Bryan SykesReviewed by Mary McWay Seaman,
Celtic Connection, June, 2007

Not having a scientific bent myself, I was leery of tackling even a modest tome on genetics; however, this thriller hooked me immediately. Bryan Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, recently finished a 10-year DNA survey of the genetic structure of Britain and Ireland, and the revelations are let loose in his new book, SAXONS, VIKINGS, AND CELTS: THE GENETIC ROOTS OF BRITAIN AND IRELAND. An exceptional storyteller, the professor defines DNA as “those unseen architects of our bodies, even of our souls.” Never pedantic, the narrative glows as historic figures bray and geological surveys sing, while its momentum builds like a detective story. Sykes never just spews stats across pages; he weaves them into ageless stories of conflict and struggle.

Bursting with surprises, the DNA studies track migration over millennia, primarily since the end of the last Ice Age, around 12,000 years ago. As ice receded, humans returned to the Isles over land currently under the North Sea and the English Channel, when the Thames was a tributary of the Rhine. As the warm-up progressed, the seas rose, creating the forested Isles. The professor warns, We are now in a warm phase of the long-term glacial cycle, but it will not last forever, and at some as yet unpredictable time in the future we will slide inexorably into another Ice Age. 

Readers trudge alongside Sykes and his crew from the Oxford Genetic Atlas Project into rural classrooms, blood donor sites, and local festivals in search of DNA. The author states that, It took a lot of mental effort constantly to remind myself that every single one of these strings of letters and numbers represented the journey of an ancestor. What combos of indigenous Britons (Celts), Romans, Scottish Celts and Picts, Irish Celts, Welsh Celts, Vikings, Saxons and Anglo-Normans are stirring within the genetic soup of the Isles today? Matchmaker Sykes introduces myth to scientific methodology when answering these questions.

England, the most crowded region in the Isles today, was invaded for a thousand years beginning with the Romans in 43 AD. Asserting that tales of 6th century King Arthur and the ancient Britons are rooted in fact, the professor remarks that, In my research around the world I have more than once found that oral myths are closer to the genetic conclusions than the often ambiguous scientific evidence of archaeology. Arthurian traditions faded when Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church in the 16th century, and the resulting veneration of Saxon King Alfred provoked centuries of Saxon vs. Celt conflict. This conjuring of a new origin myth peaked in the 19th century with Saxon superiority characterized by a righteous, crusty citizenry towering over low-life Celtic loungers. The Roman Empire’s collapse offered expansion opportunities to barbarian Angles, Saxons and Jutes from the 8th to the 11th centuries, and the DNA of these tough customers remains strong in northeastern England. The bloodlines of William of Normandy, leader of the Norman Invasion in 1066, render him a recycled Viking.

Saxon, Dane and Norman are close German/Scandinavian cousins; our tongue is English instead of Celtic, courtesy of these invaders. In addition to donations of Viking, Saxon and Norman blood, a smattering of African and Middle Eastern DNA was found in southern England, shocking individuals with no such known ancestry. These DNA dribbles lead the author to think that these folks may be descended from Roman slaves.
History lessons keep surging out of this grand field trip, and they alone are worth the price of the book. The professors instruction on Irish Celts is absorbing. Although the Vikings elbowed their way around Ireland during the 9th century, Celtic genetic dominance is huge. Folks in Leinster show some Anglo-Norman DNA influence, and an intriguing Y-chromosome ancestral study of males with old Gaelic names (Mc, Mac, O) had me in thrall.

Research in Scotland turned up Picts, Celts from Ireland, Vikings and Anglo-Normans. Most Scots are genetically similar to the Irish, amazingly so in Argyll. Old camps show Mesolithic people in Scotland at Orkney and the Shetlands 10,000 years ago, and the exception to the genetic closeness with Ireland rests in these areas. Vikings began arriving in the neighborhood during the late 8th century, and Norse place names still dominate the landscape. DNA studies prove that the occupiers brought their own women along, and Viking ancestry stands at 30 to 40 percent today. Sykes describes a wee Scandinavian air in Shetland as an “Undemonstrative, no-nonsense feeling of the place.” I have always wondered about the Picts – Celtic variants or a relic population? The Romans called them Picti (Painted People). This treasure hunt demands reading in one sitting. Similarities with Celts were found, and DNA testifies that Picts flourish among us still, predominately in the Grampian and Tayside regions of Scotland.

