John B Keane: Better get your facts straight to play your cards right

THE OTHER night a group of us were playing forty-one when an argument arose regarding the fall of the lift.

THE OTHER night a group of us were playing forty-one when an argument arose regarding the fall of the lift.

There were seven in the school and one of the players argued that the fall of the lift was in when the number of players was less than seven and more than three.

The man who made this declaration was from Castlemahon, and was on his way home from a wedding. He could not present precedents. So it was decided not to bother with any fall of the lift.

A game of forty-one or thirty-one without the fall of the lift is almost sacrilegious in the eyes of some players.

A general discussion on idiosyncrasies of individuals and partners were drawn down. It was widely agreed that the greatest tick-tack men in the game came from Cnocanore, the great hill overlooking Ballybunion and Ballydonoghue on the one side, and Asdee on the other.

According to the famous American biographer, James Whiting, the outlaws, Frank and Jesse James, favoured the card game known as twenty-five, which is the same as thirty-one and forty-one. Except there is only five allowed for the best trump.

Since the James brothers’ father was born in Asdee, it is certain that his sons picked up the Cnocanore tick-tack from him.

To those who may not be familiar with the tick-tack of forty-one perhaps a little explaining is necessary.

Let us suppose that two Cnocanore players were partnering each other in the final of a gamble.

Let us suppose that one had five of trumps and that he wanted to inform his partner without alerting the other partners involved in the final.

What he did was to produce a match with which he would proceed to pick his teeth. If he had the ace of hearts he would scratch his chest, repository of all hearts, big and small.

If he had a knave of trumps he would blow his nose once. If he had the king of trumps he would blow his nose twice.

There was a sign for every one of the trumps, except the ace, which was declared in residence when paid for.

In Glin, however, there was a different set of signs.

The five trumps was declared to a partner or partners by a mere scratch of the head and the ace of hearts by the winking of one eye.

If some followers of the game find the Glin signs lacking in elaboration, it should be remembered that Glin forty-one players are the most economic in West Limerick.

In Ballygiltenane there was another set of signs, just as there was in Carrigkerry and in all other parishes and townlands where the people had respect for themselves.

According to the Castlemahon man, the toughest and most uncompromising card players to be found in the civilised world are to be found in Ballygiltenane, and it is no bother to one player to make one trump do the work of two.

“Another thing”, said the Castlemahon man “is that the fall of the lift was in all over Ballygiltenane when it was out all over the world.”

I dare say the fall of the lift is not unlike the G.A.A. ban. The majority are against it but these who were born and reared on it find it hard to be without it, and no blame to them.

What is the moral here? What am I driving at? The message is this: He is a foolish man who sits down to a card table without first finding out whether the fall of the lift is out or in.

There is many an honest man reading this who will bear out what I say. It is no good finding out the lift is in to you, especially if you’re a black stranger with no one to back you in the case of a row.

Jack at home

JACK FAULKNER is now firmly established in his new house, just outside Glin.

The sixty-year-old television personality was never happier, except for the fact that his wife, Katie, is no longer around to share his joys and sorrows.

Be that as it may, his new home is a source of great pleasure to him, especially at the moment when the nights are cold and a man’s bones are no longer young.

Traditionally the urge to move explodes in the true itinerant during the spring Equinox, but Jack assures me that he will hit the road no more, except for occasional visits to his many friends in North Kerry and West Limerick, plus the occasional funeral, christening or wedding in Clare, where he has many relatives.

“What was it like waking up in your house the first morning?” I asked.

“I thought I was in jail,” said Jack, “when I saw the four walls, but when I saw the ashes in the fireplace and the screens, and I knew I was somewhere safe, like in hospital or the back room of a pub. I knew by the screens first.”

“What screen?” I asked.

“The screens in the windows.”

“You mean the curtains?”

“They’re all the same to me,” he said, “there’s one thing I’ll tell you, and that is you’ll see no screens or curtains in a jail nor wallpaper, but as little.”

Thirty-eight years have now passed since Jack Wilberforce saw the inside of a prison, “and if I live thirty-eight more,” he assured me, “you won’t catch me inside the door of one of ’em.”

I asked him if he hated prison.

“You’ll get no jelly nor custard there. I’ll say no more,” he said.

“There was no jelly or custard on the open road either,” I contradicted.

“There was fresh air, and that bates jelly any day,” Jack said.

Before we parted he told me a true story. One day he got a lift in a van as far as Newcastle West. The van broke down a few miles from Rathkeale, and the driver asked Jack to get out and push.

He did as he was told, although he had his suspicions that the driver had a few drinks taken. He pushed away for a mile or so, when suddenly the van left the roadside and wound up in a ditch.

A Civic Guard arrived almost at once and started to take particulars from the driver.

“Don’t blame me,” said the driver to the guard.

“Blame him,” the driver said pointing to Jack Faulkner. “He was the whole cause of it. He wouldn’t push the van straight.”

‘Joe’s Book

REGULAR readers of this column will remember Joe Quaid. Joe it was who was reported dead three years ago.

Masses were said for him, and everybody said what a nice fellow he was. Then, suddenly, Joe was seen cycling from Duagh to Listowel by an old woman, and word spread that he had risen from the dead. The truth was that he never died.

Joe is a native of Direen, Athea but now resides at Knockadireen, Duagh, where he is happily settled with his wife.

Last week, when I was driving past the Smearla Bridge on the way to Duagh, Joe Quaid stepped out from nowhere and flagged me down.

“I have,” said he, “the hottest piece of news since Russia invaded Poland.”

“In the honour of God, spill it,” I begged him.

“The news,” said Joe “is that Jack Doran is back from the beet. He liked England, and might go back there again.”

“I know he’s back,” I said. “I had a drink with him a few days ago.”

Joe and myself settled to talk. He confided that an English firm are anxious to publish a book he plans to write shortly.

This company specialises in books dealing with adventure and intrigue. Since Joe was once a waterkeeper on the Feale River he had his share of both.

“Often,” he said, “my life was in jeopardy, but I made great friends, and even the worst poachers were lonely when I resigned from the job.”

The title of the book will be “Hook, Line and Sinker.” From time to time short extracts from the work will appear in these columns.


THE SMALL HALLS, platforms and dance lofts of West Limerick and North Kerry are no more, and more’s the pity, because the music and the dancing were traditional and the countryside was well-populated, not like now.

There used to be a concrete platform between Listowel and Tarbert, but now no trace of it is to be seen.

Neither is there a trace of Scannell’s Hall on the Mail Road to Listowel.

Gone, too, without trace is that famed Lycreacrompane Hall, Dan Paddy Andy’s. Gone is Tim Kelly’s of Lisroe, and so is Bedford Hall gone. Behane’s of Clounleharde is gone, and so, too, is Kilconlea hall.

As for lots not one now is left. There were memorable nights in Bob Boland’s Loft of Farranastack and in Dan Connies Loft of Knocknagoshel, but, as I say, the countryside is now bare of hall and loft.

I only mentioned a few. There must be many others. As far as I can recall, the minimum entry fee was tuppence, and the maximum, fourpence.