alan skeoch
Oct. 3, 2022

“Dad, I have to move the bees to a winter home on south side of the barn.
This could be difficult. Stay clear..”
“Why move them?”
“Last year something got the bees in the bee yard. If they are 
close by, I can keep an eye of them.  Skunks like bees as do mice”

“So much honey in here that I cannot lift it.  I will have to separate
the hive.    Could be trouble.”

“Andrew, what made you run?  That cost is supposed to be bee proof.”
“Seven bees managed to find a hole.  Followed the seams until they got
through to my bare legs.”

“Did the bees get you, Andrew?”
“They did.”
“How many?”
“Seven.  They managed to get through the pants in spite of the protective overalls.  Seemed to follow the seams
of the costume..  Smart little creatures.”
“Stings  must hurt?”
“Not too bad.  Just lower legs.  Much worse if they get my face or neck. “
“What if they all got you.  Say a thousand bees.”
“We would have to call 911 if there was time.”
“Why didn’t they attack me.  I was taking pictures.”
“The bees seemed to know you were not going to disturb them.”
“They look mad right now.”
“They are.  You better run.  That’s what I am going to do as I can feel
those few bees that got through my bee proof uniform.”””Run!”

Andrew ran across the bridge .  I ran…walked slowly…down the side of the pond.
No bees followed me.  Only one lone bee checked me out and I pushed it away.
The bees knew.  Heroic of me, I must admit.  Do bees know more than we realize
In that tiny little brain.?  

Andrew got loads of honey this year.  More than his extended family can eat.  And he left lots for the bees to eat
over the winter.

Coyote note from Patricia…yip yip yip is chilling

Note came as soon as Patricia read my episode…see below
Hi Alan
To add to your story and Kent’s, we hear and see lots of coyotes during the winter when the Credit River is frozen over. We see them trotting along – it can be disconcerting when they are running toward you! (They have never stopped near us; they just run on by!)
When we are dog-sitting (daughter Martha’s black Lab), we keep her on a leash during walks. We have never seen one when we have the dog with us.
Once, a pack tried to lure a neighbour’s German Shepherd (a large male named Shadow) to the island in the Credit. Shadow is never on a leash. Most of the coyote pack hung back, hidden among the island reeds, while one lone coyote played and flirted to attract Shadow to follow her/ him (probably her!). Tim, the dog’s owner, saw what was happening and called Shadow back to shore. The big animal immediately turned and trotted home.
We hear the wild loud “yip yip yips” signaling a kill usually in the wee hours of morning when it’s still dark. And very cold. The sound is chilling!! Nature’s way though. Now that Brightwater has taken over a huge patch of what had become coyote territory, we expect to see more coyotes trotting along the frozen Credit River this winter.


Begin forwarded message:

From: ALAN SKEOCH <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Subject: EPISODE 602 bark! BARK! Bark! There is s big coyote down there….look!
Date: September 30, 2022 at 5:36:28 PM EDT
To: John Wardle <jwardle@rogers.com>, Marjorie Skeoch <marjorieskeoch@gmail.com>, Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>

EPISODE 602    bark! BARK! Bark!  There is s big coyote down there….look!

alan skeoh
Sept 30, 2-022

“Her camouflage is also perfect…her smell is not!“
“Alan, the dog is going crazy…must be coyotes.”

At first we could see nothing.  Then a large coyotes stepped from behind a bush into
the open spot.  It stopped, took its time to check us out and continued to tease
Woody who is very brave when behind a chain line fence.


There are people who have pet coyotes but I think taming a coyote

is  bad idea for several reasons.  Breeders sell them for around $400
each.  Cheap $50 coyotes should be avoided…problems there with
health of the animals likely.

KEEPING  a coyote may be illegal in the first place.  So read no further.

If you are determined to get a coyote consider these problems.  First is space.
A tame coyote needs about 1.5 acres minimum space.  Not many people have
city lots that size.  Then it must be fenced about 10 feet high with an extra two feet
buried…12 inches down, then folded back another 12 inches so the coyote cannot
dig itself out.  Fencing a larger space, say 10 acres, won’t work because the coyote
may feel it is in the wild…i.e. not tame.  Fencing the real rate of a male coyote is out of
the questions as in the quote below.

“It is not possible to have a pet coyote if you do not own a large plot of land. And we mean large! You can’t keep a coyote in an apartment or a suburban housing plant.
It’s not fair to the coyote to live in such small quarters and can end up causing behavioral problems.
According to the Virginia DWR, coyotes have a home range of about 6 miles in diameter. Male coyotes can range even further, especially if they are looking for a female or trying to start their pack.”

Your tame coyote may like you as long as you show it you are the alpha parent…the
indisputable boss.  Possible to do.  But be careful bringing friends around.  The coyote
might see them as competition for affection and for food.  Bite them.  Same a applies in
spades for pets.  GRRRR!

What will you feed it?  Squirrels?, rabbits?, cats? rats?   Just about anything it seems but be sure and feed it often
otherwise your coyote will start looking at other livings things like your pet cat.

