John B Keane: Plenty beef given free in pubs before state’s scheme

I received a somewhat sarcastic letter from an ex-school teacher who is quite rightly one of the most popular men in west Limerick. He is also a friend of mine, but sarcastic or not his letter is not without the elements of truth.

I received a somewhat sarcastic letter from an ex-school teacher who is quite rightly one of the most popular men in west Limerick. He is also a friend of mine, but sarcastic or not his letter is not without the elements of truth.

“Dear John B,” he opens. “I was a young man when the free beef came out first and I went along with it is as poor people were going hungry. The Government meant well and the Irish poor will always be grateful as will many an Irish greyhound.

“But John B., long before the Government introduced free beef the publicans of Abbeyfeale and Listowel were getting their share of it. It is common knowledge that there were more parcels of beef and mutton lost in public houses on fair days than was given out by the Government during all their years in office. Do not deny it.

“On market days as well, fine parcels of meat were left behind on the counters of public houses in Listowel and Abbeyfeale.

“My own father, the Lord be good to him, took me to my first fair as a gorsoon of twelve. I will not say whether it was Listowel or Abbeyfeale.

“We sold early and as soon as my father got paid we repaired to a pub where the man behind the counter gave us plenty of fine talk. Later we left the pub and went to a butcher’s shop where my father bought several pounds of beef. We returned to another pub where a woman was in charge.

“Again we got plenty fine talk and enquiries about our health and the health of my mother. We left and walked round the place watching the goings-on. It was then we discovered that we had forgotten the meat. When we returned to the pub there was no sign of it but the woman behind the counter assured us that someone without scruples must have taken it.

“We bought a second parcel at another butcher’s shop and the next time we went into a pub we kept our eyes glued to it.

“My poor father sent me out to tackle up the pony saying he would meet me at a certain corner. I did as I was told and in a quarter of an hour as planned, he was waiting for me.

“He sat into the car and I flicked the reins. The pony broke into a trot and we were away. It was when we were two miles out the road we thought of our fine parcel of meat.

“We turned back but when we enquired in the pub there was no sign of it. The woman behind the counter told us that no one was to be trusted those days.

“We bought a third round of meat.

“So now do you believe me when I say that the Free Beef was there long before the Government sanctioned it?”

Praise is due

Congratulations to Askeaton on their winning of the All Ireland Wrenboys’ Bands Competition on Friday week last.

Praise is also due to Tournafulla and Moyvane who received very high marks. Askeaton deserved their win and they brought off their victory against all the odds.. Nobody gave them a chance before the event but when they appeared on the platform in the Square of Listowel it was evident that they meant business.

Full marks then for a deserving victory.

Also very popular with the crowd was the group from Kingscourt, in the County of Cavan, and there were many who felt that they should have done better than third place.

The event attracted the biggest crowd and at a conservative estimate, at its peak, there were 20,000 people in the Square. Despite this, the whole thing went off without a hitch. A lot of that is due to the fact it was a fine night.

Would-be bride

This morning a letter from a woman in Kesh, Co Fermanagh. The letter is a genuine one and all she asks is that I get her a hus

band. Now hold on, hold on all ye bachelors.

There are certain conditions so bide with me a while and if you feel that you are the man feel at liberty to get in touch with me.

The lady in question is fifty-one years of age, has an excellent figure and is considered quite attractive. She has five hundred pounds in the post office, is a good cook, likes television and live shows, particularly plays.

She is a Catholic and would come south to live preferably to Cork, Limerick or Kerry. How’s that for openers?

Now for the conditional side. She wears spectacles but she says in her letter that these improve an already pretty face. She is not a cigarette smoker and will not marry a man who smokes no matter how well off he is or how good-looking.

Neither will she have anything to do with a man who takes intoxicating drink. The man she has in mind would be a middle-sized farmer with his own car and home. She assures me that she will make him happy.

Those interested must not be less than forty and not more than sixty. This is a genuine proposition so hoaxers beware.


A letter from my friend, Mrs G Leeman of Galvone Road, Limerick, who in her spare time is an excellent poet. She takes me to task for crediting Shakespeare with a line of Lord Tennyson’s to wit: “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”

She is quite right of course. The line belongs to Tennyson and not to Shakespeare, although Shakespeare need not be ashamed of it. I must have been suffering from a lapse of memory at the time and therefore extend apologies all round.

“I am greatly intrigued,” writes Mrs Leeman “by your bachelors but though extremely ‘FIRM’ would not be eligible. However the bachelors remind me of the old sayings of women of different ages contemplating marriage...

A woman of twenty asks:

‘Who is he?’

A women of thirty asks:

‘What is he?’

A woman of forty asks:

‘Where is he?’”

Thady Woods

During Listowel Races I met the famous Thady Woods of Athea. I never saw him looking better. Thady is now living in Limerick but he still hankers after the hills and streams of his native Athea.

He told me he was well pleased with his job and that he was nearly as happy as he was when he worked in Listowel. He told me he really enjoyed the Gemini season of plays in Limerick and that he was entertaining serious notions of becoming a drama critic.

What a change it would be to have one who loves and understands the theatre so well.

Quite a number of letters have come to hand concerning the remaining verses of that immortal ballad, “Abbeyfeale, Abbeyfeale, Abbeyfeale.”

The main difficulty is finding word to rhyme with Duagh. Readers will remember a few weeks ago the discovery of the late second verse which went as follows:

Abbeyfeale, Abbeyfeale, Abbeyfeale, Abbeyfeale,

Abbeyfeale, Knocknagoshel and Duagh.

Dromlegach, Dromlegach, Dromlegach, Dromlegach,

Dromlegach, Toureendonail and Lixnaw.

There now seems to be no doubt but that Paddy Lysaght of Duagh is the composer of the Dromlegach verse. It was composed in a flat in Holland Park, London, under the supervision of Dan Joe Galvin in Duagh.

Later that night it was given an airing in Hyde Park where it was well received by a scattered but appreciative audience.

Here are two further verses written by Paddy Lysaght and myself but remember that we are willing to withdraw these if better compositions are forthcoming.

Abbeyfeale, Abbeyfeale, Abbeyfeale, Abbeyfeale,

Abbeyfeale,Knocknagoshel and Duagh.

Knockanure, Knockanure, Knockanure, Knockanure,

Knockanure, Skehenerin and Larha.

Abbeyfeale, Abbeyfeale, Abbeyfeale, Abbeyfeale,

Abbeyfeale,Knocknagoshel and Duagh.

Beecher’s Lane, Beecher’s Lane, Beecher’s Lane, Beecher’s Lane,

Beecher’s Lane, Piper’s Hill and Knockasna.

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