One of the greatest atrocities committed against the animal population in Ireland was against the Rabbit population. The farmers used the formulae invented by a scientist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for science. My stepfather said that the man should have been, hanged, drawn and quartered.

I was ten years of age and was helping Pat King drive cattle from the fair in Naas to Kill, a journey of seven miles. It was on arriving at Begger’s End, outside Naas, we came across a multitude of rabbits suffering from myxamatosis. It was the worst scene I had ever seen. Pat instructed me to leave the cattle and we went around killing the dying rabbits.

In my youth

On that cold day in November,

Pat King and I were on the road

Bringing cattle from a fair in Naas,

We met a sight

Of a multitude of dying rabbits

Small creatures with rotting heads

Staggered onto the road

        Out from the trees they came,

        Struggling on the road,

        Large heads and eyes shut,

        Rotting carcases smelling everywhere

        We killed them with our sticks

        One blow and instant death

        And cast their bodies

        On the dead wet leaves of autumn


        The very wind was crying,

        A blackbird sang the requiem,

        Falling leaves where tears,

        As silently, we killed them,

        In that dying year

        Again the good were quiet

        Their silence acquiesce

        As evil ran riot

        Through the flocks Christ had made

        Next Spring

        Their heads

        White mushrooms in a field

        A sea of shining heads


        Shame Shame

        Remember the Holocaust

        In summer the rain came

        And the fox devoured their chickens.