A Sequence of Yarns
John Murphy and Mick Culloty
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
John Murphy hails from Churchtown,
an unspoilt parish on the edge of the Golden Vale, a parish presently
undergoing revival. Mick Culloty lives in the nearby town of Buttevant,
a former garrison town and ever famous for staging the annual
horse-fair of Cahirmee. Old friends, John and Mick live by the
redeeming power of story, poem, song and tune.
Dedicated to all our parents.
Tim McCarthy, Vintner.
The best hurlers have yet to come
the best matches have yet to be played.
Text-editor: Gerry Murphy
Organiser: Pat Murphy
Adviser: Michael Murphy
John Murphy and Mick Culloty assert
the moral right to be identified as the authors of this book.
© John Murphy and Mick Culloty
Also self-published by John Murphy:
The Extra-Magnificent Yeti
WEATHER IN BALLYDULL
A BALLYDULL THEORY
LORD TAFT THE TAILOR OF OLD BALLYDULL
A TOUGH CUSTOMER
BALLYDULL FOR THE 'ESSENTIALS'
GALA NIGHT IN BALLYDULL
SHOPPING FOR THE GROCERIES
NO RACISM IN BALLYDULL
TIMMY BRADY - DISC JOCKEY
THE TALK IN BALLYDULL
THE MOST DRAMATIC DAY IN BALLYDULL
THE ESSENTIAL FASHION ITEM
TACITURNITY IN BALLYDULL
TOM BEASLEY - THE REAL KING
THE SECOND-SMARTEST MAN IN BALLYDULL
ANOTHER BALLYDULL PROBLEM
MORE BALLYDULL NIHILSM
THE OLD VALUES
BALLYDULL FOR EXCITEMENT
THE PHLEGMATIC BALLYDULL MAN
THE PRIEST AND THE BISHOP
THE POPE IN BALLYDULL
DR JOHN JOE TWOMEY - THE BALLYDULL PSYCHIATRIST
NO AMBIVALENCE IN BALLYDULL
THE GAA AND THE MEDIA
THE BALLYDULL NUTTY POETS' SOCIETY
ON A SERIOUS NOTE
BALLYDULL SCIENCE FICTION
VISIONS OF BALLYBRIGHT
BALLYDULL REPRISE 1
BALLYDULL REPRISE 2
BALLYDULL REPRISE 3
BALLYDULL REPRISE 4
Ballydull is a village and parish
somewhere. A parish so preternaturally slow that for a local to
bother to get up and to appear in the open doorway of their house
in the course of a morning is for any onlooking Ballydull person
a remarkable life-affirming event ...
WEATHER IN BALLYDULL
When it's not raining in Ballydull,
it's drizzling ;
when it's not
drizzling in Ballydull,
it's misting ;
when it's not misting in Ballydull,
there's drops in the air ;
when there are no drops in the air in Ballydull,
there's a black cloud overhead ;
when there is no black cloud overhead in Ballydull,
there's rain again in the forecast .
When it's neither raining, nor drizzling,
nor misting, with no drops in the air and no black cloud overhead,
with no rain in the forecast in Ballydull, you're not in Ballydull
at all, but on an agricultural Co-op Holiday to Tenerife.
A BALLYDULL THEORY
Ballydull has the highest level of
rainfall of any parish in Ireland. Ballydull also has the highest
number of alcoholics per capita of any parish in Ireland. I'm
convinced that the two problems are related.
Picture this: a man is at home of
a night, nursing a headache from the night before. The children
are fighting; the wife is watching a cop-show on television -
with each gun-shot ringing out like thunder. In such circumstances
what can a man do only look out the window in despair. And what
does he see - as the nodules of thirst begin to itch in his larynx?
But rain-drops, rain-drops glistening like jewels on the black
window pane. And of course he's off to O'Mahony's for a pint and
a short for starters.
I'm convinced that the Parish Priest
of Ballydull shares my particular theory about the causes of alcoholism
in Ballydull. Because each time he dispenses the pledge to yet
another recovering alcoholic, he always says, "Now don't
as much as look at a wet glass, my good man!"
I want to speak about the hygiene
in Ballydull. By this I don't mean anything as close to the bone
as personal hygiene. 'Personal hygiene in Ballydull' is a subject
that one should only address when one has in the security of one's
hand a boarding-card for a trans-Atlantic jet. By which I would
wish to imply that Ballydull people are touchy about the racially-charged
subject of personal hygiene.
Ballydull people are not so sensitive
about personal hygiene as to actually wash themselves or even
hose the slurry off their wellingtons before they go and enter
a supermarket; but they are sufficiently sensitive about the subject
that anyone casting aspersions about the body hygiene of Ballydull
folk is likely to become the particular victim of "a little
argy-bargy" or even a bit of a "schemozle" and
end up in a hospital bed with one leg pointing at the ceiling
and more bandages on the head than an Egyptian Royal mummy.
But my subject is not personal hygiene,
but hygiene in the production of milk on the Ballydull dairy farm.
Now, fair is fair and one must allow that in these latter years
milk-production in Ballydull is a squeaky-clean business. The
deadly science of chemistry has entered the equation, and with
the likes of somatic cell-count analysis and milking-parlours
that are parlours, there is no longer any opportunity for dirty
milk as such to enter the food chain. It wasn't always so.
One time, not that long ago, it was
a regular occurrence for the creamery-manager or one of the creamery-workers
in Ballydull to have to pull a dead (that is to say drowned) cat
out from a just-delivered supply of milk, before the milk and,
but for the just-mentioned intervention of the creamery staff,
the cat entered the creamery tanks themselves.
Even in the old days a cat in a farmer's
milk was a minor calamity (there was always the regrettable probability
that the cat had consumed his fill before he expired); but no
farmer had much misgivings about a leaf or two - or even a heap
of leaves - getting into his milk supply. And as for flies, well
nobody even cast such insignificant creatures a thought.
All that changed in the sixties,
with the introduction of the much-hated 'gun'. By today's standards
this so-called 'gun' was a very crude instrument. Effectively
a suction-pump, this 'gun' sucked up a body of milk and any of
the more coarse dirt was trapped on a paper-pad; and, if this
dirt was of sufficient volume and seriousness, the manager (going
purely on the judgement of his naked eye) condemned the particular
farmer's supply for that day; and, ignominy of ignominies, the
same milk had to be taken back to the farm to be otherwise disposed.
All in all, it is fair to say that
the sixties in Ballydull were typified not by LSD and love-ins
but by the 'gun'. And they weren't summers of love!
In this new order of the 'gun' there
were two innocents who suffered greatly. One was the Ballydull
creamery-manager himself, a pleasant, diffident man who, against
his own out-dated instincts, often had to condemn a supply of
milk as unworthy. And then he would have to placate the great
anger of the owner of the condemned milk. And sometimes the great
embarrassment of the manager in this situation would lead him
into spoonerism of sort, as he would say to the near-violent farmer:
"Clam yourself, Peter; clam yourself!" This meaning
'Calm yourself, Peter; calm yourself!'
Another innocent in this business
was the working-man whose duty it was to deliver milk to the creamery
on behalf of his farmer-master. If such a working-man had to return
to his master's farm with churns full of rejected milk, well then
you can guess that no great welcome awaited him. And, worse, there
might be no boiled egg awaiting such an unfortunate man for breakfast
the following morning.
On one famous occasion it was not
the 'gun' which was instrumental in milk being turned away at
the creamery, not the 'gun' but that other sophisticated instrument
at the disposal of the manager - a spoon which he brought to his
own tongue to determine whether or not the milk was sour. On this
famous occasion the milk in question did indeed prove sour to
the manager's taste; and , mustering up quite uncharacteristic
anger, the manager said to the hapless working-man who delivered
this foul supply of milk - "This milk is sour!" "You're
sour yourself," retorted the working man more out of grievance
LORD TAFT THE TAILOR OF OLD BALLYDULL
Yes, Jim Wilson the tailor that lived
and worked in the village had grandiose ways. Once, after returning
from a losing Cheltenham, he was undaunted and declared in The
Three Swallows public-house: "Its metropolitan and overseas
from here on." This was Jim's way of saying that he was a
cut above the servant-boys and wouldn't be seen at point-to-point
and local 'inside the rails' race meetings. The target of his
insult, the servant-boys only laughed at this and many another
boast from the tailor, as they shouted to the tailor's own pleasure:
"Good man, Lord Taft!"
Once there was a fashion for red
shirts in Ballydull and district. There was a fashion for other
types of shirts too at the time but, I'm not making this up, there
was also at this very time a fashion craze for red shirts. To
be hip at the time you had to have a red shirt and possibly a
blue one as well. Alas, the only way most young men of the parish
could afford a red shirt was to dye their existing white shirts.
So, there was quite a trade in six-penny packets of red dye. Mrs
Brady's, the huckster's shop next door to Jim Wilson's tailor
shop, covered this market.
But then, Jim was offered 'a line'
in real red shirts by a travelling salesman. Needless to say,
Jim couldn't resist this offer and he purchased a large consignment
of real red shirts and he put a sign in his window that read:
GENUINE RED SHIRTS
Ballydull people considered this
episode to be another instance of 'Lord Taft's' bravado.
Eventually the tailoring business
lost its capacity to generate income for Jim Wilson and, for a
sort of swan song, Jim innocently engaged in some pyramid selling.
