Sights and Sounds of Ireland Part 2

RTE Lyric FM and Waiting for Cows

After a short stop in Dublin in August 2014, I picked up a hire car and headed  ‘for the hills’. As I crisscrossed central Ireland over the next two weeks, I knew it was only a matter of time before I had to stop for the cows.

The first time, and the only one I recorded, was in County Limerick, somewhere between Killeedy and Kilmeedy, the land of my mum’s forebears, the WINTER clan.

For all I knew I could have been at the very spot my forebears had trained their cows to cross for the milking sessions. Unfortunately, there’s not enough information to locate the original ‘place’ of the WINTER couple who gave birth to Edward WINTER, my great great grandfather, who emigrated to Australia in 1839.

I had the perfect vantage point. I set up the camera and filmed the ‘crossing’ through the windscreen of my car. Just click on the play arrow….

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I had unintentionally recorded the music playing on the car radio.

I had taken to tuning into RTE Lyric FM every morning as I set off on my daily explorations:

RTÉ lyric fm is a music station with a classical bias whilst also offering the listener a vast and eclectic array of music from all periods, continents, genres, styles …

Classical music is not my usual genre but this station was not too high brow. The melodic, dreamy music was the perfect accompaniment to the soft, round green hills and my imaginings of forebears working the land that I was now seeing for the first time.

The Irish forebears I had decided to research came from smack bang in the middle of Ireland—inner borders of Counties Limerick, Tipperary and Galway; famine country. As a car driver, this worked well for me as most of the traffic was around the touristy places, mainly around the dramatic coastline. Sometimes I was the only one on the road. This in itself was tempting fate as I tended to plant my foot, accelerating a little too much, and at times almost aquaplaning! I had to consciously pull myself back or else I would have ended up in the hedgerows.

A guy I met on the plane from Dubai to Dublin was very wary of me driving around Ireland not because he was concerned about my driving skills in a foreign country but he was concerned about the locals and their drinking habits. He was an Irishman himself and was familiar with the pub culture of his fellow compatriots. I took this on board and made sure I’d reached my destination for the night before the sun set and then I stayed put.

In my early years, I loved listening to my parents’ recount their day; me, the only one of the five children at the kitchen table finishing off my house of mashed potato and green beans, and my parents, leaning up against opposing kitchen benches, facing each other, smoking cigarettes.

My mum only had one cigarette a day, a Viscount, and by the way she drew back I could tell she really enjoyed it. Children fed, dishes done, apron off. The cigarette, her one indulgence for the day. Dad on the other hand didn’t need an excuse to light up, he was a chain smoker.

It was an opportunity to have Mum and Dad to myself. So I made the most of it and asked Dad to retell my favourite stories. One of them was the ‘turnip story’. It went something like this:

turnip‘One day one of the cows got a turnip stuck in his throat. The poor thing was coughing and spluttering, trying to get rid of it…he was going to die if we couldn’t move it. So, Grandpa had this bright idea. He got two bricks, placed one on either side of the cow’s neck and whack! He smashed that turnip to smithereens.

The cow was fine after that.’

1953 Grandpa (Peter COGHLAN) and my sister, Bern. Bullarto, near Daylesford, Victoria, Australia. Author’s private collection.

That story always stirred my imagination. That poor cow. What a dilemma. Unfortunately, I didn’t know my grandfather but from what I can gather he was a pretty practical man. His common sense thinking in this case was always applauded by our family in deference to the mawkishness of the story.

I was a city girl but I loved imagining growing up on a farm. My parents had both grown up on farms and over the years they relayed many anecdotes and descriptions of daily life: feeding the chooks, hand milking the cows, sponges and roasts cooked in the wood stove-the best, homework by candle light, jinkers, potato growing, dances, etc etc., community life and, of course, the Main Drain.

