John B Keane: Back when the crubeen business was booming

I AM indebted to John Bourke, the Grange Poet, for many fine verses and many fine stories down the years. John was at the Regional Hospital in Limerick recently where he went under a successful operation. When I last met him he told me the following true story.

I AM indebted to John Bourke, the Grange Poet, for many fine verses and many fine stories down the years. John was at the Regional Hospital in Limerick recently where he went under a successful operation. When I last met him he told me the following true story.

Some years ago there was an old man called Jackie Kiely in an east Limerick village. He had a small shop and in this shop, amongst other things, he sold crubeens. He did a thriving crubeens business and he would buy sacks of these from Limerick city van men.

Living a few miles away from Jackie’s shop was a mother and two sons. The sons were a bit on the backward side, but backward as they were they had a great meas in crubeens. One evening the mother sent the older of the two, whose name was Tom, to the shop of Jackie Kiely for a stone of crubeens.

When Tom arrived at Jackie Kiely’s the shop was locked and there was a notice on the window to say that he had gone to a hurling game and would not be back until late. Tom was undecided as to whether he would wait for Jackie’s return or not. If the shop was stocked with crubeens all would be fine but if not it would a wasted journey. Sitting on a low wall near the house was an old man smoking a pipe. Tom approached and bade him the time of day which the old man returned as soon as he could take the pipe from his mouth.

“Tell me, sir,” said Tom, “do you know if Jackie Kiely has pigs’ feet?”

“That I couldn’t tell you,” said the old man. “I never saw him with his boots off in my whole life.”

Matthew Nothing

THERE IS a true story about the late Matthew James before he joined the British Army. In the recruiting office he was asked his name by the recruiting officer.

“Matthew James,” he answered, “Matthew James what?” he was asked.

“Matthew James”, answered Matthew.

“Matthew James what?” shouted the angry officer.

“Only Matthew James,” said Matthew.

“Only Matthew James what?” screamed the angry officer.

“Just Matthew James,” answered Matthew as calmly as he could.

The recruiting officer rose to his feet.

“Just Matthew James what?” he bellowed.

“My name is Matthew James,” answered Matthew. At this time the recruiting officer collapsed into his chair.

“In the Name of God,” he pleaded, “what comes after Matthew James?”

“Nothing,” said Matthew.

“Why couldn’t you say so in the first place?” said the officer.

“Say what?” Matthew asked.

“That your surname was Nothing,” said the officer.

See them now

MY Strand correspondent takes me to task for not giving mention to the famous castle of Glenquin which is only a few miles from the strand.

“I think it is one of the most well preserved Norman castles in Ireland today,” writes the Strand man.

“When you stand on top of Glenquin castle,” he goes on, “you can see half of County Limerick. We also have the famous Mass Rock, Clash an Aifrinn, on the hill behind Strand where the people of Monagea, Killeedy, Ashford, Tournafulla and all the surrounding districts heard Mass during the Penal Days. I think it is a pity that more recognition is not given to places like Clash an Aifrinn and Glenquin”.

“When one thinks of those forgotten people who fought for and who bravely held on to their religion through thick and thin one wonders if the people would be the same today. Please don’t think that I am joking. I would be very thankful if you could mention these places in your column in the Limerick Leader as it might give some people who never saw these places a chance to see them now”.

Tourist trade

AT THE time of writing the tourist season has still to come to life.

The money is not in circulation. While most hotels, pubs and guesthouses in Ballybunion report good business, there is not that flow of cash which makes the difference between a fair season and a very good one. So then we must assume that the tourist trade is going backwards.

The only way to bring it back is to begin at grassroots where it all began and that is with the Irish people working or residing in England. They are the nucleus of the tourist trade no matter what anybody says. The truth is they have stopped coming in anything remotely near the numbers of previous years.

The must be wooed back. They were never wooed before and as I said in these columns some weeks ago the English pound note and the five pound note which were once the predominant notes in the tills of summertime are the exceptions rather than the rule.

The experienced fisherman will not cast his fly on waters where fish are scarce. He will cast it where the fish are likely to take his lure. I hope the analogy dawns soon on Bord Failte.

Jerry Mee

I SEE that there is to be a memorial fund to the late Constable Jerry Mee who was one of the 14 RIC men who resigned from that force after a disgraceful speech made to them at Listowel Barracks on June 17, 1920. The speech made was made by Colonel Smyth, Divisional Commissioner of police for the Munster area. Smyth was accompanied by General Tudor, Inspector General of police and Black and Tans for Ireland, and other high-ranking police and Tan chiefs.

Smyth’s speech was later published in the Freeman’s Journal, In brief it was an incitement to the Listowel RIC to gun down their fellow Irishmen for the most trivial excuses. It is, all in all, regarded as one of the most heinous addresses ever given by an officer of the Crown, which is saying something.

Each constable in the Listowel Barracks was asked in turn if he would be willing to support Smyth’s suggestions. Not one agreed. Jerry Mee, when his turn came, said: “Sir, I take it by your accent that you are an Englishman who, in your ignorance, forgets that you are addressing Irishmen.”

Mee then removed his cap, bayonet and belt. He laid them on the table and continued: “These too are English and you can have them. To hell with you. You are a murderer.”

Colonel Smyth at once ordered Mee’s arrest but his constable friends surrounded him and told Smyth that blood would run if he persisted in his attempt to arrest Mee. At that Colonel Smyth barred himself into another room and stayed there for several hours. Others of those brave RIC men was Constable John Sheerin of Brosna and Constable Tom Hughes, who later became Bishop of Nigeria.

Colonel Smyth was shot the following July in the Cork County Club by members of the Irish Republican Army. I was, a few months ago, in the room where he was shot. There was a bright fire in the grate and a few of us sat around drinking. His name was never mentioned.

The Jerry Mee Memorial Fund deserves support especially since his house was burned to the ground as a reprisal by the Tans and he was also a devoted assistant to Constance Markievicz in her Ministry of Labour.