And do not think you can take a tame coyote for a walk on a leash.  If other leashed dogs are passing by the
coyote could go berserk trying to get them and lots of biting will happen to all in the coyote’s way including
you I imagine.

Who is inside the fence?  The coyote? Or us?  The answer is obvious.

There is no coyote in this picture above.  Could be though.  The picture below is our backyard, unfenced part, and there is a
coyote present…almost invisible.  Coyotes have decided that urban life is OK and now seeing a coyote on your street is
common.  When i was a kid, decades ago, coyotes were almost fictional creatures skulking around the American west where
they originated.  Not so today.

HERE is a coyote story from Kent snd Jan Farrow


Hi Allan…..love your backyard and farm and creatures that are lured to them.  We do not have coyotes at the cottage but we do have our passive fox(if there is such a thing at!  We are back to Wasaga after a 4 month stay at the cottage .  In Wasaga we have many coyotes that roam about feeding on rabbits and stray cats.  THREE winters ago we lost a yearling deer , who despite being protected by 5 other adults, was surrounded and consumed on the golf course fairway behind us.  All that was left were the two hind legs.  They take no prisoners when hungry especially when the snow is deep.  We are home for a few more days to let impending hurricane Ian pass and then back to ‘Hodge Podge Lodge ‘ to close up.  Stay safe!<image0.jpeg>

This would have been 3 winters ago when there was close to 18-20” of snow on the ground.  There was a small herd of dear wintering on the golf course….3 adults and two young ones.  We also had 2 coyotes trailing them .  I have them on my trail cam.  We heard the celebratory yipping noises and in the morning my son found the two hind legs.  We see them trotting across the farmer’s fields at times.  Any ways that is natures food chain I suppose.  After all, Wasaga is a Provincial Park.

Kent Farrow

Sent from my iPhone

Kent Farrow


NOTE:  Those who did not know John Ricker might remember the movie Goodbye Mr. Chips which
was a farewell to a beloved teacher.  This is the same thing.

Alan Skeoch
Sept. 24, 2022


Marvi Ricker with guests at memorial to John Ricker

Time line for John Ricker

1923   born
1933     10 years old
1943     20 years old ..RCAF, tail gunner, bomber command
1953     30 years old …history teacher, Parkdale C.I.
1963     40 years old…professor,  Faculty ofEducation, U. of , when I first met John
1978     Marvi and John’s marriage
2011     87 years old….created the Castlefield Institute…John’s last class, 
then on Auust 7,  2023,
John Ricker died…99 years old, his last class was over but not forgotten

We Said farewell to John Ricker on September 24, 2022, at the Faclultu Club of the University of Toronto.  It was a wonderful farewell with
John’s family injecting a lot of energy into this final goodbye including a half dozen or more of children aged 10 or less.  No tears.  Just
a feeling of admiration of John’s life orchestrated by his wife Marvi .

John Rickers’ three daughters with Alan Skeoch at the Faulty Club

For a month I edited my speech for that occasion.  How could I put John’s life into a five minute time slot?   There were many
people who wanted to do the same thing and I was the ‘closer’ like Romano of the Bluejays.  So here are the pants I wanted to express.

1)  Bismarck once said that “You can do anything with children if you just play with them.”  John Ricker did this with humour , respect, intelligence and boundless
energy.  Those he taught were groomed as lifelong teachers.  John was succinct . He would throw out an opening comment…often as a question…and then join the fray
of ‘Civil discussion’ which was John’s term for good teaching.  Today, were John still alive, he might open a class by saying  “Democracy is in mortal danger
it seems.  Can democracy survive?”

2) I noted in my previous episode that John commanded respect.   Good teaching only occurs when the teacher is respected.  Without respect little 
learning happens.

Here we see some of the joy John Ricker injected into our lives

3)  John Wardle and John Ricker created the Castlefield Institute ten years ago.  This was John Ricker’s last class, a decade long classroom.  We met
at his house once a month,  Who were we?  A cross section of people.  A judge, a publisher, a politician, three professors, a half dozen teachers,
four winners of the Order of Canada, one winner of the Governor Genersl’s award.
a bunch of friends, Marvi on occasion…and one little with dog called Montesqjuieu.  The dog was allowed to dominate.  Actually Monty was a pain
in the ass.  He barked every time one of us spoke forcing us to tailor our comments.  Monty was silent when John spoke.  Monty made sure no one
got garrulous.
John justified Monty’s presence by saying he had more respect for ‘four legged creatures than he had for most of the two legged kind’.
That remark was typical.  Ricker could be very funny.  Also truthful.  I think he thought that little white dog had a higher intelligence than the rest of us.
Monty, by the way, also stole our sandwiches when he could.  John saw nothing when that happened. Just grinned.  John was capable of 
spoiling children…or was it forgiving indiscretions.

