Saturday, June 27, 2020

Update 27th June

Last Week I asked assistance regarding below;
** I wonder if anyone ever came across a book called ‘The Brookham Mysteries’ by Edward McMorrow who was a Solicitor in Boyle many decades ago. His son Art and daughter Angela lived in The Warren later. I asked about the book, as a question in a quiz, decades ago. I remember the title was an amalgam of the names of Frybrook and Rockingham. Mister MacMurrough wrote under a pen name.  (Please give me ring on 086 8163399 if you have any information.)
[I occasionally ask for information here regarding x or y but I regret to say that I rarely get a response! Indeed, I began this blog hoping it would be interactive but that too did not emerge. So I am wondering am I writing to or for myself? This is true to an extent also of course but it would be nice to feel one had company! I acknowledge the encouragement of say a half dozen indicators.]   

New Government???
So it has come to pass. It took the powers that be just 7 days to create the universe but it has taken 140 days for the Irish political system to cobble together a government. While I think that it will last for approximately 18 months it gets us past ‘Go’ for that period of time. Today Friday, as I write and tomorrow Saturday, will be a pretty interesting political theatre. I imagine there will be a flurry of activity with the media trying to anticipate the ministerial appointments and all that. The appointment of Micheál Martin as Taoiseach will fulfil his long-held dream. While I do not feel that it is a good idea to change captains in mid-stream of the Covid 19 disaster it could be a lot worse as Micheál is a decent man and a pretty safe pair of hands with a lot of political experience now. Also, the ‘confidence and supply arrangement’ will have kept him abreast of the machinations of Government over the past number of years. The fact that his family from Cork will not actually witness live Micheál’s elevation. It will be a pretty poignant witness to the times we live in. 
On his passing of the baton, one has to commend the outstanding performance of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach in his performance through the pandemic to date. 
Saturday sees the filling of the ministerial portfolios and that will be worth watching as there is a loaves and fishes’ element in it all. While those who get the nod will be chuffed there will be quite a number who will not be pleased. Some heavyweights will have to bite the dust and do so with public good grace. 
The Green representatives in the cabinet will be the new kids on the block and they will have a tough time as they will be the lettuce in the sandwich. I wish them well but those members who object to the acceptance of the proposed agreement will need to recognise the realities and pressures of the political climate of these times and hope to survive with a reputation not too damaged by it all. Had they not participated on this occasion would have set them back a decade or so in my humble opinion. But then again what do I know. 
*This is a hugely significant historic agreement as the two parties Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil with their origins in the opposing sides in the Civil War coalesce for the first time since 1921/’22. 

A Chink of Enlightenment
The apology by the U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represented an unusual but ‘brave’ action and a crack between Mr. Trump and the military establishment in the U.S.  The country’s highest-ranking military officer said that he was wrong to appear with President Trump for a photo opportunity at a church near the White House. This was held after peaceful protestors were forcibly cleared from the area by a collage of police, national guard and other security. 
I have seen military present at some of Trump’s briefings some time ago also. There is, of course, a great regard for the military in the U.S. and they are a regular part of the introductions to N.F.L. games. Personally (but again what do I know?) I think these displays of militarism are to say the least, odd in a democratic country.
Road Safety
I drove to Roscommon last Sunday morning and a shorter distance early this week. Driving again basically requires some adjusting from the almost automatic responses of pre-Covid regular driving. On Sunday morning I encountered quite a number of cyclists. Irish roads present issue for all users. It is great to see the emergence of cycling again from its near-death position some 20 years ago. An issue I had last Sunday was when one comes on a cycling group where they are two abreast. A relation of mine from Boston used to come to Ireland regularly say 25 years ago. His mode of transport was his sturdy bicycle on which Jim traversed the whole of the country. He came to mind on Sunday morning when I wondered if the cyclists were conscious of my presence. Jim had adapted a dentist’s mirror and it was attached strategically to his bicycle or around his head as a rearview mirror. Perhaps I am not properly tuned in but do such devices exist now? Over the successive 25 years, his idea should have advanced in flexibility  
On the shorter journey, I encountered the machinery of the silage season, balers and trailers going at speed and then taking to the fields. There was a feeling of urgency as opposed to calm in their driving.  
Every day we see evidence in the news media of accidents on the roads so a more considered approach is necessary. 
Not long ago many accidents were caused by drink driving but now that this has declined greatly the problem now is certainly speed. In fairness, the death rates on Irish roads has been progressively declining with odd spikes. The profile of Gay Byrne as Road safety guru was a factor in that. If one looks at the records from the 1960s’ it is incredible how high the numbers were in those years.  
In summary. This is a particularly dangerous time of year on the roads and we all should be conscious of that. While the vast majority of people are courteous and considerate there is a small minority for whom speed is of the essence and that they are invincible as in all things.    

