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Country Living

Charlie was no angel but he was part of the family

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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.

Country Living

Long gone are the days of penance and sacrifice

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

THE year 2022 seems to be freewheeling along at an alarmingly fast rate with our good Summer and long sunny days now just a distant memory as we tread through the gloomier and danker days of November. Already the talk is of Santa Claus, Christmas parties and shopping expeditions, while the opening of the seasonal outdoor market in Eyre Square on this Friday is ushering gently – but quite quickly also – into the season of goodwill.

There was a time when November tended to be the Winter equivalent of the Lenten period in late Spring, with various people giving up little vices in preparation for the season of Advent which clicks in on the last Sunday of the month.

It was also a month when some of us would invariably make the ‘huge effort’ to ‘give up the drink’ but as the years pass, one of the commitments I make to myself, is that I’m too long in the tooth to be making  sacrifices that are just a step too far.

I’m making an effort at present to read a Dermot Whelan book, ‘Mind Full’ – quite an enjoyable and insightful read – where he devotes a chapter to the impact that the ‘Demon Drink’ can have on our lives.

One of the conclusions he came up with was that giving up drink for a period of one month was quite a fruitless exercise – even self-defeating – as when the penitent returned to the pint, as on Easter Sunday after Lent or December 1 in the wake of the November drought, larger than ever amounts would be consumed. (For the record, his recommendation for a meaningful break from ‘the pint’ would be a period of one-year – now that would be a real tester).

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Country Living

Changing times in that trawl for a perfect mate

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Jon Kenny and Norma Sheahan in a scene from The Matchmaker: Only the means and methods of meeting have changed since the 1960s.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

There’s an old country saying of: “When God made them, he matched them,” and often one not used in a complimentary tone back the years when I’d hear my father or mother, or the neighbours, dissecting the travails of a couple not renowned for their tolerance or understanding of each other’s way.

Tales would emerge of how couples had been matched up,– sometimes with bad light and the cover of darkness being used to camouflage the more obvious physical defects of one of the parties – but even if the pairing was made in the shade, honour would prevent it from being undone, when the next viewing occurred during the reality of daylight.

A couple of weeks back, I took one of those far too infrequent visits to the Town Hall Theatre in the city of Galway (accompanied) to take one of those steps back in time to watch one of the late John B. Keane’s classic compositions, The Matchmaker.

Maybe, not a production to everyone’s liking on the basis of slightly coarse language and a cluster of sexual innuendos, but you’d want to be in a seriously bad humour, not to burst into fits of laughter at the antics of Jon Kenny and Norma Sheahan.

It was a tonic for both body and soul, although at an early stage of the performance four or five people took to the exit doors, two of them having to climb over the backs of their seats, to escape from the devilish and irreverent prose of the Listowel playwright.

While there is of course the funny side to the whole business of matchmaking, that mirth could also conceal a deep-rooted loneliness felt by many people in rural Ireland, often bachelor farmers of reasonable means and appearance, who had a longing to spend the rest of their days with a companion (in those days always a female) to stoke the fire, share the household duties and maybe enjoy ‘a bit of fun’ as well.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Country Living

A look back at the troubled life and times of Jim Crow

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A US theatre entrance in the middle of the 20th century with a separate entrance for coloured people.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

It’s funny at times how one little suggestion or mention of something unusual can trigger off a whole cycle of curiosity and wonder. The other morning as I listened to Lyric FM, I heard Marty Whelan referring to Black History Month and wondered what the hell it was all about.

His mention was, as might be expected, in a musical context as the station celebrated the achievements of black musicians, singers and composers, who tended to be under-represented in times gone by.

It also brought back thoughts of days back in 1984 when a group of Dunnes’ Stores workers went out on strike in a bid to prevent the sale of South African produce on the supermarket shelves of that retailer, in what seemed a small protest again apartheid in that country.

This was at a time when Ireland was a pretty conservative repository of Church and State but the action – which eventually proved to be successful – brought it home to us all, that was going on in South Africa, well, was quite simply, wrong and unjust.

One of the strongest opponents of the strike action at that time was the then Minister for Industry and Commerce – a Mr. John Bruton – who wasn’t at all impressed by the actions of his Cabinet colleague, Ruairí Quinn, in support of the protest.

Mr. Bruton’s famous quote from the Cabinet records of that time, in a letter of outline to the Government was: “I am afraid all my instincts tell me that the Government should not become involved in any activity which is designed to restrict imports from South Africa.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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