John B Keane: Come autumn a man’s thoughts turn to marriage

Now that nuts are turning brown and the yellow corn gone from the stubble fields, there is a touch of frost in the air that heralds a winter which will be true to its nature, cold and bitter, long and lonely.

Now that nuts are turning brown and the yellow corn gone from the stubble fields, there is a touch of frost in the air that heralds a winter which will be true to its nature, cold and bitter, long and lonely.

Shakespeare said that in the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

There cannot have been many bachelors in the time of Shakespeare, otherwise he would have also said that in the autumn a middle-aged man’s fancy turns to thoughts of marriage.

Before me I have seven letters, all received in the first week of September. Five of the letters are from men and two are from women. I have sent most of them to my old friend, Padraig Ahern, of Carrigkerry, and one to the Knock Marriage Bureau.

Funnily enough I expected these letters and I take no credit for doing so, for every year about this time there is a great demand for women of all ages whether they be spinsters or widowed.

The very moment that autumn ends the longing comes and men who the year before had aimed high are now aiming lower.

In fact one of the letters I received is from a man who has written to me every year for the past six years. He started out looking for a girl between the age of 20 and 30. The next year he demanded that she be between the age of 30 and 35 and the third year between the age of 35 and 40. This year he will take any sort of woman as long as she is under 50.

Like all advanced bachelors he has one stipulation and I am sure readers will be familiar with it. He wants a woman who is firm.

Only very rarely does a letter arrive without mention of this firmness. One would expect better from a countryside steeped in the traditions of balladry, flattery and exaggeration.

I once received a very long and lovely letter from a Mountcollins farmer requesting that I find for him a suitable partner. He was not greatly worried about age and he was prepared to work night and day to make her happy.

He didn’t have a motor car but he was prepared to buy a new one if that was what she wanted. There was nobody in the house but himself and he was only waiting for wind of the word to build a modern bathroom.

I was impressed by this man not because he was well off but because he was solicitous. The letter closed on a nice note.

He said he would never forget me if I could come up with a woman, that if there was issue he would be called after me and so forth and so on. He then signed his came and concluded.

I was on the point of putting the letter away when a postscript in tiny writing caught my eye.

This is what it said: “Remember she’s no good to me if she’s not firm.” So the paramount demand is for firm women. Exactly what is a firm woman? A truly awkward question but one which must be answered.

I am not quite certain myself and would like a second opinion. However, someone might be dead by that time, so here goes. A firm woman is one who is not wanting in flesh but yet not over fat. She is over 40 years of age and less than 70 although there are cases where they remain firm until 87 and more.

She does not wobble when she walks and the firmness, if bulky itself, highlights what was once a good figure. There may be a better explanation but this one will have to do till I meet Jack Wilberforce Faulkner.

Feale Baron

Now that all the excitement has died down and Jack Dillane of Glantine is safely established as the second Feale Baron it might be no harm to recall that the crowd present on the final night of the festival at Abbeyfeale was the biggest ever seen there. Not so the Saturday night before when only a fraction of the crowd expected turned up. This was solely to the ESB strike.

Entertainment all over the country was similarly hit by this strike, now regarded as the lousiest, most ill-conceived and thoughtless strike ever to be inflicted on the Irish people.

The amount of damage and hardship endured was out of all proportion to the demands of the strikers who held a whole country up to ransom callously and shamefully.

I expect that next year’s election for the title of Feale Baron will be the closest of all. Rumour has it that Dan Keane, the runner-up, will be going again and only on Friday last I was told by Joe Quaid of Knockadirren, Duagh, and late of Athea, that he had been approached by two different parishes in an effort to get him to go. I asked him what he would do.

“Naturally,” said Joe. “I would go on behalf of Duagh if they want me. I have stayed out of politics all my life but if the people need me, I will not let them down.”

It is also hoped that next year there will be a contestant from Listowel. This would mean a decimation of the register to ensure equality in voting but this should be no problem to organisers whose efficiency would put many official counts to shame.

Another horse mentioned for next year’s stake is the redoubtable Jack Faulkner. It is felt that he would have a roving commission and not be tied to any particular place although I am sure he would race in the Glin colours if requested to do so.

Listowel Races

Speaking about racing, the great Listowel meeting begins on Monday next for four days and record crowds are expected. Originally it was hoped that they would run from Tuesday to Friday but in order to facilitate the jockeys’ valets it was decided to start a day earlier.

The Listowel course was never in better form. The crowds that come to Listowel Races are far greater than the combined Tralee and Killarney meetings.

The reason for this is that the Listowel meeting is a harvest meeting and was primarily designed for farmers and country people of North Kerry, West Limerick and West Cork.

As the years passed the net spread and farmers from all over the country made it their annual holiday. Apart from the normal racing enthusiasts there is also the exodus from Dublin of most of its publicans who make the Listowel meeting an annual, extended outing.

Apparently it is the ideal time for a Dublin publican to have a holiday. Certainly they make their presence in Listowel and Ballybunion and are always welcome.

Spa well dam

Resentment is mounting in the town of Listowel over outsiders’ plans for the future of its river.

There is a rumour that a dam will be built near the Spa well. The Spa is Listowel’s loveliest walk and any interference will result in resistance by the townspeople. Maybe it’s just a false rumour but indications are that somebody is making plans without the knowledge of the townspeople.

Last week two men arrived at the Spa with a boat. They spent days surveying the area and when they left two fields in the vicinity were staked out for future development.

Nobody in the town seems to know what’s afoot. One hopeful suggested that they might have come to give us clear water but that is too much to expect. Dirty water is now being taken for granted in Listowel.