The Slave Trade…
The slave trade and its legacy are very frontline issues at this time. Most of us are aware of the Slave trade to the United States and the implications of that which is so front and centre in the U.S. A civil War was fought there in the 1860s with the Slave Trade, the rights to slave ownership and the inequality of particular sections of society being at its heart.  Some of you will have seen a very powerful film called ‘12 Years a Slave’ Kerry actor Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor in the lead roles of the Steve McQueen directed film. There are many films dealing with the treatment of the black population of the States, as a result of the Slave Trade, being the central theme. The killing of George Floyd some weeks ago has brought the whole issue of discrimination to a boiling surface. It is hard to believe that we are remembering the 55th anniversary of the Selma Civil Rights Marches of early 1965 with Martin Luther King. The leaders would not have anticipated that 55 years later that the issues of then would be a long one. I suppose that seeing the antipathy between communities in Northern Ireland, especially in Belfast, that we should know different. 

Slave Trade Irish Alert
On looking through Sean’s Public Facebook page of Sunday, June 21st I came across a post by Daniel Wissert on the ‘Irish Slave Trade’ in the sense that back in time, in particular periods of our history, many Irish were uprooted and transported as slaves to the Caribbean islands and to the southern states of the U.S. He begins in 1625 and then 1641 and then the Cromwellian period circa 1650 and so on. There is a statement as follows “…but if anyone, black or white, believes that slavery was only an African (origin) experience then they’ve got it completely wrong”. I have to say, as a former history teacher that I had never come across the subject before. I was aware of convicts being ‘transported’ to various detention centres in Australia and even the benign transportation of young girls from Boyle Workhouse, as referenced in Barry Feely’s book, ‘We are the Survivors’. 
It is obviously a subject that is only now emerging. There are many threads to it and I suppose it comes up to modern times and the policies of nunneries and laundries.           
The Poetry of Jane Clarke, My long-ago neighbour 
Being as I am from Castlecoote (Fuerty) the river almost encircled my home. While it was taken for granted by us it was a very significant part of our young lives. We fished there, we swam there we spent nights ‘shooting’ out along its banks which were populated by duck and mallard. Sheep were dipped in its waters and during the odd drought, it provided water for animals and freshly sown plants. The swollen timber of cartwheels was tightened by its coolness. 
I nearly drowned while swimming in it once. I foolishly walked across it during the big freeze of ‘62/’63. 
During the occasional droughts the river contracted and became shallow and big cattle from Charlie Clarke’s farmland beyond found it easy to cross to ours. It took a posse to execute their return across the river border. There was no animosity. It was rare and amicable. They were good neighbours. It is only now as I write this note that I realise how important the Suck river was to my young life. 
At last summer’s Arts Festival, a daughter of Charlie, Jane Clarke, was in Boyle talking of her poetry but I was elsewhere. Recently a friend of mine in Dublin asked me about a poem by a Roscommon poet and I was puzzled and then he asked me about Jane Clarke. “Is she not from your neck of the woods?” I was embarrassed by my lack of awareness. I have since begun to set that to rights and I include here Jane’s poem about her river which is also, very much, my river. This has become her metaphor and title for her first collection of poems.               

