By: Séan Hickey
The magnificent bird, the Swan, has captivated hearts and minds for generations and over thousands of years. We are all familiar with the ancient Irish myth, ‘The Children of Lir,’ and Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Ugly duckling’. W.B. Yeats defines the Swan as ‘mysterious and beautiful’ in his poem, ‘the Wild Swans at Coole’. It is no wonder then that early on Saturday morning last week this elegant creature once more held a captive audience, this time however they have moved with the times and instead of being relegated to the annals have become a modern success by ‘gong viral’ on social media platforms.
The Mute Swan (Cygnus Olor) is known for making little noise. A certain pair and their offspring created quite the ruckus on the streets of Kilkenny. The couple have made their home on the pond in Lakeside on the Hebron Road for the last number of years, in what was once known as McEvoys field. In March every year they would begin to restore the mound of twigs, reeds and rushes that is their nest and, the Pen, as the female is known, would lay her eggs, and both herself and her long term partner the Cob, would take their turn as incubator. Swans are monogamous creatures and although they may not sacramentally vow to live happily ever after, they usually mate for life and rear a clutch of cygnets every year.
At half eight on Saturday morning the mobile started to dance on the bedside locker.
I had hoped for a lie in, but Pat Durkan and the swans called, and awoke me from my slumber. At about seven in the morning the pair of swans decided they needed a new home and off they took from Lakeside and made for Ballybought Street accompanied by local resident Mary Ann Vaughan. They ambled along in the middle of the road before being cajoled onto the footpath for safety and they courteously obeyed the rules of the road from that point on, availing of pedestrian crossings as they made their way toward the freshwater of the Nore. Many eyebrows were raised and many a passer-by had a double take as they couldn’t believe their eyes to see such an unusual sight. Passing Donny Phelans, they moved a bit quicker for fear of losing a few feathers to the seat of a chair. On past the arch of the Barracks they were captured on camera with Pat Carroll’s in the background.
One local wit proclaimed that they were the most beautiful birds to appear outside the pub in many a year.
They proceeded to cross the Castlecomer road and continued along Barrack Street. They decided to rest at the door of the cinema. I arrived about half past eight and then the fun really began. Pat Durkan, the birdman of Kilkenny, decided they needed to be transported to the river. They were weary from their travels and access to the river at the Peace Park would be almost impossible. Pat caught the male first and Gavin assisted in holding him still. Once Pat caught the Pen, I bundled the six cygnets into a box and placed it in the trailer. The Parents were happy enough to join their offspring and the remained calm in the trailer on the journey to Greens Bridge. I carried the cygnets in the box toward the river and the parents followed in quiet procession to the bank at the butt of the bridge. Once the water became visible through the Willows and Reeds, they all made a dart for the freshwater flapping their wings and dipping their heads as they paddled upstream in delight.
It was a joy to assist these magnificent birds on the journey to their new home and there was a sense of nostalgia as I remembered the many years that Elaine Bradshaw chaperoned the Swans and their young from Newpark Marsh to the same spot almost twenty-five years ago. Keep an eye out for them along Bishops Meadows and watch as the cygnets transform into beautiful white Swans.