Monthly Archives: January 2012

8 beliefs that make an online phenomenon tick

A star performer.

In the midst of a deepening recession, DoneDeal.ie is one of the leading lights in the ailing Irish economy.

This classified advertising website business is nestled in a quiet corner of the Bull Ring in Wexford town and I called in last week to speak to their chief operating officer John Warburton for a feature on Wexford’s leading brands.

You should know from the start I’m not going to tell you about DoneDeal’s origins, its development since 2005 (when it was founded by husband and wife team Fred and Geraldine Karlsson) and I won’t be providing an analysis of its business model (pretty straightforward), but if that’s what floats your boat you should start with this interesting case study.

The questions I’m going to attempt to answer here, through my interview with John, is: what are the beliefs that guide their business activities? Hopefully there will be something in here that you can take away for your own business or that start-up you reckon could be the next big thing!

Now obviously they are doing a lot of things right at DoneDeal (see the figures below), but I’m going to isolate some of the fundamental principles that I believe are driving the success of the business and also some of the things they do that appeal to and interest me.

But before I give you an inside look at what makes DoneDeal tick I’ll give you some of their key numbers:

– During 2011 goods worth €1 billion were sold on DoneDeal, around €300 million more than in 2010.

– DoneDeal hit 2 million unique visitors a month in May 2011 and is now attracting somewhere in the region of 2.5 million. (Disclaimer: that figure depends on when you’re reading this. I can’t stand over that it for too long as Done Deal is growing by at least 10 per cent month-on-month.)

– Based on page impressions, only Google, Facebook and YouTube are now bigger than DoneDeal in Ireland. No shame coming in next behind that trio of online behemoths.

– There are about 160,000 ads on the site and 90,000 of those are new items advertised each month.

– DoneDeal was confirmed as Ireland’s largest website for car sales in September 2011. Va Va Voom!

– “DoneDeal” was confirmed as Ireland’s fastest rising Google search term in 2011, ahead of Pippa Middleton and the iPhone 5.

Pippa is trailing in after DoneDeal in the popularity stakes.

1. CUSTOMER LED INNOVATION

Let what your customers want inform every decision you take. Simple isn’t it? But how many companies actually do it and how many stick as rigidly to this policy as DoneDeal?

“We spend a lot of time on customer service and keeping those channels open. We get a lot of good ideas from our customers,” said John.

DoneDeal holds regular meetings to discuss customer feedback and look at customer behaviour.

“Every decision is guided by the customer and everyone who sits around the table understands our customers in several different ways and if they think there’s going to be a problem for the customers they’ll say ‘no, we can’t do that, our customers won’t like it’ and I say ‘okay, we won’t do it then’,” said John.

At the moment their customers are obviously happy, but John said that doesn’t mean they can’t keep improving their offering. “We’ll keep doing what we’re doing, but improve it in small measures and where our customers need it,” he said.

Primarily this will involve looking at DoneDeal’s features and functionality, though it’s important, as Fred explains here, to understand the difference between what customers ask for and what they want, as well ensuring that you don’t overcomplicate matters.

So, for example, DoneDeal has made the process of uploading of photos faster and then they allowed people to upload all their photos at once, not one at a time, making the process of placing an ad faster and easier.

“The aim is to make improvements as quickly as we can, but with as little disruption as possible,” said John.

The fundamental aim, he said, is to keep DoneDeal.ie “safe, easy-to-use and affordable”. They obviously realise that the process is as important as the end product when it comes to keeping people happy.

“I swear, you won’t believe how much I saved on this umbrella”

2. WORD-OF-MOUTH 

Not only are DoneDeal letting their customers guide innovation, they’re also letting them take care of the lion’s share of their marketing.

“People like to share their stories,” said John, who feels there are important cultural factors working in their favour.

More and more Irish people are not only shopping online in search of better value these days, they’re talking about it.

It seems we love telling people about bargains as much as finding them.

“If somebody goes into a shop and buys something and they get a reasonably good price they don’t tend to share that with their friends, but if they get something on DoneDeal they tend to share it and shout it from the roof tops! That’s a really good form of marketing for us and it’s been very successful,” said John.