The River
What surprises me now is not that you’re gone
but how I go on without you, as if I’d lost
no more than a finger. My hand still strong,

perhaps stronger, can do what it must,
carving your name on a branch from the beech
by the Suck, letting the river take you,

so I can call myself free. Only sometimes,
like yesterday or the day before, last night or this morning,
the river flows backwards, uphill to my door.

Jane Clarke, from The River (Bloodaxe Books, 2015)
Errata Notes
In last week’s ‘Oblique View’ I mentioned John Healy’s Charlestown books ‘The Death of an Irish Town’ i.e. Charlestown and ’17 Acres’. I chopped a couple of acres from John with that title as it was correctly ‘19 Acres’. This was brought to my attention by one of my six advocates, another T.C. as it happens. As I said last week I had both of those books back when but I loaned them out and do not have them now and if anyone has one for sale I’d be interested with T&C applicable.
In conversation about the heinous murder of Garda Colm Hokan with Bill Corcoran, formerly from Corrigeenroe but now long-time resident in Dublin he mentioned a fine footballer from Charlestown who spent a short time in Boyle in the early fifties called Patsy Horkan. He was involved with or employed by a plumber. ‘A big young fellow and a great footballer” Bill suggested. I wonder if anyone knows if he was connected with the deceased Garda Colm?
While I was on the phone to Bill I was walking through the quiet town of Boyle and relaying that I was just passing Daly’s; “Ah Paddy Daly. We spent great times in Lowes” followed by ‘The Italian Warehouse’ and so on. When I mentioned the Marian Shrine he informed me that Boyle GAA members such as Charlie Feely, Paddy Leonard Peter Phelan et al ‘Dug out the foundation for that shrine in the early fifties under Canon Casey. There was no automation just sweat against a stubborn hill.” The Marian Year plaque nominates December 1954 if my memory is right. I also asked him about the badges, a little like Garda badges, that were to be seen over doorways. They too, may have a Marian Year connection. I am open to correction and illumination on that one.  
It was an accidental innovation of a phone call to a man who had the town of Boyle firmly on his heart and in his memory.
GAA Re-Opening ... a Mistake?
I hope the proposed, I’ll call it ‘re-opening’ of the GAA goes right but I haven’t confidence that it will.  I’d be very wary seeing evidence with the erosion of safety practises and a general feeling that the pandemic is on the way out. The message from numerous other countries shows that it is NOT. 
How the GAA can be optimistic that their games can be any different is very questionable. Some time ago some reservations within the G.P.A. were expressed about the safety of progressing with games. So will all the membership buy into returning with all that entails?
It is also proposed to reactivate the summer Cúl Camps. Social distancing is hardly credible in many if not all GAA games situations. I really think that it is a mistake as the regulations necessary and the risks do not merit opening.  Too many things have to go right for all this and one broken link in the chain or outbreak brings so much down with it and threatens all the good work we’ve all done already over the past four months. I am aware also that the logistics involved in rebooting are challenging. 
In summary I believe that the GAA should have called time on their year a good while ago.
I hope I’m wrong.
(I subscribe to Chris O’Dowd’s expression of caution as on the Home Page of realboyle.)    

Italia 90 Again!
If I hear the phrase, ‘A nation holds its breath’ many more times I just might do that. While I and everybody enjoyed it at the time 30 year later analysis should be a bit calmer. Ireland played 4 games to qualify for the quarter-finals and scored 2 goals in 6 hours of football and failed to score again in the quarter final v Italy. So we went 7 and a half hours scoring 2 goals from play. This resulted in the proverbial ticker tape reception when they came back from Italy to Dublin. As a friend of mine (P.K.) said to me at the time; “Two goals in over 7 hours and if you blinked in Thurles at the Munster hurling final you’d have missed a score!’