Wales withstood assaults by Romans, Irish, Saxons, Normans, and English, and it manifests a mighty genetic kinship with Ireland and Scotland, minus the Viking donors. Some individuals living in the remote mountains near Plynlimmon and Tregaron found themselves the focus of much early 20th century research on their odd-shaped heads and Neanderthal-like faces. One extraordinary anecdote concerns two brothers who were widely regarded as Neanderthals and notoriously named the Tregaron Neanderthals. In the 1950s and 1960s, local Welsh teachers, following instructions in their schools history syllabi, took students to interview these welcoming men. The brothers died in the 1980s, and Sykes doubts that they were true Neanderthals, but scientists are still looking out for Neanderthal DNA (none found to date).

The professor’s reports confirm that almost everyone in Ireland and Britain has Celtic ancestors who arrived thousands of years ago in flimsy boats over the Atlantic from Celtic Iberia. These findings give credence to the Irish Milesian myth, and Sykes reiterates that,”Deeply held origin myths, however richly embroidered, have a habit of being right.” This book remains unforgettable as Bryan Sykes reminds that,”within each and every one of our cells is something that has witnessed every life we have ever lived.” Laced with fact and folklore from an ancient heritage and rich with lashings of comedy throughout DNA collection capers, SAXONS, VIKINGS, AND CELTS dazzles as blood and bone stand up and testify.


“…A thousand years ago I would have been running around some island with blue paint on my body…”

From The Celtic Connection newspaper, August 2010 issue. Article by Pat McCullough, photos by Laura Klein, (

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Cody Donovan is a case study for the warrior gene. He doesn’t fight out of anger, hatred, or resentment. He fights because that is what he is meant to do. He carries the warrior gene, evolved over the ages from a need to hunt, protect, and survive. It’s a primal drive that suits his genetic makeup. “I feel blessed in being able to do what I love. Every day I wake up happy and look forward to going to work– A thousand years ago I would have been running around some island with blue paint on my body” said Cody, referring to an ancient Celtic tribe known to paint their skin blue and run joyously naked into battle. “I think all of us would have been doing this no matter when or where we lived,” He said looking out towards his teammates who were warming down after a tough morning sparing session at the Grudge Training Center in the Denver suburb of Wheat Ridge.
Cody not only inherited the warrior gene, but also the Irish “gift of the gab”– Not in a boastful way, but with the confidence of someone who is truly grateful for what they have and opportunities ahead. He spoke with high regard and appreciation for his coaches, trainers, and teammates at Grudge. “This gym produces some of the top fighters on the planet,” pointing out a number trainers and champion fighters and giving brief bios he continued, “It’s like a brotherhood, we have each others back. People might think we just come in here and pound on each other, but we try to help each other be better fighters. If you don’t have a fight you help the one who does…it’s a beautiful thing.”

MMA is a full contact sport allowing the use of boxing, wrestling, and other fighting techniques to be used during competition. Strategies include striking, take-downs, and submissions. Victory is determined by judges’ decision at the end of the scheduled fight or by stoppage by the referee, fight doctor, the fighter (tap-out or verbal), a cornerman, throwing in the towel, or knockout. MMA initially had received negative press and painted as barbaric but that image is changing through education and regulation according to Cody. “There is nothing new to the idea of the sport– organized hand to hand combat has been around since Pankration was introduced to the ancient Greek Olympics. With sanctioning bodies now involved at all levels it has become much safer.” Introduction of weight classes, rounds limited to 5 minutes, restrictions on the use of knees to a downed opponent, headbutts, eye-gouging, etc as well as properly trained medical professionals and referees are just some of the precautions set in place by the professions overseers. Some analysts have put forth data suggesting that MMA is considerably safer than boxing with less emphasis on continued head strikes and more time spent with wrestling, grappling, and floor fighting. Still, with all of the quality improvements made to the sport stereotypes remain about MMA and those who compete. “People think that we are retarded meatheads, but my teammates are some of the smartest people I know. They’re all highly competitive very motivated- but to be the best you have to be smart and keep mentally in control in the ring. As in most sports, fighting is 90% mental, you have to get past your circle of concern and focus on your circle of control.” One intense fight early in Cody’s young career was a pivotal lesson in mental control and intestinal fortitude demanded by his profession. Physically challenged by broken bones to his face and hand suffered during the match, he struggled with a reason to continue. “I broke mentally several times during the fight,” recalling his fight with Ian Berg, who is now a teammate and one of his best friends. Cody was able to make it through the fight and was given the win, but gave the respect to Berg. “When it was over we knew that we were in a war – they gave the fight to me in a decision, but Ian and I call it a draw.” After a fight like that, many would have considered a gentler profession, but for Cody it helped galvanize his resolve to be a MMA champion. “I knew after that fight that the MMA was my calling.”

