'Viking Paddy'
Originally uploaded by Speedie1.

St Patrick's Day Parade 2006, Galway City - What a disappointment!
(Photograph is of my son Dáire masquerading as a 'Viking Paddy'!)

This year's parade was dull and lacked imagination. Without the colourful American bands and their pretty majorettes, stylish floats and exotic foreign performing acts, it failed to capture the imagination of the watching crowd. The only international entry was a small group of Breton dancers. The school bands were as always brilliant- but there seemed to be less of them this year. It was also great to see that a new Galway Pipe Band had come into existence. A Celtic city without a traditional musical pipe band would be a sad state of affairs.
Furthermore the Dance troupe comprising locally based Filipinos was quite good. But the other ethnic acts were pathetic. Most notably the Ghanaian entry that comprised 4 men walking under what looked like cardboard car. Embarressing to say the least.
But the worse thing of all is the drink-fuelled trouble that is now so much associated with St. Paddy's night in towns and cities across the country. A youthful 'yob culture' is one of the downsides of the economic boom of recent times.
The St Patrick's Day Parade is 'the' internationally acclaimed symbol of Ireland, a celebration of all things Irish. Yet the best & most exciting parades were always held overseas and never on our native 'Green Shamrock' shores. For too many years, we tended to snigger on those that wore 'green' and dismissed the dressing up as 'paddywackery'.
However I never agreed with this attitude and respected those Americans and British that took to the streets of New York, Boston, London etc to promote the good aspects of Irish culture. They kept it alive during the dark days of the 1960s and 1970s when it was dying out in our homeland. Later, I myself was one of those Irish emigrees that took great pride in promoting in a foreign country a musical heritage that captured the imagination of many non-Irish across the world.

Dancing Filipinos, St. Patrick's Day Parade, Galway City

Probably the only local multi-cultural act that was worth watching.
This excellent dance troupe comprised Galway city-based men and women from the Philipines

Galway City Pipe Band
Originally uploaded by Speedie1.

St. Patrick's Day Parade, Galway City

Galway City Pipe Band
A recent welcome edition to the cultural life of the city is the Galway City Pipe Band.
The city's previous pipe band had sadly folded up a number of years ago. But a group of enthusiasts got together a few months ago and rehearsed sufficently well to be able to take part in this year's St. Patrick Day parade.
They sounded great! But their costumes leave a lot to be desired. While the grey woolen caps and shawls are nice, no piper looks complete without a kilt!
I noticed one of the members was a red-haired Scottish lad who used to busk a lot on Shop Street. A few years ago, I got him to play his pipes and lead a silent march of over 1,000 people through the city centre demonstating against the proposed building of a waste incinerator. (we stopped its construction!)

St. Patrick's Day Parade

Galway City

Faces in the Crowd!
'Macnas', Galway City's great street theatre company, were noticeably absent from this year's parade. But we were still provided with a few colourful clowns and artistes that delighted the crowd

St. Patricks' Day Parade Galway City- Ulster Pipe Band

St. Patrick's Day Parade

Galway City

An Ulster Pipe Band

I love the sound of pipes!

St. Patrick's Day

Galway City

Nurses on Parade!

Giving the parade a bit of sex appeal!

St. Patrick's Day

Galway City

Scoil Bhríde

The school bands were the backbone of this year's parade

St. Patrick's Day Galway City

Scoil Phroinsias Band

Probably the most stylish school band present, from Tirellan Heights

St. Patrick's Day

Galway City

'Big Shots' on the Review Stand!
Photograph is of the Review Stand populated by politicians and 'dignitaries' .
Interestingly there was only one member of Dail Éireann (parliament ) present, namely left-wing firebrand and poet- Michael D Higgins. Most members of the government parties get all-expenses paid foreign holidays during this international Irish week and appear as representatives of teh Irish State at the St. Paddy Day parades in USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia. etc
Their spaces were filled in the Galway stand by many of the city's community representatives. Except for your truely! I was not invited!!
However, I got a bit of playful banter going with the invited guests shouting remarks over to them (before the parade began) accusing them of 'mixing with the enemy' etc.!

