Cash-starved farmers, who are already trying to cope with increased production costs and lower prices, are greatly put out that the Department of Agriculture is using aerial mapping with the latest satellite technology to claw money back from those who, according to the Department, received overpayments relating to their acreage.

Some farmers have been left reeling over the latest cuts which, on average, range from €1,000 to €2,500 depending on acreage. Using state of the art technology, officials have been studying the aerial photographs and have been omitting buildings, scrub, gorse and roads from its overall calculation of acreage. The latest blow comes hot on the heels of an already drop of about €6,000 per farmer when all the various schemes are taken into account.

When asked about the situation, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Tony Killeen, said some farmers had forgotten to exclude farm buildings and non-grassland areas when they were submitting their claims. However, an IFA spokesperson said the use of aerial mapping was causing serious problems for farmers who were already under financial pressure. He also suggested that aerial photographs could often be misleading as, in many cases, grassland was prevalent underneath trees and other foliage.

John B Keane on women


Regular readers will know that I had great time for the late John B Keane who was, in my opinion, a much better writer than he is given credit for. Certainly, his plays have been hailed as masterpieces the world over but, like the late Hugh Leonard, his hugely successful newspaper columns never received the critical acclaim they should have. Perhaps, the columns appealed to too wide an audience and were not considered cool enough for the luvvies and ‘in crowd’ of the art world.

The Limerick Leader newspaper continues to print his columns from the 1960s and they show that, sometimes, not very much has changed. Last week, for instance, John B was lamenting the poor summer of 1964 which he described as drab and showery. There was nothing one could do about the weather, said John B, but he did chide the womenfolk of Ireland for adding to the drabness by not putting on colourful summer frocks.

He believed a good summer dress should be visible to the naked eye from a distance of four-hundred yards. It should be dazzling enough to startle and, if it rustled a little, all the better as far as he was concerned. He was also very fond of hair ribbons and stated categorically that, in his opinion, ‘all the hats in the world were not to be compared with a bright, silk ribbon rightly bound about the brow’. He once devoted an entire column to the subject of women’s handbags and came to the conclusion that such item was never, ever empty and always contained at least fifty items. He was right then and his words continue to hold water to this day.

Now John B was clearly not a chauvinist. He liked and respected the female of our species too much and, because he had often written very positively about women’s rights, he could get away with those kind of comments without having his head bitten off, even in the 60s. Mind you, I wouldn’t chance asking some of the lovely ‘wans’ I am friendly with to put on something bright to cheer up the nation’s menfolk. I know the answer I’d get if I lived to remember it!

Monsters in our lakes


A new book by John Dunne has just been published dealing specifically with the many lakes that are dotted around County Galway. What makes it interesting to us is the suggestion that what holds true for Galway’s lakes also applies to similar waterways elsewhere in the country, including County Waterford.

According to the book, Lough Auna, three kilometres south east of Clifden, contains a fearsome animal that has been seen over the years by fishermen and bog workers. It is said to have the head of a horse and the body of a giant eel. Then there is the creature, or family of creatures, that live in Lough Abisdealy. Again, this is a reptile-type animal that has also been seen slithering on land close to the lake. One of the most famous people who claimed to have seen one of those creatures was the novelist Edith Somerville.

According to John Dunne’s book, Lough Fadda, also near Clifden, is home to an unusual amphibian that likes the company of humans and has scared the wits out of more than a few unsuspecting visitors.

Apparently, the folklorist and friend of W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory, was something of an authority on the beasts that live in Galway’s lakes. In her writings, she records seeing a horse-like creature in a lake at Tirneevan and she also claimed to have seen a strange animal the ‘size of a stack of turf’ in Lough Coole near the town of Gort.

I’ve often heard people speak of strange things they saw in the many lakes and reservoirs in County Waterford but I always thought it was the drink talking. And I used to say the same thing about the people who saw the ghosts on the Quay. I apologise for doubting them all. What a fool I was!

Squirrels in the Church


When it comes to wisdom it is often hard to beat the knowledge built up over the years by parish priests if only their parish councils would listen to them in the first instance. Recently, a church in Waterford was over-run by grey squirrels of all things. They were first discovered in the organ loft, then in the sacristy and, finally, a couple of the little animals caused consternation when they hopped across the altar during Mass.

Something had to be done and, when the matter was raised at the next meeting of the parish council, Fr O’Connor (not his real name) said he could get rid of them no problem.

However, the members of the council were so worked up that they either didn’t hear or didn’t want to hear their parish priest’s solution and, instead, all sorts of remedies were proposed. In the end, it was decided that it would be wrong and cruel to exterminate the squirrels so a specialist company was hired to trap the animals and then release them into the wild a long way away from the church.

It took about a month to capture all the squirrels and, in one go, they were released unharmed into woodland about five miles from the church. The following Sunday was squirrel free but by the time the next Sunday came around the squirrels were back and had brought many of their country cousins with them.

The parish council didn’t know what to do but then somebody remembered that, at the outset, Fr O’Connor had said he could get rid of the pests. To his credit, the priest didn’t say ‘I told you so’ but quietly asked the council members to let him do his own thing in his own time.

The following Sunday there wasn’t a squirrel to be seen in the church and, at their weekly Monday night meeting, the grateful and amazed parish council were loud in their praise of their parish priest. Fr O’Connor said he would prefer not to disclose his methods but assured everybody that none of the squirrels had been harmed. “But I must tell you”, he said, “the squirrels are not completely gone. They will turn up every now and then but they won’t cause any trouble.”

After the meeting was over and when the others were gone, Fr O’Connor and the Chairman of the parish council had their customary cup of tea and chat. “Go on, tell me, how did you do it”, said the chairman to his old friend. With just a trace of a sad smile on his face, Fr O’Connor replied: “I baptised them all and, now, we’ll only see them at Christmas and, perhaps, at Easter as well.”