Jim would go around to the houses with a big cardboard box of
entirely useless products, and as he would enter a house he would
declare, in line with the instructions he received from his new
American masters, - " I used to be working with men but now
I'm working with women!" And as he was saying this Jim would
take a cloth from the box and begin to clean the floor.
But is was perhaps for another pyramid
product that Jim became most famous, his shampoo. Jim would take
out this bottle of expensively priced shampoo and proudly declare:
"There's a lemon in it." Unfortunately there was no
shampoo in it. And to this day the phrase "There's a lemon
in it," is always uttered to laughter in Ballydull whenever
anybody speaks of the contents or ingredients of a product. Innocent
Not all Jim Wilson's jokes reflect
badly on him. Once in his tailor's shop, the matter of Gideon
Bibles was up for discussion. And somebody explained that these
Gideon Bibles were Bibles placed for free in hotel bedrooms.
"Those Bibles would never do
in Ballydull" commented Jim: "they'd be stolen."
At a certain time of year some of
the fuel for the kitchen fire was provided by the twigs hopeful
crows dropped down the chimney over-night. The persistence of
the crows in fruitlessly bringing twigs to the chimney-top puzzled
one Ballydull man; and he would keep saying to himself as he milked
the cows of a morning: "You'd think they'd cop themselves
A TOUGH CUSTOMER
Before the coming of that great leveller
and great spoiler, the television set, wit and verbal dexterity
of all kinds from the learned to the unlettered was highly valued
in Ballydull and throughout Ireland. One such unlettered wit,
a famous man to this day in Ballydull, was Bill Drinan. Once,
Bill was working in the local hospital and his job was to make
the dead presentable for burial. Bill was, in other words, an
embalmer of sorts in the days before the art of embalming had
become a degree course.
On this particular day Bill was to
encounter a very tough customer with a big black beard on him.
And of course, it was Bill's job to shave this. But Bill, the
worse for drink, did a very indifferent job, only managing to
scrape off bits of this intractable beard here and there. When
the matron came to inspect the work and saw the 'performance'
she gave out stink.
"I'll tell you what" said
Bill, responding to the criticism, "bring me down a few candles,
"What's the idea, Drinan?"
said the matron, unimpressed, "we don't wake the dead in
the mortuary anymore."
"Won't you be said by me?"
replied Bill, "bring me down a few candles and we'll singe
it off him. And, anyway, 'twill get him used to where he's going."
BALLYDULL FOR THE 'ESSENTIALS'
A Ballydull-man would never dream
of using place mats. If he wants to protect his plastic table-cloth
from the effect of hot plates or hot saucepans, he can always
use a piece of a Cornflakes box or, better still, one of those
large brown envelopes in which the local Co-op dispatch their
Co-op brown envelope does the job dandy!
Ballydull is a place that has never
lost faith with the power of the basic, with the potential of
ordinary things. And three of the most trusted 'essentials' in
Ballydull are Bread soda, Three-in-one Oil and urine.
Bread soda cures just about everything
- a loose tooth, rashes on the skin, fungus in the feet, just
No less famous are the rehabilitative
powers of Three-in-one Oil. On one occasion, one of these modern
young farmers was baling hay in a cottager's half-acre and, alas,
the high-tech baler broke down. Consternation! For if you know
anything about the countryside, you will know that there is more
pride invested in the saving of a cottager's hay than in any other
enterprise in the world. Remember that a cottager who loses his
hay will have to endure the derision of his neighbours for a full
year, that is until the next harvest-time when he has the chance
to recoup his reputation.
So, when our angelically bright (that
is to say clean) young farmer stepped down from his tractor to
inspect the malfunctioning baler, the elderly man who owned the
half-acre rushed up to him in a state of some anxiety and asked:
"Would a bit of oil help?"
At this intervention the young farmer
could only laugh, he being more accustomed to the esoteric science
of machine parts nomenclature.
On another occasion an eminent heart-surgeon
from Dublin paid a visit to Ballydull. And wishing to do as the
Romans do as it were, he joined a group of Ballydull men in a
drinking session; but, as the night wore on and the ninth and
tenth round went by with no hint from the Ballydull men of a 'cessation',
the eminent heart-surgeon began to regret his gallantry in deciding
to mix with the locals.
And then these same drunken locals
began to inform the heart-surgeon of the curative powers of drinking
your own urine. And when the heart-surgeon expressed doubts as
to urine-consumption having any beneficial or regenerative effect
on the heart, the locals rounded on him and called him a thick
The eminent heart-surgeon left Ballydull
next morning in a hurry, protesting: "Let me out of this
place fast; the indigenous population do nothing else but produce
urine - and talk about it!"
Rome - the Eternal City, Venice - the jewel of the sea, Paris
- the city of romance, New York - the city that never sleeps -
mean next to nothing to the denizens of Ballydull. As far as Ballydull
people are concerned Ballydull is the centre of the universe.
In short Ballydull people are proud of Ballydull.
Ballydull patriots - that is a man
or woman who puts Ballydull first - are many. One Ballydull patriot
was walking down the street one day and he saw two men talking
by the Post Office and he shouted to them: "You're talking
"No, we're not!" replied
one of the two, surprised to have their conversation so rudely
"Is it how Ballydull isn't good
enough for ye!" responded the Ballydull patriot, as he walked
away with a disgusted look on his face.
In the Ballydull take-away there
is a sign that reads
Vegetarians Catered For.
This means you can have the chips
without the beef-burger.
GALA NIGHT IN BALLYDULL
The big night out of the year in
Ballydull is the GAA Club and Invalids' Society annual dinner-dance.
The menu and venue are always the same; chicken and chips in O'Mahony's
lounge bar and restaurant and funeral home. The photographer from
the Ballydull News & Star likes to get there
early, and snap the people on their way into the dinner-dance
before trouble begins and the pool cues and hurley sticks are
produced. After all, the headline Another Glorious Year For Ballydull
would look very odd above a photograph of broken teeth, broken
chairs, fractured limbs and blood-strewn faces, clothes, table-linen
If the Ballydull GAA club hasn't
had a good year - no matches won, half the matches not played,
a long list of injuries and sending-offs, massive fines and litigation,
with talk of larceny, impersonation, forgery, embezzlement, grievous
bodily harm, kidnap, gun-warfare and poor attendance at meetings
by officials - the night is sure to end in recrimination, with
the police and ambulances called; and also the fire-brigade to
extricate the chairman from his unbecoming predicament half-way
up the chimney, this the result of a foolhardy attempt to escape.
But, make no mistake, people do enjoy
themselves at this the highlight of the Ballydull social calendar.
Couples dance to the tunes of the Three Musketeers , a two-piece
band famous for their big local hit 'I've Got Ballydull On The
Brain'. And people do look forward to the big raffle, third
prize a bottle of whisky, second prize two bottles of whisky and
the grand first prize of a case of whisky and the committee's
sincere best wishes with the hospital, the court case and the
jail-term. And, of course, the highlight of the evening is the
pint-drinking contest, the winner declared to be all right provided
he remains standing ten seconds after all other contestants have
collapsed and have been removed from the premises in the wheelbarrows
at the ready.
Win or lose, Ballydull people know
how to enjoy themselves!
SHOPPING FOR THE GROCERIES
Do you like buying the groceries?
Nobody seems to like buying the groceries. But buying the groceries
in Ballydull is a doddle or, as we say, a cinch. You pop into
Smith's Food-Store and throw a few white slice pans, a few packets
of plastic-wrapped rashers, a big bottle of Chef Sauce and a tub
of margarine in the basket - and that's it. In and out the door
in five minutes. Couldn't be simpler!
But, as you come out the door of
Smith's Food-Store, your eyes are drawn to the building directly
across the road - O'Mahony's Bar & Lounge. Now, 'twould be
unlucky, unsociable and uncivilised not to cross the road and
call for a pint. And so doing, you have another and another and
until you stumble out the door of O'Mahony's at one o' clock in
the morning, not knowing where you are. But then the familiar
aroma of TONI'S FAST-FOOD takeaway strikes your nostrils and of
course you slip in for a chicken-supper. Which consists of the
leg of a chicken, a big portion of chips and some peas, all coated
in so much grease that, after you've consumed the lot, you've
got to be very careful not to strike a match too close to your
stomach, lest you burst into a fire-ball the likes of which hasn't
been seen since the Gulf War. In any event, full to your tonsils
with Guinness, Whisky, Crisps, KP Nuts and the recent chicken-supper,
you can go home completely satisfied with your trip to town for
NO RACISM IN BALLYDULL
Not alone is there no racism in Ballydull,
there never was! Consider the case of village-woman and fully
qualified nurse, Miss Maloney. As a good respectable Catholic,
she was admittedly just a tad worried about the increasing number
of black faces in Irish hospitals. But she came up with an idea
sufficient to allay all her fears. She decided that most blacks
working in Irish hospitals were from royal families. Simple really.
TIMMY BRADY - DISC JOCKEY
The most famous man in Ballydull
these days is Timmy Brady, disc-jockey and farmer. Timmy Brady
has his own show five nights a week on local FM radio. As far
as Timmy Brady is concerned it's money for jam. Every week night
Timmy bids farewell to his bullocks grazing contentedly on his
fifty acre farm, gets into his old Cortina and drives the fifteen
miles to the radio station, humming to himself all the way.
Timmy Brady's radio program is a
phone-in request show. That suits Timmy fine. Timmy is quite happy
that there are enough fools out there prepared to run-up phone-bills
and ask for songs that sound so mournful that they sound like
a man whose doctor has ordered him off the fags and booze
purchasing two flagons of 7-up and a packet of Ritchie's After-dinner
Mints. [The trouble with 7-up is that it tastes worse than water
and the trouble with Ritchie's After-dinner Mints is that they
are very hard to light.]
