowy Scheme

His daughter, Shannon, has made a fitting tribute to her father and has ensured due recognition of a man who in the words of Paul Davey, “will stand in history as one of Australia’s foremost song writers and balladeers.” Ulick O’Boyle’s songs and ballads have become part of the Snowy legend and as such are a significant contribution to the story of Australia. Click on http://www.songsofthesnowy.com.au for the full story.

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A tale for Bloomsday – June 16, 2015

TURNING THE TABLES

By J. A. O’Brien

“A nice thing to find in one of the largest bookshops in the city. And in one of the main streets of Dublin no less,” Dan slammed the book on the manager’s desk.

Mr Molloy looked at the book. “My good man there is no way we would have that book for sale,” he said.

“It was with the Greek literature. Any young student could have picked it out thinking it was by Homer,” Dan snorted. “Disgraceful. Absolutely disgraceful. Ulysses indeed.”

“I assure you there has been a mistake. We have never ever stocked that man Joyce’s book in our store. We have very strict rules.” Mr Molloy wiped sweat from his forehead.

“It’s a banned book.” Dan pointed to the notice that was prominently displayed around the shop and could be seen through the glass panel of the office. It read:

“THERE ARE OVER 8000 BOOKS BANNED IN IRELAND. IF BY CHANCE WE HAVE ONE ON DISPLAY, PLEASE INFORM US AND IT WILL BE DESTROYED.”

“So much for that indeed,” Dan snorted. “Not only banned by our own Irish censors but I believe it is on the Index too.”

Mr Molloy went white. “Not the Index. Oh my God, not that.” The Church’s Index of Forbidden Books, carried more weight than the censors’ list so far as he was concerned.

“The same.”

“A filthy piece of work. And it gets worse at the end. A married woman languishing in her bed recounting her escapades and indulging her fantasies. A disgusting soliloquy.” Dan said.

Mr Molloy reached for the book. “As bad as that?” he asked.

Dan detected more eagerness than shock in his tone. “I’ll show you,” he said and opened the book. “Forty-five pages.” He held the last chapter between his fingers.

Mr Molloy licked his lips. He leaned forward as if to try to read the vertically held pages.

“Will I read some of it to you?” Dan asked.

“Yes. Yes of course.”

Still holding the pages together, Dan turned to the last page of the chapter and read:

I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

“My God,” Mr Molloy said. “What a wanton hussy. How could any man write it?”

Dan looked him in the eyes, “A dirty mind, Mr Molloy?”

Mr Molloy’s eyes were wide, his breathing heavy. “Leave it with me then. I’ll burn it this very day. It shouldn’t be held with the tongs.”

“Ah now I think that I had better take care of it. After all you didn’t even know it was on your shelf.”

“It’s just that I wouldn’t want it to be an occasion of sin for any young man. You know what I mean.”

“Or any young woman for that matter,” Dan said, with just the right touch of innuendo.

Mr Molloy flushed a bright red. He licked his lips again. “God forbid and may He keep the women of Ireland pure,” he said. By now he was almost panting.

“I’ll take care of it for you,” Dan said. “After all there is your reputation and that of your store to be considered. You supply most of the schools in the city. And it would never do for this to get out.”

Mr Molloy sought to recover himself. “Perhaps we can come to some arrangement then.”

Afterwards Dan told his delighted friend, Mick, “Brother, I got all the books the kids need at school this year. All free of charge. A very nice little deal, Mick. We can always benefit from the influence of the obscurants in this country.”

“Yeh turned the tables there alright. But I’m glad you didn’t let him keep me book,” Mick laughed. “Brand new and smuggled across the border via Belfast. From one peculiar and closed society to another. Jayus! The bould Joyce himself would be tickled pink at it all.”

This story is based on an incident that occurred in 1950s Dublin that involved two friends of our family. They did not live to see a statue of James Joyce erected close to where the bookshop with the sign once stood. Acknowledgements to the James Joyce Estate for the lines from Ulysses. ©

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Extract from “Against the Wind: Memoir of a Dissident Dubliner”

The political and the personal

Truth to tell, it was not economic reasons alone that concerned me. After living in England I found that life in the stifling social and cultural conditions of Ireland was hard to tolerate. I missed newspapers of the quality of the Guardian and although it had dropped the prefix Manchester in 1959 it had not lost its reputation as a quality read. For a weekend treat I had ordered the Sunday Observer from our local paper seller who delivered newspapers door to door. He informed me in tones of disapproval; ‘You’re the only one in the district who reads a paper like that’. In Ireland there were no weekend papers of the quality of the British Sunday paper The Observer at the time.

