Commins Calling - Jan 24, 2007

People and Places
Flooding pic
WATERY ENTRANCE End of the road at Sean Joyce’s house in Ballynacarra, near Kilmaine.

Explaining the weather in 2006

DURING the past year, there has been a lot of very contrasting weather patterns across Mayo and on the continent of Europe. Mayo meteorologist Martin Sweeney, who operates a climate station in Straide for Met Eireann, takes a look back at the weather and tries to explain the reason why Mayo had four months of strong winds, heavy rainfall and mild temperatures, and why Europe is having a virtually snow- and ice-free winter so far.
Rainfall: The total rainfall for 2006 was 1279mm (50.35 inches) and this was 2.4 inches above the average. The wettest days were August 30 with a rainfall of 27mm and December 2 which also saw a figure of 27mm. December was the wettest month with nine inches of rain while June was the driest with just over one inch.
Apart from a very wet 10-day spell in May, most of the year was rather dry and we had a very dry summer. From mid-September to mid-December, there was a very heavy rainfall of 22.6 inches which amounted to nearly half of the annual average in three months.
In my time of keeping records, which now stretches back 43 years, the wettest calendar month was in February 1990, when over 11 inches was recorded. There was another record in recent weeks when, over 32 consecutive days from November 14 to December 14, there was an exceptional 324mm (12.75 inches) rainfall recorded in Straide.
Air temperatures: The warmest day of the year was July 18 when the temperature reached 29C. In the months of June and July, there were 22 days when the temperature was over 21C. With an abundance of sunshine, including 15.7 hours on June 1, we had a Mediterranean-type summer.
The coldest night of the year was on March 6 when temperatures plummeted to -8.6C. Apart from March, every month of the year had above average mean air temperatures.
Snowfall was restricted to the first few days in March with 8cm of snow on the ground on March 2. Thunderstorms were recorded on seven days during 2006 but none was of a severe nature in this area. However, on Saturday September 23, a tornado swept north-westwards over several miles, one mile west of Aclare and near the Mayo-Sligo border.
Storm floods and high temperatures: Last Winter, there were less depressions than normal in the east Atlantic and no deep depressions to push warm moist air into Europe. High pressure developed over Eastern Europe over snow-covered ground and the air temperature fell to -35C. Hundreds of people froze to death and the roofs of several large buildings collapsed under the weight of snow.
During the late Autumn and into the current Winter season, there has been an almost non-stop crop of deep depressions and most of them have been near the northwest coast of Mayo. The exceptions were two high pressure interludes in early November and around Christmas, apart from a few days in mid-November when Nephin mountain was snow-capped by Arctic air.
The main source of air masses is from the tropics, southwest of the Azores with a persistent high pressure region over southern Europe to the Azores. This warm moist air is pushed northwards into the mid-Atlantic where it meets the cold freezing air from Canada and Greenland. The cold air surrounds the warm moist air and a low pressure storm quickly develops and then moves north east between northwest Mayo and southeast Iceland bringing gales or severe gales and heavy falls of rain.
By mid-December, many parts of Mayo had serious flooding and lakes in Mayo and Galway were at their highest levels in living memory.
This weather pattern is also affecting most parts of Europe. Those powerful south-westerlies are pushing warm air into West Russia and most of Europe at sea level is now ice-free. The exception is Lapland. It is not a good season for the skiing industry as the snow level is about 5,000 feet. On January 13, the highest mountain in Germany, Zugspitze at 10,000 feet, had a temperature as high as zero and 105cm of snow. Anyone planning a ski holiday should travel, because as soon as the wind goes to the north or east, there will be plenty of snow. Some years, there is too much snow.
A few years ago, I went on a holiday in late summer to the Alpine village of Lermoss in Austria and the mountain of Zugspitze was nearby. I got to the summit via three cable car stations. The view was magnificent and so beautiful with all the surrounding Alpine peaks. There is a weather station as well as TV and FM radio station transmitters on the summit and also a café and souvenir shops. You can walk from Austria into Germany on the summit but you need a passport. The weather was perfect with excellent visibility, some snow, and the temperature was near zero but not cold as there was no wind.
This Winter so far, Poland and West Russia are having an Irish winter but in 1947 and 1963, with high pressure to the north and low pressure to the south, Mayo had a Russian winter.

