Money for Old Ropes

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While we were in Westport recently we came across an old rusty boat. I love old rusty anything, they make great photography subjects.MayoAug13 032 I love the colours and the shapes and textures. I loved the colours in the old ropes too, there’s something beautiful about them. So here are a few of my favourite shots.

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MayoAug13 029Pretty, huh?

The Old Coastguard Station

I met a friend for coffee yesterday and I was telling her this story. It was then I realised that it’s a good story and a very Irish story. So I thought I would share it with you.

DSC_0634The week we spent in Mayo also happened to be Heritage Week in Ireland. This meant that there were all sorts of Heritage events happening around the country and old buildings that ordinarily wouldn’t be open to the public. One of these buildings was the Old Coastguard Station in Rosmoney, Westport.  My aunt that we were staying with had never heard of it, but directions were procured from a friend for Rosmoney and off we set.

We found ourselves on very small windy roads, with grass in the centre. That’s how you know you’re *really* in the country when there’s grass down the centre of the road. We quickly realised we didn’t know where we were going so my aunt spotted a house that looked like someone was home and told us to pull over. Off she went into the house to ask for directions. The woman living there came down to the car to point the directions out to us and warned us that the roads got very narrow, Two things to point out here, in the city I would *never* knock on a stranger’s door to ask *anything* and it was difficult to imagine that the roads could get even more narrow.

It took another few minutes of driving but eventually we arrived at the pier in Rosmoney. And really that’s all there was – a pier. No sign of an old coastguard station. We asked for further directions, hopped back in the car and finally arrived at our destination. But it seemed deserted. Not what we were expecting from a building that was supposedly open to the public. My aunt disappeared into another house to see if she could find someone and  Rossa suggested I ring the number in the Heritage Week booklet.

DSC_0655 (1)The secretary who answered the phone sounded almost as surprised by my query as I was that she didn’t know what I was talking about. I was put through to the proprietor who was also slightly surprised by my call. I should point out that the details had been published in a Heritage Week booklet that had been distributed with a national newspaper. Anyway the man was very nice and said that, yes, we could take a look around, that there was someone living in one of the renovated apartments in the Coastguard Station and that we could knock on her door if we wanted. We had a long conversation about how I came to hear about the Station and how the man had fielded many similar calls all week and that he hadn’t seen this booklet with the published details. I’m not sure if he forgot the advertisement or what but he seemed unperturbed.

Then he asked if I had any biscuits with me? No. That was a pity as the donkeys love to eat biscuits. Right. Did we have any sandwiches with us? No. Well the donkeys really love biscuits so if we did have any with us we could give them to them. We didn’t have any biscuits or sandwiches.  Eventually I got him off the phone, he really loved to chat.

My aunt reappeared with a neighbour who seemed equally confused as the secretary, the proprietor and we were, but chatted away with us as R and I snapped away. When I mentioned the name of the proprietor it turns out he was the solicitor for my Grandpa’s estate. Of course he was. This morning couldn’t get any stranger.

DSC_0658Until it did. The tenant appeared and said she would let us into the main part of the Coastguard station, which sounded great, until we realised this was the man’s sitting room. With all his stuff. And he wasn’t very tidy. We beat a hasty retreat and literally as I said I was going to take some photos of the donkeys before we left, the donkeys appeared at the front door and then positioned themselves in front of the perfect view. A few quick photos were taken before we legged it back to the car. The whole thing was just too surreal. But at least we have a great story to go with some great photos.

The Reek

I submitted my Capstone project (group thesis) the week before last. I’m proud of the work that we did and the paper that we produced, but some time off was badly needed. Myself and R headed West to visit some family and to enjoy some rest and relaxation.MayoAug13 011 (2)Of course I took my camera with me, although the weather in Mayo was predictably rainy and the light wasn’t always great. But when the sun comes out it is the most beautiful place on earth. And the sun obliged for the photo above looking out across Clew Bay towards Croagh Patrick. I think this one of the best photos I have ever taken. I’m very proud of it.

MayoAug13 040And then three donkeys appeared and began modelling in front of The Reek (that’s what the locals call it). They were so friendly and let us pet their lovely noses.

MayoAug13 050We headed up Croagh Patrick then to take some photos looking out across Clew Bay, and the sun came out for about 5 minutes before the rain started again so we didn’t get very far before we headed back down.

