File photo: The Curragh
Last year I gave a friend of mine a lift to a wake in west Kildare.
We whizzed around the back roads, taking in a few shortcuts through the countryside. A self confessed townie, she was amazed at the lack of houses in the area, and branded it the “back of beyonds”.
Even though, she meant the comment in jest, it was apparent she was struck by the vastness of it. Having reached our destination, we came across two locals directing traffic down the laneway, which was lined with cars.
Once parked at the end of the procession, out we got. It was pitch black, there were no street lights. We were surrounded by fields with a few sporadic ‘moos’ emanating from dusky ditches in the silence. She flinched every time she heard a noise.
As we walked up to the house where the wake was being held, she half joked “if I was left out here, they wouldn’t find me for a week”.
The lack of a footpath and street lighting was an alien concept.
The difference between townies and country folk really resonated with me.
Kildare has such a diverse population with a real rural/urban divide.
The main towns have large population centres with those in the north of the county looking towards Dublin, and those in the south gravitating towards Carlow. The only real uniting factor which overrides all barriers is the support of the county football team.
People who grow up in the towns and suburbs of Kildare’s big towns are used to having facilities and therefore have different expectations. Their Dublin friends or relations would regard them as ‘culchies’.
However, if left in the wilds of Kildare on a dark winter’s evening, they couldn’t be less at home than a seal in the Sahara . In effect, there are degrees of culchieism.
Country dwellers are used to the quietness, they don’t mind dark evenings with no light pollution to enjoy the night sky. It’s not eerie or spooky.
Of course, it’s not ideal if you have to drive five or ten miles to your nearest shop or school, but if you grow up with no other option, then it doesn’t bother you.
When all is said, it’s all down to what you know.
When Taoiseach Leo Varadkar talked about cutting back on eating red meat last week, it was an innocent remark about his health.
However, it did show a lack of understanding for country people and farmers. A colleague remarked the beef industry is finding it tough at present and the timing of his comment wasn’t great for those in the industry.
While I am all for reducing the carbon footprint, and inevitably we will all have to reduce our meat intake, the farming community and the countryside needs support over the coming decades to cope with this major change.
With the policy shift towards encouraging people to live in towns, it’s hard to see to what country life will hold in the future.
While elderly people can feel isolated living in rural Ireland, that loneliness can also exist in towns.
Most rural communities look out for each other. They are places where help and support can be found in tough times. When away on holiday, locals keep on eye on your home. They offer lifts to the elderly, or check on them when they are sick.
The true Kildare culchie is a unique breed, with an affection and affiliation for the dark clear skies, country lanes, rugged boglands, the Curragh Plains and bushes laden with hazelnuts and berries in autum.