Radio review: Living on the frontier sets people apart

Nuala McCann

Davy Crockett and the Irish Frontiersmen Radio 4

Seascapes: Write By the Sea RTE Radio One

Davy Crockett may have born on a mountain top in Tennessee, but his great, great grandpa hailed from Donemana.

His kinsman and namesake, the modern Davy Crockett, features on a refreshing documentary on the Irish border, full of light and shade.

The modern Davy is the king of another wild frontier - his farm straddles the border, so what will Brexit mean?

Davy is making a joke of it - this place is known for its black humour, says presenter Freya McClements. But the implications for a future when the UK leaves the European Union are no laughing matter.

Davy's daughter has friends who cross the border to go to school every day.

“They're thinking they might have to move their homes, their whole lives because of a border,” she says.

“I live half a mile from the border and I cross it every day,” says Freya. She carries two purses – euro and sterling.

She meets Don Reddin who runs a fleet of buses on the border. He can stand with his left foot in Northern Ireland; his right foot in the Republic.

He spent £200,000 Brexit proofing his business by building a back gate into Northern Ireland from his bus yard in the Republic of Ireland ... a foot in both camps.

As for the future, we're all in no man's land. Disaster or business opportunity – it could go either way.

But one thing's clear, as Freya establishes, these frontiers people are a breed apart.

Sometimes, the radio draws you in and you have to pause at the sink and stop washing dishes or pull the car into a lay by, just to listen.

When Marie Noonan read her short story for Seascapes, it was just such a moment.

She paints a beautiful but bleak picture.

From the ticket collector on the quay at the ferry saying it was “a bad day for it” to the open sea and the old woman in a headscarf blessing herself, this was a lonely, windswept island scene.

It was the story of a woman who married a man, called Diarmuid, born on an island.

He had told her, said the woman, about the isolation of growing up there – “how the sky fell into the sea during the long winters.”

But she also recalled his deathbed promise to his father who pleaded with him not to leave these island hills.

“I didn't think Diarmuid meant it,” she sighed as the waves beat and crashed on the shore.

Noonan brings us with her, leaving us gazing out at the waves and an uncertain future. This was a beautiful story and a deserved prize winner.

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