27th August 2020 - Page 8

NOVEMBER 23 2017
from the farmyard
By Paul Callaghan
ERE’S a question
FarmWeek reader, what do
you think would be more
impressive? An 11-yearold boy who could use his
memory to rhyme off 40 breeds of
cattle in less than 60 seconds or an
11-year-old boy who could recite
a silly poem about a pony called
‘Dapple Grey’?
Well now esteemed purchaser
of ‘The Best of Breed and a Very
Good Read’, what is your answer?
Interestingly the writer had to
wrestle with this conundrum many
years ago. Here’s the story!
Back in the year of 1970 the
writer was given a book ‘Know All
About Farms’. A wonderful book
for an aspiring would-be farmer, it
contained some lovely drawings
of the various cattle breeds (see
The writer loved this book and
encouraged by the informative
facts and attractive illustrations,
he was inspired to find out more
about the various breeds of cattle.
This necessitated a trip to the local
library which was, at that time,
situated in Portadown’s ‘Edward
Having explained the reason for
this visit to a helpful librarian,
the writer soon had in his hands a
most excellent volume which was
titled ‘Cattle Breeds of the World’.
Whereas ‘Know All About Farms’
was merely an aperitif, this ‘Cattle
Breeds of the World’ was the ‘main
Careful notes were made in the
back of a school jotter and soon
the writer had a list of 40 breeds
that, within a few days, could be
recited off from memory in less
than a minute! The trick was to
go through them alphabetically.
What sensible schoolgirl could fail
to be impressed with a boy who
could recite 40 different breeds
of cattle in less than a minute! It’s
kind of funny looking back but with
hindsight, these were early signs of
an ‘anorak in the making’. Anyway
… here’s the story.
One day towards the end of term
our school teacher, Miss Welsh,
announced that two weeks from
that date there was going to be a
class talent display where each
member of the class could come up
to the front and do a bit of a turn.
“Some of you may want to sing a
song, read a poem or show a piece
of art, just something that everyone
will appreciate! There may even be
a prize for the best!”
Back at home the writer’s mother
took matters in hand. “I think you
should recite the poem ‘Dapple
Grey’. I’ll teach you it.” She then
proceeded to read the following:
“I had a little pony, His name was
Dapple Grey. I lent him to a lady to
ride a mile away. She whipped him
and she lashed him and rode him
through the mire, never again will
I lend my pony for any lady’s hire”.
You’re right, FarmWeek reader, it
was a dreadful ‘poem’ and over the
next few days the writer knew it off
by heart!
The day for the Class ‘Talent
Show’ arrived. First up was young
Timothy who showed us a model
of a castle he’d made out of egg
cartons. We were mildly interested.
BULL: This week we wind the old Memories from the Farmyard clock back to the 1970s for some ‘antics’ in the classroom.
Picture: Paul Callaghan
Boy’s party piece of naming 40
breeds of cattle in 60 seconds!
He was followed by a few more lacklustre turns and then to brighten
the whole thing up, along came
Norman with four oranges; he was
going to juggle!
Having stationed himself at the
front of the class it wasn’t long
before young Norman’s arms
were revolving like the those on a
windmill and oranges were being
flung all over the place. One hit
the ceiling and landed close to
Miss Welch’s head whilst another
bounced off a window before
splashing into the tadpole tank.
Very soon we were all crying with
laughter except Miss Welsh who
was rather cross. Soon, however,
she’d be crying too … but in a
different way.
After Norman’s entertaining act,
it was time for Mabel. Yes that’s
right FarmWeek reader; you may
remember her as the ‘most popular
girl in the class… nay school’. Mabel
has been mentioned quite often in
these features, to the extent that
the writer recently considered
compiling a book ‘Memories of
Mabel’. Mrs Callaghan, however, is
having none of this and has poured
cold water on the whole project.
Anyway, Mabel came up to the
front of the class and told us that
she was going to perform an Irish
hit song called … ‘The Old Turf
Fire’. Within a few bars of her
performance we all knew that
Mabel had little to learn when it
came to chanting a ditty and her
interpretation was – as had been
expected– absolutely perfect!
We all enjoyed Mabel’s
performance very much, but
most especially Miss Welsh who
got quite emotional about it all.
Whether the song reminded her
of childhood days by the fireside
or what we did not know, suffice
to state by the time Mabel was
half-way through, Miss Welsh had
extracted a handkerchief from her
handbag and was using it to dab
her eyes. By the time Mabel had
reached the third verse recalling
Granny’s ‘Farls on the griddle’, Miss
Welsh was struggling to hold it all
At the end of the performance and
in a trembling voice, our teacher
complimented the wonderful
songstress Mabel most effusively.
Then, she gathered herself, blew
her nose and made the following
announcement. “Okay class, let’s
continue our talent show – it’s time
for Paul to come up to the front!”.
By this stage the writer was
really under pressure – Mabel’s act
was not going to be an easy one
to follow, especially with a silly
poem about a pony called ‘Dapple
Grey’. Walking from his desk to the
front of the class the writer’s mind
was in turmoil. The Dapple Grey
poem had ‘failure’ written all over
it but then it was what Mother had
‘Know All About Farms’ was wellillustrated.
advised! Yes, ‘Dapple Grey’ it had
to be! Definitely. No doubt about it.
‘Dapple Grey’ it was! Absolutely!
Having reached the front, the
writer turned around, faced the
class, took a deep breath – looked
at Mabel – paused and began:
“Aberdeen Angus … Ayrshire … Beef
Shorthorn ... Belted Galloway …
Charolais … Dairy Shorthorn …”.
from the
by Paul Callaghan
Available from


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