You may well be forgiven for saying; ‘Another AGM but so what?’
But this year it was really a lovely meeting with a difference!
The Irish that were there really turned our annual Irish South African Association, Cape Town Chapter into grand occasion in Nov 2012.
An introduction the by Vice President Evening’s proceedings and guests.
Thanks to the usual fun from our VP Andrew Woods who was MC for the meeting and who took us over the past year.
Andrew Woods our VP as MC for the evening launched the meeting in his usual enjoyable style, he then welcomed and introduced guests and others.
A special thank you to our hard-working faithful president Maureen Sharpe
After the business the fun began and we were treated to some unexpected Irish activities.
Fr Dick O’Riordan was asked to open our proceedings with a beautiful and uplifting prayer.
He then proceeded to read a poem and give a rousing and heartfelt song rendition in the Irish language
The president’s report reviewed a good year for our Association.
Irish dancers with a difference;
Wendy May from Dance Trax Studio has recently started teaching 15 young Africans from Sophakama Primary School to do Irish dancing.  This was arranged by Maureen our ISAA chairman in conjunction with the Catholic Welfare Development NGO working in the Du Noon vicinity. Members watched with great pleasure and admiration as the young Africans danced to the rhythm of the Irish music accompanied by Wendy May on the Bodh-rum.
The appeal of Irish music and Irish dance was once again demonstrated here!
The dancers tackled many difficult steps and ended with a reel.  Their innate rhythm was so evident and helped these youngsters to master the difficult steps.
ISAA demonstrated the raison d’ĂȘtre of the Irish Diaspora once again.
There was a lovely surprise when Dick O Riordan called on a visitor, Jack Heggerty from Co Cork, who comes to Cape Town every year with the Naill Mellon project .He had heard about the African school children in need of Irish dancing shoes and he came on board this year and arrived with a 20 pairs of dancing shoes for the children using his Irish charm bringing this excess baggage through customs. A big thank you for making this possible.
We wish Wendy May and her studio much success in the future with this exciting project, ‘Goh nyree un bowhar  leat!’
Irish cultural and research centre.
Tony Nicholls is the cultural member of our committee and he took us back to Ireland in the North in 1803 and before the ill-fated rising of Robert Emmett
So we met with Anne Devlin a courageous patriot of Ireland who died 1851 unnoticed and unrecognised, in poverty and starving.
She was housekeeper for Robert Emmett and was tortured by the soldiers to reveal his whereabouts when he was on the run.
She was also incarcerated in Kilmainham jail in Dublin.
Yet 100 years later in 1951 at a wreath laying in Glasnevin cemetery Dublin,  Eamonn de Valera, the president of Ireland was to say of her;
“As long as Ireland is Ireland the name of Anne Devlin will stand out in history as a synonym of heroic devotion.  May she live forever in the hearts of our people, and may her memory be treasured forever by our women as one of the first and noblest of our race.”
Her remains had been moved from a pauper’s grave, by a benefactor, to an unpretentious resting place within the ‘Circle’ of graves of the great patriots of Ireland such as O ‘Connell, Michael Collins and Parnell in Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin. 
Tony then gave us the perfect counterpoise to this harrowing tale from a tragic time in Ireland’s history, with a reading from a gentle book from our library, about the ‘old Ireland;
“The Farm by Lough Gur” by Mary Carbery.
These two readings helped us get a feeling for the breadth and scope of our nascent reference library kept at the Irish Embassy offices in the city.
The research library is progressing slowly, but many books have been donated and we are heading towards a number of excellent volumes that doubles the original kind donations of the original donors, Avni, Peter and Mieke.
New shelving is to be installed and volunteers are required in the new for a repack of the books on the shelves.
We hope soon to have volunteers at the library to enable our members to visit and research and enjoy the treasures on those shelves!
Guest Speaker for the evening.
Dick O’Riordan then introduced our guest speaker for the evening, Dr Sandren Naidoo.
Background on Dr S Naidoo;
Dr Naidoo is a graduate of University of Natal , where he did Research on Smuts,  Irish Partition and  Natal Public Opinion (topic researched towards the partial completion of his B.A. Hons dissertation in 1990), this intensified his interest in Irish history and partly explains his topic for an MA, The Irish Diaspora and its impact on the Eastern and Western Cape in the Colonial Era.  Three years later Dr Naidoo completed  his   PhD thesis on the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement.
His topic for the evening was a most interesting summary of some of the Irish immigrants to South Africa in the 19th century with a focus on
 A ‘father citizen’ of Cape Town: Thomas Joseph O’ Reilly (1845-1908)
A ‘father citizen’ of Cape Town was Limerick born Thomas Joseph O’ Reilly. He was educated at the Schools of the Christian Brothers, and in 1859 entered the mercantile trade. O’ Reilly was seen as an Irish radical for he supported the Irish Fenian nationalists. Five years later, he quit the ark of peace for that of war, serving as a recruit in the 19th Regiment.
The year 1878 marked a watershed in O’Reilly’s life. He switched from military matters to politics. In the same year, he was elected to the Cape Town City Council. A decade later, he had become the leading citizen of Cape Town. Mayor O’ Reilly was a popular choice and in 1900 served another term of office. Two years later, he represented Cape Town in the House of Assembly and was an ardent supporter of the Sprigg Ministry.
O’ Reilly’s statutory inputs cannot pass by unnoticed, although ‘he was not perhaps altogether in his element. The Cape Town of yore  was a different city from the Cape Town of today. As late as 1895, Lord Rosmead (an Irishman) admitted that save its abundant natural advantages, Cape Town was ‘ill-drained, ill-pured, ill-built, insufficiently supplied with water, crowded, dirty and, in short, wanting in almost every condition essential to the public health.’ These words provide firm evidence of the vast progress that Cape Town made in the intervening years under the auspices of the Chevalier O’ Reilly.
Dr Naidoo covered much of the history of the Irish settlers to South Africa with some amusing anecdotes, inevitable in any account of the Irish in the Diaspora!
His quick humour was detected throughout the excellent speech.
He is in the process of publishing a book dealing with the Irish support and activity in the Anti-Apartheid movement in Ireland and we wish him good luck with the endeavour.
Thank you Dr Naidoo.
The amazing evening of a small yet enjoyable AGM was rounded off with snacks from Kelvin Grove Club good wine and craic.
An AGM not to be missed!

Posted by Maryna Warren on 06/12/2012 14:22:56 |

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