Thursday, July 2, 2009

We're right there, Michael ...

Today's Irish Times, perhaps a whit less gripping than that previous issue, is still great value for £1.10 (even missing the property section, a usual Thursday delight for Malcolm).

From its pages, Malcolm learned that the British Foreign Minister, travelling to Dublin on BMI, had lost his jacket. He turned up at Leinster House, wearing the one discarded by a Mr Collins. Miriam Lord, as tart and delightful as ever, milks this in her Dáil Sketch:
What was Mr Miliband thinking, admitting to travelling on a commercial airline to an important meeting with an Irish Cabinet Minister? Talk about setting a bad example.

Why didn’t he go the whole hog and say what he earns? (Considerably less than his Leinster House counterpart.) Pity about poor David Miliband and his aul jacket. Serves him right.

If he travelled to meetings across the water by government jet he wouldn’t be losing his clothes.

Just because there’s a recession on doesn’t mean standards should slip. Ireland’s Cabinet Ministers could teach him a thing or two about keeping up appearances.
Two heart-throbs?

So the Michael of the heading about could be Micheál Murphy, the Minister for External Affairs. He and Miriam Lord's "Tim Henman lookalike" photograph well on page 8, but it isn't he: so wait on.

A salty comment

To balance that gem is the pointed and poignant piece by David Adams, Unionism must take on bigots in its midst. A fine piece, an honourable piece: but why change the life-style of two centuries? [Malcolm may return to this one, however.]

Getting steamed up

No, the hero of the hour is:
... west Clare native and businessman Jackie Whelan who has spent up to €1 million on restoring the Slieve Callan over the past decade.

Between 1892 and 1952, the Slieve Callan powered the west Clare railway – immortalised in song by Percy French – and it is due back in Ennis tomorrow fully restored.
This is one of the most-famed locomotives in the world:
You may talk of Columbus's sailing
Across the Atlantical sea
But he never tried to go railing
From Ennis as far as Kilkee
You may run for the train in the mornin',
The excursion train starting at eight:
You're there when the clock gives the warnin';
And there for an hour you'll wait.

And as you're waiting in the train,
You'll hear the guard sing this refrain:

"Are ye right there, Michael? Are ye right?
Do you think that we'll be there before the night?
Ye've been so long in startin'
That you couldn't say for sartin',
Still ye might now, Michael, so ye might!"
In 1896 Percy French was to give a concert in Kilkeel (Malcolm dealt with this episode in a posting back in November 2007, and shamelessly plagiarises himself here). French failed to make the engagement because of "weeds in the boiler".

As every good Clareman, and many others, will assure you, French duly sued the West Clare Railway for loss of earnings. He was was awarded £10 compensation (the account of this case in on line: it is a classic).

The Railway apparently appealed the judgment (and seem to have also counter-sued for libel). French arrived late for this second hearing, and was taken to task by the judge. French gave his apologies with the excuse he had "travelled by the West Clare Railway". Various accounts have it that the judgement was “case dismissed” -- or an award of one penny damages. Malcolm cannot find a totally reliable source for this part of the story; and and has always suspected French himself improved on the facts considerably.

The Slieve Callan had to kidnapped from Ennis railway sation (the NIMBYs, of course, protesting). Much later (including delays for approval of the boiler under EU regulations), the old girl is ready for her new outing:
Restoration ended up taking 10 years, with a two-year delay caused over what boiler EU regulations could approve.

Mr Whelan said: “The general public might say ‘wasn’t he an awful lunatic to put that money into that train’, but this train will be there for the next 100 years.

“A lot of money was put into it, but it is money well spent at the end of the day, because it is part of our most important heritage in west Clare.

“When this was built in 1892 at a cost of £1,900, we had nothing only a donkey.”

The Slieve Callan will take passengers again in August. “It will take three hours to put steam on it,” said Mr Whelan. “You can’t turn on a key in this thing.”
Not too much has changed on the West Clare railway.
And, perhaps, that's all to the good of tourism. Sphere: Related Content

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