Monday, February 28, 2011

Mayo, God Help Us

It always strikes me as typical of the man he was, the days my dad chooses to visit me.

They are often moments illuminated by limelight, as he was one of those who was drawn to an audience. I sometimes wonder if this was because he was an only child, and because he was entirely alone in the world at the age of 15, by which time both his parents had died. Maybe his showmanship was born of nothing more than loneliness; the strange sense of comfort that he drew from being part of a crowd; the sense of family that he found as a member of a committee, an association, a staff.

He comes to me on match days, when I remember Sundays in September from my childhood; the odd occasion back then when Mayo would make it to Croke Park. He would leave at dawn, to get the train. Arrive back to us late, waking us up with some little presents, with stories of who he met, what Dublin was like and his analysis of where the match went wrong.

Like many of his generation, he regarded the wearing of a GAA jersey off the playing pitch, and for the purposes of showing support, as a form of hooliganism. An outing to Dublin - be it for a medical appointment, a meeting or a match - required the wearing of a suit and the carrying of an overcoat, for as he told us often, it’s a wise man that carries his coat on a fine day.

He comes to me too at election time. He brought me to my first election count in the Traveller’s Friend Hotel when I was 4 years old. It is because of him that I actually understand the PR-STV system, that I revel in talk of transfers, and the excitement of the day when democracy delivers us the process by which we declare some victors, many others losers.

He loved the circus that was created around politics, but there was also a deep desire in him to see the west of the country and the farming community properly represented.

I remember hearing some interviews he did on local radio replayed in the days after he died. Speaking on the level of knowledge that most Dublin politicians had on matters agricultural, I believe his response was "they wouldn't know the front of a sheep from the back of an ass."

Whatever you may think of Enda Kenny, do not underestimate the difference it will make to the county to now boast that the Taoiseach is from down the road in Castlebar.

It's not as good as an All-Ireland, but it is something, it promises much, and in terms of euphoria, weeping old-timers and bonfires around the parish pump, it has already delivered in spades.


  1. A beautiful piece of writing, Regina!

    Enda Kenny will be the first Taoiseach from Connaught.

    Wait, on reflection, like me, Charlie Haughey was born in Castlebar, but again like me, he left it as a very young boy. But no Taoiseach up to now has ever represented a constituency in Connaught.

    As the more old-fashioned might claim, the West's awake! What's left of it, that is ...

  2. I like the sound of your Dad. My departed father used to wear tweed suits and a trilby. He said you dress well to show respect, not to seek it.

  3. Francis - You were born in Castlebar? Now that's something I never knew!

    A friend of mine, pure FF, used to bless himself every time we passed the birthplace of Haughey when we'd be walking up to the TF of a friday or saturday night.

    Did you know it was Enda's aunt that delivered Haughey? Piece of trivia for you there.

    Holemaster - I wish more men nowadays would wear suits, and behave like those of our dads' generation. They had a quiet dignity about them that you just don't see anymore.

  4. I wish Ireland well after your election. You do need some good news.
    So, you understand the Irish Electoral system. I read the Irish Times election guide and understand nothing. Maybe you could email me a small guide. I like knowing things that have no practical value to me.

    J Harper
    Regina, SK

  5. Now shortlisted for Best Personal Blog and Best Specialist Blog. Nice one!

    Doesn't seem to be a shortlist yet for Best Post.

  6. J Harper - I will send you a quick guide to PR-STV. It's simpler than it seems. Every country should use it as their voting system!

    Anonymous - I saw the shortlists alright. Honoured, amazed, stupefied by who got in and who didn't. I reckon the sickness factor swung in my favour. If I'd entered EuroSong, I'd probably have beaten Jedward.