Rossie Day 
The above now takes place on Sunday July 5th. It was to have taken place on June 21st but was postponed because Garda Colm Hokan’s funeral took place on that day.

Boyle Tidy Towns 
A major clean-up in the town and environs will take place on Saturday July 11th. So let’s get behind that effort.
Sunny Turf 
When describing the fine turf I harvested last month an elderly acquaintance said; ‘It has to be good sure the sun is in it’. An old and accurate endorsement.   

The pictures surfacing from English beaches these days. 

T. V. ‘Hawks and Doves with presenter Michael Portillo
I have been watching a certain amount of television during recent times and I had thought I would reference those programmes here today but enough is enough. One RTE documentary, with an unlikely presenter, Michael Portillo, impressed me a good deal. So I recommend that programme to you if you can still source it.
Sin é for now 
Take care. We are not there yet

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Update 13th June

** I wonder if anyone ever came across a book called ‘The Brookham Mysteries’ by Edward McMorrow who was a Solicitor in Boyle many decades ago. His son Art and daughter Angela lived in The Warren later and some senior people will remember them. I remember asking about the book, as a question in a quiz decades ago, but people were not familiar with it. The name, I seem to remember, was an amalgam of the names of Frybrook and Rockingham i.e. …brook and …ham. I believe Mister MacMurrough wrote under a pen name or non de plume. Why I use the two spellings for Mr. MacMurrough is that in a 1910 Business Directory I have access to the name is given as Mc Morrow.   (Please give me ring on 086 8163399 if you have any information on this or any other book by Mister McMorrow.)


New Government???

The sentiments do not change and I know very well that I’m repeating myself, and repeating myself an re…. with it, but it is still valid if boring and unbelievable;

I referenced this in my post of three weeks ago, five weeks ago, seven weeks ago and nine weeks ago.  Keep in mind that the election took place on Saturday, February 8th …now Saturday June 13th 126 days ago. I wrote then and I repeat;

“I can only call the efforts to form a Government in this country as PATHETIC. There have been talks about talks, preliminary talks, kind of meaningful talks, meaningful talks, documents being drawn up, talk of a ‘government formation document’ but yet no real progress. It is a disgrace especially for the parties who are not part of the ‘Interim -Government’ as of now”. 

This week it was talk about plenary sessions. Then the Green Party decide to have a leadership contest and then Eamon Ryan (a decent man) goes and makes a significant faux pau in the Dáil which gives ammunition to his opponents in the party. Those of us who had leanings towards the Greens are just shaking our heads. Brendan Behan once famously proposed, at a meeting to form some union, “Let’s start with the split”.

All this for what? I repeat myself again in suggesting that I cannot see a Government constructed on such sand, lasting more than eighteen months?

Not long ago we were looking with puzzlement and a dismissiveness on Northern Ireland as they trundled along without a Government which collapsed because of something to do with fuel burning grants and ‘The Gaeilge’ question. Now we have a reflection of that here.

Note; Even if the parties agree this week-end, as is suggested, then they have to go to ‘their party constituencies’ to have it ratified which is not a given at all. This has to be completed by June 29th. It seems as if vital legislation is due to be ratified into law then and can only be done by a full legitimate Government.

Another thing that will happen is the probable replacement of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach by Micheál Martin. Mister seems a nice reasonable man with ability but is this the time to change the captain of the team? I think not. Then what genius can Fianna Fáil bring to the Cabinet? The only stand out person there, that I can see, is Michael McGrath. Just Google the Fianna Fáil panel. Not many all-stars there!     


Declan Mullaney R.I.P.

