John B Keane: A good wit was always appreciated, recalls budding author Joe

JOE QUAID, who by now should be well known to readers of this column, is at the halfway stage of his book, Hook, Line and Sinker.

JOE QUAID, who by now should be well known to readers of this column, is at the halfway stage of his book, Hook, Line and Sinker.

The early chapters were easy enough, but now it is a time for slogging. Joe is looking for photographs of the Twenties period when he was on the run. These should be sent to Joseph Quaid, Knockadirreen, Duagh, by registered post.

Acknowledgement will be made when the book is published and a free copy sent to those whose photographs will be used. I asked Joe if he found the people of Duagh any different from the people of Dirreen, Athea, where he first saw the light of day.

“People are the same everywhere,” Joe told me. “Although,” he continued, “I find the people of Duagh very religious. This is not to say that the Athea people are Pagans, but there is an air of holiness about Duagh that is to be found nowhere else in the world.”

Joe’s book will consist of 20 chapters and in it there will be accounts of the many coopers, thatchers etc who were practising their crafts when Joe was a boy on the banks of the Gale.

“It is important,” said Joe, “that their doings and sayings be put down by someone. It would be a shame if they were to be forgotten. They were great characters in those days and they had great wit. Wit was the only means to entertainment as there were no cinemas, radios or television. Gramophones were not yet in and it was up to the people themselves to create their own entertainment.”

There is much truth to what Joe says. A good wit was always appreciated in town and country and could always be sure of a free drink or a free meal whenever these were going.

Nedeen Kelliher

OVER THE past few weeks there have been many distinguished visitors to the town of Listowel. Most of these are widely known at home and abroad. Some are known only to academic circles. Others are known by those who are lucky enough to know them. One of these last is Nedeen Kelliher from Tralee.

Those who travel to the west by way of the Brandon Hotel will know Nedeen and his famous mule, Cyril. Sometimes he is to be found at the Silver Swan on the road to Dingle and Castlegregory and at other times he holds forth at Bob Murphy’s Imperial Hotel.

Ned, with his mule and trap, is part of the Kerry scene. It was Ronnie Drew who said lately on Radio Eireann that the most unforgettable character he ever met was Nedeen Kelliher. He came to Listowel to buy a second-hand trap from Sandy Fitzgerald, but Sandy made him a gift of the trap. I asked him if he met Joe Frazier and he told me he hadn’t but he issued a challenge.

“My mule Cyril,” said Nedeen, “will take him on any time. If Cyril is getting bate he’ll work the teeth on him that Clay didn’t leave. I have nothing against blacks myself,” said Nadeem, “but Cyril don’t seem to like them.”

Bared teeth

APPARENTLY Nedeen was outside the Brandon Hotel lately holding Cyril by the head and hoping some business would come his way. A tourist bus pulled up and a party of Americans alighted. They approached the mule and Cyril seemed pleased with their attentions, that is until two coloured girls tried to stroke his neck. Cyril reared and bared his teeth. The girls retreated in haste.

“I was ashamed of my life,” Nedeen said. I suggested to Nedeen that it might be because Cyril was unused to black people.

“No,” Nedeen said, “he’s just a mule and ‘tis no good being a mule unless you act like a mule.”

Someone intervened to ask how Cyril would react to the bell. “There isn’t any move he don’t know,” Nedeen replied. “I’d give anything to see the two of them at it.” Anyway, Nedeen left Listowel with happy memories.

He promised he would return again for the races.

Speaking about the races there will be four days again this year, and the stake money will be £14,000. It will be the 113th year of the meeting.

Glin Carnival

Thirty years ago, or so, Glin’s annual carnival was without equal anywhere. Then it started to lose its popularity and finally it was decided to abandon it. A few years ago it was revived when Jack Wilberforce Faulkner and myself performed the opening ceremony. What was the cause of the decline of the original Glin carnival?

A Glin man to whom I spoke to explained that all carnivals have a lifespan of about 15 years. He told me that people got too used to the Glin one. They tired of seeing the same thing year after year. The original carnival could have gone on but this would only have made matters worse. Older people still have happy memories of earlier Glin Carnivals. “As soon as find things falling off, or have two bad years in a row, abandon the carnival altogether for two years or more. Then revive it while the memory of successful years is still fresh.”

Gud Inglish

TWO MEN were standing in the door of a public house arguing about their respective teachers.

“I wouldn’t be here today only for him,” said the first. He went on to eulogise his former mentor when the second man interrupted him to say that his own teacher was the greatest. The argument continued for quite a while until the teacher of the second man was seen in the distance

As he drew near, the second man took off his hat respectfully. “There he goes, God bless him,” he said, “the man that learned me English.”

Brendan Behan

TALKING to Sean O’Shea, Caherciveen, one day last week, he told me that Brendan Behan would never pass Joy’s public house in Abbeyfeale. Most people know this but what they don’t know is that Behan refused to come into Kerry except through Abbeyfeale so that he could have a drink at Joy’s.

Even when he was off the hard tack he insisted on calling. Sean O’Shea was probably the best friend Behan ever had. Behan rarely had more than one drink at Joy’s. For him the pub was a landmark, the last call before crossing the Feale and Kerry.

His next call would be either to Michael Quille’s of Listowel or to my own place.

Michael Quille and Behan were very close friends. They were interned in the Curragh together during the war. Certainly Behan made many so-called friends on his way to the top. Let it be to his eternal credit that he never forgot his old ones. What astonished me me is the fact that neither Sean O’Shea nor Michael Quille, who have a remarkable store of playwright stories, have ever been seriously consulted by biographers.

There is enough material between both men to give a full account of Behan’s life.

BROAD STING from moving cars is becoming more and more widespread. It is a good way to advertise carnivals, dances or festivals and it doesn’t cost money. Neither is it an annoyance, except on the odd occasion when the amplification is too strong.

However, of the ten or so broadcasting cars which which have passed through the towns and villages of North Kerry and West Limerick in the past fortnight, only half were understood.

The other half were incomprehensible.

I would ask those gentlemen who advertise in this fashion to do a spot of testing beforehand and to speak as slowly as possible so that the man in the street might understand. I presume that it is with him they are trying to communicate and not merely exercising their lungs.

Also the acoustics of towns are widely different and what might sound fine in one could well sound dreadful in another.