A North Kerry Story.

At the turn of 20th century, a man, his wife and daughter came to live on the slopes of Cnoc an Fhomhair Hill. They purchased a small holding of a nineteen acre hilly family farm and settled in a rundown dwelling. The neighbours never found out much about them but they came to believe they were of Kasistanor Russian origin. 

He was a much travelled man, could speak seven languages fluently and went by the name of Pato. His daughter’s name was Trudy. She was a beautiful dark skinned girl with Raven black hair. When both her parents died, she had taken great care of them, she found it difficult to get a man and ”twasnt any younger she was getting.”

She decided to go to London. There she worked in a hotel for six years. In the course of her duties she became friendly with a Scotsman called Athaneus McGregor. He delivered duck eggs to the hotel though he didn’t have any ducks himself.

They soon got married and decided to returned to the nineteen acre hilly farm for times got tough in London and people gave up eating duck eggs. In a short time they purchased four cows and a working horse. Athaneus purchased a second hand woods mowing machine, remember them?, the drivers seat was made of metal, over the machine itself on top of two wooden lengths. 

The summer that year was the finest in memory. At  the end of June, Athy, as the neighbours called him, decided to cut the three acre hilltop meadow. He wasn’t long cutting when the wooden legs of the seat broke and poor Athy fell off in front of the cutting bar of the machine. Around mid day Trudy called to the meadow with refreshments for Athy. Well the sight that she saw in the mid-day heat would cause another woman to faint.

Athy lay face downwards on the meadow with his backside bleeding and severed from the bone. He was now unconscious. Trudy rushed to the nearest house, raised the alarm, a doctor was brought on horseback and he discovered that the checks of his backside had gone cold and limp due to lack of circulation . Athy was rushed to hospital with the checks which were wrapped in a flour bag .

The head surgeon at the hospital at that time was a Doctor Bernard – a distant cousin of his in the future would preform,in the future,the first heart transplant in South Africa. The surgeon decided that the backside could not be sown back on. A panel of doctors discussed it and a young doctor, whose mother was from Beal came up with an idea.

At that time the hospital kept an Aryshire cow in the grounds. The young doctor suggested that they slaughter the cow and maybe her udder could be grafted on to what remained of Athy’s backside. The operation was carried out and the transplant complete. Athy remained in hospital for three weeks and when the bandages were removed they showed a complete clean graft. Athy was discharged in a week with a proviso to return for a check up in three weeks.

In the meantime he discovered the odd bit of discomfort in the udder. On the day of his check up in the hospital, the doctor pulled one of the Paps of the udder and, to his surprise, out came milk. That was what was causing the discomfort. He asked one of the nurses to provide a bucket and draw off some milk. She did as she was told and drew off five gallons. Athy was now satisfied and pain free. He returned home.At that time the best carpenter in Ireland, in all of Kerry,  lived near Athy and Trudy. He made a special chair – a milking chair. It was made in such a way that the udder and Paps would come down through a hole in the seat, to enable the milker to draw the milk from the udder without any trouble. The first one was made too low and was used instead as a commode . The second one was made to accommodate the height of a bucket.


In a short time  they sent the five gallons of milk to the creamery. Athy was able to provide a year round supply. He had a top butterfat content and made a great price per gallon. Later they bought a gorric hand seperator and started making butter at home. They produced 14lbs of butter a week which was sold in Ballybunion and Listowel.

Porridge and water was his main diet six times a day. Things were going very well until Athy contracted black scab and mastitis . At that time there was no cure for these complaints. He began to gain weight- about six stone in all. He spent the remainder of his life on the milking chair.

He died at the age of seventy seven and Trudy died two days later. Both are buried locally. 

I first read this story years ago in The Ballydonoghue Rural Journal and at the time I was facinated by the writing of Gabriel Garcia Macquares. The South American writer was able to go from fact to fantasy almost unnoticed and here in our oral North Kerry tradition was a story that did a similiar thing. Thanks to the writer of the story which I’m only remembering in my head and to salute the great work of that Journal.

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Knowing is always balanced with unknowing.

Yesterday I left Asdee for Cork Hospital at 6am. I was lying down and sedated at 9.30am for scope. Woke up at noon to talk to surgeon. Throat widened a little, a bit raw down there, biopsies taken. Scans in the afternoon, results later, home safe thanks to Kathleen and Ann. 


A poem by Mary Oliver.

