Yep, she’s a big yoke alright!

big yoke 1.JPGI had this fantastic idea for a story – a long-running serial, even – about a Sligo undertaker who wants to move an old airliner half way up the country to join the double decker buses and rail carriages in his new glamping (glamorous camping) campsite.

Nah, too improbable, no one would believe that could ever happen…

But, proving fact can be stranger than fiction, this week Easkey undertaker David McGowan has been in the news as he takes his ‘big yoke’ Boeing 767 from Shannon Airport in the west of Ireland up to Enniscrone in County Sligo, via the Atlantic Ocean.

Of course, it was too big to move by road, and being decommissioned it wasn’t able to fly (not that it could have landed anywhere near its intended destination!), so began an ambitious plan to take the wings off and load the plane by crane onto a barge and put to sea.

Now that’s something you don’t see every day, a big aeroplane on the back of a flat barge being towed behind a little tugboat in the middle of the ocean.  So off we went to take a look (along with thousands of others).

We watched as the plane came into Killala Bay and just had to marvel at the wonderful improbability of it all – and what a spectacle!

We’ve been following the on-off, will-they-won’t-they project as red tape, the laws of physics, and the weather hindered plans. But listening to David McGowan’s hilarious commentaries on the radio and following his Tweets and Facebook updates has been very entertaining.

I think what he is doing is a major publicity push for the Wild Atlantic Way and even if people don’t want to do the glamorous camping thing, they’ll head for Enniscrone to take a look at an airliner at home in  a field there, won’t they?

For the record, the plane is an Irish-registered American-built Boeing 767 – 216, which had its first flight on May 16th 1986 (Happy 30th Birthday next week, Big Yoke!). It has flown all around the world after being originally registered in Chile, then America before getting its Irish registration EI-CZD when it was leased to Russian airline Transaero.

And how do I know this stuff? I’m married to an aviation expert, that’s how!



I Came Third – But What About Next Year’s Festival?


strokestown poets may 16

May Bank Holiday’s Poetry Festival in Strokestown was a lovely weekend – but a tremor of dismay ran through everyone when it was revealed that Arts Council funding has been cut and thereby next year’s event is in jeopardy.

This was the 18th year of the Festival, held (mostly) in Strokestown Park House (County Roscommon, Ireland), set in beautiful surroundings and firmly of the traditional mould.

The building is a magnificent 18th century mansion with many of its original fixtures and furnishings, including original flock wallpaper and heavy velvet drapes, and of course, creaking floorboards and squeaking oak doors. Perfect for poetry recitals!

I was there on Sunday morning to hear Jane Clarke, fresh from her win at the Hennessy Awards (she did not disappoint!); Gerry Boland and Margaret Hickey read too (also excellent).  I stayed for the launch of the new Cyphers Magazine, then great book launches by Macdara Woods and Paddy Bushe. And still I lingered – to hear Pat Boran and Grace Wells, all of these wonderful wordsmiths making me realise what a long way I have to go to call myself a proper poet!

Even so, I’d had the great fortune to read my little poem ‘Fur Coat and No Knickers’ at Strokestown House on Saturday afternoon and came away with third prize (same as last year) in the Roscommon Poets’ Prize, Laurence Henson taking a rightful first for his ‘Man and Boy’.  Judge Noelle Lynskey had a hard time choosing places, since I think any of the shortlisted poems could have been placed.

If you have any sway with the Arts Council, or if you have any ideas about how the Strokestown Poetry Festival could win financial support, I’m sure they’d like to hear from you. There was a petition asking the Arts Council to reverse the withdrawal of funding, which I signed, and I hope many others will too.

Strokestown Park is an appropriately bucolic setting for a gathering of poets and as I arrived back from lunch on Sunday, I was transfixed to see a lovely a grey heron fly past, land in the brook and start fishing just a few yards away, almost making me late for the afternoon readings. I have filed the incident away for future reference – there may be a poem in it!

In the picture are (from left) judge Noelle Lynskey, winner Laurence Henson, last year’s winner Catherine Ryan, Maureen Lydon, me (Louise G. Cole) and Bernadette Tansey.