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Sunday 20 January 2019

Lay of the Land: Bridging the gap between heaven and earth

Joggers enjoying the good weather in Griffith park in Dublin. Picture:Arthur Carron
Joggers enjoying the good weather in Griffith park in Dublin. Picture:Arthur Carron

Fiona O'Connell

The weather may be a bit of a washout but it looks like we have finally bid a weary farewell to what was a drawn out and dismal winter.

No wonder everyone in this country town is out and about - except for one familiar little figure, that is. For Flying Fauntleroy, the fugitive pigeon, is gone.

I would love to tell you that he flew off into the sunset with a pretty partner with feathers as snowy white as his (though perhaps without the fluorescent band around his leg that was a poignant reminder of his debatably fancy past).

For while no one knows how he ended up living rough around this rural neck of the woods, many believe that he was dumped because he didn't perform well enough, or that his owner would wring his neck if they found him because he failed to come home.

However it happened, this fine fellow with amber eyes that matched the markings on his wings was a living landmark for locals, standing proudly tall on the ramp of the bridge, his puffed out plumage disguising the fact that he was actually famished and begging for food.

Fortunately, while there was no shortage of predictable jokes about pigeon pie, there were plenty of people who obliged this little outsider. From the owner of one cafe who fed him the seeds during last month's snow, when this big white bird was briefly camouflaged; to the diabetic who filled her empty glucose test strip tubes with seed that she carried about in case she saw him; or the not exactly hard-hearted men in the adjacent store.

Though sometimes the paranoid pigeon made a right song and dance before pecking at his food, expending what seemed an awful lot of time and energy on checking that the coast was clear. Oh, but how right poor little Flying Fauntleroy was. Though he didn't have a chance when death came calling.

For the end was brutal but mercifully swift, according to Catherine, who lives next door to where the pigeon often hung out.

She was in her upstairs kitchen with her granddaughter when "the next thing there were feathers everywhere. A sparrow hawk swooped down and got him. It was over in seconds". Though "you would think the sparrow hawk was a statue, the way he stood on top of him for about two hours before he went off".

Catherine took a photo through a crack in a metal door; literally like seeing into another world. Which seems appropriate, for while it's sad not to see the familiar little figure on the ramp of the bridge, or flying through the air, so vividly white, before landing on the ugly railings to run awkwardly alongside me in greeting, birds have long been viewed as messengers of the gods and symbols of freedom, who provide us with a bridge between the mundane and spiritual life.

Certainly, this abandoned but brave little bird helped many in this country town to care, and show kindness to another creature. Now he can fly free as a bird in that better world forever.

Sunday Independent

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