Not that Timmy Brady is worried.
He plays the songs the people want to hear and every night he
conducts a phone-in quiz. Nothing too difficult, mind you. In
what country is New York? On what date is Christmas Day? And what
do you call a male cow? And so on.
Occasionally people phone-up Timmy
with requests for strange songs. One party rang in asking for
'White Rabbit' by Jefferson Airplane. But Timmy had never seen
a white rabbit and he had never been in an aeroplane and he had
definitely never seen a white rabbit in an aeroplane; so Timmy
didn't play the request. Another guy rang in asking for 'Waiting
For The Sun' by the Doors. Timmy thought this request most strange.
You'd wait for a bus or a train, or wait for the cattle-report
to come on the radio; but Timmy Brady never in his life ever heard
of a set of doors waiting for anything. So 'Waiting For The Sun'
was a non-starter; instead Timmy resourcefully gave 'The Moon
Behind The Hill' a spin, expressing the hope that this would help
Never ask for directions in Ballydull.
For a Ballydull man will earnestly say to you "You see that
turning on the left beyond the old waterpump. It's not that road
People say that the big farmers in
Ballydull are a bit mean, a bit tight, a bit miserly. But I don't
know. Suppose you were after a bad harvest, with two fields of
hay washed away, and on top of that you lost two cows to grass
tetany. And then suppose you were in the city of a day and you
had to go to the toilet? Wouldn't you be inclined to wait a few
paces back from the toilet cubicles, in a state of complete watchfulness,
until that precise moment some man began to emerge from one of
the cubicles...Whereupon you would make one good charge at the
toilet door, before it clicked shut in
All to save a penny! And why not?
At a recent meeting of the Ballydull
Community Council it was decided to erect a monument in the village
green. You might ask what prompted the Ballydull Community Council
in this direction. And the answer is simple: The rival parish
of Kilnadreary recently erected a monument right smack in the
middle of Kilnadreary village, this monument to the memory of
Kilnadreary's most famous son - a greyhound by the name of Gentleman
Jim who won the Cork Laurels in 1963 and would have won the English
Derby in White City if the English dogs hadn't decided to gang
up on him
and squeeze him out of the race at the first bend.
Now, you must understand the great
and bitter rivalry between the Ballydull and Kilnadreary parishes,
and perhaps the best way I can explain this rivalry is to say
in football matches between Ballydull and Kilnadreary the ball
can be missing for up to ten or fifteen minutes before anyone
notices the fact. That's how intense the rivalry is.
So, naturally, when Kilnadreary erected
a monument to Gentleman Jim, there were those in Ballydull who
felt that Ballydull shouldn't let Kilnadreary away with it and
that there should be one - if not two - monuments erected in Ballydull
to preserve "parity of esteem". But who or what could
Ballydull erect a monument to?
The only famous man to come out of
Ballydull was John Maloney, a quack doctor who was arrested and
hung in Arizona in the 1840's for claiming his special elixir
MALONEY'S WAKE-'EM-UP MIXTURE could bring people back from the
dead. Clearly, it wouldn't do to erect a monument in Ballydull
to the infamous 'Wake-'em-up' Maloney.
Then somebody at the Community Council
meeting suggested that they erect a monument to the famous Ballydull
piebald donkey known as Tinker Joe who won a lot of Donkey Derbys
at the carnivals in Ballydull and neighbouring parishes in the
sixties. But then somebody at the meeting
pointed out in all innocence that it wouldn't look good if Kilnadreary
had a monument to a Gentleman as it were and all Ballydull could
manage in reply was a monument to a 'Tinker'. And with that the
meeting broke up in uproar, with the man who was only trying to
be helpful in pointing out the potential faux pas being removed
to hospital and spending ten days in intensive care.
I can tell you that at the next meeting
of Ballydull Community Council the pressure was on to come up
with a suitable theme for a monument in Ballydull. And then somebody
at the meeting made the suggestion that they erect a life-size
monument to Joe Cashman, a Ballydull man of course and a
legend and a leader of fashion in his own lifetime as the first
man in Ireland to draw the dole.
Really the Community Council had
no choice but to go along with this idea, and that is why every
Friday when the unemployed come out of Ballydull Post Office with
a wad of notes in their hands, before they head to O'Mahony's
lounge bar and secret casino, they always tip their caps in the
direction of the imposing monument to the first man in Ireland
to draw the dole. Joe Cashman - Patriot.
THE TALK IN BALLYDULL
I ask a very simple question: How
do you know you are in Ballydull? Is it from the fact that everybody
is talking about the rain? Or is it because all the men wear green
anoraks, smoke Major and love eating Chocolate Goldgrain Biscuits
- as a treat? No; everybody in Ireland talks about the rain, wears
a green anorak, smokes Major and loves eating Chocolate Goldgrain
Biscuits as a treat. But Ballydull has one distinguishing characteristic...
Ballydull is the only parish in Ireland
where people are out on the roads flagging down cars in the hope
of hearing a bit of news, in other words gossip. Now, what Ballydull
people find interesting in the way of gossip might surprise you.
For instance, any news about the Parish Priest - however trivial
- is sensational stuff in Ballydull. That the Parish Priest went
to the doctor, or that the Parish Priest went to the supermarket,
or that - God forbid - the Parish Priest is going to retire is
all big news in Ballydull.
And why wouldn't it be? Isn't the
Parish Priest, Father Tomás, the man responsible for getting
us all into Heaven. And if you've ever been to a Munster Final,
I needn't tell you getting into Heaven is no joke. Mark my words,
there will be a lot of people turned away at the gate, and they
won't be able to watch the proceedings on TV in a nearby pub either!
But I was talking about gossip in
Ballydull. And as you'd expect not all gossip in Ballydull is
about the P.P. You might in fact expect the hottest gossip in
Ballydull to be of a scandalous nature; but there you would be
quite wrong. To grab the attention of a Ballydull man or woman
leaning over the garden gate, out for a walk or having a drink
in the pub, it's no use talking about sex, politics or the latest
This is Ballydull, after all! And
what Ballydull people most like to hear is news of illness, disease
and death. Start talking about back-pain, rheumatoid arthritis,
shingles, TB, pleurisy, pneumonia, cancer of the colon, strokes
and heart-attacks and a Ballydull man will listen to you for hours
and go away thinking you're a most intelligent, most interesting
What a Ballydull man most wants to
hear is that somebody is actually dying. That's really hot news!
And phrases with an air of finality about them such as "That's
the way!", "It's only a matter of time!" and "I
suppose they'll be flying in from England?" are eating and
drinking to a Ballydull man. In truth, there are only three questions
which perplex Ballydull people: Who is going to win the Novice
Championship? Who is going to buy the Three Swallows public-house?
And who is next for removal?
THE MOST DRAMATIC DAY IN BALLYDULL
Opinion differs as to what was the
most dramatic day in Ballydull. Some say 'twas the day a woman
first appeared in Ballydull wearing slacks. The woman in question
Mrs Binchy of Binchy's public-house - now O'Mahony's bar and lounge
- had been reading them foreign magazines and nothing would stop
her one sunny day but to appear ever so briefly at the open door
of her public-house in a pair of black & grey striped slacks.
Consternation spread throughout the village, and everybody was
asking everybody else, "Did you see Mrs Binchy and she wearing
a man's trousers?"
Others say the most dramatic day
in Ballydull was the day they installed a condom machine in the
toilet of O'Mahony's public-bar...and the old parish priest, Father
Cuddy, went mad with a Kango hammer, causing £2,000 worth
of structural damage to O'Mahony's and the neighbouring dwelling,
while shouting all the while, "As long as I am parish priest,
the only rubbers in Ballydull will be - wellingtons!"
But for my money the most dramatic
day or rather most dramatic night in Ballydull was the night the
new school-master, Ted Hanlon, brought a new computer to Ballydull
and put it on display in the Community Hall. The new computer
was actually an old computer - a first-generation model in fact
- and a very cumbersome, heavy piece of machinery it was; and
it took an awful lot of pushing and shoving and sweating to get
the computer in the door of the hall and up on stage. But, eventually,
Ted Hanlon was able to stand proudly between Fr. Tomás
Healy the Parish Priest and the latest oracle, the new computer;
and Ted was able to tell the people with the superior air of all
school-teachers that the computer was able to answer any question
under the sun.
And so the crowd in attendance began
to throw questions at the computer. In what country is Addis Ababa?
What year was Muhammad Ali born? Who won the 1957 Grand National?
And the computer answered authoritatively and correctly every
time. But, then, a bunch of lads at the back of the hall got fed
up of the constant airing of questions followed by a predictably
correct answer from the computer; and one of the lads decided
to ask the computer: "Who put Mary Coakley in the family
The school-master got very angry
indeed, as he shouted over the uproar: "That is not a scientific
question! The computer only answers scientific questions. Another
But, just then, Father Tomás
the P.P. put out his hand and waved it downwards to indicate that
he wanted silence, and a great silence came over the crowd. In
the otherwise perfect silence the P.P. spoke: "Our school-master
has assured us that this technological marvel before us can answer
any question under the sun; and I think it right and proper that
this same technological marvel be afforded the opportunity of
answering the difficult, if salacious question of the young gentleman
in the audience."
