Transformative water

“Here! Hand me that pump, Har, and I’ll have these cans filled in no time at all”, said John. Looking up, Har counted five more neighbours with their tractors and trailers, behind John waiting in line to use his water pump by the Timogue River. Irritable as hell, he handed it over, saying ‘·Are ye all here, Anyone at all missing?” It was a mystery to Har how on earth the whole neighbourhood always seemed to know when he would be heading to the river to fill his water tanks. While his sarcasm was notorious, Har was also widely known for never seeing a neighbour stuck.
When Ireland joined the EEC in 1973, every farmer wanted to expand. In Ratheniska, however, farmers were hampered in their efforts because their wells ran dry every summer. Water could be so scarce that some people even put locks on the handle of their yard pumps! Cattle are thirsty animals and when Har bought that water pump he hoped to make the process of collecting water from the Timogue river as painless as possible. He hadn’t reckoned, however, on his neighbours acting like they had shares in the damn thing, as they lined up behind him at the river’s edge to use it.
That morning Har was in a hurry as he had promised Old Joe that he would help him pull beet. Joe’s farm was in Kyle, on the opposite side of the river from Ratheniska, and when he eventually got there, he found Joe looking for help to pull a bullock out of the well. He grabbed a rope and went over to the well. He could just make out the head of the bullock by the bubbles the animal exhaled; he managed to get a rope around its neck and pulled. The beast came up so quickly though that he toppled Har into the well. Typical Har, though soaked to the skin he still pulled beet all day, wondering what else could go wrong!
Needless to say, he was as sick as a parrot the next day. But while lying in bed, he had time to consider the implications of there being such a tremendous water source at Old Joe’s farm on the other side of the Timogue, while the wells in Ratheniska were dry. He called a meeting of the neighbours, and a committee was hastily formed. The County Council was lobbied to send an engineer to investigate the possibility of this being a suitable source of piped water for the area. Those engineers weren’t long about finding the source of that well on Joe’s farm and the sight of the water gushing up from that spring filled the Ratheniska spectators with even more joy than they knew when their team won the Co. Hurling Championship in ’61 ! The Ratheniska Water Scheme was born!
Finding that water source transformed our neighbourhood. Farmers no longer feared a dry summer, housewives no longer suffered shoulder strain working the darn pump handles in the yard! In short, life improved.
Telling me this story, Har turned on the tap in his kitchen, took a sip of water and toasted old times and departed neighbours. I added, “Let’s not forget Old Joe’s bullock”.