Lots of stories didn’t make it to air on Breakfast with Hector on RTE2Fm this morning, so anyone driving through Tuam, or hoping to parade a bin lorry or a tractor through the town on St Patrick’s Day will be well and truly pissed off that the ‘Big Dig’ is back! All this and more, below the fold… It was great to see the regional papers back on sure footing after the election as they were full to the brim of decent yarns, including some vintage court cases, but we’ll spare you those (for the moment).
Just when you thought it was safe to drive into Tuam…
Bad news from the Tuam Herald. Less than six months after the main route through Tuam was closed to facilitate ‘The Big Dig’, concerns are mounting that the entire town could be ripped up for a second time as difficulties have arisen with the installation of gas ducting in the project!
One lane traffic is back on Vicar Street, as Bord Gais get back to work with the diggers. The reason? The colour of pipes. They are not the requisite yellow colour that would make them identifiable in future years. Health and Safety experts have insisted on new piping being laid.
Half of the town had been dug up for the upgrade, which was meant to be a two-year project. Now, it seems like the whole town will be ripped apart.
Randy dogs used by oil thieves
Oil rustling is on the increase and it’s a very serious crime, especially as people have been put to the pin of their collar by recent hikes in price. In this week’s Munster Express, John O’Connor reports of an unusual method that a gang of thieves used on an unsuspecting ladies home in South Tipperary.
The woman was robbed twice in as many weeks, and was wondering why her normally quite vocal dog didn’t raise the alarm. She then discovered that the thieves were using a bitch in heat to distract the woman’s male guard dog!
Winner’s medal returned – 102 years later
We love a story with a happy ending and the Westmeath Independent, which has delivered positive stories by the van load in recent weeks, has dropped another gem with the story of a Senior Football Championships winners’ medal being returned to its owners 102 years after the final. Reporter Kevin O’Neill charts the compelling tale of the nine-carat gold Westmeath Football Championship medal which turned up in the medal box of a famous Galway footballer who had never donned the ‘other’ maroon.
The story began when Ballinasloe man Cyril Dunne – who himself has won three All-Ireland and six Connaught titles with Galway – brought a box of his equally legendary fathers medals to a jewellers to be cleaned, and up popped this mysterious Westmeath Medal from 1909. Cyril’s father was the famous John ‘Tull’ Dunne, Galway captain in the 1930s. He brought it to a school principal in Creagh, who in turn passed it on to a teacher who just happened to be researching Westmeath GAA history.
A search led them to another Dunne family in Monksland, Athlone, the family of the late Joseph Dunne. His son, 90 year old Bill Dunne was over the moon to be reunited with his father’s medal. It turned out that the men were cousins who hadn’t seen each other for many years, but the mystery continued as they found out that Joseph played for Ballinasloe, so it is not known how or why he lined out for Athlone on the fateful day he picked up his Westmeath medal.
Top Prince William lookalike is an Athlone traveller
The top Prince William lookalike currently working in the UK is an Athlone man, according to ‘An Athlone Life’ in the Westmeath Independent. Marc Rhattigan is busier than ever due to his uncanny resemblance to the soon-to-be-married Prince. The 28 year old is proud of his roots, writes Tadgh Carey.
“I am very proud of my Irish traveller roots and I would not swap them for the world. My dad’s side of the family still live on sites and they are amazing people. I’ve never actually lived on one but spent most of my time on them growing up.”
Currently working as a radiographer, his career as a lookalike began in 1997, when he was just 14, after he was mobbed by a crowd while on a day trip to London Zoo shortly after the death of Princess Diana, writes Carey.
Rubber bandits rob tyre factory
The front page of the Meath Chronicle features an intriguing headline that brings the fame of the Rubber Bandits to new heights. ‘Rubber Bandits strike in Duleek’ says the headline, and just as you fold open the paper expecting a tale about a gig in Meath by our favourite Limerick boyos you instead get the sad tale about a a Duleek Garage and Tyre Centre being robbed of every single tyre. John Lenehen, the owner, was devastated and says his own future and that of his three employees rests on the attitude of his insurance company. But he is a determined man, and despite being cleaned out he vows to beat the bandits and get the business moving again. CCTV captured the four Rubber Bandits as they carried out the theft and local Gardai are appealing for witnesses.