Ted Hanlon the school-master was
left with no choice but to feed the question to the computer,
namely the question 'Who put Mary Coakley in the family way?'
The tension was deadly as the old-fashioned computer whirred and
buzzed and clicked in an effort to come with an answer to this
most difficult of questions. Finally, the ticker-tape with the
answer came out of the old machine; and the school-master, who
was quite flustered by this stage, unthinkingly read out the answer:
"Fr. Tomás Healy."
Needless to say, there was bedlam
with this announcement. And the school-master maintains to this
day that it was all the rough-handling his computer received on
the way into the Community Hall which so upset the machine; but,
no matter, this was the first and last computer to appear in Ballydull.
And the whole event has gone down in folk-lore, so much so that
if you ever say anything to a Ballydull-man which strikes him
as particularly odd, he will say to you: "You're as wrong
as Ted Hanlon's computer!"
THE ESSENTIAL FASHION ITEM
The essential fashion item in Ballydull
is a Farah pants. You might remember those Farah pantses: they
were jeans of a sort that a person with notions of respectability
and standing might wear without being seen to wear jeans as such.
The fundamental appeal of a Farah pants to someone caught between
the demands of fashion and the demands of respectability still
holds good in Ballydull.
A Ballydull man likes his Farah pants.
No Ballydull man in a Farah pants is likely to be mistaken for
a drug-dealer or a T.V producer. In its own way a Farah pants
is the stuff of the soil: unpretentious. And these Farah pantses
are versatile. You can just about feed your bull calf while you
are wearing your Farah pants and then proceed, without change
of costume, to an interview with your bank-manager. Like I say,
You might be familiar with that T.V.
commercial that goes: "I have a headache, I'm late for work
and where's the Paracetamol?". In Ballydull things are a
little different, and the morning utterances of a Ballydull man
are more likely to be: "I have a hangover, I'm late for signing
on and where's my Farah pants?"
TACITURNITY IN BALLYDULL
Some people blame the English, other
people blame the famine; but, one way or the other, the fact is
Ballydull-people are either very guarded or else very restricted
in what they have to say. In other words, Ballydull people are
as tight with words as they are with their money. They don't give
Once, a plain-clothes detective from
Dublin Castle was in Ballydull investigating a big robbery; and
he stood on Main Street Ballydull and he asked a passer-by: "Is
this the Post Office?" "Are you looking for a stamp?"
asked the passer-by, by way of reply. Needless to say the plainclothes
detective didn't make much progress in his investigations, and
he went back to Dublin a sorry man, with a very low opinion of
Ballydull-people as being the most ignorant, most clannish people
There was another Ballydull-man -
a farmer - who responded to every situation in life with one of
two statements: either "That's right!" or else "I
suppose so". For instance, if you ever said anything to this
farmer and there was the slightest possibility that he could agree
with you, he was more than
happy to say: "That's right!" But, if you said something
to this farmer which he couldn't under any circumstances agree
with, he still couldn't bring himself to contradict you, and he
would say to you: "I suppose so".
On one occasion this farmer met another
Ballydull-farmer, a famous hypochondriac, and the hypochondriac-farmer
said: "I'm dying!" Clearly our hero, the first farmer
who ever only spoke two sentences couldn't say to the hypochondriac
"That's right!" so he had no choice but to reply: "I
suppose so". There was a moment's silence and then they both
TOM BEASLEY - THE REAL KING
Doubtless, you've heard of Elvis
Presley the Memphis truck-driver and entertainer... But did you
ever hear of Tom Beasley the Ballydull cattle-haulier and cabaret
artiste. There are people in Ballydull who maintain that Elvis
Presley made his millions by copying every move that Tom Beasley
made. They may have a point.
When Tom Beasley recorded 'Bed and
Breakfast Hang-over', Elvis went straight into the studio and
recorded Heartbreak Hotel; when Tom Beasley recorded 'Don't Step
On My Brown Hush Puppies' Elvis cunningly went and recorded Blue
This shameless plagiarism continued
on for years, and I won't bore you with the details, except to
say by way of showing what a lying, cheating, thieving, liardly
impostor Elvis Presley was that when Tom Beasley had his first
hit and built a luxury bungalow on a half-acre site outside Ballydull
and called his new homestead "Grasslands", Elvis couldn't
contain his jealousy and bought a little mansion in Memphis, which,
as you all know, he called "Gracelands". "Grasslands"
- "Gracelands" ! - That's how far Elvis Presley's twisted
mind went in his attempts to imitate Tom Beasley.
And it is a curious thing, a thing
that would make you more superstitious than suspicious that, after
Tom Beasley died, people in Ballydull refused to accept that Tom
Beasley was actually dead. About a year after Tom Beasley was
buried, reports began to appear in the Ballydull News & Star
of sightings of Tom Beasley. One farmer said he saw Tom Beasley
carrying a lorry load of TB reactors to the factory under license
from the Department; but that couldn't be the case, because Tom
Beasley was banned for years by the Department from transporting
reactors, after a famous incident when Tom sold the carcasses
of an entire herd from a de-populated farm - 150 cattle in all
- for the home deep-freeze market in Ballydull.
Another party - a Ballydull housewife
- said she saw Tom Beasley a month after his Anniversary Mass
driving by in his lorry with the window down and he singing 'You
ain't nothing but a sheepdog', with the cattle in the back bellowing
for accompaniment. But I don't believe that either - Tom Beasley
never sang for pleasure, but for money and money only. And personally
I think Tom Beasley is as dead as Elvis and that's dead enough
THE SECOND-SMARTEST MAN IN BALLYDULL
The smartest man in Ballydull is
the Parish Priest. He even writes books...big books...with big
rockers of words in them. But the
second-smartest man in Ballydull can only be the school-master.
His general knowledge is amazing...
Not alone does the school-master
know the name of the Pharaoh at the time of the building of the
Great Pyramid of Cheops, he also knows the name of the man who
served as head foreman on the site...before and after they opened
One day the school-master was talking
to a past-pupil of his, and the past-pupil had just returned from
working in the Middle East, and the same
past-pupil in his shiny white suit was inclined to boast quite
a bit. Funny thing, the school-master remembered the past-pupil
in question as one of his less promising subjects, and it was
very painful now for the school-master to hear him go on about
what a fabulous time he had in Kuwait and Amman and Cairo. Eventually
the school-master had heard enough, and he asked his boastful
"Were you ever in Algebra?"
"No", replied the past-pupil,
"but I passed within ten miles of it!"
ANOTHER BALLYDULL PROBLEM
Ballydull people will know what I
am on about here. A visitor from England or America calls to the
house, and in the middle of the festivities he asks, "Where
is the loo?" or "Where is the water-closet?" And,
of course, there is always somebody a little bit smart, a little
bit coarse, and they take the visitor outside the front door and
they point proudly to the open countryside and say: "There
Once, a Ballydull-man who had made
good in America came home to visit his parents and, seeing the
situation, he instantly called in the builders to install a luxury
bathroom in the old home place. Then nothing would stop him but
to hold a barbecue in his old home-place before he returned to
States. And as the barbecue was in full swing, he said to his
father: "Ain't it grand to be eating out under the stars!"
But the father wasn't so impressed, and he simply said to his
son: "Ye have a funny way of doing things in America: ye
eat outside the house, and ye crap inside!"
MORE BALLYDULL NIHILSM
I repeat never ask for directions
in Ballydull. For the Ballydull man or woman will say to you:
"You see that road further on the left, beyond the farmhouse
with the blue galvanised iron on the haybarn. It's not that road
THE OLD VALUES
Jim Smith, the proprietor of Smith's
Food-store, is a good businessman. But there are some things Jim
finds very hard to understand, like why would anybody want to
eat yoghurt. Jim always gets a good laugh when somebody comes
into his store and purchases a carton or cartons of yoghurt; and
Jim gets very serious and very talkative when anybody is in the
actual process of purchasing yoghurt. "Ah, Mrs Byrne, strawberry
yoghurt for yourself, six petits filous for the young monsters,
and hazelnut yoghurt for himself! Very Healthy!" And as soon
as Mrs Byrne has her back turned, Jim Smith is laughing heartily
at the foolishness of people. That's Jim Smith for you, an
unpretentious Ballydull man, one of whose jobs as a young fella'
was feeding separated milk to calves and who can't understand
that people are now eating it.
And as for bottled mineral water,
Jim often lies back in his bed at night laughing out loud at the
I ask a very serious question, a
very serious question indeed. What is an alcoholic? Certainly,
in Ballydull we have our own ideas as to what constitutes an alcoholic.
A psychiatrist may say that a man
who needs five pints and two shorts every night is an alcoholic.
In Ballydull we say nothing of the sort. A man who drinks five
pints and two shorts nightly is what we in Ballydull call a lemonade-drinker,
that is a fellow only one step removed from a complete
pioneer, in other words a complete killjoy who you would be ashamed
to be seen talking to.
A man who takes nine pints a night
is what we in Ballydull call "a man who likes a drop".
Not a serious drinker by any means; but a decent sort of bloke
who'd probably dip his hand in his pocket to support the Ballydull
Hurling Club and give 50p to a child while he was at it.
You might be inclined to say that
a man on fifteen pints per night was over-doing it a bit. But
we in Ballydull wouldn't agree. In Ballydull the fifteen pints
per night man is a man. The sort of man who would have died for
Ireland, if he hadn't spent so long in the toilet.
