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Frankly Speaking

Frankly Speaking

Fr Larry’s arrival reflects tides of change in Church

It’s Monday evening and normally this piece would be well and truly finished and I would be either getting ready to go on my nightly walk or I would already have it done.

Sadly we have spent the week stripping aeroboard off the ceiling of the shop (Lynn Antiques) in Athlone and so – unusually – I have actually been busy during the day and never got the time to put my new emailing skills to the test until this unearthly hour.

Now I don’t know how many of you have ever stripped aeroboard off any wall or ceiling, but I can assure you that it’s a most horrible job and no matter what you do, little bits of white stuff will get into every possible hiding place – and so I’ve done more hoovering and sweeping and cleaning this past week than I’ve ever done at any time in my previous life.

The good news is that we finally got it finished today and so next week I should be back to whatever my normal is.

Anyway after the dinner this evening I got a chance to have a quick look at Billy Keane’s weekly column in the Irish Independent and he was writing about a wedding ceremony that he attended in a local Kerry Church some time in the recent past.

The Celebrant was a Fr. Pat Moore, a Listowel native, just like Billy, and a former classmate in St. Michael’s School, in the north Kerry town. Once upon a time that would have been a very normal state of affairs but in this era of almost no vocations and as priests keep retiring without anyone to replace them, parishes are being forced to share priests with other parishes and in other cases having to reduce the number of Masses that are being said.

So this week, I was very interested to read in our local parish newsletter at Sunday’s Mass that from next Friday we have a new parish priest, Fr. Larry Ebuk, who is a member of the Missionaries of St. Paul, a religious congregation founded in Nigeria by the St. Patrick Kiltegan Fathers Missionaries.

So you could say the wheel has turned full circle, and now, after our forefathers, including my own uncle, Fr. Pat, brought Christianity to countries all over the world as we face up to the fact that the numbers of vocations are substantially down, we are reaping the rewards of those pioneers and their untiring efforts and thanks to their willingness to travel to the ends of the earth, we now welcome Fr. Larry into our midst.

I don’t imagine any of the early missionaries could ever have foreseen that at some point in the future those countries would be producing many more priests than we are to the point that they are nowadays keeping some of our parishes alive.

Anyway, it’s good to welcome Fr. Larry to Kilbegnet and Glinsk, and we can only hope he settles well in the community and has a long happy stay with us.

Was Mr Right Mr Wrong for Cheryl?

Two years ago the beautiful woman that most of us know as Cheryl Cole got married to a French playboy, known as J.B., but who was in reality a 33-year-old Jean Bernard, a man who apparently never had a job of any description.

A friend of his from his younger days said he used to have a philosophy that we all have to relax and enjoy our lives and his priority was having fun and partying.

However, despite his track record of no work and much partying, poor (maybe she wasn’t then but she will be now) little Cheryl was so sure he was Mr. Right that she didn’t bother about a pre-nuptial agreement and said at the time that she knew what she was doing and marrying the French playboy was what was right for her.

Today it seems that the two-year-old marriage is at an end and reports in the papers suggest that not having the pre-nup in place will cost the former Girls Aloud singer ten million pounds sterling. I’d safely say that the next Mr. Right that comes along will see a little piece of paper put in front of him and if he’s able to, he will be invited to either sign it or mark his X. Once bitten twice shy.

Anyway it’s a lesson for us all and if I ever walk down the aisle again – highly unlikely, according to Carol – I will take every step to protect the many millions that I have in my little tin can. I’ll make sure no one will ever get their hands on it!

Farewell to two local sporting greats

In a relatively small area like our province of Connacht, it’s a rare enough thing to have any sporting superstar, so its a particularly sad start to the New Year when we’ve said goodbye to not one but two such sportstars, with the deaths of Roscommon’s great Gerry O’Malley and the wonderful Galway golfer, Christy O’Connor Junior.

I never met the St. Brigid’s clubman, but in my young days he was right up there with the heroes of the time and is universally recognised as probably the best footballer who was never to win an All-Ireland.

He did however win an All-Ireland medal with the Roscommon hurlers and judging by the many tributes that have been written and said about him, both locally and nationally, his legacy will never be forgotten.

As for Christy, he was responsible for one of those sporting moments that we will never forget, with the famous two iron shot to the green in The Belfry, which won the Ryder Cup for Europe in 1989, but there was much more to the Galway man than that and his legacy will be that in a sport that is often played by people – like Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie – who look as if they have the cares of the world on their shoulders, he always played with a smile on his face and still managed to carve out an incredibly successful career for himself.

He was well-known for his love of a pint and of music and he played the spoons pretty well. One of his great off-the-course achievements was teaching the great Spaniard, Seve Ballesteros, to master the aforementioned spoons during a session after one of Christy’s tour victories.

I’m not sure how good Seve was, but if he didn’t make it, it wasn’t Christy’s fault. Both of these great Connacht men truly belonged in the area of legends and will be greatly missed. May they rest in peace.

Till next week, Bye for now

Water, water, and more water

It’s Monday 4th January, and to all intents and purposes it’s all over, (that is the Christmas), but as I make my way to work the one thing that hasn’t stopped is the rain.

  The floods are everywhere; fields that once were ordinary agricultural land are now more like lakes and no matter where you look as you are driving along, all you see is water, water, and more water.

  There is a minor inconvenience for us heading to Athlone, that the road from Athleague over Scrine Hill is closed due to the flooding and so we have to take a little detour, through Four Roads and on through Curraghboy and into Athlone, and for a minute or two, I have to admit that I was a little bit sorry for myself until I heard the news on the radio and I thought of all the hundreds, if not thousands of our normal everyday citizens who have endured unbelievable hardship over the last three or four weeks and whose Christmases were literally a wash out.

  To lose your home to flood waters must be one of the worst things imaginable and it is widely accepted that houses that have been destroyed by water will never recover! I’m not going to heap more misery on people already suffering enough by saying what can be the effects of flood damage, as I’m sure they already know too well. All I can do is wish them all well and hope the new year brings some relief, and let’s pray that the government, whoever makes it up, will react properly to this almost regular emergency and they will spend whatever money is needed to ensure this appalling disaster never happens again.