Everyday I see something that more or less kills me with delight,

That leaves me like a needle in a haystack of light.

It was what I was born for – 

To look, to listen, to loose myself inside this soft world

To instruct myself over and over again – enjoy!

Nor am I talking about the exceptional, the fearful, the dreadful, the very extravagant but the ordinary, the common the very drab, the daily presentations.

Oh, good scholar I say to myself, how can you help to grow wise with teachings like these –

The untrimmable light of the world, the oceans shine, the prayers that are made out of grass.

It’s a year since I first quoted this poem in Caringbridge.org and it still sustains me. And I’m thinking with gratitude of all the supportive medical staff and others I met on my journey yesterday.

The Swallow and the Barnacle Goose.

Fr Tom’s Donkeys.

Twas a great discussion night last night in downtown Asdee. A few neighbours were in including the bird watcher. It appears that when the swallows arrive from South Africa the Barnacle Geese leave for Greenland. They usually share the Beale/Littor strand for a few weeks . Last evening about 100 of the geese gathered at Littor as if they were ready to go but the winds are from the North so it would make their flying more challenging so they will wait a few days. A few years ago up to 300 geese gathered for the flight to their breeding ground. The barn owl population is on the increase and in Kylatalian I myself saw an owl lately flying by day. “Where the owls fly by day,” would be a great name for a mystery story? And here is said barn owl flying by day in Kylatalian, on the breakfast run.


Over 10 years ago, the late Dan Wren went down to Littor Wood, where he collected a dozen conquers from the horse chestnut trees and planted them, looked after them and later replanted them in his haggard garden. They have now matured into a lovely grove that will give shelter as they stand as a memory to Dan. I thought of him there yesterday as I recalled the great contribution he made to life down our road. He will be dead three years this August. Five  years ago there were twenty people over 80 years old down our road.  Dan was by far the most active and he helped everyone as he went from house to house doing little jobs for everyone, messages from the shop, turf in, a paper delivery, a lawn trimmed. He never gossiped, always helped. Yet he was the first to die. And his great witness to the Faith he so earnestly believed in is missed greatly. So at Dan’s grove I said a silent prayer, more to him than for him.

And yesterday I had a visit from my great friend Fr. Tom McMahon of Trien. He is all excited, like he had won the lottery. His female donkey which he recently inherited was in foal and has given birth multiple times. He was overjoyed as he shared with me this photo of the increase in his donkey family pictured above.

Dan’s Grove.

“Your endurance will win you your life.”

As I get ready again for my trip to Cork hospital this Thursday I have been looking back at what I wrote on Caringbridge.org these days last year. The end of April last year found me in the middle of chemo/radium treatment. Checking bloods and staying free of infection was the Dow Jones of staying alive! I was inhabiting a bleak landscape in which “the depth of love,care and compassion of those around me ” gave me a new experience of God. And then there was the continual reminder of our troubled world with the Mediterranean being turned into a graveyard and people on the move into Europe but not to rural Ireland. Then there was a day I was on the floor with pain, a friend looking into my eyes said,”your endurance will win you your life.” It made me realise what real presence is, really is and it is true ministry.
Yersterday, a year later, I walked with Kathleen and Trish to the fort, Lisaniska at the back of the house. There was a blue sky and gentle heat. The 12 hour flight from Frankfurt to Mexico City flew overhead as we entered the fort. We walked around it clockwise we prayed and let the silence of the place speak to us. It is where I go when I imagine a place of healing. The eucyliptus trees planted earlier are struggling, the badgers do eat them, but they will survive. They regrow after forest fires. The newly planted 20 oaks are thriving. A message last year from Greta Rakowski from Australia, who has since travelled further into the mystery of God, said “before God, your health is my claim for you.” Yesterday I had the health to be able to walk back there, a thing I couldn’t have done in any degree of comfort in the past and for this I am grateful. Today in the post I got three letters, a Mass card from Knock from Josephine and Ted, a Mass from Rome and a prayer to Padre Pio from my friend Hannah Mary in Gneeveguilla and a message of support from Paudie. And for this to I am grateful. To live is to change, fast at times and slow at times but changing we are.

At the top left hand corner of the photo you can see the Mexico flight at 38000ft.

Dancing in Croke Park.