Every season brings its tragedies and sadness and no district is immune to them. We hear of them nationally nearly every day. The death of young person is especially sad. Boyle has had more than its share in recent times. This week we laid Declan- Mullaney- to rest in Assylinn cemetery. He was approaching his 40th birthday. I have known Declan since he was a boy and his dad Tom before that. Declan was part of a very good under-age football team in Boyle GAA club in the nineties. I remember those times clearly when the sun seemed to shine immeasurably. I was the coach with assistance from a brains-trust of advisors which included Owen Garvin, Martin Henry, Nicholas Feighan, Michael Brennan and Tom Mullaney himself. On balance we won more times than we lost and captured a few county titles. We lost some big games too but that is part of it. The Abbey Park was our cathedral and Declan was an ever present. He was a good strong player and his position generally was wing back. After our wins and before entering Boyle we assembled at Egans opposite the Golf club and began our victory parade through the streets of the town with the theme tune/song of ‘Simply the Best’. Those were the days.

  Declan was also a good student of mine in St. Mary’s College and I remember him as Prefect of the Student Council which was endorsement of the respect he was held in by his colleagues, the school principal and staff. 

Declan will leave a legacy of many happy memories. Those memories will not grow old now. Declan too showed courage in his struggle with illness and a confidence in his faith as represented in his regard for Knock.

As he passed the Abbey Park for the last three flags hung at half- mast limply as if representing our sorrow. They were those of Roscommon, Boyle and Shannon Gaels showing the diversity of places which are so dear to Declan and the Mullaney family.

On a personal note I was so sorry that I could not be a closer support to my good friends because of the issues of these times.  

Declan you have certainly fought the good fight and you can rest in peace now.


The Death of Canon Kevin Earley

I have just heard of the death of Canon (Father in my knowing) of Kevin Earley. All people have the nuances of difference and Kevin was different. He was a big man with a big heart who drove a small car. He came to St. Mary’s College as Principal a period after Canon Lavin became parish priest in Boyle. Like many smart intelligent men, he might have seemed causal and earthy but the reality was that he was very aware of what was happening in his domain. This of course is a necessary quality in a School Principal! He seemed to ‘amble’ in gait, was affable, generous and good company. I remember a Jubilee celebration of his ordination with mass in Ballymoe after which we all retired to the lovely Forest Park Hotel in Boyle for ‘refreshments’. The refreshments were the full menu and it turned into the real celebration that he wished for and enjoyed. He wasn’t long in Boyle, coming from a long stint in Summerhill. Then he was posted to various parishes and we lost contact for the most part. I did come upon him on a long walk in Lough Key Forest Park afterwards and he made in-depth enquiries about Boyle, its people, students and staff. It was like I was ‘briefing’ a field commander. In remembering Father Earley in St. Mary’s I smile at the memory of slight misunderstanding between him and my friend James Woods. I remember Canon Kevin as perhaps a link between the ‘old school’ parish priest and the new and I’m sure he will have many friends who will echo his many positive qualities and be grateful for his guidance and generosity. He was a sound man by me.  


Global Rossie Day Sunday June 21st

I know very little about this but I saw it referred to in Canon Liam Devine’s column last week. I presume that this idea was put in motion a good while before the Covid tragedy and will be a muted affair now.

I remember the very successful ‘Back to Boyle’ event in the town on August 2nd 2008. There was a great social in St. Joseph’s Hall with many families having their re-unions as part of the greater re-union.  I remember the McDermott family in particular and Austin Biesty and his daughter being there from New York. As it transpired James Drury aka ‘The Virginian’ was in Boyle’s Royal Hotel that Saturday evening also which added to the whole razz mates.

Ireland took on board a national re-union called ‘The Gathering’ in 2013 which was very, very successful. Forest View had its own very pleasant and enjoyable re-union on September 14th of that year with some visitors from New York synchronising their holidays to be part of it. 