  Anyway back to the Christmas and after the dinner on Christmas day, it was full steam ahead, getting ready for the annual Barrie Harris walk on Stephen’s day - that really meant eating as much as I possibly could (I never drink any alcohol on Christmas day), so I’d have the required energy to complete the up, down, and round the mountain course. The day itself dawned fresh and dry, and I headed off on my own at 10 am. - I go on my own because I don’t like holding up other walkers and as the real walk starts at 12.30 pm. it means there are usually only a handful out at that early hour, and I can stroll around at peace and at my leisure. 

 On my way young Sean Roarke took pity on me and my well worn walking stick and he presented me with a fabulous new mountain ash one, cut on their own land and armed with the new stick, it didn’t take me long to make it to the pit stop at Mary D’s  - there all the usual ladies were all ready with the tea, scones, cake, buns, and hot whiskeys and it wouldn’t have been hard to park there for the day and take up his annual offer of a lift home from Jack the lower.  However I stayed strong, had only one cup of tea, two scones, and one fruit bun, before I retrieved my new stick and headed back to the village  - by now it was the proper time to start the walk and to my great delight the crowd was absolutely massive. It goes without saying that the after walk celebrations in Mikeen’s were as good as ever and nowadays, it would be very hard to imagine Creggs without the annual St. Stephen’s Barrie Harris walk.

  Socially that was pretty much it until New Year’s eve, which every year happens to be my wife Carol’s birthday, amazingly since she was born and this year our children (some of them are now older than we are) sent us off to the Hotel Newport over there in Co. Mayo for the big night. They came as well and so a party of eight headed off for the western seaboard on Friday afternoon and we were not disappointed.

  You may recall that I told you in the summer about myself and Carol spending a night or two in the hotel, which had recently been acquired by Kilteevan native, Peter Kilmartin and how we were treated so well by the entire staff but, especially by the general manager, Michelle Murphy - well this time it was even better and we had a night there that we will never forget.

  The hotel had a New Years Eve ball, complete with cocktail reception, 5 course scrumptious meal, music by the Lightening Strikes band, followed by a disco and as a package it couldn’t have been bettered - We had great fun but I’m getting old because I was in bed many hours before the rest of the crew called a halt.

 I told you before but if you find yourself looking for a special, friendly place to go to for a little break, head out to the Hotel Newport, and tell Michelle the mad Creggs man sent you - if she lets you in (she might not) you will find out for yourself what makes this small rural hotel such a lovely welcoming haven.

Till next week, bye for now

 

Getting the sack, turkey-gate and my version of ‘Frozen’ – ah, those fond Christmas memories!

Once upon a time, in one of my many jobs, I was a salesman for a specialist bed manufacturing company who made electric beds which could be lowered or heightened to suit the needs of whoever might be sleeping in them. Because of their nature they were aimed at the older, more infirm – and presumably wealthier – section of society.

  I cannot say who the company was, because when I tell you how their sales pitch operated, I’d surely be in the High Court. The beds were very expensive – let’s say €5000 – and the first pitch was to try and sell it at the full price. If you could get a sale at that figure, the salesperson would be rewarded with something like a portable telly or a computer (never got one) or some other inducements. However there were a few other figures you could sell at, all the way down to about half the original price, that meant at worst-case scenario you could actually sell at €2,500! However as you lowered your price, your commission also got lowered, ‘till eventually at the lowest allowable sale price you got nothing at all.

  And so, one Christmas, to inspire the salesforce for greater efforts in the New Year, the company brought over one of their hot-shot super-successful salespeople all the way from America and he spoke to us all in Buswell’s Hotel up in Dublin. Unfortunately for me (maybe fortunately) I had been out for a few Christmas drinks the night before and neither my enthusiasm or my attention was at the required level. As the great man roared and ranted at us and explained how he was so wonderful at his horrible job, I fell asleep – and, as Carol (and John Crean and Jack the Lower) will tell you – when I snore, the whole room shakes.

  Anyway, fairly soon my snoring started and apparently it got louder and louder ‘till at last Mister hot-shot could take no more and he shook me roughly to wake me up. ‘Mr Brandon’ (that’s me, in case you’ve lost me) he shouted, ‘you are not paying attention and if you don’t show more interest I will have to ask you to leave not only this meeting, but the entire company.’

  By now I had realised that I didn’t like either him or his company, so I told him what I thought of him and what he could do with his job. Christmas was only a day or two away and I had got the sack. Not Santa’s sack – but the one which meant I didn’t have a whole lot to look forward to in the New Year.

  But of course Christmas is such a special time of the year that we carry on regardless. I have to say in my life, although I’ve had some good things happen in the run-up to the festive season, I have also had my share of unwelcome drama.

  By a strange coincidence, the town of Ballyhaunis in Co. Mayo features in a couple of unwelcome Christmas memories, each of them associated with my time as proprietor of the Country Furniture store. One time I sold a three-piece suite to a couple on the Knock Road and I said I would deliver it the day before Christmas Eve, the plan being that when I got paid for it I’d have a ball of money for the holidays. Sadly, we couldn’t get it in the door. We tried the windows, the back door and the front door. I was so desperate I’d have put it in the neighbour’s house, but it was all to no avail. The suite had to come home and it was chicken for dinner that year (only joking, we had bacon). 

  Another year, also in the run-in to Christmas, I had another delivery, this time to a pub on the narrow street you pass through before you get to the Main Street. Now while I’m a passable enough driver, I wouldn’t be the Stig or Lewis Hamilton, and unfortunately in my efforts to park I forgot about the height of my truck and took the sign for the pub clean out of it.

  This time I came into Ballyhaunis about £200 in credit – when the bill for the new sign arrived shortly into the New Year, it was for £800, so that trip netted me minus £600.

  For some reason, when I go to Knock I start to shake after Ballinlough, and it doesn’t stop ‘till I’m safe in the magnificent Basilica – must be something to do with my previous experiences in Ballyhaunis. 

  However I’ve also had some good Christmas happenings, the best of which I’ve told you about before, when I won a 26lb turkey in Jimmy’s Christmas Draw in Dundalk and thumbed all the way home on Christmas Eve with the huge turkey over my shoulder. I never thanked all the people who let me and the turkey into their cars, and even though it’s almost 40 years ago, if you were one of them I’m thanking you now.