Throughout the week, of the three biggest Irish morning papers the Irish Times was streets ahead of the other two that were both subservient mouthpieces of the major political parties – The Irish Press to Fianna Fail and the Irish Independent to Fine Gael. On Monday mornings, Da would snort, ‘The Irish Press and the Independent vie with each other to see who can report and publish the most pictures of fawning politicians kissing the ring of some bishop or other’. And for the seven weeks of Lent they would publish verbatim, pages of the pastoral letters of every bishop in the country.

One Sunday morning the paper seller was delighted to tell me, ‘There’s no Observer this week. Banned because of an article on birth control. And rightly so’. This from a father of seven kids was both amusing and at the same time dismaying. I watched as he walked away pushing his small box-cart of newspapers before him and trying to protect them from the gusts of cold wind that was blowing. My father’s words ‘pissing against the wind,’ came to my mind. Christ! The paper seller is not the only one, I thought. He is pushing against the wind. While I am in effect pissing against the wind in this damned country. What chance for my daughters growing up in this bloody place? I asked myself.

True, winds of change were gradually blowing away the crud that had encrusted Irish society for so long and English television was slowly breaking through the customs barrier. But not fast enough for me.

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Taking a stand against the slaughter

The Irish Neutrality League
and the Imperialist War
1914-18
Published by PANA

Reviewer: Michael Halpenny

In the present commemoration-fest around the First World War you could be forgiven for thinking that no one ever asked the question at the time – “Why should we be involved in this imperialist conflict?”

Yet to their undying credit some, a minority admittedly, including our own union did, and decided to march to a different drumbeat – that of opposition to the war.

This recent publication by the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) tells their story.

Some in Europe opposed the war because of their strongly-held Christian values: some because they were pacifists. Others, many of them from the left were not pacifists, and viewed the war as a contest between competing imperial powers in which they and workers generally should play no part.

In Dublin, the banner over Liberty Hall in that autumn of 1914 said it all: “We Serve Neither King Nor Kaiser, But Ireland”

In England socialists such as Keir Hardie, George Lansbury (grandfather of actor Angela) and the suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst campaigned against the war, while thousands of “conscientious objectors were later jailed or forced into uniform at the front. (Though not a pacifist, one of those was war resister and Irish trade unionist, John Swift senior).

In Germany one pacifist, Otto Umfrid, described their endeavours as akin to “fixing a truck rolling into a precipice with a thread of silk”. Other Germans, such as socialists Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxembourg, were jailed for treason.

Ireland saw the coming together of a broad but disparate group of socialists, trade unionists, pacifists, feminists, republicans and nationalists under the banner of the short-lived Irish Neutrality League (INL). Its initial meeting, chaired by James Connolly, resolved to respond to John Redmond’s recruitment drive for the British Army and the tsunami of jingoism and war hysteria.

As the editor Roger Cole of Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) notes “… its core ideology was to unite all of those opposed to the imperial war and to promote Irish independence and neutrality”.

Writer, Francis Devine, gives an extensive history of the INL, and notes that in a circular of October 5, 1914, the League warned that efforts were being made by the British government and employers to force young male workers into the army – what they termed “commercial conscription”.

Historian, Margaret Ward deals with the contribution of Countess Markievicz to the INL’s activities. Aidan Lloyd with that of pacifist Francis Sheehy Skeffington’s while Jack O’Connor points to the relevance of the League’s core principles today as Europe’s ruling elites flex their muscles on both the economic and military fronts.

He argues: “We must hold firm to our union’s traditional policy of support for Irish neutrality and non-alignment…”

This publication shines a light on a little discussed and unfashionable aspect of our history, that of neutrality, but one which in the words of Francis Devine “should not be obscured”, not least because it is certain where Connolly would stand on those same issues today.

Available from PANA at http://www.pana.ie : email info@pana.ie

This review is posted courtesy of Liberty Magazine and PANA and with acknowledgement to the reviewer Michael Halpenny.

