Farm Ireland

Sunday 23 October 2016

Grassroots diary: Farewell to 'human-like' duck who lived for 15 years

Claire Mc Cormack

Published 17/08/2016 | 02:30

Milton with Hannibal Heyes
Milton with Hannibal Heyes

He still vividly remembers the moment he first clasped eyes on Hannabal Hayes - the most famous drake in Ireland.

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Milton C Hardcastle was on his way out of a mart in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, after buying parts for a tractor when he walked by a sale cage with just one little baby duck left huddled in the corner.

The retired radio DJ and animal lover couldn't take another step, he felt destined to take him home.

Milton paid the farmer €4, picked him up, popped the adorable, fluffy duckling into the back of his jeep and they headed off to Dromard, Co Longford, where he would live a long, happy, "human-like" life for the next 15 years, full of fun, mischief and adventure.

They were the best of friends.

Until, sadly, after a short bout of kidney problems, Hannabal Hayes - named after a cowboy from the hit 1970s US western television series Alias Smith And Jones - passed away two weeks ago in the arms of his owner.

"It was a heart attack that got him in the end. I was with him at the time. I was lucky enough to get home. I walked into the shed and I was holding him up and next thing the heart just gave in," Milton told Grassroots Diary. Milton has fond memories of his dark feathered duck following him around the yard. "He followed me like a puppy dog. For a drake, it was very unusual.

"He used to look at himself in the mirror every morning at the side of the compressor in the shed, it was the first thing he would do," he laughed. "If I called him in and he was away down the far end of the yard, he would come running in a flash, it was classic to see him coming and I've it all filmed," he said.

Milton says he had a "human way about him".

"He was very gentle and protective of other vulnerable animals and watchful of his homestead. It got to the stage where friends from the vintage club would call to see if Hannabal Hayes was in or out before they called, otherwise they wouldn't come near the gate," said Milton.

He had lots of celebrity pals. Most recently, Hannabal Hayes featured on Irish TV, had a starring role in a new animal book written by Colm Keane and his wife, RTE newsreader Una O'Hagan. He was even blessed by Fr Brian D'Arcy in 2014.

"Una and Colm sent me a sympathy card, they've been very good. They were very upset about it, they were so fond of him - his story touched everyone," he said.

Although the place will never be the same without him, Milton has opted to have his waterfowl friend stuffed.

"I haven't got him back yet but the taxidermist says he'll look the very same. It'll be lovely to still have him with me and it will take the edge of my heartbreak," he said.

Macra hosts Brexit talk

It's the question boggling minds of dairy, beef, tillage and sheep farmers right across the country — what does Brexit mean for me?

Next week, one of the first public discussions on the fallout of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will be hosted by Muskerry Macra club in Cork.

Michael Creed, Minister for Agriculture, Joe Burke of Bord Bia and Alan Jagoe of CEJA — the European Council of Young Farmers — will all speak at the event in the Riverside Park Hotel, Macroom at 8pm.

Organisers say the discussion will be open to everyone.

Meanwhile, Macra ‘Know Your Neighbour’ events are in full swing at clubs nationwide. Sligo Macra recently held a tag rugby and family fun day at Enniscrone Beach.

Killeagh Macra, located in East Cork, will host a similar family day out in Mount

Uniacke on Sunday, August 28, with festivities kicking off at 2pm.

This year, proceeds will go towards the charity Embrace FARM (Farming Accidents Remembered and Missed) — set up to support families after the loss of a loved one from a farm-related accident.

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