Irish patriotism comes in forty shades of green

John B Keane


John B Keane

Irish patriotism comes in forty shades of green

One bar fly responded to JBK[s request as to what he liked as follows: “I like the dole and I like de Valera. I love de Valera. He is very deep. There is no part of the sea as deep as de Valera.”

AFTER the result of the Common Market referen-dum I sat in a bar in the fair village of Tarbert and ordered a pint of nourishing brown stout.

It used to be called an imperialistic pint of brown stout but in these days of vivid green patriotism one has to watch what one has to say, otherwise one might be labelled less green than one’s neighbour.

In Ireland in respect of patriotism there are truly forty shades of green although this last referendum was a savage kick in the posterior to the greens of violence.

Anyway, as I say, I was sitting with my pint of stout when the talk on politics started. I was introduced to a man who was described to me as “black Fianna Fáil”.

“I only hated three things in my life,” he announced truculently, “and the first of those was the bloody Blueshirts.”

“He wouldn’t say that in public 30 years ago,” said a voice in the background.

“God forgive me,” said the man, who was black Fianna Fáil, “but I can’t bear the Blueshirts.”

“What are the other things you hate?” I asked.

“Creamery managers,” he said. “I can’t stand them.”

“What’s the final thing you hate?” another man asked.

“The final thing I hate, and I’ll tell you no word of a lie, is white bull calves.”

“Alright,” I said, “we have established your dislikes. Now perhaps you would be good enough to tell us what you like.”

“The dole,” he said. “I like the dole and I like de Valera. I love de Valera. He is very deep. In fact, there is no part of the sea as deep as de Valera.”

After this declaration of love and faith I heard the first of the Common Market jokes. There are bound to be thousands more. A man’s wife informed him they were out of coal. He told her he’d ring the merchant right away. For devilment he decided to use the only bit of French he knew.

“A hundredweight of coal, silvooz play,” he said.

“Sure,” said the voice at the other end, “do you want it cul de sac or a la carte?”


HAS THE corncrake disappeared altogether from the Irish countryside? If not, it would appear that his numbers are greatly reduced and that he is in danger of extinction.

Of cuckoos there are plenty and since I first reported in these columns about a medley of cuckoo songs heard in Affoulia, Lisselton, I have been swamped with accounts of cuckoo arrivals. With the corncrake, however, things are different. Only one report has come to hand and that from a returned Yank of the same Affoulia in Lisselton.

Again the throaty corncrake’s caroling was heard in the last resort of wildlife known as the Sallies. Here in the Sallies, hare and fox abound. So does the owl, the pheasant and the grouse. It is a sanctuary for wild creatures in every sense of the word.

But why the disappearance of the corncrake? I put the question to a few farmer friends and all were agreed that the answer was insecticide and artificial manure.

I remember meeting Jack Wilberforce Faulkner in the streets of Listowel on the thirteenth of May, once the date of the town’s biggest cattle fair but now no more than another day in the long calendar of the year. We spoke about cuckoos and corncrakes.

“If you ask me,” said Jack, “we’re all a bit cuckoo, although there’s some that’s more cuckoo than others. There’s cuckoos inside in cuckoo houses that’s as sane and sober as the best of us and there’s cuckoos out and around should be inside, but no names, no pack drill and anything that passes between you and me is gone like a pinch of sugar in hot tay.”

“Fine,” said I, “but how do you account for the disappearance of the corncrake?”

“Sure, that’s well known,” said Jack, “the same thing that’s doing away with mushrooms and butterflies and the warble.”

“Yes,” I said, “but what?”

“Nit powder,” said Jack. “Twill do away with ourselves yet.”


SINCE I started writing about the recurring phenomenon of pishogue making a few weeks back I was told by a priest who has much experience of such matters that pishoguery is traditionally associated with May and is not confined to Ireland.

He assured me that anyone who believes in pishogues is in dire need of psychiatric treatment. The damage is done by infecting the imagination of people.

Even to this day in most parishes there are people suspected of pishoguery rightly or wrongly.

Contrary to what this priest says there are educated people and professional men who are convinced that pishogue workers have power.

In a North Kerry parish a few weeks ago a toy dog owned by a very popular and well-known schoolteacher died for no reason. Even the vet could find no reason for the little dog’s demise.

The teacher, to whom I spoke, told me that he remembered putting a certain scholar, as they are sometimes emphatically called, outside the door for boyish misbehaviour.

As a result he was expecting a visit from the boy’s parents who have a small farm. They had previously attacked the teacher for doing likewise to another child.

However, the visit never materialised and all went well until one morning the teacher found a dead hen in his backyard. The following week he found the skin of an old sheepdog. The day after his little dog died.

I leave readers to draw their own conclusions. May is the month of pishogues, no doubt, but what is the worse kind of pishogue?

Apparently, it is when a goose egg is deposited on the property of the victim. It is believed that the next child to be born will have webbed feet. This is utter rubbish, of course, but it does not stop people from worrying. What of those people who practice pishoguery? God help them.

Law case

SPEAKING about goose eggs reminds me of a law case once conducted over the alleged theft of a goose egg. I will quote from the Kerry Sentinel which carried an account of the case in April 8, 1884. It was the first day of Listowel petty sessions. Anyway, here goes from the Sentinel.

“A farmer named McCarthy charged a young girl, named Brouder, with having stolen a goose egg. Mr F. Creagh appeared for the defendant.

Mr McCarthy did not see the defendant stealing the egg but he knew that the goose must have laid the egg as he clearly satisfied himself on that point in a very laughable, though hardly desirable manner.

“He had a little girl to prove it was the defendant who stole the egg. Mary Harnett, who is a little child about nine years of age, was called as a witness. She was very shy and seemed to be frightened. She said that she never told McCarthy or his wife that she saw defendant taking the egg nor she never saw anyone taking the egg.

“His worship dismissed the case saying it was a very curious one.”

The finest

LISTOWEL’S eighteen-hole pitch and putt club has been variously described as the finest to be found anywhere and the best in Ireland.

Having played on it all I can say is that layout-wise and scenically speaking, it has no equal anywhere. Membership for families, regardless of their numbers is five pounds a year, three pounds for male and two pounds for female.

The club at the moment is in debt to the tune of four hundred and fifty pounds, but I feel sure that Paddy Dowling and his men will wipe out this deficit as easily as they wiped away the scrubs and fellistrims which made the old course so hazardous and so ball concealing. Gone too is the selfish habit of green monopolising by groups of five, six, seven and eight. There is now a rule which limits playing parties to four.

The late, great John B Keane was a Leader columnist for more than 30 years. This column first appeared in our edition of May 27, 1972