12. Cod in a Tunnel of Batter, Mrs Day’s Girdle and Saint Caterpillar.

The fresh wind of youth blew through the files of carts in the little town, and moments big as years were mine to squander while the clock on the Protestant church-tower counted out the miserly minutes of an adult world. By Irish Poet Patrick Kavanagh 1904-1967

Patrick Kavanagh also wrote novels and the great poem ‘On Raglan Road’ put to music/song by Luke Kelly of the group, ‘Dubliners’. Its also been sung by Van Morrison, Mark Knopler, Ed Sheehan and Me. Actually I whistle it. Read the poem and listen to the music. Theres a love story in there and somebody making Jam Tarts. Patrick K was a cranky bad tempered man. Finished up a dishevelled alcoholic about the Inns and Taverns of Dublin. Whiskey and alcohol got the better of him. Do not chose a career path as a Poet. Although, once you get to 70, its OK. As nobody understands you, you are already part way there.

Ahh Carrickmacross, we do like you. Such that we went back to the Fiddlers Elbow to eat and to bend our Australian Elbows. My pan fried Cod, usually a nice flaky fish, came in three tubes of thick batter definitely not ‘pan fried’, which, after I borrowed a miniature jack hammer, burrowed into removing the flesh which had shrunk in fright. It was a pretty good, nice flaky fish. At meals end, I hid the batter which made up 75% of my meal, under a serviette. Don’t know why I do that. Later, across the main street and around the corner passing more Inns, barber and shoe shops, past the cute house and we are into Saint Josephs Roman Catholic Church to check out the stained glass windows, which as stained glass windows go, were, apparently different. They were, being rich in colour, more fragmented and looking like Carrickmacross Lace in some regard.

Cute house just off Main Street in Carrickmacross.

A handful of elderly people sat in the pews, some knelt, some hobbled by, all pleasant, smiled, I whispered a hello, they nodded, the church did not fall down so God is content with me. Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates might be something different again particularly if he has spoken to Mrs Day, my childhood neighbour, who I snuck up on from behind and shot with my cap gun when aged about seven. This caused her to drop her cup of hot tea into her lap, to soil her girdle and I got sent to the naughty corner with a sore bottom.

Irelands people, exactly like those in Oz, are fed up with their political class. And their Roman Catholic class as well but for different reasons. Pollies for having their fingers in the community pie, their snouts in the trough of me me me, inept decision making, spending money on what turn out to be ‘white elephants’ but which may get their party, and them re-elected, is all happening here as in Oz. People are not spending, tightening their belts, worried about rising costs across the board, rents, housing, pre-schooling, schooling, universities, rising power prices, taxes, food, fuel and it goes on.

Sue bending her elbow at the Fiddlers Elbow Inn Carrickmacross.

The Catholic Church is also taking a hammering in Ireland with just recently, some 88 Catholic Priests being named and shamed for you know what. A few Nuns as well. Despite strong public calls for an Oz style Royal Commission, its yet to happen. Investigative reporters in Ireland place the number of priests involved in molestation of children at near 1,400 with more to be un-earthed. Sad. The Pope who is due this weekend of 26/27 August into Dublin, is not getting a warm welcome from the press, but no doubt, those of unshakable belief in an archaic dogma, and theres nothing wrong with that, will attend a gathering in a Dublin Park which promises to be huge. This boosted by there being a gathering of Catholics as well, to do with a World Meeting of Families. A cartoon in the Irish Times had the by-line, If the Catholic Church was a business, its directors would be sacked and new directors appointed.

Back in the early 1840’s, the population of Ireland was 9 million, 3 million of whom were destitute primarily due to eviction by absentee Anglo-Irish landlords. Approximately 90% of the land belonged to the Anglo-Irish who were based mainly in England. When the Potato Blight disease caused the Potato Famine between 1845-1848, it destroyed all potato crops. The British Government, like some USA policies today, sent 22,000 additional troops to Ireland to ensure people did not eat the thousands of tons of other crops, vegetables and animals being exported by landlords for profit. The British built 130 ‘Workhouses’ throughout Ireland to house the poor in absolutely appalling conditions as they became prisons. One had to apply for permission to live in a ‘Workhouse’ and agree to forego any land or property they had, and that their family would be split up in the ‘Workhouse’ with NO contact between husband/wife, Dad/Mum/Children.

Sue in the Workhouse where girls slept head to head on a piece of hessian partly filled with straw. Sue’s pointing at the girls transportation chest

The Workhouses became crowded, the Carrickmacross one built to house 500, had nearly 2,000 men women and children. So the English, Earl Grey specifically, came up with the ‘Paupers Emigration Scheme’. Part of this involved sending girls to America, Australia, Canada to become, wives, labourers or worse. Just from Carrickmacross, 38 girls were sent to Australia the youngest 14 and the oldest 18. They were given a small wooden chest partly full of what the Earl and his lackeys considered the girls would need to travel and be their Oz dowry. That lots put me off Earl Grey tea though I will possibly stick with his wife Lady Grey’s brew. I just know the Earl never supped Jamesons Whiskey.

