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Dawn elegantly emerges from another tranquil night. A translucent silvery hue of morning sunshine and mystical fog washes the smooth hilltops and shallow glens. Glistening dews dissolve on crisp green grasses as the steaming breath of man and beast mingles in the cool air. Delicate smoke streams waft from chimneys of awakening households. Symphonies of birds on ash and evergreen boughs spill song into the still silence. Welcome to Rathea, basking in the splendour of a Spring morning.

In the words of Patrick Kavanagh - 'life pours ordinary plenty' in Rathea. In true west of Ireland fashion Rathea is generously endowed with hilly farmland nestled between the bog and woodland of Lyrecrompane and the town of Listowel in North Kerry. Perched 600 feet above sea level, this microcosmic little community gazes with serene detachment on rest of the north Kerry countryside spread out at its feet. But whether it be in the midst of lashing rain and wild winds of a winters night, in the exquisitely transient freshness of a Spring morning, a balmy bright summer afternoon or a golden quiet Autumn eve, that you chance to travel the road through this little highland town land, that enigmatic 'je ne sais quoi' of the invigorating natural countryside and fresh pure mountainy air will refresh your mind, body, and soul.

The road through Rathea begins at the ivy clad boundary bridge, 'Browns Bridge' over the steady mumbling brown waters of the 'glaise' and swirls towards the simple, stone chapel standing silent on the hill. This is home to the Christian faith of the peoples of Rathea. The sentiments of Christianity whispered at the Mass Rock in 'Gleann an Aifreann' during Penal times, proclaimed from the chapel altar since 1887 and sung from the choir by the voices of young and old every Sunday morning, are evident in the dispositions of the locals and have sustained the people of eerie generation in times of hardship, whether at home or abroad. Here, you sense the strength of the community, and everyone is blessed with a sense of security and belonging, which is absent in throbbing impersonal cities. In this little Christian alcove ' little nameless unremembered acts of kindness and of love', blossom, nurtured by our faith. Lest I lapse into the sensuous hyperbole of a Romantic poet I shall introduce the most important institutions that characterise life in Rathea. Farming is perhaps the most common livelihood of the people of our community.

By nine in the morning the humming of the milking machines has ceased and cows are rhythmically grazing. The youthful population have been bustled out to earn an education. The road is quiet as it meanders past busy little farms, that form a little patchwork quilt of grassy fields and pastures. Small family farms are an almost primitive livelihood by modern standards, but it is a way of life that has survived here for centuries, although admittedly, it has suffered by the prowl of the Celtic Tiger. But for now, at least, 'in this untiring crumbling place of growth' the wind-wizened seeds of winter emerge in the shape of green growth, fields brim with lambs are abundant. Silage cutting, haymaking and turn saving still remain important events in the local summer calendar. It is increasingly rare to met with people that still respect and co-operate with their environment and the forces of nature upon whose leniency we depend to continue our existence as a farming community.

The network of farmers is strong, for now, a strength owed perhaps to the strength of the institution of the family. This second institution is of vital importance to the first. All the farms that you may encounter were passed down through generations of families. The family is intrinsic in farming life and essential to the function of our neighbourhood. This is no retirement ground for the old and for a dying way of life. Young families are plentiful and the enthusiasm of youth and experience of old age, it maybe hoped will keep the farming tradition alive. Yet I do fear that the hum of the milking machine will cease to sound and wonders of a life in harmony with nature may never be experienced by the next generation.

But there is one sound that may be heard all over Rathea, the Angles Bell at noon. By one, dinner will be done and the first few hours of the afternoon pass peacefully. But as the hands pass three, the rumbling school bus on the bumpy road returns the young scholars home. By late afternoon the hurdle of homework is overcome and the restraint of the uniform is cast aside. ON Spring evenings like this the voice of youth seems to echo off the hills and I am proud to admit that the temptation of technological gadgets has yet to overcome the call of wild countryside in the instincts of these children. And I have little doubt that one could miss the sound of a leather football bouncing off a gable wall.

But there is one sound that may be heard all over Rathea, the Angles Bell at noon. By one, dinner will be done and the first few hours of the afternoon pass peacefully. But as the hands pass three, the rumbling school bus on the bumpy road returns the young scholars home. By late afternoon the hurdle of homework is overcome and the restraint of the uniform is cast aside. ON Spring evenings like this the voice of youth seems to echo off the hills and I am proud to admit that the temptation of technological gadgets has yet to overcome the call of wild countryside in the instincts of these children. And I have little doubt that one could miss the sound of a leather football bouncing off a gable wall.

For if farming and family life form and most frequent threads in the fabric of life in Rathea then football is most definitely next. Here, it is more than a game it's a passion. When the cows are milked and calves are feed, the cool bright Spring evenings are free for football. A little diversion off the main road, below the ancient Fairy Fort brings one to the Football Field, home to the St. Senans G.A.A. team. All are welcome, be it to learn and to train, to teach and to complain or simply to support. To play for the team is the dream of many a young boy and girl in the parish. It's an enlivening event, a football match, that unites the community in parochial pride, and energy and tempers are more safely dissipated on the pitch.

As dusk falls on the roadway and a fiery sun fades behind the hill, the birds sing lullabies to the passing day. A still silence descends again and that peaceful content atmosphere unique to the country envelops the hills and glens. Soon yellow lights flick on at random and glow amongst the deep blue of the unfolding night. Tired young eyes are rubbed red and eyelids droop. And so ends another day in Rathea. Once the twisting road has transported you to the second stone bridge, 'The Master's Bridge', you have looked your last on Rathea. A gem, that is a rarity in modern society, still basing the foundations of a close knit community on traditional values Synge sadly rote of communities where the 'springtime of local life' has been forgotten, where 'the harvest is only a memory' and where 'straw has been turned into bricks'. I think he would have loved Rathea, amongst people who cherish the heritage of rural Ireland, where the tide of human and natural life springs eternal, in subtle, resilient harmony, that is drowned in noisy, crowded fretful towns and cities.

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