“We haven’t done a great deal of marketing, it’s mainly been word of mouth and good customer relationships. Our customers do the sales for us and they’re doing a great job.”

The company has recently entered the Northern Ireland market with DoneDeal.co.uk. Without any promotion it has already managed to attract 300,000 unique visitors a month and is growing at a phenomenal rate of 20 per cent.

3. SAFETY

When there’s over €1 billion worth of goods sold through your site in one year you need to ensure that your customers are protected from fraudsters and feel confident buying and selling.

“There’s always a trust issue when you’re buying on the Internet and one of the things we’ve put a lot of effort into is we have created guides of how to buy safely,” said John.

“We have a lot of security checks in place, both manual and automatic. We work very, very closely with the Gardai through several units around the country, including the stolen car unit and fraud unit. We give open access to the Gardai, where appropriate. And of course, we tell all our customers about this,” he said.

“What that ends up doing is that customers know that ‘these guys are doing the best they can to ensure that buying is safe on DoneDeal’. Obviously every now and again something is going to happen, but our fraud statistics are shooting downwards, not upwards.

“A lot of sites’ fraud statistics are going up and as more people go on the Internet there’s a bigger risk, but out risk is going down. We have halved the amount of fraud on the site in the past year,” said John.

Why be boring?

4. FUN

On DoneDeal you could have bought a custom-built motorbike driven hearse that allows you to “ride to your final resting place”.

There are a lot of other oddities on there! In recent times one person has put their soul up for sale. Another was seeking offers for a bucket of sunshine (not in short supply in 2012 so far, so it’s definitely a buyer’s market!)

John said that women regularly put their husbands up for sale on DoneDeal. He said they leave these ads up unless a husband complains, but none ever have. None have been sold either, but then we all know you can’t sell what you can’t give away!

“It’s all usually taken in good humour. As long as it’s good clean fun we don’t really mind,” said John. Once an ad is not breaking the law or abusive it’ll be put up there.

The company is keen to retain a sense of fun and a light-hearted touch, all of which not only makes the DoneDeal experience more enjoyable for the customer, but also helps greatly with that crucial word-of-mouth marketing.

As Seth Godin has pointed out quite clearly on many occasions, something “remarkable” is merely something worth making a remark about, something out of the ordinary. Why be boring when you can be a purple cow?

Done Deal even keeps track of some of its funniest ads on its blog. Have a look, there’s some great ones.

5. CULTURE

It’s not just fun to use DoneDeal, it’s fun to work there too, John assures me.

“It’s a fast paced, fast moving, fun industry. It’s fun to come into work at Done Deal,” said John.

“There’s a strong company culture in Done Deal. The people here are really tight and it’s my job to make sure that isn’t disrupted because, to me, this company culture is what makes Done Deal what it is,” he said.

“There’s lot of technology and stuff, but the company culture is what has made Done Deal what it is today and if we lose that we’ll lose a lot of things so we have to continue that,” said John.

Due to its phenomenal growth, DoneDeal expects to double its workforce, from 10 to 20, this year, which John said will help them get to “the next level” and avail of opportunities in 2012 that they haven’t had time to explore yet.

“We’re in a growth cycle now so managing that growth without disrupting the culture is very important for us,” said John.

DoneDeal staff members Emer Lindsay, Declan Lawlor and Kevin Murphy presenting a cheque for €26,235 to Sinead O’Keeffe of the Irish Heart Foundation.

6. GIVING BACK

DoneDeal donates 10 per cent (30c per €3 ad) of its ad fees to charity every month. The company has now raised over €250,000 with its monthly charity drives.

John points out that DoneDeal adopted this policy a few years ago before the business had really taken off and when giving away 10 per cent of its ad revenue was a far bigger consideration than it is now – but they felt it was the right thing to do.

“It’s an important philosophy, not just for Fred and Ger, but for every DoneDeal employee,” said John, adding that they don’t just look it as giving back to the community, they also look on it as a benefit of working for DoneDeal.

Each month a different employee gets to nominate the charity of their choice. Everyone gets their turn. The Irish Heart Foundation has received €26,000 from December’s charity drive.

Think of the best benefits you get (if any) from your employer. Now imagine being able to hand over a cheque worth more than €25,000 to a charity that’s close to your heart.

