A HAPPY OASIS: Christmas makes for a great and happy oasis in the middle of the darkest part of winter. There are some outstanding moments that make for a memorable Christmas; like family get-togethers, like the St. Patricks N.S. Choir singing at the vigil Christmas Mass in Moyne; like the wonderful Christmas Parties in Nursing Homes like the Laurel Lodge, where the music, entertainment and hospitality was brilliant. Declan Nerney also made his appearance and got the crowd going.

A HAPPY OASIS: Christmas makes for a great and happy oasis in the middle of the darkest part of winter. There are some outstanding moments that make for a memorable Christmas; like family get-togethers, like the St. Patricks N.S. Choir singing at the vigil Christmas Mass in Moyne; like the wonderful Christmas Parties in Nursing Homes like the Laurel Lodge, where the music, entertainment and hospitality was brilliant. Declan Nerney also made his appearance and got the crowd going.

SOME CHRISTMAS INCIDENTS: Generally it was a quiet and pleasant Christmas locally. The children got most of their favourite presents from Santa Claus of whom there were many sightings in the area. Although they would not admit it loudly, many revellers whispered in hushed voices to their friends that they had seen Santa in various locations throughout the district and placed their credibility on the fact that they had not much drink taken at that time. Thankfully they got great support from their pals, one of whom had been late getting home one night due to an elephant blocking the road. Others had seen strange lights crossing the bog or had heard the Banshee cry. I once got into trouble at work in a Mental Health Hospital, in Dublin, thirty years ago when I told my boss that I was late for work because I could not sleep properly after hearing the Banshee cry. Its shrill cries echoing very loudly through the alleyways of an area of the city called Christ Church (Where a lot of revellers usually gather to usher in the New Year). I was immediately in trouble and all the more so as my boss was a Charge Nurse called Dalton. We all know the line “The Banshee cried when Dalton died.” He interviewed me and asked me why did I want to become a nurse? Never the less people of country origin were sympathetic to my position. One boss suggested that it was “sparking cats”, which in truth was the most likely answer. In the end they decided my problem “was cultural”. So take my advice you can go into a pub and tell your friends about it-but never ever go into a Mental Health Facility and say that you heard the Banshee cry. The just do not understand our ways.

“THE CLONBACKS” AND “THE DROMARDS”: Reflections by Patrick Murtagh of Cunnareen. Clonback N.S. was one of only two schools in the parish which had patrons from outside Colmcille, the other being Pulladoey which my poor mother endured. The Dromard contingent came mainly from Annagh. There was always great rivalry, to say the least, between those very patriotic parishioners and especially in the week preceeding a local derby. Indeed there were some inhabitants of Colmcille “back that road” who were lukewarm Dromard supporters and maybe for their own good I can only suppose that they felt isolated for their sins. Back that same road was dangerous territory for a staunch Colmcille supporter to thread alone. Often going to Jamsie Martin’s bull was threatening, not by the vagrancy of a heifer’s reaction to her first introduction to the halter, more so by who I might meet while travelling in enemy territory. And while making my escape I would be further terrified by an unforeseen assault by the heifer on Mrs Lee’s car while she turned at the top of “Newey’s Pass”. So if I heard a car, I knew it could be only be Mrs Lee’s, so to delay the proceedings, I would either coax or bully the heifer, or wrap the rope around a bush until the revving stopped. To be late for school was only a venial sin, which was always very pardonable considering the importance of the duty involved, but the thought of having to replace the bonnet on Mrs Lee’s car-well I’d have to swing for it. But football on the other hand helped compromise opposing camps. The history of our epic “three in a row victories” in the Parish League has already been well documented and always with an additive “and only two women teachers in it!” This was the start of my very brief encounter with gaelic football and I have since blamed it’s brevity on that sudden success. I could never live it down. The final in the house grounds put it on a par with the GPO in 1916. Everyone that I met afterwards was there. I hope all those 1969 veterans won’t all demand State Pensions. There is so much talk now of trainers and managers and the most vociferous can’t distinguish one from the other. But we had one who was exceptionally talented in both callings, namely Barney “The Rock” Reilly. He was a great man to lift a team. One unfortunate debutante of whom we had great expectations and we felt was endowed with all the gifts of being a potential nippy corner back and who was also a legend in his own mind. After a few forays from the opposition he fumbled a few balls over the end line for resulting ‘50s. This caused havoc for his comrades in the full-back line, who were already over-worked and under-trained. His rear clearances crossed the side-line invariably close to the 21 yard line. He diffidently approached our/trainer manager after the final whistle and expressed his reasons for “finding” the line so often. “You’ll have no bother finding it the next time, you’ll be f****** standing on it,” came the diplomatic reply from Barney. One individual who subsequently played for Dromard and was regarded as a tremendous asset to the team because whenever he got the ball he ran with a high knee action and was famous for putting many a head-long tackler out of commission for a long time. Unfortunately I’m one of them and retired at the ripe old age of nineteen years. I have since sloped away into oblivion, with a few broken teeth, a dented nose and a dodgy back which now interferes with my golf swing and means that I’m equally bad at both….And I blame Dromard for it all!

