Cormac MacConnell: Rural discoveries beat Banagher twice in the one week

Many’s the time most of us of a certain generation have been heard to utter the old country saying, “Well, that beats Banagher!” when shocked and awed by an unexpected development of one kind or another.

Gardaí have recovered four limestone statues which were stolen in Charleville in 2011, including busts of William of Orange and Oliver Cromwell, left, and statues of eagles, right. Picture: Press 22

I said it out loud again a couple of days ago, when the last hiding place of two of the most savage tyrants in Irish history was unearthed, just a few miles away from our Killaloe home.

They were together, Oliver Cromwell and King Billy of the Boyne... the original begetters of the border which has caused all this Brexit confusion and friction across Europe recently.

And, boy, have the pair not fallen hard from their pedestals. And that is a historic truth, if ever there was one.

They were hiding under frozen grass, the pair of them, close to an abandoned outhouse on the outskirts of Cratloe, Co Clare.

Again, as is so often the case, they were not tracked down by the gardaí, but by a Cratloe man out for a walk through the fields.

He instantly reported the sighting of the tyrants to the gardaí, and I gather from reliable sources that they have been taken into custody, whilst a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

I surmise it will take years for that file to hit the headlines again.

I’ll keep a sharp eye on developments for ye in the meantime.

My initial inquiries reveal that the gardaí have been in pursuit of the tyrants for the last seven or eight years without any real success.

The pair were last seen together in Charleville, in high society altogether, far removed from an old Clare outhouse.

It is perhaps significant that they disappeared from public view in the month of July 2011 because King Billy, as we know too well, has always been bloodily associated with the month of July, notably the Twelfth of July which his marching Orangemen descendants still triumphantly garnish with sashes and banners bearing his image.

What good work he did for them on the banks of the Boyne; even if it did create the genuinely hard border which has been so problematic and costly to the nation ever since.

And by all accounts, from wiser observers than me, there are likely to be worse consequences before this year is out.

I’m wondering if this pair of wanton invaders of our little island back in their plundering prime are now receiving the kind of psychiatric treatment which both surely need very badly.

They are likely to be awaiting that treatment right now, on guarded trolleys, given the current chaotic state of our health system.

I presumed too, as I pondered the possibilities facing them, that they will be granted free legal aid, if the DPP ever moves formally against them in our courts. And will those who aided them in escaping from Co Cork on a July night nearly eight years ago ever be identified, and charged with assisting in the commission of a crime or crimes?

It was at this point I was driven to shout aloud into the night, “Well that beats Banagher!”

How wrong I was!

Because, in the same week, it has been reported that the Co Offaly town’s own famed Little Red Hen, on the brink of becoming listed in the Guinness Book of Records for her astounding fertility, had peacefully expired at just under five years old.

Believe it or not, the Little Red Hen of Banagher has produced no fewer than 181 fine live chickens, having averaged five healthy clutches per year of her life.

Her last batch hatched out only last January.

It’s little wonder that her proud owner, John Dolan, was delighted when she was chosen as Grand Marshal to lead the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Banagher last year.

She was pictured, I swear, taking a refreshing drink after the parade, from a pint of Guinness, and John Dolan had applied to have her production records included in the Guinness Book of Records.

She was named Marmalade, and her fond owner (who has attributed her fertility level to oatmeal in her diet) has no intention, he told RTÉ, of allowing his Marmalade to be either buried or disposed of through any food chain.

Instead, Marmalade is to be handed over to a Banagher taxidermist, to be preserved forever.

She will then be installed in a glass case for public admiration. This operation will cost John Dolan, it is reported, in the region of €900, but I’m sure he will have significant local support of all kinds to ensure that the Little Red Hen called Marmalade will continue to rule the roost.

No, you can’t beat Banagher...

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