novembre 4, 2015


Thousands of physicists at a vast underground complex near Geneva have begun a project to try to reenact the « Big Bang » to try to explain the origins of the universe and how it came to harbour life. The scientists plan to smash particles together to create, on a small scale, re-enactments of the event that started up the cosmos.

Cosmologists say the Big Bang occurred some 15 billion years ago when an unimaginably dense and hot object the size of a small coin exploded in what was then a void, spewing out matter that expanded rapidly to create stars, planets and eventually Life on Earth.

Scientists will try to produce tiny collision that will recreate the heat and energy of the Big Bang. Protons will collide at nearly the speed of light, and the enormous energy will shatter them and turn matter briefly into energy. As this energy reforms into matter, the physics world hopes to see – briefly – particles that are believed to have come into existence after the Big Bang, 15 billion years ago. Particle detectors will collect the flying fragments the way a windshield collects bugs.

The scientists will be looking for one particle that has never yet been seen, the « Higgs boson » that would confirm what matter is made of. It is also known as the « God particle ».

So in the coming months, beams of particles will crash together in the giant tube, and scientists will sift through the wreckage looking for the secrets of the universe.

Do you think they will succeed? Stephen Hawking (the « black hole guy ») doesn’t. He is willing to bet they will not find the « God particle », the elusive particle seen as a holy grail of cosmic science.

What do you think?

Will science eventually be able to explain the « Big Bang » and the origins of the universe?

Even if they did, would that tell us how the « Big Bang » occurred. Was it spontaneous combustion or was God the cause?

And if God is the cause, why did He create the universe? One answer is that God created us to test us, to give us a chance to choose him or reject him. The result of our choice is eternal life in heaven or hell.

But if God is the cause of the universe, can science tell us anything about its origins? I shouldn’t have thought so.

What do you think?


Originally posted 13/09/08


novembre 3, 2015

A passage from Catharine’s new book: Polly of Bridgewater Farm, an unknown Irish story.


Chapter XII

The Snow, Winter 1846-47

The snow fell and fell and fell.  In the early days of the winter it had seemed a blessing, covering over all the misery with a white blanket, covering the hovels thrown up against every spare wall in Omagh.  Covering the old graveyard on the hill with its raw new graves and the mass grave that held men, women and children.  As its continued, it overwhelmed with its whiteness, blotting out the life of trees and beasts, freezing the last life out of the bones of exhausted men who had worked on the roads until they fell.

Occasionally a figure appeared at the front door of Bridgewater Farm, seeking shelter from the storm.  One night just as Jane was smooring the fire, turning the turf inward on itself, she saw a shadow passing the window.  Even at this hour, someone was on the road seeking shelter.

When she opened the door, there was a young woman with three children clinging to her ragged skirt.  The woman’s pallor and the children’s faces shocked her.  They were the faces of little old people.  She had seen many of these children when she was helping out at the postmaster’s soup kettle in Dromore and up at the Grange, home of Lucas St-George.  These waifs were beyond all she had seen.

 »We’re on our way to the poor house at Lowtherstown, » the women gasped.   »They told us the way in the village, but it’s farther than I thought.  Would you have a corner of straw where we could lay our heads till the morning? »

Jane’s heart sank, she had so little to offer.  Then she remembered almost word for word the letter that an outraged citizen had sent to the Impartial Reporter about  the conditions in the Lowtherstown Workhouse.  There was no way she could send this woman and her children to that hell hole.  She well recalled James Dill scolding her for exhausting herself caring for the sick and starving.  But now, she also recalled her mother saying,  »Look after those who have a call on you. »  She repeated this out loud half to herself.  Eliza and Polly had already gone to find straw.

 »If anyone has a call on us, this women does, » Eliza said defiantly as she produced a small horde of food from somewhere in a deep pocket in her skirt.  More than once Jane had suspected her eldest of hiding portions of her own food to give out later.  Just then, William came wearily carrying a pail of warm milk.  Jane heated the milk and poured it over chunks of bread.

