We are surrounded by silence. Several years ago, I came home from a match at Croke Park and the Sunday night cultural show on Newstalk had a panel of teachers of Irish literature from Harvard, Oxford and perhaps Trinity College, discussing the great literary phenomena Irish. WB Yeats, Seamus Heaney and all the greats have run out.
Great admiration was expressed for the five volumes of The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, a monumental work edited by Seamus Deane. They ended with a discussion of what each of them considered to be the most significant recent artistic contribution to Irish popular culture.
To my surprise and joy, one of them chose Father Ted. He said that for him it was impossible to live Irish life without hearing Father Ted in his ear sooner or later. Mass sounds. Think about whether God exists. Being in a country pub. Lines on politics. “Father Ted,” he said, “is everywhere.” Everyone laughed, but he was not wrong.
Ted: Do you hear this Dougal?
Dougal: I can’t hear anything Ted.
Ted: Exactly Dougal, the sound of silence.
Dougal: No Ted, I still can’t hear anything.
A few days ago, a Leitrim man told me a story about one of his comrades who lived in Canada. The Canadian government locked himself in completely and he was out of work with nowhere to go, so he decided to go home to Leitrim. Earlier this week, he flew to London. Then he got a connecting flight to Dublin. His elderly father, who was there to pick him up from the airport, did not approach him at all, and when they came out to the parking lot, he saw that the old man had the cattle trailer attached to the jeep, what he did. to open it, then introduce it like a cow.
He drove him all the way back to Leitrim in the cattle trailer, without even a cushion in the back. The message was accompanied by a video of the immigrant bouncing from the back of the trailer. Desperate moments.
It reminded me of when I played with the Dungiven under 14 footballers, led by Mickey McGonigle junior, who had a body like MT of team A and wore the permanent expression of a man who would rip your head off if the need was felt. He was once involved in a fierce fight with Paul “Czar” McCloskey of Mitchell Park, who had very large hands if I remember correctly.
There was no particular reason for the fight, or if there was any I forget now, apart from the fact that Paul ‘Czar’ was the king of Mitchell Park and Mickey his royal counterpart at Priory Road.
Anyway, at the appointed time, we all got together in the playground and the rules were set. They would fight in the sandbox and, to ensure strict adherence to the rules of the Marquis of Queensberry, they would remove their shoes before the start of the battle. The tension was unbearable and as they tore apart, I could barely watch, because I liked (and I like) the two boys a lot, but especially Mickey.
As was the tradition, as the fight unfolded, some members of the public peed for them. At the end, the two exhausted boys and neither one in the position to continue, they shook hands tiredly, a draw was declared by Coppel Mullan and their soggy shoes were returned to them. “You rotten bastards,” said Mickey, smiling, blood running down his nose.
We were all friends again that evening. Or rather, friends like a community as intimately united as ours at the time, when we were defending one of our people to death against strangers, but we might not even like each other. That evening, Paul “Czar” and Mickey were to play in the midfield for our under 14s in the league against Ballinascreen.
The club of St Canice did not have a minibus and at that time, parents did not hang around with their children like a bad smell, so to make the trip through the mountain, we were stuck in the back of the pick- up of Mickey McGonigle senior, whom he used to transport his sheep.
The only safety feature was a steel cage on the back. Each time we meet someone on the road, we bleat together in chorus. Baaaa, Baaaa Baaaa. Anyway, the trip did us no harm. We administered the traditional shots on the screen and went home, triumphantly bleating all along. Innocent days.
Now we are waiting in our homes, living like retirees in a retirement home (St Clabbert?). In another scene from Father Ted, the three priests go to Father Larry Duff’s battered caravan while on vacation. It rains a lot and after an hour the novelty of being in the tiny caravan has dissipated.
Ted: Have you brought the Travel Scrabble Dougal?
Dougal: I brought the normal Scrabble and the Travel Scrabble, Ted. The Travel Scrabble for when we were traveling, and the normal Scrabble for when we arrived.
Ted: Good man!
Dougal: Ah, no, wait a minute. . . come to think of it, i haven’t brought any of them. God, I’m a horrible eejit.
I thought about that when we found ourselves playing Scrabble yesterday. “Will we have tea now, or will we wait for Scrabble?” “Could we have it now?” “Maybe it would be better after, the tea could get cold if we focus?” “Good point. After that.”
In the end, you see, it all comes back to Father Ted.