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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

A day when Tuam Races put paid to the innocence of a young punter

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The date was Friday, July 31, 1970, and the race was the Carling Black Label Maiden Plate with Lucky in Love, ridden by P. Sullivan just edging it from None Better with M. Kennedy on the saddle. The Tuam Races drew large crowds for their one big day of the year before the reins were pulled in 1973. Photo researched by Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

I couldn’t even remotely claim to have any knowledge of the gee-gees although here and there I’d have the odd little flutter on a horse, and of late, Pateen has been kind enough to me with a couple of good wins across the water. Pateen of course is called after Galway three-in-a-row start, Pat or ‘Pateen’ Donellan, with his original owner, the late Michael Corcoran of solid Dunmore stock.

My childhood memory of horses probably relates to that of many people of a certain generation where the horse – and indeed the donkey as well – were the mainstays of farming life and especially for ageing farmers who just had no interest whatsoever in the purchase of a second-hand or a rebuilt Massey Ferguson. (Ruanes of Athenry were the great specialists of the time in rebuilt Masseys).

We owned the most imperious of a black gelding, his only concession to colour contrast being a white face, and whose pulling power was lauded across the village. But he was never an animal to be taken for granted and especially during the later summer season when the quills or horse flies could provoke him into a sudden and sometimes violent enough tantrum. Only my father could handle him with a mixture of firmness and platitudes but our equine warrior still managed to overturn a load or two of oats or hay when negotiating dodgy gaps that bit too impatiently.

His ageing demise and subsequent sale coincided with my journey into teenage years and that loss of childhood innocence when the realisation strikes that life is transient, made all the more poignant by the fact that it coincided with the gradual decline of my father as he slipped into the 70s and the sunset years of life.

The Galway Races though were always special even if we didn’t venture into Ballybrit that much as a family, as invariably there was always hay to be saved, although a ‘concession’ would often be made in terms of calling into a neighbour’s house with a television to watch The Hurdle or The Plate.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Country Living

A weekly peep into wacky and wonderful world of country life

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In the mid-1970s, JOE O’SHAUGHNESSY was a schoolboy with a camera who had an eye for the unusual shots. He took this picture outside McDonagh’s Thatch Bar in Oranmore of a gentleman taking a break from the rigours of life, with the Connacht Tribune poster on the window and also note the weekly Woman’s Choice magazine on the other side. In those days, ‘print was king’.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

It’s most unusual these days in the newspaper game to get anything in the post. Everything pops in on the email  . . . we’re all hopping in and out of Google every few minutes . . . and of course if the mobile is more than a metre away from our person, it’s as if we’re standing naked in a crowded church.

Anyway, last week, a handwritten envelope arrived from the current editor of the Tuam Herald, David Burke, who I soldiered with for a number of years back in the 1980s, which included a copy of an old column I had written for The Herald, back in January of 1984.

The column was called Country Scene and was written under the pen name of Pierce Ploughman, a king of play of words (I think) on a famous late 14th century poem called Piers Plowman and written by a William Langland, dealing with the quest for the true Christian life.

At the time one of the reasons for the pen name was that it would allow me to write a bit more anonymously about some of the characters I’d meet on the highways and byways of country life, but of course after the first column or two, my cover was blown.

One of the jolts we all get from looking back at things from the past is of course that realisation that time seems to have slipped so quickly – almost as in the blink of an eye.

The column David Burke sent to me, and written over 37-years ago, actually jogged a little memory tributary in my brain. I could remember writing it and I could remember the local character it was based on too, thankfully still alive, hale and hearty.

His name in the column was Malachy and like Pierce Ploughman of course it wasn’t his real one and his novelty in his trait of never being quite able to make up his mind about anything. One of Malachy’s dilemmas was summed up in this extract from the Country Scene column of January 7, 1984:

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

Glad to have lived long enough to see the return of Christianity

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

A few weeks back as I was having my usual Thursday morning flick through the Farmers Journal, (what a production: the only problem with it, being the fact that it would take a full day to read it all!), there was a picture of Kildare farmer proudly displaying his gay pride flag of all colours.

Like every other occupation, there always have been gay farmers, but going back 30 or 40 years – maybe even a lot less – such a subject would have been an absolute taboo. No mention of it; no coverage of it; and very definitely no ‘coming out’ for fear of bringing pain and shame to the family and the village.

It reminded me of a trip down from Croke Park a few years back when four of us in the car in the middle of a Galway footballing defeat post mortem were stopped in our tracks by a documentary that just ‘happened to come on’ Radio One entitled ‘In Shame, Love, In Shame’, and after hearing it, we all pondered on how Ireland could have been such an unloving, uncaring and unchristian country in the wake of the great ideals of 1916.

The documentary has been written about, and lauded too, many times, but in summary it tells the story of a young, single (the key word) Kerry woman, Peggy McCarthy, who back in 1946 became pregnant and later died while giving birth after being turned away from two hospitals because she was unmarried.

At her funeral, the local Parish Priest, Canon Patrick Brennan, locked the church gates to refuse admission for her remains, only for the locals to break them down and bring the body of the unfortunate woman into the church. Even at that, the priest refused to say Mass for her, but at least the people of the village had stood up for what they believed in: they had shown a bit of Christianity.

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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