When a mistake at Mass could lead to a walloping

Changing times in education.
Changing times in education.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

I’VE often been told that I should read more books but somehow there never seems to be enough hours in the day to box off a reading hour.

A couple of weeks back, I browsed through a book written by Michael John Kilgannon entitled The Man Who Stopped the Train, the title referring to a famous incident back in July 1977, when a local protest group did manage to stop the train in an effort to save their local station.

The book though is not just about this one incident but it gives a snapshot of Irish rural times, starting out on the road of life through the 1960s, when at last the winds of change were beginning to blow in Ireland.

Michael John Kilgannon was always a great battler for local causes whether it be the local train station at Woodlawn, the post office down the road, or the establishment of a group water scheme.

He was a teacher, a school principal and a county councillor, who never backed from any local cause but he’s also a man who had to fight his own demons and he gives a very honest and touching account of his battle with depression over the years.

Depression has blighted the lives of many individuals and sadly has also led to many suicides that have left a lifetime legacy of sadness with families the length and breadth of Ireland.

Over the years, he has visited many communities across the country giving a personal insight into his own little tips to help people cope with the arrival of the dreaded ‘black dog’.

Initially, the main priority is to identify the signs of depression and to realise that there is something wrong when feelings of hopelessness prevail, where there is a loss of appetite, a sense of listlessness, and a distinct lack of motivation to do even the simplest tasks.

His six ‘one day at a time’ tips in relation to coping with depression are the essence of simplicity: to get out of bed in the morning and pull the curtains; to get dressed; clean yourself up; always try to have a cup of tea and your breakfast; get out in the fresh air; and never, ever be afraid to ‘phone a friend’, a support group or your doctor.

There are though also many delightful and lighter passages in the book, one of them dealing with the trials and tribulations of being a young teacher, initially in Cavan, and then just down the road from his home place at Cloonkeenkerril National School in Colemanstown.

One segment of the book dealing with the arrival of the school inspector, or The Cigire, took me back to a time in Annagh National School when this event sparked off a whole chain of preparatory events.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.