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Renew and Rejoice St Francis - Duck Eggs for ye
By Butch
17, Jul 2009 - 07:18

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After long negotiations we finally secured an appointment with a Mr. Stan (Ollie, Cha) Elliott of Spencer St. The finest collector of comic books in the world. No doubt if Stan were growing up in the nu millennium he would have the largest collection of video games on the planet. With thick glasses, a funny voice, and a runny nose Stan was the forbearer of the computerite. He arrives on time. The carrier on his bike loaded down with a stack of comics that made us drool.

We suggest that the transactions might better be carried out under the shade of the old bush tree, near the refreshing waters of the well. Just a few perch down the boreen. We clambered aboard our bikes and headed off, passing the still smouldering fire from the week before! and exhalting Stan with tales of a huge inferno that could be seen for miles. Planking our bikes by the bushes by the entrance to the well, we sat down to begin the trade. Stan hefted his huge pile of comics off the bike and placed them on the grass besides our now meagre collection. The swap meet began in earnest and didn’t take very long as Stan would not accept any raggedy books and stood steadfast in the bargaining process – no flies on Stan, Desperate Dan, Dennis the Menace, The Dandy, The Beano, Batman Spider Man Superman. Greedy Boys!!?

We garnished a few new books and watched with envy as Stan hoisted his load on to the carrier straining to pull back the springed clasp as far as it could go
"Here Stan let us help you with that."
"Thanks lads."
"Why don't you go and have a drink of water from the well Stan? It’s a long ride back into town. And we'll watch your bike for you!! Go ahead Stan we'll be right here!"

Stan overcome by the hospitality of ‘The Newport Rd, Boys made his way to the pump. An iron fixture about four foot tall with a large handle, that had to be depressed many times before the water would come out of a horse-like mouth.
"Pump the handle Stan" we yelled.

While Stan was busy pumping water, we lightened his load of comic books so he wouldn't strain himself bicycling all that way back to Spencer St.!

The well is all covered in weeds and wild flowers now, the small narrow path obscured. In its hey day a place to congregate and confer, a place to play. Our centre of gravity. It was broached on three sides by a concrete wall small enough to sit on, jump over, walk on, and fall off. A squishy swamp on the other side however deterred the Santinis of the high wire from attempting this feat as the wall was rounded on top not flat.

Maggie Brown came to the well twice a day every day. She carried two large buckets with her and each laden with water upon her return. Maggie, Josie and elder sister Annie lived in a small thatched cottage just up the road from us on the other side opposite Cawley's. They had a small thriving farm. To my knowledge they had no running water and no electricity. The water they had to drink was the finest pure spring water you could find. Plentiful of rainfall in County Mayo was never a problem! To fill barrels and troughs for domestic and farm use. Lanterns to light their way and a open hearth fire for cooking and warmth The life of an independent farmer free from the trappings and hooks of society surely revolves around the cycle of the sun as it lightens the day to rise and darkens the night to rest.

Everybody went to mass, and families said the Rosary in the evening. I must have knocked on the Cawley's back door at the wrong time a hundred times. Just when they were sitting down to dinner or supper or getting ready to say the Rosary. Or when the mother was giving the girls a bath or Noel had to do his homework. Or there was work to be done, in the garden, in the shed, pumping the water up from the underground tank.

I would take turns with Noel as we hand cranked the pump outside, underneath the aluminium tank overhead, water dripping on our heads listening to the gallons pour in, My father had an electric pump for the same job that broke down incessantly. Invariably I would squirm my way inside their lives. Mrs Cawley taking pity on my long face whenever I knocked on their back door.

Besides we always had a good laugh. Mr Cawley was a man of good humour and enjoyed our banterings while Mrs Cawley kept a tolerable eye, but stern open for her two young daughters, Margo and Assumpta.

We stuffed our mouths with her wonderful biscuits and apple pie and giggled our way for more tea and played with the delph and mimed and mimicked each other for fun. They always made a place for me at their table in the back kitchen with the window overlooking Granny Daly’s orchard and her kitchen window.

