Friday, November 17, 2006

And now the birth, death and marriage notices for Galway

One of the things I miss about Ireland is the radio. Not because it's very good; on the contrary, it's mainly cack, just a different kind of cack than you get over here. In a typical morning hour on my local station, Galway Bay FM, you might hear Keith Finnegan discussing such diverse topics as mobile phone charges, new mobile phone masts, and the traffic problems in Galway (including drivers using mobile phones), interspersed with a few tunes that haven't been in the charts since Jesus was a boy.

The ads are terrible, but I'm convinced they're made that way intentionally.

Example: An ad for cheese, two local-type voices kick the ad off (the marketing team have done their research and know that this appeals to the average joe, who thinks, Lord Jaysis, that ad is so true to life, so realistic, it's almost as though it could be happening in me own house!)

Voice 1 (female): Jimmy, what are you doing up at three in the morning wearing your underpants?

Voice 2 (young male): (chewing sounds) I can't stop atein this cheese Mammy.

Voice 1: Ah Jimmy, get up to bed, you'll have bad dreams with all the cheese you're eating!

Voice 2: But it tastes so good Mammy!

Smooth voiceover kicks in: If it's cheese you're after, try new Galway Cheddar! It's so tasty, you won't be able to stop the kids eating it!

Example 2: Local businessman thinks it's a good idea to do his own ad. Businessman (sounding a little bit uncertain, his monotonous, inflectionless voice confirming that he's reading from a script):

Hello friends this is Tom McDonald from Old McDonald's Furniture Bedding and Farming Supplies in Headford County Galway. Sale. Sale. Sale. That's right folks we're having a sale here and prices are so low you'll think that I have gone totally and utterly insane. Couches only forty Euro. Blankets only ten Euro. Milking machines now half-price including installation. But you'll have to be quick folks. Things are going fasht and when they're gone they're gone. So remember for all your furniture bedding and farming supply needs come and visit me Tom McDonald at Old McDonald's Furniture Bedding and Farming Supplies in Headford County Galway. We'll give you a personal service that you won't forget. Hurry down this weekend and get a free spoon with every thousand Euro you spend.

The best bit about Galway Bay FM, though, comes just after the news and weather at the top of the hour. During the news and weather, there's all the razzmatazz and sound effects to support the broadcaster's voice, but suddenly, all that drops away, as a sombre voice says

"And now the death notices for Galway."

No music. No sound effects. The closest thing I can think to it is in the old days on RTE Radio 1 when they'd read out barometric pressure readings from various points around Ireland's coast. "Malin head, 996 millibars, falling slowly. Achill, 1004 millibars, rising steadily...etc."

It's a peculiar phenomenon, listened to fondly by the elderly as a means of organising their weekly diaries ("Julia O'Toole, funeral Monday 11am") as well as allowing them to bask in the smugness that comes with outliving their contemporaries. For most of us, though, it's like a snippet of life from a bygone generation, transplanted and spliced into our modern programming*.

Behold, a sample of death notices lifted directly off the website. That's right, the deaths get posted online too. These would be read out, word for word, in a sombre tone to indicate sympathy:

"And now the death notices for Galway: Joseph, also known as Joe Murray, Killimor, Ballinasloe and formerly of Esker, Banagher. Reposing at Portiuncula Hospital Mortuary this afternoon from 4:30. Removal at 6:30 to St. Joseph's Church, Killimor. Mass for Joe Murray tomorrow Friday at 11:30. Funeral afterwards to Killimor Cemetery.

Mary Quinn nee McInerney, Geeha, Doorus, Kinvara. Reposing at her daughter Margaret Conole's residence in Geeha this evening from 5. Removal at 8 to Doorus Church. Mass for Mary Quinn tomorrow Friday at 11. Funeral afterwards to Mount Cross cemetery.

Galway Bay FM would like to sympathise with the families and friends of all the deceased."

Every time I hear the death notices, I snort with laughter, not out of disrespect for the deceased, but at the concept of broadcasting news of these deaths to the entire city. What possible use can this serve, except to depress people? I mean, if you know the person, you're going to find out if they died, and if you don't know them, you don't give a shite anyway.

And in case you're about to start defending this ridiculous practice, answer me this first: why is there no newsflash for births or marriages? Galway Bay FM needs to pull their socks up. Either add births and marriages to the report, or get rid of it altogether.

*tongue well in cheek at this statement.


Kim Ayres blathered this crap:

Wow, I never knew about death notices on the radio. I can see how birth notices could be a bit more upbeat, although it would have a greater fun factor if they also mentioned who the father was...

Old Knudsen blathered this crap:

Fucks sake Josephine Lahiff died, what a way to find this out, thanks a lot you bastard.

Annie blathered this crap:

I'm nostalgic now. I used to listen to that station every day at Mary O'Kennedy's Dog Parlour where I worked as a groomer on Shantalla Road.

Happy days.

Desirea Madison blathered this crap:

"Since Jesus was a boy!" Such literary prowess. Was that a product of your tricky mind? We don't have nearly enough Jesus jokes here in America. South Park seems to be the only one that picked up on that.

ill man blathered this crap:

I get the odd death cert come my way where I work. There is a morbid fascination to see what they died of etc, but more than anything else after a day of churning through dispositions and standard securities, it's a strangely welcome diversion to read something that lays out facts in plain English rather than gibberish legal speak.

Fat Sparrow blathered this crap:

"Reposing"? "Reposing"?! What, are they on a fucking tanning bed/chaise lounge, having their portrait done?

Conan Drumm blathered this crap:

You mean like...

Mary Flaherty, Castle Park, had that babby for PJ Mahon, now working for his uncle in Boston; a sister for PJ's twins after he got the girl in Monivea up the pole two years ago.

Mairéad blathered this crap:

My Aunties and Uncles listen in to Raidió na Gaeltachta, Radio Kerry and County Sound to check the deaths every evening, after checking the notices in the Examiner already that morning!! It sounds funny, but they do it in case they've a funeral to go to... very important when you reach a certain age.
On a serious note, I used to laugh at the idea of people nearly making a hobby out of going to funerals, but when my own mother died I was very touched and grateful that so many people made the effort to attend her rosary, removal and funeral. It really helped us. I try to make sure that I repay their kindness by attending their family funerals also. It is a very strong tradition in rural Ireland.

Kav blathered this crap:

kim: Indeed, that tis true, tis pity, and pity tis tis true.
I think it's a winning formula. Will they listen though? Will they feck.

old knudsen: Sorry, I wasn't thinking of my older readers when I wrote this.

annie: You're nostalgic for death notices? Cool job by the way. Linzi'd love to be a dog groomer.

desirea: Yeah, not sure where it came from, but you can't beat a good jeebus joke.

ill man: Welcome to you sir. I know how you feel. Anytime something out of the ordinary comes along here, I'm all over it - anything for a brief distraction from the drudgery.

fat sparrow: Yeah. I'd prefer if they said "chillin", or maybe "keepin it dead".

conan: You know exactly where I'm coming from. It would probably take an awful long time to read it though.

mairéad: Ah, you had to go and make me get all thoughful about it! Only messing with you - it's a good point actually. I do forget that some people don't have t'internet.

GerryOS blathered this crap:

A while ago, one of my customers passed away suddenly, and the lady in accounts phoned me on the Monday to tell me.

"You probably saw this in the death notices in Saturday's paper, but [customer] died suddenly on Friday."

"No, Patricia, I didn't see it. I'll start reading the death columns when I'm 50 or so."

Kav blathered this crap:

Gerry: Thanks for stopping by. It's a cultural thing, isn't it? Second only to the weather in conversations with people of that age.