John B Keane: Is he dead or alive? Joe likes to keep them guessing

MOST readers will remember Joe Quaid, who was once believed to be dead but was, as events subsequently showed, no more dead than you or me.

MOST readers will remember Joe Quaid, who was once believed to be dead but was, as events subsequently showed, no more dead than you or me.

It all began when word spread through Listowel that Joe Quaid had died suddenly while on his way out of McKenna’s mill yard. The time was four years ago. Since then, Joe got married for the second time and changed his place of residence in Woodford, Listowel to Knockadireen, Duagh.

Anyway, as word spread that Joe was dead, no man, not even his worst enemy, had a hard word for him.

A total of 23 mass cards were posted to his Woodford address from all over Ireland. A brother of my own who was a friend of Joe’s sent a card but he was only one of many. Time passed and it was discovered that Joe wasn’t dead at all. Some of his nearest and dearest friends and relatives never forgave him for it.

“Twas a nice thing you done to us,” one Athea man said to him, “letting on to be dead and you alive.”

It was no use pointing out to this man that Joe had not had hand, act, or part in the rumour of his demise. Other people resented it, too.

“Wouldnt you be one way or the other?” a man said to him one night in Dan McAuliffe’s pub in Duagh.

He caught Joe by the throat and attempted to strike him. Only for the intervention of Dan McAuliffe things would most certainly have got out of hand. Another night a cousin of Joe’s approached him during the Wrenboys night in Abbeyfeale. Joe was standing at Joy’s corner watching the parade.

“We’ll see,” said the cousin, “who prays for you the next time you’re dead. It won’t be me anyway,” said the cousin, cocking his head in the air and crossing the road to the hotel.

So that is the story of Joe Quaid’s reported demise. It all happened four years ago, and by all the powers that be, should be well forgotten.

What of the situation today? Oddly enough there are still people who resent the fact that Joe was not dead when it was said he was dead.

“As true as God,” said Joe, “I can’t go into a pub this very day without people whispering about me. They look at me sideways and they move back from me. Women turn pale and urge their men to finish their drinks. A lot of folks believe that I’m not alive at all, but rose up after I fell down that fatal day at the mill yard. But worst of all is to come. Listen to this.”

Last week Joe was talking to Jack Doran and Mick Deenihan outside the Protestant church, in the square in Listowel. There was another witness as well because a Mr Kelly of Lyreacrompane approached me and asked if any of the trio had the correct time. The time was told to him but he stayed on listening respectfully to the conversation.

Suddenly an oldish woman wearing glasses and carrying a message bag arrived on the scene. She ignored Mr Kelly, Mick Deenihan and Jack Doran. She shook hands, however, with Joe Quaid.

“I’m sorry for your trouble,” she said. “It was only the other day I heard you were dead.”

Joe is quite used to seeing people bless themselves when he approaches. What is it like when one half of the country thinks you’re alive and the other half thinks you are dead? I put the question to the only man in the world capable of answering it.

“It’s like this,” said Joe, “I like to keep ’em guessing.”


TALK ABOUT tall yarns. I met John Diggins of Ardoughter on Saturday last. I admired the pair of shoed he was wearing.

“Those shoes,” said John, “are twenty years old. They were made by Mossy Mulvihill specifically by order and I’ll lay you a pound to a penny,” said John, “that they will last another twenty years, if I do.”

In the course of our conversation, he went on to tell me about another pair of shoes Mossie Mulvihill made. They were low shoes, and they were commissioned by a Cashen Mike who shall be known as Mike Long.

It was a fine Sunday afternoon in the summer and a football match was about to start between those old rivals, Boherbane and the Breek. Mike Long was playing for the Breek, or the Cashen, if you like. He was playing full-back, and the first kick he got was a free out after a Boherane goal.

He stood well back from the ball and, according to eye witnesses, invoke holy Saint Batt whose blessed well was not too far away. Then he hit the ball and it rose like a rocket into the blue sky. In vain, the two teams’ supporters waited for the ball to come down. Nothing came down, however – what transpired was this.

The moment Mike Long kicked the ball it burst but this did not stop its upward trajectory. Shortly afterwards the remains of the bladder landed on top of an old woman who was paddling near Donnelly’s Rocks in Ballybunion and in the month of June of the following year the cover of the ball was found by a Thomas Costelloe of Kanturk while he was mowing hay in field near his home. Ballyduff people claim that this was the longest kick ever. I wonder.


NO DECIMAL system for Men’s Land. This was confirmed early this week by a spokesman for the area.

Men’s Land chief spokesman, Willie Finucane, of the Lott’s in Knockanure, in a statement in a Knockanure pub on Monday night, said that the area known as Men’s Land would not convert to decimal currency, but they would use a form of algebra instead.

This is to spite the government rather than the idea of decimal currency. For the benefit of those who do not know Men’s Land is that country land between Athea and Knockanure.

Its called Men’s Land because the vast majority of the men who live there have no women and according to Willie Finucane until such time as women are provided by the government there will be no decimal currency.

There are other stronger measures but I am not at liberty to mention them as the element of suprise would be lost. All I am at liberty to say is that these womenless men of Men’s Land will stop at nothing to get wives.

Readers will notice, while we’re on the topic, that I have made no mention of the Ballaugh bachelors for quite a while and one reader is worried about them. She wants to know if there is anything the matter.

No, there is nothing the matter, just that I promised a Ballaugh man that I would make no mention of the bachelors for a specific period. He mantained that constant references to the plight of the Ballaugh bachelors was frightening away decent girls.

I promised him there and then that I would not make mention of them for a period of six calender months to see if what he said was true. We must only wait and see.

Whatever the outcome, I wish the Ballaugh bachelors well and with or without wives, I hope the coming summer will be a good one for them. As for the Moynsha bachelors, I am hearing great reports.

A young Macra na Feirme man ensured me that there are several marriages in the making in the romantic hill countryside around Moynsha.

Quiet but...

MOYNSHA MEN have always shown a preference for women from the Abbeyfeale side and nobody seems to know the reason for this unless it is that the women of that are are reputed to be very quiet and tractable. This may be so but quiet women can be extremely dangerous when they get going. Ask any man who is married to one and he will bear out what I say. Red haired women get all the blame for being fiery and fugacious in their rages. In fact, some men are afraid to marry red haired women. Others on the other hand, who know the score will tell you that a red haired wife is the best of all. The truth is that they are being unfairly blamed. Mark my words. There is nothing so dangerous as a quiet, reserved type of woman when she gets her dander up.

I have seen them in action a few times and I thank the Lord I married a woman who doesnt spare up her temper.

To return, however, to the bachelor problem. Resignation is the worst curse of all and when a man passes the forty he tends to become resigned to his lot. The fight goes out of him and he starts the miss the odd Sunday night at the dances. He makes one shirt do the work of two. This is a terrible mistake because a man is starting to become wise at 40 and if he made the extra effort he would find that it is much easier to get a wife at forty than it is at twenty.