A tail of two villages and a whale

TWO villages. One whale carcass. And the Minister for the Environment stuck in the middle.

Efforts were underway last night to broker a deal between two villages fighting over the Courtmacsherry whale which technically belongs to John Gormley.

On Saturday afternoon, when two lifeboat men from Courtmacsherry, approached with a chainsaw the body of the Fin whale that had died in Courtmacsherry Bay last Thursday, a group of Kilbrittain residents stepped in their way and told them they were claiming the carcass for their village.

Two excavators stood by ready to excavate a pit in which to bury the 66-foot long, 50-tonne whale as a crowd of more than 100 onlookers watched.

According to Dan O’Dwyer, one of the lifeboat men, it was the fear that it would be interred for evermore that prompted him and his colleague, Michael Cox, to act.

He pointed out that a “whale arch” created from the massive jawbones would be an appropriate enhancement to the seaside village of Courtmacsherry, with its pier, trawlers and fishing boats.

On Friday, an attempt was made to drag the whale towards the high water mark but the JCBs, which looked like toys beside the carcass, failed to move it an inch and only succeeded in pulling off its tail.

Kevin Murphy, a Bandon councillor, said the Kilbrittain residents had asked Dan Crowley, the Cork County Council veterinarian attending the scene, if the carcass might be stripped and the flesh removed for disposal leaving the skeleton to be displayed, after cleaning, as a marine artifact.

This course had been agreed.

Guidelines state that “if persons in the zone where the carcass lies proposes acceptable management regimes, these will be considered and permitted provided there are no public health implications”.

Meanwhile, residents of Courtmacsherry feel that their village is the natural home for whale artifacts.

They say that the animal beached itself in Courtmacsherry Bay, not Kilbrittain Creek, a small river.

They point out that Kilbrittain is over a kilometre inland, has no boats, fishermen or other connections with the bay, and that the whale jaws, displayed there, might as well be displayed in Tipperary.

“The jaws, mounted as a whale arch in the village, with a plaque telling the story, would make a very appropriate monument to Courtmacsherry’s maritime history and a memorial to this unique event,” John Young, chairman of the Courtmacsherry development committee said.

The Kilbrittain contention is that Courtmacsherry already has enough attractions and, in these recessionary time, their poor village needs to attract all the tourism it can.

Technically, the animal belongs to Environment Minister John Gormley.

As the rival claims exercise residents north and south of the bay, local wags compare the debate to The War of the Buttons.

Apparently, an attempt was made on Saturday night under cover of darkness to steal the jaws but their bulk proved too much for the perpetrators.

Were he still alive, it would seem to be a perfect subject for a John B Keane play.

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