Sunday 25 June 2017

Death notices: daily litany of expired is part of heartbeat that keeps rural Ireland alive

'For rural radio stations, the death notices are mile-markers punctuating the progress of any given day, featuring up to six time slots, easily outnumbering farming updates and weather forecasts' Photo: David Morrison
'For rural radio stations, the death notices are mile-markers punctuating the progress of any given day, featuring up to six time slots, easily outnumbering farming updates and weather forecasts' Photo: David Morrison

John Daly

The clocks run differently in the country. Like thousands across the nation, I traipsed back to my roots over Christmas - part of the annual migration from urban shoeboxes to the wide open spaces where our youthful minds were made. And when those geographical borderlines between town and country are crossed, we are quickly reminded that talk and news are still the most treasured currencies in the rustic heartland.

In the midst of topics ranging from the weather ("mighty, thank God") to hospital waiting lists ("a pure disgrace") and Donald Trump ("they'll never give him the nuclear codes, will they?"), returning townies are left in no doubt about the subject that supersedes everything in a normal country day. "The death has occurred..." are words that bring entire valleys, glens and villages to a halt as the daily litany of the expired is emitted over the airwaves. More arresting than terrorist outrages or plane crashes, 'the deaths' are when rural Ireland pauses for remembrance of lives that are no more.

For rural radio stations, the death notices are mile-markers punctuating the progress of any given day, featuring up to six time slots, easily outnumbering farming updates and weather forecasts. Having likely heard the news on the grapevine the night before, people still cluster around their sets awaiting confirmation of the inevitable reality of a name that will henceforth be recognised only in the past tense. The title is read out, heads nod in rueful recognition, and the weighty discussion of whether to attend the removal or funeral, or both, is debated.

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