Surely, surely, you will say that
even a Ballydull-man would agree that a fellow who drinks eighteen
pints a night is nothing short of an alcoholic. But there again
you would be wrong. A man who drinks eighteen pints a night is
not, is not an alcoholic. No. He's a man with a problem. Not a
drink problem, mind you; but a problem. It could be a problem
with his wife, a problem with his health, a financial problem,
a problem with his neighbour, or a problem doing the easy crossword.
But never a drink problem as such.
Of course a man who drinks twenty
pints a night is a man with a big problem. There are even those
in Ballydull who would describe a man who swallows twenty pints
a night as a semi-alcoholic, no offence to anybody reading this.
Finally, finally, you might say that
a man who drinks twenty-four pints a day is surely an alcoholic.
But once again you'd be wrong. A man who drinks twenty-four pints
a day in Ballydull is a man with a throat. There are a few men
with throats in Ballydull - but NO alcoholics as such.
BALLYDULL FOR EXCITEMENT
Young people from foreign parts sometimes
ask: What do people do for excitement in Ballydull? There is an
implication with this question that people want for excitement
in Ballydull; but, as I always say, New York - London - Paris
are only cities, but Ballydull is a place where you are
accepted in your own right, accepted as long as you can open your
mouth to take a slug of Guinness, accepted as long as you can
proceed to utter some sort of guttural noise, which Ballydull-people
will understand perfectly and take to mean
You're not feeling too bad,
The weather is terrible,
Ballydull still have a chance in the championship,
The country is finished,
And would you get me a pint.
And quite apart from being a place
that is tolerant of it's own kind, be they of modest I.Q., little
I.Q., no I.Q. or sub zero I.Q., down-town Ballydull is a hot,
happening place with a night-life second to none. Consider an
average week in Ballydull...
On Monday night there's bingo and
tombola in the Parochial Hall, with tea and Marietta biscuits
served at the interval. On Tuesday night Sister Anthony shows
slides of her trip to the Holy Land in the Parochial Hall. Apart
from her obvious religious interests, Sister Anthony is a keen
botanist and in-between shots of the thatched cottage where Jesus
was born, the Christian Brother Synagogue where he went to school
and the garden where he was arrested during Easter week, you are
bound to see some thrilling slides of the wild flowers of Palestine.
Tea and Marietta biscuits
served on the night.
Wednesday night is the traditional
night 'inside' in Ballydull. Watch a bit of telly, have tea and
Marietta biscuits before you retire and thank God you were born
in Ballydull where your right to remain as ignorant as a donkey
looking out over a ditch on a damp day is respected in custom
and law. Thursday night there's a Karate class in the Old Parochial
Hall, conducted by the new curate the energetic Father Kiely,
who remembers injured, hospitalised and violently deceased members
of the club at end of evening prayer - just before the tea and
Marietta biscuits are served.
You might consider all these events just a little old-fashioned
and as interesting as a Marietta biscuit dunked in a cup of cold
tea; but please remember you have the opportunity every night
in Ballydull of getting paralytic drunk. And most do just that
on Friday night - dole-night - when
the four Ballydull pubs are every bit a hectic as a Tokyo sub-way
in the grip of a nerve-gas attack.
And there's nothing at all old-fashioned
about the blue movies they show in O'Mahony's on a Saturday night,
when open-mouthed locals cheer and throw their caps in the air
at the pornographic equivalent of Ballydull Novice scoring the
winning goal in injury time against their arch-rivals
Kilnadreary. Sunday is, admittedly, a rather quiet day in Ballydull;
and, if it's raining, as it's very likely to be, you might as
well spend the whole day in bed, getting up in the evening to
fry a few spuds and shave (if you feel like it) before heading
out for another night - and another week - on the tare in dear
old Ballydull, where, long before the experts, they appreciated
the virtues of a liquid diet.
THE PHLEGMATIC BALLYDULL MAN
What does a Ballydull man say when
the foreman hands him his cards?
I was coming for them anyway.
What does a Ballydull man say to
the waiter who only serves one potato for dinner?
Take them up - they're boiled.
What does a Ballydull man say after
selling land / cattle / sheep / pigs?
Well, I didn't get as much as I expected
but then I never thought I would.
And what does a Ballydull man say
to the drunk who maintains there's cows beneath the sea?
There's probably silage-pits there
THE PRIEST AND THE BISHOP
Father Tomás Healy, the P.P.
in Ballydull, is a fair man. But he is known to take offence at
certain manner of behaviour and certain manner of talk. And God
help the man or woman who offends Father Tomás Healy.
Strange to say, one of the people
who has a talent for offending Father Tomás is the Bishop.
Recently Father Tim was celebrating his Golden Jubilee amid a
gathering of lay-people and clergy including the Bishop; and the
Bishop decided to tell a joke. The Bishop's joke went as follows:
A rabbi and a priest used to meet
every year on a train, and invariably the rabbi would enquire
after the priest's nephew. The rabbi was very impressed one year
when the priest was able to tell him that his nephew had just
got ordained. The next year the rabbi enquired after the priest's
nephew again, and did he get a surprise when he heard the nephew
had become a parish priest. The following year the rabbi made
the same enquiry, and was he astounded to hear that the priest's
nephew had become a bishop. The next year the rabbi enquired after
the priest's nephew again; and the priest proudly told him that
his nephew had become a Cardinal. And the year after that the
rabbi made the same enquiry only to learn that the priest's ambitious
nephew had been made Pope
The year after the rabbi heard the
news that the priest's nephew had been made Pope the rabbi and
the priest met once again on the train. And in the time-honoured
fashion the rabbi enquired after the priest's nephew.
"He's still Pope," replied the priest in a very self-satisfied
"Is that all?" asked the suddenly testy rabbi.
"Well you can't expect him to become God," remonstrated
"Well, one of our boys made it!" said the rabbi triumphantly.
I have to say that the lay-people
of Ballydull and assorted clergy greeted the Bishop's joke with
only polite laughter. And not laughing at all was Father Tomás
Healy, who took double offence at the Bishop's joke... Firstly,
he considered the joke to be irreligious; and secondly, rightly
or wrongly, he couldn't but be reminded of his own nephew who
left Ireland under a cloud as they say and was now wanted in America
for selling the Golden Gate Bridge.
Very annoyed with his own Bishop
was Father Tomás Healy, and when Father Tim's turn came
to do a party piece, he didn't do his usual number and sing 'The
Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly' but purposely decided to tell a
Father Tomás' joke went as
follows: Once upon a time in a diocese far, far away there was
this bishop who was constantly hearing that the priests of the
diocese gave very boring sermons. The bishop decided to remedy
this situation and began to advise the clergy of his diocese about
the composition of their sermons. The bishop called on one old
priest who was notorious for the boring sermons he gave, mostly
about his own aches and pains.
"You know, Joe," the bishop
said to the old priest, "if you want people to
be interested in your sermons, you ought to say something startling.
Something startling like 'Last night I was in the arms of a beautiful
And then towards the end of the sermon you can reveal
that the beautiful woman was your mother; and the congregation
will go away happy thinking that you gave a most interesting sermon".
The old parish priest decided to
try out the bishop's advice, and the following Sunday he commenced
his sermon with the immortal line 'Last night I was in the arms
of a beautiful woman'. And needless to say the congregation was
astounded to hear this and were all agog as to what the priest
would say next. Unfortunately, when the time came to give the
entirely innocent explanation for the startling statement with
which he begun his sermon, the old parish priest forgot himself
and he couldn't remember the exact advice the bishop had given.
The old parish priest then became very flustered, making his congregation
suspicious that there was another revelation on the way.
"I've got it, I've got it," exclaimed the priest at
last - "last night I was in the arms of the bishop's mother."
Hearing this joke, the lay-people
of Ballydull broke into loud laughter and someone shouted, "You
know how to tell 'em, Father Tomás!" And I can tell
you that later in the night it was a very sour faced Bishop who
on behalf of Ballydull Community Council presented Father Tomás
Healy with a colour TV.
THE POPE IN BALLYDULL
It's a little known fact but in the
course of his visit to Ireland in '79 the Pope put in an appearance
- an undignified appearance - in Ballydull. He had just made his
appeal to the I.R.A. to lay down their arms and was leaving Drogheda,
when he suddenly decided he wanted to go to the Limerick races.
He was in receipt of information from a Cork Examiner journalist
about a 'dead cert.' running in the 4.30 and he was convinced
that if the chauffeur put the foot on the pedal they might just
about make it.
"Faster, faster" or "Yaster,
yaster" the Pope kept telling the chauffeur as they tore
through the towns of Ashbourne and Lucan. But,by the time they
got to Naas, the Pope's impatience with his chauffeur had reached
boiling-point. So, in the middle of a traffic jam in Naas he ordered
the chauffeur out of the driving seat and took the wheel himself.
The towns of Monasteravin, Abbeyleix and Urlingford were but a
blur to the terrified ex-chauffeur as the Pope steered the car
at speeds of 120 mph plus. The Pope looked like fulfilling his
ambition of making the 4.30 at Limerick when the Thurles white-squad
spotted this limousine doing a hundred and fifty and naturally
they decided to give chase. Suddenly the Pope's whimsical ambition
of making the 4.30 in limerick was no more, as he became altogether
obsessed with evading arrest.
His new obsession was to dictate
both the speed at which he drove and the now random itinerary
he took, careering through Tipperary, Cahir, Ballymadra, Kilbeggar
and Kilnadreary at speeds of 160 mph
until, eventually, he
was forced to bring the car to a full stop behind a massive combine-harvester
taking up most of the Ballydull by-road. The white squad had him
But when the white-squad Garda went
about making the arrest, the white-squad Garda suddenly looked
more worried than forbidding and there and then he made the political
decision of radioing the local Marshville guards about the delicate
situation in hand.
