THERE CAN be no doubt whatsoever but that the tourist trade is heading disastrously towards another bad year. Guest houses along the main tourist routes, i.e., Shannon/Limerick, Limerick/Killarney, Tralee/Killarney have hanging outside their doors the tell-tale signs which read VACANCIES.
How is it then that instead of a natural and predictable increase in the number of visitors to this country there would seem to be a sharp decline? There are a number of obvious reasons. There is the trouble in the North and there is an increase in the price of drink, accommodation, etc., but I feel that one of the chief reasons is the unparalleled neglect down the years of the Irish who come here from Britain.
They are sometimes called English Yanks, and in Britain itself they are called Paddies; but whatever they are called one thing is certain and that is that they are now holidaying in English seaside resorts instead of coming home. They were the best spenders of all because they drank heavily and hired cars. They ate well and they spread their money around freely.
NORMALLY AT this time of the year there would be a preponderance of English fivers entering Irish tills but not so now. Ask any publican in Athea, Listowel, Newcastle, Abbeyfeale, Glin if this is so and he’ll answer you truthfully. He will tell you that the Paddy is not coming home any more for his summer holidays. He will also tell you that the Paddy was the best tourist of all.
I’ll concede that the hotels do better out of the Yanks and out of Scots and English but there are 10 times as many pubs as there are hotels. Ask the shopkeepers and the owners of the smaller supermarkets and they will tell you that the English banknote is now the exception rather than the rule. The Paddy is taking his family to Bournemouth, Blackpool and Brighton. If he’s single he goes further afield but married or single he is not coming home and this country cannot afford to be without his summer munificence.
The chief reason why he has stopped coming is that he has been taken for granted by a whole generation now. Bord Failte is inclined to cosset and pamper the American, the Canadian and the native English. They have never aimed at the best customer this country has ever had. They must be coaxed too. They must be singled out specifically and they must be made feel that they are badly wanted and more welcome than all the other nationalities put together.
It may be too late already because once these liberal spenders get a taste of the cheaper and more sophisticated amenities of English coastal resorts they are not likely to be drawn away from them. It’s high time we woke from our slumbers and let the Paddy know that we want him home, that we will go out of our way to facilitate his return.
IT WAS that bilingual and inimitable lightning rod Seamus O Cinneide who first introduced me to The Grange Poet, John Bourke. John was ill for some time but he is now well on the road to recovery. He has written over 2,000 poems in his time and he keeps turning them out. His latest effort is called “Our Limerick Hurlers”. I haven’t the space to publish the full tale, but here goes with a few snippets.
With pride and joy we now recall those glories of the past.
When our hurlers were immortal our flag was at full mast.
We had Fedamore and Kildimo
The young Irelands and Claughaun
They shook the towers of the Gaeldom
With Mick Mackey of Ahane.
They outhurled Wexford and Kilkenny
Tipperary, Clare and Cork
They went over to America
And were champions of New York.
Now the time is ripe don’t falter.
We are destined for renown.
We will soon regain our greatness
And win the All-Ireland hurling crown.
A SMALL farmer decided that he would like to build a new hay shed but he discovered that he had not enough money to do so. A pal of his told him that if he went to the bank he would have no bother raising the necessary.
Our friend had no experience of banks and he didn’t like the idea one bit. Finally he decided to go and on enquiry inside the doors he was told that the manager was the man for him to see. He bided his time and eventually he was called into the manager’s office. He explained his case and pointed out why it was necessary for him to put up the new shed. He spent the best part of an hour outlining his plans and the manager began to grow impatient. Our friend kept on talking and spoke at length about the large variety of sheds available.
The manager fumed and finally he could bear it no longer. “In the name of God,” he shouted, “how much money do you want?”
“How much have you?” said our friend.
LOUIS HEAPHY, the genial Ballylongford process server, should write a book. I suggested this to him last week when we met while he was on his way to Tralee to serve a few summonses to various people there.
“No,” said Louis “although I have enough material for 10. Maybe when retire.” One pearl of wisdom dropped by Louis stays with me. We were talking about various towns and villages.
“The worst disease a man ever got was grandeur,” he announced. I couldn’t have agreed more. Grandeur or “Red Notions” as it is called in Lyreacrompane is a terrible affliction and one for which there is no cure until the Almighty calls the sufferers to their eternal rewards.
Louis Heaphy told me that while delivering processes he has seen some terrible sights. “That I might never see Ballylongford,” he said solemnly. “if I’m telling you a lie. Serving processes isn’t all sunshine and roses for one never knows the minute a disgruntled victim will see red. A scapegoat is necessary and the handiest one is the process server.” Not so with Louis Heaphy. Never once has the person to whim he has handed the summons be annoyed.
“THEY MAY frown for a minute” said Louis “but then I turn on the charm and I win them over.”
Sometimes they are conveniently not in when Louis arrives with his gift. He thanks whoever opens the door politely and goes about his business. Then he does a bit of mental arithmetic mixed with psychology and logic. He calculates to a nicety and then calls again hours later. The victim is nearly always at home. Experience has taught Louis Heaphy quite a lot and it has given him and uncanny intuition about the whereabouts of those who do not want to be served.
“What about me Louis?” I asked him. “What about you?” said Louis. “Well,” I said, “suppose you had a summons for me and taking into account our long friendship would you be slow in serving me?”
“When I have a summons to deliver,” Louis answered with a smile, “all men are equal, John.”