The Great War in Portraits: patriotism is not enough

Very interesting article thank you.

That's How The Light Gets In

William Tickle

William Tickle volunteered aged 16 and died 22 months later on the third day of the Battle of the Somme

The recognition that something terrible, something overwhelming, something irreversible had happened in the Great War explains its enduring significance for those born after the Armistice.  For this war was not only the most important and far-reaching political and military event of the century, it was also the most important imaginative event.
– Jay Winter, The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century

The Great War mobilised 70 million people, killed over 9 million on active service, and left behind 3 million widows and 10 million orphans.  It was also, as Jay Winter observes, an event that seared itself into the European imagination, as The Great War in Portraits, the excellent exhibition currently showing at the National Portrait Gallery, clearly demonstrates.  I saw it when in London recently.

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“My Inspiration”

Finally the time had arrived for me to give my tenth and final speech in the Competent Communicator Manual in Toastmaster.  This was to be a speech that would inspire my audience. An inspirational speech motivates an audience to improve personally, emotionally, professionally, or spiritually and relies heavily on emotional appeal. It brings the audience together in a mood of fellowship and shared desire, builds the audience’s enthusiasm, then proposes a change or plan and appeals to the audience to adopt this change or plan. The objectives for speech 10 are:-

  • To inspire the audience by appealing to noble motives and challenging the audience to achieve a higher level of beliefs or achievement.
  • Appeal to the audience’s needs and emotions, using stories, anecdotes and quotes to add drama.
  • Avoid using notes.

This is the speech I gave on 28 January 2013. Enjoy.


Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and welcome guests.

This speech is meant to inspire my audience.  I started by looking up “inspire” and found the meaning “to fill with an animating or exalting feeling”.  Every day we strive to emulate our heroes.  It is their actions that inspire us, give us the determination to carry on and succeed in our goals.  Everyone has their own hero or source of inspiration, and we can but strive to equal these heroes and their motivation and inspiration.  We can also be inspired simply by a word or an image, or indeed by the actions of people around us.

One person who is an inspiration to me is Alfonso D’Abruzzo.  He was born on 28 January 1936 in the Bronx, New York.  At the age of 7 he contracted polio.  To combat the disease for two long years his parents administered a painful treatment regimen developed by Sister Kenny.  The treatment was the repeated application of hot woollen blankets to the affected limbs and stretching his muscles.  The treatment was a success and Alfonso resumed a normal life.  He pursued an acting career, following in the footsteps of his father Robert, changing his first name to Alan and adopting the same stage surname of Alda.  He starred in a few Hollywood movies but his big break came in 1972 when he was cast in the role of Captain Hawkeye Pierce in MASH.  His portrayal of this character brought laughter and joy on many an occasion and on others moved us to tears as he enacted each storyline making us feel as if we were there living his life with him.  This role continued for 11 years, during which time he also wrote and directed multiple episodes. 

When Alda won his first Emmy for writing he was so elated he performed a cartwheel on the way up to collect the award.  He went on to win 5 other Emmys for acting and directing and was the first person to win Emmy Awards for acting, writing and directing in the same series. 

But this is only half the story of Alan Alda.   While filming MASH he commuted from Los Angeles to his home in New Jersey every weekend for 11 years.  This is the kind of man he was.  He didn’t want to uproot his family just because of his career so instead he made the weekly commute across country.

Alan Alda also became a strong and vocal supporter of women’s right and the feminist movement, not a complete surprise as he was the only man in a household of wife and two daughters.  In 1976 the Boston Globe dubbed him “the quintessential Honorary Woman: a feminist icon” for his activism on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment.  In 1982 he co-chaired the Equal Rights Amendment Countdown Campaign with Betty Ford. 

His co-stars have described him as a very generous actor and a thorough gentleman.  Alda also went on to star in multiple films and shows, including West Wing, ER, What Women Want and Tower Heist, to name but a few.

In 1993, at the age of 57 Alda embarked on a new series, Scientific American Frontiers.  The show focused on informing the public of new discoveries in science and medicine.  His natural curiosity and constant questioning to bring the information to a level everyone could understand made the show a success and he continued as the host until it ended in 2005.  Alda’s avid interest in science and cosmology led to him participating in the BBC coverage of the opening of the large hadron collider in Geneva in September 2008.  He also helped inspire the creation of the Centre for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in 2009 and still remains on the Advisory Board.