In the morning, Jane sent the family off with the last blanket her mother had made for her.  She wondered if any of those children would still be alive in a week’s time.


 »I loved the book.  It made me feel part of the family. »

Evelyn West – Past President, Clogher Historical Society, Monahan, rep. of Ireland

 »Polly is unforgettable. »

Marie Foley – Director (ret.) Neilsen Gallery, Boston, Mas.


Available here: click here






novembre 2, 2015

Is there too much sports on television these days?

With the Rugby Word Cup that just ended on Saturday, superb match and victory by The All Blacks NZ, The World Series of Baseball, the NFL, the CFL and the post season almost here, the Montreal Impact in the MLS getting ready for the playoffs and of course lets not forget Hockey Season and your favorite teams.  For a sports fan, it’s never too much but the problem might be on how to choose!

Are you the type that likes it all?

Are you a season sports fan?

What kind of sports do you practice?



Here is a post from Neil on sports.


Are sports relaxing?


Well they sure are for me.  Both passive and active.

The only active sport that I am still involved in is golf.  And I  must admit it’s idiosyncratic golf,  I only play nine holes and I don’t count.  At one stroke you remove all the stress.  Used to play goal for my high school hockey team but those days are long gone.

But I will sure be watching the rubber game of the Stanley Cup series between Detroit and Pittsburgh. Go Crosby.

I have also started watching baseball early this year.  My favourite teams are the Blue Jays,  the Red Sox and the Yankees in that order.   I find watching baseball enormously relaxing.  I know some people find it slow, about as exciting as watching paint dry.  But I find it a graceful ballet between the bases, filled with strategy.

Do you find sports relaxing, a good stress reliever?

Do you still play any active sports?

Will you be watching the Stanley Cup Final tonight?

Oh, I  almost forgot to mention golf and Tiger Woods.  Never miss him.


 Originally posted on June 12th 2009


octobre 29, 2015

A passage from a new book about Neil: Neil McKenty Live! The lines are still blazing




After Neil died Catharine attended the multi-generational celebration of Regiopolis-Notre Dame High School’s 175th anniversary in October 2012.  Neil taught there in the 1950’s.  The 1954 annual yearbook shows him surrounded by the keen members of the debate team society, at ease in the book-lined, tall-shelved school library.  There is Joe Coyle the president and Ed Koen, the vice-president, with their team who have just won a prize from radio station CKWS.

 »I can still visualize Neil after all these years, »  Ed remembers.   »He was a pretty commanding personality in the classroom.  He taught us to articulate.  There was no mumbling or slurring your words, no sloppy diction.  I can still hear him pronouncing the word ‘squirrel,’ exaggerating each syllable until you could practically see the little critter scampering across the room.  I was a bit introverted.  Quite shy, having grown up on a farm 12 miles north of Kingston and gone to a one-room wooden schoolhouse.  Imagine the impact of coming to Regi with its cosmopolitan student body from all over North, Central and South America, Mexico and China.  Our football quarterback.  Palyeo Gutierrez, was later shot with all his family during the Cuban revolution.

Neil understood where I was coming from and encouraged me, pushed me along.  I can still remember the excitement of the debating society trip to Hastings, the small town where Neil had grown up.  I think we stayed in the rectory.

There were some real characters among the students, wild-oats types sent by their harried parents to shape up.  Jesuit discipline for those 40 years when they ran the school was pretty strict.  Some of the wilder students considered it much like a penitentiary.  Any noise after lights out in the dorm resulted in two hours on your knees out on the hard floor of that drafty corridor.

