Getting Angry

With the flood waters retreating, they are down 500mm at the Wooden Bridge across from the house, the work of cleaning up and inquest get under way.  Most of the verbal rubbish ensuing is coming from politicians, both local and national and from state aided local institutions like CLEAN or Cavan and Leitrim Environmental Awareness Network who come out of the woodwork every now and then to moan and groan about developers and planning authorities building on natural flood plains in a retrospective beef instead of at planning stage when their energies might have more effect.

Developments in flood plain in Carrick

Developments in flood plain in Carrick

If building on flood plains was a no no there would be no New York, No Belfast, no Bordeaux wine growing region and most of Holland, Belgium and Northern France would be part of the North Sea from whence they came, rescued by engineers, hydrologists and money.  As with every problem the right amount of thought and skill applied removes the problem to a commercial one which if solved by the developers and financial houses means there is no problem at all. If the areas highlighted by the recent floods  had had these experts introduced at an early stage by planning authority and developer there would have been little problem.  Look at Woodies complex in Carrick on Shannon. a development built on a flood plain that flooded if there was a slight drizzle for two hours on a Monday morning but in this time of record water levels this development stood out like a beacon to correct design, planning and consideration. Albeit costing an arm and a leg and possibly adding greatly to development budgeting which could be the making or breaking of a specific deal, this prior thought and planning is essential.  If you build it high enough and link it to a correct drainage system and the project can afford it, the developer and his future tenants have no problem.

More floods in Carrick's flood plain

More floods in Carrick's flood plain

That is why the wily Mr G covered himself in glory at Wooden Bridge when the record flood levels came within 100mm of flooding the first house on his cosy development.  He just about built it high enough although he did seem to let down his cause slightly by allowing the road and driveway gullies to out fall into the said original flood plain so that rising waters first of all made islands of the first two houses.

I know there are many other reasons for these recent high water levels all of which the government of the day for the last 90 years have failed to address, but failure to confront pressing problems is a systematic weakness in this country’s political agenda. Cosying up to cronies who are doing better than you and turning procrastination into an art form is what most politicians aspire to.

What is inexcusable is when greed and laziness enter the development equation (greed by the developer and laziness by the local authority) and deliberate short cuts are made to ensure completion of the site without consideration of third parties or future tenants.  Both local authority and developer can wriggle but both are as culpable as each other.

Take for example a recent development here in Boyle. The land allocated  was on a turlough system.  Basically it is a watercourse or courses in a limestone area where land floods and empties on a regular basis without really following the laws of gravity.  It is a phenomenon unique to the West of Ireland and although not properly understood, engineers and farmers have learnt to live with its vagaries for centuries and have always treated them with respect.

When turloughs are interfered with a great deal of thought needs applying to ensure future situations do not endanger third party or tenant property.  Roscommon County Council applied a Bond for satisfactory completion and proper drainage of the land involved and not a large Bond considering the scale of things although according to the local press they are trying to hide behind its creation.  Two years ago when the development started the old men of the town with no qualifications from either National School or University were shaking their heads when they realized what was happening.  “He is in for big trouble” was the consensus.  Yet work continued without the drainage scheme being applied.  It was more important to acheive completion of the properties than completion of the ancillary drainage works.  Greed came before the fall.  The land at the rear of these new houses and houses that had been there for years, which are neither close to river or lake started to fill up and formed a lake rivalling Loch Ce itself.  The turlough finding itself disturbed just moved its position slightly, so that land that had been historically water free became flooded.  Houses, barns, sheds, gardens and septic tanks and property of all descriptions went under water and lives of old people were put at risk.  All down to arrogance, greed and stupidity in thinking the problem could be ignored.

Now there is an argument that in the hard nosed, shortcutting world of business this kind of thing is the norm and certainly the cannibalistic atitude of the Dublin developers have tended to concur and that best practice is something dreamed up by Tiger Woods, but  this very reason is why regulation and proper control by local authorities is in place.  The county council is the arbiter of right and wrong in the establishment of correct construction procedures and in this case has let itself down very badly and I hope they are accountable.

