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Get ready to grow some rhubarb 

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By Debby Looney, gardening expert 

In the vegetable garden this week I planted rhubarb. I know, one of the old staples which everyone can grow - except me! I have the worst luck when it comes to these plants, but have decided it probably comes down to my awful soil. Rhubarb prefers free draining soil, which retains moisture.

This sounds paradoxical, but waterlogging is not good! Add plenty of compost or well rotted manure, as fertile soil is key. It needs space to grow, so one plant per square metre is sufficient. Watering during dry summer months is important, as is cutting out any flowers that appear. Rhubarb prefers a sunny, or partially shaded site.

The best way to grow rhubarb is from crowns. These are divisions from a parent plant, and can be cut from a vigorous plant in autumn. Make sure there is at least one bud per offset, and I prefer to plant them in a pot until the following spring, so that I can keep an eye on them and ensure they root properly. Rhubarb can also be grown from seed – sow it thinly in May, outdoors in a prepared seedbed. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them out to 20cm, then again to 40cm, before choosing the strongest plants to keep. The advantage of growing from seed is that you can get some different varieties, the disadvantage is that it will take a few years before you can harvest.

Rhubarb will remain productive for about a decade, but this is very dependant on the richness of the soil. It is a very hungry and thirsty plant so mulching in the summer/autumn is imperative – use manure, homemade compost or leaf mould. Liquid feed in the spring can also give them a boost. I find seaweed based liquid feeds best. When your plants are well established and strong, you can try forcing them in early spring. This just involves putting a bucket, or special terracotta rhubarb forcer, over the plant. This induces them to grow, due to lack of light they will produce tender, pale, sweet stems. To do this, a lot of energy is required from the plant, which is why it is best not to do it with a young plant.

The only real problem you will encounter when growing rhubarb is ‘crown rot’ – which is a fungus which attacks the base of the stems, causing the crown to rot. I have had this problem repeatedly, and I suspect heavy soil and wet weather. I have now planted my new plants in a specially prepared bed which is sloped. Hopefully this will prevent water from sitting on the crowns in the future. I have also moved away from planting the most popular variety, ‘Timperley early’, and tried ‘Victoria’, a very old variety which has a good reputation for being strong! ‘Stockbridge Arrow’ is another good variety to try, especially in a smaller garden as it does not take up as much space.

Finally, please remember the leaves are poisonous, but ideal for composting!

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Jim awarded for life-long service to the community

By Michelle Crean Listry local Jim O’Shea was honoured last week as members of the community council presented him with an award for his life-long service to the community. Jim […]

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By Michelle Crean

Listry local Jim O’Shea was honoured last week as members of the community council presented him with an award for his life-long service to the community.

Jim received the O’Shea Award for 2022 at a meeting of Directors of Listry Community Council held on September 21.

Jim has been involved in Athletics from a very early age both as a competitor and administrator.

He was very much involved with Community Games in Milltown/Listry as organiser and coach. He was also involved with the Farranfore Maine Valley Athletic Club since its foundation.

Over the years Jim has competed in athletic events, mainly high jump and long jump, both in Ireland and abroad.

Recently he travelled to Derby in the UK in the British Masters Championship and won Gold in the 100 metres and Long Jump and finished second in the High Jump.

Jim, who is a very modest man, was actively involved with Listry Community Council as a volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels and for his commitment to keeping our community litter free by organising a number of litter picking days each year.

Always interested in fitness, Jim often came along to the Listry Seniors Social day and led the group in gentle exercises.

“Jim is a very worthy recipient of the O’Shea Award 2022 and we thank him for a lifetime of service to others,” Tony Darmody, Chairman, said.

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New book recounts stories from the Irish Civil War

The killing of 17-year-old Bertie Murphy in Killarney in September 1922 Historian and author, Owen O’Shea recounts one of the most shocking murders of the Civil War which occurred in […]

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The killing of 17-year-old Bertie Murphy in Killarney in September 1922

Historian and author, Owen O’Shea recounts one of the most shocking murders of the Civil War which occurred in Killarney a century ago this week.

There were many tragic episodes and incidents during the Civil War in Kerry. One of the dreadful features of the conflict was the young age at which many on both sides of the conflict were killed in 1922 and 1923.

In Killarney in August 1922, for example, two young Free State army medics were shot dead by a sniper as they stepped off a boat onto the shore of Inisfallen Island. 18-year-old Cecil Fitzgerald and 20-year-old John O’Meara, both from Galway, had joined the army just a few months previously and were enjoying a boat trip on the lake during a day’s leave when they were killed.

The following month, one of the most shocking deaths to occur in Killarney in this period was the murder of a 17-year-old boy from Castleisland.

Bertie Murphy, a member of Fianna Éireann, the youth wing of the IRA, was just 17-years-old when he was taken into custody by Free State soldiers while walking near his home in September 1922. His mother saw him being taken in away in a truck to the Great Southern Hotel where the army had established its headquarters in the town.

The improvised barracks had a number of prison cells in the basement where anti-Treaty IRA members were detained. The prison would become renowned as a place where beatings and torture took place: a young man whose brother was an IRA captain was taken there and ‘mercilessly beaten to get him to reveal information’. He was then ‘thrown down a coal chute and left as dead’.

On Wednesday, September 27, a Free State army convoy was ambushed by the IRA at Brennan’s Glen on the Tralee road and two officers, Daniel Hannon and John Martin, were killed. Bertie Murphy had been in one of the army vehicles – he was being used by the army as a hostage in an attempt to prevent attacks by anti-Treaty forces. It was common for Free State convoys to carry a prisoner as a deterrent to IRA ambushes and attacks.

When the convoy returned to the hotel, they were met by Colonel David Neligan, one of the most ruthless members of the Kerry Command of the Free State army. Neligan had been a member of Michael Collins’ ‘Squad’ during the War of Independence and was an experienced and battle-hardened soldier.

Neligan demanded to know why the soldiers had not taken any prisoners during the ambush at Brennan’s Glen, in which two of his officers had died. The soldiers, in a frenzy following the ambush, threw Bertie Murphy down the steps of the hotel. In the presence of other soldiers, Neligan began to beat up Murphy at the bottom of the steps and then shot the prisoner. In her book, ‘Tragedies of Kerry’, Dorothy Macardle says that Murphy lived ‘until the priest came’, but died shortly after.

Another prisoner was in custody in the hotel at the time. Con O’Leary from Glenflesk was brought down from his cell to identify the dead man. But so extensive were Murphy’s facial injuries that O’Leary was unable to identify his fellow prisoner.

Newspaper reports wrongly reported that Murphy had been wounded during the engagement at Brennan’s Glen and had ‘succumbed to his injuries’ on returning to Killarney.

At Murphy’s inquest which was held a fortnight later, General Paddy O’Daly, the head of the Kerry Command, sympathised with Murphy’s family but insisted that Murphy had died in the ambush at Brennan’s Glen. He said his soldiers had done ‘everything humanly possible for the man’.

He reminded those present that deaths like Murphy’s were the fault of reckless IRA leaders who refused to accept the authority of the people. ‘It is the women and children’, he said, ‘that are suffering, and for all the suffering that is being endured those leaders are to blame’.

It would not be the last time that O’Daly and senior army officers in Kerry would cover up the actions of their soldiers in the county. Nor, sadly, would it be the last time that young men, on both sides of the divide, joined the long list of victims of the Civil War in the county.

Owen O’Shea’s new book, ‘No Middle Path: The Civil War in Kerry’ will be published by Merrion Press in mid-October and can be pre-ordered now on Amazon and at www.owenoshea.ie.

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