"We have a very important customer
here" he explained to the Marshville Sergeant.
"Is he a T.D.?" asked the sergeant nervously.
"More important than that," replied the white-squad
"Is he the Taoiseach? Asked the sergeant more nervously.
"More important than that," replied the white-squad
Garda almost superiorly.
"Is he the head of the U.N.?" asked the sergeant letting
impatience get the better of his nervousness.
"No, he's more important than that," answered the white-squad
Garda on the radio line, "indeed he must be really important
because the Pope is driving him!"
DR JOHN JOE TWOMEY - THE BALLYDULL
Whatever you say about John Joe Twomey,
you have to admit he's well got. Isn't he a nephew of old Joe
Twomey the famous Ballydull inventor? They said Shakespeare was
mad; they said Beethoven was mad; and they said Old Joe Twomey
was mad. Old Joe Twomey was mad! But his nephew John Joe Twomey
is as sound as the Rock of Gibraltar. And a clever young man if
ever there was one.
Doctor John Joe Twomey we call him
in Ballydull. Now, it should be understood that we don't use the
word 'Doctor' in this context by way of nickname; for as far as
we are concerned Doctor John Joe is every bit as good as a real
doctor. And what about his qualifications, I hear you say
indeed before you said it I knew you were going to say it! And
if I might be allowed to reply, I can say that Doctor John Joe
Twomey has qualifications to beat the band.
When the Professor came out from
the city and conducted a Social Science course in Ballydull GAA
Hall, didn't our John Joe come first in the class! And by way
of general compliment to the standard of learning in Ballydull,
didn't the Professor say that it proved a Herculean task to teach
the citizens of Ballydull anything. High praise indeed! Ah yes,
I hear you say, but where did John Joe Twomey get the qualifications
to practise medicine?
And I say John Joe Twomey got his
qualifications by watching, watching the cows come home in the
evening to be milked, watching the clouds darken before rain,
watching the web-weaving of the spider and watching the workings
of the bee-hive - a third-level education in itself. I'm saying
in other words that John Joe was a 'natural'. A natural doctor.
Of course, it wasn't long before
John Joe became quite bored with general medicine. As he said
himself, "Any five-eight can fix a dodgy radiator, any five-eight
can repair a banjaxed TV, and any five-eight can perform open-heart
surgery; but it takes a particular class of lunatic to become
a psychiatrist!" This was good ol' John Joe's typically self-deprecating
way of telling the world that he was leaving the world of general
medicine behind him, and that from now on he would become the
first of his family to take on at a professional level the care
and cure of diseases of the mind.
This was no rash decision of the
good doctor. As he explained himself at the time: "You can
go into a pub in Ballydull any night of the week and you can plainly
see that the population of Ballydull are clearly a physically
healthy bunch of people; but you won't be long into your second
pint before the thought strikes you that the regular clientele
of this typical Ballydull pub are bonkers. And seeing this for
myself, seeing that those who frequented the Ballydull pubs were
raving mad, and knowing that those in Ballydull who didn't frequent
the pubs but went to Bingo instead were Bonkers with a capital
B, I said to myself there is clearly no demand in Ballydull for
GPs, health-nurses and blood-pressure clinics, but Ballydull is
crying out for psychiatrists."
And who would argue with that? Certainly
not the people of Ballydull who began to flock to Doctor John
Joe Twomey as soon as he began to practise as a psychiatrist.
And what was it that brought people in such numbers to the door
of Doctor John Joe Twomey, psychiatrist? Some say that what marked
Doctor John Joe out from other practitioners was that John Joe
was a great listener. You could tell your average psychiatrist
that you were worried sick over a bullock of yours that was down
with pneumonia and this psychiatrist would hastily write you out
a prescription for a big jar of Tolvon tablets for yourself and
completely ignore the real problem - the bullock. But as measure
of John Joe's expertise as a psychiatrist he will completely ignore
your history and proceed to compel you into the disclosure of
a most detailed and intimate history of the bullock!
Of course, Doctor John Joe is no
slouch either when it comes to the prescribing of medicine. And
there are people in Ballydull and Kilnadreary and beyond who maintain
that Doctor John Joe is the most gifted pharmacologist the world
has ever seen. And Doctor John Joe himself makes no secret of
his great contempt for the pharmacological talents of his rivals,
the General Practitioners in Ballydull and neighbouring parishes.
Incomprehension is the word that best defines Doctor John Joe's
attitude to the prescriptive habits of other General Practitioners
in the area
"These doctors are mad,"
he's often known to say, "tell them you're unhappy with the
weather and before you can say Jack Robinson they are writing
out a prescription for little white rocks of tablets that you
couldn't break with a sledgehammer. And the craziest part of all
is that, once swallowed, these little white rocks are notorious
for creating an unquenchable thirst - as if anybody in Ballydull
had a need for a savage thirst induced by artificial means
they happen to be born with it!"
Time and time again a patient of
one of these sad doctors decides enough is enough and seeks out
the help of Doctor John Joe, and even though such a patient is
barely able to speak with the thirst and is, besides, dog-sick
from drinking TK lemonade, Doctor John Joe Twomey is able to make
an instant diagnosis and speedily write out a prescription for
20 Benson & Hedges, 6 pints of Heineken and a double vodka,
nocte. And Doctor John Joe always warns such a patient to come
back to his clinic within the fortnight, in order that he - the
physician - might decide whether it is a case of 'first-time lucky'
and the existing dose is the optimum dose or, if it is not, proceed
to increase "the medication".
In the telephone box in the village
of Ballydull there is a sign that reads: In case of emergency,
ring 61796, for priest, doctor or hurler.
Only people from the city could have
a problem with this notice. And indeed it would take a very black
atheist from the city to object to the importance, the precedence
given the figure of the priest in this notice. A man or woman
who is in danger of dying in Ballydull knows full well that a
doctor only stands at best an even money chance of saving their
life; but the same grievously ill man or woman knows that, if
the doctor is given precedence and he fails (and he's bound to
fail eventually), it's a very poor look-out for this man or woman's
immortal soul. And everybody in Ballydull has a tactual appreciation
of immortality, of Eternity.
Everybody knows from their schooldays
that Eternity is like a huge rock-mountain visited once every
thousand years by a bird of the air; and every time this bird
touches down ever so briefly on this rock-mountain, the friction
between the bird's feet and the rock surface has the effect of
wearing away a tiny, tiny portion of the rock surface of the mountain;
and the duration of Eternity is therefore the length of time it
takes this migratory bird to wear away this vast mountain to nothing.
In the light of this awesome imagery
the question who should take precedence at the sick-bed of a Ballydull
man or woman, the question should it be a priest or a doctor is
really no question at all. The doctor, at best, can keep you going
for another few miserable, rain-sodden years in Ballydull, and
in each of these years it's a certainty that Ballydull will go
out in the first round of the championship, and neither will there
be any joy in the autumn when once again the harvest in the family-farm
is washed away with the flood, prompting further lamentation
enough to make one wish for Eternity! And this is where the priest
comes in, this is where the priest triumphs over the temporal
remedy-maker; for the priest dispenses or doesn't dispense (as
he sees fit) the Privilege to witness the long-awaited, joyful
return of the above-described bird-of-Eternity's return to the
mountain again and again each millennial Spring.
In fairness, the doctors in Ballydull
and district know their place. They may still be greeted in the
street by old-timers doffing their caps in their direction, an
act of respect which even old-timers no longer afford the clergy.
But the doctors know from experience that, when it comes to the
sick and the dying, their services are secondary to the services
of the same clergy. And lackeys of real-politick that they are,
the doctors go out of their way to acknowledge the real status
The first question a doctor attending
a sick person is likely to ask is: "Have you sent for a priest?"
And like every question the doctors ask, this question is many-pronged.
For one thing, the doctor knows that should the ailing patient
answer Yes, they have sent for the priest, chances are that the
patient is not a malingerer. And malingering is a big problem
What with people feigning the symptoms of concurring
typhoid pneumonia, bubonic plague and rabies, in gallant effort
to set themselves up for life with a disability pension. I could
tell you stories!
It is, moreover, quite a comfort
to a doctor on a sick call to know that the priest has been to
the patient or it is on his way. In this way, the doctor can be
confident that the most he or she can be accused of is causing
the premature death of the patient, and by the same token he or
she will be absolved of the far more serious charge of depriving
the patient of eternal life.
So far there is no problem. Ballydull
people in their sick bed like to be visited by the priest and
a doctor, in that order. But even the city dweller most sympathetic
to rustic culture will be inclined to ask: Where is the logic
in the requirement of a hurler at the bedside of a Ballydull man
or woman whose life hangs in the balance?
The use of hurlers at the bedside
of a seriously ill patient is an innovation unique to Ballydull,
an innovation of which we are justly proud - it being our local
contribution to the science of alternative medicine. For we have
found that the presence of a hurler at the bedside of a dying
patient - a hurler telling glorious stories of his pole-axing
opponents on the playing field - can have a remarkably invigorating
effect on the patient. Indeed, many such a dying patient on hearing
graphic tales of Kilnadreary men and Dromduller men being stretchered
off the hurling field and leaving such a trail of blood in their
wake that the referee has great subsequent difficulty in discerning
any of the white lines so carefully white-washed into the grass
the previous day, indeed many a dying patient on hearing these
tales of gore and glory from a hurler's own lips 'decides' he
won't bother dying after all and will stick it out for the first
round of the championship. Ballydull has justly come to value
the services of a hurler at the bedsides of the sick.
