Monday, 13 April 2020

Wexford Quare Fellahs and the Price of Bullocks

Toddy Kirwan was a quare fellah back in Wexford, a town that boasted many such characters.

He was a first cousin of my grandfather, Lar Kirwan, a renowned cattle dealer. Lar was reputed to be capable of estimating the weight of any sized bullock to the nearest pound.

Toddy was a cattle dealer too but no one ever made such a boast about his bullock-estimating capabilities.

My grandfather was very successful in his chosen field and owned two big farms full of bullocks fattening up before being shipped to the slaughterhouses of England; while Toddy resided with his two sisters in Carrigeen in the heart of Wexford town. 

Both men drank at The Wren’s Nest on Wexford Quay in the cordial company of others engaged in the cattle trade.

My grandfather was a severe man who rarely loosened up before his first glass of Powers. 

Toddy, on the other hand, though quiet and kindly, never seemed to let his hair down – or what was left of it. Perhaps, my grandfather’s success and bullock-estimating ability cowed him. It’s hard to tell. 

Back in those simple times I hadn’t as yet delved into Freud or Jung – or as my grandfather would have called them, Fraud and Junk. 

Apart from estimating the weight of bullocks and the form of racehorses my grandfather was not greatly interested in the subconscious.

Between the jigs and the reels Toddy got into some manner of financial scrape – a not unheard of occurrence in the boisterous world of cattle dealing.

I never heard a figure mentioned, but the affair had something to do with a miscommunication with my grandfather. 

It was all very mysterious but my grandfather, a man of few words, was heard to comment, “You might as well be talking to the bloody wall!” 

There was rash mention of solicitors and a day in court to sort matters out.

Then drama! Toddy’s elder sister announced that her beloved brother had disappeared. He had last been seen on the boat train to Rosslare Harbour on his way to London.

There was much headshaking at my grandfather’s house that led to his cryptic question, “What the hell is that fellah going to do in London?”

The years passed but matters did not rest. There was occasional word of Toddy sightings around Cricklewood, and eventually a rumor that he had met his Waterloo over a game of cards.

Then very late one stormy night a carouser while heading up Summer Hill had the wits frightened out of him by Toddy’s ghost flitting across the road between St. Peter’s College and the Bishop’s residence.

And soon thereafter a motorist nearly crashed into the Bishop’s ornate gates when Toddy’s ghostly head peered out from a crack in the wall.

A priest from St. Peter’s blessed the haunted wall and we were all warned to give up the drink and choose another route home after midnight. 

Then one day out of the blue Toddy resurrected in the flesh on Wexford’s Main Street. Women fainted, hard chaws fell to their knees, even John Wilson’s placid dray horse neighed in terror at the sight of this walking cadaver.

But it was merely the bould Toddy jauntily heading down to the Wren’s Nest for his first glass of Powers in years. 

It is one of the regrets of my life that I wasn’t present for the reunion of these cattle-dealing first cousins. But I was in the kitchen when my grandfather proclaimed, “He’s made a holy show of us! Sure wouldn’t I have forgiven him the bloody money if he’d asked!”

It would appear that Toddy, rather than face his day in court, had hatched a plot whereby he retired to his room and never stepped out except for an occasional stroll up nearby Summer Hill in the dead of the night.

I met Toddy soon after and he greeted me in his usual affable manner, but not a word about his lengthy disappearance.

When I inquired of my father – another man of few words - why Toddy had re-emerged he merely shrugged, “He probably got a pain in his arse staring at the same four walls day in day out.”

That’s Wexford for you, a town of masterful understatement and a cast of characters to beat the band.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome short comments on Belfast Media Group blog postings but you should be aware that, since we've put our names to our articles, we encourage you to do so also. Preference in publication will be given to those who provide an authenticated full name — as is already the case in our newspapers. Comments should be short and relate to the subject matter and, of course, shouldn't be libelous. And remember, if you find that there isn't enough space on our blogs for your views, you can always start your own. There are over two million blogs out there, another one can only benefit the blogosphere.