Kilkenny and Oz, and the love of a stranger


Part 1


Well, we know all about ‘Dacent Boys’ – and ‘Cute Girls’. Or so we think, anyway. Y’know, about their less than ‘flahoolagh’ {free-and-easy} ways with the moolah.

In the pub, the round comes to them – and suddenly a lengthy call of nature deprives them of the opportunity of paying their way. Maybe the pocket-hand gets a touch of temporary paralysis. Or the wallet or handbag has been mysteriously ‘mislaid’. You’d scarcely credit the various tragedies that preclude such ‘careful ones’ from slapping spondoolicks on the mahogany. Or so people say, anyway.

Now, I’m going to lay a literary paw on one genuine candidate who might – or might not – lay to rest those old canards.

And there’s a twist to this tale….

Many years ago, a youth from Kilkenny went off to the Great Southland.

A bright, likeable lad. Everyone {even the Mammy} knew he was naive about the prettier sex. Nobody worried. The new acceptance was that the women’s day had arrived – at last. And if the odd ‘omadhaun’ got shaken down – sure, the hairy-chested half of the population had it coming to them. In spades.

Anyway, down in old Fremantle, Michael duly met the girl of his dreams. From the photos sent to the Mammy, Nuala, the girl looked to be any man’s dream. Her name? Miranda. They were wed, fast. The Oz way of doing things. The ship of marriage sailed along handy – for a while. They all do. Then, some event intervened, and they went their separate ways. No divorce mentioned. By anyone.

Michael was devastated, but got on with life. Luck changed for him, he got a sound job, and made loads of friends, wherever he went.

Then, one terrible morning, the dread telegram arrived in his village: he had drowned off Scarborough Beach – an area known for dangerous “rips” {currents pulling away from the beach.}

The body came home. The wake was respectful and mighty. Then the metronomic beat of the lonely old brass bell set a sad rhythm for slow marching feet, as he was shouldered to the Church. Michael made his last entrance to the place where he’d been baptized, through a phalanx – a huge double honour-guard – of his school-friends, and former team mates.

His local club jersey, a revered Black and Amber banner, and the Tricolour, adorned his oaken casket: they honoured Michael in his death – as he had honoured them in his life.

He was interred the next morning, beside his father. His mother, Nuala, was brave – but completely ruined.

On top of that, her landlord was in money trouble, and, although a good fellow, needed a goodly sum, fast, to pay off a debt left him by his father. Nuala’s house was the only saleable asset. He would give her half a year. Two options; pay the market price then, or go.

Some weeks after the funeral, Nuala opened the door one evening, and there stood a tall tanned blonde girl. “Am I speaking to Michael’s Mother?” she asked, in a soft Australian drawl – “my name is Miranda”.

She was welcomed by Nuala with open arms. They talked long into the night about the man who was gone. It turned out that after the first rush of love and passion, their interests in life had been so far apart and different, it had become impossible for them to stay together. An old story. With many variations.

We all know about them.

We know all about them …

Miranda also said that they’d never really stopped loving each other. That happens. Can’t live with ‘em – can’t live without ‘em, we used to say; it still holds.

Anyway, next night, down go the two of them to the little village pub. Everybody {especially the men!} were totally smitten by this honey’d princess. A dumb blonde she surely was not – having a degree in business studies – and a speaking – and singing voice to die for. As we later found out.

Nuala was delighted with the company – and the awful loss of Michael gradually became more bearable. After a few weeks, Miranda knew most of the locals. With whom she got on like a house on fire. However, one woman, Aggie, who was fond of throwing vinegar into the ‘milk of human kindness’ – was less than rapt by all this happiness. Didn’t like it, not one iota. Bit of a sin, laughing. And yer man not dead six months, yet. A bit like Aunt Norris in Jane Austen’s ‘Mansfield Park’, was Aggie.

So, she put the ‘word’ around. ‘This cute Aussie wan is after Michael’s shillin’s,’ she go. ‘They weren’t divorced, y’know – the wan can still claim on him, so she can – an’ what about th’ insurance, ay? …. an’ did she brin’ anythin’ at all back to the Nuala – did she? An’ has she splashed out in the pub – has she?’

That old malarkey didn’t really wash; not much, anyway. However, the odd one took notice. It was observed that Miranda paid her round, all right. But no more than that. And no – there hadn’t been any big presents for Nuala. But most of the locals accepted ‘The Aussie’ as a good sport, and probably right down on her luck.

And she was the widow of a lad good enough to get a trial for the Kilkenny Minors! In such a proud County, you can’t sneer or sneeze at that.

Time rolled on, and the blissful friendship of Miranda and Nuala continued to blossom and flourish. Off they went to Knock, to say some prayers for the man who was gone. Whilst Miranda couldn’t make much of Knock – with its mysterious mix of religious symbolism and commerce – she knelt and stood up in all the right places. And wept a little tear when a kind priest – who knew Nuala and her family – mentioned Michael by name, from the Altar, and blessed the memory of that fine fellow.

But when Nuala was telling Aggie the next day about the lovely time they’d had, the sharp question came in, strong: had the Aussie wan bought any religious knick-knack for the Nuala? Well – no. Aggie rested her case.

Although hearing little smidgeons of this gossip re the ‘cuteness of the Aussie girl,’ Nuala kept up a brave front. Anyway, she knew what the locals didn’t: any money in Michael’s name had all gone on the return of the casket, on the wake, and on the burial expenses. He had no insurance. Pensioners in Ireland don’t have any loose money. Nothing up here for any Aussie wan to “grab”. Anyway, Nuala trusted Miranda. Implicitly.

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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