John Arnold: A birth and a wake in the one day, as cycle of life goes on

Where does John Arnold get his inspiration for his weekly column? Here he tells us
John Arnold: A birth and a wake in the one day, as cycle of life goes on

BOND: Having not known his own grandparents, John Arnold is overwhelmed with joy at the arrival of his own grandchildren

PEOPLE often ask me where I get the topics to write about each Thursday in The Echo... it’s still strange for me not to be calling it the Evening Echo!

There is no answer to that question. I usually try and put together something on a Tuesday night after the supper.

I recall when I started back in the year of Our Lord 2008 there used to be a meeting of the Cork GAA County Board nearly every second Tuesday night. Back then debates were longer, fixtures were more problematic so ’twas often close to midnight when I reached Bartlemy from Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

Depending on the way the meeting had gone, the ‘creative juices’ might be flowing freely. I always find that having robust debates — not arguments mind — can be very stimulating.

You might think that after a GAA meeting all that would be on the mind would be hurling, football, objections, tickets, strikes and the like. Not at all, the GAA in Cork is a microcosm of society at large and at nearly every gathering of Gaels someone would enquire about somebody or something in my locality.

As I’ve often mentioned before, I type mainly with just one finger, the one nearest the thumb on the left hand, and that suits me fine. They tell me if I learned to type using ten fingers, I could do up to 40 words a minute! Lord, sure, if I was going that fast my poor brain would be addled, and I’d be finished typing before I had decided what to write about!

Typing from midnight ’til 3am was never a bother for me on County Board Meeting nights. Then, a few years back, the meetings were changed to once a month and since last spring all we’ve had were Zoom meetings.

To tell the truth, the Zooming gatherings are OK, but I miss the cut and thrust of an actual meeting with verbal interaction. On a Zoom session, if you are making a sensible yet sensitive point, you could easily be muted. Because our computer was so old and had no built-in camera, I had to get the loan of a ‘tablet’ for the Zooming. Time was once when a tablet was a little white yoke you took for constipation, diarrohea or other internal ailments, but now it’s also the name for a kinda small mobile computer which can be folded up — no bigger than half the size of a toaster!

I amazed myself really with some of the Zoom sessions I had. I participated in a few brilliant gatherings as Gaeilge and really enjoyed them.

Often, I might be somewhere of a weekend or something special might be happening on the farm or in the locality and that would provide me with Echo subject matter for the following week. Sometimes nothing might give inspiration, or simply the thought process wouldn’t kick in at all and I’m left looking at a blank screen.

Last Sunday, we had an outdoor family gathering after an anniversary Mass. There was a car boot sale on locally and I was at the final of a hurling tournament in the afternoon. That was Sunday — the day before I was ‘on duty’ in Pairc Ui Chaoimh for the thriller that was Waterford and Tipperary in the Munster Championship. Surely something to write about there, but no, nothing seemed to need telling.

Wait until I tell ye about last Tuesday then, the third day of August. I never met either of my own grandfathers. Mam’s father, John Twomey, died in 1943 and my paternal grandfather died in 1951, the year before my parents wed.

I have plenty pictures of John Twomey, but Batt Arnold apparently disliked cameras. My own father was an avid photographer and even had his own Dark Room for developing the prints. Despite this, ‘old’ Batt Arnold never seems to have stood for a photograph.

The older people that knew him told me he was a good farmer, but always downplayed everything he did. Someone might be looking over the ditch at his field of oats or wheat and might comment ‘God Batt, you’ve a great crop there’ — instantly the reply would come ‘Yerra no, only birdseed and chaff, birdseed and chaff’’. Apparently, he had no airs or graces about him.

Having never known my own father in reality, and with my two grandfathers long dead, I feel so lucky with the last decade. As our grandchildren have been born, I am overwhelmed with feelings of joy and happiness and on Tuesday last little Cian John arrived in this world.

We milked the cows early on Tuesday morning in silence as we waited for the phone call and we cried when the news came.

Yes, Tuesday was a day of comings and goings in every sense of that phrase. In the afternoon, I went to the socially distanced wake of a great friend.

Forty years ago, I first got to know Owenie McAuliffe of Glanworth when he helped train our Junior B Football team to win an East Cork Championship for the first time ever. An accomplished hurler and footballer, Owenie wore the red jersey in both codes. It was, however, as a trainer and coach to Cork Minor and Under 21 teams that Owenie brought much success to the Banks of our Own Lovely Lee during the ’60s and ’70s. He drove the Mobile Library Van on the highways and bye-ways of Cork for years. A man with a word for everyone, he lived by the maxim ‘if you haven’t something good to say about a person, say nothing at all’.

He gave a lifetime of service to the GAA but loved and enjoyed every minute of it. His knowledge of results, scores, teams and great games was something to behold. God bless you and keep you, Owenie.

After the cows were milked on Tuesday, I was on the road again. Just a short journey to Lisgoold where the people of that parish were gathered in the local cemetery for their annual Mass. With Covid limiting numbers at Sunday worship, this was probably the biggest single gathering of parishioners since early in 2019.

It was a special ceremony in Sacred Ground which contains burials dating back to the1700s.

All over the country, it’s just great to see what were once overgrown cemeteries now grand and clean and tidy and accessible. Many hours of local voluntary work has restored Lisgoold cemetery to a pristine condition.

After Mass, a plaque was unveiled on the cemetery wall in memory of all those from the parish who were involved in the War of Independence from 1919 to 1921. Just a century ago there were four Lisgoold Volunteers among the many interned in Ballykinlar camp in Co. Down.

Lisgoold Hurling Club presented a set of jersies in the Blue and Gold of the parish to the prisoners in Ballykinlar, where they played Gaelic games. Incidentally, those Blue and Gold colours will be proudly worn by the Lisgoold hurlers who play Harbour Rovers of Glanworth in the 2020 Cork Junior Hurling Final in Pairc ui Rinn next Saturday afternoon.

So that’s it now, and with a bit of luck we might be looking forward next week to Cork Minor and Senior Hurlers preparing for All Ireland finals.

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