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Dan Conway pays tribute to the late Albert Reynolds

Albert Reynolds did not enter political life until he was forty- four years of age, and he served as Taoiseach for less than three years.

But he made an impact on Irish politics that that belies his relatively short political career, and that few other Irish political figures have equalled since the foundation of the State.

And yet, while he was achieving great things in every ministerial position he held as part of government, and even while he worked so hard behind the scenes as leader of the country, there were those who looked down upon him from their dizzy intellectual heights, not fully able to comprehend how a man who liked, even loved, country music, could even aspire to the highest office in the land. I heard a man say that Albert Reynolds was the best Taoiseach Ireland ever had, bar none, and the man standing next to him replied “You might be right,” in that curiously Irish way of nearly agreeing with someone, or not quite disagreeing. I think he might be right. I’m almost sure he is. For I can think of no other Taoiseach who achieved so much in so short a term in office, and indeed in a relatively short political career.

That said, though, each and every leader performs to uniquely meet the needs of the time in which he serves.

They each have their day; and each leader has a unique socio-political climate in which to make a good and positive impact upon the country. I heard the names W. T. Cosgrave, Sean Lemass, Garrett Fitzgerald, and Charles Haughey punctuate conversations going on around me. There were others too, but these are the names I recall most readily. And among them, in that Irish pantheon, the name Albert Reynolds rings clear.

The late Albert was, I guess, the quintesssential man of the people. He was an astute businessman, the owner of a successful pet food company, and a dance-hall entrepeneur. He gave the impression that he always, or nearly always, had a song in his heart, and a Country & Western song at that.

He was an honest man, and perhaps that and an inherent decency, coupled with political nous, enabled him to play such a significant role in the Peace Process. I was very pleased to see the former British Prime Minister, John Major, at the funeral Mass.

There were, of course, many friends and admirers and contemporaries in the crowded pews as well, but to me, the presence of Mr. Major was perhaps most significant of all the visiting dignitaries to pay their last respects. The Holy Father, Pope Francis, paid a fulsome tribute which was read at the funeral service. In his letter from Rome, Pope Francis wrote that he’d learned with sadness of the death of Albert Reynolds, expressed gratitude for his efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Ireland, and prayed for the eternal repose of his soul.

Once, the late great American country star, Johnny Cash, was about to perform at an Irish venue. It was 1963, I think. Albert, who owned the premises, came in and told the manager to cancel the concert, as he had just received news of the death of Pope John XXIII. It is very unlikely that this would happen today. I can’t imagine a Garth Brooks show being cancelled for a similar reason, such are the ways of modern, ‘secular’ Ireland. Yet, the honour and respect shown to the late Albert Reynolds, the splendour of his send-off, the solemn funeral ceremony in the sacred Heart Church, in Donnybrook, belies such thoughts and bespeaks a Catholicism and a religiosity that is still vibrantly at the heart of this nation.

To read Dan Conway every week don’t miss your weekly Ireland’s Own

 

 

The memory of Mr. Reynolds and his achievements will long reside in the heart of the nation, and in pages of modern Irish history. 

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HELLO AGAIN! You really can’t go wrong with ham or bacon. Whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner, it makes for a tasty snack or main meal, any time of the day. The Pesto recipe below is very simple to make and delicious. However, there are some good brands available if time is really short. Don’t forget, when shopping, to choose ham and bacon with the Bord Bia Quality Mark to ensure they’ve been produced to the highest standards. I do hope you enjoy the recipes below.

INGREDIENTS Serves 4 450g dried chunky pasta shapes – such as rigatoni or penne 1 tablesp. oil 8 slices streaky bacon, diced 1 chilli, finely chopped Pesto 1 large bunch of fresh basil 50g pinenuts 50g mature/farmhouse cheddar cheese, chopped 2-3 garlic cloves, chopped 4-6 tablesp. groundnut or olive oil

METHOD 1 – Add the pasta to a large saucepan of boiling water and simmer until just done, 7-8 minutes approx. Drain but keep a few tablesp. of the cooking water. This will help the sauce cling to the pasta and adds a certain creaminess. 2 – In a large pan cook the bacon in hot oil until crisp. Stir in the chilli and 1-2 tablesp. of the cooking liquid. Remove from the heat. To make the Pesto: Whiz the basil, pinenuts, cheese and garlic together in the processor. Add the oil gradually. Place the pan back on the heat. Stir in the pasta and heat through. Add enough pesto to flavour well. Leftover pesto holds very well in the fridge and is a great addition to lots of meals and quick snacks.

