Despite all the doom and gloom I had a very pleasant experience this morning. I heard the Cuckoo for the first time this year. It happens every year but, for some reason, this year it was extra special. It was like weloming an old friend back home and a sign that the hard weather is surely over for a while.

The news is scarce again this week but we have contributions to Kathleen’s Corner, Knockdown News, By Carrig Side, Abbeyfeale Notes and, even though there isn’t any sport, there is an old photograph in the Sport section worth looking at.

If you know somebody who might not know that we are online, especially somebody who habitually bought the hard copy, pleas let them know how to contact this site and if you have any photos, news items, stories, poems etc., please send them on to me at [email protected]

The current situation has made us look at the world in quite a different way. Material wealth is not as important as it once was and merely staying in good health is an achievement in itself. Over the past few decades people have become much more private than they used to be. Time was when front doors were always open and neighbours rambled in at all times, night and day. It was an important activity in the social life of the community as visitors brought news with them before the advent of digital media. Talking to each other is important for our mental well being. As the years go by, with all the changes, the opportunities for “gossiping” are becoming fewer and fewer. Going to the creamery was the first opportunity of the day to meet the neighbours and find out what was happening locally. There was plenty of time, while they cued up to tip the milk tanks into the vat,  to gather in clusters and “chew the fat”. The small shops were also great sources of news. Again, there was no hurry as everything had to be weighed and packaged behind a counter, no such thing as picking up your own items in those days, and everyone chatted away. The Post Office was another meeting point, especially on “dole day” or on Friday when the pensions were paid out. Fairs, markets, race meetings and other sporting occasions also served their purpose. One of the most important establishments in the rural village was the pub. Before the advent of the dancing lounge in the 1970s, a venture that put an end to the ballroom era and the showbands, pubs were small and intimate. There was no such thing as private conversations, everyone in the premises was involved. It was mainly men as women were never seen in the public bar. If they frequented the premises at all they were secluded in the snug which was a small, cordoned off area just inside the front with a hatch that opened onto the bar.  I remember a man called Con Broderick (Con Pete) who used to come rambling to our house long ago. He arrived one night with startling news; ‘Tis all over Mr. Barry”, he announced, “I saw two women in a pub in Newcastle today drinking two pints of porter – TWO PINTS!!”.  Times certainly have changed. The men in the pub long ago discussed every topic under the sun and there was a good share of banter. As a man once said “they would insult each other, half codding and half in earnest”.  There were a few characters with ready wit who could keep the assembly amused all night and of course the odd  lie was thrown in to confuse matters. As the night went on some would become more vocal  and it often led to an argument but generally it was all good humour. Although there were the few who were addicted to the drink, most of the men  went there for the company and were satisfied with their couple of pints and went home feeling better than when they came in. Some of these were living alone with little social interaction from one end of the week to the next  so the visit to the pub was a vital lifeline for their sanity. Athea had its fair share of pubs and characters to fill them. Who could ever forget Connie Cahill, one of the wittiest men I ever heard. Without thinking he could come up with a quip that would have everyone in stitches. There were many more including the Painter Liston, The Bold Murphy and his brother Liamy, Denny the Smith, John Joe “the Reliable” O’Connor, Tony Connors, Mickey Marshal McMahon, Seano Histon  and Denny Kelly who had remarkable talent for story telling and general roguery. They were gifted people and, alas, we will never see their likes again. As years went by change came in all too quickly. The characters seemed to disappear, maybe because their platform was gone with the change in the pub culture and the appeal of television to those who now got their entertainment at home. The art of conversation is not dead but it is seriously wounded and we need to take advantage of the present situation  to reach out to friends and neighbours, even if it is only on the phone.  We need contact with each other as much as we need nourishment for our bodies so, when you get an opportunity, call an old friend, or indeed a new one.

The following is an important message from West Limerick Resources Ltd

Department of Rural and Community Development COVID-19 Emergency Fund

The COVID-19 Emergency Fund is a grant programme to provide funding to groups that are directly involved in the Community Call response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commercial organisations and individuals are not eligible for funding.

It is funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development (the Department) and administered by the Local Authority (LA) in each area. The Department provides funding to each LA area and the LAs then administer this funding locally to ensure funding is targeted appropriately.

The grants are for expenditure of both a capital and a current nature related to the COVID19 response work. It is intended that the majority of the funding that is allocated to each LA area will be ring fenced for grants of €1,000 or less.

Applications can be made (by groups directly involved in the Community Call response) to Limerick City and County Council by Close of Business on Thursday 30th April 2020.

For Application Forms and Guidelines please email [email protected] or alternatively phone 061- 557117, 061-556654 or 061-557365.