  Another not so pleasant memory of a Christmas Day was one when the children were young. Because the pipe bringing the water into the house was frozen solid, we hadn’t a drop to do any of the normal chores – like wash the dishes or the kids or even go to the loo. That wouldn’t be great on any ordinary day, but on Christmas Day it was a catastrophe.

  However, when the going gets tough the tough get going and so, armed with a vice grip and a packet of firelighters (the pipe was overground, which was why it was frozen in the first place, which fact was pointed out to me several times) I spent hours heating up the pipe ‘till some time in the late evening I got that precious liquid flowing. Never was a drop of water so welcome and thank God I heard this morning that temperatures will be in the low teens this 25th of December, so whatever problems we have, frozen pipes won’t be one of them.

Happy Christmas

Anyway, this Christmas is almost upon us, and so far I’ve been drama-free! I only hope it stays that way, not only for me, but also for you. 

  As this is my final piece for this year I just want to wish you all a Happy Christmas and New Year and hopefully you’ll make it in one piece through the festive season.

  Don’t overdo the eating and the drinking but if you do come to Creggs on Stephen’s Day, do the Barrie Harris Walk, get rid of some of the excess calories, then put them back on at the afternoon session in Mikeen’s, contribute to a number of great causes and have a great day’s fun!

  Happy Christmas one and see all see you in 2016. 

‘Till next year, Bye for now 

Floods and fighting: a tale of the heroic and ‘The Notorious’

There are times when you – or at least I – would struggle to make sense of this thing that we call life, and occasionally it’s very hard to understand how and why the cards are dealt the way they are. I am writing this on a very wet, miserable Monday morning (are there any other kind, says you).

Going through the morning papers and listening to the news on the local and national radio stations, it’s hard to equate the emotions that different Irish people are feeling all round the country as they face into the Christmas countdown.

On one hand we have the amazing Conor McGregor story, a man who in the early hours of Sunday morning, in the MGM in Las Vegas, became arguably one of the greatest Irish sportstars of all time, with his 13-second destruction of previously unbeaten 10-year-world UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo – and in the process set himself on the way to becoming a sporting billionaire.

When you consider, that only a week or so before, another (more or less) Irishman, Tyson Fury, was also becoming a world champion – this time in heavyweight boxing and also opening the door to unimaginable riches – it’s been an extraordinary couple of weeks for Irish sport.

And, lest you think I am in any way begrudging of these successes, I most certainly am not and I rejoice, as any Irish person would, in their achievements. On the other hand however (I know it took me long enough to get to it) on Saturday night all over the country we had whole communities, hundreds, maybe thousands, of people working all through the night trying, in some cases in vain, to keep raging floodwaters out of their homes and businesses.

Now of course it wasn’t only last Saturday night that those efforts were going on. For a full week we have seen all these communities pulling together, helping each other and bringing us back to the days of the ‘meitheal’ – and yet despite their trojan and heroic efforts, many families will be forced out of their homes this Christmas and facing into very uncertain futures. On our own doorstep, the people of Athleague (this is my third time to write about Athleague in a couple of months) have been up against it trying to protect themselves and their homes and businesses – and there too we have seen an enormous community effort.

So far they have managed to keep the floodwaters at bay. And yet a regular reader of this column reminded me this morning that, despite the apparent success of their effort, none of us realise how close Athleague (and many other such villages) came to actually closing down forever.

Pubs, shops, restaurants, in fact all businesses, have lost out on a major portion of the Christmas trading period, and the reader in question and I yet again want to emphasise the importance of supporting local business. We will never know how much they mean to us all until they are gone. I am of course well aware of the bargains we can get in the Aldi and Lidls of this world – and in the present economic climate no one could be blamed for going to them. But, and I know I’ve said it before, save a bit for your local shopkeeper who, after all, is also your neighbour and friend.

As for the people in Athleague, well done on such a Herculean, effort but also remember to help your village by supporting the many thriving businesses that you have there now – it’s up to you to keep them there! Going back to McGregor, and I make no secret of the fact that I have very little time for his actual sport, but I like McGregor and admire what he has done to get to where he is today, and he definitely has a number of fans in my house.

I went to bed on Saturday night early enough (wasn’t out) and was sleeping the sleep of the just (and the sober) when an almighty roar nearly knocked me right out of the bed. I thought the roof must have caved in, but after a few confused moments (thank God I wasn’t drinking), I realised it was only Paul, my son, who was celebrating the stunning knockout blow and the extraordinary result. That was the end of my rest for that night, so while McGregor put Aldo to sleep, he ruined mine!

Return of The Corrs

Changing subjects entirely, and you will know by now that I am a fan of Late Late host Ryan Tubridy, but normally not of the Late Late Show!

However, last Friday night (I really had a quiet weekend), I thought he had one of his best shows of the year, and for a change, he had what we would call A-list guests, actors Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, golfer Shane Lowry and Baz whatever his name is. (Editor: It’s Baz Ashmawy, admittedly not a common name in Creggs).

In their own way they were all interesting and entertaining, but for me it was the re-emergence of The Corrs that made the night. Funny enough, I wasn’t their biggest fan when they were at their peak, although I certainly liked their music, but a recent interview with Jim, in which he was very open about his battle with financial institutions, along with his battle with the booze, made me interested in the family group and it was great to see them back together after a ten-year absence.

What the future holds for them, or any of us, no one knows, but even in their short appearance on the Late Late it was easy to see how talented they are and I hope, this time around, they get the success they deserve and this time without the drama that obviously caused them problems in the past.

And finally…

Finally for this week, I’m told the best ever Senior Citizens Party took place on Sunday last in our local parochial hall, when more than ninety of our parishioners were wined and dined and musically entertained, all at no expense to them. So a big well done and thank you to all the members of the hard-working committee who made it a day to remember.

In case you’re wondering, I’m still ‘underage’, but I’m closing in on the day when I’m an official member, although, in fairness, age makes no difference when it comes to the organisers of the Christmas party. All are welcomed with open arms.

