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Country Living

The sheep on her back is in trouble when magpies arrive

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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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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Country Living

A time to appreciate the jewel that is Midsummer

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Peak days in our season of brightness.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

THE other day as a few of us mused about how quickly Midsummer had come upon us, a colleague mentioned how wonderful it would be if this time of year could at least last for a couple of months, rather than slithering by so quickly.

That’s the problem with time: there’s just no holding it back and regardless of what material fortunes we might happen to stumble upon such as a lotto win, no money will buy back one second of time.

While our Irish weather, as always, might be a tad troublesome, there is, on a clear day and night of Midsummer, that wonderful phenomenon where it never gets fully dark. By the time the light of the late summer sun has retreated, the skies never really blacken and by 3am, the shafts of brightness begin to return.

Our Summer Solstice has occurred earlier this week, normally peaking between the 20th and 22nd days of June, but for of us of rural stock, the peak of the season of light was always on June 23 and June 24, the latter being the feast of St. John the Baptist.

The night of June 23 was always one marked by bonfires across the North Galway countryside with trips on donkey and cart made in the week preceding the ‘big evening’ to the local garage, where old tyres would be picked up for the big blaze.

Back then, recycling was a term used for going back to the shop if some vital provision like cigarettes for my mother were forgotten, and there was always a wow factor if an old lorry tyre could be located, sending flames and plumes of smoke to the heavens.

It was always a late night for young and old, but there was never to be any period of rest the morning after, St John’s Day, when the fair of Abbeyknockmoy drew a fair selection of stock and supposedly good buyers from ‘up the country’.

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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