'Long enough you were all drinking bog water without complaining'

'Long enough you were all drinking bog water without complaining'

THE ever-changing dun-dark and uncrystal waters of the Feale River are the subjects for many letters this week but some are so scurrilous in content that I fear the gentle readers would be shocked totally and absolutely were I to reproduce them.

One, however, comes out strongly in praise of the water. The correspondent signs himself “Gleann Man.”

“I have to laugh,” says he, “when I hear the people of Listowel, yourself included, giving out about the water supply This water is perfect and is far better than what your ancestors and the ancestors of the other cribbers were ever used to. Long enough you were all drinking bogwater and there was no complaint, but now that you have water which is perfectly safe for drinking you don’t know what to make of it”

There is considerably more from “Gleann Man,” but alas the language turns somewhat over-coloured.

Never again

FROM time to time I receive letters from persons who write to say that they will never buy the Limerick Leader again. This is because something which I have inadvertently written has offended them.

After a while, when their anger wears off, they revert to their own ways and re-read these columns as if nothing had happened. Time is a great healer.

It would seem that some weeks ago I incited the mother of a Ballaugh bachelor, and all I did was to print her dislike of modern misses. Readers will remember that she said all young girls today went around half naked and drank vodka and that no self-respecting boy – i.e., her own son – should have anything to do with them.

Well now she takes me to task for misinterpreting what she wrote.

“Dear Mr Keane, Last week was my last week buying the Leader until you are no longer on it. It appears you cannot tell a word of the truth. I did not say all the young girls of today were husses (her own).

“I did not say they all went around showing their navels. I did not say they all get drunk. I said only some. There are decent girls everywhere. There are girls here in Ballaugh who never wore mini clothes and never darkened the door of a public house.

“There are decent girls in Abbeyfeale whom I know well. It is the others I referred to who have no shame with low cut frocks which reveal their bosoms (her own) and breast (her own).

“There are more with jumpers that do no reach to their navels, and this is the kind that I deplore, who are not the type decent boys who want to rear families would consort with.

“What is wrong with him? You make a mock of it and pretend it is a big joke. No more Leaders in this house.”

This woman has more to say but enough is enough and others must get their turn.

What beats me is her dislike of navels.

A navel is the way God made it and all her ranting and raving will not change it. I never read such bunk.

If she wants to make war on navels let her go to the Department of Health and allow me to go about my lawful business.

1864 Derby

LAST WEEK the dear and gentle reader will remember that I started a description of the 1864 Listowel Donkey Derby taken from an account by “Alethes” in the now deceased Tralee Chronicle and Killarney Echo.

By your leave I will now continue with the account.

“Precisely at a quarter past four by the town clock the signal to start was given by the waving of a banneret near the church, when forth rushed a motley horde of donkeys and boys gallantly and gloriously contending for the prize.

“Jimmy Dolan was the doughty winner of the first race but the interest and excitement of the day culminated in the second race with was replete with ludicrous incidents.

“Arriving at Collopy’s Corner about a dozen donkeys dashed forward at a breakneck pace, Billy Saunders astride his coal-black ass, heading in beautiful style followed by two others whose outlandish names we could not retain.

“The crowd of people in the Square was very great and was particularly dense at Collopy’s Corner. The remainder of the donkeys, therefore, became wedged in and entangled amid the crowd at the corner and then a scene of the most picturesque confusion ensued.

“I actually saw one poor fellow with the briny tears of chagrin and vexation coursing down his ruddy cheeks.

“Another less maudlin but more ferocious in his disposition, springing from his steed with the agility of a mountain cat, walloped and cudgelled his stubborn beast most unmercifully but alas! All to no purpose.

“The donkey would not and could not go on. At last, after much ado, all were started: and hark! Presently they are returning from the bridge which was the extremity of the first half of the course.

“The whole course was about a quarter of a mile long and the hotel at the end of the Square was appointed as the goal.

“Now comes the tug of war. The excitement is intense. They have succeeded in passing Collopy’s Corner and are now scampering through the Square with John Gilpin velocity, “Huzza!


“BILL Saunders has it! No, No! He has not. Jack Kennelly goes ahead. Again Billy Saunders takes the lead but Jack Kennelly puts on a tremendous spurt and wins easily after a splendidly contested race.

“Billy Saunders and Jack Kennelly were then proclaimed victors. Accordingly the former got three shillings and the latter five. When the announcement was made that Kennelly and Billy Saunders were the fortunate winners of the first race and the Village Derby. Never did Grecian or roman mob, at circus or hippodrome, cheer more loudly than the young blood of Listowel.

“From the rather acute observations we made of Billy Saunders’s riding and assmanship we categorically announce to the public that the aforesaid Billy Saunders possessed all the requisite stamina for a good “Joc”.

“AS THE sport was appetising in the extreme I soon became wolfish and it now being near the canonical hour of six o’clock I prudently adjourned to dinner so I cannot tell you what transpired afterwards.

“Perchance there was a grand ball at which the victors were feted but if so I was not invited and it is an egregious scandal to overlook the Press on such occasions. In conclusion let me say a few words of a despised and oppressed race, the very Jews and Negroes of the brute community.

“It is customary with many persons to speak disparagingly and deridingly of the ass and to regard the horse as belonging to a more aristocratic family but surely such persons must be shamefully ignorant of the fact that the ass is not only a respectable but royal quadruped and was unquestionably allied to a king as the old classic legend records. King Midas had the ears of an ass.”

So much for the colourful description of the 1864 Listowel Donkey Derby by that able penman, Alethes.

Newspaper prose has become somewhat morose in the intervening years. One thing can be seen clearly and that is that the ass has not changed in a century, but then, man has not changed either. I confidently predict a quicker evolution for the better in the ass.

- The late, great John B Keane was a Leader columnist for more than 30 years. This column first appeared in our edition of March 18, 1974