A bright ray of hope for cancer sufferers shone through the world news last week when it was announced that a patient with a form of advanced and fatal skin cancer had been cured of the disease. The man had developed secondary cancers of the lung and lymph nodes yet the experimental treatment helped to rid him of the disease and he has remained cancer-free for two years.

Details of the new treatment were announced in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. The treatment involved multiple cloning of one of the 52-year-old patient’s own immune-system cells outside the body and then reintroducing them into his system. The experimental treatment was carried out at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle by a team led by Dr. Cassian Yee. Dr. Yee revealed that, once introduced, the cloned immune cells triggered the body’s immune system and cleared the cancer cells within 60 days.

In an understatement, the doctor said he was surprised by anti-tumour effect of the cells and their duration of response but he warned against false dawns and pointed out that many more trials were required before the treatment could be confirmed as a valuable tool in the fight against cancer. Eight other patients have also received the new treatment and the medical world is watching their progress with great interest. If this really is a major breakthrough, let us hope Dr. Yee and the other research scientists get all the funding and assistance required to make it widely available.

The Mullinabro banshee

To those many people who left emails and telephone messages about the Mullinabro banshee story last week, can I thank you for your interest but it is not possible for me to get back to you all on an individual basis. Personally, I heard or saw nothing as I haven’t been in the Mullinabro area for a long time. In other words, I cannot advance the story any further than what appeared in last week’s newspaper. I can confirm that the local legend about the Jones family is certainly true but, as far as everything else is concerned, I only reported what I was told. Over the years, the only shrieking bibes I ever met were all human!

Mind you, I wasn’t really surprised at the reaction to the story because the banshee, or a similar entity, appears as a harbinger of death in the folklore of practically every nation on earth. Scratch the surface of our sophisticated veneer, my friends, and not far underneath is a huge well of emotions, beliefs and superstitions that is as old as mankind itself.

In memory of
Nicky Rackard

There is a major row in Wexford underway at present over a plan to honour the memory of the county’s best known hurling legend, the late Nicky Rackard.

Apparently, plans to erect a statue of Wexford’s greatest ever hurler have been opposed by some business people in the town who feel it would be ‘wholly inappropriate’.  The Mayor, Councillor George Lawlor, is reported to be furious at the opposition to placing the statue in the new Trimmers Lane Square as approved by the Borough Council last week.

Nine business people from the Selskar area have signed a letter of complaint to the council pointing out that, in their opinion, even though Nicky Rackard is a hurling legend, Selskar is not the place for him.  Mayor Lawlor responded angrily saying he did not like being lectured about local history and he could not see how the statue could be a negative thing.

The well known businessman and former All Ireland winning Wexford manager, Liam Griffin, says he applauds the wonderful job the businesspeople in question are doing in the Selskar area of the town but he feels it would most certainly be appropriate to have the statue erected there. 

“Our history, who we are and what we are is important and it is getting lost these days.  We can have Tesco, Lidl and Aldi in Wexford so why not a statue of Nicky Rackard”, he asks.

The controversy is further complicated by officials from Nicky Rackard’s old club, Rathnure, who feel the statue should be erected outside the club’s grounds and not in Wexford Town at all.  So, for the time being, the row rumbles on.

Dogs that are

By now, almost everybody accepts that we have a problem in this country with the owners of dogs who refuse to scoop up the dirt left by their pets on footpaths, roads and green areas. It is unhygienic and unpleasant to step in the stuff and potentially dangerous where children are concerned.

It is not the animals fault if they need to clean themselves and, in fairness to the owners, it is getting harder and harder to find places where their dogs can be exercised or permitted to run loose. But that is just another incidence of our changing times and the onus is on the owners to sort the problem out for themselves if they want to keep a dog.

Of course, this problem is not unique to this country. It is everywhere and different authorities are battling the problem in different ways. In Majorca, Palma City Council has insisted that all dogs must be micro-chipped. The animals are fitted with a tiny computer chip as pups and police officers and dog-wardens have been issued with detectors that enable them to identify the owners of animals for whatever reason. The scheme helps to recover stolen, lost and stray animals and it also identifies the owners of dogs that foul public places.

Senor Ramon Garcias, head of Majorca’s Veterinary College, confirmed recently that, at present, more than 156,000 dogs in the Balearics were registered as having micro-chips, 40,000 of them in Palma City alone. The fine, if a dog does not comply with the law, is €90 each time it is detected. Cat owners are not obliged by law to have their animals fitted with the chips but, so far, almost 4,000 people in Palma have done so.

A woman’s best friend?

Two Ferrybank women had just finished their late night shopping in Waterford city centre on Friday last and were returning to their car parked on the river side of the Quay when they noticed a funeral passing Kelly’s fashion store en route to The Cathedral in Barronstrand Street.

The shoppers’ attention was drawn to the fact that there were two separate coffins in two separate hearses and, behind them both, strode a tall, beautiful woman leading a big, black dog on a leash. There was a little gap behind the woman and the dog and then came about 200 women all walking in single file.

Intrigued, the two Ferrybank women dumped their shopping in their car and followed the funeral up to the Cathedral. They caught up with a woman walking at the end of the funeral procession and asked her what the story was. “The first hearse contains the body of the husband of the woman with the dog”, came the explanation. “The second hearse is carrying the body of her mother-in-law. The dog attacked the husband and then turned on his mother when she tried to intervene.”

One of the Ferrybank women looked at the other and said half-jokingly: “God, I wonder could we borrow that dog for a weekend.” The mourner looked at them sharply without smiling and replied: “Of course you can but you’ve got to get in line behind the rest of us.”