THE FOUR SCHOOLS DROMARD REUNION: Don’t forget to spread the message to all your relatives that as part of The Gathering 2013, this reunion involving Dromard National Schools including St Patricks N.S., Legga N.S., Moyne N.S. and Edenmore N.S. is set to take place commencing on Friday August 9th next and running over that weekend or week. Many interesting activities are being planned around this event. As part of the publication of a commemorative booklet, articles or old photos are being sought from past pupils or parents. (Photos will be scanned and returned promptly). Email: dromardschoolsreunion@gmail.com or post items to Catheryn McNerney, Secretary, C/O St. Patrick’s N.S. Gaigue, Ballinamuck, Co. Longford.

IRISH (CELTIC) NEW YEAR: The Irish New Year festival is known as Samhain, which meant summer ends and was celebrated on 31 October. The festival has survived as Halloween. It was at this time they hold their General Assembly. This was held in the out in the air parliament where the laws were renewed and accounts of events, details of births, deaths and marriages, were recorded. This day was considered of great danger for it was when the spirits of the dead returned to earth. It was believed the spirits could do harm unless precautions were taken. The Celtic priests go into the woods on New Year’s Eve to gather bunches of mistletoe which they handed out to people to protect them from any harm. Also bonfires were lit to drive away evil forces. They also believed that it was safer to stay indoors as fairies were abroad on New Year’s Eve. In Ireland the girls would go to bed with sprigs of mistletoe, or holly and ivy leaves under their pillows so they would go to bed dreaming of their future husbands. They might also chant: “Oh, ivy green and holly red,Tell me, tell me whom I shall wed!” In Ireland in the west the direction of the wind blowing at New Year would indicate the trend of politics in the coming year. If it blew from the west it would flourish, if from the east the English would have upper hand. One custom that was practiced on New Year’s Eve was to take a large loaf of Christmas bread or cake outside the house and hammer it against the closed doors and windows, this was done so as to drive out any misfortune and let happiness in. The Druids gave a gift of twigs from the mistletoe, as this was a plant that was sacred to them as a magic source of fertility.

LOCAL SKILLS SURVEY: In these tough times we may be dismayed and inclined to look to others for leadership but in reality could we not try to help ourselves. During the development of The Enhancement Plan for Dromard earlier in 2012, people expressed an interest in up skilling and retraining in order to gain employment. To facilitate the development of courses there is an on-line survey being conducted by Mark Murtagh and Gerry McCabe. Part Two of the survey can be found on Mark Murtagh’s Facebook time line. If you do not have internet access you can contact Mark on Ph. 086/8270440 or Email markmurtagh78@gmail.com

DROMARD MAN STARS IN COMEDY: James Grimes has the starring role in a comedy play for all the family, “A Matter of Practice” that takes place in The Corn Mill Theatre, Carrigallen, over the Christmas period. Forget the budget and just relax and enjoy this traditional comedy set in a chaotic 1960s doctor’s surgery. Preview show on Saturday December 22nd, full shows on Thursday 27th, Friday 28th, Saturday 29th, Thursday Jan 3rd, Friday 4th and Saturday 5th. Booking on 0494339612.

CELEBRATE CIAN FUN WEEK-END: Sat 2nd and Sun 3rd March – Be sure to mark this weekend in your diary as we celebrate with a fund-raising weekend in memory of Cian Smith, Glenmore, Aughnacliffe, who passed away in Feb. 2011. A “Come Dine With Me” evening takes place in “The Piker’s Lodge” in Gowna on Sat 2nd March at 8 p.m.. If you think you could host a table by inviting friends and family along, providing dessert (main course provided by hotel) tickets will cost €20 and it promises to be a really enjoyable night with lots of entertainment, music and dancing afterwards to the “Dance on Band”. Anyone interested in hosting a table please ring Lil at 086 8134484 or Christine at 087 6450530 before Fri Jan 18th. On Sun. 3rd March, a Fun Football Match ,between Cian’s friends, takes place in Pairc na Gael, Dromard….other events are also in the pipeline. All proceeds from the “Celebrate Cian Fun Week-End” will go to the “Make A Wish Foundation”, a charity which supports terminally ill children and their families.