Ever felt overloaded with information?

7. RESPECT

Putting customers before cash is not easy. Short term opportunities to spin a profit can blind many companies to the damage they may be causing to their core business.

DoneDeal respects its customers and that respect extends to their personal information and privacy too.

The best example of this is that DoneDeal refuses to use email marketing, which is rare for a business of its nature and size.

“We don’t use our customers’ email addresses and we never will. It’s an invasion of privacy, it’s tacky and it’s spam – it’s not something we do,” said John.

There is a newsletter that people can sign up to receive and, to date, more than 280,000 have opted in, making it one of the largest newsletters in Ireland.

“I can’t tell you how many times I have been approached for that email list. Lots of money has been offered for the sale of it and I tell them every time ‘no chance’. Our customers are our bread and butter – we don’t want to piss our customers off,” said John.

Another area where DoneDeal could cash in massively is on display advertising, but it has just two banner ads on its site.

John reckons they have “one of the lowest percentages of direct advertising income to paid income in classified sites in the world”, but, if anything, this will be reduced before it’s increased as they don’t want their customers bombarded with distracting ads as they go about their browsing, buying and selling.

John also said that they try to make the content of those two banners ads relevant or of some value to customers. So car insurance would seem to be a natural fit as a lot of people are buying and selling cars on DoneDeal. But teeth whitening products? Not so much.

So it seems that while DoneDeal will happily help you sell your soul, it’s going to try hang on to its own.

8. SOCIAL MEDIA

There is a big community of “DoneDealers” and social media is one of the key ways in which the company interacts with them.

One out of DoneDeal’s 10 employees is dedicated to social media full-time – a significant investment in a small company. Donna is that 10 per cent and she is, in effect, the voice of DoneDeal.

A lot of companies use social media, but how many are really engaging customers? The truth is that meaningful participation is not easy.

John said that Donna is very good at what she does. She goes “above and beyond” the call of duty as a matter of course and some of the interactions she has with customers are great.

At the time of writing, they have over 36,000 Facebook likes and almost 1,000 followers on Twitter.

However, John is not overly concerned about the numbers, which many are obsessed with and which has led to an endless stream of heavily promoted competitions to attract “likes” and “follows”. In many other cases they are simply paid for.

So how do you separate quality from quantity? “A lot of companies will look for return on investment. It’s a bit like marketing in some aspects, in that it’s very hard to see a tangible return, but you should have a feeling about it,” said John.

“When we do reports and meetings some of the times I’ll look at the Facebook stats and say ‘that’s great, but how do you feel about it? How do you feel it’s going?’ Donna is now giving talks at social media conferences and they should listen to her because she takes the bullshit out of social media and tells it straight up, as it is,” said John.

“It’s about interacting with your customers, it’s responding to what they want to hear and not selling to them. A lot of people look at it as a sales medium and it shouldn’t be a sales medium,” he said.

DoneDeal evidently understands the value of social capital and doesn’t seek to “measure” social media success (or otherwise) solely by return on investment in terms of the bottom line, which is the point where so many (including some very astute) business people miss the point completely.

However, John points out that there could definitely be better ways of gauging your impact through social media and DoneDeal is sponsoring Measurement.ie, which is organised by Mulley Communications, and takes place on February 15 in Dublin. It will look at what is worth measuring in social media and what you don’t need to measure, while John is hoping it may inspire more effective ways of measuring the impact of your social media efforts on your customers.

“Social media is something we intend to move forward with it as a strategic part of the business, not as a fun thing to do. Social media should be a strategic part of everybody’s business, especially online companies,” said John.

Advertisements

Cadet David Jevens: Forfaire agus Tairiseact (Watchful and Loyal).

Cadet David Jevens

I don’t do breaking news on this blog, as this is my escape from the day job. However, I’m making an exception today because of a powerful statement that I have received from Donal and Liz Jevens.

Cadet David Jevens from Davidstown, Glynn, Co Wexford, and Captain Derek Furniss (32), from Dublin, died when their PC-9M aircraft crashed while on a military training exercise on October 12, 2009, in Co Galway.