To read more of Marjorie’s delicious recipes please don’t miss your weekly Ireland’s Own

 

Our favourite amateur sleuth is trying to crack the case of the disappearing eggs

There certainly were some clever pets in the world, Miss Flanagan decided, as she watched some You Tube videos in a spare few minutes.

Cats doing backflips, dogs skateboarding, pigs spelling out words – it was fascinating really, the things they had the intelligence to do. She was closing the lid of her laptop to go back to making chutney when her phone rang. It was Imelda Baxter, sounding worried. “No, I can’t explain on the phone, Brigid. You never know who is listening in,”

Imelda said. “Please come over as soon as you can.” Thinking that Imelda was still stuck in the old days of switch board operators being able to listen in on conversations, she hopped on her bike and headed for Imelda’s house.

“It’s my eggs,” Imelda said, still in a right flap. “I go to collect them every day – and there they are – gone!” Imelda explained that she had five hens that kept her supplied with eggs for her baking. They lived in the henhouse in the plot of ground behind her house and for the past three weeks or so eggs had been disappearing, several times a week. “Are you sure it’s not that your hens have simply stopped laying?” Miss Flanagan asked. Imelda looked insulted. “Pardon me! My hens are the finest you’ll get in the county! Not a thing wrong with them! 0They’re laying all right. It’s just someone’s nicking the eggs when they do!”

Looking out the kitchen window Miss Flanagan could vouch that Imelda’s hens were healthy looking. They certainly were, as was the pet donkey she had, and her cats, Mog and Atlas, and her terrier, Zig – shining pictures of health, the lot of them.

Miss Flanagan made a note of when the egg robberies had happened, according to Imelda. “It’s when I’m gone for a few hours. On those days two, sometimes three eggs are missing when I go out to collect them in the afternoon.” Imelda went to town on a Friday morning, to day-care on Wednesday afternoons, so her back was turned, so to speak, at those times. And Imelda had her own ideas about who the culprit was.

“It’s Bart Cunningham, next door – I’m sure of it!” she said. “He’s too miserly to spend money on groceries. It’ll be him sneaking in here the minute my back is turned and robbing me! He’s probably fattening on omelettes as we speak. All I need is the proof!” Miss Flanagan urged caution in apportioning blame. False accusations could be dangerous things. Best not jump to conclusions just yet.

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BE NICE TO SPIDERS!

In China they build houses – for spiders! Because the winter kills most spiders, in the rice and cotton fields farmers build small, waist-high huts out of straw where the spiders can safely hibernate. Then in the spring the spiders scuttle out into the fields to kill the harmful insects which feed on the precious rice and cotton plants.

Spiders are an insect’s worst enemy. It’s reckoned that spiders devour enough insects worldwide in a day to out weigh the human population.

The extra ordinary brownish grey Banana Spider lives in warm countries. It likes eating cockroaches and this spider will quite happily keep a house free of these pests.

In Central America the Banana Spider is a welcome visitor, eating insects and small lizards that crawl up the walls.

In California, to increase the spider population, enterprising farmers plant grass between the trees in their orchards. The spiders feed on the moths which would otherwise damage the apples.

Many spiders help farmers protect their wheat fro destructive insects. Weaving their large webs among the stalks, spiders catch the pests as they fall. Although some spiders, like the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse are dangerous, most spiders are harmless to man. Reports of people being bitten by spiders are usually exaggerated.

For more amazing facts about spiders and other creatures check out Ireland’s Own

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scarecrowHave you ever wondered why scarecrows don’t have a name? It’s because nobody cares enough about them to ever give them one. That’s why. Farmers just want them to do a job; scare crows. If they don’t keep those big black ugly birds away from the crops, then the farmers will simply get angry. Then they will make new scarecrows, and the old ones will be thrown onto a bonfire.

Farmers think scarecrows have no brains, and no feelings. But they are wrong. The following story is about a scarecrow that finally had enough of being picked on, and picked at, by everyone and everything he knew.

Once upon a time, there was a big field of corn next to a dark forest. In the middle of this field there stood a scarecrow. He wasn’t the biggest or most frightening scarecrow in the world, but he tried his best to do what the farmer asked him to do.

Every day he tried hard to scare birds, so that they wouldn’t eat the corn. But just because he tried to scare them, it does not mean that he did scare them. Some birds, you see, have no fear.

One day, in the middle of the hottest summer for fifty years, the scarecrow was getting really angry. He stood all day under the blistering hot sun without taking a moment’s rest. A group of bad crows that lived in the nearby forest had been flying over and picking lumps of straw from his arms, legs, belly and even his bum. They showed him no mercy. In fact, they enjoyed teasing him.

