John B Keane: Leader glad to give Catherine her due

From the region of Kilmallock comes a letter extolling the many virtues of a great woman, a very talented woman and a very popular woman. She is Mrs Catherine O’Brien, of Coolrus, Bruree and she is a parishioner of Granagh-Ballingarry.

From the region of Kilmallock comes a letter extolling the many virtues of a great woman, a very talented woman and a very popular woman. She is Mrs Catherine O’Brien, of Coolrus, Bruree and she is a parishioner of Granagh-Ballingarry.

According to the writer of the letter, she is most deserving of a write-up in the Limerick Leader, and it is long overdue to her.

Catherine O’Brien is a wonderful traditional singer, and has won medals galore at leading fleadhanna. Mossie Gorman, of Tour is married to her first cousin, and the famous Private Ahern’s wife is her aunt, so it is natural for her to have talent.

Incidentally, the Private Ahern’s wife is now 90 years old. Catherine O’Brien is herself a widow, and no merrier one would you find if you footed it from the Foyle to the Blackwater.

She also, according to my correspondent, has a great sense of humour, and the local ICA, and the local GAA to mention but a few, never go anywhere without her as she is a great person to make friends and a great entertainer to boot.

My correspondent points out, with some righteous indignation, that when she won a Fleadh a few years ago that there was nothing about her achievement in the Limerick Leader.

In another newspaper, she was called the Nightingale of West Limerick.

My correspondent also goes on to say that Catherine O’Brien always dresses to kill, and always looks the best wherever she goes. Her husband died nine years ago, God grant him a bed in heaven, and Catherine now lives alone in her bungalow.

She has got several good proposals of marriage, but she has turned them all down.

She is a topping Polka dancer, my correspondent assures me, and she goes on to say that if Catherine was a big farmer’s wife she would be getting plenty of publicity.

My correspondent winds up as follows: “I want you to put a good spif in the Leader, and I will leave it to yourself to fix everything as you know best yourself. She is a great friend of mine, and she deserves the best. I think it is most unfair that there was never a good write-up about her in your paper.”

Fair enough. Well nobody can now say that Catherine O’Brien of Coolrus, was wronged by the Limerick Leader.

Nun’s story

Thomas Stewart, whose mother hailed from Castleconnell, and who himself was born and is now living at Glencraig, which is in Fife, Scotland, tells me that some years ago he read an account by me of two nuns who were captured by Indians near the port of Esmereldas in Ecuador.

The nuns were never again seen alive. Actually it is not my story. I heard it secondhand from Cathal O’Shannon of Telefis Eireann, who was told it by a relative of the nuns in question.

Tom Stewart is currently holidaying in Limerick, and one day last week he called to see me, and over a few drinks informed me that one of the nuns was related to his mother.

It is now almost 80 years since the nuns disappeared.

It happened like this. The nuns were aboard a small trading vessel which put into Esmeraldas for supplies. They were on their way to join others of their order in a convent at Arequipa, in the south of Peru.

They were allowed ashore for awhile in Esmeraldas, and were last seen picking wild blooms a short way from the ship. Apparently they wandered, for when the ship was due to sail there was no sign of the nuns.

The captain decided to institute a search for them, as he was worried in case, they were captured by Indians. With a small party, he set off inland and soon found a trail.

On the third day they drew near a camp, but before they had time to attack, they themselves were attacked and taken prisoner. All, save the captain, were emasculated and fattened for a few weeks before being eaten by the Indians.

The captain, whose name was Anderson or Alderson, was treated with some respect and given excellent quarters where he was served with first class meals, consisting of fresh vegetables and corned meat.

The meat was unlike anything he had ever eaten, exceedingly tender and very tasty. Each day he was taken for a walk under guard and allowed to speak to his men, who were kept in a compound, where they were fed maize and other fattening cereals.

They had seen nothing of the two nuns. On his daily walks the captain took good stock of the terrain and decided that he would attempt to escape. These were coastal Indians and therefore he figured their camp was not more than a week’s march from the port of Esmeraldas.

The following days passed peacefully and then suddenly he made up his mind. He would escape. On the day in question he was fed a marvellous meal of the tender corned meat and wild vegetables. Before his escape he told himself he would try to find where the nuns were being kept.

He made a number of signs which the natives who were serving him readily understood. Yes. They knew where the were. Laughing they pointed at the meat on his plate.

They indicated it was the last of the first nun and that they would be serving the first of the second nun on the morrow. He was so shocked he fell over in a faint.

When he recovered he attempted his escape under cover of darkness. He reached Esmeraldas safely where a huge search party agreed to go with him in search of his men. When they reached they reached the camp all they could find were bones and among these were the bones of the second nun.

Every word of this story is true.

Captain Anderson or Alderson died before he was due to return home to his native England. The relatives of the nuns were informed that they were missing and that hope should not be entertained for their recovery.

There bones were laid to rest in the ground of the convent at Arequipa.

Feale Baron

Jack Dillane of Temple-glantine was elected Feale Baron in Abbeyfeale last Saturday night be he got a close run from Dan Keane of Moyvane. I was in a public house in Abbeyfeale when the news was announced.

Near me a woman fainted and had to be carried out into the air. Another woman clasped her hands in thanksgiving. It was a dramatic moment and Glantine can well be proud of Jack Dillane’s achievement. Jack worked in Listowel for a number of years as a railway man and was very popular while there.

The odd thing about last Saturday night was that the crowd was well back from last year and one wonders why.

Certainly no blame can be attached to the organising committee. It could have been the weather of course, but I feel that the real reason was the power failure. A number of Listowel people I know did not travel to Abbeyfeale because there was a rumour abroad that there would be no light in Abbeyfeale for the close of the festival.

There was light galore and fun galore and the idea continues to be one of the main attractions in rural Ireland.