But I have to make one small criticism
here. Some of the new breed of hurlers are a disgrace to the game.
And a disgrace to Ballydull! Instead of learning how to flake
the ball and flake the opposition, they are more conscious of
what they call their 'image'. These fellows prance around with
fake Rolex watches on their wrists - and they're good for nothing!
And these fancy men that call themselves hurlers are particularly
obnoxious when called to the bedside of a sick patient. Instead
of waiting for their moment, as it were, and allow the priest
and doctor conclude their ministrations to the sick, they push
the priest and the doctor aside as they exclaim the likes of:
"Let me at the patient, I want to tell him about the goal
I scored against Drumduller in the '93 Coca Cola Tournament"
or " The patient has got to hear about the time I knocked
six Kilnadreary men and the referee unconscious."
NO AMBIVALENCE IN BALLYDULL
Some people put about the slander
that the Ballydull people are partial to the lads and the armed
struggle. This is slander indeed. The Ballydull people are 200%
behind the peace process. Of course, if you were at a Wolfe Tones
concert of a night, and you were rightly tanked up on Carling
and whiskey, and you sensed the fellow beside you was not joining
in the chorus as it were (and note that you can always tell a
West Brit by a certain squint in his eyes), and sensing that this
fellow was not a hundred per cent behind the Republic and spotting
the squint in his eyes, well then wouldn't you be tempted to grab
him tight by the throat and squeeze his wind-pipe within a quarter-inch
THE GAA AND THE MEDIA
The newspapers are only interested
in soccer, Royalty and sex! And that goes for the Dublin newspapers
and the Cork Examiner. And now the local newspapers are going
the same slimy way, with their madly exaggerated anti-GAA stories.
Just recently the Ballydull News & Star reported under a banner
headline that a Ballydull player had been seriously and maliciously
injured in training. And, of course, the national media picked
up on the story, with Marian Finucane asking how many stitches
the player in question got and when were they coming out?
But I can say emphatically that this
story about a Ballydull player maliciously injured in training
was a pack of lies. I am not denying, of course, that the Ballydull
full-forward Joe 'Elbows' Fleming received severe lacerations
to the left shoulder, a fractured nose and a serious knee injury.
I am not denying that, at all! But, like the fellow in those English
Murder-Mysteries who knows 'twas the butler did it, I know who
did it, I know who did it to Joe Fleming.
'Twas the cow that did it!'
'Modern Times' have come to Ballydull!
In the old days it was the pilgrimage of a lifetime for a Ballydull-man
to go to the All-Ireland Final in Croke Park and see the sights
of Dublin. But now, if you listen attentively to conversation
of the fashionably dressed folk in the Ballydull pubs, you will
realise that Ballydull people no longer set their sights on going
to the All-Ireland. No. They hope to go to Dublin and take in
I think I can pin-point the precise
moment the modern age began to impinge on Ballydull. It was August
1979 and stories of the anti-Nuclear Power festival in Carnsore
Point were all over the newspapers. Not of much concern to a Ballydull-man
you might think. But Billy Joe Keogh the Ballydull carpenter was
always a bit different, in that - like nearly all tradesmen -
he was a bit Bolshie, a bit lefty. And about this time Billy Joe
happened to be constructing a 'draw-drum', this being a multi-angled
container for raffle tickets for Ballydull GAA club. And the construction
of this 'draw-drum' was not going according to Billy Joe's wishes,
and beside him on the bench there just happened to be a two-day-old
copy of the Evening Herald full of news of the impending festival
in Carnsore. Now, Billy Joe had read this copy of the Herald earlier
in the day and left it at that, but now in his frustration didn't
he give a sideways glance at the newspaper and quite suddenly
decide he wanted to go to Carnsore Point. Billy Joe mentioned
this strange idea to his mate, and his mate - being no bright
spark and anxious for any excuse to leave the workplace - agreed
that it was a capital idea. So there and then Billy Joe and his
mate decided to down tools and head off for Carnsore. But first
Billy Joe had to tell the wife!
When Billy got Back to his house,
he was a little disappointed to discover that the wife was out,
the door was locked and he had no key; so he hastily wrote out
a note and stuck it to the door; and the note read "Gone
to Carnsore - back Tuesday". That was tempting fate, to say
the least of it. But worse was to follow.
I should mention here that Billy
Joe Keogh had a big moustache - I said he was a bit Bolshie -
and as you know from a certain distance all men with moustaches
look alike. Now, when Billy Joe and his mate returned from Carnsore
Point completely enthused by their adventures, Billy Joe was met
with an angry silence from his wife and Billy Joe and his mate
were both the object of stunned amazement by everybody in Ballydull.
Eventually the awful truth dawned on Billy Joe.
The sad fact was that, on the very
day the two adventurers returned from Carnsore, the Cork Examiner
published a big photograph on the front page of a group of people
of both sexes bathing in the nude at Carnsore Point, and worse
one of the men in the photograph had a moustache. The man with
the moustache in the photograph wasn't Billy Joe Keogh of course!
But Ballydull people were convinced it was; and it was lean rations
for Billy Joe for a month afterwards.
THE BALLYDULL NUTTY POETS' SOCIETY
"Anybody who describes his vocation
as a poet, purveying the modern style of formless verse, is invariably
among the meanest and most despicable in the land: vain, empty,
conceited, dishonest and dirty, often flea-ridden and infected
by venereal disease, greedy, parasitical, drunken, untruthful,
..all these repulsive qualities, and also irresistibly
attractive to women"
Auberon Waugh, Literary Review; quoted
in As The Poet Said, edited by Tony Curtis from Dennis O'Driscoll's
Poetry Ireland Review column .
As their name suggests - a name they
chose themselves - the members of Ballydull Nutty Poets' Society
are different. Why they even count a cleric - Father Milo Shaughnessy
- among their number. The dominant figure in the group is however
the feisty yet feminine, Mrs Maeve Kennedy. She's been all over
the world thanks to her day-job as a McDonald's P.R. consultant.
Not bad for a girl, as Melanie might say.
A certain arch wit typifies this
particular group of poets. For instance, frequently and perhaps
with a measure of sincerity, Father Milo declares:
"I am a celibate"
"And I am not a celibate," Mrs Kennedy interjects at
this point, to the kindly yet great amusement of the foot-soldiers
in this particular casualty-prone battalion. (More aspiring poets
have been dismissed from this society than workers are likely
to be sacked from a hotel owned by a Fine Gael councillor with
Fianna Fáil connections.)
Even if nobody else does, the members
of Ballydull Nutty Poets' Society value themselves. And so they
can't but entertain some grievances. For one thing, they were
not one bit pleased when they appeared on local radio and the
disc-jockey asked why their poems didn't rhyme. (Some of their
poems do.) And to make matters worse, off-air, the disc-jockey
asked Mrs Kennedy would she compose a ballad about the miraculous
cure of a heifer calf of his from yellow scour.
But the Ballydull Nutty Poets' Society's
biggest grievance is rather inevitably with the local branch of
the Gaelic Athletic Association. Recently this talented group
of poets set about hiring the G.A.A. hall for a poetry reading
of theirs. But they didn't stop at that. Instead of being of a
mind to simply pay the G.A.A. for the use of the hall and leave
well alone, they seriously set about having the social committee
of Ballydull G.A.A. club sponsor the meal and refreshments for
the evening. And believe you me, this talented bunch of poets
weren't thinking of tea and Marietta biscuits. No, they wanted
the G.A.A. catering-woman, Mrs Assumpta 'Thatcher'
Daly to serve up a truly exotic meal consisting of delicacies
from four continents, including freshly shot grouse to be flown
in from Scotland.
I can tell you the secretary of the
social committee of the Ballydull G.A.A. didn't as much as convey
this request to Mrs Daly; but instead, more in abject terror than
anger, he told this bunch of poets to take their business elsewhere.
I would like to report that negotiations are on-going and there
is hope of a peaceful settlement; but the truth of the matter
is that this request and subsequent refusal has caused more bad
feelings in the area than when some mischief-maker told Dick Colley,
the impecunious horse-trainer, that he wasn't paying various cottagers
for the use of their grass, and the very high and mighty Dick
Colley fell for this and accused Jim Kelly, cottager, as the former
was entering O'Mahony's and the latter was leaving same, of spreading
untruths about him.
Plato had the right idea: poets are
no better than spies and informers and anyone caught reading poetry
- not to mind writing it - should be tied to an E.S.B. pole and
ON A SERIOUS NOTE
Creativity is no armour against the
sin of greed; but a complete lack of creativity is an invitation
to greed of the most destructive kind.
And for the dire lack of creativity
in some quarters of rural Ireland, one can blame the educational
system, the vagaries of human personality and indeed - to some
degree - the human condition itself. But the creative instinct
never vacates the human heart. At best, at worst, it is displaced.
And in rural Ireland (where power is something remote, something
contained in the letters and people that come from town or city)
the preferred replacement for creativity denied is the accumulation
of money regardless of the consequences. Thus, you will have farmers
preferring to divert money that might otherwise go to the government
to agricultural or building contractors, even when the diverting
of such money results in no gain to the farmer but rather a marked
loss to the farmer's property - the land itself.