‘Till next week, Bye for now

Storm Desmond no match for our special night of memories and celebrations

When you live, as I and a lot of the readers of this newspaper do, in rural Ireland, you get sort of sick at the constant stream of negativity that keeps coming our way regarding the apparently irreversible mortal decline of our parishes and villages, and the feeling that, like it or not, we can do very little about it.

However, sometimes something special can happen in an area, which can lift all our spirits, and out here in Creggs such a thing happened on Saturday night when the local GAA club launched its Sporting Times book, a history of the club over more than a hundred years.

Now, as we all remember, Saturday night was one of those nights that you wouldn’t let the dog out (in fact our pup, Hope, turned straight back the second she got to the front door, and refused to budge) and yet despite roads that were only fit for dingies and boats, an amazing crowd turned up for the launch, which was performed most efficiently – and entertainingly – by the new joint Roscommon football manager, Kevin McStay. Creggs GAA club is first recorded as being in existence around 1890, but was officially affiliated in 1941, and pretty much everything that has happened since then and before is documented in what is a wonderful production.

I have deliberately called it a ‘production’, because it is much more than a book, and has some of the most entertaining stories you will ever read – you don’t have to be from Creggs to appreciate it, because the stories, and memories, will resonate with everyone who ever played at any level for any football club, large or small.

For a long time now, all of us who weren’t really involved, were aware that some people were working on this book, but I would have to admit that none of us could have possibly imagined the quality of the finished article, and we are all justifiably proud of what has been produced.

Five people – Marty Duffy, Pauline Scott (Gavin), Gerry Keegan, my brother Sean (we usually call him Duff, but for important things I’ll give him his full title), and the Roscommon People’s own Martina, who got me to go email, were the driving forces behind this venture and all are to be congratulated for the way their efforts turned out.

As I said at the start, we are nearly conditioned to accepting that all is doom and gloom, but on Saturday night there was an air of pride in our little village that was a joy to experience. And as we reflected on Sporting Times, I think we all realised that we have people in our midst who should be national treasures, men like Mick Roarke, Noel Hanley, Harry Connolly, Micky Hurley, Seamus Keane and Sean (Bags) Keegan, who entertained us all with two brilliant recitations, and never missed a word.

All of those men won junior county medals in 1956, and some of them still look as if they could line out in this year’s championship. Also in attendance were two men who are definitely candidates for the imaginary titles of honorary Creggs men, Oran’s Padraig Whyte and Castlerea’s Danny Burke, while on a personal note I was delighted to meet up with Andy Quinn, one of our great players in the seventies, who, against all the odds, managed to make it all the way from Dundalk.

Without going into full details, he was a lot luckier to make it home on Christmas Eve 1974, when I did the driving, but that story is for another time. Galway Bay star, and our own parishioner, John Mulligan, was superb as MC on the night, and, all told, it was something that I will cherish for many a long year.

My last reflection on the event is that Roscommon have a very good management team in place for the coming year, and I was very impressed with the way Kevin McStay informed all the Rossie supporters in the crowd (all of us Galway followers kept suitably quiet) as to what they were doing, and how they were doing it, and he asked people to come out in big numbers and support their team in the big Division One games coming up in the New Year.

I must say that the signs are good and if the management continue to engage with the fans in the future, I can foresee a very successful season for the Rossies, and their supporters will no doubt flock in their thousands to cheer on the wearers of the primrose and blue.

A good news story

Changing subjects entirely, and while I agree with all who say that losing the A&E in Roscommon Hospital was – and is – an absolute disgrace and a disaster, at the same time many good things are taking place out there, and recently I have had the benefit of one of those things.

As part of my rehab for the bit of heart trouble I had recently, I have found myself every Tuesday morning in the cardiac section of the County Hospital, taking part in an exercise programme run by Rosemary Thorpe and Deirdre O’Reilly, and I can only say it has been a very positive and enjoyable experience.

I’m part of a regular class that gets put through our paces every week. Al of us have had some type of work carried out on the old ticker, so none of us are likely to be on the Olympic team for Rio, but it’s been good fun, very beneficial.

All our movements are monitored by the machines we are wired up to, and, in truth, up ‘till now I didn’t know such a facility existed. The two ladies do a brilliant job. I hope you never need to get there, but if you do, you’ll be in good hands!

And finally…

Finally for this week, just to remind you that the best social occasion of the year, the Senior Citizens Party (not confined to senior citizens, open to all) takes place in St. Mary’s Hall, Kilbegnet next Sunday, 13th of December at 2 pm, so don’t say you weren’t told. Get on your bike (not literally) and get yourself to the hall on Sunday, and, as Jack Charlton would say, give it a lash.

‘Till next week, Bye for now

Death of a good guy – could it have been avoided?

It’s almost certain that nobody reading this piece will have known Eamon Drew, and what’s worse, is the fact that you will never get to know him now, because last Thursday, at around dinner-time, Eamon suffered a massive heart attack and sadly passed away.

It could in some ways have been worse, as he was driving a jeep at the time of the attack and fortunately, though he did hit a wall, he didn’t collide with either any other motorist or any other type of road user.

It’s hard to know why I feel compelled to write about Eamon, because at first glance you would say there was nothing special about him.

Just an ordinary everyday type of fellow, but for me he was the salt of the earth – happily single, loved his few pints (sometimes more than a few), had an odd flutter on the horses, worked very hard, if hungover could be a bit tempermental, but most times in good humour and was, generally, a good guy.

He would always say to me that I made him laugh and indeed we had some great craic, and for the last few years we were always going to meet for “one or two” in his local, Gunning’s in Rathconrath. Needless to say it won’t happen now, and I have to admit that I am very sad that it won’t.

You will probably have figured by now that Eamon worked with us at Lynn Antiques, and the place will definitely not be the same without him, but what’s bothering me this morning is whether or not he should be dead at all.

He was a young 66 years old, but apparently last week he had what he himself described as a weakness. Now everyone told him to go to the doctor, and maybe he did, although I doubt it, because men don’t want to talk to doctors, but what hit a chord with me was that I too got a weakness and at the time I also did nothing about it.

I got mine at a football match in April, and John Small, our trainer, saved me from hitting my head off an iron gate, and maybe hurting myself badly; subsequent events proved that I had a problem with the ticker, and now I have a load of stents inserted, which will hopefully keep me overground for another little (maybe not so little) while.

