Charlie was no angel but he was part of the family

A cunning but faithful friend: Bridle, hames, collar, straddle and breeching all in good working order. Note the 'belly band' – a rope near the front of the two shafts – to prevent the cart from ‘heeling up’. This image was found on the net: any further info on the pic (frank@ctribune.ie) would be welcome as it’s possibly of West of Ireland origin.
A cunning but faithful friend: Bridle, hames, collar, straddle and breeching all in good working order. Note the 'belly band' – a rope near the front of the two shafts – to prevent the cart from ‘heeling up’. This image was found on the net: any further info on the pic (frank@ctribune.ie) would be welcome as it’s possibly of West of Ireland origin.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

With the passing of each year, one quicker than the next, the sense of appreciation seems to grow stronger of our summer season of light and especially if we’re blessed with a period of benign weather like we’re experiencing at present.

It really does only seem like yesterday when one of my first jobs as a not-so-enthusiastic 10-year-old on a Mid-Summer’s morning, would be ‘to catch the ass’, a cunning but entirely lovable animal often located in the far end of the Callow field, as distant from the house as possible.

Charlie was no ordinary donkey in terms of sensing what lay ahead of him for the day when he’d catch sight of me in the far-off distance with my battered bridle and a length of rope that would normally have seen better times.

He knew full well, that what lay ahead was a long day in the bog, shifting the clamps of turf from the plás or low bank, to the roadside for the journey home some weeks later.

Eventually, he’d be cornered close to the waters of the Abbert River and ridden bare back to the farmyard where he’d be yoked up for the day, but there was never any pep in his step as he made his way towards the turf site.

To complicate matters, Charlie had the habit of letting go with the occasional spontaneous kick on his travels, a trait that would draw blood from his back knee as it bounced off the front board of the cart, not good news for him during the Summer when all kinds of flies and midges descended on the bogs.

The antidote to this problem was the use of a piece of equipment known as the breeching, essentially a leather strap that straddled the donkey’s hindquarters and was attached to the straddle across his back.

Critically though, this piece of leather could be tightened up to the shafts of the cart on either side, ensuring that when Charlie went to deliver his kick to the back of the cart, he only made contact with fresh air, and soon gave up the ghost.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.