“I respect four legged creature more than the two legged kind.” (John Ricker)

We were all aware that the Castlefield Institute would be John’s last class.  A fact that became more and more apparent as the years passed 
by.  But meetings were very cheerful..  Silly at times.  Thoughtful occasionally.  Stupid occasionally like the time
I asked what the group thought about the possible election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.  “That will never happen…the
people of the United States are not that stupid.”  Well, it did happen as you know and  the consequences of that election came the subject
of a lot of our discussions.  “Democracy is a troubled spirit whose dream presents only visions of hell”  In short we discussed populism and 
government by the lowest common denominator.  How arrogant of us.  But remember we were all friends freely expressing our ideas with no expectations
that anyone gave a damn other than our little circle and one little white dog.  We laughed a lot.  Laughter is a kind of therapy. 

“What I really like about the group is that not one of them has anything to prove or any particular brief to be argued or pursued. They are all just good people who like to talk about anything that interests them or, indeed, anyone else. And no one is worried about fall-out or similar meaningless nonsense”  (John Ricker).

4)  John was a voracious and thoughtful reader of non fiction up until he died. A skilled reader.  Back when I did short stories on CBC Radio, my Producer Doug Coupar
cornered me after my first few broadcasts. “Alan, those stories were good,” (What was his next word?) “BUT,  the radio audience has a one minute attention span… get
your big idea out fast.”   How does this connect to John Ricker, you ask?  John could read a 300 page book and winnow it down to a one sentence comment for us to 
consider.  Fitted our one minute attention spans. 

 We had so much fun at those meetings even though the end was approaching.

5)  Then Covid 19 crippled the world in 2020.  And public meetings ceased for a time.  But we kept going as best we could.  Masked.  Then we turned to ZOOM which
was a terrible alternative to meeting face to face.  John hated Zoom.  He wanted our laughter, our outrageous comments…our flesh and blood presence…the classroom.
Those poor kids who now rely on Zoom for their education.  Push the ‘off air’ button for gog’s sake,  Thankfully we had John’s backyard and could yell at each other  there.

6)  John Ricker, like most gifted people,  did not boost himself.  I never remember him saying anything about his job as a highly placed administrater except that it was
a ‘poor substitute for teaching.’   Not necessarily true.  But the comment made me feel good and changed my career path.

Handley Page Halifax – Bomber Command Museum of Canada
Halifax bomber

C-GVRA (KB726) Avro Lancaster B.10 rear gun turret. | Flickr
Lancaster bomber tail gunner turret

7)   John Ricker said very little about his RCAF experience.  Just a few fragments over the years.  His father was shocked when John volunteered 
as a tail gunner on a bomber.   His father was a pacifist and wanted John to fall into line.  John, however, said, “I could not stand idly by when all my friends were joining 
the war effort.”  :After 1945 John said little about those war years.   He did tell me two things.   

“I don’t like to talk about the war because I survived where many of my high school friends did not.”  (John Ricker)

His second comment I will never forget.  I had written a story about my cousin George Freeman’s death as a mid upper gunner 
on a Halifax bomber in 1944.  (HX 313) .  John sent me a note,  It is a definition of FEAR.  I will always picture
John scrunched up in that plastic glass bubble at the back of a bomber with machine guns that were almost useless just waiting for
a German night fighter to open up on him.  

“Alan, my stomach was a ball bearing and a bead of sweat at my neck became a river down my backside.”  (John Ricker)

8)  John Ricker died on August 7, 2022.  He was 99 years old.  He was content.  He was not alone. 

 How many of you know Bill Withers?  I would like
to conclude my remarks using Bill Withers.  And I expect you to join me…to repeat after me.  Loud and clear and heartfelt.  Are you ready?

“Ain’t no sunshine.”
“AIN’T NO SUNSHINE,”  (Faculty Club audience, Sept. 24, 2022)

“Now John’s gone.”


Marvi tells me that John was a grammarian.  So let me change the words a bit.


Alpha and Omega

(Alan Skeoch, speech at John Ricker memorial, Sept. 24, 2022)



alan skeoch
Sept. 27, 2022


Marjorie is a hunter.  She hides behind a maple tree in our backyard and waits for the coyotes to
slip silently across our urban lot.  And they come.  We have a pack living in a wilderness park
that abuts our property.  Lots of space for our local coyotes husband and wife to procreate.  Exactly
where they have hidden their den I am not sure.  

Coyotes are not endangered.  Nor are most of the pets who coexist with the coyotes.  Coyotes density
varies to as high as 2.3 coyotes per square kilometre in Canada.  We live in a coyote dense area.
Probably because some neighbours feed them while other neighbours fear them.

Marjorie got this picture as our dog Woody confronted one small coyote who comes to see him every day…occasionally the whole pack appear
but their camouflage is so good that I rarely see them.  They can stand as still and immovable as a gravestone.  I am glad they are present…glad
they have learned to coexist with humans.  You may not feel that way because a pack of coyotes may have silently appeared as you walk
your little dog.  According to authorities on coyotes you have little to fear.  They will attack dogs only because the coyotes feel dogs are a 
threat to their normal food source of rabbits, squirrels, insects, rodents in general.  I hear you screaming that I am wrong.  Authorities seem
to agree with me however.