A casual interest in martial arts lead Cody to Brazilian JiuJitsu while a student 19 year old student at Colorado Arts Institute. After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree he got a job in graphics design and animation. “I hated it – I just couldn’t sit still!” he laughed recalling his brief career at a desk. Cody studied Brazilian JiuJitsu (BJJ) at Nate Marquardt’s gym, High Altitude Training (HAT) in Aurora Colorado. It was Marquardt who initially got Cody involved in MMA by recruiting him to help another fighter who was getting ready for a competition and needed to train with someone who was big and had BJJ skills. (Marquardt, a champion MMA fighter, is also a teammate of Cody’s at Grudge). At 6’3” and over 200lbs Cody fit the bill. Cody also teaches BJJ, MMA and Kickboxing at HAT. With his skills and positive disposition he is a natural to work with the young students. “I’ve been fortunate to have so many people help me, so this is a way for me to give back to the MMA community.” Students train for different reasons, but for those who have high level of MMA aspirations it is helpful to have guidance from someone as grounded as Cody. “There is no Manual on how to become a pro-fighter. It would be a free-for-all if you let fighters enter the ring without strong foundation. You could show them a few tricks but they would fall apart. It’s like building a house– you wouldn’t install the crystal chandelier before you install a good foundation. At ever level of every sport you always practice the basics to build and keep a good foundation.”

Cody practices what he preaches. He trains 3 times a day, 6 days a week — alternating sessions of sparring, conditioning, and learning/teaching. Prior to a fight he goes through an 8 week “fight camp” where he trains in varying intervals and intensity. He will have to amend his 8 week fight camp routine as he accepted in mid July an August 7 fight with Ryan Lopez in Oklahoma. 29 years of age, Cody fights at 205 in the Light Heavyweight division. Although he looked ripped to the casual observer, he claimed he was a little overweight “I love Guinness and I love to eat” he chuckled, “Good thing that I love to train and stay in good shape.” Not a trash talker Cody analyzed his challenger succinctly. “He is a big scary looking guy, but I like my skills against his.” Cody talked about strategy and techniques and then added, “You have to believe that you can beat anyone in the world – or get another job.”

Grudge Training Center 4298 Kipling Street, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033 303-432-8858‎

Also find Cody at:

An Irish Hurling-Green: A Ballad for the Gael’

Full many years, ’neath foreign skies,
A stranger have I strayed,
I’ve mingled in their sportive joys,
And heard their music played;
But still the dearest spot on earth-
Which links me to its scene-
For cheerful, hearty, guileless mirth,
Is an Irish hurling-green… (The Gael, May 1887, NY)

Organized games of Gaelic sports have been played for over a century in parts of the United States, and sporadic informal play by new Irish immigrants reported even longer.
Odds are that Irish immigrants to the Rocky Mountain Region in the 1800’s would have been found swinging a pickaxe or shovel instead of a hurley (stick used in Irish hurling).
Whether or not Gaelic sports were played to any degree around mining camps, railroads,
and other areas where the newly arriving workforce congregated is unknown.

Remarkably, it wasn’t until 1996 when Dubliner Shay Dunne called a meeting with other Irish nationals living in Colorado and established the Denver Gaels, the first Gaelic sports organization in the Rockies.
Through tremendous efforts by coaches, players, families and sponsors the “Gaels” today
have members from all along the Front Range, and field competitive teams in Mens Football, Hurling, Ladies Football, Camogie (Ladies Hurling) and Youths Football.
Most of members today are young Americans who joined the Gaels with little or no experience in GAA sports but have proven to be very capable Gaelic players.

The Denver Gaels are part of the North American County Board, which is made up of approximately 125 Adult and Youth Clubs in the U.S., outside of New York City ( NYC has own New York County Board). These clubs participated in Divisional Championship competitions to qualify for the North American Finals in their respective sport and grade of competition.
In 2000, the underdog Denver Gaels traveled to Boston for the North American Finals and won their first North American Championship. Through the years the Gaels teams have impressed opponents with their feisty play and increased level of skill.