Every man has his price they say and reminders of local authority malpractice and bad behaviour are scattered about Ireland like confetti at a wedding.  We need to rid ourselves of this backsliding Fianna Fail comedy show and vote in a rainbow cabinet with Margaret Thatcher as leader, ably assisted by Judge Jeffries, Albert Pierrepoint, Robin Hood, Ned Kelly, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne and General Patton. This cabinet given a sufficient mandate would soon clean up the greasy pole living we poor citizens have to endure whilst navigating our way between birth and death.  We will get no help from the Catholic Church who in these watery times are stil trying to pull their elongated sexual organs from a hole in what they thought was a dyke.

The photograph below shows Albert Pierrepoint begining to clean the greasy pole.

Pierrepoint

Selling Up

As yesterdays blog exhausted me I am today looking for the easy option and enclose an excerpt from my Memoir written in December 2005 when Ireland was still full of confidence and money, enjoying the ride on the Celtic Tiger’s back.

In September 2005 we put our Manchester house on the market and retired to Boyle in the County Roscommon, our chosen spot. Things were difficult for a while as we slowly realised our assets and we decided to go back to Manchester for Christmas, the last one we would probably spend in our home town, to tie up a few loose ends and make sure the kids were dealing well with our absence.  We were getting a little  perturbed by the fact that the house was not selling.  Bythis time it had been on the market for four months and not a bite. However the Lord was at hand.

Earlier on in that month we visited Helen’s aunt Aggie, a woman I had first met 36 years previously and had always admired.  She was at her house in Rooskey, in the townland of Cloonlarhan, a part of Ireland where Mayo and Sligo overlap and nobody knows where they really are. A fact the indigenous relied upon for any number of reasons.

Aggie is a splendid woman approaching her middle eighties and strengthened in her late life by years of hard toil, caring for her late husband Pake, her five children and a herd of milking cows. Her religion kept her young, it made sense of all the tragedies life had thrown at her.  She spoke a language that was 80% English and 20% Irish, you have to know her to understand her.  She is of a generation that threw away the English yoke that had governed but not broken her breed.

As I have said we had moved to Ireland some months previously, escaping the oppression Manchester was having on us and seeking a new life in which to spend our later years in a land the pair of us considered to be our spiritual home.  “Have you sold your house in England?” Aggie asked.  The house was a vast Victorian pile, seven bedrooms, built with servants in mind, in an outer Manchester suburb, favoured by the fortunate of those years as it was close to the railway line and far enough away from the stinking, disease ridden, inner areas of the city but handy enough for the managerial and executive positions, that Cottonopolis relied.

No serious buyer had been unearthed and we were begining to weaken in our resolve and starting to admit to ourselves that nobody in their right minds would want such a property.  It was like the Forth Bridge in its need of repair and decoration.

“The people hereabouts set great store by St. Joseph” Aggie added when we told her our tale of woe.  In her expansion on this theme it seems that the local populace of Maygo as we shall call it, on deciding to sell their house, would bury a statue of St. Joseph, face down, in the garden and, hey presto, the house would sell.  This theory had been poorly tested in Maygo as so very few houses changed hands.  In this rustic world properties passed from  generation to generation until they fell down and another was built.  In fact Aggie’s house was built by her father-in-law, Tom Bill Towey, in 1908 after a lucrative spell copper mining in Bute, Montana and before his wedding to Ann Hunt.  However Aggie’s beliefs won the day and I was not surprised, when a short time later Helen said that she was going to Carrick, to Mulvey’s, for a statue of St. Joseph.  Boyle, our chosen spot, besides not having a proper hotel or restaurant or swimming baths or any proper industrial base, alas has no sacerdotal emporium.

St. Joseph without purple gansey

 

Off she went calling at Lidl, Supervalu, Tesco and other grasping establishments spending the price of one of the many rooms in our Manchester abode.  Eventually she arrived at Mulvey’s, a shop set square in the centre of Carrick on Shannon, a bustling boom town, nine miles away.  Mulvey’s is a large many faceted shop selling nothing of any real use, but a very needful store through which a lot of the Celtic Tiger’s loose change was channelled.