Neil taught us English and History.  When I was still in grade school he encouraged me and others to have a shot at preparing and trying for one of the tough Grade 13 exams, and he spent hours tutoring us to get through. I also remember one day when he was briefly out of the classroom a fellow sitting near me got fed up with the mess of old notes in the wooden drawer of his school desk and set fire to them.  The whole drawer went wildly up in flames, so he simply picked it up and calmly chucked it out of the window – luckily there were no repercussions that time. »


Neil, right, and the program director of CKWS Kingston, and the prize winning debater.



octobre 28, 2015

A passage from Neil McKenty’s book, The Inside Story.

 »When I arrived in Kingston in August, I knew I was to teach English in the middle grade and history in the dreaded Grade Thirteen, the equivalent of first year college.  I had had no training in teaching and little in history, although I had taken a couple of undergraduate history courses at the University of Toronto during my philosophy years.

In the first week of September, the students, including sixty who would be boarders, descended upon us.  Not a few came from wealthy homes in South America and Toronto.  We had the impression that these rich parents wanted the Jesuits, famous for discipline, to take their children off their hands and make men of them.  I came to know these older boarders well because I was put in charge of their senior dormitory.  This dormitory with its military beds and red coverlets was where I had begun my own sojourn as Regi student just eight years earlier.

Being in charge meant a full day.  I rose at 5:30, showered and dressed, went down to chapel for a few short prayers, meditated for an hour, rang a bell and rousted up my thirty-odd charges.  I herded them to mass at 7:30, then had a quick breakfast with the Jesuits community.  My old recruiting friend, Father Joe Driscoll, was now assistant superior.  I taught a history class at 8:30, followed by a class in English, took a break for lunch an taught two more English class in the afternoon.  Recreation at 3:30 was sometimes spent with the students or watching football practice.  Regi was a good sports school and I enjoyed the games hard-fought with other regional teams.

Sometimes I presided over study hall at 5:00.  Supper was at 6:00, where I took my turn reading at the table.  In the evening, a short recreation was followed by a class preparation, litanies in the chapel at 9:00, then back up to the dormitory.  It was time to herd my charges into bed without bedlam or too much noise, or the rector, Father Clem Crusoe, would make inquiries.  Dorm lights were out at 9:45, after which I hoped a water fight or some other chicanery would not break out.  Then I retired to my room to hit the books for next day’s class and was in bed by 11:30 for six hours’ sleep before it all started again at 5:30.  Unfortunately I seldom slept for six hours, even with occasional sleeping pill.  Insomnia still weighed me down like a leaden backpack so that several times during my three years at Regi, I ended up in Hotel Dieu Hospital with the flu and high temperature, the result of my system signalling stress and fatigue. »


 »The Inside Story is the gripping story of Neil McKenty’s struggle with loneliness and despair, and how he overcame both.  Spiritual journey that resonates with his honesty »

George Balcan, CJAD Radio, Montreal

available here: click here


Tuesday Writing Conversation: John Main

octobre 27, 2015

From the forthcoming new edition of In The Stillness Dancing – The Journey of John Main this is chapter 3.

3. Special Communications Unit No. 4

During his school years Douglas Main did well in English and he liked writing. So it was natural that he should apply for a position on the Hornsey Journal, a suburban newspaper, located in the area where the Main family lived in north London. He was accepted and began his journalistic career in July 1942. In his wallet was a journalistic pass number, 23. Unfortunately, his duties were not very significant. The reason was not lack of enthusiasm on his part, but that the war had reduced the paper’s impact. For security reasons, the Hornsey Journal had no mast-head, and for the same reasons there were no signed stories or by-lines.

Still, Douglas managed to keep busy. As a junior reporter he covered the local courts, council meetings and social events. If the occasion called for it, he was not above a little journalistic licence. Clearly, the wedding of his older sister, Kitty, in August 1942, called for it. Douglas described the wedding lavishly, listed the bridal gifts, then added half as many again for good measure. He was also generous in other ways. With his first week’s pay from the Journal, Douglas bought his friend, Diana Ernaelsteen, a second-hand bicycle. She describes the scene, ‘I could see Douglas wheeling the bicycle up the road. It was in good condition. I was eight years old and Douglas promptly taught me to ride it over the week-end.’ Besides the Ernaelsteens, one other stop for Douglas was the local church, St Peter-in-Chains, Stroud Green. Douglas was checking on church news for his paper but he often stayed to chat with the pastor, Canon Aloysius Smith. The parish was staffed by the Canons Regular of the Lateran, a group that would later affect Douglas’ longer journey.