Afterwards I would help to clean up and might be invited to say the Rosary with them. And kneel down in the dining room to break prayer as the father And mother tried to maintain discipline and respect throughout. While we stifled giggles, and stuffed laughter, stealing hidden smirking glances to each other from faces bent down into chairs as we waited for the next person’s turn to say a decade in the proper order. No mixing – joyfuls with the - glories, ten ave's, not eleven, glory be! glory be! Someone would yell, giggles arose, quiet!quiet! and Mr Cawley had the chant like Fr Noheley, from years of repetition saying the prayers like a sing song and God help the comedian who tried to imitate.

Gradually the Buddhist drone of the meditations would calm us down and we would wait patiently for the final prayers, coming around the corner of the fifth decade. the ‘Trimmins’ awaited us for the final lap. Here Mrs Cawley would have the honours, and it was impressive, quite a large litany of Saints were exhorted to intercede on our behalf.

Though I understand that some penitents wander off the Papal course and do not adhere to the path of their local Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur not mutinous mind you just an extension of temporal expectations,
  • May the Mayor be blessed with re-election.
  • May the oceans be free from nuclear waste.
  • May the rain forests survive the bulldozer.
  • May the electric motor rule the roads.
  • May suburban household lawns be outfitted with astro turf, and gasoline lawnmowers be driven into the sea.
  • May the weed whacker be voted the century's most useless tool, along with the leaf blower!
  • May our fragile gossamer of skin in the upper atmosphere be spared from ballistic toxic molecules.
  • May we offer our support to Mr. Annan in his quest to lead the army against aids.
  • May you feel the power of one.Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on Us,
Amen. P.T.
  • May I not suffer from hangovers after I drink too much?
...... well just thought I'd ask.................................................... "

She would portion out the decades to the company at large; But when she reached the ‘trimmins’ she would put herself in charge!; And it oft was cause for wonder how she never once forgot, But could keep them in their order - till she went right through the lot!

But the years have crowded past us, and the fledglings have all flown, And the nest beneath the Sugarloaf no longer is their own. For a hand is written finis and the book is closed for good. There's a stately red-tiled mansion where the old slab dwelling stood. There the stranger has her "evenings" and the formal supper's spread, But I wonder has she ‘trimmins’ now, or is the rosary said?. from “The Trimmins on the Rosary" by John O Brien, alias Fr. Patrick Joseph Hartigan.

After the rosary one evening Mr. Cawley treated us, that is, Peter, Noel, myself, Margo and Assumpta, to a hilarious skit on how his homework was corrected by his Father. Normally a serious hard working Irishman, who was not afraid to use the belt(!), now showed his lighter side. I spent many happy times with this family, on outings in Mallranny, Newport, Pontoon, at their table, playing cards, putting away the turf, and laughing at the same time, butting my nose in when I wasn't wanted, playing hide and seek all over God's half acre.

It's really very simple. When you got your sums wrong DUCK EGG!, when you got your spelling wrong DUCK EGG! When you blot your copy book DUCK EGG! When you disobey your Mother DUCK EGG! When you did things right you got a GOOSE EGG!

And if I move on with the story...............Noel and I were bored that afternoon. Easter holidays were upon us, cloudy rainy days, with nothing to do, except forage for fun, and I was good at that. I had swept the house clean for treasure. I never knew what I would find.

The old man had kept a lot of souvenirs from his time as Captain of a local F.C.A. regiment in Co. Tipperary. Army wagons were always pulling up to Granny's house, on their way to and from manoeuvres in Mullranny. My Uncle Tim was a Sargent in the regular army. The green army station wagon with polished wood trim on the outside and the steering column with the marble crested horn. Drawers full of brass buttons and medals, closets with uniforms and caps with ribbons. I would put on his Sam Brown belt, tighten up the slack and swagger outside to inspect the men, attenTION!

