John B Keane: Teenage boys rush in where grown men fear to tread

Listowel had more than its fair share of drama last week and although the stage was not in the Plaza, but in a place known as The Corporal’s, a local swimming hole or pool. There was enough excitement to keep the town talking for days.

Listowel had more than its fair share of drama last week and although the stage was not in the Plaza, but in a place known as The Corporal’s, a local swimming hole or pool. There was enough excitement to keep the town talking for days.

On Sunday last a group of boys were bathing in the Corporal’s when an older boy noticed that a younger boy was missing.

The missing boy was John Kelliher, aged seven years, and a native of Glounaphooca. He is the second son of Gerry (Lofty), and Mrs Kelliher. After a search, his body was seen at the bottom of the pool by 14-year old Vincent O’Connor of O’Connell’s Avenue.

Quickly Vincent managed to drag him ashore with the help of other boys, but little John Kelliher was unconscious and seemingly dead. He was blue all over and not breathing. However, a 13-year old boy, by the name of Martin Guerin of Convent Street, decided to try the kiss of life, which he had seen expertly performed on television.

Meanwhile, Doctor Johnny Walsh, who was swimming further up at the opposite side, was being summoned. He swam across at once. When he arrived he found that John Kelliher was breathing, thanks to the kiss-of-life treatment by Martin Guerin.

To quote doctor Johnny Walsh: “He was barely breathing, and very cold and shocked when I arrived. He was certainly gone but for the prompt action of Martin Guerin and Vincent O’Connor.”

Doctor Johnny could not be more eloquent in his praise. “It’s the sort of happening,” he said, “that makes a doctor’s life really worthwhile. I am genuinely proud of these young lads, and I feel that something should be done by the town to show them that we all appreciate their saving of a small boys life.”

Doctor Johnny took the boy to hospital at once, where he made a thorough examination. All was well, and instead of a terrible tragedy, we had a happy ending. Thanks be to God for that.

It would be nice if I could leave it go at that, but on his way to the hospital with the boy, Doctor Johnny saw four men on the river bank about 50 yards or so from where the happening took place. He stopped and asked them if they had seen what was happening. They told them that they had. “In the name of God,” he asked, “why didn’t one of you do something? You are all grown-up men.” To this they made no reply.

“If it was one of your own sons,” the doctor asked, “would you have done something?”

To this there was no reply either.

Thanks be to God, therefore, the boys like Vincent O’Connor and Martin Guerin.

It is worth recalling, although it is a sad memory, that over 20 years ago, a boy drowned on almost the exact spot where young Kelliher got in trouble.

The alarm was raised, and he was brought out of deep water at once by local man Danny Enright of O’Connell’s Avenue, but in Gabriel’s case there was nothing that could be done, since his heart had failed.

There are quiet a few boys who got into trouble from time to time along the Corporal’s. A lifebelt should be a fixture there.

Sitting ducks

A complaint from a Moyvane woman whom I met at Glin Carnival. For years she has kept a large flock of ducks for the twofold purpose of supplying eggs regularly and drakemeat occasionally.

“My ducks are being shelled,” she told me. Apparently, young boys and some older boys throw stones at her flock with fatal consequences while they fish for trout on the banks of the Gale. When there are no trout rising they pass the time by taking potshots at the poor woman’s ducks and drakes. The woman gave me names, but I don’t want to be sued for libel.

There is no luck in pelting ducks. For one thing they can’t pelt back. Also they are harmless creatures.

One of the great crimes of this century, according to a certain composer, was the foul murder of Ned Flaherty’s beautiful drake.

Duck-pelters would do well to memorise this verse, which was composed by the owner of the murdered drake. It was directed at the monster who took the creature’s life:

May his pig never grunt, may his cat never hunt

May a ghost ever haunt him at dead of the night

May his hen never lay, may his ass never bray

May his goat fly away like an old paper kite

That the flies and the fleas may the wretch ever tease

May the biting north breeze make him shiver and shake

Bad wind to the robber be he drunk or sober

That murdered Ned Flaherty’s beautiful drake

May his pipe never smoke, may his taypot be broke

And to add to the joke, may his kettle ne’er boil

May he stick to the bed ‘til the hour that he’s dead

May be always be fed on hogwash and boiled oil

May he swell with the gout, may his grinders fall out

May he rowl howl and shout with the horrid toothache

May his temples wear horns and the toes many corns

Of the monster that murdered Ned Flaherty’s drake

Bad as was the killing of this beautiful drake of Ned Flaherty’s, there was at least some reason underlying the act.

We are given this reason in the song:

For some dirty savage to grease his white cabbage

Has murdered Ned Flaherty’s beautiful drake

Those who murdered the Moyvane woman’s ducks killed for the sake of killing.

Smearla supreme

Since the two items which have already appeared in these columns have to do with the rivers Feale and Gale, it would be bad form to overlook the Smearla. But what is there to say about the Smearla except that it is a great river for peal, salmon and sea trout after a flood.

Joe Quaid, in his book, Hook, Line and Sinker, has quite a lot to say about the Smearla. Incidental, he is dedicating the book jointly to Jack Doran and Sean Synan, both keen anglers.

In his book Joe maintains that the Smearla is the most underrated river in Ireland. He makes out that it is better than any of the spate rivers of south Kerry. This is a surprising statement for a man born on the banks of the Gale. I put this to Joe.

“The truth is bitter,” he said. “I love the Gale the best, but the Smearla is a better river.”