Marjorie bought me a hand gun just in case a coyote attacked Woody.  Cost was $2 with ammunition.  Nice looking hand gun that we got
at the Dollar Store and I packed under my belt one dark evening just in case we were attacked.  Sure as God made little green apples
an attack occurred.  An adult coyote slid from behind a tree and danced across our path.  I made a quick draw with the  gun and managed
to fire three quick shots.  Bang! Bang! Bang!   I think I got the coyote.  He or she disappeared.  Wounded?

Where was Woody?  He broke free from Marjorie and took off dragging his leash.  Was he in hot pursuit of the cap gun wounded
coyote.  Not in the least.  He ran to a neighbours open doorway.  Then slunk back to us.  Was he a coward?  Maybe.  Marjorie thinks
one of our coyotes gave him a slap in the ass when he got too close to the pack.  Woody is not s fighter.  He does raise proper hell
however every time a coyote comes up to our back fence.  Protecting us?  Possibly.  But more likely telling Marjorie, hidden behind
the maple tree, that a coyote wants its picture taken.

alan skeoch

 Sept. 27, 2022

Our lot is large….400 feet deep, part of what was once the last 

patch of land owned by the Mississauga people before they were

hustled off to the New Credit reserve near Brantford.

Oshawa may educate residents on coyotes after 2 recent attacks on children  | CBC News

This coyote looks friendly, right?

Toronto issues reminder to not feed coyotes after food reportedly left in  Etobicoke park | CP24.com

This coyotes does not look friendly, right?


Coyote Watch Canada labels coyotes as opportunistic omnivores, meaning their diet usually consists of smaller species like rodents and rabbits, as well as berries and insects. The wildlife organization says that while coyotes might not be able to distinguish a cat between one of their usual preys, dogs are not a common food source. Caution should still be taken however as coyotes often see dogs as a threat to their family or as potential competition for food. 

Coyote roaming Scarborough neighbourhood caught, wildlife group warns 'this  is not a happy ending' | CP24.com

I did not take these close up picture of coyotes.  They are too smart for that.

They fear my cap gun. 

Part of our lot is fenced to keep Woody from wandering.  The other

half of the lot is not fenced so that coyotes can coexist with us.

Sent from my iPhone



alan skeoch
Sept. 24, 2022


John Ricker was 40 years old when we first met.  That was 1963 and I Was 25 yeas old and about to become a high

school history teacher.  Our classroom was jammed with potential teachers most of whom seemed to know a lot
more about history than I did.  All recent U. of  T. graduates.  Perhaps a little arrogant.  Young men and women who felt 
they were on top of their game. Sure of themselves.

John Ricker was an air force veteran of World War II bomber command. A tail gunner.   He had survived the war which
is more than a lot of his friends had done.  He was a top student  with a searching mind and an obsessive interest in
discussion of world issues.  Born in 1923… a ten year old Depression kid in 1933, a 20 year old tail gunner in 1943, a master 
teacher of high school history in 1953,  a professor at the Faculty education in 1963 when we first met.

Our class was noisy when he entered the room.  Explosive. Packed room. Not all.seated.  John threaded his way to the front.
One hand held a cup of coffee, a lit cigarette in the other hand.  He said nothing
but looked at us,  Then he took a long sip of the coffee.  Said nothing but began making eye 
contact with us.  Then he took a long slow drag on the cigarette.  Exhaled.  still said noting.   The room became 
dead quiet.  John Ricker’s eyes darted from student to student.  Still he said nothing but took another
slow sip of coffee.  Absolute silence.  Another drag on the cigarette..long drag, slow exhale. Dead silence.

Then he spoke.   That I remember.  Not the words but the deep resonant sound. What he said I do not remember.   Might have been something like
“Why are you here today?” or  “So, you want to be history teachers.” or “A B52, fully armed nuclear bomber flew
of over Toronto today  as it does every day — Why?” The year was 1963 and the threat of nuclear incineration was in the
back of all minds on earth.  Could we, as teachers of history, do anything to promote world peace? 

John presented big questions.   Few words. Words that invited discussion.

He got immediate respect.  John Ricker had charisma.  He ws a leader … dominant.  And achieved this by silence.
There was another facet of his personality revealed as we looked at him.  A light urging up of his upper lip, maybe… Or was it a twinkle in the
eye.  Not sure what it was he did but there was humour in his facial expression. He was a funny man at times.

I was not afraid of him but I knew he expected me to delve deeply into my  mind that day.  Could I do it?  Could I measure up? Could I shoulder the
challenge of shaping young minds?  John Ricker threw out a challenge that day and he did it by the force of his own personality
He was a teacher par excellence.   In the silence of that room, that day, was the one key element of teaching success.  Respect.  When respect
is present all things are possible.  Without respect not much is possible.  John Ricker got respect coupled with humour.  A cup of coffee and
a cigarette.  Later in his life when he married Marvi, he gave up smoking.  But not coffee.

Alan Skeoch
Sept. 24, 2022

(next episode)



alan skeoch
ept. 17, 2022

Niw Herę is a surprise .  A celebration .   Marjorie too me down to Marie Curtis Park to check out
te change of a swim in Lake Ontario at thousand beach.   Lots of people down there, a few 
swimming but there had been a drowning the day before that put a downer on the duking idea.