The accident happened  just a day before David’s 22nd birthday. One of the brightest and best in the 27th Air Corps Cadet Class he was due to receive his wings in December 2009.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) carried out an investigation into the tragic accident, but the publication of this report has been delayed by an “interested party”, ultimately requiring an intervention from Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, which led to the report finally being released this morning.

The sole purpose of the investigation is the prevention of aviation accidents and incidents – not to apportion blame or liability.

Donal Jevens and his wife Liz have known the facts of the accident since a meeting with the AAIU in August 2010, but were prevented from discussing them (with anyone, even close family members) before the report was published – something which has proved a heavy burden for them.

“We want it to be known what happened our son. We find it very, very difficult that we can’t defend his honour,” Donal had told me previously. They can now defend the honour of the young Cadet and hopefully it will bring their family some small measure of solace.

You can read the AAIU report for yourself here. It is a quite technical 85-page report detailing all the circumstances surrounding the accident. I will have an extensive news report based on its findings in tomorrow’s Wexford People newspaper.

The statement from Donal and Elizabeth Jevens is below the photo of the couple at their son’s funeral.

The statement is about the death of their son and the effect it has had on his loved ones – compounded by the effect of the delay of the publication of the report. Ultimately, it’s a statement about David himself and his parents’ great love for him.

Donal and Liz Jevens

On October 13, 1987, David Jevens began life’s journey, a journey which ended tragically and abruptly on October 12, 2009.
We, his parents, have to face the almost impossible reality of not growing old with our first born child and that all the possibilities and dreams, that any parent would have for their son, will not be realised.
His brother, Christopher, and sister, Sarah, have lost a lifetime with their big brother, their mentor, their friend and their idol.
David’s girlfriend, Niamh, has lost a future of hopes, dreams and joy with David.
All David’s relations and friends have lost his friendship, his companionship and his caring and outgoing nature.
David should not be gone from us, he had his life to live, he had his dreams, aspirations and future to look forward to. All these were so cruelly taken away from him. For this reason, we just don’t feel sorrow and loss for ourselves, we feel it so much for our David.
The loss of our son David in such circumstances is a big enough cross for us to carry, but for the past 17 months, Liz and I have carried a far bigger burden.
We alone have had to live with the exact circumstances of David’s death without being able to share it with anyone.
Getting up in the morning to carry this burden is something that no parent should have to endure. In the past 12 months we have been faced with totally unnecessary delays in the process of the safety investigation.
This was the result of many attempts to frustrate the process, alter the facts and deny our son a hearing of the inevitable truth. This is something that should never be allowed to happen again.
It is our family’s sincere hope that lessons are learned from this report. We hope that changes are made so that something like this will never be repeated, so that no other parents have to endure the suffering of the loss of a son or daughter under such avoidable circumstances.
David achieved all his goals in life while showing humility and caring for others. He was an extremely proud and dedicated member of the Irish Defence Forces and the Irish Air Corps, he wore his uniform with immense pride.
It was more than just a career to him it was a true vocation. He was a dedicated, willing and committed servant of this country.
Cadet David Jevens will forever be enshrined in our memories, the memories of his many friends and his colleagues in the Defence Forces for all the right reasons.
Not a single moment goes by that he is not in our thoughts. At his grave a candle burns day and night, this is not just his memory, but for our pride in him and our love of him.
Anyone who knew David would have known that he would do the same for any of us given the circumstances.
The Air Corps motto “Forfaire agus Tairiseact” translates as “vigilant and loyal”, no greater or simpler words could encapsulate Cadet David Jevens’ character.

I read this blog a while back, it has some great advice for ways to save time and become a bit more effective in your efforts. I thought it was a very worthy candidate for my first “Reblog” here on WordPress. Tom’s blog is very good overall and you should go have a look around.

Tom Basson

Someone once said “it takes a genius to live a simple life” and I totally agree with that.

In this world of “dramatic distraction” and information overload it is too easy to become overwhelmed, lose focus and be swept away from the things that matter most.