MayoAug13 056This photo was taken in Newport, Co. Mayo. Part of my heart lives here. Some day I would love to have a cottage somewhere in West Mayo. Although we only had sunshine about 25% of the time, it’s worth it for views like these.

Where is your favourite place? Where does your heart live?

A trip to Foxford Woollen Mills

My mum’s family is from the West Coast of Ireland and over the years I have longed to visit Foxford Woollen Mills as we head west. But when you’re visiting family you don’t want to loose precious time with them so we never quite made it to the Mill, which is about 15 minutes off the N5 at Swinford. Myself and R finally had a chance to visit this weekend after a very relaxing stay in Ballina. I only had my phone with me so the photos aren’t great and don’t really do the colours justice. Please forgive me.

imageThere are two tours you can do when you arrive at the Mill, the first being the historic tour. This was really interesting as I hadn’t known the history of the Mill. It was set up by the Sisters of Charity to help the locals gain employment after the Great Famine of 1845 and a second subsequent failure of the potato crop. They did a good job of describing what life would have been like at the end of the 19th century, although some of the wax figures used to tell the story were a bit creepy. Life must have been pretty bleak back then.

Blankets at Foxford Woolen MillsNot surprisingly the Mill doesn’t run on the weekends so we couldn’t do the factory tour, which was a bit disappointing. I would really have loved to see the working mill and see how the beautiful blankets are made. And as a knitter I wanted to ask all sorts of questions about the history of the production, as well as current production methods. We’ll just have to go back again on a weekday some time. As well as a visitor centre there is a shop selling Foxford products and a lovely cafe upstairs.


There were some examples of the yarns used dotted around the shop and cafe. But they weren’t for sale, boo. When we were paying I asked if the yarns were still procuded locally, and wasn’t surprised (but still a bit disappointed) to hear that they are imported from the UK.


The blankets are so beautiful that we ended up buying two, one deep grey mohair blanket and one cream blanket with really bright coloured spots. There were just so many colours it was really hard to choose. They are relatively expensive, but beautifully crafted and I feel they’ll be hard wearing. There was also a section of the shop selling seconds, so that certainly helped with the cost. All I have to do now is wait for a cold evening so I can curl up under one of our new blankets.

If you’re ever travelling in Mayo and are looking for something to do I would recommend visiting the mill. Yes, it’s all about selling blankets and other gifts to the tourists, but I kind of feel – so what. The shop and visitor centre did a good job of setting the scene historically as well as showing how aspects of our heritage can be preserved and modernised and still remain relevant today. And to me that’s a good lesson.

Better late than never? That remains to be seen.

(I know, two blog posts in two days!?!)

Back in October I lamented the lack of regulation in the puppy breeding sector in Ireland, after TV3 aired a special report on puppy farms in Ireland. Ireland is know as the puppy farm capital of the world, as some puppies are bred in horrible conditions with little or no contact with humans, filthy living conditions and little or no medical care.

Dogs Trust Ireland Call to Action to shut down unscrupulous puppy farmers.

Dogs Trust Ireland Call to Action to shut down unscrupulous puppy farmers.

The Dublin SPCA recently issued a warning after receiving a series of calls about sick puppies. They said “Every day, we deal with people regarding animal welfare issues and it concerns us greatly when we receive calls from pet owners; especially at Christmas time, who tell us they’ve purchased their pet from the back of someone’s car or boot, only to find the animal has become dangerously ill very quickly, often dying within 24 hours of them getting it home.”

Back in October Phil Hogan, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, said he would not sign the Dog Breeding Establishments Act into law until the completion of the Welfare of Greyhounds Bill is completed by the Oireachtas. Utter BS if you ask me.

Before the red mist descends again, let me get to the good news.

Today, Minister Hogan FINALLY signed the commencement order for the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010.  The Act will come into force on 1 January 2012.

The majority of dog breeding establishments in the country are well run and the owners and operators maintain high standards.  However, I am well aware of problems with a small number of establishments.  This legislation will deal with these operators, who seem to have no respect for the animals that they use for breeding purposes” said Minister Hogan.  He went on to say that owners and operators of good quality establishments where dogs are well treated have absolutely nothing to fear from these regulations.

The Minister said that establishments will have a lead in time of six months to apply to their Local Authority to be included in the register of dog breeding establishments.  As with other dog control issues, Local Authorities will be responsible for the implementation of the legislation locally.

The Dublin SPCA has welcomed “this signing and would like to thank the Minister most sincerely. It’s been a long road, however, today marks a positive outlook for Irish dogs and animal welfare.”