But even though I knew at the time that there must be something not fully right, I decided to ignore it and put it down to “one of those things.” And so while I know it’s too late for Eamon, and not knowing for sure that he didn’t go to the doctor, I must urge everyone out there, not only men, to heed the signs and not ignore any warnings that your body may give you.

Usually if something unusual occurs there’s a reason for it, so it’s only right to check it out. As for Eamon, I will have a pint in Gunning’s, sadly without him, when we gather to say goodbye to him. He was one of the good ones, and I always looked forward to meeting him. May he rest in peace.

On the road with…

On a lighter note (don’t tell Carol) I think I have fallen for another woman. However, before we head for the divorce courts, it’s only in the musical sense, and, she’ll have to put up with me for a while yet.

The girl I’ve fallen for, although she doesn’t know it yet, lucky her, is country singer Lisa McHugh, and her show ‘On the road with Lisa’ which goes out on Irish TV, is an absolute delight, and not to be missed.

This week she spent the day with singer Barry Doyle, who also performs as Farmer Dan, and the poor girl dosed sheep, filled and spread slurry, learned how to drive and reverse a big tractor (with a slurry tank in tow), cooked his lamb chops for breakfast and generally did stuff that you wouldn’t expect a top female country star to do.

The show was great fun, and if you have Irish TV make sure you tune in and see Lisa’s adventures with a lot of our major country artists.

As for me, if you happen to see her anywhere in the near future, don’t tell her about me; we’ll keep our little secret ‘till I meet her face to face.

Fury’s fortune, Connacht’s class

On to sporting matters, and it was a weekend when Tyson Fury, the son of an Irish traveller emigrant, became world heavyweight boxing champion, in an admittedly dreadful bout with previously unbeaten Russian, Wladamir Klitschko, celebrating by buying a second-hand caravan for about 4,000 stg.

He is reputed to have earned £7 million stg for the Saturday night fight. So heartiest congratulations to him; he has many more huge paydays coming, if he wants them. There is no limit to the number of caravans he can now buy!

However, back home in Ireland, pride of place had to go to the rugby players from Connacht who beat Munster in Thomond Park for the first time in 29 years. According to some papers on Sunday, Robbie Henshaw is definitely on his way to Leinster. You would hope that with the way the Western team is going, he might have second thoughts and stay with his native province.

Anyway, it was a great evening for Connacht, and the challenge now is for them to keep their standards up, and build on the foundations that previous coach, Eric Elwood, and now his Samoan successor, Pat Lam, have in place.

Here in Creggs, we have fond (maybe not so fond) memories of Jack the Higher, and my brother, the Rasher, (that translates to Jack Cunningham and Declan Brandon –but you should know that by now), who both played for Connacht at that level, and now we have the connection with present player, Denis Buckley, so we too can share in the glory of this marvellous victory.

Funny enough, our own local Creggs side are playing unbelieveably good and attractive rugby at the moment, and for the fourth week in a row, they secured a bonus point win, this time at the expense of a gallant Ballyhaunis side in The Green on Saturday night, so it’s good times all round.

The news from Creggs…

Back to local matters, and the 21st annual Barrie Harris Walk was launched in Mikeen’s, also on Saturday night, by local TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

I’m not going to tell you of the importance of this fundraiser again, but if someone (me included) asks you for a bit of sponsorship, put the hand in the pocket, and give a little something – you won’t miss it, and it will be of great help to someone less fortunate.

Also, the Senior Citizens Party is taking place on Sunday, December 13th in St. Mary’s Hall, Kilbegnet, and everyone is invited.

Thanks to the generosity of the Sheepdog Trials, Brian, from the Foroige club, and the Kilbegnet Drama Group, the organisers didn’t have to go selling tickets this year, but the party itself will be, as it always is, one of the great social days of the year – don’t miss it.

And finally…

Finally for this week, the big night for the local GAA club is on next Saturday night, when Kevin McStay launches their new book on the history of the club, in the school hall. Throw-in is at 9 pm and everyone is invited to attend. We will see you all there.

‘Till next week, Bye for now

Importance of supporting our local businesses

A few weeks ago, in one of these weekly pieces, I was delighted to write about the manner in which the village of Athleague was, if you like, fighting back against the nationwide rural demise, and amongst the many positive bits of news was the fact that Applegreen were about to take over, and re-open, the petrol station on the Roscommon road.

However the local papers last week carried advertisements placing the newly-acquired business for sale, which would immediately set alarm bells ringing and begs the question why it would be beneficial for the Applegreen people to sell the Athleague station so quickly.

I’m told they bought ten such stations around the same time, all over the country, and they are also offloading one outside Westport, so I have to assume those two purchases have proved less successful than they would have hoped for.

Why that has happened, obviously I have no idea, but I suppose the message must be the same to everyone in the local catchment area – whether it’s sold or not, local businesses need to be supported, and it’s only when they are gone that we realise how much we miss them.

Up here in Athlone, a while ago the media carried stories about the proprietor of a local shop, The Cova, which is situated just as you hit the motorway off the Ballymahon road – and it reported how the owner had been viciously assaulted in the course of the third robbery in a matter of months: sadly that business is now closed, and, whatever the reason, another small family business has bit the dust.

Now I realise the circumstances are not the same, but too many local ventures are failing and it’s up to us to do our bit to try and prevent such happenings, and with Christmas coming let’s keep a little bit for our own local shopkeepers.

The ugly truth

Changing subjects entirely, and, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which may explain why a riot broke out in Zimbabwe last week over the result of a Mr Ugly contest, in which the winner, 42-year-old Mison Sere, was branded as too good looking by supporters of the former three-time champion, William Masinvu.

The judges were mobbed by the loser, and his followers, who claimed Sere only won because he was missing so many of his front teeth.

Masinvu claimed that he was naturally ugly, while the winner was ugly only when he opened his mouth! I haven’t seen any pictures of the runner-up, but based on what I’ve seen, Sere seems to be a worthy winner and is ugly enough to deserve his 500 dollar prize. I told you last week about the hurdy-gurdy men, and the Punch and Judy shows, who used come to the local schools when I was a child, and how we used enjoy them!