Last month a group of Denver Gaels committee members, coaches, players and supporters gathered to discuss the continued success and perpetuation of Gaelic sports in Colorado, with a specific focus of developing the Youth teams. They discussed broadening visibility of GAA Youth sports through programs at schools, PAL, YMCA, Parks and Recreation centers, special events, and helping kids/parents with equipment/travel expenses.

The Denver Gaels first fielded Youth teams in 2004 and began with a bang.
Martin Concannon, who grew up playing Gaelic sports in Ireland, played on the Mens teams and also coached the Youth teams that year recalls fondly. “The Denver Gaels hosted the North American Finals in Boulder that year…we ended up winning both the Youth U12 and U14 B Finals… We still had a lot of those kids playing up to this year in San Francisco at the Continental youth games. A good few of the kids have went off to college in Nebraska, Okalahoma, CSU, School of Mines and Metro.”
The later part of Concannon’s thoughts hides an underlying problem to the continued growth of the Youth Teams, and perhaps the Denver Gaels in general. A considerable number of the kids who started the Youth teams are now heading off to college. Many of these kids are sons and daughters of the Irish coaches and players. As their number decrease they will have to be replaced by kids from the general population with less ties to Ireland and Irish culture.

In a recent letter to Denver Gaels members, Alan Murphy, Gaels co-founder, player and coach echoed Cocannon’s praise and support for the kids in the Youth teams, but also made points of concern and called out for a concerted effort to recruit more kids.
He said in part, “…Our youth organization is very proud of the incredible high standards our kids have set since the club was formed in 2004. The club has participated in five U.S National finals and won four. Two of our players have represented a U.S National selection and played against teams from New York, Ireland and England. Our kids have represented their schools at the highest levels in academics, athletics, basketball, football, soccer, band and baseball with kids participating on state championship winning teams in athletics and football. Our kids have excelled in the classroom with some of them studying for business and engineering degrees amongst others. We thank them for sharing such a valuable part of their young lives with us while we keep an eye on their progress in the future.
We believe this is a vital time for Irish Culture in the U.S. During the past eight years National Security has slowed the emigration process and the influx of students has stalled. Our goal is to promote Irish Culture through sports, music and dance. We would ask you join in our quest with your kids or grandkids and make sure our Irish Culture is a great part of Denver’s future.”

Alan Murphy’s son Ryan is on of the kids who started with the first Denver Gaels Youth teams in 2004 at age 12. Now he is a Freshman student-athlete at Colorado State College in Fort Collins where he is a 6’7” wide receiver trying to balance his time between 5-6 hours in the afternoon at football meetings and practice, class time and studying to maintain his 3.6 GPA. “It takes dedication to both the sport and the schoolwork to get it all done, and I have to really manage my time well.” said Ryan who took some time to answer a few questions from his campus dorm room. When asked about his fondest memories playing with the Gaels he replied, “I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to travel across the country with my friends on the team. It was really fun to compete with other teams from across the United States.” Ryan also gave testament to his overall positive experience on the Gaels teams. “The GAA was definitely a positive influence on my life. I have made friends there that I will know for the rest of my life. As a student athlete in college, I can definitely say that the GAA has helped me to become a better overall athlete.”

The desire to keep Irish culture in sport healthy and provide youth with positive experiences has been challenged in different periods and places in the U.S. over the past century. According to Paul Darby in his book, “Gaelic Games, Nationalism and the Irish Diaspora in the United States” (UCD Press 2009), the health of Gaelic sports over these periods of challenge was reliant on fluctuations of Irish immigration, socio-economic and political conditions of specific GAA cities, and the local resolve and dedication of
individuals in working together to preserve and promote their sport.
Darby, who’s book focused on the Irish immigrant hot beds of New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, concludes with the argument that if the current immigration levels remain, the future of GAA will depend upon reaching out to young people living in America, including those not of Irish descent.
Darby also recognized that Irish in the U.S. historically have sought to appreciate and preserve their ethnic specificity and culture.
Somewhere in it all is the answer to the future of the Denver Gaels.