What they didn’t know, however, was that all the time they were biting and pulling and ripping him to pieces, the scarecrow was using his brain to make a plan. ‘I’ll wait until the time is right,’ he thought, ‘and then I’ll have my revenge.’

That night, just after the sun went down for its sleep and the bright moon was almost completely covered by clouds, the scarecrow made his move. He climbed down from his pole in the field and began to walk towards the farmer’s house. The moon made his shadow look very strange. It was the weirdest of sights. Step by step, he strode through the darkness.

His light feet and legs were made from straw. They did not make a sound. When he reached the farmhouse, he stopped. Then he took a deep breath. The scarecrow had never done anything like this before.

He tried the back door handle. The farmer had left it open. He always did. The scarecrow sneaked his way into the house and towards the kitchen. There was nobody there. Everybody was sleeping. He made his way over to where the radio sat on the dresser, lifted it and carried it outside. There he placed it into an empty wheelbarrow. He went back inside, into the sitting room.

The scarecrow carefully lifted down the farmer’s television set, and carried it out to the wheelbarrow too. Then he crept his way up to the farmer’s bedroom and opened the door. The farmer and his wife were sleeping in their bed.

The scarecrow tip-toed his way past them and took down the second radio that Farmer listened to when he was having his afternoon rest. He carried it outside and put in the wheelbarrow. His plan was nearly complete. But there was one more thing that he needed.

In the farmer’s son’s bedroom he found the biggest CD player in the house. That was the last thing he wanted to get. He started pushing the wheelbarrow down the path, across the field, and into the dark forest. He did not stop until he was in the middle of the forest.

The scarecrow stopped and looked up into the trees. On the branches he could see the bad crows. Asleep. Their heads were tucked into their chests and they were snoring. “Perfect,” he whispered.

One by one, the scarecrow turned up the volume buttons on all the machines, until they could not be any louder. Then, with his straw hand, he hit the play buttons on the remote controls, all at once.

The loudest noises you have ever heard came blasting from the speakers. Screech, screech, screech. Wail, wail, wail. Crash, crash, crash. It was so painfully loud that the scarecrow had to put his hands over his ears. Farmer bolted upright in his bed. His wife stayed asleep, however. She could sleep through anything.

The bad crows jumped up out of their nests and started to scream and squawk. They were terrified. They had no idea what the noises were.

Daddy crows bumped into Mammy crows. Uncle crows crashed into auntie crows. Brother crows fell into sister crows. Sharp beaks scraped off sharp beaks. They screamed and yelled, and flapped their wings. As fast as they could, they started to fly their ways out of the dark forest. Screaming and squawking, screaming and squawking.

They flew and flew and flew and flew, until they were miles away and there was not one crow left in the entire forest. Out across the Irish Sea they flew, searching for a quiet and peaceful place, far far away from the dark forest.

And there, in the middle of the forest stood the scarecrow. Cackling. His eerie laughter echoed through the empty trees. His plan had worked. He had given the bad crows such a fright that they would never come back again.

His revenge was sweet.

So remember, the next time you pass a field of corn and see a scarecrow hanging there on a stick beneath the sweltering sun, have a little think about his feelings.

After all, you wouldn’t like it if nobody bothered to give you a name.

Would you?

The End

 

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Check out Owen's Club for lots of activities for our younger readers to enjoy

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20140905_RG_P_IRO_ED1_S01_030Join in the fun and games at Owen’s Club

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HELLO AGAIN! A large glazed ham need not be confined to Christmas dinner – this will feed a big gathering of family or friends generously, with enough left for the occasional sandwich. A joint of gammon or collar bacon is first par-boiled and then baked with a mustard topping. Serve hot or cold with this tangy Cumberland sauce. A tasty mixture of oranges, lemons, redcurrants and port, Cumberland Sauce is best served cold as a delicious accompaniment to this glorious honey glazed ham. I do hope you enjoy it.

c 10 Minutes COOKING TIME: 53/4 hours. 2-3kg/4-6lbs lean gammon or prime collar joint of bacon 2 bay leaves 1-2 onions, quartered 2 carrots, sliced thickly 6 cloves GLAZE: 1 tbsp redcurrant jelly 2 tbsp wholegrain mustard CUMBERLAND SAUCE: 1 orange 3 tbsp redcurrant jelly 2 tbsp lemon or lime juice 2 tbsp orange juice 2 – 4 tbsp port 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard TO GARNISH: Salad leaves Orange slices.