Maybe such farmers (and the educators
and advisors that so mislead them) will learn in time - or perhaps
not learn in time - the truth of that line in one North American
Indian prophecy that says - You cannot eat money.
BALLYDULL SCIENCE FICTION
People in Ballydull are getting very
worried about the Common Market or the EU as the people in suits
call it. The bosses in Brussels are changing the shape of the
banana, they're changing the shape of the money and before long
they'll be wanting us to go for head-transplants.
But the worst rumour to go around
Ballydull was that the bureaucrats in Brussels are planning to
ban, to proscribe tobacco and alcohol. And if you read the papers
conscientiously, you can't deny that there are moves afoot in
Can you picture it? The criminalisation
of tobacco and alcohol. A man is arrested coming over the Kilnadreary-Ballydull
border and is charged with being in possession of 10 Major and
a can of Murphy's. Serious charge! Six years? And, of course,
the defence will plead that the 10 Major were for the accused's
mother who never got over the death of her other son, tragically
and inexplicably killed in a joy-riding accident with a JCB. Mitigating
circumstances, but will the judge hear of it? Not at all, but
he will refer to the accused's mother - a sixty year old woman
- as a heinous dope fiend whose depravity has brought ruin to
her family and perhaps countless others in Ballydull; and he will
then proceed to impose the maximum sentence.
For all this I blame the man who
led us into the Common Market - Jack Lynch. A Cork-man, a hurler
and a pipe smoker, true! But a man de Valera never liked. And
if Dev didn't like you, the only decent thing to do was to put
a gun to your head, a cyanide tablet between your teeth and leave
a note beside your body saying that you were sorry but your father
was in the British Army and you enjoyed rugby matches.
VISIONS OF BALLYBRIGHT
P.J. Burke is a dreamer. But dreamers
are acceptable in Ballydull. As long as they take their Guinness
and draw their dole and live more or less within their means,
dreamers are mystics and are acceptable in Ballydull. And, after
he has a few pints taken, P.J. Burke's favourite dream, P.J. Burke's
favourite topic is of a fantastic place to which he gives the
name of Ballybright.
Ballybright is everything that Ballydull
In Ballybright nobody has to labour,
nobody has to work. Nobody has to endure the indignity of signing-on.
Nobody in Ballybright has ever heard of FÁS schemes (or
BÁS schemes as P.J. bitterly terms them). Ballybright is
the land of the minimum wage (or maximum wage as P.J. misconstrues
the phrase). And nobody has to as much as go and collect this
No. The minimum wage which is index-linked
to the cost of beer and tobacco and betting-tax is hand-delivered
to the Ballybright man's split-level bungalow twice a week. This
twice a week delivery of the minimum wage serving to eliminate
that dreadful condition that strikes present-day Ballydull-men
every Thursday when the dole-money has long run out, and there's
hunger in the belly and such a thirst in the throat that some
Ballydull-men even contemplate drinking water.
And in Ballybright, of course, the
twice-weekly delivery of this minimum wage to your door-step is
not executed by some mangy postman. Nor is this handsome cheque
handed over to you by some Social Welfare Officer with a face
so ugly and so sour that his mother must have turned her face
away every time she was nursing him. None of that!
In Ballybright this minimum wage
is handed to you in a gold-crested white envelope by a 'facilitator'
dressed in tiger-striped tights and cashmere jumper, who smiles
disarmingly as she asks whether you want the complimentary bottle
of champagne or the six-pack which is still the preferred tipple
in outlying areas of the parish.
You might think that this complimentary
bottle of champagne or six-pack is mere prelude to an almighty
booze-up down in your local in Ballybright and in this you would
not be greatly mistaken. Except that no Ballybright man would
be so coarse as to describe his twice-weekly 'marathon session'
as a booze-up. No. Ballybright men are a cultured lot and they
refer to their twice-weekly big drinking session as their habitual
Little Feasts of Bacchus.
A similar delicacy of expression,
indeed a corresponding elevation in the choice of subject matter
befalls the conversation of farmers in Ballybright. No Ballybright
farmer will spend all night in the pub talking about his cows
and expecting you to listen enthralled. Instead of talking about
frisky cows, cross cows and downright vicious cows, cows with
mastitis, cows with no mastitis and cows that might have mastitis,
our typical Ballybright farmer is an expert on French cinema and
fine wines. And if you are lucky, he will take the time to give
you a guided tour of his wine-cellar; and afterwards he will uncork
a decent vintage and ask you straight out not "Is Leo Yellow
still the best cure for mastitis?" But "Is the contemporary
engagement with the novel a mere idée fixe of a boorish
intelligentsia in symbiotical degeneration?" (Yes, it is!)
So far so good! But you might be
of the suspicion that the one solid fixture of Ballydull would
be a no less solid fixture in Ballybright. I speak of the Parish
Priest. Surely the Parish Priest in Ballybright would be your
same typical Irish Parish Priest with an interest in keeping parish
funds and neck-lines up and parish debts and hem-lines down? Alas,
my friend, they do everything different in Ballybright.
In Ballybright the priest of the
parish is not referred to as the Parish Priest, this being considered
too particular a term. The preferred alternative is to address
the priest by the more folksy, not to say classy title of 'Pater',
as in Pater Adrian. And as you would expect from a priest who
drives a Saab turbo, takes two foreign holidays annually and has
no interest in promoting bingo, Pater Adrian is a self-consistent
atheist. And the people of Ballybright are quite untroubled by
this. As long as the good wine flows, all is well.
And at night Ballybright truly comes
alive. As Romanian gypsy musicians entertain, assorted nationalities
and Ballybright folk themselves drink and dine on the sidewalks
of Ballybright beneath a seemingly perpetually full June moon.
And, amid the chatter and clatter, you can just about hear the
somewhat coercive tones of a worried Ballybright GAA official
- some things never change - you can just about overhear a worried
GAA official say: "We're a bit short for Sunday; we're putting
you centre-forward; bring your shin-guards, Gunter."
BALLYDULL REPRISE 1
Recognised and unrecognised 'delusions
of grandeur' are the norm in Ballydull. Consider the case of John
Sullivan (also known as Reics Carlo) who believed that he was
not alone a writer but also head of his own intelligence-gathering
organisation. Sadly, John Sullivan's intelligence-gathering had
very unhappy consequences for one Ballydull man. This particular
Ballydull man who shall remain nameless was in the habit of receiving
his daily newspaper a day after its publication, these day-old
copies of the newspaper coming into the Ballydull man's possession
thanks to the generosity of John Sullivan's father. (I needn't
tell you the nature of the problem that prevented the subject
of John Sullivan's father's generosity from buying his own newspaper.)
Tragedy ensued when John Sullivan began to take clippings from
the one newspaper on the day it arrived in the Sullivan household.
John of course was only innocently adding to his data file. But
the result of all this intelligence-gathering was that John Sullivan's
father's friend began to receive copies of a day-old newspaper
with an increasing number of holes in it. I don't know if you've
ever tried to read copies of a newspaper that is in the process
of vanishing before your eyes as it were; but you will understand
that this exercise can only be deleterious and you won't be surprised
to hear that John Sullivan's father's friend lost his sanity entirely.
So be warned! Never read a newspaper with holes in it.
BALLYDULL REPRISE 2
A Ballydull man was buying half a
head of cabbage in Kilnadreary. (The Ballydull countryside is
fine agricultural land, and you'd think you'd be able to buy half
a head of cabbage in Ballydull village, but you can't)
While the purchase of the cabbage was in progress the Ballydull
man and the proprietor chatted amicably. The Ballydull man brought
up the subject of a village some distance from Ballydull, this
being none other than the scenic village of Ballycrabit.
"I'd have nothing to do with
that parish" said the shopkeeper abruptly and most vehemently:
"all the women there are either camogie players or
"Well actually my daughter has
moved to Ballycrabit" said the Ballydull man testily.
"What position does she play
in?" asked the shopkeeper helpfully.
BALLYDULL REPRISE 3
A schoolteacher's working day in
Ballydull or anywhere offers insight into the community that a
G.P. or a Garda Siochana might envy. A case in point. On one occasion
in Ballydull National School Miss Ford asked her class of infants
to each paint a picture depicting panic. A quarter of an hour
having been allotted to the completion of the exercise, Miss Ford
went around the classroom to inspect the art-work of her pupils.
First she came to a pupil who had painted a picture reminiscent
of the sinking of the Titanic. There was a big ship in the water
and people frantically scrambling for life-boats
Miss Ford couldn't deny that this painting captured the spirit
of the condition that is panic. Another pupil had painted a picture
of a skyscraper on fire with people jumping out of windows. Again
Miss ford couldn't but recognise this as good work. But then she
came to a pupil who, instead of painting a descriptive scene on
his sheet of paper, had merely drawn a big X. "What's the
idea, Diarmuid?" asked the schoolteacher more in puzzlement
than anything else. "Well you see Miss," Diarmuid replied,
"I have three sisters at home
and every month they
have to put an X on the wall
..and last week there was one
..AND THAT'S PANIC."
BALLYDULL REPRISE 4
It's a damp night in Ballydull, and
its probably drizzling in Kilnadreary town park and in the playing-fields
and other outdoor amenities of Dromduller; likewise, it's probably
lashing on the pieta in Ballycrabit and the headstones in Kilradlit
graveyard; and the night is probably just as dirty in Marshville,
Headerstown, Ballymadra, New Navan, Kilbeggar and Millbridge.
It's probably raining in Dublin, London and Chicago as well. Thank
God we will never die of drought.
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