Well it seems Mr Ugly is visiting schools in Zimbabwe, showcasing his ugliness, and he’s looking forward to using that as a stepping stone to a lucrative TV career. It just goes to show that there’s always a way, and even if you’re like the back of a bus, don’t give up –I know it’s a long way away, but you could always hit the big time in Zimbabwe.

What’s happened to Barbie?

I didn’t see the TV3 toy show last Friday night, as I was in the hall, but earlier in the evening, as I was tucking into the dinner, I saw a six-year-old girl, who was featuring on the show, being asked what she had asked Santa for for Christmas, and I was saddened when she said she had asked for an iPad (at six years of age). What’s happened to Barbie, or a different doll, or skates, or a kitchen set – anything other than a technological gadget?

Great entertainment

Being a star in Zimbabwe is one thing, but last Friday night we had several local stars in action in the parochial hall in Kilbegnet, when the local drama group staged AJ Stanley’s three-act play, ‘Troubled Bachelors’.

Now I have long been an advocate of locally-based entertainment and I can only say that the Larry Donoghue-produced play was just brilliant, and every one of the cast was quite superb.

It’s probably not fair to mention any one member, but the performance of Seamus Keane was on a par with anything you would see from any professional actor in any setting, and the whole offering was great.

The good news is that, if you missed it, don’t fret, as it’s all on again this Friday night, 27th November at 8.30 pm in the same venue. All I can say is don’t miss it – it’s great craic, and well worth a visit.

Launch of Barrie Harris Walk

Anyway, back to local matters, and next Saturday night the 21st annual Barrie Harris Walk is being launched in Mikeen’s, at 9.30 pm, and everyone is encouraged to come along, get your sponsorship cards, and make sure a huge amount is collected for all the many charities that benefit from the walk every year.

Hundreds of thousands of euro have been raised over the years, and so many charities have been supported, so let’s make a special effort for the 21st and make it one to remember. In the meantime, I’ll see you on Saturday night and we might even have a pint.

It’s all go on the local social scene at the moment, and on Saturday night, 5th of December the local GAA club are launching their long-awaited history of the club, in the school hall at 9 pm.

This has been a massive undertaking, and the end result will, I’m sure, be well worth waiting for! Everyone who ever had anything to do with the club (or even with any of the players) is invited to attend the launch, which is being done by the Roscommon football manager, Kevin McStay. The book will be on sale at €15, and by all accounts it’s a steal at it!

And finally…

Finally for this week, it’s been birthday after birthday out our way over the last few weeks, so, in Creggs, happy birthday (belated) to Tina Gavin (age unspecified), Laura Keegan (21st), Killian White and Michael Roarke (30 each), while over in Terry Leyden’s a few weeks ago, there was a huge crowd (including two senators, and a TD) for Indian Mick Larkin’s 60th birthday. Congrats to them all.

‘Til next week, Bye for now

We shouldn’t be playing important games in season of woolly scarves and caps

For the first time in a good four weeks, it’s wet, wild and miserable as I sit into the trusty old Volvo’s replacement (hopefully temporarily) on Monday morning.

I head for the not so welcoming building in Athlone where I busily (don’t believe that bit) pass most of the working week.

Lynn Antiques and Gallery are now the occupants of what used to be the old Adelphi Cinema, and in truth, even on the hottest summer’s day (what’s that, I hear you asking) it’s necessary to keep the jacket and jumper on.

So now that the winter looks to be, finally, on its way, I’ll be digging out the Long Johns and the woolly scarves and caps and getting ready for a spell of harsh, artic weather.

I’m not sure why the weather is on my mind all this morning but I think it’s because I watched part of the big Connacht Club match between Clann na nGael and Castlebar Mitchels which was played in Roscommon’s Hyde Park on yesterday afternoon (Sunday) and I pitied the players, on both sides, as they tried to play good football on a soggy pitch, where it looked to me as if the ball would barely bounce at all.

Anyone that ever played any sport would know that there is nothing as difficult as a surface where the ball almost gets stuck when it lands.

And while I know there’s a huge debate going on in the GAA regarding club versus county fixtures – and there is an effort being made to sort it out – it’s ridiculous that county finals and other important club games are still being played in the middle of November.

There’s a picture on the Irish Independent this Monday morning of the goalmouth in O’Moore’s park in Portlaoise where the home team hosted Kildare’s Sarsfields in a Leinster Club quarter-final, and it looked to me as if a small corner-forward could nearly be drowned or suffocated if he was to be upended in the square – anyways it’s all down to the fact that there are too many competitions and players are being asked to do way too much.

So something has to be done.

My TV review

Changing subjects, and over the weekend I found myself staying in on both Saturday and Sunday nights (and Friday as well) and so I had an unusual opportunity to watch what was on offer on our television screens.

I saw yesterday how some fellow went to jail rather than pay his TV licence fee of €160, and based on what I watched over the few nights, if his objection was related to the quality on offer, I’d have to say he was totally correct.

Friday night on RTE has for a good few years been dominated by ‘The Late Late Show’ and, in fairness, there has been many an occasion when we have seen shows of the highest order – comedy, controversy, music and chat that we saw on Friday night (and Saturday nights in the early years) have often kept it going till the following weekend’s show, and, in particular, Gaybo seemed to be able to attract the very best of national and international guests.

Sadly, Friday night’s show was, in my opinion, totally forgettable. So much so that I can’t remember any of the guests but, true to form, Corkman Graham Norton saved the day with his BBC show, featuring our own Michael Fassbender, actresses Julie Waters and Kate Winslet, rapper (and apparently actor) 50 Cent, and musical guest Ellie Goulding.

It’s hard to know what makes Norton so brilliant but even though, as a rule, I like Ryan Tubridy, the two shows were like chalk and cheese.

In fairness to Tubridy, and Ray D’Arcy on Saturday night, they do their best with second-rate guests and even Jonathan Ross – whom I watched on Saturday night – doesn’t come close to matching Norton for sheer fun and entertainment.

Ross had A-listers Joan Collins, Danny DeVito and actress Sheridan Smith and I’m told he was absolutely livid when his big musical act, Ariana Grande (who I had never heard of) didn’t turn up at all, but even with three excellent interviewees it didn’t come close to matching Graham Norton’s offering and it just confirmed, as far as I’m concerned, that the Corkman is out on his own.

