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History repeats itself over 100 years down the road

Francis Farragher

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Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in central China,has a population of 11 million people and like many other cities in that country is renowned for its street foodmakets where animals live and dead are traded. Most experts agree that this is where the coronavirus made the move from animals to humans.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

History does tend to repeat itself and especially so it seems in the case of health issues. In the middle of January, I penned a piece about probably the greatest pandemic ever to hit the world, namely the rather inaccurately entitled Spanish Flu that raged from 1918 to 1920.

There’s a large cohort of the population that’s still just a generation away from that health catastrophe that took its name from the fact that word got out about the virus when the Spanish royal family took ill with the flu.

However, most historians seem to agree that the 1918 flu was rampant in the battlefields of Europe during the first half of that year and may have been a major contributory factor in the ending of the Great War in November.

A century ago, information was a lot slower in being disseminated and the warring states across Europe and the world weren’t exactly too keen either on letting word get out about the great silent killer in the trenches.

Still, word spread mainly through the newspapers, word-of-mouth and letter-writing that this unknown killer was spreading through the world’s population, and like the coronavirus virus of today, there was a sense of helplessness about what could be done about it.

In many ways, there was a lot of similarities between the advice given out 100 years ago and today’s guidelines. Irish people read in their newspapers back in 1918/’19 about keeping away from crowded assemblies; engaging in good hygiene practices; not spitting in public; avoiding contact with people who had the flu; and staying away from wakes.

Now 100 years on, we’re beginning to hear the same advice about funeral gatherings and probably the dropping of the traditional Irish gesture of sympathy, namely the handshake.

According to research carried out by one Dr. Ida Milne, a researcher and authority on the Spanish Flu in Ireland, there was also an element of quackery in terms of some of the recommended treatments such as opium, quinine, large amounts of whiskey and brandy, as well as a number of poisons including calomel and strychnine, the latter a well known rat poison of some years back.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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.

 

 

Country Living

A time when we’re learning to appreciate the simpler things

Francis Farragher

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Pacific War 1941 to 1945. A reminder of how awful life could be.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

If our current pandemic has brought one thing to the forefront of our minds, it is that of our own mortality. Of course, there’s no point in dwelling too much on that great certainty of life – in the end, there’s only going to be one winner – but at least we’re all being reminded that the gift of life really does trump everything else.

Like most other humans I know, I make a reasonable effort to live something approaching a healthy way of life . . .  not too much food, not too much ‘rubbish’, keeping an eye on ‘the quantity’ when it comes to the ‘ould drink’, and trying to squeeze in a bit of physical exercise every day.

And yet, if we’re to believe all the health food PR that’s being thrown at us day-after-day, it’s as if doing everything perfectly will bring us the gift of everlasting life, which I’m afraid it won’t. We are finite creatures and if we look after ourselves – and get lucky – then we may be blessed with a lifespan that could stretch for eight decades or so.

It’s only when we face into crisis periods like we’re experiencing now, that we realise that ordinary, normal lives are quite the thing to strive for. There really is a great solace in being able to do – and enjoy – the simple things of life like waking up in the morning, going to work, enjoying your meals, and embarking on an evening walk, cycle or jog.

Normal routines have taken a bit of a battering since the arrival of St Patrick’s Day with not a pint being pulled in a pub across the land. If someone had said to you six months ago that we’d have such a day in Ireland, the old psychiatric examination might be called for.

Anyway, maybe at times it’s good to break some of the old routines and instead of having the evening option of a couple of pints of plain, I’ve been lured into various little distractions such as watching a number of TV series that I couldn’t be bothered with, when there were other things to be at.

Thursday nights since late March have been preoccupied with watching two war series that I’d heard a lot about but never had the patience to watch, and beside I thought my own little curiosities about history had taught me everything I wanted to know about World War II . . . but, but not so, after now completing 20 episodes between Band of Brothers and Pacific.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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

Ode to an old friend that we may not see again for a time

Francis Farragher

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

On the greater scale of things, my particular difficulty won’t rate too highly in the list of current woes that we’re all enduring, but a night last week as I scurried off to bed shortly before 10pm, I came to the inescapable conclusion that I miss my local pubs.

While not everyone might agree, I don’t think I’m in the category of drinkers who needs to be carted off for a drying out course and since Paddy’s Day passed off so dryly, there’s been many’s the day and night that not a drop has crossed my lips.

Here and there on the home front if there’s a film being watched on TV or a burger being cooked outside (there’s a fancy name for that sort of thing which I refuse to use), I am partial to a bottle of Tiger, Moretti or my favourite Italian tipple, Peroni. But alas, it’s just not the same as the pint out of the barrel accompanied by an exchange of some gentle jibes about the good life that we’re all living.

They might be a dying breed but I do think that there’s something special about old country pubs. The two that I’m familiar with, also combine their trade with undertaking businesses, so I take some smite of morbid conolation from fact that they’ll look after me both in life in death, although each of those experiences, will leave me – and those left behind – with a lot less shillings in our pockets.

A few weeks back, I heard a story about a couple of old codgers who for the last 30 years had never stopped ‘picking’ at each other in the local pub. Neutrals would often remark that: “They’re at it again.” However, it has since emerged that since the lockdown started, both have independently admitted to missing each other. They just can’t wait for the ‘sparring’ to start again.

There’s something too about the game of cards in the pub whether it be a ‘six’ or a ‘nine’ in ‘25’ or a game of Spot that often seemed to endure for the night with ‘the pot’ sometimes gradually edging up to €30 or €40 as the witching hour approached. Not big money . . . no big gambles . . . but fought for as if our very lives depended on it.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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 Leaving Cert has passed but ‘The Dream’ still lingers on

Francis Farragher

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

YOU want to have a heart of stone not to have sympathy for the Leaving Cert class of 2020, the vast majority of them preparing diligently over the past year or so for the so-called ‘biggest exam of their lives’.

In February, everything seemed to be going to plan with the work schedules for the final big run-in to the exams that always seemed to coincide with a spell of good weather, just to compound that feeling of being imprisoned by broad daylight.

Then there was talk of postponement with a new date in July scheduled for the start of the tests and now over recent days the almost inevitable cancellation of the formal exams seems was confirmed. It had reached the point where this year’s Leaving Cert class had to be given some kind of certainty, if only for the sake of their mental health.

From speaking to colleagues who sat the Leaving Cert back in the mid-1970s, I don’t believe that I’m in any way unique, when I confess to getting the occasional flashback of sitting in that isolated desk of an old gym at Tuam CBS, lurking in a world of nervous frenzy, semi-nausea and I suppose real fear as the superintendent placed the exam paper on my desk.

My cause probably wasn’t helped by a distinctly selective approach to study concentration where, in English for example, certain poets would either be ruled in or out of the exam preparation time.

Would it be Keats or Shelley? Kavanagh or Yeats? Milton or Pope? One thing was always pretty much of a certainty in those days, and I’m guessing it’s the same today, is that William Shakespeare would always be confronting you in some shape or form, whether it be Hamlet, Macbeth or Coriolanus or one of his sonnets.

In the seconds after that English paper was left down on your desk, there was always the frantic search for your favourite poet . . . happiness being defined as seeing the name in front of you from whose verses you could pretty much quote ad lib.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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