Friday 18 October 2019

Billy Keane: 'How Margaret the giant turkey lived to see another Christmas but left trail of destruction behind her'

Keane's Kingdom

Another lucky bird: One of the pardoned turkeys, Peas, on the White House lawn. Photo: Getty Images
Another lucky bird: One of the pardoned turkeys, Peas, on the White House lawn. Photo: Getty Images
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Margaret had a bounty on her head. She was dead meat they said. Her days were numbered anyway and the escape from captivity was considered to be no more than a stay of execution.

The animal rights activists compared her plight to that of the tiger in India. It seems tigers went about killing and eating natives and the locals were not happy about it.

The story of Margaret's flight was world news and not just local. She was, after all, more than a metre tall and without doubt the biggest of her kind anywhere in the world.

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The on-line news makers claimed Margaret was bigger than a wolf and every bit as ferocious; a killer, they maintained, and it was only a matter of time before she turned on humans.

People hereabouts, and even as far away as thereabouts, were terrified. Men who casually shoot wildlife began to congregate near the sight of the massacre of the sheep. Drones were put up as eyes in the sky. There was talk of closing the national park where Margaret was thought to be hiding out.

Margaret the so-called killer turkey was on the run. Christmas is open season for turkeys anyway but a so-called killer turkey has no chance of survival. (I use the term so-called deliberately because many of us thought Margaret was innocent, even though there were many who thought otherwise.)

Margaret was brought up free-range so she was used to foraging. But there were so many enemies such as foxes and stoats. The local sheep farmers formed a posse to hunt Margaret down.

And well you might ask, how could such a large turkey come to exist? It seems genetically modified feed found its way into the food chain.

Margaret's owner Mike Joe Mullaughatawny bought a cocktail of human growth hormone tablets, steroids, nandrolin, the pill and mixed the concoction into Noreen's grain-based breakfast. The egg laid by Noreen, Maureen's mother, was the size of an ostrich egg, which delighted Mike Joe no end.

Mike Joe had never won the Kerry Turkey Championship and he finished second on 37 occasions. His near neighbour Tom Big Bird won all 37 titles. Mike Joe was jealous and so he became a turkey cheat, but there was no dope testing.

Maureen won this year's competition hands down and the 'Guinness Book of Records' named Mike Joe's bird as the biggest turkey ever. The resultant publicity spread all over the world.

Mike Joe swore Maureen was fed only Kerry oats and new milk, or beastings. Then again, that's what all the drugs cheats say.

The trouble started when two lambs were ripped asunder by a vicious animal in the mountain at the back of Mike Joe's small holding.

Dogs would be the prime suspects in the normal course of events but some genius on a sheep forum claimed Margaret was suspect. The repeats, mis-informations, miscalculations and stupidities so often propagated in such fora turned conjecture into fact.

The sheep had been eaten but such was the frenzy on the sheep forum no one seemed to notice turkeys are not that partial to mutton.

The Sheep Farmers Association called to Mike Joe and asked him to have Margaret destroyed. Mike Joe had grown fond of Margaret but he was afraid of being sued even though she had never left the pen.

Mike Joe was always out for what was best for Mike Joe. He was going to sell Margaret to a big hotel and the plan was to bring her into the dining room, trussed, stuffed and roasted. There would be bugle music and a drum roll for the serving up of the world's largest ever turkey But no one would eat a sheep killer. The hotels would not buy Margaret. She was unsaleable.

For a time Mike Joe thought he might use Margaret as a guard turkey, like a German shepherd, which is a dog and not a person. Margaret was a quiet bird and though she had Mike Joe "ate out of house and home", she was a vegetarian.

The bills were mounting and Mike Joe decided to donate Margaret to the zoo. There she would be caged up beside lions and tigers but at least Margaret would be safe and - more importantly for Mike Joe - the zoo would have to feed her. The champion turkey owner had visions of a sign that read: 'MARGARET THE KILLER TURKEY', Breeder Mike Joe Mullaughatawny.

The zoo felt Margaret might not fit in too well with the pets in Pet's Corner, on health and safety grounds, and passed on Mike Joe's request to the Istanbul Zoo in Turkey. The Turkish zoo was very interested and sent over the head of the turkey enclosure to measure up Margaret. The sum of €25,000 was agreed, which made Margaret the most expensive turkey ever bought or sold.

The story might have had a happy ending for all concerned if it hadn't been for the puma.

There were sightings of a puma some time ago in Cork and when an animal resembling a puma was seen crossing the mountains between Cork and Kerry the panic started. The very same posse that was formed to shoot Margaret went out looking for the puma.

One of their number was of the opinion the killer puma was the assassin that murdered and ate the sheep. He expressed this theory and, as is often the case, theory became fact by repetition and endorsement by the opinionated who were not necessarily expert in turkey husbandry.

The puma, it seems, fled from the custody of an animal lover who smuggled him into Ireland illegally. The puma escaped when the owner accidentally opened the boot by pressing on the switch, while searching for his sunglasses in the glove box. The puma slipped away and was shot to pieces by the turkey posse a few miles on this side of the town.

The puma was found guilty by the lynch mob, the Turkish Turkey Zoo was forced to take down the sign that read 'Margaret The Killer Turkey' and initiated proceedings for the recovery of the €25,000 from Mike Joe on grounds of misrepresentation and fraud.

The subsequent High Court proceedings exposed Mike Joe's wrongdoing and he has been banned for life from rearing turkeys.

As for Margaret, well the Turks took a shine to the gentle Irish turkey because of her pleasant disposition and pleasing demeanour. Margaret has been placed in the ostrich enclosure and the biggest of birds have treated her as one of their own. And so Margaret will live for a good few Christmases to come.

The sheep killing continued even after Margaret emigrated to Turkey and the puma was shot. The guards solved the crime and the culprits were none other than the hunting dogs owned by several members of the sheep ranchers posse who shot the puma.

There are those in the foothills who claim Mike Joe is now selling his illegal turkey growth substances to Tour de France cyclists, sundry weightlifters, assorted shot-putters and sprinters who finish fourth.

Irish Independent

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