NO matter there was all kinds of entertainment provided by the Centennial Street Rodders celebrating
their 55th anniversary with their collection of old cars.

I think one of those cars…a Chevrolet…  model that once  belonged to Russ Vanstone when we
we had a party at the farm long ago and Russ was hit by another car as we crossed the
railway bridge in Georgetown.  At least I think that is what happened a long time ago.
Russ will correct me.  We were all on verge of marriage but did not know it.

See if you can find the Chev.  He tried to keep it…put it up o blocks in his garage where it
slowly fell apart.   Old cars need care..

Before we got to the old cars we met this guy.   He was on his way to
Vancouver but ran out of money I guess.   Anyway I gave him two bucks which would
buy a litre of gas and get him to Oakville maybe.  Or get him a bag of dog food for his dog
and himself.

“There he goes Alan “
“What is all that stuff on his roof?”
“His mobile campground”

P.S.   I thought this story would be a break for those of you sick
of Ireland.   More of Ireland to come .



alan skeoch

Sept. 14, 2022

Kirwin’s pub, Bunmahon, a Saturday night in summer of 1960l: Many of our
employees and a good supply of Guinness

Kirwin’s pub had a rustic room for relaxed consuming of Guinness…rough plank walls 
with bark on the planks…and logs as tables.  John Hogan and I are enjoying ourselves.

Of all the thousands of pictures I have ever taken, these are among my  favourites.  Taken Saturday
night in July or August, 1960, at Kirwin’s Public House, Bunmahon, County Waterford, Ireland..
Barney Dwan is not in the picture.    I believe he did not drink…never remember asking.  There are a
lot of things I should have asked him but failed  to do so.  

Mrs. Kennedy told me he is mother was very young when she had Barney.  There was never any
mention of a father.  I never probed once Mrs. Kennedy told me that.   Wish I had .   We got along
so well on the job and Barney made sure I became part of the Bunmaon community..

That’s Barney Dwan on the left.  Look at his face.  Barney really wanted to learn all
about the job.  The technology of mining exploration was a great mystery to him
so he watched every move I made.  I wish I knew more about him but was prevented
by my belief I must try to treat all the men equally.  Pay them all the same amount of money.
Now 60 years later I realize that was a mistake.  I became dependent on Barney.
He helped me get employees….all ten of them.  Maybe I could have helped him.

I Loved the stories he told.   He  Knew the twists and turns of the old mines
like a glove on the hand. Seems his explorations were done alone.

I will never forget the stories he told all of which seemed to have a core of truth.
Not filled with hate.  Softened with humour
The ’Time of the Troubles” expression softened the hard edge of Irish independence…i.e. the violence
between Black and Tans and Irish Republicans.  Asa reset My experience in Bunmahon was pure joy.   In 1960 I
was certainly aware of the dark days of the 1920’s but that was only on the fringe of my mind.  Barney Dwan
made sure the joy was foremost.  Which leads me to another of his ’stories’ … which may or may not
be true.  

Take another look at Kirwin’s pub on a Saturday night  Los of fun…lots of people…many pints 
of Guinness.   I believe the barmaid is Mrs Kirwin.  Behind her, on her left was a locked room.
Barney told me a story about that room.

“What about the other room?  Other room?  Yes, the room behind the bar?  There is a light
on and someone moving about as I can see the moving shadow in the gap between 
the door and the floor.   Is that another part of the pub?”  I said something like this to
Barney who was not a drinker. Never saw him Kirwin’s pub.  Barney had a story about the place.
He seemed to have stories about every nook and cranny around Bunmahon as did our landlady
Mrs. Kennedy.

 Kirwin’s  was the
Catholic pub.   Directly opposite Kirwin’s was another pub with a Church of Ireland
clientele …. not so well attended as Kirwin’s.  Doubt Barney want there.  Barney was
a boy of indeterminate age.  A great story teller who dangled truth and fiction.  The
stories we followed up turned out to be true.

“The shadow you saw was cast by a man locked up there dating back to the Time of the
Troubles”….he did the dirty work back then.”

Was this true?  Think not.  Barney  always made his stories interesting.  A healthy
dash of exaggeration coupled with a smile. Like the story about the Nun who was eaten
by a herd of pigs and only her shoes were found with her feet in them.  Stories. Entertainment
as we slogged across Irish farm fields.

 Was an IRA assassin locked up behind the bar?  Seems a stretch to believe so.
Yet someone was in that room always..

That story I dismissed along with the story about walling up people in the
old church near the river. ”   Barney Dwan was a most amusing story teller
who never let the facts get in  the way of a good story..  I really wish I had got to know him better.


