Frank Brandon’s column

It’s Monday morning as I write, and the week before the October Bank Holiday. Out here in Creggs we would normally (whatever that is now) be looking forward to the annual Harvest Festival, which was due to celebrate its 40th anniversary this year.

By now, people would be monitoring the weather, hoping for a fine weekend…wondering if there was enough in the programme to attract the crowds, checking to see that everything was properly organised and just generally putting the finishing touches to everything. However, as the countdown to this year’s October Bank Holiday continues, the news of course is that Covid-19 has put paid to our 40th celebrations – whatever next year brings there will be no festival this year.

It’s crazy to think back to 1980 when a number of us first got together and decided to have a festival. The first year, we held a mummers’ competition with an enormous first prize of 1000 pounds.

They came from all over the country to take part in the competition in St. Mary’s Hall. They then played in every pub in the village for the entire weekend, playing and dancing on the street, providing wonderful entertainment until the winners were announced on the Bank Holiday Monday. It all attracted enormous crowds into our village.

Even without Covid-19, things were very different back then. We had six pubs open and busy in the village. Public liability insurance hadn’t really raised its ugly head, so there was hardly any limit to the activities that we could have. In those first few years stock car racing was a huge crowd-puller, and great fun. Down through the 40 years, we have seen Clay pigeon shoots, sheep dog trials, tractor pulls, tug o’war, parades, craft fairs, dog shows, glamorous granny and bonny baby competitions, table quizzes, poetry reading, football and rugby games, cally making, fair days featuring everything and anything, horses and asses, amusements, dancing, music, even an odd fight, and many other different events.

One of the amazing aspects of this is that even with all the changes that have taken place, the crowds still continue to flock to Creggs. I have to admit that I am a little bit sad that this year’s festival will not take place, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we will get the better of this horrible virus and that this time next year we will finally have the 40th Creggs Harvest Festival.

 

Nothing to

re-Joyce about…

 

Last weekend (rightly or wrongly), the National Football Leagues resumed. For all of us who had been getting excited at the performances of the new-look Galway team under Padraic Joyce, there was a huge sense of coming crashing back down to earth on Sunday afternoon when our old and fiercest rivals Mayo absolutely hammered the Tribesmen in Tuam Stadium.

It was just after half-time when I got the first report on the happenings in Tuam. I am not lying when I say that when I heard the 2-17 to 0-7 scoreline I thought I had got it wrong – not even in hurling do teams score that much in a half. I assumed there had to have been a mistake, but sadly there was nothing wrong with the information, and while the second half was a bit more even I imagine that the final score of 3-23 to 0-17 is nothing short of embarrassing to all self-respecting Galway supporters.

As I said earlier, it is a Monday morning as I write, and I have just seen and read the Irish Independent. I really must give credit to Padraic Joyce for making no attempt to sugar-coat the disaster. Joyce called it “probably the most embarrassing day” of his career, adding that at 43 years of age he had never seen a performance as bad.

Nobody really knows if the inter-county games will continue, or if the championship will actually take place, but for Galway’s sake I hope this weekend’s game against the all-conquering Dubs goes ahead, because if they have any pride in the maroon and white jersey it will give them a quick chance to, as they say, get back on the horse.

Certainly if the Connacht Championship does go ahead (as currently planned), the performances of Mayo, and of the Rossies in Armagh, have changed the entire perception of how it might work out. On last weekend’s evidence, the winners of the likely semi-final between those two counties would appear to be the best bet to be crowned Connacht champions. As for me, I will cocoon for a week or two – not from Covid, but from my Rossie-supporting neighbours – until Galway’s 15-point defeat is forgotten.

 

Kathleen was one of a kind

 

As the October sun shone brightly on Friday last, a dark cloud descended on Creggs and the surrounding areas as word began to filter through that Kathleen McKeague had passed away. Her death came only a few short weeks after the community marked her 65th birthday with a drive-by celebration.

It’s hard to find the words to do justice to Kathleen, because it’s only very occasionally that a community finds someone in their midst who immerses themselves so much into everything that goes on, who gives so willingly of themselves and their time for the good of everyone else. There can be no doubt that Kathleen was such a person.

She was treasurer of the local GAA club, was involved in the Tidy Towns, the Defibrillator group, St. Ciaran’s underage club, the Senior Citizens’ annual dinner, the local Lotto fundraiser, and probably loads more that I don’t even know about. While our little group didn’t actually have a committee, she would go out door to door each year to sell tickets for the annual Cancer Care West and Lourdes Invalid Fund fundraising dance. It never ceased to amaze me how she found time for everything, but I suppose the old adage ‘If you want something done, ask a busy person’ applies.

On a personal level, she was a quiet, gentle, lovely woman, and a great neighbour and friend to us all. To say that she will be sorely missed by the entire community is a massive understatement.

The extraordinary turnout at her funeral, both on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon (all with Covid-19 restrictions and social distancing) was testimony to her standing in the Kilbegnet parish and much further afield. She certainly got the send-off she deserved.

To her husband James, their six children, her mother Nora, sister Mary, and all the extended family, relatives and friends, I offer my heartfelt sympathies. All I can say is may her gentle soul rest in peace. She truly was one of a kind.

 

And finally…

 

One of the things I have managed to avoid so far is social media. I am not on Facebook or Instagram or any of the other different platforms. This morning however, a gentleman called Edmund O’Leary showed me that social media can sometimes be a big help.

On Friday, the Ennis-born, Surrey-based O’Leary – who suffers from depression – tweeted that he was not okay. He was feeling rock bottom and asked anyone who might see the tweet to take a few seconds to say hello. By this Monday morning, thousands of people had taken the time to reply to his request.

Edmund has just been live on Eamonn and Ruth’s morning show. He spoke about how he has received an enormous boost by the support he received from all over the world.

I suppose it made me realise that for a lot of us, it’s easy to ignore the huge amount of mental health problems that are all around. Things were bad enough up to now, but this pandemic – with its isolation and consequent loneliness – may have pushed many people near, or over, the edge.

However, Edmund’s story goes to show that reaching out – even when you’re at your lowest – can serve to show you that there is always help out there. People do actually care; so if you are feeling down, don’t be afraid to look for it.

Despite this positivity, I still don’t think I will be going on Facebook or Twitter any time soon, but I will admit that maybe they have their uses after all.