ONE of the more unusual landmarks of the River Moy is the lonely hulk of a concrete boat which has lain beached at Belleek Wood for 30 years. But, in fact, the history of the Creteboom goes back much further than that.
Built of ferro concrete, the Creteboom was launched in 1919, too late for the war service which was its original scheduled fate. Instead, it was put into service in the Baltic Sea, plying its trade towing coal barges from the north east of England to Petrogrod and other Baltic parts.
Come 1937, and the Creteboom, together with three other decrepit vessels, was purchased by the Ballina Harbour Commissioners to act as a sand stop at the mouth of the river. But a series of events, including the outbreak of war, prevented the plan from being put into operation. The Creteboom, abandoned and decaying, sank into the Moy waters.
Time marched on, and in 1974 attempts were made – successfully – to raise the hulk from the centre of the river. It was moved to a point near Belleek Woods, on the west bank of the Moy, where it remains beached to this day.
And it was that small piece of Moy history which led researcher, Noel O’Neill (now something of an expert on the Creteboom episode) to welcome two men back to the riverbank at Belleek a week ago. Martin Golden of Enniscrone and John Francis Mahon of Skreen recalled how, on a bitter March morning 33 years ago, they had moved the hulk from its graveyard of four decades, re-floated the wreck, and managed to transport it across the river to its resting place at Belleek.
As the two swapped memories of the day and posed for photographs at the request of Noel O’Neill, the topic came around to what might be done to remove the eyesore and even give it another lease of life.
Noel O’Neill noted that a sister vessel, the Cretegoff, is anchored at Carlingford Marina in Co Louth, where it has been refurbished and is being used as a lounge and changing rooms for the marina members.
Perhaps with so much talk of the establishment of a marina in the Moy, maybe some imaginative local entrepreneur might convert the Creteboom into something more functional than it is at present.
THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER
TOP marks to the imaginative Glenisland community which is formulating plans to honour the memory of a local man who went on to become a folk hero in his adopted Australia.
Jack Riley – and we must allow here for a little phonetic adjustment to the spelling – is famous throughout Australia as ‘The Man from Snowy River’, that most enduring and popular of all poems from down under.
Composed by Banjo Paterson (the Australian equivalent of Percy French), the poem tells the story of a valuable horse which escapes into the wilds of the Australian Alps, and the princely sum offered by the owner for his recapture. Although many riders set out on the search, they all give up, unable to handle the wild terrain and dangerous hazards of the Snowy Mountain.
Only one is left in the chase, but by dint of skilled horsemanship and superb courage, he holds on to recapture the runaway horse and claim his prize. ‘The Man from Snowy River’ became a national icon. The poem now appears on Australian bank notes, while two movies and a stage musical attest to the national pride in the hero.
That hero, it is now universally agreed, was none other than Jack Riley from Glenisland. Little is known of just how or why he made his way to the tough small town of Corryong, high up in the remote outback. But yet, every April, thousands attend The Man from Snowy River Festival, celebrating the heritage of the high country with Riley’s ride, buck poetry, street parades, music, food and wine, and warm tributes to the man from Glenisland.
THE MILK OF HUMAN KINDNESS
AS a born-and-bred townie, your scribe understands little of the marketing process which brings the litre pack of milk to his kitchen table, barring that it’s next to impossible to open without spilling. (As an aside, I will be soon patenting a simple, easy to open method employing a simple domestic scissors, a cobbler’s awl, and a small device which can be attached to the kitchen table).
But one would need to be deaf and blind not to know of what seems to be a bitter war between Connacht Gold, which sells milk, and its farmer suppliers, which provide the company with its raw material. Connacht Gold is penalising those suppliers whose milk supply does not reach the necessary level of quality to enable it to be processed and then sold on to you and me. The suppliers, on the other hand, are angry that their incomes are dropping and claim that all of this was sprung on them with undue haste and with a lack of transparency.
Commercial reality being what it is, disputes between suppliers and manufacturers are part of the normal cut and thrust of business. Suppliers and buyers of raw material, although they need each other, live in a constant struggle where each side aims to maximise its profits.
