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Country Living

Matt’s ‘visit’ was a welcome break from our current woes

Francis Farragher

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Matt Cunningham, squeeze-box under his arm, relaxing against a stonewall in his native Headford.

Country Matters with Francis Farragher

I’m still unsure as to whether or not I’m going to wake up from what seems to be an eerie dream. Surely, this couldn’t be the reality . . . deserted streets in the very heart of Galway city at normally peak times . . . country pubs as dark as coal with not a drop of porter spilled on the floor . . . deserted pews in the local church . . . and a near shock reaction when you tell someone that you’re going off to work in the morning.

If it’s a dream, well the alarm hasn’t gone off yet to rouse me from my slumber and I fear that there won’t be any awakening from the nightmare for at least a month – or even longer – but here and there, little unexpected nuggets of consolation tend to turn up.

Watching TG4 on a Saturday night would never be on by weekend entertainment list. Saturday is always a great day for odd-jobbing around the farm, having a good scrub in the evening, then take in a ‘shot of religion’ with the evening Mass, before rounding off the day with a couple of pints and a game of 25. Here and there, a song or two might feature on the agenda.

But these are different times, and on the Saturday night after St. Patrick’s Day as I perched down on the armchair, I saw the name of Matt Cunningham flashing up on the TG4 screen, and it brought back memories of his many trips to Annagh National School near Ballyglunin, where once-a-week, he would impart his knowledge of ceili music to my children and many more who liked to ‘have a go’ on the tin whistle, accordion or even the violin.

Matt mightn’t have been a qualified teacher in the strictest definition of the word, but he was blessed with a mildness of temperament that made him probably the easiest person in the world to learn the very basics of Irish music from . . . never forceful or demanding but always trying to nurture a natural grá in the young for the music of their forefathers.

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

Voices in the wilderness are not being listened to

Francis Farragher

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

A few weeks backs I was talking to a man of advancing years but still very active with a keen zest for life.  As far as I know, he’s never drank a pint in his life but he’d be a regular visitor to the local pub, glad to partake of a cup of tea or coffee.

A man I thought who wouldn’t really miss the visit to the pub like the rest of us, who’d sup a few pints, bitch about politics, rant on about sport, play a game of cards or have a go at the odd ballad.

I was taken aback somewhat when he said to me: “I really miss the pub being closed. I can’t wait for them to open again.”

In the greater scheme of things, it’s probably not ‘an end of the world decision’ and there are bigger fish to be fried in the context of the whole coronavirus emergency issue.

Public health, the safety of health staff, care of the elderly and the reopening of schools are all matter that must top the priority list, but yet I don’t think its being insensitive to put in a word for the small rural pubs of this world.

Most of them are small family-run business and as the ‘townies’ might say they’re located in the ‘heart of the sticks’ and they haven’t taken in a cent since the Sunday night of March 15 last.

The point has been made repeatedly that as regards the whole concept of social distancing, this practice has been a reality in country hostelries long, long before we came to know the current meaning of the expression.

There is a real problem with the idea of collective punishment. On the weekend leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, the images were flying around of revellers in Temple Bar being squashed in together like sardines. A pretty disastrous scenario by any public health yardstick.

And, sure enough when the pub-restaurants were allowed to reopen on June 29 last, the same social media images again flashed across our phone screens, young people in large groups making absolutely no effort to social distance.

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

Remembering a night when we thought we’d win the World Cup

Francis Farragher

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

FOR my sins as a young lad growing up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I started to support the Leeds United soccer team. There probably was no big reason for this other than the fact that during that era they were the leading soccer team in England . . . the same as a Liverpool, Manchester City or Man. United of today.

It was, though, shockingly hard in those times to source any TV coverage of your favourite team, given that at best the only television source of sport was one RTE channel.

The FA Cup Final or the odd international soccer match were the only occasional highlights that could be accessed.

Into the mid-70s, I remember a venue in Salthill – possibly The International – putting on Monday night specials of Match of the Day and ITV’s The Big Match from tapes sourced in the UK.

So, it wasn’t easy being a Leeds United supporter in more than one sense of the word. While being at, or very close to, the top of the English soccer tree, they always seemed to lose more crucial matches than they won, but the appetite for ‘big-time soccer’ had been whetted.

Newspaper, soccer magazines and, in earlier days,boxes of player pictures were also used to fill the void left by the absence of TV coverage that most of us endured in the West of Ireland.

Leeds too, of course, had Johnny Giles in the centre of midfield, while in Saturday’s Evening Herald of the time, revered manager Don Revie wrote a column  (I presume ghost written) about the ins-and-outs of the game.

Apart from Giles, the Leeds team of that era had many class players like Terry Cooper, Paul Madeley, Billy Bremner, Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer and Allan Clarke, but there was a steely edge to this team too, most notably in the heart of their defence where Normal Hunter was something of a smiling executioner.

Then, there was this gangly centre half, who I noted from the brief TV snippets that we saw, who must have been the ultimate goalkeepers’ nightmare.

Whenever Leeds got a corner, he always positioned himself in front of the opposition ‘keeper, backing into him, standing on his toes, shoving out his elbows, and generally making a right nuisance of himself.

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 sheep on her back is in trouble when magpies arrive

Francis Farragher

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

As young lads, many moons ago, one of the morning and evening jobs we’d get taxed with was to look at, and count, the sheep quite carefully.  One of the things you’d always watch out for was a ewe on her back – quite simply a mature sheep who would find herself on her back and be unable to free herself from that position.

If they weren’t spotted on time, they could eventually die due to a build-up of fluids, as one vet once explained to me, but there could be other quite nasty consequences as well.

One of the most feared flying creatures in the countryside in those days was the magpie – the feathered equivalent of one of those Spitfire aircrafts that the Brits used to thwart the Germans during World War 11.

The magpie, or magpies, would spot the vulnerable sheep on her back and these birds always had a particular liking for the eyes.

If the helpless ewe wasn’t freed in time, then the magpies would have had their breakfast, or dinner or supper and the poor sheep would be left eyeless for the rest of her days. Most of the days though, we always got there in time to thwart the magpies.

Over the past couple of weeks that image of the ewe on her back kept coming back into my mind every time I looked at a newspaper or my phone bleeped with some new revelation about our new agriculture minister, Barry Cowen.

Unfortunately, he found himself on his back, and after the first magpie had moved in, they arrived in droves to try to pick out some juicy pieces of flesh.

Whether you’re a sheep or a Minister for Agriculture, it’s no fun being on your back when the magpies are around whether they be of the feathered kind or the human variety who feed quite greedily on bits of news and scandal.

Now the magpies have their role to fill and there are many of us who are part of the great magpie family but the only problem is that when the sheep has righted herself, a time comes when there’s nothing to pick at.

A magpie might fly over the moving sheep but by then the chance has gone and the bird has to wait for another animal to fall into a vulnerable position.

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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