Survivor / fatality story

Noel Tierney, Co. Galway


Transcribed by Pauline Connolly

Farmer / All Ireland Medal Winner Galway ‘64, ‘65, ‘66

My name is Noel Tierney. I’ve been farming here since I was here since I was thirteen years of age. My father died when I was ten, so I’ve a number of years put here which at this moment in time 59 / 60 years coming now up on the farm.

I played a lot of football, beaten in the ’63 Senior All-Ireland, won the ’64, ’65 and ’66 and ’68, they dropped a few of the team. The same pleasure wasn’t there anymore and then I was getting busier on the farm so I retired from inter-county football in ’67 but we were burnt out pretty well because it’s like anything in life, we had given a few hard years. Again, it’s like a family breaking up, when they drop a few of the team, it didn’t mean the same anymore so that was my footballing finished and I still had lots of energy and that’s when I really took into full time farming.

Fergal had finished college and he had a choice whether he would like to come farming with me or went to the job market so his choice was to come farming with me.

On this farm, we have a lot of slatted accommodation. Normally on this farm, in September, we go through all the sheds, power hose them, disinfect them and empty out any bits of slurry that’s left. On that particular day, we were doing a calf shed and the slurry tank had only roughly less than a metre, probably only about 2ft in it. Putting the pipe into the tank, I noticed, there was a crust and more or less decided, we should give it a quick mix, proceeded to put in the agitator in the tank and then realising there was one calf in a pen and he was quite close, he was on the slats so we said it would be better to put it into one of the pens, where there was no slatted tank.

Fergal went off up the passage way up to the other end of the shed and he stood at the open door way just to turn the calf into the pen. That is when the gas caught us totally unaware caught me personally. I always had the feeling if you were going to be gassed, you’d feel yourself getting weak but on that day, I felt totally nothing.

After wakening up, my wife came in, in the next ten minutes, she told me the story of Fergal hadn’t survived and the other thing that hit immediately was but well maybe not, immediately but in the days following as memories started to come back, I knew that Fergal was standing on the yard, very far away from where I was located and I knew then that at that stage that Fergal had walked in to save me, that I was the first to drop from the gases, totally unaware and Fergal came within about three metres of me and that’s where he passed out.

The time our neighbour arrived into the shed, lucky for him, it was sometime later and in the period of time of Fergal and myself getting gassed, the gas must have dispersed. The thing about the gas is, Michael didn’t even think for one minute that his life was in danger coming to rescue us no more than Fergal never realised the danger when he came to rescue me. Unfortunately, the gas had dispersed when Michael came into the shed to remove both of us from the shed. This is the frightening thing about it, to think that all this happened in such a short space of time.

Why did it happen that day and not happen at other times? Again, I’ll come back to the stillness of the day and if the tank was outdoors, you would have the same problem as indoors, no way of knowing it.

Today, there’s no way my son would put an agitator into a tank. He, basically, would ring the Met office and see was the weather going to continue and what the rainfall be like or again down to air movement. I think with that information being available to people, it’s very foolish not to check or to plan that if you’re tanks are getting to a certain stage to check out on the weather and air movement rather than on the morning says we’re going putting out slurry and that day, it could be one of those still days or it may be raining. But definitely, I was very, very much aware of air movement on this farm when it comes to slurry.


Health and Safety Authority                   

Irish Rural Link    Nasc Tuaithe na hÉireann


This page was added on 04/01/2016.

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