Monthly Archives: April 2019

Mattie Lennon Irish Author – BREAD AN’ MATE..

BREAD AN’ MATE..

  By Mattie Lennon

It has been said that the first duty of a gentleman is to keep out of the hands of the police. Up to the time of writing I have carried out my gentlemanly duties, in that respect, every day of my life, with one exception. That was Tuesday 04th November 1969 when I was the victim of a wrongful arrest.

At 11:15 A.M. and I was feeding our one and only bonham. A car bearing the roof-sign of our National Guardians of the Peace stopped at the gate of our humble abode at Kylebeg. It was driven by a 38 year old farmer’s son, Paddy Browne, from Kenmare. He shared a surname with the one-time Earls of Kenmare but a Protestant farmer who had rented a house to him had once told me that there wasn’t much evidence of any nobility connection. The observer was a 44-year-old son-of-the-soil from Kilmorgan, Co. Sligo. His Name was Bill Tighe. (Up to that moment I had little dealings with either officer apart from meeting them during Census-taking. I knew that they referred to me as “the Poet”, which was understandable since I was in the habit of linking, even the most grim situation to a poetic allusion.) Despite their agricultural background they had no compunction about taking me away from my pig-feeding, when they asked me to accompany them to Blessington Station.

If my neighbours hadn’t known me as well as they did no doubt the would have been;” Wondering if the man had done a great or little thing”.

Didn’t the poet say;

To every Irishman on earth,

Arrest comes soon or late.

While Browne reversed the Squad-car down our narrow lane Tighe revealed to me that I had stolen an unspecified quantity of ham on Friday 24th October. Although I was no Phrenologist, looking at his profile from the back seat I recalled a comment made by one of my neighbours.  Whatever about the grammatical correctness of the observation I was now tempted to accede to its accuracy; he had once described Tighe as being;  “ as thick as the butt end of a horse’s bollocks that never saw anything only shite.”  And, at that moment, I became a bit more tolerant of those who drew the cartoons of the Irish in the 19th century Punch magazine.

Once in the station another Garda had something to say. This 31 year old was Willie Nash, from Gurtnacrehy, Co. Limerick. (You may not have heard of Gurtnacrehy; the only time the word crops up is in the names of Greyhounds.)  Nash was so well turned out that he was like a male mannequin compared to his more bucolic colleagues.  When he first came to Blessington in January 1962 he was a useful man on the football field and sported a crew-cut. Now he was opting for a (slightly belated) Beatle look. He imparted the additional information that I had maliciously burned a rick of hay, the property of Dan Cullen, on Saturday 27th September. I didn’t share the view of the local farmer who, at the time, said, “There was only one mistake; that he wasn’t in it when they lit it.”

Nash’s body language (as he replaced a nail-file in his tunic pocket, having checked his reflection in the window ) proclaimed his lack of self-esteem and the fact that he was well aware of my innocence. His rhetorical question: “Would it surprise you to know that you were seen lighting it?” was slightly off the mark (not to mention off the wall).

I knew, through my own sources, that a quantity of ham had been reported stolen in Ballinastockan. (I wasn’t told if it was a quarter or a half pound) but I doubted the authenticity of the crime. As the interrogation progressed I became more convinced that the case of the purloined bacon should enter the annals along with The Easter Bunny, the Unicorn and a few pre-election promises.  I knew that there wasn’t a great tradition of steling foodstuffs in the Lacken/Ballinastockan area; the last recorded theft of that nature was pertaining to an incident, during the Civil War, on 15th September 1922. Edward Grace, a Merchant, from Ballymore Eustace had some loaves stolen from two of his vans in Ballyknockan and Lacken on that day.

Despite being the victim of the dirtiest trick ever played on me, being spoken to like an imbecile, humiliated, embarrassed and treated like a criminal I refused to confess to two fictitious crimes. (It’s at times like this the words of Ethel Rosenberg spring to mind; “I am innocent……to forsake this truth is to pay too high a price”). The Sergeant, looking less than prepossessing and more than his thirty-seven years, gave the OK to have me locked in a cell. Maurice O ‘Sullivan, ex-Mental Nurse (known as a “keeper” at the time), from Slaheny, Co. Kerry, was very concise.  Not living up to his family’s nickname of “The Long Maurices” he drew himself up to his full five-foot nine and a half inches, pretended to read from a manilla folder  and told me  : “I have enough evidence here to charge you”.  Perhaps his past was the reason for the brevity;

For he to whom a watcher’s doom

Is given as his task

Must set a lock upon his lips

Etc.

