The Cock

Photo by Avril Roundtree

Cecil arrived here in February, a gangly youth with pimples and a breaking voice. He came with friends of mine from Tipperary as well as their two dogs for the weekend. I had got a notion that I missed having a cock strutting his stuff around the place. Remind me why again because I did nothing but swear at my last one for crowing before 5 am even in the middle of winter. If I happened to be awake he drove me crazy because shortly after the cars flying to Dublin started tearing down the road and there was no hope of any more sleep. Somehow I had convinced myself that it would be different here.

He wasn’t here a wet week when he started to try to crow. Ah, I thought how sweet. He sounded like a teenage boy who goes to say something and all that emits is a squeak. But by heck did he find his voice and now he uses it incessantly. He crows every hour on the hour all night long. I couldn’t figure out why I could only distantly hear him in my bedroom which is closest to the hen house but yet when I went into the bathroom I could hear him much louder. It dawned on me that the bathroom Velux is obviously much less air tight that the rest of the windows.

Recently my neighbour told me he was going to stick him in a pot if he didn’t calm down. I made up a load of excuses that he was young and eager and he would settle. I also told him that he could also be hearing the cock across the road and confusing him with Cecil. Well it was only a “white lie”.

I named him Cecil after my neighbour and friend in my last place. Cecil was an elderly gentleman bachelor farmer. He was phenomenally well-read and knowledgeable about the countryside and animals. I learned so much from him about everything to do with animals, particularly horses. Cecil adored horses and he had bred a few good ones in his day. He still had an elderly thoroughbred mare – Polar Princess, who had won a few big races and he adored her. He looked after her like she was his baby making up big buckets of bran mash for her on cold winter evenings when he religiously and at the same time, brought her in from the field across the road from the yard. When my kids started riding they kept their ponies in his yard and we always made them bran mash after a hunt. He used let them help him feed the pet lambs and cut up the chunks of raw meat for his dogs. I still have a vision of coming home from work and going down to collect them and seeing my daughter standing on an upturned bucket with a big blunt knife trying to hack up a lump of meat. During lambing they used come tearing in the door from school, sling their school bags into the house and run down to “help Cecil”.

Cecil also had an old cockerel he loved. He had him so tame he used eat out of his hand. When he died he was devastated so I asked a friend to give me a replacement for him. When I gave it to him he was thrilled but his nephew who had inherited the farm not so much. Sadly the replacement didn’t last long and then poor Cecil was knocked over by the mare which triggered his epilepsy and ultimately his demise.

I suppose for this reason I am fond of Cecil because he makes me remember his namesake. Between him and another old bachelor farmer Hugh, I had so many laughs as a young mother and learned so much from both of them. Plus they were both so good to my children who still have fond memories of them to this day.

I really hope he settles down and the neighbour doesn’t insist he is put in a pot. Cecil au vin? Because you can’t really live in an old farm yard and not have a cock strutting his stuff now can you?