SOME time ago, while dealing with the famous Lyrecrompane matchmaker, Dan Paddy Andy O'Sullivan, there was a reference to grinders, which, as every schoolboy knows, are nothing more and nothing less than ordinary false teeth.
Some of my readers whom I met accidentally in Charlie St George's famed hostelry in Limerick some time ago expressed surprise that teeth should weigh so heavily in the final stages of match-making.
Matchmaking is the most delicate of all trades.
It calls for insight, tact, sensitivity, and compassion also for a wide knowledge and understanding of the follies and flaws of that ever-increasing conglomerate known as humanity.
Matchmaking is the most delicate of all trades.
It calls for insight, tact, sensitivity, and compassion and also for a wide knowledge and understanding of the follies and flaws of that ever-increasing conglomerate known as humanity.
Matchmaking is a form of diplomacy.
The aim of diplomacy is to bring warring states together.
It is the same with match-making.
The aim is to bring two people together, who, previously, may have had a certain amount of dislike and suspicion of each other.
When I was a gorsoon in the Stack's Mountains, Dan Paddy Andy O'Sullivan was in his heyday and was besieged by bachelors and spinsters not to mention widows and widowers from one end of the day to the other.
While outlining the assets of a client Dan might say: "He have his own teeth," or "He's just after getting in grinders," meaning that he had acquired new false teeth.
In those distant days teeth were used mostly for eating and ripping knots and rarely for love-biting and the likes which would seem to be going on all around us at this present time if one is to judge by the molar imprints so evident on the necks, ears, arms, and shoulders of certain women.
I'll grant you there were somewhat similar marks long ago, but these were caused not by amorous love-bites, but by starving fleas now completely exterminated by D.D.T.
I once saw a lady in bathing togs on the beach at Ballybunion, 1936.
She was mottled all over from flea bites.
This is not to say she was untidy or deliberately unclean.
She was merely the victim of prolonged and scurrilous attacks by fleas.
Some women were never afflicted thus.
It wasn't everyone's blood of the black-haired women and would frequently forego the blood of a fine, plump foxy woman in favour of a feed from the body of a thin, scrawny lady of sultry features.
There are no flea bites now and more's the pity for blood-letting in moderation was a great thing to reduce blood pressure and keep weight.
But what has all this to do with teeth?
Astute and knowledgeable systematiser that he was, Dan Paddy knew precisely how many teeth, parts of teeth and stumps of teeth occupied the mouths of his clients as well as knowing the number of false teeth, upper and lower.
These were essential facts if matrimonial negotiations were to be successfully completed.
The absence of teeth, or worse still, black teeth or gated against the chances of middle-aged chances or middle-aged hopefuls.
Large gaps in the frontal array or that area of the teeth used for smiling were no asset either.
Still, if a man was otherwise presentable or was well-endowed with money and land, the condition of his teeth was often overlooked.
These could be dealt with after the knot was tied and he could be coaxed into going to the dentist in due course, winding up with a mouth so titillated an deranged that looking at it one would be reminded of a miniature gold mine.
Let me say here now and however, that gold teeth are a dead loss for the purpose of love-biting.
You cannot put a proper point on gold teeth and anyway, gold is too soft for an open confrontation with bone.
But let us return to our beginnings.
As readers will have gathered from this and other essays on the subject, extraordinary knowledge is required if one is to be proficient at the business of matchmaking.
A lot of heartbreak can be spared by not entrusting one's business to charlatans and pretenders.
The margin for deceit can be totally eliminated when the matchmaker knows his business and is fully acquainted with the case histories of his clients.
Take the case of Dinny Doodawn, which, of course, is not his real name at all.
Dinny was well into his forties before the way was clear for him to marry.
He had a fine farm, a good house, and money in the bank.
The girl upon whom he cast a favouring eye was a fairly attractive damsel in her thirties who had been in Dan Paddy Andy's books for several years.
Dan had repeatedly advised her against haste, assuring her that the right man would show up if she bided her time.
It looked as if Dinny Doodawn was that man.
He had all the classic points of your true bachelor was allowed things to drift too far and is now so far from the shore of matrimony that it could be said he is completely at sea.
Bachelors who pass their thirties are quietly-spoken, pleasant, withdrawn individuals, who have shed the wild impetuosity of youth and who are now serene in their outlook, having acquired pose, civility and common sense over the years.
Best of all
In the eyes of mothers, these are the best proposition of all.
They have shed all that rowdyism, thoughtlessness and selfishness that is the hallmark of youth, and therefore, would be less likely to make life unpleasant for the dear and darling daughters of deeply concerned mothers.
Dan Paddy Andy, however, decided to do a spot of investigating.
Dinny Doodawn's neighbours told him nothing except what was favourable.
This made Dan suspicious.
He searched his memory and recalled vaguely that Dinny Doodawn was involved in some sort of household accident when he was a child.
Apparently, his mother was one morning boilings eggs for the breakfast while Dinny played near the doorway with a broken saucepan.
When the eggs were boiled, Dinny's mother threw the water out the door but alas, a spatter or two fell on Dinny's private part.
He was quickly taken to a doctor, and no more was heard of the matter.
For some years afterward, there was considerable speculation in the district as to what exactly happened to Dinny Doodawn and many the whispered conversation was held in an effort to discover was a precise part, if any, of his anatomy was affected.
There was much conjecture and speculation, but then, unexpectedly, a bull calf with two heads was born in Tooreensharrive, and that put an end to the theorising about Dinny Doodawn.
Dan Paddy Andy decided to visit a man who worked in the Doodawn household at the time.
The man was somewhat circumspect, but Dan nevertheless deduced that all was not as it should be downstairs with Dinny Doodawn.
He reported his findings to the girl who straight away broke off negotiations.
In despair, Dinny Doodawn went to Dan Paddy Andy and begged him to find a woman, any woman at all, to take the loneliness and despair out of his life.
He recounted to Dan a litany of sorrows and tribulations, which only the company of a loving and understanding wife could dispose of.
There was no hurdle he would not jump nor river he would not cross if he thought he would come upon a lively woman at the end of his travail.
"You have money galore," Dan told him, "and my advice to you is to go to the best doctors who specialise in what ails you."
Dinny Doodawn thought carefully about Dan's proposal for with all his talk, and the last thing Dinny wanted to part with was his money.
They had been together to happily for such a long time that there was a natural reluctance on his part to release a single pound note into the world unless he himself was accompanying it.
Dinny Doodawn took Dan Paddy's advice.
He wound up in London where a successful operation was performed.
The result was that he returned home with a greatly improved undercarriage.
He married the girl of his choice, and they all lived happily ever after, except Dan Paddy Andy who never received as much as a brown copper for the inestimable services he had been rendered.
He had no law to get.
Ubi jus incertum, ibi jus nullum, which means, in Stack's Mountain language;
"Where the law is tricky, you have no law at all," or to put it simpler still: "A pound in a pocket is worth a hundred on the long finger."
This article first appeared in The Leader on November 21, 1976.