As Waterford tries to come to terms with the fact that we have lost many thousands of tourists in the wake of the closure of Waterford Crystal, we should doff our hats to the shrewd commercial interests in Dundalk who are about to capitalise on the snow sports market which, at present, is one of the biggest growth leisure pursuits in the world.

A consortium of business people are about to create a €300m dry ski-slope that is expected to create 300 jobs initially in the first phase but which could, if it really takes off, create 1500 jobs in ancillary areas within a relatively short period of time. The tallest slope will be 45 metres high, 210 metres long and 60 metres wide and will be able to facilitate 500 patrons at any one time. Safety will be a high priority and skiers will have to prove their ability on the beginners’ slope before being permitted to use the main slope. It sounds very interesting indeed.

Disposable barbeques
can be dangerous

The following true story is worth noting if only to act as a warning to others. It concerns disposable barbeques that are sold in huge numbers in this country, especially during the summer months. On the occasion in question, a five-year-old girl from was playing on a South East beach when she walked on a still-hot disposable-barbeque that had been buried just under the surface of the sand. The child received second and third degree burns to her foot and ended up being treated in hospital. Her mother said her daughter had been badly injured, couldn’t put her foot under her and was in a lot of pain. Criticising the irresponsible attitude of the people who abandoned and covered up the still-hot barbeque, she said there was no excuse for people not to take their refuse with them when they left the beach. Amen to that.

Judge sends message
to Chief of Army

Regular readers of this column will be familiar with Judge John Neilan who is noted for speaking his mind even if his comments are aimed at very important people. Last week, an army officer, who was maintaining ‘a watching brief’ in court, received a dressing down and was strongly criticised by the Judge.

Before Mullingar District Court was a serving soldier who was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. His solicitor said her client apologised for the incident and accepted that his behaviour had been stupid. He had cooperated fully with the gardai and had an excellent record in the army. The lawyer said her client was supported in court by a Lieutenant from the Defence Forces. A driving disqualification would cause him serious difficulties but a fine that exceeded €260 would affect his position in the army.

Judge Neilan stated that there was not ‘a twin parallel system of justice’ in operation in this State and army personnel would be treated in the same way as civilians. Disqualifying the soldier for three years, he imposed a fine of €250.

The Judge then turned his attention to the Lieutenant and told her she was not entitled to enter his court and hold a watching brief on behalf of anybody without formally identifying herself beforehand and seeking permission to be there. Judge Neilan said it was also ‘grossly discourteous’ for the Lieutenant to turn up in court out of uniform in civilian clothes and he told her to report back to the Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Dermot Early, and inform him that there were protocols to be observed. Ouch!

Tips and etiquette for conjurors!

Despite the huge television and theatre success of our own Keith Barry and other top magicians, we still don’t see a lot of new people queuing up to enter the profession. But should there be any aspiring magicians/conjurors out there, they could do a lot worse than take the following advice that I came across last week.

The information in question comes from The Magician’s Handbook of 1902 written by a Mr Percy Tibbles who regularly used the penname of ‘Selbit’. It is important to note that the advice was directed mainly at magicians/conjurors who performed shows in the homes of the ‘gentry’.

1. When you enter the drawing room to do your show, do not go around and shake hands with the company as this might be taken for a piece of undue familiarity. In other words, pal, know your place! 2. If you are doing a card-trick with a lady and she will not select the card you are attempting to force, do not use foul language as this is not considered acceptable in polite society. It’s debatable whether or not that holds up in today’s society. 3. If a bald-headed gentleman resents you producing eggs and cigars from his pate, do not tell him to ‘keep his hair on’. Well, that’s fair enough. 4. Do not call the parlour-maid pet names or engage her in conversation to the neglect of your hostess. Remember you are getting paid and it is your duty to listen to ladies talking. In other words, put up with guff and don’t try and ‘get off’ with the help just because she might be prettier and younger looking than the woman paying your fee. Sound advice indeed.

The unluckiest sailor?

The lads were having a quiet Monday night drink in The Wander Inn in Johnstown last week when a stranger arrived into the bar. Usually the locals mind their own business but they couldn’t help staring at the newcomer who had a patch over one eye, a hook where his right hand should be and was using a crutch to help with a peg-leg.

“I know you’re all staring at me”, said the stranger, “but I don’t mind so I’ll tell you how I came to be this way.”

You could hear a pin drop in the bar as the stranger took a sip of his pint before speaking again. “I’m a merchant seaman and a couple of years ago I was swept overboard in a storm. I was wearing a life-jacket so the crew threw me a line but just as I was clambering back aboard, a bloody big shark appeared and bit my leg off.”

There was a murmur of sympathy from the lads as the seaman took another sip before continuing. “I was only back working on deck with my peg-leg when, one night, we were attacked by Somali pirates. It was a fierce battle and we managed to send them packing but, unfortunately, one of them cut off my hand with a big sword and I ended up with a hook in its place.”

“Ahh for feck sake”, chorused the lads as one, “you were having no luck at all.”

The stranger turned back to his pint as if he had nothing else to tell but, even though he seemed lost in thought, the lads interrupted him. “And tell us”, they asked, “what happened that you lost your eye.”

“Well”, said the seaman, “not too long after that I got a small bit of a seagull’s dropping in my eye.”

“But, surely, that wouldn’t cause you to lose your eye”, said the lads, puzzled by the seaman’s answer.

“No”, said the seaman with a grimace, “the dropping didn’t do the damage but it happened the first day I got my hook.”