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A week when sensible souls lose their marbles and lucre

Francis Farragher

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Studying the form: Two 'steady' punters take it all in. A lovely shot from the Galway Races back in the 1980s. PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

It’s been going on for the past 148 years at Ballybrit – since August 17, 1869 – and while horses are sent out to run and jump, the Galway Races will continue to be part of the Irish way of life, a week when normally sensible men and women lose that quality of being sensible.

For the past couple of months that talk has been that: “We won’t feel now until The Races,” and sure enough as night follows day, the great holiday climax of the west is upon us with all its frolics, tomfoolery and an absolute sense of determination that the week is going to be enjoyed.

The Races are thought to have their root in Loughrea back in the late 1700s when a five-day meeting was held but all was to change back in the late Summer of 1879 when the first day of racing was held in Ballybrit and a crowd of 40,000 (how that was estimated I don’t know) turned up for day one, of a two-day meeting.

It seems as if Galway got into the spirit of the occasion right from the very off with the green area of Eyre Square used as a camping site for the crowds that couldn’t be accommodated in the city’s hotels. Whether there was any damage done to the grass area in those days, we will never know, but you imagine if there was a wet Summer what conditions would have been like there.

The first Chairman of the Stewards (a fine title) was Lord St. Lawrence, an MP for Galway, who was involved in the setting up of the Punchestown course. Eight races in total, split evenly between the two days, made up the first meeting with the winner of the Galway Plate picking up a prize of 100 sovereigns (gold coins at the time worth one-pound sterling but now an awful lot more).

Two of the fences jumped at that first meeting were reputed to be genuine Galway stonewalls, so if a horse mis-timed his jump, then the consequences for the fetlocks could be serious enough but through the latter part of the 1800s major improvements were made to the fences and course that pushed it into a major racing event by the turn of the century.

A ‘raider’ from the Premier County, appropriately named Tipperary Boy, is credited by racing historians as the greatest steeplechaser ever to gallop in Ballybrit winning the Galway Plate on three separate occasions in 1899, 1901 and 1902.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Country Living

Thirst and turf were always the closest of soulmates

Francis Farragher

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The bog: a curious mixture of romance and backache.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

IN the greater scale of things, it’s certainly not a first-world problem, but the other evening, within an hour or so of a most fabulous sunset imaginable as I made my way home from an evening in the bog, there was just a little but forlorn longing to have one, or maybe even two, of my favourite beverages in the local watering hole.

The bog is a real love-hate affair with most people. I know sisters in one family, one of whom who swears that she could spend the rest of her days amidst the wild heathers as long as the sun shone, while her sibling has nothing but abject horror for the place.

I find myself somewhere in the middle of this divergence, half-enjoying short stints among the rows of turf but only if there’s a bit of company about to give me some little sprigs of hope of a ‘plot completion’.

There are friends of mine unbothered by things like deadlines who would gladly while away long hours day-after-day footing and re-footing (pronounced ‘rayfooting) the turf, but I’m inclined to go with the option of keeping handling time to a minimum.

Back in years like 2019, which seems to be a number from a different universe given what we’ve been through with the virus, we’d at least have the pleasure of a little boast to our imbibing friends in the local about how many yards we had ‘gone through’ in an evening, but now the journey home is a lot more lonesome.

True, there can be ‘the can or two’ to be consumed from the home fridge, but somehow or other, it really isn’t the same as the bit of banter, jibing or boasting that fuel the exchanges in the local hostelry.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Country Living

Ah feck it – so what’s the harm in an odd curse here and there

Francis Farragher

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Ancient Romans: First off the mark with this cursing business.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

I’m not really a television person and especially so when the daylight hours begin to stretch. There is, though, the occasional and often random dip into something that catches my eye or ear and last week, Ardal O’Hanlon’s ‘Holy F***’ programme ‘killed an hour’ before the arrival of The Sandman.

It kind of took me back to a time at national school, maybe at the fourth or fifth class stage, when we all thought we were ‘getting to be big lads’, making our way in the world at around the age of ten or eleven.

For most of us, cursing or any kind of liaison with bad language was very much off-limits both at school and at home, but being an entrepreneurial bunch, we used to organise ourselves into little groups far away from the prying eyes of teachers and pestering parents.

These were quite simply cursing sessions, where we’d all use the F word, the C word and a variety of B words to get our points across to each other. Of course, we weren’t really ‘making points’ – or much sense either – but these little championship matches of swear words seemed to give us great satisfaction.

I remember another occasion many moons ago when a brother of mine used the C word within earshot of ‘the ould ones’ at home, and for an hour or two, I thought he’d committed a crime on a par with an unlawful killing or the robbery of a travelling shop.

The short C word I never heard used again in a domestic setting, apart from our own little primary school gang in a secure corner of the playground (well a field at the time), when it would be exchanged with great enthusiasm, knowing full well that it would be supressed again until our next clandestine get-together.

Is there really anything such as bad language? Probably not, as most of the words that we consider to fall into this category of speech can all be found in the bowels of the Collins or Oxford dictionaries. They are just words, and as long as they’re not used in an abusive manner, they tend to form part of many people’s daily conversations.

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

Benjy’s passing breaks a link with far more innocent times

Francis Farragher

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Moira Deady (Mary Riordan), Tom Hickey (son Benjy) and Biddy White Lennon (Maggie, wife of Benjy) at a Riordans' reunion in 2009. All three are now deceased.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

For those of us of a certain generation the news earlier this month wasn’t of actor Tom Hickey having passed away, rather it was ‘that Benjy was dead’.

A most accomplished thespian he was acclaimed on all of the theatrical platforms – television, stage and film – but for those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, Tom Hickey would always be the young, ambitious and sometimes amorous farmer from the village of Leestown in The Riordans.

It all started out in the era of black-and-white television in the mid-1960s, that’s if your house was lucky enough to have an old Philips, Bush or Pye set in the corner of the kitchen, whether it be bought or rented. (Remember the jingle – ‘oldies only’: “RTV have the sets and the service, so rent from RTV.”

If not, of course, there was always the option of the visit to a house down the road, where people of a friendly disposition, didn’t mind, regular weekly gatherings of young and old to watch a match or their favourite programme on ‘the box’.

Benjy Riordan’s travails ranged from trying to establish some kind of influence in the running of the family farm which was firmly under the control of his father Tom, aka John Cowley, to seducing his long-time romantic interest, namely Maggie Nael, played by Biddy White Lennon.

It goes without saying that it was a very different Ireland back then with Benjy’s often clumsy moves at ‘stealing a kiss’ from Maggie likely to be the subject of an outcry from Church, State or even local councillors.

I remember one particular episode – if memory serves me right, it involved a ‘bit of kissing’ between Benjy and Maggie in the bushes – where the incident took up a major chunk of time at a meeting of Tuam Town Commissioners.

This was still an era of so-called high morals when even the remotest hint of any sexual advances towards a female of the species from a bubbly male on Irish TV was quite certain to spark off an outcry from the usual suspects.

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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