If you know of anyone who might be interested in playing with the Denver Gaels, they welcome any age and no experience necessary. Also anyone who would like to help
in any capacity are welcome to contact by email [email protected] (if you do not have internet contact call the Celtic Connection and we will connect you with the Gaels)
For more information check out the Gaels website
The next meeting is Monday night January 18th at 7pm at the Celtic Tavern in Downtown Denver at Blake and 19th.

by Eric W. McBride,
Celtic Connection, September, 2007

Europe during the High Middle Ages was a most brutal time and the Fourteenth century was no exception. Though the threat of Viking Raiders no longer troubled the mainland, Europe was still recovering from the Mongol invasion of the previous century when the 1300s arrived. In western Europe, despite the Victories of Edward Longshanks in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, the English were losing the war in France. Throughout the 13th century the French Kings were steadily consolidating their power and control over both the land and the rebellious or disloyal French Nobles.

Though these French Kings were gaining in power their position was still precarious. However, in one night King Philip le Bel, would take an action that not only firmly established himself and his Kingdom, but the ramifications of that act would significantly aid Scotland in its fight for freedom at Bannockburn. This single and horrific act can still be remembered seven hundred years later under the superstition of Friday the 13th.

Philip the Fair:
In 1285 Phillip the Fair would become King Phillip IV of France and began to greatly extend his Kingdom into English occupied territory. In 1295 Phillip entered into an alliance with Scotland through it’s Guardian William Wallace. From 1294 to1298 and 1300 to 1304 Philip began a very costly engagement with the English. Though he successfully defended an invasion of Northern France, he was no match for Edward Longshanks. Luckily for France, Edward was having to deal with rebellious Noblemen in Northern England as well as the resumption of Scottish fighting for Independence.

These indecisive wars with England were rapidly bankrupting France. In 1302 Phillip sustained a massive defeat at the Battle of Courtai, at the hands of Flemish pike men under English control. Seeking refuge from this defeat Philip fled to the Templar Knight’s Temple in Paris. Phillip was bedazzled by the show of wealth found within and vowed to one day acquire it. Two years later Phillip returned at the head of a large contingent of French Knights and gained a successful victory over the English at the battle of Mons-en-Pevele. Thus empowered, Phillip began to seek out allies in his upcoming confrontation with the Knights Templar.

Phillip had no love for the Templar Knights. Not only did he have an enormous debt to the Knightly bankers but as a young man he had been denied to gain admission into there secret order. Thus through political intrigue, and greed, Phillip openly accused the Knights Templar order of barbaric deeds, inquisition, and witch craft. Phillip also approached several Knights who had been expelled from the order and through bribery or blackmail used them as witnesses of Templar mis deeds. Finally the culmination of all of his manipulation came to fruit on Friday, October 13, 1307. With the death of the Pope, and Rome in Chaos, Phillip ordered the arrest of Jacques de Molay and Sixty of his Knights in Paris. Phillip also ordered the simultaneous arrest and execution of many thousands of Knights Templars throughout all of France. The political fallout was to say the least, enormous. Men who had been the protectors of literally thousands of villages and towns across France and all of Europe, suddenly found the local peoples superstitions turned against them and their wealth seized by greedy Noblemen of every Nation in Europe. A majority of these men were killed out right. Many others tried to disappear into the wilderness or disguise themselves. However, a number of them wishing to retain their ways, found refuge in the only country that was willing to take them; that of the Northern country of Scotland, which was at war with the English and at odds with the Pope.

The Bruce:
In 1305, with no other option left to him the Earl of Carrick, in Southwest Scotland proclaimed himself King of Scotland to carry on the work began by William Wallace in the decade before. Robert the Bruce though crowned King of Scots, did not live a life of Luxury. Within a year he had sustained tremendous defeats along with the defections of the majority of his nobleman. In fact King Roberts Kingdom had at one time shrank to be only that of 10 men. As legend tells, King Robert regained his resolve by observing the efforts of a Spider and thus enlisted the aid of Highland Clans to continue his fight against the English.

