He’s known by many as the ‘all-weather man,’ not because he can control climate but because he possesses the talent to do the next best thing – predict its many mercurial moods.
A postman for most of his working life, Michael Gallagher has used his many hours of cycling throughout rural Donegal, Ireland’s picturesque northwest corner, particularly the townlands on both sides of the Reelin River and around the Bluestack Mountains, to study the idiosyncrasies of Irish weather. Not to mention watching how creatures, both of earth and sky – the birds in the trees, sheep and cattle in the fields – react to imminent changes.
“Close observation of Nature in its many forms, basically everything that’s around us, grants us invaluable insights, giving us many clues as to how the weather might be over the coming days and weeks,” said the sprightly man. “The secret is to learn how to best observe and to know what those key signs are.”
Michael has now parlayed his knowledge into a slim volume entitled “Traditional Weather Signs’ (‘Tuar na hAimsire’ as Gaeilge). Within 36 pages of easy reading, you will find golden nuggets of information, including how hens picking themselves is a sign of rain and how crows fly low and caw loudly just before a storm. He informs readers that if a cat sits with its back to the fire it means frost is on its way while a dog eating grass means a change of weather will happen. Meanwhile, if a horse heads up a hill in late evening, good weather is not far off and if worms crawl on your doorstep beware of floods.
Of course, the sky itself holds the strongest clues as to weather changes ahead. A faraway ring on the moon, according to Michael, means a storm is near while stars ‘shining like diamonds in a clear sky in late autumn, winter or spring’ means a hard night’s frost. Also, ‘a red sunset bodes good weather, a red sun at night is the farmer’s delight,’ a phrase we’ve all heard spoken. A rainbow at night, however, is a sailor’s delight whereas one in the morning is a sailor’s warning. Signs of an approaching storm, he writes, include seagulls flying inland and bees humming around the garden or outhouses in winter.
But it is not just about the weather that Michael has become somewhat of an expert. Forty years of delivering letters and parcels has meant innumerable conversations with rural people. From them he has learned much about homemade, natural health remedies. Such knowledge is contained within the pages of a second book he has penned entitled ‘Remedies and Cures of Bygone Era.’
Organised in alphabetical order, Michael offers health tips that have been handed down from generation to generation. Apples, for example, ‘eaten at night, preferably baked, are excellent for all who are inclined to constipation,’ he writes. Goat’s milk, he believes, is therapeutic for asthma in children. Apricots taken before a meal help digestion. Beans, like peas, contain sulfur and are rich in potassium and lime, ‘to eat them is very beneficial for young people who suffer from any form of rickets.’ Parsley is beneficial for the kidneys while celery can be a cure for rheumatism. A raw onion dipped in salt eases chilblains. And if you suffer from stomach disorders such as flatulence, Michael considers a tea made from cloves to be an excellent remedy.
Both books combine text and photographs and grant insights into the complex world of weather and health. With a better appreciation about how Man and universal elements are inextricably linked and a rising trend among people of all nations towards living in greater harmony with nature, Michael’s two books are a valuable contribution to our increasing knowledge.