“I have come for a statue of St. Joseph” Helen stated to the assistant who approached.  “Just walk along to the Religious Department and I will send Dympna down to you, she is our expert on these matters.  She is out the back.” Helen slowly made her way across the shop to be confronted by a vast serried rank, a rainbow of saints.  Dympna appeared brushing imaginary biscuit crumbs off the stately chest of her beautifully embroidered silk blouse.  “Well now, I know we have one, I saw him on Tuesday.”  The multitude of coloured idols did not faze Dympna as she scanned the holy regiment.  “No, he is not there” she said  “I will look in the store, he is around somewhere.”

“How can you tell so quickly?” Helen asked, nonplussed by the kaleidoscope of multi-coloured piety.  “Well its the colour, you see, they are all the same statue, a fellah in Dublin churns them out of the one mould, but each saint is painted a different colour, St. Patrick is green, St. Francis is brown, and so on, it is only the Infant is different” she said pointing to the top shelf and there sure enough was the familiar triangular statue of the Infant of Prague in his finest red cloak.  “What colour is St. Joseph then” Helen enquired of the gliding comfortable rear of the retreating Dympna.  “Well he is a lighter shade of brown than Francis, a kind of tan really, but he has a purple gansey” Dympna replied over her shoulder as she entered the store room.

Minutes later she returned clutching a purple figurine.  “Well I’m lost, I cannot find him anywhere but I know he is around.  However I’ve got St. Anthony here.  Let’s just say a prayer to him and Joseph will turn up some time today.  Call back after lunch and we will have him for you.”  Helen adopted the praying position and mumbled incoherently as Dympna in all her majesty, offered up prayers to Joseph’s wife, in order that her influence would steady Anthony in his quest.

Unfortunately pressing matters of a more secular nature clouded Helen’s path and she returned to Boyle, promising to come back the following day.  She told me the story after laying my lunch on the table and we both admired the simplicity of life before us.  I retold the story in Daly’s that evening and amid the laughter and the humour i saw a glint of belief in Geraldine’s eye.  Geraldine is Paddy Daly’s daughter, who for her sins has to serve the pagan 6o’clock brigade nightly.  Paddy who had worked his public house and bottling business for 55 years, was also the local auctioneer.  If any one would know the sincerity of this subject, it would be him.  At stages in his life he must have sold half the houses in North Roscommon.  He could, so the story goes, sell houses to tinkers.  “No, never heard that one” he said, when I enquired adding that I had heard it in Mayo an Paddy was after all from Newport way.  “It must have been East Mayo you heard it” not wanting to take the blame.

Unsatisfied I finished my pint and went to leave, “Paul, a minute” Geraldine whispered as she came out from behind the bar and escorted me out the door.  “I’m going to Sligo tomorrow and I’ll go to Veritas.  They will have St. Joseph there.  I’ll get him for you.”

Veritas, as you can tell by its title is upmarket holiness personified and not wanting to disappoint, I agreed to her offer.  To our surprise the following evening she knocked on our door in Abbeytown clutching an envelope and full of her experiences in Sligo.  We ushered her in, sat her down and listened to her story.  “I went into Veritas this morning and asked for a statue of St. Joseph and was told that although they had had a consignment of St. Josephs the week before, they were all sold out.”

“You are trying to sell your house are you?” said the assistant matter of factly.  “Well no, its for a friend, but yes, their house is up for sale and they are having problems selling it.”  “Well it doesn’t matter” the assistant interjected “I have the next best thing and they say it is just as good.”  Geraldine pulled out of the envelope a laminated prayer to St. Joseph which contained his picture all neatly done on a pink card and a St. Joseph medal attached to a white ribbon tied in a bow.  She apologised that her sortie had not provided better, we thanked her for her efforts and told her she would be thought of when we performed the ceremony in Manchester.

A couple of weeks later with Christmas approaching we arrived in Heaton Moor to spend what we hoped would be our last family Christmas in the city in which we had spent our whole lives.  However there was still this despairing feeling about the house.

