John B Keane: Time for a woman to get a place on Races committee

Listowel Race Company can look back with considerable pride and satisfaction on its most recent success.

Listowel Race Company can look back with considerable pride and satisfaction on its most recent success.

With Tote takings in excess of £170,000 for the four days, they have once again eclipsed the Tralee and Killarney meetings. The amount taken in Listowel is more than the takings of Tralee and Killarney put together.

There is a reason for everything but one must look deep to fathom the real reason for Listowel’s success in a field where it has no right to be successful for there are no horses training in the area.

To begin with it is the ideal time of year for a race meeting. The tourist season is all but over so publicans and hoteliers are tempted to take a break away from it all in Listowel.

The harvest is saved and the farmers are relatively free to take a week’s rest. The townspeople go all out to make the meeting a success.

Houses are freshly painted. Lighting and decorations are second to none and there is a week-long programme of events culminating in the All-Ireland Wrenboy’s Competition.

This year’s championship is believed to have been the best ever and the winners hailed from Askeaton in Limerick.

The final and most convincing reason for the phenomenal success of Listowel Race Week is, of course, the board of directors and secretary of Listowel Race Company.

Nothing I could say here would do justice to their contribution and I think this is a fact that nobody would deny. So now to hop a ball as it were....

Why not a lady member of this august body? I mentioned it to a leading Listowel businessman and he concurred by saying: “why not indeed?”

In fact during the course of several conversations with what are known as responsible people the idea was welcomed although there was one cynic who insisted it would be the end of Listowel’s Race Week.

Would not the presence of a lady dispel the gloom and drudgery from routine meetings across the long months of winter? Would not her sex be a gentle influence should there ever be, God forbid, a strong difference of opinion? Would not here serenity be a boon rather than a handicap?

The question quite naturally arises as to where such a lady might be found. I can think of several right off but I can think of one in particular with vast experience in many fields who would be an ideal choice should it ever occur to the reigning members to appoint a lady to the board of directors.

Of course, it is only a suggestion but then we are in the era of Women’s Lib and a concession to the gentler sex would be a shining example of tolerance and enlightenment. It could only happen in Listowel.

No headstone

As I mentioned many times in these columns, there is no headstone over the grave of Paddy Drury and his brothers, Buckard and Billy in the Old Abbey at Knockanure.

At the time of writing I have in my possession subscriptions totalling almost £20 for the erection of a suitable memorial but much more is needed.

Subscriptions should be sent to myself or to Daniel Keane, Insurance Agent, Knockanure, or to William Finucane, Asdee, Ballylongford.

Paddy Drury died in the County Home in Killarney in 1947 after a long illness. He wrote some two hundred poems and could be described as a Gale poet rather than a Feale poet. He was illiterate and when he wanted to memorise one of his compositions he would go to bed.

For a man with no schooling he was an outstanding wit and songmaker. In 1920 he composed his tribute to the three Knockanure martyrs:

May the Lord have mercy on those youths,

Their hearts were loyal and pure;

They were caught and shot in that lonely spot

By the fort near Knockanure.

Then about Con Dee’s escape:

Over hill and Dale Con gave leg bail

While the bullets pierced the ground;

Then jumped the strame at the Bog Lane

And blinked the devil’s hounds.”

His most charming composition in my opinion is a delightful piece called “The Barns by the Gale”:

The moon tonight is shining bright

And twin stars light the way,

For me to go-acourting

To a spot in Lower Athea;

The way is cross and hard to pass

When darkness drawn its veil,

But ‘twill make a night for courtin’

In the barns by the Gale.

He goes with an account of those who frequented the barns:

Now bouncing Biddy from Knockbawn

Will her usual visit pay,

And pretty Nellie Brady

Her heart’s in Knockathea;

We’ll have Newtown’s charming Nora,

O what a lovely trail,

Let by the queen of Scartaglin

To the barns by the Gale.

One could quote the Drury ballads all day and never grow tired of them. One of the best courtroom answers ever given was done so by Paddy’s brother Billy.

Billy Drury was a witness for the defendant. When he was called the judge sighed.

“We can’t accept a word of this man’s evidence,” said the Judge, “because it’s well known that all the Drurys are rogues.”

“That may be,” Billy answered in a flash, “but not all the rogues are Drurys.”

It is a shame indeed that no stone stands over the Drury brothers.

Foreign bodies

The drinking water in the town of Listowel has now acquired a new colour. Up to this it was light brown but now it is the same colour as genuine bogwater and would seem, at first glance, to have more foreign bodies in it than the ladies’ strand in Ballybunion on the Sunday of August weekend.

High time we were provided with decent drinking water. This disgraceful situation has gone on long enough.

Fierce smile

Louis Heaphy, as every body knows by now, is the Ballylongford process server so often mentioned in these columns. Process serving can be a tough job but not if you’re Louis Heaphy. The people to whom he delivers summonses instead of being annoyed, ply him with drink when he calls and often he is put sitting down to a substantial meal.

As a Duagh woman put it recently: “Louis knocks half the harm out of a summons.”

One well known North Kerry character who threatened to shoot any process server who attempted to serve him broke down completely when Louis knocked at his door. Louis handed him the summons and smiled. Immediately he was brought in and given a drink.

“I have a fierce smile,” Louis told me last week. “No one can resist it, not even the small farmers.”

Louis has changed the image of the process server. What used to be a dodgy and somewhat shifty calling is now a position of which any man might be proud - thanks to the smiling law-man from Ballylongford.

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