John B Keane: Incredible yarns still abound about Paddy Drury, dead balladeer

Since writing about the late Paddy Drury a fortnight ago, I have been beleaguered with some incredible yarns about the dead balladeer. Having slept in a field on his way home from Ballybunion on a 15th of August many years ago, he awoke in the morning with a terrible pain in his back.

Since writing about the late Paddy Drury a fortnight ago, I have been beleaguered with some incredible yarns about the dead balladeer. Having slept in a field on his way home from Ballybunion on a 15th of August many years ago, he awoke in the morning with a terrible pain in his back.

When he went to work a few days later with a farmer, the pain was still there, and every time he bent down, he groaned with pain. The farmer, who knew what happened was enjoying Paddy’s discomfiture.

“You know what to expect when you sleep in a field,” he said to Paddy.

“A bad draught will give any man a pain,” Paddy replied.

“What have draughts got to do with it?” asked the farmer.

“While I was asleep,” Paddy said, “some eejit of a farmer opened the gate and forgot to close it after him.”

Of course, nearly everybody has heard of the time when Paddy and three others working with him were presented with bacon so tough none could chew it. Paddy raised his eyes to heaven, and composed the following on the spot:

Oh Lord on high Who rules the sky.

Look down upon us four.

Please give us mate that we can ate,

And take away the boar.

On another occasion while he was working in Ballyorgan, near Lixnaw, the daily diet consisted of salt salmon. Normally, this would be a most welcome dish, but when Paddy was forced to eat it everyday, three times a day for days on end, he was fed up to the gills with it.

Finally, one day, when he was given a plate of it for his supper after a hard’s day work he rose and put on his coat.

“Where in honour of God do you think you’re going?” asked the farmer’s wife

“I’m going back up the river to spawn,” was Paddy’s reply.

On another occasion, he was working with a farmer in West Limerick. This was a notoriously tight-fisted man, and needless to say the diet was pretty poor. It was bad enough most of the time, but on Fridays it was worst of all.

On this particular Friday after being out in the fields since dawn, Paddy was presented with half a herring in the middle of a huge dish of watery dip. Immediately he folded his arms, closed his eyes and started to snore. After a while, the farmer shook him.

“Let me be,” said Paddy.

“Aren’t you going to eat your dinner?” the farmer asked.

Paddy looked at his plate and then looked at the farmer.

“I will, I will,” he said, “as soon as the tide goes out.”


One final story about Paddy which shows the wide range of his wit. He applied for the old-age pension one time but was turned down because he was 10 years under age. He fought his case and finally, he was visited by an inspector. The inspector told him bluntly that there wasn’t a hope.

“You are only sixty,” he said, “and that cuts you out completely.

“I may be only sixty,” said Paddy, “but I saw ten years’ foreign service in Templeglantine.”

Needless to say he didn’t get the pension, but it would be truthful to say that pensions were given for less. He is now dead for nearly 25 years but stories about him are more plentiful than ever. He was the last of the spailpins and probably their greatest spokesman.

Neodata on the up and up

MANY Listowel people are wondering what the new building is near the ball alley at the southern entrance to Listowel Town Park. It is the property of Neodota Services Ltd, a company with an American base and with many subsidiaries. The unit in Listowel is complemented by other units in Abbeyfeale, Newcastle and Limerick city. It is expected that it will employ about forty girls initially mostly typists.

What is the product?

Specifically speaking, there isn’t any. Neodata is a company which helps out other companies. For instance, it distributes American magazines for publishers who are too busy to be bothered with anything but the editing and advertising sides. From Neodata bases, copies are posted to subscribers all over the world.

It is possible that the number of girls employed will rise to a hundred or even more in due course. The unit in Listowel has a special function. It is now law in America that all tyres must be returned to the manufacturers if flaws appear in one or more which have nothing to do with normal wear and tear.

The Listowel branch of Neodata will notify the owners of these tyres for the companies. It will be in operation at the end of the month.

J. Faulkner, Esq.

Jack Faulkner of Glin arrived in Listowel last week to honour the memory of the great fair of May 13, a fair which is now no more, although there was a large crowd at the mart. A number of people gathered around to listen when Jack spoke about his housekeeping problems. Ever since the kindhearted folk of Glin presented him with a new house earlier this year he has had to do his own housekeeping and cooking. His address, incidentally, is exactly the same as that of the Knight of Glin. People who want to write to him should address their letters to Jack Wilberforce Faulkner Esquire, The Demesne, Glin.

Jack favours herbs and wild vegetables when cooking and he told us that his favourite diet is boiled spare ribs and young nettles. When asked about fried foods he told us that a frying pan was too noisy.

“Even if ’tis only sausages it makes more noise than a train,” he said. “I’ll boil and I’ll stew and steam but I won’t fry. There isn’t a sound gizzard or liver in the country,” Jack went on, “after frying pans. Stomachs have very light linings,” he explained “and make no battle against burnt mate or liver or the likes.”

Writers’ Week

Writers’ Week in Listowel fast approaches. It will begin with the official opening by Dr Seamus Wilmot at Club na Feile on June 2 at eight o’clock and closed by the same man at the same place on June 6.

For a programme of events which also includes a registration accommodation form for those who intend to stay, those interested should write to secretary James Harman, Upper William Street, Listowel.

On every night of the five-night long festival there will be a bar extension at Club na Feile which will be situated at Listowel Arms Hotel. New plays by Bryan McMahon and yours truly will be presented and there will be a poetic dialogue by Brendan Kennelly, acted by Vincent Dowling and Aideen O’Kelly, entitled The Irish Make Lousy Lovers. Unfortunately Kennelly himself will be in America. Another absentee through no fault of his own will be actor Eamon Keane.

entertainments including a tour to places in Listowel connected with writers, conducted by Bryan McMahon. There will be a tour to the birthplace of George Fitzmaurice directed by Michael O’Connor of Duagh, with a commentary by Liam Miller of the Dolmen Press.

There will be an art exhibition opened by Tim Danaher. For the first time ever paintings by Listowel’s own James O’Carroll, will be on display. On roll, will be on display. On Sunday, June 6, there will be a Mass in Irish with Sean O’Reada and Cheoltoiri Chulainn. Michael O h-Aodha of the Abbey Theatre and Radio Eireann will talk on George Fitzmaurice and Eamonn Kelly, Maura O’Sullivan and Nora Relihan will read from slected works of Kerry writers.

These are but a few of the many attractions of Listowel’s first ever Writers’ Week.

The late-great John B. Keane was a Limerick leader columnist for over 30 years. This column first appeared in our edition May 22, 1971.