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Country Living

A heartfelt appeal to Santa for just one more stopover

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

Dear Santa,

“It seems to be no time at all since I was writing to you and yet when I checked my old diaries, I now realise that we haven’t been in touch for the best part of 50 years, but I didn’t want to bother you in the meantime as I know that you prioritise the children, when it comes to giving out presents. Santy though, just maybe this year, you might consider the trials and tribulations of a grumpy old man who’s fallen on hard times.

“Well, now that I’ve broken the ice, I’m back again to you this year, and even if my letter is a bit on the late side, there’s just one little item that you might consider dropping off to me. I’m happy enough with the car that I have at present, but I’m afraid the old Massey Ferguson 690 is getting a bit battered, and I’m sure you know that the cabs on those models are ‘red rotten’.

“I am thinking of getting it fixed up in the New Year as there’s little prospect of any new model arriving, but wouldn’t it be great Santy, if you could just make a one-off exception, to your ‘children’s only rule’, and deliver one of those gleaming new Masseys with a 2018 reg. plate.

“I know that I am pushing the boat out a bit now, but while you’re at it, you might throw in a front-loader, as I currently have one on the old 690, and a friend of mine always says that a tractor without a front-loader is ‘only half a tractor’.

“You were very good to me Santy about 50 years ago when I ‘snuck up’ in the middle of the night and thought that you had forgotten about me, when I saw nothing but bare hobs on either side of the Stanley range.

“My mother though tore down the stairs after me and hunted me back to bed at a rate of knots, before telling me that you had got stalled in traffic somewhere around the Arctic Circle and that it would be near morning-time before you’d be calling.

“I fell asleep again and even kept the eyes closed after the sun had peeped out from behind the corner of Knockroe Hill to give you a bit of extra time to make the delivery. But you were a loyal ‘ould sod’ and when my mother came into my bedroom to deliver the news that you had arrived, I knew that I should never have doubted you at all.

“The high-powered water pistol, the football and that big box of Colleen sweets were greatly appreciated and I vowed on the spot that I would never again go sneaking down in the middle of the night, to check to see if you had called.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Country Living

Summer days and saving hay: times that never really go away

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Horse, man and rake cominbe to save the hay at Glann, Oughterard, in the Summer of 1978.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

I shouldn’t really complain about any physical exploits in a period of fine weather, as we had for most of last week, but as sinews and muscles were stretched to the limit in forking square bales of hay onto a trailer, I kind of thought in a moment of near heresy, that there are easier things to be at.

For most country lads – and girls too – hay, along with turf, is almost ingrained into our genes and while the physical exertions in the bog are pretty much unavoidable, a lot of the intense labour has gone out of the hayfields with the relatively recent introduction of ‘the wrap’ (for the townies, essentially a big ball of grass wrapped in plastic), all controlled from the tractor cockpit.

The introduction of various versions of the mechanical haybob for shaking out the grass was also a major step forward in reducing the labour input as compared to the days of the timber toothed hand rakes which were guaranteed to leave sizeable blisters in that vulnerable V patch of skin between thumb and forefinger.

To complicate matters even further with the passing of the hay season, teeth would inevitably be lost from the rake which greatly impaired its ability to fully flick over the sward (we always pronounced it ‘swart’).

Rakes though could be fixed and hay fork handles replaced but the great imponderable was – and still is – the weather, as without a good week of drying, requiring a combination of wind and sun, saving the hay would be a doomed mission.

Much and all as we complain about the weather – and especially the forecasters – that science is still a lot more advanced than it was 40 or 50 years ago, when the almost exclusive source of information was in the twice daily predictions from Met Éireann on Radio One.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Country Living

‘Gates wide’ for ‘tome beours’ but be wary of the ‘óinseachs’

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

One of the little regrets I have in life is that I didn’t make more of an effort to pick up the ‘cupla focal’ along the way in a manner that would allow me to have a basic conversation in our native tongue with other like-minded creatures.

One of the real disasters, I believe, for the Irish language back in the day, was that word ‘compulsory,’ which meant in my time at secondary school, if you didn’t pass Irish in the Leaving Cert, then you failed the whole exam.

That fear element about ‘having’ to learn Irish instilled in many of us a level of angst towards the language, instead of speaking it lovingly for the sheer joy of its rich vocabulary and its soft cadences.

What brought this to mind, is a conversation I had a few weeks ago about a man we used to meet on the bicycle on his way home from the pub way back the years, who fascinated us young lads with old yarns, many of which didn’t make any sense at all.

The man, who was from a nearby parish, was nicknamed ‘Seafóidean’ from the Irish word ‘seafóid’ which translates into nonsense and sometimes later on we’d be asked by our parents about: “What kind of ramás (doggerel or bad poetry) was yer man talking.”

Some expressions we take for granted can be a source of great curiosity and amusement to outsiders who haven’t heard them before. A while back, while in the company of an English man that I know quite well, on an outdoor sojourn, a particularly cold spit of rain descended arrived, and us natives all agreed that: “It was one dirty (durty) shower.”

Every so often, over the following hour or two, I could hear my English friend repeat the expression to himself – ‘a durty shower’ – with great mirth. Before the night was out, he was having great ‘craic’, in recalling our rain ‘lingo’ over a pint of Guinness or two.

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

Almost in the blink of an eye the Summer Solstice is here

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On Summer Solstice Day, June 21, the ‘heel stone’ of the Stonehenge monument in SW England, lines up with the rising sun to produce a spectacular light image on a clear morning.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

While it’s a theory I’ll never be able to prove empirically, I’m quite convinced that in the world of newspapers, time seems to pass that bit quicker, often morphing into quite a sprint.

Deadlines tend to have that kind of impact on the passing days with often the date for the next edition typed into a story or a column a week ahead of schedule.

I’m inclined to pinch myself and say: “Is Midsummer’s Day really upon us next week?” – sneaking up on all of us with the stealth of a crafty pickpocket who has done the job one hundred times before.

The reality is that on Wednesday next, June 21, we will be marking the day of the Summer Solstice when the sun is at its highest point in the Northern Hemisphere sky – 60 degrees – a time when under clear skies, real darkness never arrives.

Coming from a country background, it is of course a time of year that we all associate with the great outdoors in terms of footing turf, saving hay, making silage and maybe having ‘a deoch or two’ in daylight, even though the clock is ticking towards 11pm.

Through an east facing bedroom window, there is quite the awesome night-time experience of waking up on a clear night in a brightened room at 3 o clock in the morning even though there’s no light switch on . . . natural light just refuses to fully die in Midsummer.

In my local village of Abbeyknockmoy there were always two events of Midsummer that topped both the work and pleasure agendas during our longest days, with both of them arriving in quick succession.

One was the traditional bonfire on the eve (June 23) of St. John’s Day and the other was  the fair in the local village the following morning, when we could expect calls before 6am to round up the lambs for the Summer sale.

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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