Another string to Alan Alda’s bow is the publishing of two books thus far.  The first published in 2005, was entitled Never Have Your Dog Stuffed and Other Things I’ve Learned and it covers stories from his life.  The title, by the way, was inspired by an incident in his childhood. His father on seeing how distraught he was at the loss of the family dog decided to have it stuffed.  He was horrified by the results and took from this that sometimes we have to accept things as they are rather than desperately and fruitlessly trying to change them. 

The second book of memoirs published in 2007, weaves together advice from public speeches he has given with personal recollections about his life and beliefs. 

A quote that inspires me and is only one of many by Alan Alda is “Be brave enough to live life creatively.  The creative place where no one else has ever been”. 

Father, actor, writer, director, feminist are only a few of the words that begin to sum up Alan Alda.  His constant striving to change things for the better, to keep on going, irrespective of age, to follow his beliefs, to me are more than enough reasons to call this man an inspiration.  So happy birthday Alan Alda – may you have many more years of giving left in you.

Thank you.

 Well I hope you enjoyed this speech and maybe even found some inspiration by reading it through. Feel free to contact me if you have any comments or queries.

Elaine Beare

Follow me on Twitter @elainebeare



“The Lost Key” – what would you have done?

A True Story by my Father, George Beare, which took place in 1981.

Maybe it is attitude. It’s my decision; will I stop? I am given an appealing glance. I’m not taking a chance and getting involved in a risky situation. I have all of five seconds to decide whether to stop. My nature is to help those who need it but in five minutes my journey by car will be over, and anyway walking is good for the health of the hitchhiker.

I stop. Conscience or good neighbour is the winner. The family, my wife and I and our four children, are temporarily residing in a caravan by the sea at Garrylucas near Kinsale. I commute daily to Bandon, just twelve miles away to manage our poultry business. The laying fowl are at the rearing stage so not much time is necessary to carry out the routine tasks. On most days half a day is adequate, consequently I am free to join the family for the afternoon if the weather is conducive to beach migration.

There are two of them, one of each gender, definitely not a teenage runaway pair, a more mature couple. She sits in front and he takes a back seat and says “Thank you”. So I say, “Having a holiday?”

“Well actually…” She speaks with a distinctly American tone. They were camping near the Old Head the previous night and as the gate was locked, they had parked outside.

He went for a walk to see the lighthouse, over a mile away at the tip of the peninsula. As it was warm she lay on the grass and read her book. In due course he returned and they renegotiated the gate. She went to open the car door; the key was missing and she experienced an awful moment of unbelievable reality.

It must have slipped out of her pocket while she lay on the grass. They surmounted the iron barrier once again and located the flattened grass. No key! Try the pockets, look near the car; despite an intensive search, no luck.

A restless, worrying night followed, and no doubt a plan was made on how to resolve the dilemma. Quite simply all that was required was another key. The car was hired in Dublin and she was the sole driver. Next day they phoned from a public house a mile away.

They were to go to Cork and get a key there from that branch of the hire company and everything would be fine. They got to Cork, located the office and collected another key and then proceeded towards the abandoned transport on one of Ireland’s picturesque extremities.

This is when I had the dubious pleasure of getting acquainted with the irresponsible couple, or more specifically the woman, so now you see the position and what I had got myself into. That is to say, do I let them off at my stop and be heartless?

It could only be about two miles to the stranded vehicle which would take maybe fifteen or twenty minutes, so I thought what the heck, I’ll run ‘em up and have peace of mind.

We set off towards a T-junction where the grocery/confectionary shop is the only building between the road and the sea. The road used to be in front of the shop a hundred years earlier but due to severe coastal erosion it had to be re-routed.

We turn left, down past Manning’s cottage, where the cups and plates were shaken and chipped on the dresser by the shock waves from the explosion that sunk the Lusitania on 7th May 1915 when 1198 died, just a few miles off the coast.

The road skirts the shoreline for half a mile here, at almost sea level and has a narrow strip of sand between it and the sea, which fluctuates in depth with the tides. There is a constant battle here to save the facility and preserve the road as a combination of severe winter elements manifest their powers.