The goose was cooked and the vegetables ready when Helen and I, our six children, one son-in-law and one grandson trooped from the kitchen to the chosen spot in the garden.  I, as my position dictated, with due ceremony and with thoughts of Aggie and Geraldine in mind, dug a hole with a trowel, and buried the medal and laminated card, face downwards.  The internment position had been carefully chosen, in front of the Buddha.  Some years previously Helen had bought a garden feature in the shape of Buddha and when connected to the electrical supply and a water reservoir would spout the same all day. This feature had not lessened in its performance from day one and we thought that if Joseph had had a bad day at the office, Buddha might just give him that lift.

Our Christmas festivities over, we returned to Ireland in the same state of limbo as we had been in for months.   Imagine our surprise a week later, when Katy, our second daughter, shouted excitedly down the telephone, “there is somebody interested in the house!”  A month later the house was sold, our fears were put to rest and our offer on a house in Boyle was accepted.

Now there are coincidences and different beliefs, I am saying nothing, but I am awfully glad I met Aggie Towey that Christmas in 1969, and I know for a fact that St. Joseph has had an awful lot of his time taken up recently being buried by the returning wild geese who have become party to this story.  Finally I would like to thank Geraldine for persisting when we were running out of steam.  THAT WAS TRUE BELIEF.


Years Ago

To divert away from yesterday’s theme I want today to try and paint a picture in words of the beautiful, rich and sometimes wild and rugged landscape that surrounds us here in Boyle and how that landscape formed the archaeological heritage we have today.  It is hard to understand how much the reader knows of the past and its timescale but if we assume that known human life in Ireland started approximately 8000BC with hunter/gatherers at the start of the Mesolithic, which lasted  to about 4000BC.   The Neolithic and farming began then and lasted until 2500BC.  The Bronze Age and the understanding of power lasted for 2000 years until 500BC and the Iron Age and mythology until about 500AD.  The Medieval period then and the start of written history lasted up until 1600AD. This inept summary should help the reader to understand the time frame to which I refer.

If we picture the map of North  Roscommon and place the Boyle River in its centre, running from left to right, or west to east or from Loch Gara to Loch Ce, 11kms of winding river starting placidly enough as it exits Loch Gara at Derrymaquirk, quickening up after the ancient ford of Tinnacarra, hurtling with force through the rapids at Assylin and quietening down again at Mockmoyne before forceably pushing down through the town to the Abbey and slowly coming to a halt in Drum to enable it to enter Loch Ce with a whisper. A fall in 11 kms of 23 metres.   At its western end Loch Gara is a shallow lake in normal times having been lowered in the 1950s by 3 metres with the blowing of the rock shelves at Cuppenagh and Tinnacarra.  The recent poor weather and floods brought the lake up to previous levels making it twice as large as it normally is and turning the Boyle River into a one km wide lake of water as opposed to its normal 20 metre width.  Loch Ce at its eastern end can be as much as 17 metre deep in its main navigation channels and this lake was risen by about 1.5 metres in 1847 with the construction of Knockvicar Lock and Weir which was done to improve the Shannon Navigation System. The Boyle River actually continues through Oakport and Eidin Loughs to meet the River Shannon one km north of Carrick town, but for the purposes of this exercise we will ignore this stretch of water interesting though it is.

The Cistercian Bridge, Abbeytown

The Boyle River and The Cistercian Bridge, Abbeytown

To the north of the river between the two lakes, the Curlew Mountains rise quickly, with Derrinoghron and Brislagh to the west and Sheegory leaning over Loch Ce to the east.  These hills are only 220-230 metres above sea level but historically have been notoriously difficult to cross, with many a fighting force coming to grief on its blanket bog covered slopes.  Not least the English forces under Sir Conyers Clifford who in 1599 marched from Athlone to put down a seige of Collooney Castle by the Donegal force under O’Neill.  The local boys led by MacDermot and O’Roarke soon put them to flight as they bunched up along the narrow path over the bog.  This Battle of the Curlews was the last time an English army was defeated in Ireland.

