Irish postman delivers valuable information about weather and health

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.

weather man Donegal, Michael Gallagher Donegal

Michael Gallagher (second left) enjoys concert of Goats Don’t Shave together with his daughter and guests

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.’

Remedies and Cures of Bygone Era, Donegal books

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.

Irish band, Goats Don’t Shave, raise the rafters at album launch concert

Musical lovers know such Irish groups as U2, The Cranberries and The Pogues – now make way for Donegal-based ‘Goats Don’t Shave.’

Whether it’s about the perils of drinking, the Irish Revolution, the loss of island life or indeed love itself – multi-talented singer-songwriter Pat Gallagher and his dynamic band move you to laughter or to tears. Never neither, as more than evident in a hair-raising, hand-clapping, foot-tapping, time-stopping, standing-ovation performance at The Balor Theatre recently in Ballybofey, Donegal, northwestern Ireland.

Master of many instruments including guitar, mandolin, banjo, harmonica and drum, not to mention the fine art of lyric writing, Gallagher and his musical colleagues more than please an audience – with humorous anecdotes, brilliant musicianship and strong voices whether in soft, poignant, tear-jerking ballads or fast, let-it-all-hang-out rhythms.

More than that, Gallagher’s songs tell vivid stories, rough-cut slices of life, some with serrated edges. And diverse they are too, whether about a washed-up Scottish boxer and his winning the world championship, digging turf for the fire (down and dirty blues-style), the tale of an Irish gigolo known as ‘Crooked Jack,’ or simply about Irish navvies taking the bus from Donegal to Glasgow in search of work.

Pat Gallagher musician, Goats don't Shave

Living in rural west Donegal – considered by many to be the most naturally beautiful part of all Ireland – Gallagher and his band have just released their fourth album, entitled ‘Turf Man Blues,’ an impressive output of musical creativity by any standard. Equally impressive, the friendly performers work spans many genres, from country and rock to folk, blues, even gospel. So versatile is Gallagher, musical aficionados say they await his debut as a classical composer and conductor for the Irish National Orchestra.

Shaun Doherty Goats don't Shave

While light-hearted banter is an integral element of Gallagher’s performances, so too sometimes is biting satire, as in ‘God Takes Visa’ about how some religions have gotten so greedy about taking peoples’ money for the saving of souls, as exemplified in the line, ‘the dollar is a Kingdom but the poor must stay outside.’

Mickey Gallagher Goats don't Shave

Gallagher’s verses and musical notes also have an enduring effect on listeners as in his, at times poignant, at times angry rendition, of ‘The Evictions,’ about the merciless evictions of Irish peasants from their small farms in Derryveagh in Donegal by a powerful English landlord, John George Adair, and his ‘crowbar brigades’ in the mid-1800s, thus forcing them to sail away from family, friends and their native homeland to Australia and other far-off places.

Odhran Cummings Goats don't Shave

Just as Gallagher’s new song, ‘The Volunteer,’ is a tribute to those men, women and children who gave up their lives during the 1916 Easter Irish Revolution, with the centennial being commemorated this year, so ‘Let The World Keep On Turning’ is devoted to diversity, whether that be religion, skin color or language.

Patsy Gallagher Goats don't Shave

A tribute to the loyalty Pat Gallagher and ‘Goats Don’t Shave’ have created down through the years, especially since their chart-topping hit ‘Las Vegas in the Hills of Donegal’ in 1992, is that on Saturday night a woman made a request for her two friends who got engaged at a Goats concert almost 20 years ago.

Stephen Campbell Goats don't Shave

Devoted fans Malachy McLaughlin from Dungloe and Michael Gallagher (Ireland’s famous weather forecaster) and daughter Marian, a Special Olympics Summer Games silver medal winner, left the concert-hall in ecstasy, with the former saying, “Brilliant. Fantastic music from my favorite band. I loved it.”

Michael Gallagher weather man, The Turf Man Blues

Even when Gallagher, singer-songwriter-musician par excellence, asked the audience to stay behind for a moment after the last song to pose for a group photo, he brought a smile to everyone’s face, saying he wanted it for the band’s ‘Instabook’ page.

So, a big hurrah for band members Pat Gallagher (vocal, guitar and banjo), Mickey Gallagher (drums), Patsy Gallagher (lead guitar, mandolin and vocal), Odhran Cummings (bass), Shaun Doherty (guitar and vocal) and Stephen Campbell (fiddle), as well as guest musicians, Connor Malone (saxophone) and Dermot Donohue (harmonica), for a terrific evening of entertainment launching the band’s newest CD. Interestingly, for part of Saturday’s concert, Pat Gallagher and fellow musician, Patsy Gallagher, played instruments made by Donegal-based company, Emerald Guitars – Pat on an X20 Artisan Woody, featuring a Bubinga veneer, and Patsy on an X7 Artisan.

Goats don't shave, Turf Man Blues

Following the Balor Theatre gig, ‘Goats Don’t Shave’ will perform three dates in Scotland next month: The Ceilidh House, Oban (May 27); Ramsay Hall, Port Ellen, Islay (May 28) and The Shed, Glasgow (May 29).