On one of the few fine days in the summer of 1988 in August we had a memorable event with the return of the actress Maureen O’Sullivan to Boyle. This turned out to be a major success and was liberally documented on national media, papers, magazines, radio and television. It added an extra string to the bow as it were of people and places associated with Boyle. The recent June 9th edition of ‘Irelands Own’ magazine published a decent article on that visit indicating that the interest is still there.       


The Pandemic Covid19.

I will not say much about this as I have not the competence to do so.

There are a couple of things that confuse me though.

1.       There was an early mantra regarding its containment and in the primary list was ‘test and trace’. I remember a picture, in the first days, of army cadets around a big table ready and waiting to ‘track and trace’ those who might have been in contact with someone who was tested as positive. This programme seems (I could be wrong of course) to have stumbled on with varying pronouncements on its evaluation.

2.       Regarding face masks the advising authorities need to come down more clearly on what they think the practise should be here. Mandatory v best voluntary practise. It seems as if it is kinda mandatory (Ireland you know) on public transport and in shopping and enclosed business premises. Do you wear them generally out and about as it were? Maybe!

The recent marches (legitimate as they have been) will test the Covid picture and its possible spread. The idea of ‘social distancing’ was certainly strained and regularly ignored there.

You know that exclamatory puzzled phrase; ‘What was that all that about? “. Well I have a nagging in my head regarding a scene from over a month ago. In Minneapolis there was a rally putting pressure on the authorities to ‘open up’ the state, forget this lockdown, that is unnecessary. O.K. On the steps of a civic building a couple a men were out front and centre with ‘flak’ jackets and what appeared to me as sub machine guns or some such genre. Now I ask you; ‘What was that all that about?’ 

I rarely mention President Donald Trump much here but it is hard to resist and he gives scribblers so much here so I decided to give him a break this time. He’ll be happy with that. I haven’t the energy.


The Bog Essays

There was nice response to my two essays on my adventures on the plains of Tonroe, in the bog. A very compelling one came from my friend John Austin Biesty formerly of Carrick Road now New York.  It has a lovely nostalgic paragraph including a phrase that I will store. I trust that he does not mind me quoting it here

Tony.   “You raised my melancholic level as I read about your turf-saving endeavors.  You rekindled many happy memories of my bog days.  In my boyhood days, I would spend four or five weeks with my aunts and uncles in Ballyhaunis during the summer.  There, I spent many carefree, happy days working alongside my cousins and their neighbors, all of whom have passed on.  Precious memories, how they linger, how they touch and flood my soul.  The late John Healy, of Western People fame wrote a book, I believe it was titled "Seventeen Acres.'  In it, he has some great and funny stories about his turf cutting days in Mayo. The book itself is a great read”. (Thanks for that Austin. 

I have, as you can gather, highlighted the powerful sentence.

John Healy was also a contributor to The Irish Times. There is an iconic scene in the coverage of Italia 90 after David O’Leary scores the deciding penalty v Romania. It is of John Healy sobbing with joy in a crowded tent (I think). This was replicated by John (the) Bull Hayes before the historic Ireland v England rugby match in Croke Park in February 2007. 

John Healy wrote two telling books one as Austin writes and the second ‘Nobody shouted Stop’. The death of an Irish town. The town in question was Charlestown. I had both of these books a long time ago but I gave the loan of them and I don’t have them anymore!   


The Business Emperors make inroads in the Second and Fourth Estates.

A writer before the French Revolution framed society in The Ancién Regime of France as divided into three sections or estates, they being; 1. Clergy. 2. Nobility and 3. Commoners. These have been updated as four estates currently, as 1. Executive. 2. Legislature. 3. Judiciary. 4. Media.   

Pat McDonagh regularly injects himself into the 4th estate. Recently I heard him wax lyrical about ending some Government supports so that his employees ‘can’ return to work. To work especially in his low wage economy to bolster his gung ho business. (Pat forgot that there was a way of doing this by himself paying his employees a tad or more than the Government supports.) But maybe we should just pass on that. If you read this Pat take a break as these are shaky times and your statue could easily come into the sights of the emerging anarchists which are such a force in the U.S.

