John B Keane: Annual outing of the farmer’s boy and girl bites the dust

Farewell to the fifteenth of August, the great Pattern Day in Ballybunion. I wrote some years ago that it was in danger of dying out and this year, unfortunately, I was proved right.

Farewell to the fifteenth of August, the great Pattern Day in Ballybunion. I wrote some years ago that it was in danger of dying out and this year, unfortunately, I was proved right.

When I was a boy we could stand in the door of any house in Church Street, Listowel, and watch the boys and girls cycling by from west Limerick and all over north Kerry to the seaside.

The fifteenth was the annual outing of the farmer’s boy and the farmer’s girl.

It was part of the bargain when they were hired. They were to have the fifteenth off, whatever else. Now it seems as if it’s just another day in the long calendar of the year.

More’s the pity, for up ’till a few years ago it was an event of considerable significance.

Dirty dogs

The dogs of Listowel ... The town which is famous for its writers, its races and its fishful river is now gradually acquiring a reputation for stray mongrels.

They soil the streets and square and follow passing cars and cyclists. They are not above attacking people. For years these vagrant canines have been the curse of the town. Apparently without owners, they roam the streets at will and serenade each other far out into the night. Recently a resident of The Square told me that sleep has become impossible of late.

The dogs never seem to cease barking. To determine their breeding would be impossible. All, however, have three things in common. They are ill-tempered and ugly and when they are not up to devilment they like to sleep in the roadway or in the streets.

Definitely they are a menace when they start to bark at night. Every street has its quota, with The Square having more than all the streets put together. Some years ago there was a dog menace in William Street and Charles Street. These too, were notorious barkers and street soilers. They would follow cycles and cars just like The Square dogs of today.

Then came the canine equivalent of the Valentine’s Day massacre. One morning 11 of these dogs were found dead in various parts of the streets and back ways of the town. They were poisoned and the poisoner to this day remains unknown.

Poison is a drastic remedy and one of which I do not approve. In fact, if must be condemned as excessively cruel and unwarranted. As I say, it took place several years ago, and no doubt the assassin was some unfortunate who was demented for the want of sleep.

What of the barking dogs of The Square?

“It’s turning into a dogs’ town,” another resident told me. “You should put something into the papers to let outsiders know what we are suffering.”

“I’m afraid to go out at night,” and elderly woman informed me.

“Come to cur-land,” said a local wit.

Seriously, however, a town with too many stray dogs on its streets is barking up the wrong tree.

Lovely Louis

Another triumph for Louis Heaphy of Ballylongford. Last week a man came into my bar and ordered a glass of brandy for Louis Heaphy the next time he would call. I accepted the money but was most curious as to why the brandy was being paid for. I put the question to Tom Doyle, the man who bought it.

“I’ll tell you the truth,” said Tom. “For a long while now there’s law been hanging over my head and I’ve a stone weight lost worrying of it. My wife is worn to a weed from the thought of the courthouse. Anyway this evening Louis Heaphy arrived at the house looking for me. At first I was going to hide, but the hell with it, I said, and I opened the door for him. With shame the wife went into the room. Louis Heaphy shook hands with me and said: ‘I have something here for you, Tom.’

“‘What would that be, Louis,” I asked.

“ ‘A summons, Tom,’ said Louis.

The upshot of the ruction is that Tom Doyle is a happy man. Louis Heaphy consoled him so much that Tom told me he wouldn’t mind getting a summons every week.

“No wonder they call him Lovely Louis,” said Tom Doyle’s wife. So here we see another triumph for Louis Heaphy. He has made a lie out of the legend that nobody loves a process-server.

There was a time when those who were in trouble over debts or assaults hid from the process server. They dreaded the serving of summonses more than anything in the world, but now all that has changed.

Louis Heaphy is being brought into the house of those he has to serve and be made much of. In fact he told me that if those for whom he has summonses knew exactly what time he would be coming they would have something special inside by way of drinks and edibles.

“I hate boasting,” said Louis Heaphy, “but I’m such a nice fellow people love to see me coming to their doors. They start smiling as soon as they see me.”

Would that other men were like Louis Heaphy. What a peaceful and happy world we would be living in. Gone would be the sneers and the snarls. Peace and harmony would prevail.

Lazy Ned

Lazy men has always intrigued me because laziness brings no reward and it is hard to see the point of it. Paddy Drury once told me of a farmer who was so lazy that he starved himself to death. He found the journey from the bed to the table too arduous.

Hungry as he was, he refused to leave the bed.

Sean O’Shea of Caherciveen tells the story of a south Kerry farmer named Ned Rylane who was reputed to be the laziest man in Kerry. Ned sold all his cows bar one and all his land save an acre for grazing. He also kept a small haggard near his house for meadowing.

The acre was a scraggy one and the cow was always hungry. She was never done with breaking out and grazing the long acre. Finally she grew too old for travelling so she looked for grass nearer home.

She broke into the meadow near the house and started to eat all round her. One of the neighbours called in to the house to Ned and informed him that his cow had broken into the meadow.At the time Ned was in bed, having a rest after his dinner. The neighbour shook him and succeeded in waking him.

“Your cow is in the meadow, Ned,” he said.

“Faith if she is,” said Ned, “tis her own harm she’s doing.”

Feale Fun

On this very Friday night of September third, thousands will flock to Abbeyfeale for the commencement of the Feale Festival of 1971. Tonight also the first of seven contestants in the race for Feale Baron will take to the platform followed by his faithful supporters. Excitement mounts in west Limerick and north Kerry as the seven contestants for the coveted title are being secretly groomed.

Rumour has it that one parish has imported a make-up artist from London to do a thorough job on their man. Another contestant is undergoing voice training and deportment lessons. I would hate to make a forecast at this stage. It would be far closer than last year. At the moment the betting is two to one against the field but I imagine that there will be a favourite shortly.

How important is the winning of the Feale Baron title? Let me quote Willie Finucane of Knockanure:“It has the same value as the British Open,” he said, when I asked him last week at his home.