Systematically, through using the same Tactics first applied by William Wallace, Robert the Bruce began to reclaim every castle and stronghold in Scotland with the exception of the Royal Castle at Sterling. It was during his siege of Sterling in 1314, that word came to him that King Edward II, son of the great Tyrant, was marching into Scotland with a monstrous Army, aimed at the total inhalation of the Scottish rebellion. Legend would have it that it was on the eve of the Battle; but more then likely it had been happening over some time. That Templar Knights came onto Scotland, and were willing to pledge allegiance to King Robert the Bruce and the defense of Scotland in exchange for a place of refuge from both the French and English Kings, as well as the new Pope. It is not known how many they numbered but it is mentioned that there were Templar Knights on the side of the Scots and the Battle of Bannockburn. Many historians now give credence to there being a significant force of Templars on the field of battle who helped turned the tide in the Scots Favor.

Despite the setbacks suffered by the Knights Templars they were still in 1314 the single most experienced and trained soldiers in all of Europe. As a united fighting force they were second to none. So much so that there presence now gives proof of how 17,000 Scots, with very little cavalry, defeated a combined English Army of over 50,000. In fact the English defeat was so decisive that over a third of all the Noblemen and Knights of England were killed outright and an equal number of them were captured, as was nearly King Edward II himself.

In gratitude for their contributions King Robert the Bruce ennobled their order and renamed it in Scotland as the Order of the Knights of St. Andrew. A Knightly order that still has remanence found today amongst those who call themselves Free Masons.

by Eric W. McBride,
Celtic Connection, October, 2007

Like most ancient cultures the myths and legends of the Celts contained those aspects describing the darker nature of the world around them. All-hallows-eve is a prime example of their interpretation of the demonic world. Sociologist refer to the creation of monsters as a cultural explanation of those aspects in life from which we fear. Of the 8 Celtic nations, each has stories revolving around some sort of monster; whether it is the giant Yspaddaden of the Welsh, Banshees of the Irish or Ankou, the personification of Death for the Breton’s; all Celts have some form of Ghost, Goblin or Ghoul. However, there is one demon that is consistent throughout the Celtic world and appears in the form of ordinary birds, more especially that of the Crow.

One has to remember the lifestyles of our ancient Celts to understand where the variety of Monsters and demon comes into play. Most Celts were simple farmers living very much alone in the country side. In addition to the dangers of the weather, scarcity of food, and the dangers of brigands, there was also the relationship of the Celts with the animals around them. One of the greatest sources of the existence of demons comes from the writings of hermits who in their reclusive abodes, could spend many hours in contemplation of the noises and bumps in the night. The cry of a lone wolf can do much to a person today, you can imagine how it sounded to a half crazed monk all alone in the wilderness.

The Manifestations of the Crow:
The Crow features prominently within all Celtic cultures as a symbol of death. As carrion birds they act like vultures of the Celtic lands and soon arrive in droves after every battle. In the warrior culture of the Celts seeing the crows flock to a battle site and attack your fallen comrades, does much to anger a survivor. From anger, fear is just a stepping stone away. An excellent example of the use of Crows in Celtic Myth is found in the ancient Irish epic Tain Bo Cuilnge, the story of the death of Cu Chulainn. Here the goddess Morrigu attacks the hero Cu Chulainn in the form of a crow in response to his spurning of her love. In Scotland the term “Hoodie” has been applied to that of a crow and described as a half man, half crow figure who abides his presence in one form or the other depending on day or night. It is possible that this may be the early version of the Irish Banshee. In some stories of Hoodies, they are described as drinkers of Blood and may also be the Celtic version of Vampires.

Possible Origins of the Demonic Crow:
If we look to the historical time line of the relationship of the Crow with the Celts we can see them not only being visible upon the battlefields but also attributed with the ancient sea raiders of the North.

From time innumerable there have always been ferocious and yes demonic sea raiders who have troubled the sea shores of all Celtic Nations. In pre Christian era they were first known as the Fomorii, by the end of the Dark ages they were known as the Vikings. As sea raiders the Vikings understood the ability to strike fear into your opponent, thus gaining the advantage. Somewhere along the line they began to use the crow or Raven symbol upon both their great sails as well as their personal banners. Two such examples of the use of Ravens by the Vikings can be found with the Hiberno-Norse King Harald of Dublin and Thorin Raven Feeder, who was not only a Viking and ruler of the Orkney Isles, but the half brother of the real King MacBeth of Scotland. It is very possible that the reason of the wide spread interpretations of the Crow being that of a symbol of the forces of Darkness can be directly attributed to the wide scale raids of the Vikings.