But – we’re only asking – surely the situation with Connacht Gold is somewhat different. Connacht Gold is a co-operative, and a highly successful one at that, but at the end of the day it is owned by the very people, the rank and file supplier of raw milk, who are now in bitter dispute with the people who are paid to run the show on their behalf.
• Happily on going to press we learned that the date of introduction of the new Lactose Penalties Structure has been modified. The volume affected by the penalties will now apply to the milk produced from November 15 to November 30. The penalties will not apply to the milk produced from November 1 -14. The Board of Connacht Gold Co-Op confirms that there is no change in the level of penalties for low Lactose milk. Currently quality issues are under review and the Lactose penalty will form part of the review.
THE TOY EMPIRE OF CLAREMORRIS
WHAT a success story is that of the Smyths Toys group, set up 20 years ago by four Claremorris brothers, and now the biggest company of its kind in Ireland.
Sales in Smyths’ first year of operation, in 1987, came to €20 million. Sales in the twelve months to the end of March last year came to a staggering €185 million. It has 19 stores in the Republic and five in Northern Ireland and will invest €10 million over the next two years in opening five new shops and refurbishing five others.
Christmas came early, according to financial commentators, for the four brothers – Patrick, Tony, Liam and Thomas – who reportedly shared €14 million in management fees for the company in the year just gone.
KEVIN BOURKE’S ACCOLADE
THE signal honour accorded to that most self-effacing of people, Kevin Bourke, by the Irish Post, was well deserved. The first person outside of England to be given an Irish Post Pride of Ireland Award, Kevin took the accolades in his usual stride.
When Kipling wrote of people who ‘can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat these two impostors just the same’, he surely had people like Kevin Bourke in mind.
The Birmingham award was given specifically for services to the Irish emigrant community in Britain. The reality is that such service is only one part of what the former Mayoman of the Year has achieved for the marginalised, less privileged and otherwise neglected of Irish society.
Much of the impetus for his emigrant work comes from his own time in Britain where he saw at first hand the plight of elderly emigrants who had fallen on hard times and for whom life was no longer kind.
Best of all, he persuaded (as only he can) Rehab Ireland to become involved in the Irish Centre in Coventry, which has proved such a lifeline for a whole ageing population of Irish emigrants who have been given a new quality of life in their golden years.
YOUTH THEATRE DELIVERS THE MESSAGE
‘DO You Playhouse’ is a Castlebar-based theatre group which provides youth theatre for people in the 13 to 18 age group, and which has been going from success to success since it was formed.
Established by Donna Ruane and Oisín Herraghty, the group has a number of successful productions under its belt, but what could prove to be its real breakthrough venture is currently playing to packed audiences in schools and theatres across Connacht.
‘The Moon Cut Like a Sickle’, written specially for the group by local playwright Ken Armstrong, is a piece which takes as its theme the inherent problem of so-called ‘boy racing’ from the point of view of the young people involved. Although sympathetic to the pressure which can lead to speeding, reckless driving and ultimate tragedy, the play pulls no punches. It is this which has won the plaudits of young audiences for the twelve member cast which talks to their peers in their own language about things they can relate to, and which invites them to look again at what is such a key area of youth culture.
‘Do You Playhouse’ receives no funding and generates its own resources. But what it lacks by way of grant aid it more than makes up for in drama, which is cutting edge, relevant and to the point.
THE DRIVERS WHO SLIP THE NET
IT’S not always young drivers who break the law, of course, as anyone who travels the Irish road system can testify.
More than 4,000 drivers have had penalty points imposed on them for using a mobile phone while driving since the offence was signed into law in September. Unfortunately, 600 of these escaped points because they do not hold an Irish licence. In fact, of the 400,000 drivers given penalty points to date, one in five have slipped the net because these motorists do not have an Irish licence.
Penalty points cannot be applied when it is not possible to identify the driver’s licence number, so that drivers from Northern Ireland, tourist, or other foreign licence holders (even if living in the country) can break the law with impunity and still escape punishment.
Although moves are being finalised to reciprocate penalty points issued here and in Britain, the loophole still remains open for drivers who hold licences issued outside the state.