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Leinster Leader 3 January 2008
2008 – a year of curiosities on the calendar and of anniversaries in the annals
Dates on the calendar are the milestones by which the historian charts the passage of the world’s story. So the turn of the old year into a New Year is always a significant time. There is no way we can know what stories of triumph and drama that 2008 will bring but we can at least take a look at the year as it presents itself to us on the calendar.
The most striking thing about 2008 is that it is a Leap Year – ‘Once in Four there will be One Day More’. An extra day is added to the calendar to help iron out irregularities in the earth’s orbit around the sun. Among the folklore surrounding Leap Year Day (29 February) is that it is the only day in four years that a woman can propose marriage to a man, a reverse of the normal direction of cupid’s arrow!
Astronomy also has an impact on the date of Easter which is set by ancient church declaration to fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring equinox. The peculiarities of the earth’s orbit around the sun mean that in 2008 Easter Sunday falls on 23 March, the second earliest it could be. This has created a dilemma for the Irish catholic bishops when they found that the national church feast day of St. Patrick’s Day would fall within Holy Week. Church rules are strict in that no other feast day can be celebrated in Holy Week so the Bishops’ advisors in Maynooth were left with a dilemma. The solution arrived at and approved by the Vatican was that the festival day masses of St. Patrick would be celebrated in churches on Saturday 15th so there would be no conflict with the solemn masses of Holy Week. However it must be stressed that 17th March will still go ahead as a public holiday.
Those of a superstitious inclination will be glad to know that there will be only one Friday 13th in 2008 – the second Friday in June.
The year also marks a medley of anniversaries of local, national and international significance. True blue Lilywhites will ponder ruefully on the fact that it marks the 80th anniversary of Kildare’s last All-Ireland win in 1928 – the fact that this was the first year that the iconic Sam Maguire trophy was presented at least gives the Short grass men bragging rights ever since. By coincidence too this is the tenth anniversary of Kildare’s last appearance in an All-Ireland final – the crescendo of euphoria which saw the county blanketed in white in 1998 is still a vivid memory.
For students of the turf 2008 brings an anniversary or two worth recalling. Irish trained horses won both the Aintree Grand National and the Epsom Derby fifty years ago. Mr. What trained at the T J Taaffe establishment in Rathcoole won the 1958 Aintree National while Hard Ridden trained by Mick Rogers at the Curragh won the 1958 Epsom Derby. This double was not repeated by Irish trainers until 2000 with Papillon and Sindar.
The year 2008 also brings landmark dates for the county’s transport infrastructure. More than two centuries ago the canal channels were being forged across the midlands. The Naas branch of the canal, a picturesque, branch line from the main Grand Canal at Sallins was under construction and reached its mid-way point to the county town 220 years ago. In March 1788 the  Duke of Leinster came to inspect the works in a specially decorated barge; so enthused were the populace of Naas by the spectacle that they grabbed the ropes and man-hauled it to the temporary completion of the channel adjacent to the De Burgh estate north-west of Naas..
A transport landmark of a much more modern era will also be recalled as 2008 marks the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Naas By-pass which at five miles in length was the first stretch of fully-fledged motorway in the Republic of Ireland. The tape was cut by Mr. Dick Spring, then Minister for the Environment.
We will return to some of these events as the Leap year of 2008 adds many more milestones to the long road of history.
Series No: 48

Liam Kenny in his regular column Nothing 'New Under the Sun' from 3 January 2008 in the Leinster Leader highlights some of the important anniversaries coming up in 2008. Our thanks to Liam

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