The Niall Mellon Township Trust (NMTT) was started by Irish Developer Niall Mellon in 2002 to build quality housing for impoverished families living in shacks in the townships of South Africa. In June of 2008, Denver resident Kerri Tiernan was reading about Mellon’s project in a story published in The Celtic Connection. At the time Mellon was reaching out to Americans who might be interested in donating or volunteering time to the Irish charity.
The article jarred Karri’s memory of a trip that she made to South Africa in 2006 and recollection of a drive through the shanties of Cape Town and the awful living conditions that the families endured. “Being 100% Irish (American) and trying to make a difference
it seemed right up my ally!” said Karri who eventually contacted NMTT to find out what steps needed to be made to become a volunteer.

During the second week of this November Karri will take time off from her work at Enterprise Auto Rentals, along with co-worker Trish Tesar, Kathy McGee (Kellogg’s), and Heidi Weidemiller (Computer Associates) and will be the first American team to join Irish-Based NMTT team in South Africa as volunteer builders. “We will walk into the city behind a bagpiper, put on our assigned team colors, and a week later we’ll hand over the keys for a new house to a family that had previously lived in a shanty – very cool! Kerri added that team USA will be in the company of approximately 700 volunteers from Ireland, many who are professionals in building trades. Team USA is required to raise at least $5,000 apiece. About half goes toward travel and expenses and the other half toward building a house (cost is approximately 5,000 Euro to build one house, with a proper roof, running water, sanitation facilities and electricity).

Last month they got off to a good start with a fundrasier at the Irish Hound in Denver as Kerri reported, “Troy Kahle (GM of the Irish Hound) was a great help for our Charity event along with his entire staff. Attendees that bought raffle tickets were treated to some Irish Beer or great wine, a taco buffet, and raffle tickets for some great prizes.” She added that there was a very good turn-out and great support from sponsors like Guinness, Lowes, The Artisan Center, Houston’s Restaurant, Little India restaurant, LaLas Restaurant, Cherry Creek Grill, The Colorado Rockies, Silpada Jewelry, The Tattered Cover, Encore Restaurant, Home Depot, Racine’s, and Dixons restaurant. “We are still in the fundraising stage— we are looking to finalize our fundraising by the middle or last part of august.” Donations can be made towards Team USA by going to or and click on the American Flag.

“The Niall Mellon Township Trust is a great Charity and we thank everyone for their support,” enthused Karri, “We will be the first volunteer group from the US that will go to South Africa in November and we are very excited about that!!! PM

(from December 2010 Celtic Connection newspaper)

The Christmas season often brings out the best in folks. More people are inclined to want to help someone in need. Maybe they’re compelled to pull the car over toward the homeless looking man on the corner with the sign that says, “Will work for food…God Bless.” and hand him some cash.

“Stop” says Bob Cote, fonder of non-profit Step 13, Denver’s nationally recognized transitional living program, “Temper your compassion with some logic – homelessness does not mean helplessness.”
Cote, a former street person who beat his addiction to alcohol in 1982 and started Step 13 in 1983 to help other addicted homeless, said that without a successful structured system and the emergence of self responsibility, donations given to your average “homeless” person just helps to feed their addictions. “It makes people feel good to give a handout, but they’re not looking at the whole picture — especially around the holidays – they’ll give them (panhandlers) 10 dollar bills, 20 dollar bills and instead of buying a bottle of Mad Dog they’ll buy Smirnoff Vodka and literally kill themselves.”

The politics of compassion is another piece of the whole picture that Cote finds frustrating. “The governments credit cards are all maxed out, ‘entitlements’ for alcoholics and drug addicts are going to break the bank – that’s the truth. It’s a terrible, terrible, waste of money – millions and millions of dollars.” He gave an example of one homeless program backed by City government, “They give them (homeless) an apartment, $720 a month and take $110 of that for their rent. The rest of it they can do what they want with it, they don’t demand that they quit drinking and drugging, unless they ask for it – well for a dominant alcoholic or drug addict that’s a dream come true.” He remarked further on the fragile control under the government program, “Remember you have 500 people with a Masters in Sociology dealing with 2,000 street people with a Doctorate in ‘Streetology’ so you know who is going to win.”
Cote maintains that under that system, there is not enough positive or negative pressures to motivate the homeless and make a significant dent in the homeless population and suspects official numbers released on the subject are manipulated for political purposes. “They don’t know what they’re doing -It doesn’t change, they just fly those numbers all over – who knows how to verify them-figures lie and liars figure.”
Further making his point of contention he added, “You should fix people not just feed them – that should be your goal.”