Here are 16 tips that I have learnt from other leaders, blogs and books, and have been trying to apply in my life to de-clutter, un-complicate and become more intentional about how I spend my time…

1. Turn off all technology for 60 minutes a day and focus on doing your most important work.

2. Don’t check your email first thing in the morning. (This one in particular has been life-changing for me!)

3. Start your day with exercise. (or even better, learn how to surf – no better way to start the day!)

4. Be obedient to the sabbath! (That means learning how…

View original post 268 more words

Super Ted

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

This post is all about sharing ideas. I spend a lot of time on the Internet, as, probably, do you.

But how much of that is quality time?

If we take the magnificent and most quotable Eleanor Roosevelt’s statement as our guide, I’d say I spend a lot of my time online reading about or discussing events and people, whether that’s Waterstone’s removing their apostrophe (terrible) or Liverpool’s Stewart Downing (He cost £20 million and still hasn’t a single goal or assist this season, but he does have one arrest – also terrible).

And then there’s Facebook, the great black hole of “average” and “small”, which can easily swallow you up. I find Twitter a tad more enlightened!

But, I do spend quite a bit of my online time with ideas too, whether that’s reading about or discussing them (I just checked my Twitter account to verify my claim and I have also been sharing a lot of ideas I’ve been reading about lately on there!).

There are some fantastic resources online and I intend to share some that I have come across and use with you in the weeks and months ahead.

I’m going to start with one of the biggest and best: Ted.

Now Ted is so successful that many of you will have heard of it and some of you will frequent it. But, if you don’t stop in every now and again or you’ve never heard of it then you’re missing out!

I would urge everyone to bookmark it. Create a new folder called “Ideas” and starting filling it up with great sites focused on ideas (I’ll help you out there).

Ted, in its own words, is about “ideas worth spreading”. It’s completely free and provides “riveting talks by remarkable people”. This is another claim I can happily verify. Some evidence here: they are short videos, please give at least a couple of them a go:

ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

rory_sutherland_life_lessons_from_an_ad_man.html (included especially for all you PR/marketing/Advertising types!)

sheila_nirenberg_a_prosthetic_eye_to_treat_blindness.html

dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy.html

bart_weetjens_how_i_taught_rats_to_sniff_out_land_mines.html

I have watched a lot of Ted Talks at this stage and the great thing about them – apart from being hugely interesting, educational and entertaining – is that they are relatively short (the vast majority are 18 minutes or under, some are only a few minutes) and they are very accessible.

It’s not a site designed for academics, it’s a site designed for everyone. Perhaps the best thing about Ted is that learning about all those ideas can help get your own creative juices flowing and give you the kickstart you need to start coming up with some great ideas of your own.

If you watch the videos they will certainly give you a new perspective on many issues and even change your thinking, if you’re open to it.

It’s a word I don’t use often, but many of the Ted Talks are simply inspirational. At worst, they are merely engaging and interesting. So it’s not much of a risk watching one!

Ted started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment and Design. To say it’s broadened its remit since then would be putting it mildly! Business, Science, Culture, Arts, Entertainment… there are many broad themes containing talks and ideas of all kinds.

Helpfully, there’s also a Best of the Web section featuring those great videos out there that didn’t come through Ted. Like this one with Steve Jobs:

steve_jobs_how_to_live_before_you_die.html

What really got me excited about Ted (again) today was reading about Ted 2012 “Full Spectrum”. It sounds like a dodgy action movie sequel starring a middle-aged Irish man, but it’s not.

You see Ted is “in the midst of a dramatic reinvention of the ancient art of the spoken word”.

How so? Well “Full Spectrum” refers to the “rich use of multiple technologies, formats and approaches for the most powerful possible impact on an audience”.

The speakers they have secured this year are amazing and “Full Spectrum” promises to be spectacular. The Journal.ie gives you a flavour of the speakers here  and the full list is here.

So, finally, I challenge you to try Ted for 30 days!

matt_cutts_try_something_new_for_30_days.html

Saoirse Ronan’s Underwear

So I started blogging last summer and I had no idea that WordPress sends you a helpful end of year summary.

It’s a review of the numbers that all bloggers keep an eye on in the “Site Stats” section, such as the number of views a post gets, where your “traffic” is coming from (my top referral sites were Facebook and Twitter) and  the search terms that lead people to you.

