Meathman's Diary: Weathering the storms

Jimmy Geoghegan

Recently in a discussion I had with a man I know we got to talking about the ups and downs, the negatives and positives, of living in this fair land of ours.

He was bemoaning the fact that he would have to take his family on a staycation for another year when he would prefer to go abroad, as he did PC. The main reason for his unhappiness was the cost of taking the family (he has three teenagers) on holiday here for a week or two.

My argument was that while this country is expensive it is a great place for a holiday, full of lovely, often sparsely-populated beaches and picturesque landscapes. In fact it is a great country to live in, full stop. OK, I know there is drugs, there is crime, there is corruption at high levels, there is bouts of injustice, incompetent goverance but overall it is a country populated by decent folk.

Another problem for my aforementioned friend was the weather. He hates the rain, loves the sun. I like the Irish weather, the rain and all. Many years ago Eamon de Valera made a speech outlining the virtues of Ireland; that it didn't suffer from extreme natural events, like earthquakes.

Extreme weather is now a regular feature in many parts of the world (look at the unprecedented temperatures in Canada this summer) but generally Ireland's temperate climate remains, well, temperate - but, of course, there is always the exceptions.

Take the high summer of 1986. In July of that year parts of the country, including Meath, were hit with a killer "electric storm." Power cuts were experienced by people all over the county.

North Meath was particularly badly hit. Among those affected was the legendary Mattie McDonnell, from Stonefield, Ballinlough, who was part of Meath teams that won All-Ireland titles in 1949 and '54. It was reported in the Meath Chronicle that "he had about five cattle killed" by lightning. Not far away in the Oldcastle area another farmer, Francis Naper from Loughcrew, lost 22 head of cattle. Also in Oldcastle a farmer, Patsy Smith, lost seven Charolais cattle. No doubt there were others who suffered a similar fate.

The people in Nobber were also affected. "Residents in Cruicetown, Nobber, might well have believed that the end of the world had arrived on Saturday night when a number of them were floored by a violent thunderstorm," reported the Chronicle. A local farmer who was feeding goats was "lifted into a semi-standing position." Gardai in Navan were said to have had "a hectic few hours" checking on alarms set off all over the town.

Yet it wasn't all bad. A purebred Collie dog disorientated by all the thunder was found by a kind lady in Kildalkey, Marie Martin, who gave her number to the Chronicle so that the owner could pick up the frightened animal. As I said this country is full of good, decent folk.