Some people getting the hump over final resting place of camel

John B Keane


John B Keane

Some people getting the hump over final resting place of camel

REGARDING remarks of mine on television recently about the camel’s grave which is to be seen in a field near the village, I have received a letter from a Duagh man who claims that no such grave exists.

“I never,” he writes, “read such boloney from the pen of our so-called leading writers. What upsets me however is the fact that there is a select group of people who are prepared to believe anything as long as it has appeared in the newspapers.

“I’m sure that there are many people in Duagh and outside of it who will believe there is a camel’s grave in the district of Duagh. I defy you to come out here and publicly point out the grave. Advertise your coming and you will be assured of a crowd.

“Why not have it as part of the attraction of Writers’ Week?”

There is a lot more of this letter but unfortunately for the author and fortunately for me we must think of others.

About the camel’s grave. In 1902 George Hanratty’s circus visited Listowel after a most unsuccessful tour of South Kerry. He fared no better in Listowel so he went on the booze and the animals in his circus were forced to fend for themselves.

There was a monkey known as Bill to whom we have frequently referred in these columns and there were a few piebald ponies. The star of the show was an ancient buck camel.

George Hanratty left Listowel in a hurry pursued by his irate creditors. Some months afterward he died in Ennis, having successfully cut his throat with the cover of a cocoa canister. The ponies in the circus were seized by the creditors.

The monkey lived on till 1906, during which year he was photographed at the bottom of Church Street. The photograph now forms part of the famous Lawrence Collection, but all this is well known to most of my readers.

No account

IT IS with the camel that we must busy ourselves. When Hanratty was on the booze the camel broke out of his compound and spent a happy period with some migrant asses in Gurtenard Wood. It is reported that he sired some of the mares but if he did there is no account of the progeny.

Tiring of the asses, he left Gurtenard and spent a time grazing the roadside at the back of Ballygrenane Hill. Persecuted by local youths he took to the road once more. He died coming on the winter of 1902.

Some say he died from starvation. Others say he was put down after breaking a leg. More insist that he was shot by the R.I.C.

Whatever about the way in which he met his demise only one thing is certain and that is that he is buried in a field at the right hand side of the road as you go into Duagh from Listowel.

There is an account of his burial in the local papers of the period. For years there was a wooden cross over his grave. It has long since rotted.

On it were written the words: “Here lies a poor camel who died a long way from home. Take pity.”

In Bruff

THERE ARE countless tales about the legendary Bill Taylor of Glensharrold. He was a man of immense strength who was always hungry because when Bill was in his heyday there were many slack bellies in rural Ireland.

Most of the time he worked for farmers. On one occasion he lived with a farming family near Bruff. In the house were two brothers and one sister, all unmarried.

Bill started work on the first of February. He had to rise at five o’clock each morning.

He would come in for breakfast at seven-thirty, lunch was at one-thirty and supper was at seven o’clock. As the days grew longer the hunger started to affect Bill in earnest. He was about to hand in his notice when one of the brothers died suddenly.

On the day of the funeral Bill had a feed of drink and that night when he went to bed he grew ravenous with the hunger.

He waited till all was quiet and then he crept downstairs. In the dresser he found a plate of cold meat and cabbage.

He tackled it at once and did not rise from the table till all was eaten.

In the morning there was uproar but Bill maintained that he saw a man who resembled the dead brother in the kitchen.

Thinking it was an intruder Bill came downstairs, according to himself, in case there might be a robbery. It was then he saw the brother. He was eating meat and cabbage at the kitchen table.

Every night after that the brother and sister left a feed on the table when they went to bed and every night Bill Taylor came downstairs and ate it.

Caught cat

SOME YEARS ago, in Latchford’s stream on the Feale River near Listowel, Joss Moloney caught a dead cat. The cat was subsequently weighed by Gleann man Paddy Carey to see if it was a record.

The previous best was a dead cat caught by Horseshoe Conor at Finuge Bridge in the spring of nineteen hundred and nine. Horseshoe’s cat weighed four pounds and one ounce.

The cat caught by Joss Moloney weighed four pounds and two ounces. It was a new record. Last week Joss’s record was smashed to pieces when Joe Quaid who is no stranger to these columns reeled in a five pound cat, dead as a doornail, near the bridge a Kilmorna.

“I thought it was a salmon at first,” Joe informed me. “There was a strong current and I guessed the resistance was a salmon. Naturally I was very proud to bring the record home to Knockadirreen but it is a tribute to Athea as well because I was born there.”

I asked him if he expect the record to stand.

“No,” he said. “Any angler who wants to hold the record for a dead cat will break my record if he is said by me. He should fish below bridges because when people are drowning cats they always fire them in over the bridge. That’s the first thing to remember.

“The next thing is to wind in your line slowly because if the cat has been drowned a long time he is likely to be rotten and fast winding would only break him up. I once wound in a cat’s tail near Abbeyfeale. The rest of the body was decomposed.

“If I had the full cat he would surely have weighed a stone.”

“The one that got away?” I suggested.

“I still have the tail,” Joe said.

Prize pot

From dead cats we moved on to boots and shoes. In his time on the river Joe hauled in forty seven shoes and close on sixty boots. Some of the boots were still wearable. His most prized catch is a large enamel chamber pot in perfect condition.

“Whoever threw it away,” Joe said, “must have been mad.

“Of course,” he continued, “maybe there were Yanks coming one time and they got a swankier one.”

The late, great John B Keane was a Leader columnist for more than 30 years. This column first appeared in our edition of April 8, 1972

Good weather

According to Jack Wilberforce Faulkner now permanently stationed in Glin, the fine spell of weather which we enjoyed last month is due to the fact that we are about to enter the Common Market.

“You’ll see now,” said Jack, “as cordin as we get near it the weather will improve.”

“You said as cording,” I told him. “Shouldn’t it be according?”

“I don’t play it,” Jack answered. “The mouth organ I play.”

Matt Dillon

A DUAGH correspondent writes to tell me that the famous American sheriff, Matt Dillon, who is now the basis of a television series, has connections with Duagh.

“His father left here,” my informant states, “after the second potato famine in 1870. In America he married a girl from Tipperary and the union resulted in three sons and one daughter.

“Matt was the eldest of the family and left home to strike westwards from Chicago around the year 1890. After a hectic career he became a deputy sheriff and finally wound up as sheriff, perhaps the most courageous and famous lawman of them all.

“There is no doubt whatsoever about where his father came from. Dillon’s biographers all agree that the elder Dillon hailed from Kerry.

It is interesting to note that the father of America’s most famous outlaw, Jesse James, was born only 13 miles away in Asdee but while Asdee has called one of its pubs the Jesse James Tavern, Duagh has yet to commemorate Matt Dillon.”

It would be of interest if any reader could supply information about Matt Dillon’s father and where exactly he lived in the parish of Duagh.

The reason

THERE IS to be no June race meeting in Listowel. This is a pity because the meeting was sure to be a success. The directors however have not abandoned hope and the summer meeting may take place in future years.

At the present time Listowel Race Company pays a rent of nineteen hundred pounds per year for the use of the race course over the length of the four-day meeting. An extra two thousand pounds was asked for the two-day summer meeting. The Listowel Race Company offered seven hundred and fifty pounds for the two days but this was turned down.

This is the reason why no June meeting was held in Listowel last year and why no meeting will be held this year.