Eighth Wonder of Fore – kids thieving wishing wells!
The village of Fore in County Westmeath is world famous for its Seven Wonders — the water that doesn’t boil, water that runs up hills, the monastery built upon the bog, the mill without a race, the tree that won’t burn, the anchorite in a stone and the huge lintel-stone raised by St. Fechin’s prayers and it now has money-thieving children with cold feet and nimble fingers. Without a care i the world they paddle in Fore’s magical waters to steal money thrown in there by visitors making a wish. Yes, children who steal dreams, or maybe they are working for the dream brigade and they are taking the money to make people’s wishes come true?
Whatever, an enterprising reporter with the Westmeath Examiner captured a pair of youngsters rolling up their socks on a bitterly cold Spring afternoon last week just as a load of tourists departed having thrown coins into the magical water and tied a wish to the magical tree that doesn’t burn. The lads were armed with bags and started collecting the coins before they spotted the lens of the Examiner reporter and cycled off.
Moves afoot to rid Tralee of its ‘honky tonk’ image
Most regional newspapers feature a ‘pages from the past’ setion, where a lucky journalist gets to raid the archives in search of some golden oldies. There hasn’t been much old gold in recent months, but one old gem from 1981 is recalled in this week’s The Kerryman newspaper.
A report from the March 1981 Urban Council meeting sees the local council trying to get the Festival committee to remove the year-round Christmas lights which hang from the streets. A young Dick Spring said it was ludicrous to have the lights up all year round, saying they were grand for the Rose of Tralee festival and Christmas, but apart from that they took away from the town, with a colleague saying they portrayed Tralee as a ‘honky tonk’ town. Cllr Kay Cabal also said a newspaper compared Tralee to Chinatown, whilst other councillors disagreed, with one saying visiting dignitaries and delegates to conferences loved the lights being on when they arrived. It was decided they should be removed, much to the joy of the youthful Dick Spring.
Cricket fever hits the regionals
The recent purple patch by the Irish cricket team has seen sports writers from at least eight regional newspapers out into the great unknown to report on their local cricket clubs. Some reports are fine, others boring, but the best of the bunch is in the Kerryman, where reporter Kieran McCarthy, who last week compiled a list of the greatest Irish soccer team from Kerry, catches up with Kerry Cricket Club Chairman Dave Ramsey. The headline says he asked Dave the “age-old question – Can Kerrymen play cricket?” The answer? Well, kind of.
“We had a couple of hurlers from North Kerry in a couple of years ago. They were particularly good but the problem was that they wanted to hit every ball for six. They couldn’t adapt to the patient approach. The game was too slow for them. Kerry men, by their nature, seem to be very athletic and very adaptable when it comes to sport.”
But the paper unearths a stunning fact which will leave Kerry Gaels shivering in their boots and O’Neill’s jerseys: cricket was played in Kerry long BEFORE the GAA was formed!
Yes, a stunning fact for a GAA-mad county is that the first documented game of cricket played in Kerry happened 12 years BEFORE the foundation of the GAA. In 1872 The County Kerry Cricket Club took on the Valentia Cricket Club in what was allegedly a terrific encounter.
The game has undergone a renaissance in recent years, as Dave Ramsey explains. “There was a time, and it’s not that long ago, when I would be ringing fellas on a Saturday morning begging them to come to Midleton in Cork to play a game because we had no players. But now, you have to practice is you want to get your game. We are not short of people wanting to play. There’s a lot of interest from young fellas and that’s where the future of the sport lies.”
Queen to visit every county in Ireland. Obama edges closer to Kilkenny
First Kilkenny and Offaly want Obama, then and now Sligo wants a big name! Yes, the Yeats County wants QE2, aka The Queen to visit, and according to the front page of the Sligo Champion, if she doesn’t visit, maybe she’d like to fly over the county and see it from above. A ‘Flying Visit’ as it were.