Well “no All-Ireland is won in April,” and Kerry played a great game for an hour in Croke Park yesterday. But in the last 15 minutes a great Dublin team got Hill 16 singing Molly Malone by crushing Kerry, 2-18 to 13 points. High balls didn’t seem to work for Kerry and Dublin seemed to always make the right decisions.

After the game the GAA gave us the largest attended celebration of the 1916 Rising in music, song and dance. It was magnificent.

Patrick Cassidy’s haunting arrangement of Padraig Pearse’s lyrics sung by his niece Sibheal Cassidy held the half hour piece together. Patrick Cassidy was in Kerry at the start of the year for the wedding of Grainne O Sullivan and Gerard Barrett. He is a well known film composer who lives in LA and has written the music for Ger’s up and coming “Smalltown” television series.


I liked the way the pageant started with the Northern myth that has so dominated the Irish experience, the Cuchulainn violent story. This myth gave way to the singing of “oro se do bheatha bhaile.” Through dance we were invited to look up. Inspiring words from Michael Cusack, Padraig Pearse were heard alongside words from John Redmond and Edward Carson as they recruited Irishmen for W.W.I. Then Lisa Lambe sang Canon O Neill’s “The Foggy Dew.” Tom Barry’s famous question ,’what did it all mean?’ was asked. The survivor of the Civil War asked a question that still echoes down through the years. Then children spoke the Proclamation and Micheal O Muircheartaigh finished with the words ‘ni neart go chur le cheile ,’ our strength is in being together.’ His gentle, liturgical language lead to connections with the GAA family globally and then the grand finale.

We were given so much to think about as a new formative peaceful myth was being crafted or was sensed. The turf of Croke Park was filled with feet and not a football in sight. It was smoke filled and so many of the selfie generation were smiling at the camera. What a great amount of work and thought went into the pageant and congrats to everyone involved.

If you missed it, here is a chance to see it. Link expires Sunday 15 May 2016.

//players.brightcove.net/1290862567001/EJpe9ul_g_default/index.html?videoId=4860412670001

Direct Link to TG4 Player here

Moonlight.

There has been wonderful moonlight these last few nights. Go to the window in a darkened moonlight night and you see a shadowy reality outside, then turn on the light in the room and the world outside becomes totally dark. I remember John Moriarty making the point that in the same way we can be looking for answers to questions with the wrong search lights. If I want to see the fox passing in the night from my window,the light on in room won’t help. As John said,”It is with that that eclipses God that I seek God .” But God isn’t the fox that passes in the night!

Jim Kennelly tells me that when a kitten is born its blind for nine days. In the same way there are inside of all of us, huge awakenings. It’s as if we’re here to wake up as we begin to realise why we are on the planet at all. So that might be why we are here at all. We have to wake up from waking as Jim always says. “When your heart speaks,take notes.”

Over fifty years ago alot of neighbours around here visited the friendly garden centre in Beale, Hannons, where famously they ‘sell every blooming thing.” The Hannon family introduced the countryside to the Asian plant  cordyline. Lots of these plants started to appear down Littor Road. There was one planted in our front garden. It grew over six feet high. Then when we got severe cold weather four years ago alot of the cordyline died, including the one in our garden. This spring when we cleared away the growth seven new trees have grown and are thriving. From the death of the old plant, new life, seven new plants! Is it any wonder Jesus used the image of the seed dying in the earth and from that comes forth new life when he explained the mystery of life?  

Music-the breath between the note.

I  remember the first time I heard Christy Moore sing the song “The Cliffs of Doneen.” The words were different to what I knew but the sheer emotion with which he sang the song brought you there. And that’s the thing about music, it changes my experience of time. As T.S. Eliot says, it communicates before it understands. Music can bring me to a depth within myself and keep me there.

I felt this very powerfully when I was listening to Iarla O Lionaird singing the song made famous in the film ‘Brooklyn’. You can see the Irish landscape in his voice. It’s as if there’s a memory in the music. You can hear the loss, there is famine and emigration in there. And after listening to it there is a harmony, a sustained note that I can hear inside me for days. What’s etched in the music or in the singers voice can find a home in the eternal place with us all.

Billions.

Local artist Sean Stack is hosting a seminar in downtown Asdee on the new American television series Billions. 

 Here’s Sean at work on a local project that you can see on his Facebook site Stackart.