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Examining the world of work

The Empty Raincoat
By Charles Handy
Arrow Books

Reviewer: J.A. O’Brien

In THE EMPTY RAINCOAT: MAKING SENSE OF THE FUTURE, Professor Charles Handy addresses the “confusion” that stems from the “pursuit of efficiency and economic growth” in the name of progress. And he asks how work can be “re-grounded in a natural sense of continuity, connection and purposeful direction”.

In a world where organisations are growing without growing the labour force, he sees hope in the growth of independent workers, he says, “Organisations will still be critically important in the world, but as organisers not employers”.

Discussing the many “paradoxes of our times” he points out that as “productivity” means more work from fewer people we are at the same time seeing the growth of the “do-it-yourself economy” and the self-employment sector.

“This is not a temporary paradox, governments and the unemployed please note. Society and individuals will have to get more used to the do-it-yourself economy as the new growth sector. Most of us are going to be in it, whether we like it or not. Better technology means more and more of us can run businesses or services by ourselves”.

Four of Professor Handy’s previous books have dealt with “organisations” and their impact on how people work and live. In a previous work, ‘The Age of Unreason’, he presented “an optimistic view” of the way work was being reshaped. ‘The Empty Raincoat’ retains this optimism but at the same time questions the functions of organisations more closely. And while he is hopeful for the individual in society, he is “more chary” as he says, in “offering general solutions to our individual predicaments”.

“We are not where we hoped to be”, he tells us. Perhaps that is why he followed this book with one that is titled ‘Beyond Certainty’.

For five years Professor Handy, though a layman, contributed to “Thought for the Day”, a religious reflection slot on BBC Radio Four. He has been described as “A renegade professor of business with theological affinities” and in ‘The Empty Raincoat’, he asks that we rediscover “a respect for something otherworldly, something beyond ourselves”.

Even so there is radical intent in his work. Handy offers a blueprint that can be adapted to the needs of companies and individual freelancers in many industries and many nations, and provides a philosophy to support the agents of change.

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The diary of an emigrant and dissenter

Against the Wind
By J. A. O’Brien

Reviewer: Michael Halpenny

The full title of this book is Against the Wind: Memoir of a Dissident Dubliner. However, this is not the diary of someone strenuously opposed to the Good Friday Agreement, but rather the thoughts of a working class writer, bricklayer and one time member of an earlier Republican movement, who grew up in the Dublin of the 1940s and 50s and left to work outside Ireland.

As such it is different from many books of its type which reflect the experience of those from a more rural or “provincial” setting. Donal MacAmhlaigh’s Dialann Deorai (Diary of an Exile) or the earlier Rotha Mor an tSaol (The Hard Road to Klondike) by Donegal’s Michael MacGowan stand out as examples of such tales of the lives of migrant workers in England and North America, respectively.

Born in 1936, the author, James O’Brien, grew up in the South inner-city and went to St. Louis National School in Rathmines in the period quaintly referred to by the then “Free State” as the “Emergency”.

His father was a bricklayer and his mother worked in domestic service and he tells a colourful and sometimes heart-rending tale of the difficulties faced by working class families just trying to survive.

He also tells of the casual brutality of school life and the all-pervading oppression of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, in the South Circular Road area of the city, he was also exposed to different views and experiences, those of Protestant and Jewish neighbours which helped to broaden his mind.

In particular, he was lucky enough to be raised by strong, loving, but above all, independent and class-conscious parents who were not afraid to think for themselves or stand up for their rights if required.

Leaving school he became an apprentice bricklayer and there is a wonderful chapter on his initiation into the trade and the union, called Before the Green Cloth. He writes tenderly of first love and of his political awakening. This partly derives from his experience as an immigrant worker with Yorkshire miners.

The other impulse came from the IRA Border Campaign of the 1950s at a time when it was said that young men with ambition joined Fianna Fail and young men with principles joined the Republican Movement. James O’Brien joined the Movement. Young men like Charlie Haughey joined the party of Dev.

The book covers the period up to the 1960s, including his subsequent involvement with the Connolly Association and its work with the organised labour movement in England on the injustices in the North.