The effects of the potato famine, the bloody minded English overlords and the fighting between British soldiers and Irish rebels, was the catalyst for my great great grandfather emigrating to Australia from Killaloe Ireland in 1856. Yay for gggrandad Thomas O’Brien the Solicitor. In just twenty years between 1841 and 1861, Ireland lost half its population. One and a half million dead from starvation and disease and three million emigrated. Some whether they wanted to or not.

One could draw parallels in Australia with the bloody minded Australian treatment of the Aboriginals, shot and/or banished to live in camps and communities, their land claims and rights overridden. Good on you Des now get off your High Horse. Enough poncing about with ‘heavy stuff’.

So we, the lovely Susan and I, are off to Carrickmacross’s James and Bernards Florists Shop which doubles as a Coffee Shop. Inside a narrow deep room, there’s playing the most mood soothing piano music, the CD titled ‘Chill Piano’. I asked. James and Bernard are the grandfathers of the present young owner who has his lovely wife plonked in the shop with the family dog Bernard. James and Bernard’s faces looking all serious, are up there in black and white photo form. On the wall watching over ‘things’. We sit at the window surrounded by pots and baskets of flowers, arrangements and the aroma of sweet buds and nectar.

Spider Man fixing a roof three storeys up above Carrickmacross’s main street. No safety harness thow it looks as though he is fitted with one.

Looking out across the road, theres a man squatting on a ladder it leant against a steep, slippery slate roof three floors above Ireland. Theres no Occupational Health and Safety Regulations in place apart from his pocketed Rosary Beads and if he, and/or the ladder slide down the roof, there will be another funeral. Perhaps several. Spider Man does not seem to care as he tap taps at the slate, squeezes something into slate joints, more tap tap then climbs back up to juggle the ladder across. talking to somebody we cannot see, or himself or God. Then climbs down the ladder again it secured at the top to a wonky other ladder which disappears down the roof slope we cannot see. His mate Paddy is possibly holding the other ladder having a ciggy and telling him fer ferks sake Declan, urry hup me ands ar gettin saw.

Our last night in Carrickmacross, a lovely nice colourful town and we dine in-house at the award winning restaurant further depleting our bank balance and the children’s inheritance. Bugger it, old people like us are perishable and we are only here once. Unless, as some faiths believe, if we are not consistently good, we may be sent back as an insect, perhaps a caterpillar. Circa late 1940’s, I blew up a squillion caterpillars with my mate Kevin Tory using Tom Thumb crackers left over from our Dundas Road Guy Fawkes night bonfire. Tell your children and grandchildren if they see in a few years, say 20, a caterpillar wearing a halo crawling towards an Inn, tell them not to squash it as it may be me.

A handwritten list of what the teenage Workhouse girls got in their trunk before transportation to Oz to become a wife, slave or worse. Sometimes becoming a wife went with being a slave!!!

Its a wet soggy morn although the past two days have been fine. Thank you Saint Joseph, Saint Patrick and Saint Caterpillar. We load up our current worldly belongings, our life support systems tucked inside, and head off leaving the very nice Shirley Arms Hotel Carrickmacross. Southwards on two minor roads, the R179 then the R164.  Both of these are lovely winding roads with tree canopy over in parts, lush vegetation, old rock walls lining the roadside as we track through small villages. We intend to stop at Newgrange in the Boyne Valley where theres a fantastic Stone Age or Neolithic Tomb dated to either 3,200 years BC or 5,200 years BC depending on which University holds the ‘Talking Stick’. And has the most TV presentable personality. But we get sidetracked at Moynalty a neat tidy village with flowers in pots all about and in fact this town is a GOLD winner in Irelands Tidy towns Competition. It has a sculpture three metres high testifying to this fact. The judging committee must have missed the doggie doo hand grenades on the sidewalk – grr grr. Go Moynalty. Into the ‘The Coffee Shop’ cafe, three tables, large Suzy in charge serving up liquids, scones, toasties and cheek to her clientele. Theres ‘signs’ all about telling us to enjoy life, enjoy Suzies sense of humour, and that you need to stoop when you enter the ‘unisex’ toilet. One enters her Coffee Shop as a stranger and leave’s as friends. Hmm. We shared a scone, my Sue and I, and life stories with a young mum and her 6 and 8 year old daughters. I gave each of the girls a tiny furry Aussie Koala. One named Kylie and one named Sue. Ahh, its a good life.

The Coffee Shop Moynalty with large Suzy in charge.


Ooroo from Des 😇