Wednesday 28 September 2016

Bad weather is price of the cuckoo's misdeeds

Published 01/04/2015 | 02:30

The cuckoo returns to Ireland in early Spring
The cuckoo returns to Ireland in early Spring

Strolling out from Mass on Saturday evening, a friendly neighbour - aware that I am a year-round sea swimmer - jocosely advised me to stay out of the sea until "Scaraveen" has passed. Her reference to "Scaraveen" reminded me of a gifted teacher who taught me Irish, history and geography in Tralee CBS.

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I always enjoyed this particular teacher's classes, as he had a wonderful way of blending his extensive general knowledge seamlessly into his teaching. When it came to Irish culture, folklore, history and sport he was without equal. So, while I have heard and read many definitions of "Scaraveen," I have never deviated from my former teacher's description.

According to him, "Scaraveen" is an anglicising of the Irish phrase "garbh shion na gcuach", which means "the rough weather of the cuckoo". The Irish term gradually became "garbh shion", then "Garaveen" and, finally, "Scaraveen."

The cuckoo winters in sub-Saharan Africa and returns to Europe in early spring. She is a solitary bird, more often heard than seen. The familiar "cuck-oo cuck-oo" call heralds the beginning of spring, when the cuckoo returns to our shores.

The cuckoo, one of the most infamous brood parasites, lays her eggs in the nests of small song birds with precision timing. Once hatched, the cuckoo chicks eject the legitimate occupants and are then fed by the unsuspecting foster parents. The cuckoo chick is already a true master of deception.

Folklore has it that "Scaraveen" is nature's way of exacting retribution on the cuckoo for the havoc she causes in the bird world. From about April 15 to May 15, mild spring weather has been known to revert to cold, wet miserable weather, which is more typical of winter. Unfortunately, we all pay the price for the cuckoo's misdeeds.

I'm sure Evelyn Cusack and the Met Éireann team can come up with a scientific explanation for the phenomenon of "Scaraveen" and, indeed, the much maligned cuckoo may be an entirely innocent party. But, until they do, I'll stick with my former teacher's definition.

Billy Ryle

Tralee, Co Kerry

Graham Dwyer murder trial

For the last number of weeks we were both enthralled and disgusted at the same time while listening to the sordid details that emerged during the trial of Graham Dwyer, who was convicted last week of murdering Elaine O'Hara.

However, this was no act of fiction, as we all know. Elaine O'Hara was a very troubled woman. Vulnerable and completely lacking in self-confidence, she was taken advantage of by Dwyer in order to fulfil his sick fantasies. She was looking for love and attention, something clearly lacking in her life. She felt worthless and, because of her own psychological problems, sought the things she felt she needed in bizarre situations. It is so sad that she died in the circumstances she did.

However, there is one other positive from this story -beside the fact that her murderer was caught and convicted. It's that in death Elaine was given the dignity of being a human being who once walked among us and whose life had been tragically taken from her. The finest instruments of the State, from the Gardaí, the legal profession and a host of other bodies granted her dignity and equality, an equality she never felt she had while alive.

Tommy Roddy

Salthill, Co Galway

I would like to say thank you to Martina Devlin for her article highlighting the stupidity of those people, especially women, who clamoured for the book 'Fifty Shades of Grey' ('Elaine's sex life was a cry for help - but sadly her cry was heard by a sadistic monster', March 28).

In my view, the content of this book was not a romantic experience, but a cruelty portrayed on a vulnerable young woman.

Unfortunately, we saw what happens when fantasy is played out in real life, when the actions of Graham Dwyer were revealed in his trial for the murder of Elaine O'Hara. This terrible crime should make people aware that violence against women is not a form of entertainment.

Kathleen Callaghan

Donegal

RTE must heed Rabbitte's wish

Pat Rabbitte, in his new role as Government rottweiler, recently appeared on RTE's 'The Week in Politics' to berate the national broadcaster for being one-sided in the water charges issue. He wants RTE to "drill down" to get to the "serious" underlining issues involved.

Although Pat neglected to call for it, it is hoped that while RTE are drilling it will also tackle the issue of affordability and explain how people who cannot afford to keep a roof over the heads of their families, or pensioners who have to leave their homes during the daytime in winter to conserve fuel, are going to be able to afford the new charge.

After that, the plight of the 170,000 people living on or below the poverty line can be looked at.

What such "drilling" will undoubtedly show is that while water must be paid for, the interest of society as a whole is far better served if it is done from general taxation combined with controls to prevent waste and overuse - that is where the real debate lies. However, that did not occur because the Government, of which Pat Rabbitte is a part, prevented such proper and detailed discussion from the outset.

At this juncture, maybe Pat would be well advised to be careful what he wishes for.

Jim O'Sullivan

Rathedmond, Co Sligo

Renua has the edge over Ross

It is good for politics that Renua Ireland and the Shane Ross-led independents are trying to offer a real alternative to the electorate, while the anti-austerity and Sinn Féin parties seem to be happy to remain in opposition.

But Renua Ireland has the edge for me in achieving a new type of open and transparent politics, as being a party it can agree on policy while the Ross-led independents will struggle to reach consensus on most things.

Frank Browne

Templeogue, Dublin 6W

Why we can't follow the herd

I read with interest Ivan Yates's piece in the Irish Independent (March 26) in which he called for Irish dairy farmers to follow the example of their Kiwi counterparts and take the world, if not by storm, then by a white liquid deluge.

Praiseworthy as his exhortations are, I cannot but wonder at the practicalities.

"Our island identity, sector scale, climate and grassland features are mirror images," he says, but neglects one small point that I feel is rather important: land area.

Ireland will find it very hard to compete with a country that covers 268,021 square kilometres, almost four times that of the Republic of Ireland's 70,273 square kilometres. Herd size is important for economies of scale, but where does Mr Yates suggest we put them?

Donnacha Kavanagh

Sandringham, New Zealand

Irish Independent

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