To the south of the river the land improves tremendously and throughout history the people who controlled this rich and fertile land controlled the area and from the 10th century onwards, Moylurg as this area was called and especially the Plains of Boyle, an upland plateau of about 50 square kilometres which offered some of the finest grazing land in Ireland was owned and kept by the MacDermot clan, but throughout the neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages this land was the place to graze cattle who were the currency of the day.

In these prehistoric times travel by land was almost non-existent, the River Shannon and its tributaries were the highways but gradually roads were formed for traveller and pilgrim going north and cattle drovers going south to the Plains and the fertile lands further beyond.  They were squeezed into a narrow channel between the two lakes because of the expanse of bog to the west and the River Shannon and the lake and river infested county of Leitrim to the east. So the north/south road Bothar an chorrain crossed the east/west road Bothar na Sliabe, the road over the Ox Mountains to the sea at Ballina, at Drumanone just 300 metres north of the Tinnacarra ford.  This crossing point and you would hardly notice it today was for over a thousand years the Spaghetti Junction of its time.  Just north of this crossing point the jewel in this areas archaeological crown, the Drumanone Portal Tomb stands. Not by coincidence has it sat there for 5500 years from the middle of the Neolithic but it was registering the ownership of the ford by some elite family group who were laying claim to this land 2000 years before the pyramids in Egypt were built. All its main megaliths are still standing with the capstone reputed to weigh 24 tonnes, however the cairn built around the megaliths has gone, taken by farmers for boundary walls.  The standing stone erected much later is a memorial to this tomb and the adjacent Bothar.

The memorial to the Drumanone Portal Tomb

The Drumanone Portal Tomb

When you look at the web site constructed by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and go onto the maps showing the Archaeological Survey of Ireland and zoom into North Roscommon, each red dot is a site found on the survey.  To the north of the river the land is virtually red dot free until you come to the Bricklieves 12kms away whilst to the south of the river you cannot see land for red dots.  So historically the south side was the best side, I wonder whether  is the same with every east/west river system?

So let us start with Loch Gara and its entrance into the Boyle river.  Certainly 2500 years ago this was a well populated place and had been for a 1000 years previously and possibly up to 1ooo years ago.  So for 3500 years this was the place to live, the D4 of its day.  Christina Fredengren in her marvelous book Crannogs published by Wordwell in 2002 which recorded her in depth survey of the area and in particular the crannogs built on this stretch of water found plenty of evidence of Neolithic life and even remnants of 20th century poteen making on the many crannogs she surveyed.

Crannogs are manmade islands on lakes and rivers formed by piling fill material into a cofferdam construction of timber piles driven into the bed of the water.  These islands rose out of the water and were protected by a timber palisade fence and were used for a variety of purposes but I suppose in the main were a place of last resort when confronted by an hostile force, surrounded as they were by water. They were not permanent homes, these being the ring forts that cover the country, but a retreat for the wealthy who could afford to build these costly structures.  They were primarily used from the end of the Neolithic until the end of the first millenium AD and in some cases into the 16th century.  So when Fredengren found 18% of the known Irish crannogs, some 180 number in just a few kilometres of river and lake, it has to be assumed that this area was a place of power, wealth and prosperity.

A Crannog on Lough Gara

A Crannog on Loch Gara

Nowadays so few people live at this end of the river, with hardly anyone living round the lake, with Monasteraden the only village, about one kilometre from the lake.  In fact there are probably more archaeological sites than people.

