Monday, 12 February 2018

An old railway line could bring
new life to replace a torn
curtain and abandoned units

A glimpse inside a forgotten cottage in Askeaton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Before I even start to think about Lenten Resolutions, I need to pay attention to my New Year’s Resolutions. With only two days to go to Sash Wednesday, and six weeks after New Year’s Day, I am still falling behind my good intentions and not meeting my resolve to increase my daily walking average.

I had managed to get up to 3 km a day last year, but by last night my weekly walking average had only increased marginally, to 3.6 km, and this evening it has reached 4.1 … a marginal improvement, given my daily average for this year so far is 3.5 km.

But an app on my ’phone that allows me to keep a good watch on my daily averages. It almost acts like a conscience, telling me I have still have a long way to go, literally, to meet the commitment I made to myself at the beginning of this year.

I managed to reach 10.2 km one day last month in Lichfield, and 10.1 km a week later in London. But my ’phone reminds me constantly I need to do better – that I can do better.

Today has been anything but a sedentary day, with a walking tour through Limerick, leading an interfaith group on visits to churches, mosques and sites associated with the Jewish community. Already, today’s walking distances total 7.1 km, and things are looking a little better.

And at the weekend, despite the intermittent snow and rain, two of us managed to go for walks along the country lanes around Askeaton on Saturday, and I clocked up a total of 6.1 km by the end of the day.

We walked as far as the former railway station and the old railway line that once ran from Limerick to Foynes, and I wondered yet again why West Limerick could not revive this service, like the old Harcourt Street railway line in Dublin.

A Luas-style or Dart-like rail journey from Askeaton to Limerick would take less than 30 minutes, but would ease housing pressure on Limerick, bring new life into many of the villages and towns of west Limerick, and ease the pressures on the narrow roads in this area.

A forgotten business dealing in ‘Sitting Room and Bedroom Units’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Close to the site of the old quarry near the Kingspan factory, we looked into an old workshop that has been abandoned but must once have been home to a thriving business.

The signs and fittings still scattered around the floor indicate the business life that Askeaton must have enjoyed even in recent decades … ‘Sitting Room and Bedroom Units’ … ‘No Smoking’ … the remains of unsold, unopened, packaged children’s toys …

We returned too to Abbey View, behind the leisure centre and the swimming pool, to have a second look at an old factory and some forgotten cottages I had photographed last week.

We decided to peek into the cottage that has a tattered lace curtain fluttering through a broken window.

Inside, a ‘holy picture’ still hangs on the kitchen wall, the furniture is still in place, opened drawers were never closed when the last person left and closed the doors, and sitting on the dresser is a Delph hen that must have once held eggs, ready for breakfast.

These towns and villages in West Limerick could do with an economic boost and fillip, and the old railway line offers the potential to bring new life into these towns and villages.

The old railway line could hold out the promise of new economic and social opportunities for Askeaton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Updated: 12.02.2018

Two Indian birds, two stories,
two deaths, and cricket

Private ‘Big Mick’ Comberford of the Yorkshire Light Infantry was a batsman with a reputation for big hitting (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

After a weekend of intense rugby watching on the couch, it was interesting to come across cricket stories about a family member that belongs to the realm of the absurd.

The story is told by Abhishek Mukherjee, who is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry. In a posting last month [17 January 2018], he wrote an intriguing story about ‘two Indian birds, two stories, two deaths, and cricket.’

The incidents he wrote about took place in India, and he says that one was deliberate, while the other was an accident.

Abhishek Mukherjee came across both incidents in the same piece that appeared in the exotically named newspaper Lachlander and Condobolin and Western Districts Recorder on 19 June 1927.

He wrote:

The kite’s bite

The first of these dated back to ‘some years ago,’ in a match between the old 51st Light Infantry and the Royal Artillery.

Captain Wright of the Royal Artillery (captain was his military designation; he might or might not have been leading the side) hit a ball very high in the air. It ‘looked like making a good three.’

The ball rose and rose before turning around, responding to the inevitability of gravity. At this point a kite, manning the sky in search of edibles, decided that the leather orb was food of sort. It swooped down on the ball and caught it in its talons (how good was that catch?) and spread its wings.

With no replacement ball, the fielders were left with no option but to keep an eye on the bird and chase it. It was a valiant pursuit, but then, the kite decided to settle for a perch in a mango tree. Once there, it dug those sharp, powerful beaks into the ball. Unfortunately, despite serving the noblest of purposes, the cricket ball did not live up to the kite’s expectation of edibility.

By this time the soldiers had caught up. It was their last chance before the kite would decide to take flight again. They did what soldiers have done a million times in history, to humans and beyond. A gun was acquired from a nearby bungalow.

What happened to the ball? Let me quote from the report: ‘The bird had struck with such force at the moving object that the talons of one foot had become firmly embedded in the leather, and were with difficulty removed. It had also ripped the ball so much with its beak in its efforts to free itself that it had completely spoilt it for further use.’

The unfortunate mother

The other incident was contested by the old Yorkshire Light Infantry and the 4th Battalion Rifle Brigade. Once again the ball was hit high in the air, this time by one Private ‘Big Mick’ Comberford of the Infantry, a man for big hitting.

The ball landed into a large tamarind tree, the only vegetation of any note in the enormous maidan. Two fielders ran in pursuit, but the ball was clearly not at the foot of the tree. The obvious conclusion was that the ball had found its place in the dense foliage of the tree.

Both fielders climbed up the tree (as far as they could, that is). They shook the branches with full vigour, but the ball refused to return, and play was called off for the day.

However, the search resumed the morning after. Two Indians were involved in the hunt. They were promised two annas (one-eighth of a rupee) each for the search and two more annas for the successful one.

This provided a favourable result, but not before a startling discovery: the ball had apparently made its way down a hole between two of the largest branches, but that was not the end of the story. The ball had managed to kill a female mynah, who was sitting on her eggs inside her nest in the hole.

After that, I must go in search of ‘Big Mick’ Comberford of the Infantry, the man known for big hitting.

Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry. He blogs at ovshake.blogspot.com and can be followed on Twitter @ovshake42.

Tall tales in tall trees ... a weekend of cricket (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)