Book investigates why so many Irish country houses were subject to  devastating arson attacks in the 1920s

Burning the Big House: The mixed motives for the IRA arson campaign – The  Irish Times

Burning the Big House by Terence Dooley review — fanning the flames of hate  | Ireland | The Sunday Times

The tale of Ireland's 'House Burning Mania' of 1919-1923 - Country Life
The great wealth of some Anglo Irish landowners contrasted sharply with
the absolute poverty of most Irish tenants.  The gap between rich and poor
fanned the flames of Irish anger in the 1930’s.

The expression ’time of the troubles’ softened memories of the fight for Irish 
independence.  Perhaps too much softened.  Violent times back then.
 Part of the violence was the burning of large estate homes 
owned by Anglo-Irish.  In 1920, 76 of these ‘Big Houses’ were set on fire and 
another 46 were burned in 1921.  The owners were ordered out and the arsonists
did their work.  Little or nothing was saved.  Much grand art of Ireland use have gone up in
flames.   Nearby County Cork was a centre of house burning.  Less common in
County Waterford but burning did happen. 

 The John Wayne movie titled The
Quiet Man made no mention of these house burning events.  Nor did Barney 
say much about it except one casual mention of a fire that happened in an
large estate which we crossed doing our survey.  That is a dim memory which
may not be true.

I am not a particularly religious person.  A Presbyterian back in the 1960’s.
Protestant in other words.  In Ireland in 1960 I decided to attend Mass in
the Local Catholic church.  This decision was aided by Bridey.   Who was
Bridey?  I am not sure  She worked for the Kennedy family who owned the
house where we stayed.   She was handicapped but falloff energy.
The house was A rambling structure which  included the family
general store and a farm out back.  My first Sunday in Bunmahon
was free day for me.  Normally in Canada we worked 7 days a week so having Sundays off was a luxury
To sleep in?   Not a chance.  Bridey arrived in my room,
threw off my covers and announced “Time to get up Master Skeoch…time for
you to get to Mass.   Hurry!”

Copper Coast Geopark - St. Mary 's Church Saleen, Bunmahon | Facebook

What should I do?  I decided to do what Bridey told me to do.  So I attended Mass
in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic church where most of my employees worshipped.  That was a good
decision.   Both John Hogan and John Stam were Catholics. Now all of us
were at mass. We became part of community life in the village.  I had to dodge the holy water thrown at me by some
of the men who knew I was not Catholic and wanted to help me along life’s
journey.  A bond was formed.  So glad that Bridey insisted.  She was slightly handicapped
and a joy to have around the Kennedy home.

Did Barney attend mass?   I don ’t believe so.  I think he lived outside the village somewhere.

The knockmahon Catholic Church was once the Temperance
Hall used by the Cornish miners in the 19th century.   I believe they
tended to be Methodists.   The Temperance movement
sure changed Bunmahon in the 17th century… from a town of 2,000 with 20 pubs
to a town with no pubs.  

  IN 1960  there were two pubs, one of
which was thriving….Kirwin’a.  Today, Sept. 15, 2022, I ave heard from Aiden Coffey that Kirwin;’s 
is up for rent and empty. 

alan skeoch



alan skeoch
sept. 14, 2022

Too much to be said, too little space to say it.  Queen Elizabeth II became Queen in 1952, formally in 1953, the year I entered
High School.  First assignment was to create a scrapbook of her coronation.  She seemed like an older sister…suddenly elevated
to a position where her lifetime would be on public view.  And that is how she spent the last 70 years of her life…on public view.
Yes, she was rich, one of the richest women in the world.  But I wonder if she would trade that position as Queen and the great wealth
for a normal life like yours and mine?    She was a great woman whose life changed abruptly when her father died.  She was
just a young girl really.   Suddenly on centre stage for the rest of her life. I Would like to have met her.  What would I say or do?
Perhaps I can find that old Grade 9 scrapbook.  We were both kids back then.

Below are pictures of her funeral procession to Westminster Hall in London, England, on Wednesday Sept. 14, 2022.


Marjorie and I were able to pay our respects  to Queen Elizabeth in the privacy of our own home.
Queen Elizabeth had  moments of privacy with Philip, her children, her horses and her dogs.
But these moments were few and far between.  Most of her life she was on public view.
Just imagine that.  Put your feet in her shoes.  Could you handle that?  We will miss her. Our
world has become an unfriendly place…unsteady.  We need her self-control right now.

Some readers are ardent royalists, some are not.  Some are luke warm royalists who
resent the vestiges of the class system and the whole concept of a constitutional monarchy.
Positive and negative people.  Twas river thus.  Most have a warm spot for Queen Elizabeth II.



alan skeoch
sept. 8, 2022

After disovering the ‘Dead Cow Legend’ was true I began to pay closer attention to
the stories Barney Dwan told.   This episode 639 led to a major
we were laying down a baseline across tiny fields close to the sea shore when Barney said

“Alan, how would you like together into the old mine?”
“Can that be done?”
“From the coast there are holes we can crawl through….I’ve done that many times.
“I’ve got in and out and am still living.”
“Let’s do it?”
“Tonight after work.”

Look closely … See Barney Dwan ewatinf jut below the old adit.