Besides his work at the Hornsey Journal, Douglas was also involved with his family on the war’s home front. The danger to their home life at 108 Muswell Hill Road was real enough. All the windows had been blown in by bombs dropping nearby. The church just up the hill had been set on fire by German bombers. Eileen Main was in charge of the red alarm-box located in their home. Their father, David, was a fire warden. Douglas and his sisters were all fire-watchers. During severe raids, Eileen would shepherd everyone onto mattresses under the heavy dining-room table.

Presently the war became more demanding for Douglas. Call-ups were becoming more numerous, so in the spring of 1943 he left the Hornsey Journal and took a course as a wireless operator. Then on 13 December 1943, he enlisted at Barnet, Hertfordshire, not far from his home, in the Royal Corps of Signals. He was then nearly 18 years old, and his russet- coloured ‘Soldier’s Service and Pay Book’ described him as 6 feet, l3/4 inches tall, weighing 145 lbs, with blue eyes and light brown hair. He wrote down his trade as a ‘student journalist’.

Douglas (John Main) in 1949 with his niece Anne-Marie Stanley

Douglas (John Main) in 1949 with his niece Anne-Marie Stanley

At this time, Douglas’s knowledge of the Morse code (some of it learned from his father, David) and the wireless course he had taken gave him a leg up in the Royal Signals. He was sent almost immediately to a training station in Kent. There he spent most of 1944 with his unit (Special Communications Unit Number 3) perfecting the sensitive skills required to recognize and retrieve enemy signals. He was never far from home and his family. That summer David Main had rented a house in Sussex. As the holiday time approached David sent his son a telegram. It read: ‘Tell your C.O. to let you home for the week-end for a family gathering or you will be our missing link. Your Daddy.’ The sergeant read the tele­gram to the troops in a booming voice, stressing the words, ‘Your Daddy’. Douglas William Victor Main of the Royal Signals was not amused.

In the autumn of 1944 another group (Special Communi­cations Unit Number 4) was formed for more specialized intelligence work overseas. The unit embarked for the Euro­pean theatre of war in mid-January 1945. S.C.U.4 was a mobile communications unit that included several ambulances containing wireless equipment for both receiving and sending messages. The unit proceeded overseas by landing craft to the port of Ostend. They then moved on to establish a listening base near Brussels.

The intelligence work itself was demanding but not specially dangerous (except for the occasional buzz-bomb). Primarily Douglas and the other ‘special enlistment’ were searching for hostile signals, especially the signals of enemy agents, some of whom were left behind the lines of the rapid Allied advance toward the Rhine. The knack was to pluck the correct signal out of the air, often cluttered with hundreds of signals criss-crossing like tracer bullets. Douglas would sit at a bank of receivers, one to monitor the sender, the other the receptor of enemy signals. (To confuse matters further the signals sometimes emanated from friendly agents.

Of course, there was help to penetrate the confusion. Normally Douglas and his fellow operators would receive a schedule of the special frequencies to monitor on a given day. But if they had no assigned frequencies, they searched for specified enemy signals. This demanded acute attention. Sometimes the listener-operator would recognize the appropriate signal by the manner in which the enemy operator pounded the keys. A secondary task involved locating enemy transmissions by D/F (directional finding). Bearings would be taken on the enemy transmitter from two or more intercept stations. Then the transmitter could often be located, at least in a general area, and its subsequent movements traced. Sometimes the Germans alone had as many as 4,000 messages in the air daily. These were normally transmitted in a variety of codes and ciphers, the most well-known being the complex Enigma, first broken, unknown to the Germans, in 1940. The undeciphered messages, whether from Enigma or other enemy ciphers and codes, usually ended up in a place called Bletchley Park. Located about 50 miles from London, Bletchley Park became the nerve centre for receiving, deciphering, re-encoding and disseminating information from the enemy intelligence system to Allied commanders in every theatre of the war. This information was one of the decisive factors in the eventual victory.

