Traditionally, St. Brigid’s Day is a time when schoolchildren all over the country make St. Brigid’s Crosses for their families and friends but, according to my sources, there are problems with raw material this year.

Friday, February 1st. will be Saint Brigid’s Day, considered by many to be the first day of Spring, and it is traditionally a day for children to make the distinctive crosses. But, apparently, suitable rushes are very thin on the ground this year and the ones that are available are producing reeds that are too thin and scrawny to use.

It seems farmers clear their land more often these days and the rushes get the chop in the process. So, if you have suitable rushes on your land or you know where they can be got with the permission of the landowner then please contact a Primary school in your area. They’ll be glad to hear from you and St. Brigid will say a little prayer for you into the bargain.

Goodbye, for now, to Kilkenny’s soccer Cats

Sports fans, and followers of soccer in particular, will be sorry to hear that Kilkenny City’s twenty-year run as a national League of Ireland club is over and there will be no Black and Amber Cats in senior soccer this season.

The sad news was confirmed earlier last week by the FAI’s chief executive, John Delaney. Due to a combination of poor results and dwindling attendances, the future of Kilkenny City had been in doubt for some time and while the outcome will not come as a surprise to many, it will still be a shock that it has actually happened. There are debts of about €50,000 and the club was being kept going by a small band of hardworking volunteers and backers.

Kilkenny City owns its own ground, Buckley Park, on the outskirts of the city and it is recognized as one of the best in the country with a superb pitch and two stands providing seated accommodation for 3,000 spectators. Mr. Delaney said he hoped it could be maintained in its current, high-class state as he believed the club was only ‘taking a breather’ and would be back.

There were great celebrations in 1984 when the club was elected to the new First Division of the League of Ireland. It had come into existence in junior football as Emfa, an amalgamation of two street-names in Kilkenny, and the club later changed its name to Kilkenny City and was promoted to the Premier Division.

One of the club’s founders, Jimmy Rhatigan, is still the general manager and is one of the best known and respected names in Irish soccer.

Sinn Fein Mayor cries foul!

There is a row simmering in Athlone at present that has attracted much interest across the country and has even prompted a former Fine Gael Minister for Defence to voice an opinion. Older readers and students of politics will remember Paddy Cooney who held the government Defence portfolio in the mid to late 1970s.

The controversy has to do with an allegation by the Sinn Fein Mayor of Athlone, Councillor Paul Hogan, that he was being snubbed by the Defence Forces who did not invite him to official ceremonies at the town’s Custume Barracks. At the January meeting of the Town Council, Mayor Hogan said he had not been invited to any function in the Barracks since his election last July and he wanted to know if it was a local decision or a ministerial one.

However, a statement from the Defence Forces said the Mayor had not been snubbed and he was welcome to attend any official ceremony at Custume Barracks as were all elected national and local officials. The statement added that no official function had been staged at the Barracks since Mayor Hogan’s election. The Mayor’s response to that statement was that his definition of an official function appeared to differ from that of the Defence Forces.

The into the fray came the outspoken Mr. Cooney, a resident of Athlone, who declared in a letter to his local paper that, as recently as last year, Mayor Hogan had expressed his support and approval for the Provisional IRA armed campaign.

Referring to the death of Private Paddy Kelly of 6th. Battalion Custume Barracks, who was killed by the Provisional IRA, Mr. Cooney said Mayor Hogan, and those who had supported him for his high office, could hardly be surprised at a cold breeze from Custume Barracks. The Defence Forces were not, said Mr. Cooney, in the business of betraying the memory of a murdered comrade and fellow citizen. No punches pulled there and I suspect we will hear more about this in the weeks ahead.

A European religious first?

An interesting and novel educational project is underway up the road in Kildare and, if it succeeds, it will be a European first.

Members of the Islamic, Roman Catholic and Progressive Jewish congregations in Kildare are attempting to set up a multi-religious school that would cater for all their children. Unlike non-denominational schools, the children would practice and be instructed in their own religion while, at the same time, being taught how to respect the beliefs of other children.

The parents behind the project need a minimum of seventeen children to enroll at Junior Infants level before they can seek approval from the Department of Education. However, Ms. Berna Hayden, who has been working on the project for the last four years, is optimistic after twenty people turned up to hear a presentation about the proposed school. She said the proposed school would ‘celebrate difference’ and described the people who supported her idea as being ‘Columbus-like’ for their willingness to chart new waters.

Tony Browne’s secret elixir!

The following is a mad, ‘Ballybricken’ type story that was relayed to me by a well-known and highly respected Ferrybank man who swore blind that he was telling the truth. He even went so far as to tell me that the hero of the piece was none other than the Waterford, Munster, All Star and former Hurler of the Year, Tony Browne.

Speaking to Tony at the weekend, I asked him could the story possibly be true and a far away look came into his eyes before he replied: “Old Indian chief, he say, your mind is your country, your soul is God’s and the fish river is a dimension where magic occurs.”

Needless to say I was impressed at such a deep answer. “Does that mean that the story is true”, I asked. Nodding wisely, Tony smiled patiently and laid a gentle hand on my shoulder before replying: “Old Indian chief, he say, wisdom is where you find it, the truth is where you put it.” Tony then began to hum an ancient Indian mantra so I left him to it and decided I’d tell you the story anyway because it’s probably true.

About four years ago, Tony was on a winter break in the Canadian Yukon where he indulged his passion and skill for fishing. One day, he felt a huge tug on his fishing-rod and, to his amazement, he saw that he had hooked the biggest salmon he had ever seen. This fish was so big his head was hitting off one side of the riverbank and his tail almost off the other!

No matter what the Mount Sion man tried, he still couldn’t land the thrashing salmon so, in desperation, he reached up and tore a branch off the apple tree he had been sitting under. He fashioned a rough spear out of the branch and plunged it deep into the salmon’s back. However, the jolt only served to drive the big fish into a frenzy and, to Tony’s amazement, it jumped high in the air and landed in the middle of the river before disappearing below the surface.

Tony returned to the same spot under the apple tree on the Yukon several years in a row but he never saw a trace of the elusive salmon until his most recent visit. He was sitting under the tree, his line bobbing on the water, when he had to blink several times because, in the middle of the stream, moving along the surface of the water was a large apple tree laden with fruit. The tree came straight for him and it was only then that Tony realized it was growing out of the back of a huge salmon.

“My Goodness”, thought Tony, “that’s some turn-up for the books.” And, just as the fish and the tree swerved away from the bank, Tony reached out and grabbed a big, fat apple off of one of its branches. “Well, well, well”, thought Tony, as he watched the tree disappear into the distance. Absentmindedly humming his Indian mantra, he wiped the apple on his sleeve, took a big bite and was rewarded with the most beautiful and delicious mixture of moist sweet apple and succulent pink salmon. So now we know, he’s found a magic elixir. No wonder he’s hurling so well.