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Maureen is well into lambing season. She's in the shed at 4 am, and back again after work. 110 down and 70 more to go. She sends photos of lambs sleeping or playing, or peering over the gate using their mother’s back as a stool, the hay in their pens stained with day-old blood. Unfortunately “a bastard mink got 2 wee lambs.” With livestock, there's deadstock, as the husband says.

This morning the husband got a call from Killian, who said someone had snuck into his shed last night and “murdered” two lambs and hung them from a gate as a warning. Such savagery is, I suppose, not unexpected in the countryside. You'd hear of quare violence erupting from pastoral quarters, such as the man who butchered his two brothers with an axe on the family farm, or the man who was shot dead, over the issue of inheritance of land, by his brother and father, who then commit suicide in a field. All involved were deemed fine, respectable gentlemen by their communities.

Describing his native rural midlands, Brinsley MacNamara writes, “The heavy heifers graze quietly and the bullocks are all beef to the ankles. The deep rivers flow quietly. Your average workingman there is a bachelor, living most likely with his maiden aunt, and in a labourer's cottage. In the quiet, green evening, he cycles six or seven miles into the village of Delvin for a drink. He drinks quietly: one pint, two, three, anything up to 10 or more. In the dusk, he cycles quietly home ... and murders his maiden aunt with a hatchet. Curious thing, environment. Curious thing.”


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