A quaint story we heard over the weekend put a smile on our face.
Some years ago a well-known cattle dealer from Ballinasloe called to the home of a widow lady in Connemara who had a cow for sale.
Upon getting there, the man saw that not only was this lady and her young family living on the margins, but the cow for sale was their only cow and was supplying them with all their milk and butter.
Showing a remarkable generosity of spirit, the east Galway man asked the lady how much she wanted for the cow. She named her price. He didn’t haggle, as might often happen, but paid up and then left the cow after him.
Some twenty years later the Ballinasloe man was selling horses at a fair when a man approached him and asked him how much he was looking for a particular horse. £8,000 was the asking price. Again, there was no haggling and the buyer told the dealer he could keep the horse too.
Dumbstruck with this unusual if highly profitable way of doing business, the seller asked why on earth the buyer was doing this.
“Twenty years ago you gave us the price of a cow and refused to take the cow with you. My mother was eternally grateful and she said if any of us ever had the chance to pay you back, we were to do it. Now I’m paying you back.” And with a handsome interest too.
It was but one of several old world stories told last Friday and Saturday at the funeral of my granduncle, Tim McGreal, who died last Wednesday. Tim was a large cattle dealer known throughout the province and beyond and if anyone was unsure of just how popular he was, they only needed to be in Ballinrobe on Friday evening to see the thousands attend his removal.
From 5pm until after 11pm his immediate family sat to meet sympathisers and while it no doubt drained them, the depth of good feeling will no doubt sustain them too.
To look at it in modern terms, Tim wasn’t of the Facebook generation. But judging by the swell of numbers in Ballinrobe last Friday, he’d probably have over 5,000 friends if he were on Facebook. He’d be tagged in a lot of pictures, would ‘like’ a lot of status updates. But the only tagging Tim would have been concerned with was tagging of cattle. The only status updates he would want to know was whether one of his cattle trucks was on the way back from Listowel or of how his large family were getting on.
Like his fellow cattle dealer from Ballinasloe, Tim belonged to a different era. People skills and decency were two of the most important characteristics you could have.
And the paying of tribute at funerals is a way of life for many in the west of Ireland. It was for Tim. That’s probably changing a little now. Whether that’s a good thing or not is debatable. But it’s certainly different.