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Sunday 21 September 2014

Bonds are sealed after 25 years of Model immersion

Published 24/12/2013 | 05:38

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It struck me the other day that I am now a quarter-century resident in County Wexford, having been hired by People Newspapers in December 1988.

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It struck me the other day that I am now a quarter-century resident in County Wexford, having been hired by People Newspapers in December 1988.

The paper had its headquarters in rambling accommodation between Main Street and High Street at the time. Within a couple of years, I was transferred to Enniscorthy, where the production of the news soon afterwards switched from manual typewriters to computer keyboards.

As a Dubliner, I have found myself made most welcome in all parts of the county but have remained anchored to the cathedral town ever since. Though I will always be a jackeen (and proud to be so), my place in Wexford has been cemented by marriage to a sound Enniscorthy woman followed by the arrival of two lively Enniscorthy children. I expect to finish my days in this part of the world – any move elsewhere would be under strenuous protest.

After 25 years of Model immersion, here is a list of just some of the things, people and places which seal the bonds to the adopted county. These are things, people and places which underline to me that Wexford is Wexford and not Dublin or Longford or Timbuktu. The appeal is subtle, for this is a place that boasts no Cliffs of Moher or Liberty Hall, though it is a very attractive place to live nonetheless.

QUARE

Two and a half decades on, a man's language has altered. It doesn't take a cormer out of me now to speak of boys as chaps. Anyone with the surname Devereux is likely to be greeted as Deverix by this blow-in, abandoning observance of the silent X, revelling in the mischief of speech. And the word quare has become a multi-purpose adjective of emphasis and humour.

TRAVELLERS

A confession. Growing up in South Dublin, I knew more South Africans, more Swedes, more Jews, than I did Travellers. It is not that I was buddy with many South Africans, it was simply the case that I knew no Travellers by name, not one. Society in a city can be horribly compartmentalised. It is clear that there are strands within the Traveller fraternity who prefer to maintain their own little ghetto but I am happy to hail and be hailed by the Travellers of my acquaintance.

CURRACLOE BEACH

Morriscastle is probably just as close but Curracloe is the seaside of choice for most people from Enniscorthy, with the road through Ballymurn and Screen well travelled. The beach is a wondrous playground, a fine place for a walk, with the woods of the Raven to hand for variety. My bit of Dublin has Sandymount and Ringsend, great for a ramble but no good for a swim and no chance of seeing a seal pop its head up above the water for a laugh at the humans. Curracloe is ideal on both fronts and is also a wildly mystical place to go when there is a storm to ruffle the hair, with the crash of waves as soundtrack and sand whipped up in snaking lines.

FISH

A fisherman never quite knows what will come up to the surface in the next net-load. The excitement and the mystery of harvesting the sea somehow extend all the way from the quay in Kilmore to the slab of the fishmonger's shop and on to the frying pan and then the dinner plate. Cattle and sheep farming is about stocking rates and blood lines, while fishing retains an element of primitive hunting. A visit to Meyler's shop is a must for this landlubber any time I am in Wexford town.

DENIS BRENNAN

I am not a religious person and was never of the Catholic persuasion but surely it is not out of order to suggest that Bishop Denis is the ideal leader for his flock. He was elevated to the episcopal palace in Summerhill as a safe pair of hands after a turbulent period for his church.

His hands have proved so safe that he should have played second centre for Wexford Wanderers. A relaxed yet inspiring public speaker, he has an easy wit allied to an ability to make friendly contact with everyone in a crowd, reminiscent of Bill Clinton at his affable best but without the sinister edge.

HONEY

Apiarists, beekeepers, hive owners inhabit a scary world of their own. They and their colonies of busy insects are haunted by a pest called the varoa mite while they are completely at the mercy of the vagaries of the weather. Business is conducted while wearing an elaborate masked costume that appears to be a cross between fencing master and Ku Klux Klan. Long may they continue to labour in their weird attire. Wexford strawberries are super. Wexford potatoes are perfectly delightful. But Wexford honey (if you are lucky enough to lay hands on some) is happiness on a sticky spoon.

THE SLANEY

As a teenager, I recall peering over O'Connell Bridge and into the malodorous waters of the Liffey to witness a rare sight. A pair of fish (mullet, perhaps?) were risking their health by swimming in the polluted stream. The two rivers may originate in the same neck of the Wicklow woods but, unlike the Liffey, the Slaney has maintained a reputation for wholesomeness from source to estuary.

I look forward to more and more riverbank walks being developed in years to come and maybe, just maybe, catching sight of an otter, a species which has completely eluded me to date.

GAELIC GAMES

The Medcalf upbringing was such that as a boy I did not know where the nearest GAA club was. Nevertheless, my late father somehow acquired touchline tickets that admitted the pair of us to the All-Ireland hurling final of 1972 between Kilkenny and Cork. I thought of my father, who died in 1979, as I sat in Bellefield and witnessed my own son score his first ever point in a competitive hurling fixture last summer. Come on the Rapps!

THE M11

Visits home to Dublin have become so much easier since the improvements to the road network. And friends in the capital are told that they have no excuse for not calling as Enniscorthy is now barely a law abiding hour and a half's drive from Town Hall in Rathmines to St. Aidan's cathedral.

VINEGAR HILL

Walk down Spout Lane in Enniscorthy on a bright morning and enjoy a sight as splendid as Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh or Table Mountain in Capetown. Then spare a thought for the poor sods who died on this emblematic outcrop back in 1798.

And then pray that Ireland will never again endure the sort of slaughter which is now being visited on the people of Syria. Vinegar Hill not only provides a vantage point for surveying much of Wexford in a grand sweep from Sliabh Buiodh to Forth Mountain, it also offers food for much historical thought, for those who care to think about such matters.

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