In spite of the pressure of their intelligence work, Douglas and his friends, especially Harry Spendiff and Tudor Jones, had their moments of leisure. Harry Spendiff was an older man. He had enlisted as a policeman from Newcastle-on- Tyne. He liked Douglas and, to some extent, took him under his wing: ‘Doug was a hell of a nice fellow, bright, out of the ordinary and definitely officer class.’ Douglas also spent a lot of time with Tudor Jones, a shy and retiring soldier from Wales. Jones taught Douglas how to swim and dive and, at Douglas’s insistence, they visited almost every church they passed so that Douglas could take a picture. Occasionally they spent a short leave in Brussels or dropped into a bar in Assche for a drink and a visit with a friendly young woman bar-tender. They also got to know and like a hair-dresser of English background in Assche to whom they took cigarettes. Tudor Jones remembers Douglas telling her he would like to become a priest.

Whatever the future held, Douglas did not like army life. He saw the war as something to be endured. He obeyed military discipline because he realized that was the way to endure it with the least inconvenience. He certainly did not relish army food, he did not appreciate the rigmarole of mili­tary regulations and he did not like some of his officers (Harry Spendiff characterized one of them as ‘a real bastard’). Still, Douglas made some good friends in the army, many of whom he tried to stay in contact with after the war. And he had fun writing poems for his mates. These lines describe the reaction of the unit’s brass on hearing Europe had been invaded on D-Day:

Our Colonel one morning, his headquarters in Bucks,
Had heard talk of invasion, amphibious ducks,
His game of golf was near its end,
Invasion! he thought, ‘For my majors I’ll send. . . . ‘Immediate action!’ the Colonel decreed,
Three months later the idea gathered speed.

When Douglas’s unit, S.C.U.4, arrived in Belgium on 19 January 1945, the Germans’ last major attack, the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ had failed. Then the massive Allied sweeps across the Rhine into Germany began. After crossing the Rhine in late March, Field Marshal Montgomery (to whose Second Army S.C.U.4 was attached), proceeded to mop up enemy forces in north-west Germany. The Germans surrendered to Montgomery on 4 May. About the middle of June, Special Communications Unit 4 was ordered to follow the Allied advance into Germany. Henceforth they were based at Bad- Zalsuflen, a spa not far from Montgomery’s headquarters between Hanover and Osnabruck. Two months later Douglas managed a short leave to England to celebrate VJ-Day and the wedding of his sister, Yvonne.

When Douglas returned home from Germany to be discharged from the army in the summer of 1946, he had served two years and 285 days in England, Belgium and Germany. He received this testimonial, extant in the Public Records Office:

Military conduct exemplary. This N.C.O. has been with the unit since enlistment. He has always carried out his duties in a highly intelligent manner and is a popular member of the unit. He is honest and can be trusted in any position.

Until his death Douglas kept a small red address book with the names of most of the men in S.C.U.4. Some of them, such as Harry Spendiff who returned to his police job in Newcastle- on-Tyne and Tudor Jones who went back to Wales to join a small business, he never forgot.

