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Friday, March 9,2018

My Irish Grandfather, Animal Rescuer & Freedom Fighter

By Susan Hargreaves  

“I’ve seen the rabbits dance on midsummer’s eve in the hills of Ireland” Grandfather Tyrrell would say in his soft sing song Galway accent. His stories of the “greenest country side you have ever seen” and rabbits dancing captivated his 4 year old granddaughter. Born in 1898 in Galway County, Ireland, he grew up with a mother who was the regions’ bonesetter. My earliest memory of him was in his shed delicately fixing a crows’ broken leg, he cared for all manner of animals who needed help. He was fighting for Irelands’ freedom from foreign chains with the Irish Brotherhood and was with Michael Collins when he was ambushed, it broke my grandfather’s’ heart to flee his native Ireland in 1921 under the threat of jail or worse. He put his heart into the stories he told me and the animals he helped. The first time I realized other animals were independent spirits with their own will, wishes and feelings was when I looked eye to eye at a previously injured duck who had waddled over to me where I was playing in the yard. I recognized the gleam of determination staring back at me. It was many years later when I was working at an animal rescue center I saw the rescued rabbits leap and turn around in midair at lightning speed, I termed it bunny ballet, yes, and rabbits do dance after all.

Ireland Animal Hero Kids Book Tour

It was during an “Animal Hero Kids Voices for the Voiceless” book tour when I stepped foot on Irish soil I thought I could finally see the green of Ireland my grandfather had described so vividly. At the Dublin SPCA in the Wicklow Mountains I was not disappointed. The Dublin SPCA cares for all animals including the often ignored farmed animals and it was a treat to watch the rescued ponies, cows, and pigs walk on that very green grass.

The Dublin SPCA humane education center was full of Irish school children who had come to hear the animal rescue stories.

I had come full circle. My Irish grandfather had started me on a life of dedicated compassionate action, a striving to help other animals who were abused, and a certainty that each animal is an individual worthy of their own freedom and will.



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