At the other end of the river Loch Ce, originally a volcanic site, stands beautiful and brooding, its waters ruffled only occasionally by local pike fishermen in their lake boats and cabin cruisers coming up through Knockvicar Lock to Rockingham and Boyle Harbours. It has no Neolithic or Bronze Age connections and does not spring into life until Early Medieval times just as Loch Gara was fading into a backwater.  What caused this sudden shift in fortunes?  Well I suppose you could say Christianity.  St. Patrick came to Boyle twice, so the Annals tell us, but really Columcille, who is considered by many to be the saviour of the western Christian Church, came here in the 550s AD prior to his leaving for Scotland and founded the Culdean monastery of Eastmacniere on Church Island on the west side of the lake and the church at Drum about one kilometre up the Boyle River.  These Culdee monks lived for 650 years in these foundations before being replaced by the missionary orders sent by the Pope, to reform the laxity of the Irish Church in the 12th century.  The Augustinians made their home at Inchmacniere, the Premonstratensionists built their abbey on Trinity Island, the Cistercians in Boyle and the Franciscans at Knockvicar.  With these foundations came the people and the lake side and country round it was soon cluttered with ringforts (the house of choice for many for a thousand years from 500AD onwards.

These monks ruled the roost along with the Gaelic chieftains until Elizabethan times when the Reformation and Plantation families came over from England to change things around. The local plantationer was the King family and Loch Ce became its playground as they speckled it with follies, hunting lodges and houses and managed the land round the lake admirably and much of what they did can be seen to this day.

So having jumped from one end of the river to the other, a quick trawl downstream between the two expanses of water,  reveals older treasures. We have mentioned the crannogs and their long historical use and the portal tomb at Drumanone all of which would be missed by all but the intrepid traveller. In fact in this whole litany of archaeological sites there is not a sign or a notice of their existence. The Irish Authorities faced with this absolute plethora of sites tend to be rather blase and like water allow the sites to find their own level.  You could live round Boyle for years and know nothing of its riches.  Further downriver on its southern side are a chain of trivallate ringforts all along the northern approaches to the plains. These trivallate forts were the homes of royalty for it is only those people that could call on the vasselage or the markers that would bring in the labour to construct these massive structures and today they lie in farmers fields slowly being flattened by cattle, only preserved this long because the poor country folk thought them the homes of fairies.  To the north of the river, at Ballylugnagon is a large ringfort with a commanding view over the river and Assylin, the ancient ecclesiastical centre where St. Patrick was supposed to have stopped on his journey to see St. Attracta at her hostel in Killaraght.

Castle Island, Loch Key

Castle Island, Loch Key

To the south of the river at this point is possibly the most important collection of barrows in the country. Barrows are Iron Age earth structures in different configurations which are supposed to be the burial places of important people, but so little work has been done on them archaeologists cannot be sure. The chain starts at Lugnamuddagh and runs in a southwesterly directio through Knockadoobrusna, where two have been destroyed by the Golf Club, and on through the Plains, through Corbally to Killaraght.  With possibly the most important one at Knockmeeliagh at the north east end of this chain, about 100 metres north of the N4 Trunk Road.  This is a bowl barrow on a hill overlooking Loch Ce and standing as a sentinel on the northern edge of the Plains.  It contains some 3000 cubic metres of earth and must have been the burial plot of a very important contemporary of Christ.  The river then flows through the town to the the obvious treasures of the 12th century Abbey and attendant bridge before flowing out through the townland of Drum and into Loch Ce.  Incidentally the main bridge in the town is in its third creation since 1750AD, the previous two fell foul of the waters, whilst the Cistercian bridge at Abbeytown is exactly the same structure as when it was commissioned in 1220AD both taking HGV wagons on a daily basis and both sorely tested by the volume of water they let through last week in the floods.

So with over 2000 words in today’s blog, I now need a rest. Adieu (more…)

Getting Here

One of the major aspects of moving base and going to live in a different country from that in which you have been historically domiciled is the fact that all your homework beforehand is a mere speck in the ocean compared to the reality of living the life.  Many a person has done it, Anthony Burgess, the writer, did it on numerous occasions and scarcely found happiness.  He seemed to treat every new abode as a base to travel from.  I wanted to cross to Ireland, go native, soak up the atmosphere and like the Normans did 800 years ago, become “more Irish than the Irish themselves”.  It has taken me five years to partially understand the country or enough of it to get by.  Most of what I have learned has been a plus to my original thoughts but as with everything there has been some downsides.