Nor did he ever forget the fascinating intricacies of his work in intelligence. The intense search for the right signal and the appropriate frequency, the discipline required to ignore or discard all irrelevant distractions in the search for the assigned objective, required attention, stillness and concen­tration. This search demanded patience and, in the face of failure, perseverance. This experience provided Douglas Main with his most striking images for describing the inner search. This is how he drew from his experience in S.C.U.4 to portray an aspect of meditation:

In a previous incarnation … I served in the Counter Intelligence Service and one of the jobs that I had to do was to locate radio stations operated by the enemy. And so we would tune in our receivers to them, but the enemy were very clever and if they were operating that day on a frequency of ninety metres, at eighty-nine metres they would send out a jamming wave, a jamming signal, and at ninety-one they would send out another. So, in order to tune in exactly on their station you had to have an extremely fine tuning on your own radio. But we liked to think that we were just as clever as the enemy and so, when we found out the frequencies that they were broadcasting on, we took quartz crystals and then we would plug in the crystal to our receiver. Our receiver would then pick up their signal absolutely spot on, and none of the jamming devices interfered with it.

He went on to describe how the meditator, like the signaller, required a clear frequency so as to be ‘absolutely spot on’. But he was only to realize the full significance of these wartime experiences in another time and another place.

For the rest of the summer of 1946, Douglas, now for all practical purposes discharged from the army, helped his parents move from London to Belfast where David Main had been transferred by Western Union. Then Douglas enjoyed a trip through southern Ireland visiting the family and friends he had missed during the War.

Originally posted: Feb 24

Mental Illness

octobre 26, 2015

On Friday, October 23rd, was held the 10th Educational Conference on Mental Health.

Caring together:  Addiction, Homelessness, Forensics and Mental Illness.  With all the specialists, consultants, seminars and testimonies. But for the first time ever was  »Neil McKenty Inaugural Memorial Lecture ».   A great message of hope to raise awareness among communities and people in general.



octobre 22, 2015

Here is Neil on the other side of the microphone taking part with another guest for a program discussing  »learning in retirement ».

Haven’t lost his touch!!


 »Montreal AM Live » Originally broadcast on 01/28/93


octobre 21, 2015

Here is a post from Neil on elections

We are now in the home stretch of the Canadian.  We vote two weeks from today.

Do you detect a rising enthusiasm in the electorate as we approach the finish.  I must confess I  don’t.

Consider the debates.  Up there behind the podium were four dark suits, four tasteful ties, four grey beards, four middle-class white men.  No women, no ethnic groups represented.  Our only choice is to put another middle-aged white man in charge of our government.

Wouldn’t a woman candidate or a person of colour shake up that drab picture.

No major issue has emerged during the campaign unless it is Harper’s drive for a majority.

Is our election dull?  Compared to the Americans.

Remember their 2008 campaign.  Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin fighting it out for women, a man of colour emerging as the first black president in the United States.

Or consider the would-be candidates thinking about running for 2012.  Palin again, Michele Bachman, Trump and several others.

Why is there so much colour in American politics, so little in ours?

Is our election dull?

What do you think?

originally posted 18/04/2011


octobre 20, 2015


 »Catharine, Don’t Panic »

 »In the end, no matter what, Neil could always make me laugh.  I remember one particular December evening in our beloved farmhouse home in the heart of Victoria Village.  On dark nights such as this one I always made sure to place candles of all sizes on an ancient dining room table witch we bought for $35 from neighbours who were moving out as we were moving in.  On this winter evening I had set a scrumptious shepherd’s pie in front of Neil so he could serve us both.  As he reached across the table to hand me my plateful, the fuzzy sleeve of his bright red dressing gown caught fire.

To my horror the flames began to run up his arm.  Neil quietly stood up, stepped out from the table, and moved steadly towards the kitchen saying calmly to me  »Catharine, don’t panic. »

I followed him out to the kitchen, picked up a big green canister of flour from the counter and threw the contents over himself.  The fire went out.  Neil returned to the meal as though nothing had happened, sitting there in his black-tinged dressing gown while I dissolved in near hysterical laughter.

Many times since, in moments of crisis, I hear those words,  »Catharine, don’t panic! ».

They have often returned to stand me in good stead.


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