Cormac MacConnell: Black Shannon heifer left her mark on me

The truth is often not easy to deal with.
Cormac MacConnell: Black Shannon heifer left her mark on me

We all know that.

I feel today as if in the confessional box of my childhood.

This is amongst the most difficult confessions I’ve ever made because, in the hope of preventing tragedies for others of my generation and older, I am admitting publicly that, especially after dark, I am no longer a safe driver.

Age, and a certain Shannon heifer as black as the Ace of Spades, have triggered this truth.

Aged in my late 60s, I was driving home from Shannon, on a wet, dark winter night like these ones.

As always, I was driving quite slowly, and operating on the conditioned reflexes which seasoned drivers use most of the time.

Suddenly, there was a significant collision, and the bonnet of my heavy old Mercedes flew up in the air before my eyes.

The heifer had escaped from her roadside field, and had been facing away from me, so that her eyes did not operate as headlight reflectors.

With a lighter car, I might have been injured badly enough.

But I was not injured at all, and the heifer survived too.

The farmer accepted responsibility and paid for the repairs.

But the hard truth is that I have never fully recovered from that incident.

Ever since that first collision of my motoring lifetime, I fear the presence of a black bullock or heifer in every pool of shadows along all the nocturnal roads that I travel.

Has anything like that happened to any of you?

I am now attacking my 70s with rude good health.

I’ve never missed a day’s work in my life, and don’t feel much different in general physical terms than when I turned 60.

But the brutal facts are that I am not as safe a driver to meet on the roads of Ireland as I once was.

Especially after dark.

And I am making this public confession, because the last batch of road fatality statistics was very revealing.

Yes, the young bloods and provisional drivers are responsible for the most carnage but, sadly, too many of us senior citizens were involved too, either as poignant victims, or as the creators of tragedies for others.

I stress that I am not a dangerous driver at all, and never have been.

But I have become overly hesitant and careful since the Shannon heifer.

It must be a nightmare for other drivers to be behind me, when I am cautiously proceeding along my way.

I now often pull in, to allow the “snake” of following motorists on narrow roads to escape.

I will never again drive in Dublin City, for sure, having always been uncomfortable with other traffic roaring past on the inside lane.

Anyway, it is virtually a mortal sin for any amongst us who have earned the right to free travel not to avail of it at every opportunity, and save ourselves a lot of wear and tear.

Is that not a very pure truth indeed?

Recently, I have been observing fellow senior citizens, as they drive around the increasingly speedier roads of this New Ireland.

Many of them, sadly, would appear to be wheelmates of mine.

The screens of the young drivers around us have long been marked by “L” plates and, more recently, with “N” plates for the novices.

Is there a case to be made for a new “A” plate to denote aged status, and possible extra cautious driving for other road users seeing such vehicles?

The glaring defect of this suggestion is that a certain Shane would be claiming all the credit, if it works!

Would it not be heartwarming if, because of this confession here, the black Shannon heifer that could have killed me might actually save a few silvered lives this coming year?

Stranger things have happened.

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