PJ and Seamus are back in Digger Jay’s
BACK by popular demand. That’s PJ Murrihy and Seamus Shannon who will bring their acclaimed show to Digger Jay’s in Ayle this coming Saturday night, January 27. The duo are firm favourites throughout this region and their music remains hugely popular on the local stations.
Seamus and PJ have a very loyal and committed following in many parts of the country and have also won a whole new legion of followers through their overseas shows in Ibiza, Portugal and Spain. Both are highly accomplished entertainers and command huge respect among the showbiz fraternity.
PJ and Seamus are also playing a date in the Belmont Hotel in Knock on Friday, February 9 and many of their friends in that area are very much looking forward to their visit.

A dream come true
IT will be a case of a dream come true for Fermanagh country singer Ally Harron when he meets American country legend Ronnie Milsap in the States next month.
Arrangements have been put in place for the meeting and Ally says he is delighted to have secured the chance to meet a singer whose style and songs he has admired for many years. Ally Harron and Marian Curry are regular performers at shows around Mayo.

McNicholl plays Claremorris
DERRY’S John McNicholl (pictured) has gone for an old favourite,‘You Are No Angel’, as his new release. The song was very popular for Shaun O’Dowd in former times. The young country singer and his band are heading to the McWilliam Park Hotel in Claremorris on Sunday night for a special date with dancing from 10pm to 12 midnight.
In April, John will return to America where he will play two shows at Dolly Parton’s theatre in Dollywood and appear with her on her Festival of Nations. Later in the year, he will undertake shows in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
John and friends enjoyed a trip to Nashville last October and during that time met up with Maura O’Connell, the Clare-born singer who has been residing in Nashville for the past 20 years. John was featured on a special programme about Maura O’Connell and a tour of Nashville which was broadcast recently on RTE Radio One.

Finding room for a smoke
ON a recent night visit to the General Hospital in Castlebar, I came across a few ladies standing outside in the biting cold smoking some cigarettes. This is a regular occurrence throughout the day and into the night.
What kind of insane political correctness decrees that people who enjoy a smoke and who are patients in a hospital should be made stand outside the front door in the bitter cold on days and nights when, as the saying goes, you wouldn’t put a dog out?
I believe that if former Taoiseach Jack Lynch was around now, a man with the common touch, he would revolt against the idea of forcing patients out in the cold. Jack enjoyed his pipe. Indeed, it was synonymous with him. I never heard anyone say that it impacted on his ability to lead the country. But in this PC-driven lunacy of recent times, Jack would face a court case and a serious fine if he lit up at one of his party gatherings or any other indoor function in the country.
It is an abomination that men and women who enjoy the comfort of a cigarette, and who are patients in hospitals, are being treated like lepers and being forced to put up with such circumstances. Surely to God there is a room somewhere in the General Hospital where people can go and avail of a little bit of comfort while they are patients in the hospital instead of having to endure such hardship?
As a non-smoker myself, my heart is with those who have to endure such manifest intrusion by the State into their lives. Something must be done to accommodate these people and it is remarkable that the politicians are now almost afraid to open their mouths and come out in support of them.
Freedoms are being swept away at an alarming rate in this country and a tiny minority of PC peddlers are being allowed to control thousands and thousands of lives. My advice is to challenge at every opportunity when you don’t agree with something. The day you are afraid to speak your mind is the day you have ceded control of it to others. Stand up and be counted.

