John B Keane: scandal of women carrying illegal fish in message bags

AN INTERESTING epistle from a Kilmorna reader who maintains that he has not missed a single version of this column since it first saw the light of day in the Leader. This is very flattering, almost touching, but we must not let these old encomiums go to our heads.

AN INTERESTING epistle from a Kilmorna reader who maintains that he has not missed a single version of this column since it first saw the light of day in the Leader. This is very flattering, almost touching, but we must not let these old encomiums go to our heads.

“You state,” says he, “that all salmon which go up the Smearla by a one-way ticket at the Joinings. You spoke the truth but you forgot to say how they come down. it’s not by water and it’s not by rail. They come down, John B., by bicycle. They come down by night and they come in message bags.

“They are driven by women who are unsuspected and that’s the truth. You would never think from the faces of these women that they were carrying illegal fish in their message bags. You would think it was holy books,” the writer goes on and on but enjoyable and edifying as the remainder of the letter is it is more suited to the pages of a sports gazette than it is a newspaper.

So that, then, is the mystery solved. I often wondered where all the Smearla salmon went to. It is known fact that all salmon pause for awhile at the Joinings before proceeding up the river towards Abbeyfeale and Mountcollins, where they can always be assured of a most warm welcome.

A small percentage dawdle and as they dawdle they then tire and thus find it less arduous to combat the Smearla current. So they make the Smearla their home.

Their stay is short and happy and their fate as dubious as those who, in other fields, similarly buy one-way tickets.

Certainly there is no known case of a salmon coming back down the Smearla again. The hospitable anglers of those parts would not hear of it.


FEALE anglers have other problems besides the current scarcity of fish. Landing a fish is no easy matter, even for the most practised exponents. Even when the salmon is on the bank it is still possible that he will slip back into his native habitat again.

There is a story told about the late Paul Walsh, a noted angler and an uncle of Jack Doran, to whom Joe Quaid is dedicating his book, Hook Line and Sinker. Paul Walsh was fishing one day near the Joinings when on the other bank a well-known Listowel angler hooked a heavy fish and started to play him. The play lasted for nearly an hour and finally the fish was brought ashore.

The Listowel angler withdrew the hook and with a stone banged the salmon on the head several times. Then he took his bag from his back. As he was pulling the bag over his head the salmon shivered and shook himself. Then with a mighty thrust it flung itself into the river. The angler from Listowel scrambled after it but as with many another there was no hope of re-capture once the fish got into the water.

“That’s a terror,” he shouted across the river.

“Heartbreaking” Paul shouted back.

“You can’t say you have one of them caught,” said the Listowel angler, “until you have him secure in the bag.”

“No,” shouted Paul, “you can’t say you have one of them caught until you have him drank.”

Hot pants

AN interesting letter from Kilmallock from one J.G., whose full name I am not at liberty to publish.

“Dear Mr Keane,

I see by your writings that there are a lot of men in West Limerick looking for wives. I would ask you to send them on here to the Kilmallock and Charleville area where there are a lot of fine girls, girls moreover with very fine thighs training hard for Hot Pants. If you can show me anywhere girls with finer thighs than our girls I will retire. With the very high cost of living at the present time a girl who wants very little clothes would make a great wife for any man so send them along.

Sincerely, J.G.”

Money matters

A MOTHER-IN-LAW and daughter-in-law who didn’t get on ran or tried to run a shop between them. Then along came the decimals and the daughter-in-law declared that she would never get use of the new money.

“It would be hard for you,” said the mother-in-law “when you’re not used to the old money yet.”


GREAT news from Carrigkerry. A public telephone has been installed there, complete with new kiosk. The Minister has listened favourably to the parents’ request for a four-teacher school. A Council scheme of houses is to begin shortly in Carrig. The number of marriage engagements so far in 1971 has reached the record number of 12. By public demand this year’s Carrigkerry festival will run for three weeks.

Saturday night house-dancing is also very popular and these dances have been featured on Radio Eireann.

They are held in different houses all the time. Teas are served by the ladies’ social committee. By all accounts the female card players of Carrigkerry are the best in Munster. They know all the old tricks and some new ones that have yet to be revealed publicly.

According to my Carrigkerry correspondent, who is as reliable as Reuters, matchmaking is becoming big business in West Limerick. There are now four matchmakers operating there successfully. To quote my correspondent: “Like Confession it’s confidential.” Two farmers and one working man have secured wives recently through matchmaking.

Age no object

PATRICK AHERN of Glensharrold, Carrigkerry tells me that he cannot cope with the demand by all sections of the community for wives. Patrick is more or less regarded as the matchmaker-in-chief of the area.

“The demand for wives,” to quote Patrick, “exceeds the supply. Girls are not interested in marrying while farmers are setting their sights too high.”

According to Patrick Ahern they are now seeking nurses and teachers. There is also a great market for widows and apparently in this respect age counts no longer.Recently a man from Castletownbere cycled all the way in three stages in Carrigkerry. He was prepared to wait indefinitely provided a wife was forthcoming. There was a widow woman available but the Castletownbere man declined the offer.

He has since returned empty-handed to his home but he has signified that he will return again to Carrig at the first news of an available woman. Before he departed he made an interesting statement. Said he with a smile: “The age of the victim don’t matter.”


YESTERDAY I received a postcard on which was written one word in capitals, “Tournafulla.” After came a question mark. There was no more, no name signed, no anything. I wonder what lies behind it. We must wait and see.


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