"...Down on Jimmy's Farm..."

Monivea, Co. Galway

My son Dáire with a one day year-old Charleroi calf on Jimmy Flaherty's farm in Monivea, Co. Galway.

Earlier this month, my family paid a delightful visit to Jimmy's farm when we spent a day walking around the countryside of Currantarmuid in Co. Galway where my wife Cepta spent her childhood and teenage years.
Cepta recently inherited a small farm and its house as a result of the recent death of her much-loved aunt Caca.
We are therefore spending many of our weekends on the farm.
It is a wonderful experience for a hard-nosed city person like myself. In fact, I have to be honest and say that I am falling in love with the Irish countryside. The walks along the narrow roads (boereens = 'little roads'), the smell of turf, the sights of sheep and rabbits in the fields, the views of green fields surrounded by drystone walls, and the sounds of the birds in the trees have cast a spell over me. I am bewitched!
Yet I am not blind to the dramatic changes taht are transforming the countryside as a result of economic wealth and increasing population numbers. Fuelled by the 'Celtic Tiger', rural Ireland is becoming increasingly urbanised.
Farming as we once knew it is finished. For most, it is no longer viable and the main crop for farmers nowadays is 'building land'.
While accepting the need to construct more houses for people, nevertheless I believe that these developments should be concentrated in existing towns and villages. So-called 'once-off housing' is a mis-nomer as it is creating lines of houses stretching along every single country road. This is leading to more car dependancy not less. The resultant motorised traffic and sewerage systems are creating unacceptabel levels of pollutions.
The government must re-think its rural policy and provide significient economic incentives for its inhabitants to become the guardians rather than the destroyers of the nation's lands and waterways.
For example, the state should:

  • create no-housing zones
  • re-establish natural habitats across large swathes of the country
  • concentrate on 'eco-tourism'
  • get the EU to prioritise schemes to promote organic food farming & a 'buy local produce' policy
  • substantially increase the fines for pollution.

Otherwise we are 'killing the goose that lays the goldern egg' and destroying our children's future.
Ireland so long famed for its 'green countryside' will be characterised soon by a 'concrete and tarmacadan' landscape


One Dog & His Tractor
Originally uploaded by Speedie1.

'Down on Jimmy's Farm'...
A Dog in His Master's Tractor

The traditional dog of the Irish countryside is the 'Collie'.
The breed is a tireless hard worker and famed for helping the farmer round up sheep.
It is also an an excellent 'guard-dog' and totally loyal to its owner.

'Down on Jimmy's Farm'

Milk Carton Bird Feeders!

Traditional 'recycling' & 'wildlife friendliness' in rural Galway!

'Down on Jimmy's Farm'

A fine speciman of a Charleroi Bull.

Notice the drystone wall's in the background.
These types of walls are the traditional field boundary in county Galway. Unfortunately, increases in field sizes, the use of wooden fencing and the decision of the National Roads Authority (NRA) to replace damaged drystone walls with 'safer' options is killing off this symbol of the West of Ireland's countryside

'Down on Jimmy's Farm'

The Bike- Rural Transport from a Bygone Era

A old Raleigh bicycle still in use today by Bridie Flaherty on her family's farm in Monivea, Co. Galway.
For nearly 50 years (until the late 1960's), the bicycle was one of the main modes of transport in rural Ireland.
Replaced by the motor-car, this environmentally-friendly transport device may soon make a comeback

...Down on Jimmy's Farm...

Originally uploaded by Speedie1.

A Barn full of Turf

For millenia, turf was the energy source for Irish society.
Cut from the once extensive peat bogs of Ireland, its distinctive aroma gladdened the heart of many a returned emigrant.
My wife Cepta recently inherited a farm holding that includes bogland. We are writing to the relevant state department to ascertain the possiblility of qualifying for a new government conservation programme. Under such a scheme, the state is endeavouring to purchase as much bog as possible in order to preserve these areas for natural habitat

Down on Jimmy's Farm

Originally uploaded by Speedie1.
My son Dáire with a new-born lamb