There is an outbreak of binge viewing again around here since Billions came out. It’s all about the super rich managing hedge funds in present day New York. The carry on there is more like the mafia than Wall Street. Bobby Axe is the rags to riches fella who has hit the big time. The Attorney General is Chuck who has it in for him. But, am I bothered?, as Catherine Tate would say. These issues shouldn’t bother us but no harm to look at  a Shakespearian theme in today’s world. These characters have huge egos, vaulting ambition and the Pope wouldn’t be long taking them down for they are merciless.

It’s a great insight into the world of horse trading that goes on at high finance. There is a brilliant part of a  H.R. person, Wendy, who is married to Chuck but works for Bobby. She is a brilliant psychologist who misses nothing and is able to bring everyone into the moment. Donie O Keeffe says she reminds him of his wife Joan. Mary White lost interest in the series when she heard the line, “my cholesterol’s high enough. Don’t butter my backside, just get smarter.” Kevin Mulvihill likes the idea of “a good matador doesn’t try to kill a fresh bull. You wait until he has been struck a few times.” Eileen McEllistrim would prefer to have a cup of tea but she did quote Wendy,“we don’t need meds, were just listening to the wrong voices.” Anyway, all places in the seminar are gone and the waiting list is full.

The Ringing of the Bluebell!

  There was a memorable sunset last night that brought so many of us outside. “One fine day and we forget all the wet weather,” said weather woman Nina. When Kevin called the other day he had seen something bright in the sky and it was warm. After the long wet winter he had almost forgotten what the sun looked like and needed to be reacquainted with it again! The weather has put us all in good form again. It opens spaces to see light and life in ignored places. The smell of wild garlic in a white blanket stills the rushing heart. I stopped to imagine a clump of bluebells ringing me into another world where the present moment  reigns. The now embraces all the whens and all the might have beens. Stopping by a clump of bluebells can bring me to the heart of the moment. 

 
When Phil O Carroll was asked when she was born she declared she was born in the year of the bending bluebell. Wasn’t she right for as Oscar Wilde says,”the woman that would tell you her age would tell you anything.”

And today is the first anniversary of the death of our neighbour, Genevieve King. Yesterday I went down to Littor House and with George and Mary we walked amid the woods. Overlooking the Shannon, scented by the wild garlic, coloured by the bluebell, we remembered the joy that growth at this time of the year brought to so many of our dead. 

 

The Swallows are back.

  One swallow doesn’t make a summer but the scouts are back darting in and out of the shed. After a three week flight from South Africa their ability to pinpoint the exact place of their birth is a challenge to understand. Is it the angle of the light that guides them to their home of origin, like the salmon returning to its spawning bed from the ocean? And where am I on route to I ask myself this bright morning?

I also had a visit yesterday from my friend, Fr. Jim Linnane. I’m reading the book of his classmate and friend,Willie Walsh, the retired bishop of Killaloe. It’s a great read for he always struck me as an Irish Pope Francis. Early on in the book he gives the Latin version of Mollie Malone, a favourite in the Irish College in Rome. 

 Jim Linnane gave full voice to it yesterday evening and it would do your heart good to hear his excellent Latin after all these years.

One of the joys of blogging is the connections made. I got a lovely message from Mary Scully in which she speaks so eloquently about the power of place. Mary  gave her permission to show it for it warmed my heart: 

“Fr Moore, I’m sure you hear this all the time but I just wanted to let you know that I read your posts daily and I greatly enjoy them. I grew up and have many fond memories of Asdee but will admit rather ashamedly that I have no direct memories of yourself. It’s a weird thing to have lived in Kerry for my formative years and then Carlow for my teenage years and now Kildare with my husband & family. That transient life gives me a sense of not belonging anywhere. ‘Home’ for me is where my family is, and I have no roots. I have felt this all my adult years and I do not feel sad about it, life is life and on we go. But everytime someone ask where are you from, I reply Kerry. Everytime Kerry play in the GAA, I shout for them to win. Everytime I read your posts, I’m Kerry to the core & I sometimes read them to my dad approaching his 79th year. He asks for you often….Johnny Scully from the cross and I tell him of your news. Reading your posts about the people and the razor fish, the sights, the sounds…it’s just special. It’s home. And I thank you most sincerely for your written word. I remember you in my prayers and I wish you the very best of health. Take care of yourself 😊 Mary Scully”

What a warm, uplifting connection! And then to keep me grounded, my niece responded to my picture yesterday of the donkey : 

 “That’s a lovely selfie,” she said to me!