We are listening to Deirdre on the radio interviewing a man, Michael Gallagher, about midges. He is reciting his poem called Waltzing with Midges. Michael chants, with great feeling:
Heads they were ascratching, and arms they were ascrapin,
But from the little suckers, there was no escaping;
To every nook and cranny, they most lustily hung on
While waltzing with the midges in Lyreacrompane.
Michael is explaining, at some length, various methods to prevent the midges from “having a go at you.”
He has our rapt attention since, with the recent run of fine weather, midges have become the scourge of West Kerry. When we walk down the lane getting our daily exercise, swarms of them rise from the ditches. So, Sara is taking notes on the back of the store list because the little devils seem to take a particular interest in her. I’ve come to believe that entire families of midges have decided to holiday in Dingle this year just so they can feast on Sara’s ankles.
Deirdre has an afternoon chat show called Talkabout on Radio Kerry, the Voice of the Kingdom. (Kerrymen proudly refer to their home as “the Kingdom”). We listen most days as we drive around the peninsula doing our errands. Sure, you can listen to the national radio channels – TodayFM or the RTE stations – but you won’t get the local knowledge that is essential to understanding the community here.
Birthdays are announced:
“Happy Birthday to Muireann ni Héigeartaigh, 76 years young, from Knockanefune, from her loving daughter Fiona, son-in-law Tómas and grandchildren Aiofe and Eibhlín.”
And First Communions:
“Congratulations to Catherine Curley on her first communion on the Sunday last at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Farranfore. There will be a celebration this coming Saturday at her home in Seartaglin that will feature a bouncy castle for all the youngsters!”
Sara makes a note. We may stop by.
Lost and found announcements are common:
“Saoirse O’Callaghan, of Cahersiveen, left her handbag in the ladies’ toilet at The Jarvey’s Pub in Kells on Saturday night. Contents include her driving permit, a wallet with €45, her favorite foundation powder, and her lucky keychain. Contact her at her gran’s house in Cahersiveen if found. Please do not tell her mammy or there will be hell to pay. Also, please do not call her mobile as that was in the handbag so she won’t be able to answer.”
On Tuesdays, the local Gardai reach out to the audience for help solving crimes.
“We have here in the studio Garda Michael Turbridy of the Listowel Garda Station,” the announcer tells us. “You’re very welcome, indeed, Garda Turbridy.”
“Thank you very much, indeed, for having me,” answers Garda Turbridy.
“It’s no trouble at all. And how may our audience help you today?”
“Sure, we had a very perplexing crime in Ballyduff on the Ballybunion road on Thursday last between the hours of 11 p.m. and the following morning at 9 a.m. There was vandalism at a milking parlour just down the lane from Joe Pat Duffy’s near Horgan’s Garage. We ask anyone who was in the vicinity in the early morning hours and may have seen anything at all to call in to the gardai station.”
“You’ve no witnesses at all?”
“Just the milk cows in the field next to the parlour, but they aren’t talking, so.”
But Radio Kerry is not just about chat shows and public service announcements. There’s music, too!
It took me a good few months, but I finally cracked the playlist code for the Francis Jones Show. The recording artist must:
- Be someone any listener under the age of forty will have never heard of
- Have attained the minimum age of seventy
- Not had a hit song in over forty years
And, for bonus points,
- Be dead
We drive around the Kingdom singing along to Downtown(Petula Clark) and In the Ghetto(Elvis), which we think an odd choice for bucolic Kerry. There’s I Got You, Babe(Sonny and Cher), which I especially like because Sonny always makes me feel good about my singing voice and we can use hand gestures. Roy Orbison shows up and the Bee Gees take an occasional turn. It’s almost like being back in eighth grade at the sock hop. But then, just to keep the younger listeners tuned in, Francis will play something by John Legend and Ariana Grande. Truth be told, I think Francis has a thing for Ariana, so he allows her to break all the rules.
But the absolute best part of listening to Radio Kerry is the morning news broadcasts at 9:30, 10:30, and 11:30. There is little talk of world events and scant attention paid to national events. The focus is on Kerry County Council business and such things as road closings for essential maintenance, school events, and cattle and sheep prices. They tell us the time of the high tides at Knightstown, Castlemaine, Smerwick, and Fenit. Most news on national stations is interesting to know but it doesn’t really affect day-to-day life. Radio Kerry tells you things that are actually useful.
And then we reach the pinnacle of local news. Faintly, in the background, you hear the sonorous notes of an organ begin to play and a solemn voice, with a slight catch in her voice, intones:
“Radio Kerry has been informed of the following deaths.”
And she begins to read:
“Nora O’Caithin, nee Muirthá, age 88, of Gortgariff and Boston, died unexpectedly at home. Reposing at O’Meara’s funeral home from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, with removal afterward to Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow, Ardgroom. Solemn requiem mass at 10 a.m. Thursday, followed by burial at Knockanevin Burial Ground.”
“Padraig (Jimmy Joe) Sheehan, age 94, of Ballincloher, Glanoe West, died in a tractor accident while haying on Tuesday last. Reposing at the home he shared with his brother Cathal (Danny Joe) Sheehan in Glanoe West. Requiem mass at St. Mary, Queen of Weeping Angels, Broughane, at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday followed by burial at the new cemetery on the Reanagowan road. Instead of flowers, Danny Joe asks for any help on the haying since it looks like rain on Friday.”
And so it goes, until every deceased citizen of Kerry has been given their due. It’s just lovely.
We finish our errands and pull the car back into our yard just in time to sneak in a walk down the lane before dinner. We need to waltz with the midges and think about our life in West Kerry.