long as it lasts
story by Ciaran Parker.
Patrick OReilly had lived alone in his small, two-roomed
cottage near Bailieborough since the death of his wife a
decade earlier. They didnt have any family, and so
any visitors were welcome; indeed, he considered they had
been sent by God (with a little bit of nagging from his
wife) to keep his company.
He heard footsteps coming up the lane. His 76 years of hardship
had impaired neither his sight not his hearing. His mind
was as sharp as a pin, so he recognised the footsteps as
those of his two nephews; Michael, aged 29 and his brother
Jimmy, 17. He watched them approach through the half door
but rather than wait for them to knock, he ran out to greet
Michael ... Jimmy ... its great to see ye after
Ah now uncle Paddy, its barely a month since we were
Michaels face tried to match the happiness of his
uncles but it couldnt and Patrick sensed that
something troubled him. As he led him towards the porch
Michael, whats up?
Michael held out the sheets of crumpled newspaper and replied
Here, theres about Cousin Mary and Sean in it,
and how their place was took off them. His hands shook
as he spoke.
Were royalty now, uncle, our cousins are in
the news, quipped Seamus, lightheartedly.
This is no laughin matter, Seamus, as well you know,
snapped Michael aggressively.
Come on in Michael and read it to me, wont you.
It is with sadness and anger that this newspaper records
the distressing scenes which attended the eviction of Mr
Sean Brady, his wife, family, and aged mother from their
dwelling at Lattagloohan, Crosskeys last week. The bailiff,
with a large contingent of constabulary, gave ample warning
of their arrival by their ostentatious swagger along the
route from Cavan town. On arrival at Mr Bradys dwelling,
the bailiff announced his intention of taking possession
of the farm for the non-payment of a years rent. He
remained unmoved, as if deaf, to the entreaties of the family,
and the wailing of their six children, none older than nine
years of age. Mr Bradys gray-haired mother was removed
by two constables with a degree of brusqueness hardly appropriate
for a frail woman in her eighties. We are informed by our
correspondent that the unfortunate family have received
shelter and sustenance from their neighbours. There are
those of us who had believed that such examples of heartless
tyranny were in the past, and while we hope and pray that
the Brady family may be the last to suffer such barbarous
treatment, it is not a hope upon which we can affix much
Its bad ... its bad, repeated Uncle
Patrick, his head bowed. And who has the farm now,
the stock, their little sticks of furniture?
That Terry Smith
Dont let me that ... (he nearly uttered a fearful
oath of denunciation, but checked himself just in time)
... scoundrels back. I thought wed ran him out
of the county for good. And his poor wife, black and blue
he made her before she died. Its true what they say:
Put the devil on horseback and hell ride to hell!
That fella will need to have eyes in the back of his
head to stay safe.
Michael muttered, and then his face became as red with anger
as his beard. But how dare any of them do this. Expecting
a man to part with money for his own land, his own land,
and then putting him and his family on the roadside when
they wont ...
... Or cant, replied Patrick. Do
you think this northern fella, biggar will do anything?
Id be a bigger eegit if I did, laughed
Jimmy. His brother pretended to ignore him.
To be honest, uncle, Ive heard too many of them,
promising us Paradise on Earth, but the only ones who get
anything are themselves. Joe Biggar may be a good man, but
hes not one of us. Hes never seen his brother
thrown out of his house on a winters night. None of
his relations ever died of the hunger or the fever.
His uncle sat back against the wall. Things only seem
to get worse instead of better. I used to think life would
improve but when Maisy died I asked Frank OConnor
Will it never get better? and he put his big
bears paw of a hand on my shoulder and said: Dont
despair, Patrick. This will only last for as long as you
live on this earth ...
Both Michael and young Jimmy were sorry they had brought
unhappiness to their uncle, and were anxious to lighten
the atmosphere, but it fell to the irascible Jimmy to effect
a change in mood.
Did ye hear, uncle, about Peter McMahon, and what
happened to him? he smirked.
Something no good, like Peter McMahon himself, replied
Patrick, shrugging his shoulders as if he were cold.
What happened then? Michael inquired, as if
he hadnt heard the story before.
Ah well, he was drinking in Bailieborough a few weeks
ago an he was throwing it down him and anyone else
who came near him ...
...and you no doubt went near him? asked Michael.
Sure isnt he practically a neighbour?
His farm and yours are over a mile from one another,
Go on anyhow, Michael commanded.