That last one, the search terms, never ceases to amaze me. Sure lots of people search for “Conor Cullen” (I know, I’m surprised too!) and a lot more don’t bother with their browser’s address bar for this site and instead stick the URL (conorcullen.com) into Google.

I thank you all for visiting, reading and sharing!

Then there are the more slightly curious search terms. Take the two photos above. They appeared in this post about my love of photography and the popular iPhone app Instagram, which I had lots of fun with last summer.

The first is a photograph I took of a poster for the film “Hanna”, starring Saoirse Ronan, which was stuck on a phone box in Ranelagh. The second photo I captured in Seville. I thought it made a striking image, but I cautioned against taking photos of people’s underwear in most circumstances!

The combination of “Saoirse Ronan” and “underwear” has subsequently become one of the most frequent search terms that has led (and still leads) people to that post and this blog. I can only imagine their disappointment!

I noticed this trend shortly after the post went up  on July 21 and it was confirmed by my “2011 in blogging” report from WordPress.

You’d be amazed how people arrive here though. Some of today’s search terms that have brought people here are: “people who had rickets”, “people walking unusually” and “weird bar counter”.

Search terms more obviously related to my posts that brought people here today were “Eoin Colfer history of Hook Lighthouse” and “why does animal cruelty continue”.

Other search terms that have caused me to raise an eyebrow since I started blogging have generally been carefully crafted by my friend and colleague Peter Henry to strike a fine balance of insulted/amused on this end!

I posted a total of 29 times in 2011 , from June, when I started blogging, to December. The only month I missed was September and that was due to a long holiday here.

I blogged about a lot of different things last year, from local festivals to the London riots, but my most popular post – by some distance – was 10 Things I Like About Dublin Bikes, which I posted back in August.

Here’s second, third, fourth and fifth in the popularity (number of views) stakes. My “busiest day” was August 11, when traffic peaked thanks to combination of the posts about Dublin Bikes and the London Riots.

Unsurprisingly, most of my readers came from Ireland, followed by the United States and United Kingdom. I’m doing okay in Australia, but have a lot of work to do before I “break” Asia and South America!

I hope to keep blogging on a regular basis in 2012. It’s not easy to find the time and often the inspiration, but it’s an enjoyable thing to do and I’d urge anyone who is thinking about it to give it a go.

I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who “follows” this blog and those who check in regularly or irregularly to see what I’m up to. Comments and feedback are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Finally, to anyone who came here looking for Saoirse Ronan’s underwear, I’m truly sorry.

Celebrating a century

Jane Fortune at home in Ballygarrett

“I’m nearly a week into my second hundred years now,” Jane Fortune told me with a grin as I wished her a happy birthday at her home in north Wexford this morning.

Time doesn’t stand still for any of us – even when we reach the ripe old age of 100 it seems.

Jane, of Parkannsley, Ballygarrett, has had no less than four birthday parties already. The cards, of which there have been hundreds so far, continue to pour through the letterbox every day.

There was a letter of congratulations from President of Ireland Michael D Higgins too. This is a momentous occasion in almost everyone’s eyes, everyone that is except Jane.

“’I never liked a fuss and I never liked being in a crowd,” said Jane, though she admitted to enjoying her birthday parties, particularly the big family gathering in Sean Og’s of Kilmuckridge last weekend. where guests included her great great grandchildren.

Jane was the youngest of seven children born to Richard Quinsey and Ellen Bolger and is the last surviving member of that family. She has been predeceased by her husband Michael, who died in 1959, and four of her seven children.

I’ll have a full, feature-length interview with Jane in next week’s Wexford People, New Ross Standard, Enniscorthy Guardian and Gorey Guardian if you’d like to learn a little about her life and times.

It was very interesting – and a lot of fun – to meet her today, along with her grandchildren Michael, a well-known artist, and Bernadette.

I told Jane that when someone who is 100-years-old is interviewed everyone always wants to know what their “secret” is.

‘”Plenty of hunger, hardship and hard work,’” she quickly replied.

I’m letting you know just in case any of you thought adding porridge or broccoli to your diet was going to do it!

Jane hard at work in years gone by.

Jane possesses great wit, warmth and a remarkable memory. She still has an active social life and keeps busy in general. There’s a knitting project she keeps meaning to get back to once she gets new wool.

