Niamh Lear

“For me it’s so much to do with family…”

Okay – here’s a weird one. Because this one’s an edit.

Back in the day, I asked the brilliant Niamh Lear if it was okay to use the Devaney family crest to illustrate her page on the blog.

It wasn’t just self-indulgence. Turns out that Niamh is part of the family, or at least part of the family name. Chances are, we’re cousins. Her mum’s a Devaney, from Mayo rather than Clare: a coincidence that gratified and perplexed me at the same time. There aren’t that many of us about. So I asked if we could use the family crest.

The days are gone from when we used to do this sort of thing. It’s all proper photos now. Faces. People like faces. But look below. Look at that crest. Check out the symbol on the shield…

It’s the red hand of Ulster.

Looking us up, it seems the name started off at Navan Fort in County Armagh. Family myth has it that we were kicked out by the Brits. there’s other myths too – about a martyred bishop from County Down, for example. One translation suggests the name simply means “black, marshy place.”

Truly, the bog Irish.

Wherever it comes from, it’s here that we’ve ended up. Devaney talking to Devaney. For all of its variety, the diaspora can appear a small world within a world, with not even six degrees of separation to boast of.

But that’s not true: it’s simply that our own networks get tighter the more we thread them. We find ourselves talking to people who look or sound or read the same as we do. It’s only natural to ghettoise ourselves. The world is a big scary place. But in  doing that, we  exclude the rest. We talk of them as “boomerangs” or “elastics” or “passport paddies”.

So this is now the task of The Plastic Podcast. To go beyond its cosy coterie of artists and academics* and find other stories: tales of the mixed-race diaspora, of the diaspora abroad, of those that went back and those that stayed.

As Niamh says, it’s about the lack of impossibilities.

But it can’t be done without you, dear listener-reader. So, if you’ve got a tale or know someone who needs to tell theirs, email us at

Or there’s always Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.

Or even this page.

Who knows, we may all find more cousins that way…

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Published by dougdevaney

Doug Devaney is a writer, performer and journalist. He is the presenter of The Plastic Podcasts. The Plastic Podcasts have been supported using public funding by Arts Council, England

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