Add in the facts that people are now getting on their bicycles and weighing scales and going through a period called ‘Operation Transformation’ and questioning a phenomena called DIET. And Pat if Diet becomes populist and the anarchists look around for targets then Supermac’s may need to rebrand to ‘Superman’s’ to fend off the jokers. Take a few months in isolation from the 4th estate in your own estate. It is also called cocooning and maybe you could emerge as a butterfly.

While I’m at It

Another Estate i.e. number 2 -the Legislature- also had an incision from the ‘Emperors of Business’ or their Bismarck. Lazily looking at some discussion in the Dáil who do I see, comfortable and very much at home, in the Taoiseach’s seat only Daniel McCoy? Who? I hear you ask. Maybe you’ve mistaken him and it is Micheál Martin. No I reassure you it was the real McCoy. Well Daniel felt as much at home as he might be in the Horseshoe Bar in the Shelbourne. I was there once for educational purposes. I walked in pre rugby match as smartly as the throng allowed, hung a left took a kind of forced twirl and out again.

Well I did not linger with McCoy who now has a story to tell of his day in the Dáil. I expected to see Tom Parlon but he was probably out enforcing social distancing on building sites. Anyway being in the Dáil wouldn’t be news to Tom, just another brick in the wall. 


The View’s Poem Selection for this time.

The birds seem to be having a decent time as they have pretty audible these past months. While on the bog the call of the cuckoo resonated. It reminded me of another of the great nature poems of Wordsworth and I add it here. It is a bit long (I get paid by the word) but you do not have to read it all!

  To the Cuckoo

O blithe New-comer! I have heard,

I hear thee and rejoice.

O Cuckoo! shall I call thee Bird,

Or but a wandering Voice?


While I am lying on the grass

Thy twofold shout I hear;

From hill to hill it seems to pass,

At once far off, and near.


Though babbling only to the Vale

Of sunshine and of flowers,

Thou bringest unto me a tale

Of visionary hours.


Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring!

Even yet thou art to me

No bird, but an invisible thing,

A voice, a mystery;


The same whom in my school-boy days

I listened to; that Cry

Which made me look a thousand ways

In bush, and tree, and sky.


To seek thee did I often rove

Through woods and on the green;

And thou wert still a hope, a love;

Still longed for, never seen.


And I can listen to thee yet;

Can lie upon the plain

And listen, till I do beget

That golden time again.


O blessèd Bird! the earth we pace

Again appears to be

An unsubstantial, faery place;

That is fit home for Thee!


Take care and may your gods go with you.





Thursday, June 4, 2020

Update 5th June

The Successful Turf Campaign of 2020
In the environs of Athleague, close to my home place of Castlecoote, a number of farmers used to grow beet/sugar beet for the Sugar factory in Tuam. The harvesting and delivery of the beet to the factory was referred to as ‘the beet campaign’ by its participants.
I referred to the traditional turf cutting ‘campaign’ of the fifties here last time with some references to the struggle to get the product out of the bog and home.

 I’ll treat here of part two of that campaign:  saving and bringing home the turf in these modern times.

I got three runs of turf this year. I know that many people refer to ‘hoppers’ of turf as a standard imperial measurement and I could probably translate my ‘runs’ into ‘hoppers’ but why bother?
My Commissar for turf has been my link to the turf mines for a good few years now. The turf was spread in my designated patch around Easter time. The weather through April was really perfect for advancing the drying process which it did. So after an inspection of the possibilities in late April, a concentrated attack was made on ‘footing’ the turf on Sunday, May 3rd. Covid social distancing was easily introduced to the bog for the duration, with our small retinue. Indeed, the Covid19 trauma was not a significant issue in this project apart from reducing the accessible labour force. They were there for the initiation day of ‘footing’ the turf. I really thought that this would be a stressful day of hand digging the individual sods (sads) with the hands but no, it responded well and was just properly cooked to facilitate the construction of decent ‘footings’. There are different styles of ‘footings’. One style just puts the long sods on their end and creating a rough tepee shape. The classic style in this region is a kind of Jenga with two on two on two until the structure reaches just short of being unstable. This can be strengthened by supporting long sods placed vertically on each side.

