Turtle Bunbury

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Vanishing Ireland

Denny Galvin

Denny Galvin the Kerrman
(Photo: James Fennell)

Denis Galvin,

Cattle Farmer

Born 1945

Stradbally, Co Kerry

Denny Galvin is standing precisely where we were told we would find him, leaning against a wall, beside the telephone box, watching the autumnal traffic whizz through the small village of Stradbally. Over and above his ‘big long fleece of a beard’, his brooding eyes latch on to us as we approach and he holds a level gaze.

‘Are you Denny?’

‘I’d say so’.

‘How are you doing?’

‘Well, there’d be no use my complaining to anyone because they won’t listen’.

‘Are you not feeling well?’

‘No’, says Denny. ‘But I’m pleased to meet you anyway. What townland do you come from?’

Denny was his father’s only son. He was born at the tail end of the Second World War on a small ‘kind of a farm’ here on the northern side of the Dingle peninsula. His childhood was spent helping out with a herd of dairy cattle, often driving the pony and cart down to the creamery in Stradbally with the milk. ‘But then the old fellow died and so, next thing, sell out!’ He says the last two words loudly and triumphantly.

For twenty years Denny attempted to run it but eventually the odds got the better of him. Today he leases the 46-acre farm out and spends his days standing by the wall.

‘I had several different occupations in the farming line’, he explains. ‘And any one of them wouldn’t work because farms around here are too small’.

Denny replaced his fathers dairy herd with sucklers, eighteen cows and a bull, bringing the calves to the markets of Castleisland and Listowel. All ran relatively smoothly until the farm was hit by an outbreak of tuberculosis. Dinny was instructed to destroy his herd, save for two cows and the bull. ‘What do I want two cows and a bull for?’ he asks. ‘The bull was going mad around the field with two little cows’. And so, the two cows and the bull were sold. Denny had a crack at dry cattle ‘until everything got too dear and I sold them and then I let the land’.

The trouble with the farm, says Denny, is that it was too scattered. ‘There’s a piece of it here down the road. There’s a part of it on the strand. And there’s a part of it away up the high road. That’s the way of many of the farms around here’. In the old days, that was fine because there wasn’t any cars on the road. But these days, with all the cars and buses constantly motoring past, one would not want to be herding cattle from one field to another very often.

Denny’s home is a short walk from the village, up a laneway, ‘beside the bushes’. He says he is content to live on his own and watch the world go by. He has three sisters, married and living elsewhere in the county who call in from time to time. He also receives regular visits from the postman who, all too often, bears brown envelopes, which Dinny calls ‘the window ones’. ‘That’s all that’s come lately is bills’, he says. ‘And the best time for them is coming on to Christmas. That’s when they all turn up’.

He regards his local pub with mild suspicion and says that if he is thirsty, he would be inclined to head on down the road to Castlegregory. ‘But I don’t like walking’, he confesses.

Denny has a tendency to speak in riddles. When asked his age, he replies with a gentle cuss: ‘Stop a minute, if I were hung by a rope since I was in my early 50s, I’d be pretty quare looking by now’. We have just elicited the year of his birth when a car turns up his lane sending Denny’s head into a 360-degree spin. ‘I must be chasing him’, he says, getting to his feet. ‘See you another time’. And off he trots off into the bushes.



Click here to see a full list of persons interviewed for the Vanishing Ireland project.