Every parent’s worst nightmare

It’s a nice enough Monday morning and I’m on duty in Athlone, and, as I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to write about, I find my thoughts, sadly, keep going back to Karen Buckley and her horrific murder in Glasgow at the hands of a very sick and twisted killer, Alexander Pacteau.

Now I’m aware that in the kind of world we live in, killings have almost become the norm and here in Ireland, especially in our Capital city, we seem to have a never-ending procession of gangland shootings, most of which have their origins in some kind of drug deals which for one reason or another have turned sour.

I suppose it’s human nature to become a little bit blasé about gangland killings, and to tell the truth I’ve heard people declare that the more gang members are done away with the better, but we should always remember there are families affected by each and every one of those killings – the victims will be someone’s son or daughter, brother, sister, father or mother, and there will inevitably be people left heartbroken and devastated by such heartless executions.

However, it is also true to say that most of the victims in drug-related shootings know the risks, and are willing to take their chances in pursuit of wealth and ill-gotten gains, whereas for poor Karen Buckley it was simply a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In a case which has a lot of similarity to the killing of Drogheda woman Jill Meagher in Melbourne two years ago, Karen left a Glasgow nightclub just to go home and fell into the clutches of the depraved Pacteau.

Now I won’t go into the gruesome details of Karen’s brutal murder, but as a parent, it was the heart-wrenching statement issued by her parents, John and Marian, that will live in my memory for as long as I’m on this earth.

“Our hearts are broken at the thought of Karen’s final moments on this world. The thought of her being alone, frightened and struggling for her life haunts us”.

Those words tell it all, and as they said, it was every parent’s worst nightmare, and I can only hope and pray they, somehow, find the strength to get over such a crushing and life-changing blow.

So proud of Galway

Changing the mood – normally I would be waxing lyrically (maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration) about the amazing All-Ireland Hurling semi-final that the hurlers of Galway and Tipperary served up in Croke Park on Sunday afternoon.

The history books will tell us that Galway prevailed by a point but they will never be able to capture the heroism, manliness, brilliance and excitement of this epic encounter, and the sight of Galway manager Anthony Cunningham having a quiet word with Tipp’s Noel McGrath (who was back playing for his county after having testicular cancer) after the final whistle, was a particularly heart-warming moment.

In a frenetic encounter, apart from one or two flash-points, the sportsmanship on view was of the highest order, and if people were looking for a masterpiece to lighten up this year’s championship they certainly got it.

For Galway, it’s another crack at the Kilkenny Cats to look forward to, while Tipp will be left to reflect on narrowly losing yet another classic encounter.

As for me, I have to eat a large portion of humble pie, as after the Leinster Final when Anthony Cunningham told Brian Cody he’d see him again in September, I wrote that the only way he (Cunningham) would be in Croke Park on All-Ireland Final Day would be as a spectator.

Never in my life have I been as happy to be proved wrong, so Anthony, ‘well done’ – and here’s hoping you can lead the Tribesmen to the Holy Grail!

Recalling characters

Changing subjects entirely, and last Thursday night (or evening to be exact) myself and Carol, my long-suffering wife, headed off to the Abbey Hotel in Roscommon to treat ourselves to a meal out in honour of the upcoming anniversary of our wedding, which also happened to take place in the Abbey a good few years ago.

We pulled into the Abbey carpark about 8 pm, and even though we noted on the large number of vehicles, with many differing county registrations, I don’t think we were prepared for the huge crowd that was inside – the place was positively buzzing, and it was just great to see it like that.

Needless to say the patriarch of the Grealy family, Tommy Senior, was on his regular patrols, greeting guests with a quiet word of welcome, as he has done for many a long year now, and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

It goes without saying that the meal was excellent (it always is in the Abbey) and hopefully I’ll be back again for the next one (anniversary).

We stopped off in Mikeen’s for a pint on the way home, and we talked about the almost total disappearance of great local characters. 

A few years ago I was going to research a book of characters in the pubs of County Roscommon, but I never got round to it, and I suppose I’ll never do it now.

However, here’s a tale or two of one of our own local characters, who has to be nameless, as thankfully, he’s still with us!

Once upon a time he sold 8 or 10 old ewes to a fellow in Creggs Fair. The pair of them, i.e. the buyer and the seller, spent the day drinking together and as the evening moved on, shillings began to get a bit scarce, and our man hit on an idea.

He asked the buyer would he buy a few more ewes. They went outside to have a look at 8 or 10 more he had in a trailer beside the pub.

Unfortunately, they were the same ones he had already sold and even more unfortunately, the buyer was still sober enough to recognise them, so in this case his plan sadly failed.

He was also a bit unlucky another time when he found a customer for a couple of good heifers, also in the pub, and also at Creggs Fair.

He didn’t have any himself, but, unfazed, he brought the buyer out to a local field where he sold him two prize heifers.

The buyer handed over a substantial price for the animals, and promised he’d be back for them the following day. Once again fortune didn’t favour the brave as the bona-fide owner refused to sell the heifers, and so, heartbroken and dismayed, our hero had to hand back the large sum of money the following day, an act that upset him greatly.

We lamented the disappearance of such characters, or scoundrels, from our countryside, and it’s fair to say that all communities have similarly suffered – maybe I’ll do that book.

And finally…

Two local items to finish with this week. Congrats to Declan Jennings and Helena McDermott, daughter of Oran’s Billy, who got married in the ‘Hodson Bay’ last weekend.

We wish them a long, happy life together, and Billy, you can leave the loaf (a brown one) in Mikeen’s.

Finally for this week, a public meeting to discuss the future of the Creggs Harvest Festival will take place in Kilbegnet Hall on next Friday (21st) night at 10 pm. All are welcome, so please try to be there.

‘Till next week, Bye for now