In the fifties/sixties, we used to toss/turn the turf and maybe turn it a second time. In good weather then, one could just put clumps of turf in a small heap tiling it with sods to ensure that rain ran off the heap. Then these small heaps were put into clamps especially if there was a danger that the turf might not be taken off the bog for a considerable period. In these clamps turf kinda seasoned better.  The best place to dry turf is, of course, ‘on the bog’. Turf once clamped was regarded as safe.

Recently a senior man told me that some years ago he had taken the first two loads of three home in early June and that he took the third load home in October. By that stage, it might have become ‘green’ turf with the green coming from the colour that emerged from the moss algae that had attached to it due to the wet weather. In a pub quiz in the winter of the 80s’ I asked the question; ‘What product cannot be burned?” The prescribed answer was aluminium which melts as opposed to burns. One answer that returned was; ‘Last summer’s turf”
I digress. I was pleasantly surprised we completed the ‘footing’ element of the ‘turf-saving’ that Sunday afternoon.
With the weather being so good I began to feel that an assessment trip was sensible in the middle of May, just two weeks later. The five-mile restriction was elasticised and the possibility that turf saving qualified as an ‘essential’ labour was posited as a defence. Anyway, the assessment showed that the turf needed some more time on the oven before the wheels of taking away were put in motion. A second assessment, nearly a week later, demonstrated the weakness of the Jenga technique as the bottom sods were proving very stubborn along with a sprinkling of batch loaf style sods. This required the bottom to the top restructuring in ray or re-footing a certain amount of the crop. Some brittle material was cherry-picked into heaps for self-preservation.
Then it was trailer-on–the-bog-time. When my haulier announced that he had ‘dropped’ a trailer on my bank I knew that I had to get a body part into motion. I was quick to realise that the time was nigh. This was reinforced with a weather forecast of wind and rain. So that carriage was filled with low hanging sods and roughly covered to confront the coming rain.

The slight storm passed and some remedial adjustments were again made to the crop and the first load was deposited in Forest View. The turf store had been prepared by removal of debris from last season and it was the fate of some large un-split blocks to be buried for another year.

The real test was a big trailer which was a tough filling job but knocked a real hole on the quantity of turf remaining. If the summer turned sour when that was home the winter fuel requirement was, for the most part, in credit. That was a Saturday, May 30th.

That day Tonroe bog looked like a scene from Dunkirk with tractors and trailers, horse and cattle boxes, small car trailers, a dumper or two, front-loading forks for ‘bales’ of turf and digger buckets. All modes of conveyance were brought to bear on the turf banks with small groups filling them with serious intent as if to escape some pending hurricane. The sight of cars on the turf bank highlighted the top condition of the terrain. It was no John Hinde picture card of a donkey with balancing creels and a red-headed Connemara Collen and her freckled-faced brother. The weather continued and the turf loads raised the dust on the narrow bog road as the traffic lined up as if competing for flight slots. It has to be said also that the camaraderie, goodwill and consideration on the narrow exit road were of the highest order.
The ‘big’ trailer was home and its cargo deposited in its store. This left just a third, final and lesser trip. There was no discrimination this time as the loaf style and stubborn ‘bottom’ sods were hand-shovelled onto the transporter. This was topped off with the ragged timber pallets that had expedited the process around depressions on the bank. The neighbour now had a full runway to work with as the Conboy bank was clear and clean.

The turf campaign of 2020 was over. This year it was short, sharp and successful. It was just the first days of June and the December fires were secure.