Soon the road runs through the sand dunes that are preserved by the sharp edged marram grass. Just before the fork in the road is the old national school, a solid structure built with stone in the 19th Century. A dark evergreen escallonia hedge, which is covered in pink, pleasant smelling flowers every summer, shelters it. Resistant to, and so undamaged by, spray. Just beyond are the obsolete coastguard cottages, now used as summer homes.

We now proceed up a gradual hill and pass through farmland, mostly grazing for black and white cows. The roadside banks are covered with the yellows, blues, greens and reds of blooming Sanfoin and rest-harrow and wild-time, hedge bedstraw and violets. The road is just adequate for single lane vehicular traffic through the ruined remains of old stone dwellings and animal shelters.

Close by are modern houses that indicate a degree of affluence has been generated. The road levels off for a short distance then the sea is visible again as far as the Seven Heads, the next promontory westwards, about ten miles away. It penetrates inland between Coolmain Point and Courtmacsherry Point to create a sheltered bay used by small craft.

Another slight rise in the road to the highest point above sea level, 300 feet where, on a clear day, there is a spectacular view of the Old Head of Kinsale peninsula stretching out further, and beyond the panoramic Atlantic Ocean all around as far as the horizon.

A most acceptable place normally, to stop and view, and listen to the larks unmistakable symphony as they soar. A rare oasis, free of traffic and fumes and stress, where one can escape and think there is a positive side to life and depart refreshed.

Or one can dream and visualise the hundreds of sailing ships that passed with emigrants getting their final glimpse of their homeland as they travelled to the New World. The most infamous of ships passed here in 1912, having left Cobh some hours earlier on its fatal voyage. The Titanic so new, so promising, so flawed nominally, reaching the promised land was risky.

We duly arrive beside the car and all emerge. Madam sits in, inserts the key and … silence!

I try and fail to turn it so, at the very brink of the anticipated end to the crisis, it becomes painfully obvious that they had collected the wrong key and the trip to Cork was in vain.

I am now hungry and expected shortly by my wife for lunch.

It is probably around this time I may have assumed a certain control and decide a resolution to the problem must surely not be impossible with a little decision making. The three of us get into my car and head for the shop near our ‘home’, which has a public phone as I think of a simple plan.

I could phone the Austin garage in Bandon, as I am aware they carry a big selection of duplicates. It is the dinner hour so they are closed. In fact it is early closing day so they will not reopen until next morning.

Our younger son Ronald appears from the crowd of kids coming and going to the shop to say lunch is ready and the three of us should come immediately. Chicken Casserole is on the menu so we all sit in the rather cramped conditions and proceed to eat. Due to the circumstances, conversation is very limited.

However, Ms America announces we should all introduce ourselves as she sits with a fork full poised for the empty stomach. “I’m Donna and this is Tony”, so I say, “My wife is Daphne and I’m George”. Donna was originally from Detroit and they are now living together in Dublin.

Tony rarely speaks, for several reasons; such as his inability to drive, and probably shock from the fact his highly intelligent loveable girlfriend had instigated this traumatic position by committing such a simple stupid act.

As we continue to enjoy the meal, Donna attempts to resolve the predicament by interjecting on what she thought we should do while she is about to stuff the next consignment into her mouth. When she ceases to waffle for a moment with her mouth full, I shoot down her various plans and decide what the next move will be.

We have a cup of tea and emerge. The period that lapsed during the meal break allowed us to take a less panicked view of the state of affairs. Of course as far as I am concerned the sooner the situation is resolved the better as, on an exceedingly excellent summer’s day, I am rather anxious to immerse in the Atlantic.

I am vaguely acquainted with a car mechanic in the local village of Ballinspittle so what better way to begin than consult our expert for advice or even a remedy. The frustrated couple and my two boys and myself travel back the road and receive a very sympathetic welcome from the owner Mr Joe O’Regan.

He is feeling the affects of the hot day and is more comfortably undressed to the waist, and consequently, as a result of his occupation, a few black streaks are visible on the upper body – a memorable spectacle.

I explain the predicament and he immediately climbs out of the pit and takes down a circular shaped piece of wire with maybe fifty or more keys on it. He says: “This usually gets people with lost keys out of trouble”.

So we are not unique. Maybe there is an opening for a lucrative breakdown rescue service with the addition of meals on wheels and this is our maiden voyage!

Once again we take off for the Old Head and discover the Austin Mini has not moved. I sit in, and set to work. About ten of the keys actually enter the ignition but none turn.