We,  ie.  my wife Helen,our youngest son Paul and myself came over in 2004 as a result of certain changes in my life.  The business I was running failed that year,  I realized I was a dinosaur in the world I existed in and technology had overtaken me without me properly realizing it.   I knew nearly all there was to know about the building and civil engineering industry but not about the computer technology that had taken over in the few years previously.   I was starting to hit the brick wall that so many people  of my advanced years hit at some time.   I did not want to continue in the life I had been in for 44 years.   I wanted a complete sea change and Ireland to me looked the part, a country where we had spent most of our spare time for years.    In this dream I was aided and abetted by Helen,  who in fact was born there but who had moved over to England with her parents during infancy.   It was without doubt our spiritual home,  our whole lives had been spent with wistful relations looking with nostalgic green eyes westward at their homes across the sea.   I had spent my whole working life in the company of  Irishmen,   in fact I had rarely worked with an English man and when I did there was normally a row.

Paul was 11 and due to start secondary school,  I had no wish to continue in a country slowly being turned into a caricature by Mr. Blair and his Scottish cronies.  Helen thought that if there was a time,  that time was then.   Our only worry was Paddy Jo, our fifth child, who was in her last year at school before hopefully going on to university.   As it turned out this evacuation put steel in her backbone and generously aided by her sister Kate and Mark, Kate’s husband,  she recorded magnificent A-levels,  went on a character building exercise to Borneo helping the indigenous orangutans to come to terms with  21st century living,  took a year out working with her sisters and is now in her last year reading English at University College Dublin,  where she has embraced the academic and thespian life.   What worries?  Ireland was only 45 minutes flying time from Manchester;  it was not a foreign country.  It was no different to going to live in Devon or Wales or even Yorkshire.

As a non-irish person,  whenever you have to fill in an official form, they ask for your nationality and what day did you come to Ireland.  On my first form I said sometime in the last 40 years.   That was not good enough but I did learn that through humour you advance.  I remember when claiming money for Child Benefit, when that date was finally nailed down,  the English authorities were claiming back from us £143 of overpaid Child Benefit which had to be repaid  before they would give permission for the Irish authorities to pay their contribution.   We should have by law applied for these things within months of landing but this was over two years after,  when we caught up with the system.   I wrote to the Benefits Office in Donegal that I found it amazing that 90 years after Independence the long scrawny arm of Her Majesty could reach across a foreign country to claw back what she thought was rightfully hers.  I received a congratulatory telephone call from the Donegal civil servant on my case who passed my claim with many a chuckle and backdated it two and a half years to boot.  No wonder Ireland has gone down the pan financially;  the Child Benefit they paid was €42 per week considerably more than the £11.70p we were receiving in England.   With a family of six children you would only need to work part time to get by, and the papers told us it was the suppression of birth control and the Catholic Church made the Irish have big families.   It was not;  it was the weekly bonus from the State.

So here we were in Ireland with a house we were trying to sell in England,  (a story I might put in the blog one day for amusement purposes) and Paul expecting to go to the newly opened Abbey College in Boyle.  Our first hurdle, the change from Junior to Senior School comes at 12 in Ireland not the 11 we were expecting.  So the mature 11 year old had to do a year in National School; an immediate come down for him.

We placed him in a school in Corrigeenroe, at the top of Loch Ce some four miles from Boyle and with just 60 pupils to its name. Incidentally Corrigeenroe means Little Red Rock and is in a delightful location looking down the eight miles or so of the Loch.   A loch that is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Ireland with reputably an island for every county  within it.   All Paul could see was thwarted ambition.

I settled down to write my memoir which I did during the hours of midnight and dawn in three weeks in December, all 120,000 words of it.  I have been editing and rewriting it ever since.   It has given me great satisfaction and practise in sharpening up my keyboard skills.

More tomorrow on my drift into ways Irish and just to say that we are no longer an island but a fully fledged peninsula sticking out into the ever diminishing Boyle River.   It has not rained for three or four days and we are set fair for Christmas however there are thousands in the West who cannot tell the same story.   I pity them and hope they hit the new year running.