Did the experience in his previous life prompt him to believe that I was the sort, so much in awe of authority, who would confess to anything? Although it was fifteen years since he surrendered his badge in Saint Fenan’s  Hospital, Killarney, the “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest Syndrome” obtained; He still thought that he could do what he liked? (“…for in a madhouse there exists no law”).

I thought of William Blackstone who said; ” It is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer”. I soon reminded myself that Mr. Blackstone didn’t spend four years working in a Kerry asylum.)

When I was told,  “You’ll get out when you tell us the truth” I took on board my neighbour’s opinion of the speaker. And the farmer’s boots and sly smile I saw as further evidence that Tighe was not a member of Mensa, would not appreciate Tennyson, and so I thought it would be futile to quote;

 

This truth within thy mind rehearse,

That in a boundless universe

Is boundless better, boundless worse.

My father always said that I would “hear the grass growing” and now I became acutely aware of my better –than- average auricular ability. Sound- proofing had not been a consideration in the design of the cell-door and I could hear every word spoken in the day-room. Industrial-relations matters, within the Gardaí, were touched on lightly before a turn in the conversation that was very interesting and informative; but that is a story for another day. Suffice, for now, to say that there was paraphrasing of the words of Thomas Jefferson; “ We have the wolf by the ears and we can neither hold him nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale and self-preservation on the other”

I knocked on the cell door. It immediately opened and framed Nash, who I felt was of the opinion that I needed taking down a peg. I studied his face. Why? Because Jim Blake who worked for Paddy Crotty had told me, “That Nash fella has square eyes.” He didn’t. While his optical hemispheres displayed the shiftiness of the insecure they were of regular shape.

He insisted on pretending that I was a suspect and closed the door.

When next I knocked on the cell-door it was opened by Tighe who told me, (why I don’t know) “The sergeant is gone out on another big job”. This was followed by, “Yer father says he doesn’t know what to tink. Will I go out for yer father?” When I once again protested my innocence this, ignorant, lazy, gobshite, who wouldn’t ever stand if he could sit, said, “We know certain tings Matt”. He didn’t specify what the “ things” with the silent “h” wre.)  He closed the door slowly . . . like he did everything else.

When again I knocked with a hope of being released Browne uncovered the spyhole. His eye, viewed through the small rectangle of light, didn’t look friendly.

I was sitting on a wooden bench with some sort of a “tic” on it. Hey! . . . Didn’t  I read on the Leinster Leader about a Ballinastockan man being fined ten pounds for pissing on a mattress in the cell of Blessington Garda station? (Of course it wasn’t worded so in the “Leader”.)

“Are you going to tell us about this fire?”. Guard Browne enquired. Now secure in the knowledge that they knew I wasn’t guilty of anything I didn’t protest my innocence. I simply asked; “Are you going to let me out?”

Browne didn’t reply. He opened the cell door and allowed me into the day room. As he lit a Goldflake butt with a paper spill from the open fire he again accused me of arson. As I looked at his well-worn shoes and archaic wristwatch I thought of his economy-consciousness which his former Sergeant, Frank Reynolds,  had told me about. My comment about the coldness of the cell and my plea to be left in the Day-room fell on deaf, Kenmare, ears. As he dragged on the ignited butt I was sternly told to “get back in.”

I would compile a letter to the Minister for Justice. But that could wait. This was as good a time as any to make a start on a parody. The air of “ The Oul Alarm Clock” would do fine;

“I was told we’re going to charge you

With the burning of a rick,

By Nash and Tighe and Sullivan,

An’ Paddy Browne the prick.”

 

The cell door opened. Garda Willie Nash told me, “We’re lettin’ ye out but we’ll be takin’ ye in agin.”  He wasn’t a man of his word; I haven’t seen the inside of that cell since.

Mattie Lennon  mattielennon@gmail.com

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Mattie Lennon Irish Author – SENSLESS CENSORS

SENSLESS CENSORS.