Though Cote knows hard economic times like the present can attribute to more people in situations were they have lost their job, home, and assets, and they’re trying to get help back to where they were in life, but still he understands that the majority of the homeless are addicts that are gaming the system and/or breaking laws, with no desire to get off the street. “How can you stand out on a street or park for 12 years and never have a job and be high every day – you know your not dealing with an alter boy.”

Since Step 13 opened, thousands of homeless people have participated in the program have learned how to give-up their addictions and dependencies and become productive members of society.
There are on-site clinics that offer both eye and dental care from volunteer doctors
and educational programs designed to get people back into the workforce.
Much of the programs success is built around the demands and rules put in place by the street-wise Cote, but he is flexible to individual needs, skills and abilities. Health is
“That is why we do not set a time limit, as long as people are working within our rules.

The first rule according to Cote is that everyone is sober. “Some who come to Step 13 are high and need to be taken to a hospital or detox – when they come down off the drug they could go into a seizure and die without proper medical supervision. We’ll take them to the hospital according to how bad they are, then they can come back here when they’re well enough. Some take a couple of days, some take a week or more, depending on how sick they are.”
Not only do they get sober but they keep sober. “We screen for drugs and alcohol -
Which is getting to be quite a job cause we used to screen for alcohol, pot, heroin, and cocaine – now we test them for 12 different drugs, some that I can’t even pronounce.
As we’re speaking some 14 year old is downloading the recipe for some designer drug
that we won’t know about until there are deaths.”

If someone fails the screening it is not automatic dismissal, but there are consequences.
“You have to set the tone of what you will allow and what you won’t.” said Cote.
“If I catch someone drinking I’ll tell him, ‘You got 10 hours of community service or you can leave, it’s your choice – than you lose your job. 99 percent of them take the community service.”

Jobs are another must in the Step 13 program. “Everyone here works – we have five in-house businesses that employee quite a few of our residents or in those – the largest being our car business. A couple of years ago we began a Car Donation program because we felt it was a natural extension of our Auto Detail business.” Through that program people
can donate their old car, truck, motorcycle, or motor home.
A 24-7 labor force is available to businesses or private individuals. “Its a win-win because it puts these guys to work” said Cote, “Its kind of a litmus test, we get feedback from the supervisors to learn if they’re fooling around or what. That is important to know since we have outside sources that will hire them on our recommendations.”

Residents at Step 13 progress through a positive incentive structure at their own pace including their living accommodations. “They progress through a military type dorm, then to a single room, then upstairs to a bigger room and they all have to go to one meeting a week – and every day it’s in their face of guys buying a car, TV, computer, or something -that shows them that their life doesn’t have to be that way – its positive reinforcement that comes from their own.”

Step 13 proves that their system does work for those who have the desire to change for the better and work to break the cycle of dependency. Cote illustrated the point with a success story about 2 Meth (Methamphetamine) addicts who came into his facility 3 years ago. “Its real hard to work with Meth addicts – one was an addict for 10 years and the other for 14 years. They had Meth mouth and their teeth were falling out –we put them in our dental clinic and fixed their teeth.” They were taught work ethics and standards and job skills. “To make a long story short – Martin saved $34,000 dollars in two years and some months bought a home and got a $5,000 tax credit. Weeks later the other man, Adam who had saved twenty some thousand dollars, also bought a home.”
Martin still works at Step 13 as a steam cleaner for the car business. “He is an example to these guys who say ‘I can’t’ and give excuses –‘I was potty trained backward, I got an F in 3rd grade, the cops were jumping on me because my wife fried the chicken and didn’t bake it and I didn’t do anything but the judge sent me to jail.”
“When confronted with two guys who were about as low as you can go – and now they have purchased their own home, they have a car, a good job –they have no excuses, that’s why I say to them ‘homeless does not mean helplessness.’”

Of all the success of Step 13, Cote is proud that it has been accomplished without taking tax dollars. “We’ve never taken one dime of Federal, State, or City monies, none whatsoever.” They are around 52% self-sufficient without funding. If you would like to help us raise that number, have a look at their program and contact them below

Step 13
2029 Larimer Street
Denver, CO 80205
Phone: 303-295-7837 303-296-9020
[email protected]

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