METHOD 1 – Put the meat in a large saucepan. Add the bay leaves, onion, carrots and cloves and cover with cold water. Bring slowly to the boil, cover and simmer for half the cooking time, allowing 30 minutes per 500g/1lb 2ozs plus 30 minutes. 2 – Drain the meat and remove the skin. Put the meat in a roasting tin (pan) or dish and score the fat. 3 – To make the glaze, combine the ingredients and spread over the fat. Cook in a pre-heated oven at 180C, 350F or Gas Mark 4 for the remainder of the cooking time. Baste at least once. 4 – To make the sauce, thinly pare the rind from half the orange and cut into narrow strips. Cook in boiling water for 3 minutes then drain. 5 – Place all the remaining sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and heat gently until the redcurrant jelly dissolves. Add the orange rind and simmer gently for 3-4 minutes. 6 – Slice the gammon or bacon and serve with the Cumberland sauce, garnished with salad leaves and orange slices.

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Maggie would have slept for the entire journey had she been alone.

But with Daniel sitting beside her, exuding excitement, albeit silent excitement, she found it impossible to erase the fear from her mind.

She opened her eyes and glanced at her forty year old son, who was only short of asking: Are we there yet?

Daniel, on hearing about the news of his maternal grandfather’s demise and his mother’s inheritance, hardly stopped begging her to return to Ireland and claim what was hers. “It’s hardly worth it.” She tried to put him off the whole idea. “It’s only a bit of a house: two up and two down. You’ll be so disappointed. Best you forget all about it. I’ll get an agent to sell it.” But Daniel would not let it go. He insisted that both of them go to Ireland. After all, he argued. I have a right to see my mother’s birthplace. Finally, Maggie relented, agreeing to Daniel’s plea. But then, she rarely denied him anything.

In a way, she was pleased to see her son so excited because, since Jake died six months ago, Daniel had become far too quiet: so unlike his usual jovial self. His father’s death had affected him more than Maggie could believe.

“They had been so close those two,” she had told a friend. The green fields came into view. They were like a big patchwork quilt of different shades of green interspersed with some houses and villages. Daniel was glued to the window, completely mesmerised by the views.

Maggie did not look out at her birth country. She had vowed never to return some forty one years ago.

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Walking the beach is good for my bodily and mental health. It’s a bit of a drive to get there, but I make a project of it maybe twice a month.

I prefer the morning, before the sand is disturbed by lots of walkers, and when the sun is dancing among the waves. And I like it when the tide is about half in, so that I can walk on firm sand.

This day anyway, a Monday, I took myself off early and arrived to see the waves still churning after the stormy winds of the night before.

The rumbling white horses were exhilarating, and the wind, though strong, felt warmer I think than it was because the sun was bouncing off me.

I stepped out vigorously, (maybe not so vigorously as I was ten years ago!), and headed off face against the wind. The tide was low, so there was no problem with firmness underfoot.

On I went with the sound of the ocean in my ears, and without a thought; I was right in the ‘now’. There is something very soothing about walking to the sound of waves, with an awareness of the wind and sun about you. I must have been totally absorbed in the walk because suddenly I was brought back to earth by the clumsy flapping of a wounded cormorant.

Poor creature. I thought at first he was resting, and that my absentminded arrival had panicked him, but no: he was in a bad shape, and was trying to make it back to the sea. Here’s how bad he was: his wings seemed as if they had been twisted back against the shoulder joints, and he tried to make forward progress by pushing with these and digging with his beak into the wet sand.

He was in bad shape, and I wished I had the guts to put him out of his misery by wrenching his neck: to tell the truth I was afraid of his beak. I left him, knowing nature will take its course. But that was only half the drama.

If I found the sick bird interesting, I got a positive treat from the antics of a seal trying to get back out to the deeper water. He or she wasn’t a pup, but was even less of an adult, a big pup if you like. He was a beautiful silvery grey creature, and I watched closely as he snuck down facing the breakers.

He had to get beyond the first two surges, and many times he was simply washed back in. He wasn’t aware of me, and the intensity of his focus on the task in hand intrigued me. It took fifteen minutes, and I saw him use a stronger back wash to give him the necessary traction to get out, and then he was gone.

Only on the way home did the thoughts kick in. How life is sprinkled with tough situations, like that of the bird, and successful achievements like that of the seal. And how we can be sad at the pain of the world, and joyful at the happy endings. 

Read Cassidy every week in Ireland’s Own

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