On Sunday night we had The X Factor results. I missed some of Saturday night’s show – must have fallen asleep, while (I think it was the Sunday) I watched a lovely lady, Carol Kirkwood, getting voted off Strictly Come Dancing, I have to say that (as the reigning Creggs Harvest Festival waltzing champion, with my partner (dancing) Nora Connelly) I have seldom seen such a poor dancer.

How she lasted seven weeks is a complete mystery. I didn’t see Wee Daniel, but he must have had to have two left feet.

Talking of two left feet, Stetsons and Stilettos on Sunday evening was very enjoyable, and if any home-grown programmes saved the weekend for me, that one did, as it focused on loads of young country music followers all over Ireland who are learning how to jive and it culminated in the All- Ireland jiving finals in The Square in Monaghan town.

Table Quiz

I’m looking forward to watching the next episode on Sunday night next, but, thankfully, Tom Connelly is holding another Table Quiz for the ‘Ray of Sunshine’ charity in Dowd’s of Glinsk on Friday night at 9.30 pm – local man Batty Egan is heading out to Kenya to help build a number of houses for severely disadvantaged young Kenyans, and the table quiz at €20 for a table of four is to provide the funds to enable him to do so.

Tom is the quizmaster and also sets the questions, and he is asking for your support for a very worthy cause. I’ll be there. At least I won’t have to watch The Late Late Show.

And finally…

Finally, for this week, and staying with Dowd’s, last Wednesday night week we had the great pleasure and privilege of presenting the proceeds of our recent dance, which was also held in Dowd’s, to the representative of the two charities involved –Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid Fund.

Both of these charities do enormous work in helping so many sick and disabled people in or immediate area and it’s a great thing for all of us to get involved, to do some little thing to help them, even in a small way.

Thanks to everyone’s efforts and support we were able to hand over cheques for €1,850 each – a total of €3,700,

‘Til next week, Bye for now

Good ol’ country music on the rise once more

You will know by now – or if you don’t, you mustn’t pay much attention to my weekly ramblings – that I am a great follower of Irish country music, and I particularly like Mike Denver and his band, of which of course Sean ‘Bozo’ Moran, from Castlerea, is the long-time and very popular drummer.

I have told you before of great nights jiving at the Race Dance in the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon, to Mike and the boys, and it would remind you of the old carnival days (and nights) when literally hundreds upon hundreds of dancers would take to the maple floors of the marquees, which magically would spring up all over the country in every town, village and crossroads during the summer months.

Then, sadly the more sophisticated discos took over (although I had many a good nights crack in the forerunner of them all, Miss Ellie’s in the Royal) and I suppose the show bands bit the dust.

And, in truth, I never thought we would see the day when bands and their superstar lead singers would once again be pulling in the crowds to venues, including marquees all over the country.

Well, thankfully, it has happened once again. Last Friday night week, it was great to see that Dublin 4 and RTÉ finally recognised the unbelievable rise in popularity of good ‘ol’ country music’, by devoting a large section of The Late Late Show to showcasing the talents of several Irish country singers, both male and female.

Among the many stars on show were the new King of Country, Nathan Carter, and the new Queen, Lisa McHugh, but for me, it was the old stagers, Big Tom and Philomena Begley, who really stole the show, and it was great to see Big Tom in such good form, even though, as he said himself, he was only “about 55 per cent”.

He sang his huge local hit, Four Roads to Glenamaddy, and to be fair to him he sounded as good as ever, and practically every one on the show acknowledged that himself and the late Larry Cunningham paved the way for all the new kids on the block to reap the present rewards, and that without the efforts and hard work of Tom, Larry and others, might not have been there at all. I’m told that 1.3 million viewers tuned in to that Late Late Show, which brought it into Toy Show numbers, so it’s fairly safe to say that it will be done again in the near future.

And for the moment, it’s pretty obvious that country music is back on top of the heap – no doubt, because fashions come and go, it may all change further down the line, but as of now, get out the cowboy hats, and the jeans, and the boots, and head for one of the many country music venues that are cropping up all over the place, and have yourself a good ‘Old Country Jamboree’!

Tell them I sent you! Before I leave the subject of bands and music, back in the old days Ballintubber (the Roscommon One, not the Mayo one!) was home to two of Ireland’s top show bands, The Premier Aces and the Rhythm Stars.

And I ran into Sylvie one of the Treacy Brothers, who backbones the Rhythm Stars, a couple of weeks ago, and in view of the return of such bands as Ray Lynam and the Hillbillies, and Gina and the Champions, I asked him if there was any likelihood of a comeback by the Ballintubber band.

And the good news for all their followers is that he didn’t rule it out! I’m not saying it will definitely happen, but I wouldn’t rule it out completely – watch this space.

Finally the Government takes action on crime

Changing subjects entirely and, this Monday morning, the national papers are full of the news, that the gardaí are launching a high-profile operation aimed at tackling high-volume crimes, like burglaries, and putting the perpetrators of such crimes behind bars.

All right-minded people would applaud such a venture and hope it strikes a major blow against the gangs who are roaming the country, and robbing it blind.

After years of downgrading Garda resources, and closing some 140 Garda stations round the country, thereby making it easier for the robbers to do their dirty deeds, and make successful getaways, it seems that at last, the Government are supplying the finance to upgrade the gardaí into a well-equipped modern crime-fighting force.

A major investment in IT and a new upgraded fleet of vehicles will play a big part in the success of the new anti-crime initiative, but on the basis that prevention is better that the cure, you’d have to wonder why the situation was allowed to get so much out of hand.

It is all the result of a short-sighted policy by this Government, and in order to save a few bob, law and order has been sacrificed, and many hundreds of our citizens have suffered – some of them so grievously that they may never recover. Let’s hope for all our sakes, that this new initiative is a roaring success.

Rural Ireland is a joy – without crime

Living in rural Ireland, when no one is out robbing it, is one of life’s great joys. Yesterday, (Sunday) as myself and my wife, Carol, were out for our almost daily walk, we wondered about the amazingly mild weather we were experiencing on November 1, and the irrefutable evidence that our season’s are definitely changing – seemingly for the better.