By  Mattie Lennon

Flann O Brien had a burning ambition to have at least one of his books banned. When he invented the character Fr Kurt Fahrt he said, “  The name will cause holy bloody ructions. It will lead to wirepulling behind the scenes here to have the book banned as obscene.”           But the book wasn’t banned, which brings me to sensors.

It has been said that every editor should have a brother who is a pimp. To give him (the editor that is) somebody to look up to.  Should every censor have a similar sibling?

There is a World Day Against Cyber censorship. It is celebrated every year on the twelfth of  March. (Next Tuesday.)  Should there be a world Day against the other sort of censors?     My namesake,  the critic Michael Lennon wrote that Ulysses was,” . Not so much pornographic as physically unclean……” I am not in a position to agree with or contradict him. Because despite numerous attempts over the years I have not yet got to Molly Bloom’s “Yes I said yes I will yes.”   Of course contrary to popular belief  Ulysses wasn’t ever officially banned in Ireland   so  ninety-seven years after its publication I can’t blame the censor for my lack of erudition in that area.

However, though I am reluctant to use the word “victim”,   for more than three score years I have

been a soft touch for “censors” of various hues.  Although in most cases I took Sam Goldwyn’s advice to, “Don’t even ignore them.”

As a bus inspector I once submitted a report on a complaint from an irate passenger.  I had transcribed, verbatim, his objection which included many expletives, known in polite society as “the vernacular of the soldier.”  My Divisional Manager asked me to change the wording,   explaining, “I can’t ask the girls to type that. “

As   fifteen year old,  due to strict parental supervision, I was obliged to devour the exploits of The Ginger Man,  Sebastian Balfe Dangerfield , and his fantasies about Miss Frost,   in the semi-darkness of the cow-house in remote  west Wicklow.  While “the shelves of Patrick Kavanagh’s library” were the hedges of his small farm at Shankaduff my book collection  was kept on   the wall-plates of a thatched byre  which lacked diurnal illumination  By the time I got my hands on “Goodbye to the Hill” a neighbour had moved out, his cottage was empty and I could savour the carryings on of Paddy Maguire around Ranelagh and Rathmines  in relative comfort.

A wise man once said that if you want something to last for ever you should either carve it in stone or write a song about it. Although I grew up within spitting distance of Ballyknockan granite quarries I am no stone-cutter.  But I did on  occasions make a feeble effort to record local happening in ill metred verse. Court cases were threatened more than once  but , sadly,didn’t materialise . And before you ask .  . . I haven’t ever been prosecuted under the Obscene Publications act.

My verbosity didn’t escape censure either. My olfactory organ, you will have noticed,  has a Grecian bend. And what, you may well ask ,has that got to do with censors?  I didn’t acquire my nasal fracture through walking into a wall, falling down, or being hit accidently. No. It happened in Blessington  fifty-five  years ago when a civic-minded man, head-butted me on the grounds that I had been using un- parliamentary language in the company of females. The ultimate in censorship I think you will agree.

When my one-act Play,  “A Wolf by the Ears” was staged by an amateur drama group in Kildare the producer removed just one line. “In case there would be somebody sinsitive in the hall “, he said.

I have no way of knowing when I will be finished with censors but I know when it started. I was eight years old and it was 1954. The year that Sean O Faolain was commenting on the powers that were and their criticism of crossroad, dancing,  V-necks, silk stockings and late dances.  To this list of debauchery was added mixed bathing and advertisements for female underwear. And either close dancing or bikinis was a passport to Hell.  One Sunday my  mother arrived home from first Mass with news. The curate, in a stentorian voice only a few decibels below that of a Redemptorist  Missioner had warned the congregation against “turning over the pages of the rags of Fleet Street.”   Despite her less than perfect eyesight  my poor mother managed the decipher the small print on the back pages of my Beano and Dandy which showed that they were printed  at D. C. Thompson’s outpost in Fleet Street. Dennis the Menace and The Bash Street Kids weren’t actually banned from the house but my father reckoned it was “the thin end of the wedge.” 

My parents were unanimous in their belief that the relatively young Curate was well qualified to set the moral compass for the youth of west Wicklow. And why wouldn’t he; wasn’t his father a Guard in Bray?

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