Well when he left on the oul road for Kingscourt
didnt we follow him out. Well he was singing and shouting
and roaring and when he came near Labanlea he saw this lone
thorn bush in the moonlight. He gets it into his head that
its one of the Macauley girls from over round
Killann and runs towards the bush shouting A Rose,
mo ghra, mo ghra, and he jumps up on the bush and
puts his arms around it.
Are ye joking, Jimmy?
Im not, Im serious ..
Well the thundering eegit
And what happened to him? inquired his uncle
He was having a great time, patting the bush, kissing
it, telling it how beautiful it was. And we werent
too far off, and we couldnt stop laughing.
Did yez just leave him there? asked his uncle.
What else could we do? Me and Tommy Joe Reilly went
up to him after a while and tried to pull him off, but he
was stuck there, and the more we pulled, the more we ripped
his trousers, and that made us laugh even more, so we just
left him there.
Patrick darted his eyes over his two guests, up to the rafters
of the roof and back to the floor, all the time shuffling
his feet, as he did whenever he was displeased.
Ah now, couldnt ye have thrown a coat round
him or something. Have ye seen him since?
Aw we did. Last Sunday we kicked football in Muldoons
meadow. Me and Tommy Joe were there, and Peter acted like
he didnt know us at all ...
Little wonder, muttered Michael.
We went up to him, and his face was all scratched.
Well Peter, did you have much luck with Rose Macauley
last week on the mountain? I asked him. She
must have horrid nails on her! God, he gave us a horrid
Who was playing? asked Patrick.
A crowd of us from Nolagh in one team, and Peter McMahon
was with a load from Muff.
Did yez have a good game?
Ah it was good all right until one of them peelers
from Bailieborough arrived. There he was in his uniform.
He must have thought he was Napoleon Bonaparte. Some of
the boys saw him coming and hopped over the stream, but
the rest of us felt we had every right to kick football
in our free time. He squawks: It is against the law
of the land to play games on the Lords Sabbath.
Out with his book and he goes round each one taking
names and addresses, but all of the lads gave wrong ones.
When he came to us Tonny Joe he says: Charles Stewart
Parnell, Avondale and I say, William Stewart
Gladstone, London, England.
Patrick shook his head sternly, though Michael found the
whole story hilarious.
The peeler looks at us, and says that hed have
us for contempt, and that we are in enough trouble already,
so Tommy Joe says his name is John Thompson and I say Im
Thomas Johnson of Orangefield.
Patrick slapped his hands off his knees and started laughing.
Thomas Johnson of Orangefield, thats a good
one. He must have though what were two good Protestant bosy
like yourselves doing with a crowd of ruffians like that.
But sure he didnt know any of us from the dogs.
Anyhow theres Protestants who kick football too. Theres
them two from Lear, Sammy and Robby, and you wouldnt
want to be playing against them - theyd go through
Do ye not kick anymore Michael? enquired his
Not as much as I used to. Anyway I preferred the hurling
and thats got too rough. But I remember one match
over near Moybolgue, and ... he stopped to have a
little laugh, in anticipation of what he was going to relate
- well we were kicking hard, so hard that the ball
Its always serious when your ball bursts,
Michaels countenance momentarily changed from warm
recollection to stern admonition.
Hold your tongue James OReilly, or Ill
rip it out with me fingers.
I said nothing, pleaded Jimmy, like an angel
caught red-handed pilfering apples from the Garden of Eden.
Well if ye said less it would be better. Where was
I? Aye, the ball burst and didnt we have to set it
back together again but before we could, we had to get big
John McEnroe to blow into it. We were slagging him off,
telling him that we never had him down for a blow. When
we had it finished though, we hadnt been playing a
few minutes when we saw the owner of the field charging
like a bull up the lane. So, as they might say in the Houses
of Parliament, we were compelled to adjourn to another field,
but when we were crossing the ditch didnt the needle
of a brier go into the ball and
an it burst again
Aye, it burst again.
Arent they trying to get the football organised
Thats true, uncle. Theres a fellow called
Leneghan in Bailieborough setting up a team - but I dont
trust him. Hes from somewhere in the west, and I just
know hes no good.
But would he not ask you and your brother to play?
Little chance of that. Ive heard hes only
interested in tip-toppers. Anyhow, I dont think either
of us will be sticking around for long.
Please dont say that, moaned their uncle
Whats here for us? If I were to go to America
I might find a wife and this boyo here might get a bit of
sense through his skull.
Jimmy ... Michael, what would I do? ... What about
the farm? The old man was shaking in tears.
Jimmy got up and went over to Patrick. He took his forearm
and said soothingly, Come on now uncle, we wont
be going anywhere for a while yet ... not for a good while
Taken from Breffni Blue