For me, the pastoral scene of grazing cows epitomized farming life. They seemed so gentle, patient, lovable. And those big dreamy eyes. You could melt in them. There’s a nonchalance about cows; slowly chewing their cud like Fonzie chewing his gum. Pretty damn cool. But from what I’ve observed of cows in Australia there is evidence of  ‘business’ during their day. Have you ever noticed how they stand or sit around together like they’re at a meeting or a conference? I wonder what they’re discussing?…And they seem so sensible; they gather in the shade of a tree and rest during the heat of the Australian Summer.

On a trip to Tasmania in 2001, myself and two friends were very lucky to stay in this little house in the middle of a farm in Mole Creek. To my delight the cows grazed and wandered around beside the fence surrounding the house. Their lazy, congenial ways added to the peaceful scene…until we left.

2001 Mole Creek, Tasmania. Author’s private collection

As we drove out, a bull decided to ‘park’ himself on the driveway. No amount of hollering or beeping the horn would move him. We were stuck and none us were prepared to do a Crocodile Dundee and hypnotize him so we stayed in the car and waited. Perhaps if we’d been country girls we would have known what to do, how to move him. But we weren’t and he got up and moved in his own good time.

So, I didn’t mind stopping for these cows in Ireland. I loved watching them sauntering along. They made me slow down which is what I needed at times. It was very tempting to plant the foot, trying to see as much as I could in the limited time I had.

I was very fortunate to visit a dairy farm in Ireland. It belonged to the NEVIN family—distant relatives. I was very touched that they stopped milking to meet and feed me! Thank you Nevins! I’ll talk about that experience in a later post…

2014 The hire car nearing the end of driving around Ireland for 2 weeks as seen through the B&B window. Weston House, Ballyvourney, County Cork, Ireland. Author’s private collection.

The hire car and I survived the driving holiday around Ireland thanks to GPS and RTE Lyric FM.

As can be seen in the photo above the car’s missing a hubcap. I have no idea where I lost it. Maybe someone stole it or maybe it flew off during aquaplaning. Anyway, I didn’t mention it on returning the car to Dublin. Of course the hire people noted it and I replied honestly that I didn’t know what had happened to it and they didn’t charge me. I was lucky I think. I heard on the grapevine that the Americans come off worse after driving around the narrow lanes, returning the cars with dents and scratches. At least I didn’t have to cope with driving on the other side of the road.

On returning home to Australia I downloaded a phone app for RTE radio. I listened to Lyric FM occasionally, but just as in the last post it’s not quite the same; there, I was surrounded by green rolling hills, here, I’m surrounded by dry, dusty soil. And there’s no cows! I’m sure I’ll return to Ireland and I’ll be happy to slow down and wait for the cows. There’s still so much to explore…

I wish all my followers a very Happy New Year and I look forward to informing the rellies of my findings and entertaining you delightful followers in 2016. See you next year! Cheers, Marg

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6 Responses to Sights and Sounds of Ireland Part 2

  1. Anne Myers says:

    Thanks Marg. Great piece. When I saw the cow vid my first thought was how perfect the music was that Marg must have added later. What timing. Good on RTE radio. It’s great you’ve started a blog and you’re going from strength to strength with your writing. May 2016 bring more of the good stuff. xx

    • Marg says:

      Thanks for your lovely words Anne. Much appreciated. Writing’s not as easy as it looks is it?! Best wishes for your writing success to continue in 2016 xx

      • Anne Myers says:

        You make it look easy but I can see the work. More writing and more reading. That’s all there is to it. I live for those solitary moments of magic when the words come together and you’re someplace else. Happy New Year. xx

        • Marg says:

          Yes, I agree Anne. Reading and writing and quit the procrastination! Once you’ve done the groundwork, writing practice is the only way to find your voice. And I’m with you on the magical moments. Those moments are extra special and hard to explain. Happy New Year to you too! xx

  2. Heather says:

    thanks again Marg for a great post; extremely readable and your photos have come out beautifully. Waiting for cows and bulls to move along in their own good time- makes you wonder who really is in charge. I look forward to your posts in 2016.

    • Marg says:

      Thanks Het. Yes, I think the cows and bulls are the rulers; they seem to have it altogether. Thanks for following the blog Het. I hope I can keep you entertained throughout 2016. Much appreciated xx

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