While his later life took him to Australia, this memoir stands out among those which tell a wider tale than interesting anecdotes about growing up in Dublin or other places in “the Rare Oul’ Times”.

It looks into the developing mind of a young person who is not only intensely observant of the world but conscious of their class and the challenges before it, and most critically, can convey it to the reader.

Michael Halpenny
Liberty
Nov/ Dec 2014 issue.

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Extracts from reviews of ‘Against The Wind’

O’Brien’s long held view is that it was necessary to remove the gun from Irish politics. Some years later the IRA came to the same conclusion. An erudite and entertaining read.
Bendigo Weekly

Ah, yes, the Irish sure do have a way with words – a very entertaining, humorous, intelligent, loving and proud memoir. More literary gold from the “Emerald Isle”.

Wendy O’Hanlon, Acres Australia

I loved this little bit of history about a big period of sadness that happened in a proud country where people stood solid for what they believed to be right and just. A powerful story written from a heart that witnessed the country he loved torn in two.

John Morrow’s, Pick of the Week

O’Brien weaves together the many threads of history and his own life to produce an informed tale that will interest many readers well beyond the globe’s enormous Irish Diaspora.

Robin Osborne, Media Adviser

The book will also appeal to the Irish Diaspora, as O’Brien’s memories of migration to and from England for work in the lean years of 1950s Ireland will resonate with many. As thousands continue to emigrate every week for places like Australia, O’Brien reminds us in his closing lines, ‘There are Irishmen and there are men from Ireland… I am as Ireland made me. Intentionally or not’.

Dr Sarah Campbell,
Modern Irish History
Newcastle University UK

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Another Milestone Reached

This post celebrates that Being Bookish has to date had visitors from 40 countries. Thanks to all who have taken the time to explore the site and have clicked on to the various links provided.

In response to requests I am posting an update on how readers may purchase copies of Against The Wind: Memoir of a Dissident Dubliner. Copies, both in print and as an e-book may be obtained from Amazon.com worldwide. E-books can also be downloaded from http://www.kobo.com and hard copies can also be purchased from most leading booksellers in Australia, (ISBN: 1-922086-53-3).

I also have a limited number of original copies for sale that I will sign and send on request. On current exchange rates the price including postage is:-

Within Australia; $24 .95 per copy.

Overseas; $35.00(AUD) or $26.00 (US) or 20.65 EURO.

Payment can be made as listed below:

PayPal to my e-mail address (jandjobrien@bigpond.com) or pay with credit card via a PayPal e-mail invoice from me (no need to be PayPal registered and no fee for purchaser).
Please notify when money is deposited if using PayPal as although they will notify me, they may not give your full shipping address.

Apart from this site other articles I have written may be viewed on http://www.thenewwildgeese.com a site I can highly recommend you explore.

The Wild Geese Irish Heritage Partnership: Celebrating Your Brand’s Irish Story ‘Wherever Green Is Worn’

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A book for our times

The End of Work
By Jeremy Rifkin,

Tarcher/Putnam, (NY).
350pp $26.95

Reviewer: J. A. O’Brien

“Global unemployment has now reached its highest level since the great depression of the 1930’s. More than 800 million human beings are now unemployed or underemployed in the world.”

With these words American economist and author Jeremy Rifkin introduces his radical analysis of “Technology, Jobs and Your Future,” – THE END OF WORK – and warns that we could be facing the demise of civilisation as we have come to know it.

From the start of the industrial revolution, machines have been replacing workers. On the land the horse-drawn plough was replaced by the tractor, and then came the combine harvester. And with each new invention, jobs in agriculture decreased and the farm hands became factory hands. But even as new jobs were being created in industry, technology was also “trimming them down as the assembly line followed the lathe, as drills and presses increased their speeds.” At the same time as jobs were being lost in manufacturing, new areas of employment were being created in “service” areas: clerks, typists, salespeople, nurses, teachers, doctors, lawyers, to name but a few.

Rifkin argues that “Service employment saved modern economies from absolutely devastating unemployment.”

Enter the computer – the Third Industrial Revolution begins and the service industries are no longer absorbing the overspill of workers from other areas. In Australian banks, the introduction of automatic teller machines and centralised telephone services has cost the jobs of 30,000 bank employees in the past five years. And the Finance Sector Union predicts “another 40,000 jobs will go,” if more banks are merged.

