Archive for Maynooth College

A Note from Maynooth

Posted in Biographical, Covid-19, Education, Maynooth with tags , , , , on March 18, 2020 by telescoper

I’m indebted to colleagues from Maynooth University Special Collections & Archives for sending out the following bit of history.

It is now over 100 years ago the 1918 “Spanish ‘flu” influenza pandemic came to Maynooth College. It was officially closed from 8th November until 7th January and 60 students remained in the infirmaries. Over 500 students went home and sadly 11 of these did not survive the pandemic. More details below.

One difference between 1918 and 2020 is that the Spanish flu mainly affected the young. Covid-19 is remarkably different, as these grim mortality statistics from Italy demonstrate:

Nobody at all under the age of 30 has died (so far) of Covid-19 in Italy. It’s the mortality rate for those over 70 that is terrifying. This is just the rate so far. Many of those currently in intensive care won’t make it, so these figures will probably change significantly.

Last night the Taioseach Leo Varadkar gave an unusual address to the nation, which pointed out the gravity of the situation facing Ireland and indeed the world in genderal, which is even more serious that a century ago. In particular he stressed that the COVID-19 emergency would probably last well into the summer.

I don’t agree with Varadkar on many political issues but I think his speech last night was very good. He praised Ireland’s front line medical staff, but also found time to mention the teachers and lecturers who trying their best to deliver remote teaching. Above all, though, he was honest.

I feel very lucky right now, not only to be so far unaffected by Coronavirus but also to be living and working in a small University town in Ireland right now.

There are no obvious shortages of anything and my local (small) supermarket has put out hand wash and wipes for people to use on baskets and trolleys.

We’re also in a Study Week that has at least given us some time to figure out how to move to online teaching by next Monday when we are supposed to start again.

We are probably going to be in this for months rather than weeks but aat least we academics are in no imminent danger of losing our jobs. The same is not true for the folk working in local shops, restaurants and other businesses. We owe it to them to do what we can to support the local community and its economy as much as possible.

In particular, I’ve often remarked that we are lucky in a small town like Maynooth to have quite a few nice cafés and restaurants. Some of these have switched to takeaway or delivery mode during the emergency. I wouldn’t normally use a takeaway service but I will do now, and I suggest my colleagues and friends in Maynooth might do likewise. If we don’t support these establishments now we might lose them for good.

That goes for other local businesses too!

Maynooth’s Creation

Posted in Maynooth, Music, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on March 8, 2020 by telescoper

As it was foretold, this afternoon to the College Chapel at Maynooth, which looks like this inside:

This was in fact the first time I’ve set foot inside the Chapel. The occasion was the annual Spring Concert by Maynooth University Choral Society, accompanied by the Irish Choral Sinfonia, in a performance of Haydn’s great oratorio The Creation.

It’s worth mentioning that Haydn started preparing to write his Creation in 1796, which is just a year after St Patrick’s College in Maynooth was established (as the National Seminary of Ireland). This work was therefore was a good choice for the year in which the College celebrates the 225th year of its own creation.

Although the College Chapel is quite large it provided a very intimate setting for this great masterpiece (in that the audience was very close to the musicians and singers) and provided a very distinctive acoustic. Curiously, this was the first time I had heard this work performed in English.

The solo vocalists – Claudia Boyle (soprano), Andrew Gavin (tenor) and Simon Morgan (bass) – were all excellent, as were the choir and orchestra. All in all it was a hugely enjoyable experience, even if the wooden seats were a bit unforgiving!

After the performance there was a Buffet Supper in Pugin Hall, which I had assumed would just be sandwiches but which turned out to be a very nice meal with wine at which I got chatting to some very friendly people. Admission to the event was by invitation only, but the guest list was not restricted to folk from Maynooth University.

As the token astrophysicist present a few people asked me what was shown in the picture on the cover of the programme. Not being a proper astronomer I didn’t know but I am reliably informed that it is the Eagle Nebula (M16), though it is reversed left to right which I claim as an excuse for not recognising it…

A Plan for Sunday

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth, Music with tags , , , , on March 8, 2020 by telescoper

Later this afternoon, I shall be going here…. hear this…

I took this picture on the way there, with the Sun behind the bell tower…

..and when I’m home afterwards I will write a bit about it here.