Dogs Trust Ireland has hailed this as “a historic day for dog welfare. We welcome today’s signing and believe it heralds a new dawn for Dog Welfare in Ireland.”

End puppy farming

[Warning: This post contains disturbing images, but frankly I don’t care, you only have to look at them once, these dogs have to live it everyday.]

If you missed Animal A&E Investigates: The Truth about Ireland’s Puppy farms last night you can watch it again online on the TV3 Player here. This was a special episode exposing the shocking truth about battery farmed dogs in Ireland, where some appalling cruelty cases were highlighted by the ISPCA and the Animal A&E Team.

Or did you watch it and think “I wish there was something I could do!” Well there is. Please, please, please email Minister Phil Hogan at and and ask him to to sign the Commencement Order for the Dog Breeding Establishment Act.

Dog Breeding Establishment Act

Dogs Trust Ireland Call to Action to shut down unscrupulous puppy farmers.

Dogs Trust Ireland Call to Action to shut down unscrupulous puppy farmers.

As things stand unscrupulous breeders are taking advantage of Ireland’s lack of animal welfare standards that are in place in other countries. This had lead to reports of over-breeding of animals that are kept in poor conditions.

The new legislation is designed to tackle large scale commercial breeders who are operating puppy farms or battery farms but it has not yet been signed into law. It won’t solve all the problems within the industry, but is seen as an important first step by animal welfare organisations to bring the industry in line with best practise established in other countries. The legislation would help ensure that dog breeding establishments must be registered and licensed.

Under the legislation breeders would be liable for inspection and will have to meet minimum welfare standards, including the size of the kennel where the dogs are kept with adequate ventilation for example.

Puppy problems

Photo taken by the Dublin SPCA at a puppy farm where over 70 animals were removed

Photo taken by the Dublin SPCA at a puppy farm where over 70 animals were removed

Many of the dogs and puppies on these puppy farms have significant medical and social problems. As a result of intensive breeding, animal welfare organisations often see puppies suffering because of inbreeding and other hereditary problems.

Other medical conditions include parasite infestations such as fleas, worms and ear mites which can lead to anaemia. Puppies can also suffer from skin infections such as mange, and can have rickets and calcium deficiencies. The mothers are often found to have mammary gland tumours.

The problems are not exclusively physical. Puppies from puppy farms can also have psychological problems. It’s vital for puppies to be socialised in early life with other dogs and humans, but cage bred puppies often miss out on this vital step in development.


ISPCA rescue two neglected Shitzu breeding bitches out of fifty dogs from a dog breeding establishment. Photo by Carmel Murray

ISPCA rescue two neglected Shitzu breeding bitches out of fifty dogs from a dog breeding establishment. Photo by Carmel Murray

If you are as disgusted as I am with how these animals are treated then do something. Write to your local TD. An email takes five minutes to write but the more pressure we put on our representatives in government the better chance we have. After all, they are supposed to represent US, the electorate.

I have written to Phil Hogan, Alan Shatter, Shane Ross, Alex White, Peter Mathews and Olivia Mitchell. So far I have recieved a reply from Olivia Mitchell TD. (I will update here if I get replies from any of the other TDS).

I have written to Ms. Mitchell before regarding the legislation and she has always replied. She has said she will ask Minister Phil Hogan to finally sign the Commencement order for the Dog Breeding Establishment Bill. I hope she is true to her word.

[Edited to add 26/10/2011]

Response from Phil Hogan, Minister for Environment, Community & Local Government

Photo taken by the Dublin SPCA at a puppy farm where over 70 animals were removed

Photo taken by the Dublin SPCA at a puppy farm where over 70 animals were removed

Minister Hogan posted the following on his Facebook page “The Dog Breeding Establishment Act cannot be commenced until the completion of the Welfare of Greyhounds Bill is completed by the Oireachtas. This Bill is presently going through Seanad Eireann. I am surprised that people in various organisations are not aware of this matter.”

This in my opinion is BS and is nothing more than smoke and mirror tactics to hold off on signing the order.

[Edited to add 27/10/2011]

Today I got an email reply from Peter Mathews TD, and while Mr. Mathews admits to being appalled by the TV3 program and assures me of his continued support for animal welfare, he also copied and pasted the party line into the middle of his email. He repeated that “It’s intended to commence the Dog Breeding Establishment Act 2010 at the same time as the Welfare of Greyhounds Bill, which is currently passing through the Oireachtas.”