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Charting role of plough in history of rural Galway

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A tradition that lives on: Over 51 years ago, Thomas Reilly, Claregalway, a former county champion, ploughing his section of the field at the Co. Galway Ploughing Championships at Claregalway, on March 16, 1967.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

It’s over half a century since I saw the first scrape being turned by a single plough in a field of soil. By today’s standards, the field was little more than a large garden but it regularly produced outstanding crops of potatoes. There should have been two horses pulling the plough but this was soil with no thick skin of knotted grass to cut through, and my father was in charge of just a single horse, but a magnificently strong animal he was.

We used to call him a full black even he did have a white streak that ran from the bottom of his ears to his nose, and while his strength was never in question, his temperament certainly was, and he normally had to be ‘led’ by a neighbour with a strong arm to keep him in check.

There always seemed to be gulls around to feast on the worms and grubs that were roused from their soil portholes but there was something magical about that resonance between humans, horse and nature. As the years passed, the horse was confined to the more manageable tasks for a single animal, namely that of opening and closing drills, scuffling, moulding the potatoes, and of course the work of the Summer and harvest periods such as bringing in the hay and oats.

Loads of those memories came flooding back last week as I glanced through Tom Fahey’s book, A History of Ploughing in County Galway, that was launched earlier this month at the Arches in Claregalway, at an event that I attended. Like a lot of other people, I was quite stunned at the turnout for the book launch with over 200 people in attendance, so the lure of the plough and the land is still quite strong through the homesteads, fields and boreens of Galway.

This week in the village of Screggan just outside Tullamore, nearly 300,000 people will visit an event that is now regarded as the biggest outdoor gathering in Europe, but as Tom Fahey recounts in his book, it all started from very humble beginnings back in the early 1930s when the then Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera, visited the championships in 1933.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Country Living

Sixty years on and Debbie is still a very fresh memory

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The Connacht Tribune edition of Saturday, September 23, 1961, reporting on the damage caused by Hurricane Debbie across Galway on the previous weekend (Sept.16). The photo shows the trees in Eyre Square that were felled by the winds.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

On this very date, September 16, 60 long (or maybe that should be very short) years ago, one of the biggest ever weather events struck our shores in the form of Hurricane Debbie, wreaking destruction on large stretches of our island but particularly so along the counties of the west and north-west.

It was a September Saturday like no other across the country, as Debbie ripped up trees, moved cocks of hay and stacks of oats from one field to another, blew roofs off buildings, and caused 18 fatalities across the island of Ireland.

Those were of course very different days in terms of weather forecasting both in Ireland and across the world. There was no national television service with RTE television only launched on December 31 of 1961, so in terms of weather information, the only source was one daily forecast broadcast on Radio One.

There were no yellow or red warning triangles to let people know of what lay in store for them that day, and given the limitations of forecasting at the time, it probably is fairly safe to assume that preparation or precautionary measures in the run-up to Debbie were pretty minimal.

Debbie was a deceptive piece of work. She started off as your typical storm pulse off the west coast of Africa around September 6 of that year, taking the usual westward track towards the Caribbean and eastern USA, but in a portent of things to come, her high winds caused a plane to crash  near the Cape Verde islands, claiming the lives of 60 people.

After that, she continued to track westwards but five days later on September 11, Debbie made the most unusual of moves, doing a U-turn in the middle of the Atlantic, and heading towards our shores. Why this happened, no one is quite sure about, although author and meteorologist, Dr. Kieran Hickey, has given one possible reason for the change. Possibly, according to Dr. Hickey, Debbie got subsumed by our old friend the jet stream (the high flying ribbon of air that tends to blow in depressions and bad weather), and carried her along towards Ireland.

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

Realising that you can get far too much of a bad thing

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

I’m probably the last person in the world that should be dishing out any advice or tips on the amount of news we have to absorb on a daily basis. After all, I have been gainfully employed for many decades at this stage in playing my small part in checking out stories of a local interest that hopefully play their part in the public forking out a few euro each week to keep in touch.

An overdose of news though has to come with a health warning. A few weeks back, as the Taliban/Afghanistan story started to dominate all headlines and TV/radio space, I listened for the first half-hour of the one o clock RTE news.

Now, don’t get me wrong, RTE provide a comprehensive and reliable news network that’s always good to get a solid line in what’s happening in the world around us.

But after a 25-minute, non-stop barrage of analysis from Afghanistan, I just had enough. All I wanted to hear about then was maybe something of a more local or lighter vein.

Maybe the bull that got lost in the fields of Westmeath; or the gardener from Offaly who grew giant-sized turnips; or a pensioner from Sligo who ran a marathon backways. Anything of a more local or lighter interest . . . but 25 minutes without a break of the Taliban and Afghanistan had nearly left me in a state of slightly disturbing mental anguish.

It probably has been the same with the Covid-19 coverage, which none of us can afford to ignore, but yet we don’t have to fill our every waking moment with the latest statistics, the up-to-date dire warnings of impending disaster, and the feeling that we’re all doomed.

Incrementally, one can slip into a pessimistic mental gait, and during that lunchtime news bulletin as I drove out the Tuam Road, I kind of said to myself what can I do to stop the Taliban taking control in Afghanistan. Okay, so I should have a conscience about these things but if all the US billions and military might couldn’t solve this thing, what’s the point in a two-bit journalist and small farmer worrying about the situation.

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

The role of the filthy lucre in helping us to enjoy our misery

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

Many years ago, lively but good-humoured debates, used to swirl around our kitchen table, and especially so if the thresher man or maybe some young upstart from back the road who had the cheek to be going to a fancy third-level institution like UCG, were on the scene.

Neither my father nor the thresher man nor the young student had much by way of material wealth, so it was little wonder that there was some general agreement on the theme of money not making you happy. It was a kind of honour among thieves’ type of support mechanism.

How they could definitively say put the case forward against wealth, was kind of beyond me, because none of them (well the older two anyway) never really had any realistic chance of finding out whether this was the case or not. My father’s clinching line on the debate tended to be: “While money can’t buy happiness, it can help you to enjoy your misery.”

Maybe ‘like father, like son’ never did really capture the knack of putting together any decent stash of cash. Whenever any little windfall would arrive, there always seemed to be a hole to be plugged and it was always a good feeling to have enough to survive. But, or course, that little bit more for a smidgen of comfort would have been nice.

Some of the National Lottery ads are quite catchy in terms of the more outrageous things we might do if we scooped the big prize like setting up a giant water slide in the middle of a flats complex or in the purchase of an island in the middle of the Pacific. I’d always wonder though about getting planning permission for the water slide in Dublin’s inner-city or in making my way to and from that island in the middle of oceanic nowhere.

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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