We may soon have a visit to Waterford from the Laois Heritage Society which wants their authorities to introduce feral goats in an effort to protect the famous Rock of Dunamaise and its ruined caste.

The Rock of Dunamaise lies between the towns of Portlaoise and Stradbally and is one of the most historic sites in Ireland. It was first settled in the 9th century and the castle was constructed in the second half of the 12th century. Just over four years ago the Office of Public Works spent almost €2m on restoration work but, since then, the ivy has grown back with a vengeance and is threatening the castle remnants.

The Chairman of Laois Heritage society, Teddy Fennelly, said goats had kept the ivy at bay in years gone by but, after the restoration work, the Office of Public Works had banned all animals from the site. Mr Fennelly now believes that the best remedy is to put feral goats on the site as they would deal with growth much better than the domestic breed.

Having heard so much about them, the Heritage Society is considering visiting the herds of wild goats that still live at Bilberry in Waterford city and at Crooke in Passage East. They have been there for hundreds of years and arrived with the French Huguenots who fled to Ireland from religious persecution in their own country. A primitive, ancient, Landrace herd with long shaggy coats and crooked horns, they are said to be different to other wild herds of goats anywhere in Europe and they wouldn’t be long chewing through the ivy on Dunamaise.

Mothers and babies

Some interesting statistics about mothers and infants have been emerging in recent weeks and it does seem that ‘older’ women are now producing more babies than ‘younger’ females.

Figures just released for one Munster county (not Waterford) relating to April, May and June of last year would appear to strengthen that view. During the three months in question, there were 577 births of which 292 were girls and 285 were boys. Only 14 infants were born to teenage mothers, 76 to women aged between 20 and 24, 134 to mothers between the ages of 25 and 29, 184 to mothers aged 30 to 34, 138 to women aged between 35 and 39 and 30 babies were born to mothers over 40 years of age.

Seventy-two per cent of the children were born to married couples while 14 per cent were born to couples not married but living together and a further 14 per cent to women not living with partners. It has been suggested that, more or less, the trend indicated by the figures is common to all parts of the country including Waterford.

Calling a spade a spade

A friend got in touch last week to say he wishes that crime reporters in both the print and electronic media would stop using the phrase ‘known to gardai’ when describing people with criminal records who have turned up dead or have been reported missing.

He says the phrase makes him nervous and a little afraid because he is well known to loads of gardai yet, when used in the media, it usually refers to people who have criminal convictions. Call a spade a spade and if a person, who has been clearly bumped off, has a criminal record then please say so and don’t beat about the bush, he asks.

He also pleads with the gardai and reporters to be a bit more circumspect when describing crime scenes pointing out that it’s a bit rum to describe the killing of a person by shooting and mutilation ‘suspicious’. An unusual bump on the head would be ‘suspicious’ but not a succession of bullet holes or knife wounds.

Referring to the former Dublin gangland figure, The Viper, who now operates a licensed debt collection service, my friend concedes that his reputation and nickname could arguably have more impact than a crossly-worded letter but suggests that, if somebody is confronted by Mr Viper on their doorstep, they should immediately confuse him by announcing that they are ‘known to gardai’ and let him work out what’s what for himself.

Be careful where you kneel

A Waterford man who has lived in London for over forty years was home on holiday last week to attend a family wedding. Probably best described as an ‘a la carte Catholic’, Jim attends Mass regularly in London but he hadn’t been to Confession since before he left Waterford. However, due to a combination of urging from his sister, the solemnity of the wedding and the emotion of actually being back in his native place, Jim decided that it was time to cleanse his soul and his conscience and presented himself for Confession in his parish church last Saturday morning.

The last time he had been to Confession there were long queues outside several boxes and he was surprised to find that there was only one confessional in operation and there was no queue. He was beginning to experience some pangs of regret but decided to plough on and entered the box closing the door behind him.

After a few moments his eyes became accustomed to the gloom and to his amazement he noticed there was a small barrel of Guinness on tap at the inside wall and there were a number of spirit optics neatly attached to the wall as well. He was even more surprised to see a half eaten box of Dairy Milk chocolates on the shelf under the confessional’s grill next to a small box of Cuban cigars and the Sports Section of The Munster Express.

Jim was still scratching his head when the slide on the grill was pulled back and he could see a pair of blazing eyes staring at him. “Bless me Father for I have sinned and it’s been a long, long time since my last Confession”, he began.

“Yes, yes, we’ll get to all that in due course”, shouted the priest in an angry voice, “but first of all, get out, you’re in my part of the box.”