Monday, July 27, 2009


Click photo to enlarge. Picture of Tommy's new book and page from web site.

" Counting Stained Glass Windows ", is the title of a new collection of poems by Tommy Murray, leader of the Meath Writers Circle. Tommy's new collection will be launched by well known poet Tom French in Trim library at 7pm on Thursday 20th August. It is published by Lapwing Belfast and sells at 8 euro.

Readers on the night will include: Willie Hodgins from Bohermeen, Frank Murphy Dunsany and myself, Sheriff from Navan. I might even give a bar of a song but it comes with a warning you might need a pair of ear muffs.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Knock Knock

It happened during the local government elections. I was canvassing on behalf of Anton McCabe of The Labour Party.

It's amazing what you hear when you knock on some doors. I knocked on a door one evening and the lady of the house answered. She would have known that I was a member of the Sheils family but not sure which one. Her son John Paul " The Pope's Child " is a mate of my son Paul, they often go to the mountains together. They were due to go to Scotland a week later. I said to the lady, " how do you think JP will get on in Scotland?. " Oh! are you Paul's dad ? "
" Yes "
" Use you have a black moustache? "
" Yes that's right , about 25 years ago ". That question didn't do a whole lot for my ego I can tell you.
A little bit of local knowledge can be a great thing when you're out canvassing. One evening I called to a rather big house in Johnstown. There was a game of football on television that same evening and people were reluctant to answer their doors. Two young children answered , is your mam or dad in I enquired, they ran back in to the house shouting, dad there's a man at the door. I waited a while, it seemed as if no one was going to answer. I was folding my literature and was about to leave it in the doorway when a man appeared. " Sorry for disturbing you, I'm canvassing on behalf of The Labour Party ".
" I'm watching the soccer!! and I'm voting for Padraig Fitzsimons "
" That's ok, I drank his beer too ", I replied and left.
I called to another house and didn't recognise the man who answered until he spoke. "Jasis don't be annoying me, my father's Fianna Fail mad "
" He wasn't always ", I said
Silence total silence.
Then there was the night I called to a house on the North side of town. A woman answered the door. I began, sorry for disturbing you, I'm canvassing on behalf of The Labour Party. She didn't answer me, she looked at my companion and said to him rather abruptly. " Where do you come from? "
" Navan "
" What's your name? "
" Noel Smyth "
" There's a lot of you isn't there!!!
Noel was surprised to say the least and I thought where the Hell's this one coming from. She turned to me and shoved a piece of paper into my face, saying, " what are you going to do about this? "
" What's that I can't see without my glasses. I could see the heading in big letters ( CORI ) Catholic Organisation Residential institutions. I began to search for my glasses. " I'll read it for you " she said.
As she read, I said " there's no need to read that to me I'm against abortion I voted no in the referendum.
" Yes!, but what are you going to do about it? " she demanded.
" You're not listening I told you I voted no "
" Yes but what are you going to do about it? " she repeated.
" I told you I voted no in the referendum, I also voted no to the Lisbon Treaty ".
" Yes!!, but I want to know, what are you going to do about it?. She went on to complain about the youth of today, saying, " it was all the parents fault ".
" Not necessarily ", I said.
" Oh yes necessarily, it is!! ". Thinking about the leaflet which she shoved in my face, I said , " it could have something to do with the schooling ".
" Oh!!, now you're going to tell me you got a few slaps at school. A little voice in my head, said,
" Mick are you going to take anymore of this crap!!! I looked at Noel and said, " lets get out of here ". As we walked away she shouted after us, " come back here! come back here!! we have to discuss this ".
" Certainly not with you " I replied, and continued on my way.
The very next day the Ryan Report into abuse in Residential Institutions was published and I thought! what's CORI going to do about this?, if the report came out the day before she wouldn't have opened her mouth.
On Monday 25 June we paid a visit to Claremont Stadium in Navan where Africa Day celebrations were being held. The Lord Mayor was there and other candidates as well. He shook hands with Anton saying, " You're a serious contender this time ".
" I was always a serious contender " said Anton
" You'll be fighting for the last seat ".
" We'll see, we'll see ".
In the heel of the hunt, after the first preference votes were counted, Anton came second to Jim Holloway, ( Fine Gael ) the lord mayor came 10th and it was he who ended up fighting for the last seat and two of his colleagues lost theirs.

Michael " The Sheriff "Sheils.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


After I left school in 1962 aged 13 I got a job in Danny Fitzpatrick's at Town View Navan. Danny was a furniture manufacturer. At 16 I started work in Navan Carpets as a Bankboy to Oliver Plunket. About three years later I moved to London.

I found London to be a very exciting and cosmopolitan city. It could be very strange too at times for a 19 year old coming from a small town in Ireland where everyone knew everyone else.

As I had left school at the tender age of thirteen, I ended up doing mostly manual work on building sites. It was at this type of work that I met many foreign nationals. At first I found it difficult to communicate with some of them. But through our work, I got to know and understand them pretty well. Soon I came to realize, that we had much in common. They had the same fears and concerns for the future as I had. Some of them had fled their homeland because of tyrrany and would never be able to return home. They might never see their families or friends again. It was much different for me I left home out of a spirit of adventure and could return at the drop of a hat. I can't begin to imagine what it would be like never to be able to return home.

I returned in the early 1970s and fell in love with local woman Josephine Walsh. We got married on 27th October, 1973 and settled down. We have three sons: Michael, Paul and Austin and our first grandchild Amelia was born 23rd May 2007 in Poland.

Since returning from London I have travelled to: Bulgaria, Gran Canaria, Italy, the Isle of Man, Tunizia, Turkey, Croatia, Australia, Poland and I have visited Our Lady's Shrine in Medjugorje in Southwest Yugoslavia on a number of occasions. I have also returned to London a number of times.

On one trip to London, in the company of Enda and Jim Nugent, two stalwarts of St. Mary's Musical Society Navan, we attended a showing of the musical Miss Saigon, in the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Miss Saigon is a brilliant musical. It tells the story of a young American GI whose life was instantly transformed by meeting a young Asian bargirl during the crucial last three weeks before the fall of Saigon. There was one poignant scene when the last helicopter was leaving and people were pleading to be allowed out. It reminded me of the terrifying scenes I had seen live on television years earlier.

Now when I see the ever increasing numbers of foreign nationals entering our shores, I am reminded of that scene in Miss Saigon and I can't help but wonder what kind of horrors are some of them fleeing from. Their treatment on arrival cand be a cause of grave concern. Already there have been reports of a small number of racial attacks.

Racism begins with hatred especially amoung the youths, who are not properly informed, or who simply lack experience of life. As people get older they become more aware of the plight of others. Children should be educated to be more accepting of people with different nationalities and cultures. Throughout the world there are many religous and ethnic differences. God created all human beings equal, regardless of colour or creed. We must not forget that Jesus was once a refugee, fleeing from Herod.
In Ireland we have had our own share of upheavals. We suffered a terrible famine, which caused countless numbers of deaths and over a million people left the country in search of a better life. The Irish people are to be found in every corner of the globe. Former President Mary Robinson put a figure of seventy million on it. We were occupied by a foreign power for hundreds of years, who maintained their presence by force of arms. As a result of this, we had many uprisings, in which many people died on both sides. With this in mind and knowing that we as a small nation can not afford to accommodate everyone who comes to our shores, we should however give priority to those who would suffer torture or even death for their beliefs should they be returned.
Those who are allowed to stay will no doubt in time play their part in the future of the nation just like millions of Irish people have done throughout the world. In time they might even become more Irish than the Irish themselves.

Michael " The Sheriff " Sheils