I had better mention I would have liked to tow the lifeless wheels back to our abode but due to the steering locking device this was not possible. Even so I’m sure you have gathered that I am determined to bring the situation to a satisfactory conclusion.

We retrace the four miles to Ballinspittle and pull up on Joe’s forecourt.

I cannot recollect having had any conversation during this journey so if there was any exchange, it must have been pretty trite. I enter the garage and duly replace the unacceptable keys on the wall hook.

Joe was still stuck at some obstinate problem on the lower extremities of the geriatric immobile and probably wishing it was receiving the last rights.

“Well?” he says. “No go.” I reply. “Give me twenty minutes, and I’ll be with you.” I emerge from the conspicuous shed in the residential area and inform the love birds about the next episode. Deep depression has, I feel, descended on the odd couple as they pace in various directions in the thirsty heat while the afternoon ebbs away. What are their thoughts, as thinking they must be? I may surmise his. It was not his fault so it was her that caused the predicament.

The fact that he was inadequate to assist in resolving the pickle meant it took on a magnitude far in excess of its reality and hence the inability to converse. As for Donna’s mind, I never really got to fathom or comprehend the depth of her thoughts or how she was coping mentally.

Perhaps she was concerned about Tony’s attitude, after all the future of this happy loving relationship may have reached a critical phase and failure to extricate themselves may jeopardise their co-existence. Can the course of true love really be tested by the disappearance of a little key?

As for me I felt we were over the worst, as light was appearing when I located Joe. Surely I’m not partly responsible for the future of a beautiful friendship. I re-enter the garage and Joe emerges from the hole in the floor with some tools.

He crosses to the bench and collects some more including a heavy hammer, always a handy weapon to have in one’s armoury. He closes the door; wouldn’t it be great if I could say he hung up a sign “Gone fishing”.

Now six of us pack into my Nissan and off we set. Are you counting? This is my third trip to the Old Head! In a situation like this, one is not very aware of the rest of the world, or time or anything else! The mini remains intact and is patiently waiting to be revived, we all hope.

It may have taken all of five minutes for the ignorant audience members; me included, to witness the master at work achieving what is necessary. Very impressive, observing a man with knowledge operating in a crisis. He places the point of a screwdriver against a strategic bolt on the anti-steering device, raises the persuader and bang, bang. The whole locking device just falls off.

Then he locates two vital wires, places one against the other and hey presto the silent, lifeless jalopy makes some very welcome agreeable, relieving noises! The car is the only thing to receive a kiss…the kiss of life!

If Donna was a young hysterical, highly-strung emotional female wouldn’t you think Joe and me should have received a peck on the cheek? I must resist such feeble thoughts.

Can we assume the shock depressed her natural emotions and her blood froze? Or alternatively she may be the deep thinking type that recites poetry standing on her head while Tony sweats for the bread.

The two boys help Tony disassemble the tent and we load the gear and all return with two cars to our site. The nightmare is over; I am free.

I tell them to erect the tent near our wagon and then the whole family is re-united on the beach with the hoards of sun worshippers for the slightly delayed plunge, which had been put on hold.

Tony and Donna took Joe home and that was that. Well almost. Next morning I am just about to depart for farm duties, when Tony emerges from the tent. He has managed to recover his normality and self-confidence and probably thinks life is worth living and maybe any decision on Donna’s future can be postponed. His final words were “I don’t know what we would have done only for you.” I think I said: “Sure anyone would have done it in Cork”! He very kindly refunded my petrol expenses and I departed. When I return for my lunch they are gone.

They had been to the village and Joe had located a key and reassembled the bits that fell apart and they returned with some necessaries for our kitchen and then disappeared and that was how the hilarious afternoon came to an end.

And now, in the best Hollywood tradition of the silent movie days, the caption might read: meanwhile back at the chicken farm, twenty long years later. (Actually twenty-one.)

My Leyland Cypress trees had reached sixty feet and were a possible health hazard so we knocked ‘em and then there was a mess. During the last week of August 2002 I was gathering up the remains when I heard a voice behind me. “Is this where Mr. Beare lives?” “Yes.” “Could I speak to Mr. George Beare?” “Yes, speaking.” “You won’t remember me but I’m Tony…!”

Elaine Beare
Follow me on Twitter @elainebeare