No longer can we expect a job for life.

Even workers in essential services like electricity, gas and water supply have had their numbers reduced by almost 25% since 1995. In the US more than 47,000 postal workers have been replaced by “automated machines capable of sight recognition.” The new silicone sorters can read addresses and sort mail faster than postal workers.

And it is not only the unskilled and semi-skilled that are being discarded. As the public and private sectors strive to “get more from less” managers and middle managers are joining the ranks of the unemployed.

Rifkin says, “In the 1980s more than 1.5 M mid-level management jobs were eliminated. In the 1990s their ranks are swelling to include upper-middle-management executives as well.”
As unemployment spreads across classes and nations in ever more automated global economy governments everywhere are being forced to admit that there is no “quick fix” to the problem.

He discusses proposals that governments should supply credit at low-interest rates to repair or build new infrastructure in order to revitalise depressed regions and communities. A policy advocated for their respective countries by Prince Charles in Britain and the late B.A. Santamaria in Australia.

But he does not see Public Works projects as being confined to menial work and says serious consideration should be given to include social wages for skilled workers and “even management and professional workers whose labour is no longer valued or needed in the market place.” And advocates “social wage” not welfare.

Rifkin examines proposals and “solutions” such as reducing working hours, job sharing, cutting back on overtime – all requiring the consent of employers, unions and those who still have jobs.

Rethinking the nature of work he regards as the single most pressing concern facing society and he sees it happening through Non Government Organisations and what he terms the “Third Sector”. After the private and public sector he ranks “independent or volunteer” activity as being third in importance in any community. And he sees it as the “most socially responsible” of the three sectors. He cites examples of the many countries where government bodies are forging new working alliances with non-government organisations to create a “social economy”.

In France the government has been to the fore in training and placing the unemployed in third sector activities. A leading French economist says, “The social economy is not measured the way one measures capitalism, in terms of salaries, revenues etc…. The social economy is best understood in terms of results that add considerably to what traditional economics does not know how to or want to measure.”

With such provocative statements the book challenges us to examine our values and attitudes and to seek those results that best serve our world. The work should be standard reading for policy makers of all shades who may be inclined to be too “comfortable and relaxed”. The most sobering aspect of this book is that it was written before the Global Financial Crisis occurred.

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Blogs bloom on USA-Irish site

Ever since the time of the ancient Irish storytellers (Bards) the Irish have enjoyed and perfected the art of story telling. We have been described as ‘the greatest talkers since the Greeks’ and whether in the oral tradition or as the written word the ability to tell a tale or spin a yarn is all part of a cherished Irish heritage.

Short snappy prose that can be humorous or poignant, rousing or sad is an art form many Irish writers have perfected. Even authors of monumental works like James Joyce have excelled in the shorter form as have Liam O’Flaherty and Frank O’Connor. Nor has the short story been kept as the preserve of male writers. When it comes to short vivid pieces that can leave one dwelling on them for days afterwards, female writers from Mary Lavin to Edna O’Brien can hold their place with pride in the ranks of literature.

Now a USA based blog site The New Wild Geese is providing a platform for the scattered Irish Diaspora to write about themselves and their experiences throughout the world. Their mission: “to explore, promote, preserve and celebrate the epic heritage of the Irish worldwide”. CEO and founder of the site, Gerry Regan says, “All Irish people and those of Irish extraction are welcome to become members and contribute their blog posts and comments to the site. We do not apply a political litmus test to select a membership. We coalesce precisely because we focus on what we share, rather than our differences”.

As a result of this broad embrace contributors as diverse as Malachy McCourt and ex Taoiseach John Bruton may be given space in the blog’s newsletter pages. With over 2000 members and more than 25000 visits a month the site provides a platform that connects Irish people and friends of Ireland to their heritage and culture throughout the world. But it is not specifically simply just a writer’s site that allows discussion and debate. This virtual community is not only supported by the written word but also by photos and video clips with music and song that can all be found in an exciting kaleidoscope of features and articles.

With a growing and interactive membership from “wherever green is worn” the future of The New Wild Geese is assured. May ten thousand blogs bloom.
Visit The Wild Geese at: http://thenewwildgeese.com/?xg_source=msg
mes network

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