I’ll share one story from earlier on that will give you some idea of the this remarkable lady’s spirit.

When I arrived at her home (a traditional, two-up, two-down cottage that she shares with seven cats) accompanied by Michael she wasn’t worried about 100th birthday parties or interviews, she was mainly wondering where her rake was.

Michael had borrowed it and forgotten to return it again, but, on the back-foot,  he told her she couldn’t have been in that much of a hurry for it.

‘”I want to clean up all the leaves and bits outside,” she told him. A keen gardener, Jane also grows her own vegetables in the garden behind her home, from potatoes to onions and plenty in between, including the Wexford favourite: strawberries.

Jane, noting how things have moved on, recalled a time when she would have to cut the ‘”meadow’”, the large green area behind her home, with a clippers. It would take a number of visits – before and after a hard day’s work – before it would be completely done.

Michael, even though he knew better, then asked his grandmother – with more than a hint of mischief – if she reckoned she could still clip the hedge outside her home.

‘”I could,’” she assured him. “And I could clip that old hair too,’” she added swiftly, sizing up the black locks reaching for his shoulder with a twinkle in her eye.

Jane Fortune, who was born on January 6, 1912.

Jane Fortune

Holy Goose Barnacles Batman!

I’ve walked a lot of beaches, but I’ve never come across anything like this before!

And unfortunately I still haven’t. These images were captured by Kilrane resident Kevin MacCormick (or Mac as he’s better known) ‘s he enjoyed a stroll on Ballyteige Burrow in south Wexford last week.

Kevin, a member of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, is no stranger to unusual sea-related sights, but this one had him baffled when he first spotted it.

“I saw it from a distance as I walking down the beach. I didn’t know what it was as I approached it, it was almost like a Christmas decoration from the ocean!” said Mac.

When he got up close for a proper inspection he realised that it was a large piece of washed-up wood covered in goose barnacles. I can only imagine his reaction!

“We rarely see them, I think the only time we do come across them is when they wash up after a storm. I had seen them many years ago, but there was only a very small amount of them – nothing like this,’ said Mac.

He said he was aware that goose barnacles are a delicacy in many countries, but he wasn’t tempted to indulge!

The “green pastoral landscape” of Tintern Abbey

These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind
With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man’s life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love.

– William Wordsworth

I have been itching to get back out with the camera lately, but time hasn’t been on my side. That remains the case, but luckily you don’t have to go very far around here to find places that are great for photography.

It takes me less than 10 minutes to get to Tintern Abbey, the one-time stomping ground of the Cistercians.Tintern Abbey was founded by William Marshal after he promised God, in the midst of a shipwreck, that if he survived he would found a monastery wherever he washed up. That happened to be Bannow Bay and The Earl of Pembroke made good on his promise.

If you’re interested in the history there’s lots of information online, just don’t get it confused with its Welsh namesake!

The two – and the link between them – are mentioned in a brief summary of the Wexford abbey’s history here. I chose this post to link to because it comes with an excellent bonus, the extract from the William Wordsworth poem, “Tintern Abbey”, which  I included at the top of this post. Here’s the full poem:

I was mainly there for photography purposes today and unfortunately it was very overcast, but I still enjoyed a walk around the grounds, taking in the mill, the cemetery and generally following in the footsteps of the Cistercians.

The other reason I was keen to go to Tintern Abbey, other than photography and proximity, was that I hadn’t seen the work carried out on the Colclough Walled Garden yet. For those not from these parts, the name Colclough is pronounced “Coakley” – or at least it is nowadays!

This 2.6 acre walled garden, with a stream running through it, will not contain anything – from fruit tress to flowers – that it wouldn’t have in the early 1800s. It truly is a labour of love for those involved and it’s wonderful to see such a faithful restoration project shaping up so well.

Elaine Furlong wrote a good piece on it for the New Ross Standard that gives an insight into the project, its goals and its volunteer ethos.

Barbara Kelly and Alan Ryan were hard at work there when we arrived for a look around and Barbara kindly told us about the project and their progress to date, all of which you can read about here or by following them on Facebook.

Here’s a few shots from the garden: