A man called Paddy


I'll be back to you my love in two ticks of a lamb's tail. 


Even though he died at the venerable age of 93 some 3O years ago, the people in the town of Ballineety still talk of Goldproof, the horse he bred and trained, and which broke all records, jumping 15 feet clear of Madden's Brook at the Knockea races. 

Goldproof was tall, strong in girth, narrow-chested, silken-shouldered, gentle and standing on four great, white-socked legs, as slender and as smooth as a willow tree.   Knowing that she was truly loved, her feats were legion and stupendous.

These were the words I heard from the silver tongue of   Padraic Og O'Brien, as he entertained his American cousins, in a parlour peopled with warm scents and nostalgic memories, which limpet-wise, hugged a lonely hill in the shade of Tipperary, and where the surrounding, singing townslands of BallyO, BallyB and BallyC resounded with an Irish paternoster.

The dew thought of dropping;  the swallows of sleeping;  and the shadows of lengthening, but yet, the young lilting voice rippled on and on and on like 'lake water lapping on the Isle of Innisfree'. 

 Sure nobody in the country could compete with my Great Great grand dad, the towering Pat O'Brien, when it came to the expert judging of horses, and it was widely known he could spot a winner at IOO yards.

He'd circle the animal for a full 3O minutes taking in every detail of its anatomy and looking deeply into its huge mouth and brown eyes.  He would carefully read the tables of its teeth to ascertain the presence of a seven year hook which indicated clearly that the animal was in the prime of life, while the smoke from his blackened clay pipe would indolently steal around them.   The length of the body if short, was the perfect confirmation of a good racer, with the chest and neck evenly complementing muscular balance, while a splendid condition of the coat and firm bone would argue a diet of lime-fed grass.   Invariably, his final decision would be the correct one, and more often than not, a winner would be ridden home.

It has been well said: "All great characters come back to life if you call them", and so it was with this gifted and humble man. 

He was a flamboyant character, standing six feet three inches in his pale hand-spun socks, sporting a handlebar moustache waxed at both ends and luxuriating over a trim Vandyke  beard, while his compelling blue eyes were forever smiling.  He sheltered under a huge Western hat and he rejoiced in the name of Paddy.

Never moody and not easily offended, he was protected by an impermeable carapace of self-confidence, and having the gift of tongues , the angel in his mouth turned prose into poetry with consummate ease.

Because he was larger than life, he made a profound impact on those he met and his eccentric mannerisms endeared him to one and all. There was about him a nobility of demeanour, a frankness and a natural cordiality, and having the faculty of wonder strangely marked, he saw God in all people and in all things.  His generosity was the stuff of legend and he was generally known as "a soft touch".  No deprived person ever ambled empty-handed down his dog-rosed, mossy boreen, with its foaming May blossom, its mist of 'purty' bluebells and its trailing nasturtium blaze in a tide of orange glory.  His laughter was gargantuan and contagious and this was matched by the power of his singing voice, which earned him an invitation to all the weddings in the county and to every celebration.  As some wise man has said :   


Here he would indulge in generous libations of poteen which  were instrumental in killing two birds with the one shot. The first, in spinning his night into a golden haze of  happiness and the second, in oiling the wheels of social converse. Then in basso profundo, he would regale his audience with heartbreaking renditions of 'She Moved Through The Fair, The woods of Gortnamona, I hear you calling me, Shule Agra, Kitty Wells, or the ever-green, haunting Danny Boy', and if pushed, would declaim Oliver Goldsmith's 'Deserted Village' word for word, without pause. 

"And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew / That one small head could carry all he knew".

 It has been well said by G.K.Chesterton:  

 'For the great Gaels of Ireland are the men whom God made mad.   For all their wars are merry and all their songs are sad'.

It was an established fact in the counties of Tipperary, Limerick and Clare that Paddy O'Brien was the life and soul of a funeral.  May his memory never fade, and may the slugs never eat the inner leaves of his cabbage!

Since he was a dreamer and an exceedingly spiritual man, spending one hour in prayer each night before retiring, he walked with God in complete mystical understanding.  An inveterate storyteller, he was a maestro at 'bringing down the past'. But except in his dealings with horses he was in no way practical and he was also exceptionally shy with the ladies. He would probably have remained a happy bachelor all his life, had not one, Minnie Finnegan, had other ideas, and had she not set her peaked bonnet directly at him once upon a mellow summer's eve.

Now Minnie was the quiddity of all that was prudent, sound and sensible and what is more, she didn't give a tinker's curse for the opinions of others who might resent her for her independent spirit or for the advice which did not tally with her own. In her elastic-sided boots one sun-kissed summer's evening, she made a beeline for the unsuspecting Paddy at Barry's wake, where Dan was 'laid out'  in regal splendour and where promptly and without much more ado, she popped


 Would Paddy O'Brien care to be buried with her people?    Shy as he was with the ladies, didn't Paddy answer in the affirmative, and before you could spell Ballylowndash backwards, weren't the marriage banns called. Grass was never allowed to grow under Minnie Finnegan's boots!   "That for you glory be to God!" as they say down in Cahirciveen.   How true the words:

'Years hence in rustic speech a phrase, as in wild earth, a Grecian vase'.

Minnie was exactly the opposite in character of Paddy.   While he spent the day smiling like the proverbial Chesire Cat, Minnie wore the piqued expression of a costive owl, but no two people ever got on better than this remarkable duo. Books and horses were anathema to Minnie who not being hampered with an imagination like that of Paddy, was more interested in the disentanglement of cognitive problems, but she was the best dressmaker, buttermaker, fowl breeder and housekeeper in the whole of Ballingoola.  Sums were her best subject at school and she could run up and down a long tot with the speed of a Himalayan goat.  She didn't know much about isosceles triangles but she could play the harmonium with both hands at the Sunday evening Benediction. No bother 'at all at all'. It was common knowledge that she executed in both chalk and water colours many pictures in the parlour of her colourful home, and she was responsible for the dying and the rising sun in oils 'mind you', in Father Slattery's green dining room.  Nobody in the town could come within an ass's roar of her when it came to talent and to cap it all, she was a pint-sized handsome lass. In fact - with a beauty all her own.

To cut a long story short, the whole town and environs turned up for the wedding of the year and accompanied them to the  railway station at Knocklong in order to give them a great 'send off'. They were going to Dublin for the first time and were to have a two week honeymoon.  Dressed to kill in street velvet of gentian blue, Minnie was the quintessence of 'stylosity' and she was very careful to secure the leather purseful of money well into the inner pocket of her grey fox muff.  She also had a letter of introduction to Mrs.Mollie Mulligan the owner of a respectable guest house in the maw of this fair city.  So off they sped full of hope and joy in their first-class damask-covered carriage, while the train click-clacked soporifically in unison with their noble dreams.

Arriving at Kingsbridge, they were quick to board a jarvey car which was drawn by a high-stepping dappled mare.   Proceeding at a brisk trot down the Quays, Paddy was mesmerised by the strange city sounds and sights.  Why was everyone in such a hurry and did anyone ever stop to have a chat?  Everything excited his curiosity especially the horse-drawn drays.  On the other hand, Minnie kept her eye on the jarvey and involved him in conversation.  Very soon they unwound from their rugs and were deftly decanted at Molly Mulligan's blue door.

Inside this spotlessly clean and cosy residence, the air was permeated with the pungent scent of Jeyes Fluid and carbolic soap.  The place positively reeked of the stuff which delighted Minnie who was fastidious and a stickler for cleanliness, and seating himself on a horsehaired sofa, Paddy pulled out his pipe and settled down for a smoke.  To his horror, he then discovered he had forgotten to put his tobacco pouch in the pocket of his new wedding suit. "Minnie my darlin' I'll just pop out for a box of Bruno and

    I'll be back to you my love in two ticks of a lamb's tail".   Paddy O'Brien then sauntered right into the bowels of The Big Smoke looking for a tobacconist's shop and promptly he was lost. Pandemonium ensued on that street and he was held in a constriction of bewilderment not having a notion where to turn, or where to go. He knew not the address of the guesthouse nor the name of its location. His fear was absolute. Great big beads of sweat broke out on his manly forehead and in sheer desperation he fell on his knees in an alley and, as was his wont, 'placed his burden firmly in the hands of God'.  But as always, the Good Lord was taking great care of Paddy O'Brien, and, as is His wont, immediately He responded to this man's fervent trust and sent two nuns running towards him.

Mother Aquinas was a tall, gaunt, no-nonsense farmer's daughter from the county of Kerry with a heart as sweet and as golden as its butter. In no time at all, she had the matter under control.  Her companion Sister Rosaleen, was round, pink and twinkling and being so heavenly-minded was no earthly use, and now given the task of enlisting the power and support of Saint Jude, the patron of


under which category, Aquinas decided, this problem definitely fell.

At a brisk trot the trio approached the police station in Saint Kevin's Street, where Sergeant Shaymus O Reilly - with a headful of curls like Nero, the Roman Emperor, a chest like a barrel of Guinness and who exuded the benevolence of a santa claus -  was in attendance.  Borrowing Paddy's pencil, immediately he fell to work. Could Paddy supply him with the maiden names of his maternal great, great grandmothers and was there any chance 'at all at all' he could reognise the guesthouse. Not unless the blue door and windows were wide open and Paddy could get a whiff of the Jeyes Fluid and the Carbolic Soap. The case was way beyond the word hopeless.

Otherwise he couldn't remember a thing as Minnie had run the show.  All efforts at getting him to rack his brain were abortive so Paddy himself, suggested a prayer, and down they all fell on their knees including 


the sergeant.  Suddenly Aquinas emerging from a ferment of frustration, had a brainwave . Is there any chance at all Pat you might remember the jarvey who drove ye?  With that Paddy gave a yell that could be heard way down in Lisdoonvarna.  "Nooo... he shouted, but glory-be-to-God and- His-Holy-Mother don't I remember the mare which brought us.   Sure wouldn't I know that horse anywhere.  Wasn't she the spittin' image of Bouncin' Bridgie which won the Gold Cup at the Saint Patrick's Day races in Cahercorney in l9I3. Yerrah sure Mother, wouldn't I know her even if she were painted a shamrock emerald green!"

Naturally, they were both united before the day was out and very quickly too.  Otherwise I wouldn't be here 'at all at all' because you see, dear cousins, Paddy  O'Brien,


that is, embodied the panoply of Hibernian rural male stereotypes of his time, and, he was my very, very precious Great, Great Grandfather.
Go dtuga Dia suaimhneas siorai d'anam dilis Padraig.


May his loyal soul rest at the right side of God!



Anita Kilbride - Jones,


Saint Paul's Bay, Malta ( and Ireland )


The Lake Isle of Innisfree.


I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made,

Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.


And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow.

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the crickets sing;

There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,

I hear it in the deep heart's core.


William Butler Yeats. (1865-1939).



"The centenary of  It's a Long, Long Way To Tipperary is to be celebrated this month ( January 2O12 ) with an open-air rendition of the song by the residents of the town where it was composed in a pub for a bet.  'Tipperary' dashed off by a music-hall performer in Stalybridge, near Manchester, on January 3O, 1912 became the great marching song of the British Army in the First World War.

It was composed by Jack Judge, a fishmonger, who went into show business to supplement his income but had a tendency to go to the pub between acts.   One of his pub tricks was that he could write a song on the spot, that was good enough to perform on stage.   On a break from the Grand Theatre in Stalybridge, Judge, whose family was Irish, took a five shilling bet  (worth about £23 to-day) in the New Market Inn, and wrote a song derived from his origins performing it to great acclaim at the Grand and pocketing his winnings.

Whatever the doubts that Judge had written a draft long before the song was a hit.

The rights were bought for £5 by Bert Feldman, an impresario, who published the sheet music and offered it to Florrie Forde, a leading artiste.

It struck a chord in Dublin with the Connaught Rangers, an Irish regiment that was among the first sent to France when war broke out in 1914.

On August 13, 1914, George Curnock, a Daily Mail reporter, wrote that he heard British troops in Boulogne singing ' a song which. was new and strange to me '.

It was soon world famous.   The Irish tenor John McCormack, recorded it in November 1914, sealing its popularity.

The New Market Inn is long gone and only the facade of the Grand survives, but a statue of Judge and a First World War Tommy was put up in 2OO5.  Stalybridge Historical Society is marking the centenary with an exhibition including a letter from Judge confirming the song's origins, and a performance with the town band.  Joyce Raven of the society, said :" It is the centenary this month and I would love to see everyone make the most of it ; to stand around the statue in the Market Square  and sing : It's a long,long way to Tipperary".

Goldproof with her baby. 


Desert Orchid

 by Colin Brown



Old Father Pat!  They'll tell you still with mingled love and pride / of stirring deeds that live and thrill the quiet country-side / and when they praise his tour-de-force / be sure it won't be long / before they talk about his horse / the old grey Currajong.

For twenty years he drove him through the bush and round the town / Until the old white stager knew the parish upside down/ He'd take his time and calculate ad have his wilful way / And stop at every Catholic gate to bid them all good day.

But well I mind the stories told when Father Pat was young / At least, when he was not so old his scattered flock among. 

When health and strength were on his side/ you'd see him swing along/ with that clean, easy, sweeping stride that marked old Currajong.

Through all the years he ne'er was late the second Mass to say / and twenty miles he'd "duplicate" and pass us on the way.

Hard-held and beating clean tattoos / the old grey, stepping, kind /  like gravel from his twinkling shoes would fling the miles behind.  

And often some too daring lad, a turn of speed to show / would straighten up his sleepy prad and give the priest a "go". 

But, faith, he found what others found, and held the lesson long / that nothing in the country round could move with Currajong.

And , oh, the din! and, oh, the fuss!  mere words were vain to tell / of how they stopped the night with us / and don't I mind it well / the boree-log ablaze 'inside' and gay with rug and mat/ the front room to the world denied , made snug for Fr. Pat.  

We knew his distant hoof-beats ay, and grief they could forbode / So, when we heard a horse go by , clean-stepping down the road / round many a log-fire burning bright there passed the word along / 'there's someone sick and sore the night / I'll bet that's Currajong. 

Whereat you'd hear the old men tell- perhaps a trifle add  / Of some sick-call remembered well, when so-and-so took bad / you couldn't see your hand in front / t'was rainin' pitchforks too / the doctor jibbed, to put it blunt / but Father Pat went through.

Ay, he went through in shine or shade / so when the days were fair / and at our simple sports we played /t'was good to see him there / And under troubled , angry, skies, when all the world went wrong / With aching hearts and misted eyes we watched for Currajong.

We watched and never watched in vain, whatever might befall / When summoned to the bed of pain he answered to the call /

He came through rain or storm or heat / and in the darkest night / We heard his hoofs the music beat / we saw the welcome light.

And when again with plumes ahead and horses stepping slow / we followed on behind the dead the road all men must go / A loitering line with knots and gaps the funeral passed along / and a half a mile of lurching traps was led by Currajong.

But as the good priest older grew / and aches and troubles came /  His buggy and the white horse too were stricken much the same.

The springs went down the side he sat / and altar boys and such / kept sliding in on Fr. Pat and woke him at the touch.

Then pensioned off at last and done / a sorry thing it stood / with sagging cobwebs round it spun and nest eggs in the hood.

Just once a year it lived again and groaned and creaked along / to fetch the bishop from the train with limping Currajong. 

Ah, newer methods, younger men! the times are moving fast / And but in dreams we tread again the wheel-ruts of the past / the eyes are filmed that watched of old / the kindly hearts are still / and silent tombstones white and cold are glimmering on the hill. 

While scorching up the road belike / with singing gears alive / the curate on his motor-bike hits up his forty five.

But tender, tingling memories swell, and love will linger long / in all the stirring yarns they tell about old ' CURRAJONG".









My favourite poem in this book happens to be : "  We'll all be ruined (rooned) sez  Hanrahan before the year is out" but my most memorable line is as follows: "That's good, my boy.  Come, tell me now ; and what is Christmas Day ?  The ready answer bared a fact no bishop ever knew - "It's the day before the races  out at Tangmalangaloo".

For the eyes of the Lord are intently watching  all who live good lives, and he gives attention when they cry to Him.  But the Lord has made up his mind to wipe out even the memory of those who are evil from the earth.  Yes, the Lord hears the good man when he calls to Him for help, and saves  him out of ALL his troubles.

The Lord is close to those whose hearts are breaking; He rescues those who are humbly sorry for their sins.  The good man does not escape all troubles - he has them too.  But the Lord helps him in each and every one . God even protects him

 from accidents.

Calamity will surely overtake the wicked; heavy penalties are meted out to him because he hates the good.   But as for those who serve the Lord, he will redeem them; everyone who takes refuge in God will be freely pardoned.   (Psalm 34).

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