It was on one of these inspections of closets after "force" passed to "farce" that I found a box of flash powder on top of a kitchen cabinet. When Andy McTigue and my father retired from active roles on the Castlebar stage they turned their considerable talents to the backstage, transforming mechanics and postmen, into monsters and pirates, arranging props and creating special effects, to WOW the crowd. No surprise that our medicine cabinet in the bathroom might contain bottles of make up remover, instead of cough medicine. Boxes of gaily coloured wax like pencils, little vials of gold and silver paint occupied the place of cure-alls. I had been given a chemistry set for Christmas that year and now possessed a little knowledge of matter and its workings. Little did I know of how little I knew.

My parents were gone for the afternoon and the house was empty. I brought Noel in to show him my latest find, pulling a chair over to the press and climbing on top of the counter I now reached up to the top of the cabinet and brought down the box of flash powder. Cause that's what it said on the outside of the box WARNING FLASH POWDER HIGHLY INFLAMMABLE.

An aside comes to mind of an incident in our sister country "down under", New Zealand. One night outside Christchurch my friend Peter Fitzgerald and some of his mates were siphoning petrol into the tank of their car when one of them lit a match to see if it was full yet! And Peter managed to knock his hand away before they drove to heaven, perhaps the young man failed to see the sign by the petrol pumps they had come to rob WARNING GASOLINE HIGHLY INFLAMMABLE.

So it came to pass that Noel and I walked not so slowly, down to my Grandmother's barns, with a test tube taken from my chemistry set, packed to the brim with flash powder, and sealed tightly with a cork!

The cow barn was dark at first, but then rays of light filtered in thro' the cracks in the wooden door and in through the narrow open inserts high up in the back wall luminating the stirred straw dust.

Stepping over the dung drain on the floor, we placed the test tube on one of the three concrete partitions that separated the cows. We stepped back. I handed Noel a match leaving myself with one also. Striking the matches off the wall simultaneously we placed the flames underneath the test tube at arms length. No sooner had we done this when the small glass cylinder exploded!

Our world turned upside down, our brains and bodies recoiling from the tremendous blow, as air pressure pounded our skulls, with the force of a sledge hammer, stumbling outside with a large bell covering our heads and some black force hammering the belfrey with a clapper we cried and laughed together hysterically. Knowing we were alive, crashing around the barnyard in shock, stunned we stared at each other for missing vital parts. But whatever they were, we were still standing up, not well mind you, but upright on two stilts, our ears still ringing and ringing. We plunged our hands into the barrel of rainwater by the side of the hen house and examined each other for damage.

Noel had a ring of glass all around his left eye and down his cheek in a straight line like a question mark?, miniature cuts of little consequence. His left ear lobe was pierced clean through, paving the way for later adornment. My fingers had gone numb and were cut at the very top, little tiny slivers. The chemistry set luckily for us was not a very expensive one probably one of a million made in Japan at the time. Therefore the glass of the test tube was paper thin, and had burst into a million pieces. Ninety nine point nine percent of which went off to join the rest of the big bang and the rest stayed behind as a reminder Beware of signs that read WARNING GUNPOWDER HIGHLY EXPLOSIVE.

In the epilogue of this tale of dormant IQ, we tried to lay the groundwork of explanation for our mishap and as the brain was still sleeping, this is the story we came up with:

While walking past Mulchrones taking our leisure afternoon constitutional, the milk lorry heading west dropped a milk bottle from its load and the next car that came along drove over the bottle and sprayed the glass up into our faces grim as it sounds.

Fortified with this saving story we headed back to Noel’s house walked into the kitchen to find everyone home Peter Sr, and Jr. Mrs. Cawley, Margo and Assumpta, all seated around the table, expectant! For everyone had heard the explosion, even Annie Brown coming around P.J. Howards corner from town shopping heard the bang. We spluttered our story, breaking down towards the end into tears as the incredulous looks and amusement of our audience contradicted our consternation and every body started laughing at the audacity of our fable and the truth rolled out and the tears rolled down.

Mrs Cawley with a tweezers pulled little shards of glass and wiped our faces over the sink. Clicking her tongue with genuine concern as she cleaned the disaster up and washed it away.

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