And so began my biggest  Irish adventure.  There was a hole halfway up the cliff face
not far from the knockmahon ruins.   To get to the hole we could scale down from
the top of the cliff or scale up from the sea.  The hole ws barely visible.  A trickle of water
flowed out onto a grassy shelf.  Hard to believe the hole was made by human beings.

An adit , designed to drain part of the mine or to get air into the mine.  Perhaps both.

The hole was about three feet high.  Occasionally higher.  Most of our walk,  however, we 
were bent over.   And we were careful.  We had flashlights , candles and marches.  Why candles?
To check the air quality.  If the candle would light and stay lit, then there was no danger of
asphysiciation.  If the candle would not light or suddenly went out then we should get
the hell out fast.  No oxygen.

The walls of he passages were beautiful. Startling blue in place where the ore had not
been removed.  Occasionally there were patches of pink

At one point the passage was blpcked by a roof collapse.  Whoever dug this adit did not
use roof bolts or even timbers to hold up the roof.  The blockage was a jumble of loose
rock and soft muddy detritus where water had percolated its way down and loosened
the ceiling enough for the roof to collapse.   

 FortunatelyThere was a gap. Just enough crawl space for Barney and I to pull ourselves through using our elbows .
Barney led
and I followed.  .  The feeling of claustrophobia was almost
overwhelming .  What if our bodies loosened more rock.?  What if we got in and could not
get out?   Did I tell Dr. Stam and John Hogan what we were doing?  No, I did not.  So
we were on our own.  Now that was stupid.  My only excuse is that I was 22 years old
an age when stupidity is commonplace.

The hole we crawled through using our elbows.

Once we got by the blockage  we could almost standup again.  Bent over though.
We crabbed our way along .   I figured by then we were close to the
old  mine ruins which were perhaps a hundred feet above us.

This was confirmed when we found a vertical shaft.  Unsophisticated…almost natural.
But not so.  Barney Dwan had been in here before and found a wooden ladder that
he placed across the vertical shaft.  Easy to cross.  If he ladder was rotten we would only fall a few feet because
the shaft was filled with water.  Crystal clear water.  Dazzling  in our flashlight beams.

Was this one of old ladders used by 19th citify minders to reach the ore far below?

The mine had been exploited a lot deeper than this adit.  So far down that the
stopes were some distance under the ocean.  Flooding was one reason the mine was closed
in 1879.  The other reasons was that the ore petered out.   There was a likelihood however
that there were seams of copper under the ocean  that were never exploited and never would be.

Pumps were necessary to tentatively hold back the ocean.  When the pumps were shut down 
the ocean has perfectly preserved ever since the closure.

The main stopes were far below us. Bunmahon  Miners reached these mineralized sections by climbing
down long wooden ladders.   In the dark  One foot at a time on wooden ladder rungs.  In the dark.
Between 1840 and 1879 there were no miners lanterns attached to helmets.  Indeed there were no

(I will explain more about the 19th century Knochmahon miners in a subsequent episode.   This episode is about
the adventureS that Barney and I had which triggered my curiosity about those 19th century miners
of Bunmahon.  Where did they come from?  Where did they go?  What was their life like when they
lived here?  Many came from the copper mines of Cornwall.  Most of them migrated to various mines
in North America)

These are the ruins of the Knockmahon . Dr Stam and John Hogan are walking along
th e coast road now known as the “Copper Trail”, an UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE.
The adit that Barney and I crawled through reached this ruin  one shaft where the 19th century
miners had ladders to get them deep into the mine.  Today the main underground
workings of this mine are perfectly preserved by tons and tons of sea water.

As I said, Crawling underground with Barney was a little risky.  There was a feeling of claustrophobia
for sure but Barney’s cheerful presence reduced my fear and trepidation.  Barney had been
here before and alone.  He exuded confidence.
 I did not tell our boss back in Canada, Dr. Norman Paterson, as i feared he would get his
underwear in a knot.   Much later when I Told Dr. Stam  and John Hogan about the underground
adventure they were both interested and amused.  The oxidation on the adit walls…bright blue and pink,
confirmed that the site was worth the cost of our survey.

Miners drill holes for roof bolts to help prevent stopes and passageways from collapsing.
I do not remember any roof bolts in the abandoned Kn0ckmahon mine.


I seem to remember entering the adit that is about 6 feet above the large ropeing on the ground. 
.Thet adit led to the huge room inside with the slanted floor strewn with rocks.

(True or false? I would never know.)

“Alan, there is another tunnel you might like to explore just west of Bunmahon…a special place..”
“Why special?”
“Story is told that IRA members hid there back in the Time of the Troubles.”
“Time of the Troubles?”
“Back in the 1920’s when Ireland was at war with England…civil war.”
“Bad time?”
“Very bad….Republicans needed a hideout and I was told this other adit was perfect.”
“True or false?”
“I think true. The story says this other adit became a safe place.  Not sure if it was ever discovered by
the Black and Tans.

