Paul Healy Week’s – 13th January 2017

Paul Healy on…the fall-out from that story; disturbing television images; Mark Lawrenson almost disappearing off his chair…and the disappearing wrenboys…

There is no truth in the rumour that Liveline presenter Joe Duffy will be sharing his wages from last Friday with the long-time, outspoken community figure from Ballaghaderreen, the irrepressible Michael Scally.

Michael didn’t actually co-host last Friday’s Liveline with Joe; it just seemed that way! My comments are of course tongue in cheek – fair play to Michael, he articulated the shock and awe being felt in Ballaghaderreen very well.

Providing back-up and wearing his Chamber hat was respected businessman Pat Towey. Once Abbeyfield-gate(s) broke, people from Ballaghaderreen were all over the national media. Micheal Frain was excellent with George Hook on Newstalk. Various other Ballaghaderreen/Roscommon figures featured on RTE, Newstalk, Today FM, etc., and indeed in the national newspapers.

The revelation which broke on Thursday night – that large numbers of Syrian refugees are to be accommodated in the Abbeyfield Hotel – was also the main story on Shannonside Radio.

I got to see ‘new politics’ in action on Friday morning as I was guesting on Joe Finnegan’s Show with TDs Peter Burke (Fine Gael) and Brendan Smith (Fianna Fail).

The two TDs and I threw our tuppence worth into the refugee ‘story’ which had the phones hopping in the Shannonside studios.

As regular readers will know (hopefully), I tend to try and keep this column as light-hearted as possible (see ‘Sunday’), but now that I’ve touched on the Ballaghaderreen story it would be remiss of me not to make a serious point or two.

Well, I haven’t been to Ballaghaderreen since the story broke, but I get the distinct impression that a positive mood has formed, now that people have had a chance to recover from the initial shock.

It is entirely proper to criticise the Department of Justice and anyone else who bears responsibility for this shoddily handled affair…over the utterly objectionable lack of consultation prior to Thursday’s announcement, by which time this was very much a done deal.

It is also right to insist on proper services being put in place to deal with the influx of refugees. If that support is provided, I think it has become very obvious over the past few days that the people of Ballaghaderreen will be welcoming, supportive, friendly and generous to the Syrian people when they arrive.

All weekend

The FA Cup is almost in as much peril as the wrenboys (see below). The BBC tried gamely to maximise interest in the once great competition all weekend, showing live matches and marathon highlights packages.

But how can we maintain interest when the top clubs, and even some of the far-from-top clubs, put out a shadow team? Clearly they have lost much of their respect for the competition.

The BBC’s response is to keep referring to the ‘romance’ of the cup and point us in the direction of non-league teams, the would-be giantkillers.

Mind you, if a lower league team beats the reserves put out by a top team, can we really say they are giant-killing?

In other FA Cup news, the BBC really needs to sit pundit Mark Lawrenson down (which, given how laid-back he is, won’t be a problem) and ask him to stop acting the eejit, with his silly faces and apparent disinterest in serious analysis.

Famous (in my house anyway) for sloping back in his chair, he’s a slowly slipping shadow of his former self.


I’ve made my decision – I’m reserving my right to press the ‘off’ button on the television remote.

I just cannot countenance watching those deeply disturbing images, week after week, month after month. Of course it’s not a straightforward situation.

A part of you wants to stay informed and keep in touch with important events, but another part of you can’t bear to look, doesn’t want to have to deal with the frightening images that we so often see on our televisions.

It’s a New Year, and a time for fresh beginnings, so I have thought about this, and I am really not sure that I can subject myself to watching those disturbing images on a weekly basis.

So, I have made my decision. With the greatest of respect to Des Cahill and Co., count me out…I won’t be watching RTE’s Dancing with the Stars.

The Wrenboys…going, going, almost gone?

Recently – well, St. Stephen’s Day, to be precise – our kids and their cousins set off again on what is becoming an increasingly lonely journey.

When I was a young lad the tradition of going out on ‘The Wren’ was a major part of Christmas. Back in the 1970s and ‘80s our family were involved in the pub trade and I recall all sorts of weird looking people coming in and behaving in an excitable fashion.

I hasten to add that I am referring to wrenboys, not our regular customers. St. Stephen’s Day was always greatly looked forward to after the welcome calm and serenity of Christmas Day.

Wrenboys, almost always disguised, would arrive in the pub in great numbers throughout the day. It wasn’t unusual for a new batch of wrenboys to arrive while others were still perfoming.

When a group of wrenboys arrived at a pub or house, the tradition was that they played a few tunes, sang a few songs, perhaps even performed a dance or two.

There was always great craic in the pub, usually involving customers trying to identify who the latest wrenboys were. Money was always enthusiastically handed over. Groups of wrenboys who travelled from village to village and from pub to pub were well rewarded financially.

There was quite a few bob to be made, great craic, and a proud tradition was being maintained. Sadly the tradition of going on ‘The Wren’ is now in great danger of dying out.

There are a few loyalists remaining, including our own children and their cousins, who have been going on ‘The Wren’ every Christmas for the past decade or more.

It started out as a visit to our relatives, but we soon imposed on neighbours too, and this year we even scaled the operation up to include a couple of pubs. The householders that we’ve called to year in year out have been very, very generous.

Over the years the kids have given about half of what they collect to local charities, including Roscommon/Mayo Hospice, Join Our Boys and others.

It’s always a really enjoyable day, but the news is bleak: more often than not our homegrown wrenboys are the only ones who’ve called.

Extravagantly celebrating Halloween is the new show in town it would seem – is the great wrenboys’ tradition on the verge of disappearing?