We take our walk up a small country road – you could almost call it a boreens – and, as we walked along, we could see loads and loads of blackberries in full bloom (maybe that’s not the right word, but you know what I mean), while there were various wild flowers still alive long after they should have died off.

At home, Carol tells me that her roses (the ones the pup Hope hasn’t knocked over, as she plays her football) have come out for a second or maybe even a third time, so whether it’s that global warming or not, nature is certainly going through unusual changes, and it looks like a white Christmas is a complete non-runner.

Till next week. Bye for now.

Creggs Harvest Festival provides a much-needed boost to a village in decline

For all of us who live out in rural Ireland, it’s an undeniable fact that communities are dying on their feet, and the easy thing to do is to accept the inevitable, and let our villages and small towns have a long, lingering, and painful death.

Creggs has been my home village for practically all my life. I was born there, went to national school there, played my rugby and football (and hurling) for the village teams, and apart from a spell in the late Sixties and Seventies, I have lived in the locality all my life, and of course, I have witnessed at first hand, the terrible decline of our little border community.

In my young days, we had a library – my mother, Mrs B, was the librarian – a forge, six pubs, six or seven shops, a Garda station, manned by a sergeant and three guards, and, no matter what you wanted, from the proverbial needle to an anchor, you could buy it in any or some of the grocery or hardware shops spread around the village, which we certainly took for granted.

Today, we have one pub, a Garda station with one Garda, the village shop and post office with petrol pumps, and butchers, and on the credit side, since my youth, we have gained two garages and a chipper. But, no matter what way you look at it, we have lost a lot of the old vibrancy and vitality.

34th Creggs Harvest Festival was one of the best ever

And yet this bank holiday weekend, Creggs has been lively, busy and alive, with the staging of the 34th Harvest Festival, and despite the negativity of continually being told that the festival has very little to offer, it continues to draw the crowds and year in, year out, people flock to Creggs to take part in and support the many different activities.

I am writing this on the bank holiday Monday and, from all the information that’s coming my way, everything (almost) has been very well attended, and the feeling is that it has been one of the best festivals ever.

The quizzes on Friday night were huge successes and set the tone for the weekend! Earlier on Friday night Seán (Bags) Keegan, our legendary goalkeeper, reciter – he is the best recitation giver, along with Mick Roarke, in the country – was honoured, and rightfully so, as the parish’s ‘Personality of the Year’ and I’m told the celebrations went on long into the night.

The Tidy Towns Dance on Saturday night was packed and on Sunday the Dog Show was the most successful ever, with all the contestants looking and behaving their very best, and the auction in aid of the school was also very well supported.

Now I won’t bore you by going through every single activity but if there was one disappointment, it was the lack of support for the parish dance in The Parochial Hall on Sunday night.

But despite the small crowd, Seán Brennan put on a fantastic show and, for all of us there, it was one of the best nights crack ever.

Monday morning came with a good drop of rain, and the sceptic would think that the Fair Day would be a disaster, but that couldn’t be further from the truth – we had the usual turnout of asses, foals, and horses of all shapes and sizes and, in the middle of it all, we held a very successful Irish National Pudding Tasting Contest.

The result in the White Pudding contest was a win for Kelly’s from Newport, while in the Black Pudding we had a very popular local winner with Declan Maloney claiming the honours with his own homemade creation!

They were both very well received and congrats to each of the winners, but especially our own local one – well done, Declan.

We had traditional music from the Griffin Family on Monday afternoon, a one man tour-de-force of dancing and joke telling by Kevin Cunniffe, music in Mikeen’s by PJ Davis.

My harvest came to an end at about six o’clock when I headed home after a few hours of top class entertainment – I’m sure there were many much later than I, but as I’m finishing this piece on a wet Tuesday morning, I think we can look back on another successful harvest festival.

And so I’m back to where I started! Rural communities can fight back, and while it may only be one weekend in the year, it’s vitally important not to let such festivals go under.

We all get fed up at having to attend so many meetings, but nothing can go ahead without people being involved in organising different events, so as the curtain falls on this year’s harvest festival, if there are people in the area (this would also apply to every other village that puts on any event) who would like to get involved don’t be shy, get on board, and let’s all work together to keep rural Ireland alive, at least in our case, for the October Bank Holiday Weekend.

Suspend judgement on processed meat findings

Anyway that’s enough about that, so changing subjects entirely, and this morning I have to admit that the findings of the World Health Organisation’s study, which effectively says that processed red meat causes cancer, should be causing me great concern, as it includes the ingredients of the staple diet of most Irish people (certainly at weekends) – the traditional fry-up! We are told that rashers, sausages – I wonder what’s the story with the black and white pudding – and all kinds of stuff may be, potentially, bad for us, but after careful consideration, I’ve decided to wait for absolute definite confirmation.

And as I near the end of this piece, I’ve just taken out the pan, and I’ll take my chances with a full Irish fry – pudding and all, and hope for the best.

Halloween disco at Kilbegnet

In the local scene (again, says you) there is a children’s Halloween disco with fancy dress, on Friday night, October 30, in St. Mary’s Hall, Kilbegnet from 7 pm to 9 pm, with admission only €5.

Meanwhile, I have to congratulate the Glinsk pool team who won the Brian Enda Kilcommons Trophy by defeating their arch rivals from Creggs in Mikeen’s on Sunday afternoon. Well done Glinsk, but I can’t understand why I didn’t make the Creggs team.

Finally for this week

Returning to the big dance that we held (what seems an eternity ago) a few weeks ago in Dowd’s, Glinsk, we are presenting the proceeds to the representatives of the two charities, the Lourdes Invalid Fund and Cancer Care West, on Wednesday night, November 4, at 8.30 pm over a cup of tea in Dowd’s.

We raised the fantastic sum of €3,700 so each group will collect €1850 each. As always a huge thanks to all the people who supported us by buying tickets, by coming to the dance and by giving spot prizes!

To all the crew who gave up so much of their time to go out selling the tickets, to Tommy and Delores Dowd for hosting us so well, and being so helpful, and of course to Frank Nelson for putting on such an entertaining show.

It will be a low key presentation but anyone who wants to join us on the night will be more than welcome.

Till next week, Bye for now

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