Sligo church, political, business and civic leaders are pulling out all the stops to get Brenda to come to Sligo, home of the FAI Cup Winners Sligo Town, and representations have been made to Enda Kenny, Mary McAleese and the British Embassy.
“While it would be unlikely that the Queen would visit Mullaghmore, she might like to fly over te area and view Classiebawn Castle, where her cousin resided every summer.”
It is hoped she would attend a special interdenominational service of healing and reconciliation at a local church in honour of the late Lord Mountbatten.
She has also been invited to Kinsale, according to the Southern Star newspaper. The local council had mixed feelings, but they have sent an invitation for the Queen to visit the town as it was the scene of the battle of Kinsale of 1601, where the Gaelic Chieftains were defeated by the English kickstarting a process which ended with the cessation of the Troubles not so long ago.
“Now is the time for the Monarch to see where it all started,” said one Councillor. When Queen Victoria visited Kilkenny it “put the town on the map” said another, “and 100 years later it’s still reaping the benefit!” Proving the old wounds never heal, Cllr Noel Harrigan from Sinn Fein said: “we never tried to conquer England but they conquered us for 800 years so I am against the visit.”
In a busy week for the Royal Mail, the Queen has also been invited to Castlebar to visit the Peace Park, Killarney to kiss the Ring of Kerry and Waterford to see Lismore.
Meanwhile, the Kilkenny makers of the brilliant animated film ‘The Secret of Kells’ are to make Kilkenny’s case for a visit by President Obama on St Patrick’s Day. The Cartoon Saloon received a personal invite from President and Mrs Obama, who are big fans of the ‘Secret of Kells’. Creative Director Tomm Moore says he’s looking forward to meeting the Obama family, but admits he’ll miss the Kilkenny Parade. “I am a bit disappointed to be missing out on the parade, especially as the Cartoon Saloon is taking part but it’s an amazing honour to be asked to the White House.”
Pine Martins take on the Mink in Grey Squirrel battle
To Kilkenny, where the return of the Pine Martin is causing worry for the Mink but great celebration for nature watchers. Kilkenny City’s Castle Park was being devastated by the grey squirrels, who as well as killing the red lads, were gnawing trees to the bone, but a silent assassin has been at work and local nature experts were astonished to see more and more red squirrels and less of the grey hairs. At first they thought “Mink” but soon they spotted another killer, the Pine Martin at work.
A sworn enemy of the grey squirrel, the pine martin (brown with a yellow patch on his neck) was thought to have been gone to ground, and sightings across Kilkenny were very rare. But the ‘tree cat’ is back. Unlike the mink, who travels seven miles, the pine martin travels up to 20 miles a night in search of food. Like the mink, he’ll eat anything, and nature lovers are delighted to learn that he’s eating the grey lads.
Limerick’s floating Christmas tree makes a big splash sinking in the Shannon
Limerick’s floating Christmas tree will not be green on St Patrick’s Day after it toppled into the River Shannon last Wednesday. Submerged in the river by Howley’s Quay, passersby thought the 100 foot metal tree was a goner but the tree will return, only not for St Patrick’s Day.
Some locals were hoping it was gone, according to the Limerick Leader. “It’s a waste of money,” said Pauline McKevitt from Ballynalty. “They were going to turn it green for St Patrick’s Day. It’s a Christmas Tree like…” Mike Gough said: “The simple fact of the matter is that if you’ a Christmas tree at home, you’s would have it packed away by January 6th”. The Council say it will be back, and they compare it to the London Eye.
It’s not the first time the tree has caused controversy. According to reporter Petula Martyn, the tree crashed into Shannon Bridge in Novemebr 2009 after being carried away by fast-moving Shannon water. It is the tallest Christmas Tree in the country and is made from recycled scrap metal from the old Thomand Park and Limerick Tunnel. One theory of investigation is that the tree, which is held by four two-tonne moorings, fell due to an electrical fault.