This picture gives a glimpse at what Bunmahon miners had to do using hand tools
and explosives.  Mostly done in the dark with flickering light of candles and oil lamps.  (The picture
is not from Bunmahon.9

The adit was almost too easy to fnid.  Two entrances, one straight from the beach.
Easy to get into the front part but dangerous as we discovered when we reached a high vaulted room
with a sharply tilted floor that angled far down to some kind of iron machine.   We never got that
far.  The tilted floor the big room was littered with large chunks of fractured rock.  Covered in rubble
in other words.  Directy opposite our entrance tunnel was another tunnel at the same level.  A continuation.

We decided to traverse the rubble cluttered sharply angled floor.  To traverse we had to step on lots
large ( baseball to pumpkin size ) rocks piled helter skelter in the room which was about 20 to 30 feet wide and 
af hundred feet long. Memory could be wrong about size.   Maybe the room had been carved as a chute for ore to tumble down to some
kind of mechanical crusher at the bottom.  That is just speculation.  

Our tour ended abruptly.  We were part way across the angled floor….tordding on the rubble.  Pushing some out of the way
to get better footing.   Then the whoile pile of loose rock began to move.   Us with it..  Not far…several feet and 
then the rock slide stopped.

Barney and I retreated with great care.  We did not want  to end our lives buried in a pile of rock at the mouth of
a rock crusher if that was what the iron framed machine was at the bottom of the angled room.

Maybe that pile of loose rock was a good way to discourage visitors.  maybe there was an easy way around the 
jumble.  We did not the time to find out.  Too dangerous. I may have taken pictures but cannot  find them. 


IF you want to go underground you can do so..virtually.   Just punch up the  “Copper Coast Unesco Geopark (Ireland)”
A film has been made of the underground workings at Tankardstown which is the 19th century mine east of Bunmahon
and Knockmahon.

Copper mining reached its peak around in the area around Bunmahon in the mid 19th century when two major mines were worked by the Mining Company of Ireland.
The first, at Knockmahon reached peak production in 1840 when it was described as ‘the most important mining district in the empire’. It was soon unprofitable however, as the more easily reached copper was exhausted and reaching more would require digging more than an quarter of a mile deep and under the sea.
Knockmahon was abandoned and activity moved to nearby Tankardstown in the 1850s. Here mining thrived for a time but fluctuating and eventually just declining copper prices made it nonviable and the mine closed in 1879.
While conditions for workers in 19th century mining were harsh and the work dangerous, the period when the mines had highest employment – more than 2000 men – coincided with the years of the famine. So it’s easy to see how such a job would be greatly prized. When it all ended the Copper Coast miners mostly took their expertise and their families abroad, many to Copper Mountain in Butte, Montana and to mining areas in Wyoming.
The picture at the top is of a group of men on a cage during an abortive effort to revive the mine in 1906. Below that is pretty much all that remains today of the mine at Tankardstown.
Nowadays you can walk along a guided and signposted trail through the remains of the old mines. It’s a beautiful walk along a lovely stretch of coast even if you are not interested in the mines.


“The Copper Coast tells the amazing story of the formation of Ireland”


Celebrating Earth Heritage

The Copper Coast UNESCO Global Geopark is located on the south east coast of Ireland, between Tramore and Dungarvan in County Waterford. To the north lie the Comeragh Mountains which reach a height of 750 m. The area is a relatively flat lying glacial outwash plain, much covered by glacial till and bog, with occasional spectacular erratics. Three roughly N-S rivers dissect the UNESCO Global Geopark and display excellent examples of glacial erosion and deposition (an excellent walk follows the Ann river starting at Annestown). The coast is spectacular with numerous sandy and rocky coves displaying sea stacks, arches and blow holes. It comprises some 25 kilometres of spectacular coastline consisting of scalloped beaches and coves buttressed and enclosed by rocky headlands.

The Copper Coast is an outdoor geology museum with a geological heritage that reflects the variety of environments under which the area has evolved over the last 460 million years. Sedimentary and volcanic rocks define a cross-section through the core of an Ordovician age island arc volcanic system (ca. 460-455 Ma) which extended along the south-eastern flank of the Iapetus Ocean. A fossil rich siltstone/limestone (c. 462-457Ma) marks a hiatus above which the sequence is dominated by felsic volcanic rocks, with intrusive equivalents interspersed with shales, some graptolitic. Spectacular columnar jointed rhyolite is well exposed at one locality. Semi-arid fluviatile sediments (ca. 370-360 Ma), now reddish brown coloured conglomerates, sandstones, siltstones and shales, rest with marked unconformity on the Ordovician. An enormous gap in geological time separates these sequences from those next exposed, unconsolidated tills, boulder clays and outwash sands and gravels of the Quaternary period (Pleistocene epoch) all deposited with very profound unconformity on the Ordovician and Devonian sequences.

Cross-sections of these rocks are exposed along the spectacular cliffs and are interpreted for the public at various points. For a brief introduction to these rocks, a stroll around the Geological Garden in Bunmahon will prove instructive. Copper was mined extensively in the area during the 19th century. The Geopark’s name is derived from this activity, and the Copper Coast icon is derived from the conserved remains of a mine complex on a high point of the cliffs. Panels there explain how the mine worked.