Horse Meat Saga

Allegations about the export of horse meat under the false pretence that it is beef from a meat factory in Tipperary to the Czech Republic towards last weekend appears to have created an even bigger shock among farmers and beef producers and genuine exporters who realise  that an alleged scandal such as this can have a profound and damaging effect on the Irish beef exporting  industry as a whole. It is of course early days yet to speculate or form any definite opinion of what was behind all this, but the very fact that by all accounts the factory has closed down by official order and its workers now apparently out of a job goes to show that the powers that be are taking the matter very  seriously indeed and certainly with good reason., because if the allegations are found  to be even half true the cost to the country could be of huge proportions from which it could take a long period to recover credibility for our meat exports.  The beef burger saga of some weeks ago when it was found that these items of food which had been imported contained horse meat was bad enough. But generally this discovery for the greater part anyway had an effect mostly for these products in the domestic market here as the imports could always be blamed, but the fact that the latest Tipperary alleged misconduct would no doubt be far more serious because it concerns the export market.  There are many questions now awaiting an answer, how long has this alleged exchange of horse meat for beef been going on? who was aware of it, the management? The workers at the factory? The suppliers of the horses or ponies for slaughter? How it was all discovered that something was amiss at the factory? No doubt these things or most of them anyway will be revealed in due course. So for the time being the public can only await further developments in the matter.  The very fact that horses and ponies generally (apart from racehorses), hunters and blooded animals) have lost much of their previous value and are plentiful and being sold at a very low price, or practically given away for the proverbial “tuppence halfpenny” has possibly encouraged some speculators to acquire some of those cheaper valueless nags, slaughter them and then eventually substitute the horsemeat on the pretence that it is beef from healthy cattle.  This seems anyway to be what the game is all about. The far greater profit from processing cheaper horse meat and exporting it as beef rather than paying the going much cheaper price for the genuine bovine product.  It seems a strange turn of events that people in this country are now exporting Irish horses for the foreign food chain, the fully legal licensed exporters or the more dodgy punters who export horse meat on the pretence that it is beef.  From our burger experience of a few weeks ago we know that we are not the only country that is exporting meat under false pretences.  But we also know that Irish people generally have always held horses (and ponies) in high esteem. They have in fact always been a part of our culture and heritage and not just the Irish famous racehorses, jumpers and hunting horses alone. Our folklore has always included horses and ponies and their exploits.  Many of our songs and recitations are about horses, ponies, donkeys, mules and jennets, Late Dan Keane’s monologue, the amusing imaginary story about Rita’s jennet winning the English Grand National was certainly a classic and one of my own songs “The Old Donkey Car” won the newly composed ballad competition at the Munster Fleadh Cheoil in 1994.  There are of course countless songs and stories about horses which shows the great respect that our people always had for these animals. Horses are even depicted in some of our fairy and ghostly lore.  Tales of the headless coach where four headless black horses were seen drawing a hearse used have us really scared when we were young. There were also stories about  a phantom horseman travelling over bogs in the dead of night. There were tales about a number of ghostly figures on saddle horses seen riding towards a certain house in a long boreen before the death of one of its residents.  These tales and superstitions about horses were commonplace in our young days for instance when children got the whooping cough it was a serious condition enough in those times before there was any injections for it. It used to be known locally in our area as the chin cough and there was a strong belief that if the mother of the affected child went out on the road and saw a man coming riding a white horse or tackled to his car the mother would put up her hand to halt him and exclaim “Man of the White Horse what cure have you for the chin cough”. Whatever cure or medicine the man of the white horse prescribed the mother went home and administered the “cure” to the child. It was always a very safe prescription that the man of the white horse suggested and if it did not actually cure the whooping cough which took a course anyway it certainly did no harm to the child.  It was nothing strange or unusual for us to hear about the mother of a child seeking advice from the man of the white horse. When we got the whooping cough it was during our summer holidays from school and it just took its course without any cure from “the man of the white horse”. If somebody suggested in those far off days that there were people who actually eat horses he would probably be certified by a local doctor or taken by the Gardaí to the nearest Mental Hospital.  At a time in the late ‘30’s and early’40’s when we were still schoolboys there was a popular dance called “Horsey” which some of the people who were slightly older than we were loved to take part in and which used to be played regularly by local musicians including some of my older family members. The words accompanying the tune went like this “Horsey, Horsey don’t you stop, just let your feet go flippity flop, with your tail going swish and the wheels going round, giddy up we’re homeward bound”.  

The owner of the local dance hall at the time in Renagown, who was the legendary Dan Paddy Andy O’ Sullivan, did not approve of this particular tune on his dance floor because of all the “horsey” pounding, sometimes with strong heavy boots there was a risk that some of the male dancers might crack or even break a floor board which actually sometimes happened so Dan could sometimes be heard calling out to his musicians “No more Horsey tonight lads, play a waltz instead”. In his younger days Dan Paddy was supposed to be a good judge of a horse himself. There is one thing certain people of his generation would not approve of horse being killed for human consumption they had too much respect for our equine friends to ever dream of anything like that. Maybe we might think of some more horsey stories at a later date.

Late Thady Quaid

News of the unexpected death of Thady Quad of Ballybunion and formerly of Dirreen, Athea, was received with a profound sense of shock and sadness in his native parish and indeed in many other areas of West Limerick, North Kerry and beyond where the Quaid family are well known and held in high esteem. Like other family members including his younger brother Thomas who played football for the county, Thady was also very much involved in the game and was a brilliant and useful player in his own right. Members of his family have also been very much involved in the GAA.  The removal from Kelly’s Funeral Home to St Bartholomew’s Church on Saturday evening was attended by a large number of people from far and near who called to pay their respects and express their sympathy with the family.  There was also a big congregation at the Requiem Mass in Athea Church on Sunday morning.  Also at the funeral to Knockanure Cemetery on Sunday afternoon where there was a big attendance.  Thady is survived by his wife, family, relatives, sisters, his in-laws and other relatives to whom sympathy is extended. Ár dheis Dé go raibh a Anam’.

Late Padraig Liston

The death of Padraig Liston of Ballybunion at a comparatively young age was widely regretted throughout Athea Parish and West Limerick generally where he has many relatives.  Padraig’s father Owen Liston is a native of Athea and his brother Eoin (the Bomber) Liston had been one of the Kerry Senior Football team’s stars for several years. Padraig’s aunt late Kit Aherne had been a North Kerry member of Kerry County Council in her younger days and was later a Fianna Fáil North Kerry Deputy in Dáil Éireann. Sympathy is extended to his family members in Ballybunion and elsewhere, to his cousins in Athea and all others who are mourning his loss. ‘May his soul rest in peace’.