John Arnold: New life bursts forth on an eerily quiet St Patrick's Day

John Arnold reflects on a different St Patrick's Day
John Arnold: New life bursts forth on an eerily quiet St Patrick's Day

"At breakfast we watched her out the kitchen window as the mist swirled around her. She started calving about quarter to 11. We gave her a little help."

HAPPY St Patrick's Day to all at home and abroad, near and far, those that know me and those I write to that I've never met.

It's a dull, misty morning here. Normally I can see the countryside for miles around but on this March 17 a heavy shroud of mist hangs here. I can see Hightown and Cronovan but Ballinwillin and Ballinure and Rathanaeague and way over towards Britway and down to Clonmult is covered with a blanket of grey-white fog.

It's stilly here today but not quiet as the crows are building their nests. In last year's violent storms not a nest was left intact so you'd nearly want a builder's hard hat on when you'd be walking up to the milking parlour with twigs and sticks constantly falling from the sky.

Mary and I are just in out of the Boiler House Field. We had a red cow out there night and day for the last month. She's a fine strong cow but whatever happened her with the last two years when she calved she stayed 'down' and 'twas maybe three or four days before she recovered.

Those years she calved inside in the shed but the concrete floor didn't help her and she trying to get up. So this year we left her out in the field and fed her there and kept an eye on her.

I saw her last night by lamplight at 11 o'clock 'fore I went to bed and again at 4am. She was happy out, chewing the cud. Same story this morning while we were milking. We knew soon after her time had come.

She'd usually come over near the haggard for hay or silage but this morning she went away over the field on her own. At breakfast we watched her out the kitchen window as the mist swirled around her. She started calving about quarter to 11. We gave her a little help.

Then, just on the button of 11 o'clock as the bells rang out in Bartlemy Church a grand new baby, bull calf came into the world. The cow was up like a shot and she's licking her newborn with gusto now.

With the churches closed and no Mass on Sunday or today, it was decided, in honour of St Patrick, to ring the Church bells, an hour before they'll peal again for the Angelus. As we came back into the kitchen the late, great Frank Patterson was singing ' Hail Glorious St. Patrick'

Ever bless and defend the sweet land of our birth, Where the shamrock still blooms as when thou wert on earth, And our hearts shall yet burn, wherever we roam, For God and St. Patrick, and our native home.

Ah yes, today is strange, the country is in virtual isolation as we come to terms with this Covid 19 pandemic.

When we were small we'd look for shamrock on the eve of St Patrick's Day and if we found it put in a saucer of water in the sink - I never remember buying shamrock years back, we'd always manage to find some here on the farm. Sometimes it might be a bit leggy or scrawny but when a few sprigs were wound together 'twould be grand on the lapel on St Patrick's morning. There'd be a debate at the chapel gate about different neighbours as to whether it was clover or shamrock they were wearing!

As small children we used have badges with green, white and gold ribbon and a gold harp. I can't recall going to a parade in Cork but maybe we did. St Patrick's day always meant grand 'oirish' films on the telly like Darby O Gill And The Little People - I loved that type of film with plenty diddly dye in t!

For years then I went to Croke Park for the All Ireland Club hurling and football finals. I saw Birr, Newtownshandrum, Clarinbridge, Portumna, Ballyhale S and Loughiel Shamrocks win titles amongst others.

One year Birr were playing I met John Taylor - or Baron Kilclooney as he was then. An Ulster Unionist MP, he was owner of Alpha Newspapers which owned local papers North and South -including in Offaly.

Such a change this year, well within a week - no games, pitches idle, no training, literally no sport at all. We hope 'twill only be for a few weeks but it could be months. The absence of sport is a small price to pay for human health.

I recall relations telling us about our grand aunt Nora Twomey who died in London while working as a nurse in the spring of 1918, from the so-called Spanish Flu. I often think of her and these days pray to her to keep us all safe in these worrying times.

I'm not a great fan of Tommy Tiernan as a stand-up comedian but as a philosopher and Christian he's a complex man. This morning on RTÉ he was talking to Marty Morrissey about his life, times, work and religion. He said he'd be a Mass goer whenever he could. As for 'believing' he wasn't so sure but he was certain of his faith. He recalled recently visiting the beautiful St Mel's cathedral in Longford - destroyed by fire just a few years ago.

He said he was alone there ' with myself, me and the Stations of the Cross, as long as Ireland will have churches like this we will have faith' he said. Profound thoughts from a deep but Christian man.

So now it's just noon. I'll go back out to the Boiler House Field to make sure the calf gets beestings from its mother. It's still misting but we left the milking cows out for a few hours - they're indoors since November.

We won't go anywhere. We'll talk to he grandchildren across the ditch of the boreen in their home and to the others on the phone. We'll light the fire in the room and the stove in the Sitting room. I might read and do some research.

I'll be thinking of ye all and praying that we'll all come through this crisis safe and sound. May God and St Patrick bless us all.

St. Patrick's Breastplate.

I arise today 

Through a mighty strength, 

 the invocation of the Trinity, 

Through belief in Threeness, 

Through confession in oneness, 

of the Creator of creation.

I arise today

Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,

Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial, 

Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,

Through the strength of His descent for the judgement of Doom.

I arise today Through the strength of the love of the Cherubim, in the obedience of angels,

In the service of archangels,

In the hope of the resurrection to meet with reward,

In the prayers of patriarchs,

In prediction of prophets, In preaching of apostles, 

In faith of confessors, In innocence of holy virgins, 

In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today

Through the strength of heaven,

Light of sun,Radiance of moon,

Splendour of fire, Speed of lightning,

Swiftness of wind, Depth of sea, 

Stability of earth, Firmness of rock.

I arise today Through God’s strength to pilot me, 

God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak to me, God’s hand to guard me,

God’s way to lie before me,

God’s shield to protect me, 

God’s host to save me,

From snares of devils,

From temptation of vices,

From everyone who shall wish me ill,

Afar and anear,

Alone and in a multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,

Against every cruel, merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,

Against incantations of false prophets,

Against black laws of pagandom,

Against false laws of heretics,

Against craft of idolatry, 

Against spells of women, smiths and wizards, 

Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.

Christ to shield me today

Against poisoning, against burning,

Against drowning, against wounding,

So there come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,

Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through belief in threeness,

Through confession of the oneness, of the Creator of Creation.

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