Death of a Bachelor


Part 2

The tormenting of Jack took many forms. But the main one was the undermining of any idea he had of ‘bringing in’ a wife. And he was a handsome, pleasant lad. About 29. Had a ‘girl-friend’ – in a local village. Went on his bike to see her every Sunday evening, rain or sun. I often saw him cycle off. But the mother wanted no extra opposition in her deadly female battleground – the kitchen. And the daughter only wanted unhappiness for all. While the prospect of another ‘victim’ to terrorize must have been appealing to Kathy – what would happen if ‘yer wan’ was able for her? Disaster! And nowhere to hide or go! And imagined conjugal noises in the next bedroom – ‘oohs’ and ‘aaahs’ that were now forever denied to herself? How could a frustrated spinster be expected to put up with that kind of repulsive and sinful craic? Mustn’t happen – ever!! {Reader – everything – including being born – was sinful then. Look it up.}

One day, getting on for winter, Jack and I had been down the wood, cutting firewood for the long cold months ahead. We got soaking wet before dinner. After the grub, Jack decided we’d ‘sort’ the spuds in the barn. Sorting meant checking each spud to make sure it had a few ‘eyes’ {shoots} so it would grow more little chiseller spuds when planted. The eyeless ones were thrown aside for the kitchen, or the pigs.

We worked away, but were freezing in our wet clothes. Jack pulled out a ball from his pocket, and we started a game of handball against the inside-back wall. We were only at it a minute when Kathy came in, saw us, and went back to the mother.

A few minutes later, that one showed up, and said: “Aygan {Egan}, if you’re only going to play games, you might as well go home for the day.” It was Saturday, so I said ‘OK – sure – give me my pay, and I’ll be off. We were only playing a minute or two to warm ourselves up, anyway.’ ‘I don’t pay you to play,’ she said, ‘here’s your money.’ She had it ready. I looked at it, counted it. ‘Only eighteen and fourpence here, Mrs’ I go, ‘where’s the other one and eightpence?’

‘Oh, I’m not paying you to play handball, Aygan, like I said.’

‘Ok, mam, you won’t be bothered paying me anymore, from now on.’

So, I up on my bike, and off. Jack followed me, caught up with me at The Bridge, and tried to talk me into going back on Monday – to take the ‘short’ money from him. But I was wicked by now, and although I really liked the sound honest bloke, it was a no-go.

The next night, in the village, he offered to lift my pay to thirty shillings! ‘No, leave it.’

I was after rabbits up Loughbrack way on the next Tuesday, and John O’***** offered me a job – double what they were giving me – and only expected half the work and hours. And put up mighty grub. And his wife was a sweetie. Gone now, God rest the two of them.

Many years later, I was down in Australia, when I got news of Jack.

He’d been still ‘courting’ his girl after thirty-odd years. This ‘romance’ mainly involved sitting on their bikes, talking.

That was what he was doing, when he fell, dead, on the road. Heart attack.

He’d never been able to ‘bring her in the door.’

They probably never even had a kiss.

Sad indeed for the woman. Shocking. She stayed manless until death. I knew her cousin.

Kathy still ‘garched’ about for many more years.

A pillar of the Church, and Women’s Affairs.

We met, in the Nineties, at a village ‘reunion’. She pretended not to recognise me. Which was fine by this lad. Though I’d have loved a chat…

Kathy ended up getting dementia. I truly wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But from being hugely and piercingly sour-mouthed all of her grim and sad little life, she beame as voiceless as a sausage at the end. I felt no glee when I heard.

God, as they say, moves in mysterious ways… Whoever said that knew a bit.

{{The word ‘garch’ was used by my Mammy to signify a ‘swaggering’ female. I remember her one day in the late 1940’s, when she saw, for the first time – a woman wearing trousers: “Ah, look at the ‘garch’ of that wan with britches on her.”}} A Mullinahone word, maybe. Ma came from there.

Although the {below} poem is not at all related to Jack L or his life and sad demise, I’d still like to dedicate it to him. He liked a bit of poetry, did Jack…


Those were the things I saw.

Walking the fields in the Springtime,

Turning the greening sod,

Cloudy the blankets of Heaven,

On the breast of a dreaming God,

Stars in the ruts of the cartwheels,

Shiny the oaten straw,

What are the things that a lad feels?

Those were the things I saw.


Ice in the trough in the morning,

Open the stable door,

Smell of the tacklin’ – the horses ..

Stamp on the cobbled floor,

Tighten the haimes on the collar,

Bit in the stubborn jaw,

Frost was a maid in the morning –

Those were the things I saw.


Slievenamon in the evening,

Cold as she stands alone,

White where a ribbon of snowdrifts,

Covers her heart of stone,

Blackthorn bushes all bare now,

Twisted by winters claw,

I never knew what I looked at –

Those were the things I saw.


Ned E


The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of The Kilkenny Observer.



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