The Mannion cycling brothers
THE Mannion brothers from Laught, Moylough, Co Galway, were, in former times, probably the most famous cycling brothers in all of Ireland. Four of them, Mick, Mattie, Jimmy and Paddy, won All-Ireland senior NCA track titles. The other two, Tom and Pete, were also highly competent at the sport. Some of them would have been colleagues of Westport’s own cycling legend of other days, Mickey Palmer.
The Mannion cycling saga began in the 1920s and ended when the youngest member of the family, Paddy, retired in the late 1950s. In that period, they immortalised the name of Mannion in the sporting annals of Co Galway and put the hitherto unknown village of Laught on the sporting map.
The Galway GAA Annual of 1963 carried a short feature on the famous family and it was forwarded it to me in recent days by Mayo News reader, Tom Lally from Garrafrauns.
An extract from the article, which was penned by someone who signed himself ‘Cothrom na Feinne’ (Fair Play) recalls some of their exploits:
“Though he may not have reaped as many honours as some other members of the family, Mattie it was who showed the way and coached his younger brothers to success, learning the hard way, on his own, against the toughest opponents.”
Pete, who never won a senior NCA title, was runner-up on numerous occasions. He was unlucky in that he was the leading Mannion when there was no other Mannion to do the spade-work for him.
Mattie and Mick soldiered together in the early years, and Jimmy and Paddy teamed together in later years. Pete was all alone in between and with a little help might have gained more honours than any of his brothers.
All the Mannions, with the exception of Jimmy who was adept at sprinting, were sloggers, men of great endurance, ideal for road racing in an age when there was little or no Irish interest in this aspect of the code.
I often think it is a pity we have not the Mannions around today to represent Galway in the modern version of Rás Tailteann. What a combination they would be! Even the Poles, who won the 1963 Rás, would feel their presence.
The Laught Mannions carried on a Galway cycling tradition, handed on to them by the Goodes of Ballinasloe. They maintained that wonderful tradition and with their great dedication to the sport, established themselves as one of the outstanding sporting families in the history of our county.”

Murphy’s America
THE re-run of the show Murphy’s America, which featured Mike on a visit to Nashville over two decades ago, provided some excellent viewing on RTE 2 last Wednesday night. Mike’s easygoing and laid back manner was perfect for the Nashville scene and he really felt at home in the company of many of the great stars of the country music circuit.
Sadly, a number of them have since passed on including Roy Acuff, Tammy Wynette and Chet Atkins, all of whom featured prominently in the show.
More shows of this nature are needed by RTE and its long past time they despatched another crew to Tennessee for some ‘specials’ from Nashville. There are also some delightful programmes ready to be made in Kentucky and Virginia featuring some of the stars of the bluegrass circuit. After all, this is the home of music of the Ulster-Scots who settled in those and neighbouring States.

Glór Tíre in Galway
JUST a final reminder that TG4 are recording the new series of Glór Tíre shows in The Quays Bar, Quay Street, Galway this week. On Monday night, Brendan Shine, Mike Denver and Hugo Duncan were the featured singers. Tuesday night, January 23, sees Mick Flavin, Shaun Cuddy and Robert Mizzell (pictured) on stage while the Wednesday night show features TR
Dallas, Susan McCann and Mark Roberts. Each night will also feature three of the nine selected finalists in the new talent series. All nine finalists will be featured in a special show on Thursday night. Doors open at 8.30pm and the recording is due to get under way around 9pm. Patrons can get out and dance or sit back and enjoy the music. There’s a 10 euro cover charge and all are welcome.

Death shocks hurling community
THE tight-knit hurling fraternity in Mayo were saddened to hear of the recent death of a young hurler from neighbouring Roscommon in a car accident in South Roscommon. Alan Gately (27) was a member of the St Dominic’s club which is based around the Knockcroghery area and had played in various grades since his juvenile days.
Alan was a member of the St Dominic’s team that won the Roscommon junior title in 2006 and was due to receive his medal at the club’s dinner dance in the Hodson Bay Hotel last Friday night week.
Ballyhaunis-based Bank of Ireland manager and newly appointed manager of the Roscommon senior hurling team, David McConn, whose sons play hurling for Mayo, was due to preside at the presentation in the Hodson Bay.
“The news of Alan’s death came as a great shock to all involved in hurling in Roscommon. The family have strong links with the St Dominic’s club and hurling was his game. Over 400 people were due to attend the club’s dinner dance, which is phenomenal support for a hurling club in South Roscommon. Naturally, the celebration night was called off due to the tragic death of Alan. Our condolences go out to the Gately family as they mourn their great loss,” said David.