Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Nuns, The Opening of the Lartigue and Ballybunion public phone boxes

Another Great Shot by Healyracing photographers

Ruby Walsh was walking the course at Clonmel when this prize shot was taken.


A First Hand Account of the official opening of the Lartigue

Vincent Carmody alerted me to a chapter on The Lartigue in Joseph O’Connor’s Hostage to Fortune. Joseph O’Connor is an almost forgotten Listowel writer. Vincent endeavours to keep his work alive by always including him in his walks around town.

I’m going to reproduce here most of that chapter.  The author's  father worked on the railway and they lived in Listowel before his father took up his job in Dingle.
 This is his account of the official opening of the Listowel and Ballybunion Railway better known as The Lartigue.

It was Jubilee Year in celebration of Victoria’s fifty years on the throne, and her loyal Protestant lieges who owned and exploited her realm in Ireland, decided to turn the opening ceremony into a miniature jubilation and make the infant railway pay for it. They ordered their tenants to fly Union Jacks from their upstairs windows; their wives frequented the schools to teach the children God Save the Queen for the ceremony, and they sent to France for the great Monsieur Lartigue, so that they might have a central figure to justify the extraordinary display.

Alas! Like the forty ducks, the function fell flat. The tenants hummed and hawed but flew no flags. The schoolchildren got the croup and the whitewash man was so slow on the town walls that the streets were cluttered with ladders and buckets all through the day. But Monsieur Lartigue played up like a man and so did the Crown Forces both civil and military.

All this excitement got into Patsy the Cottoner’s blood. Patsy was the town reprobate, the only son, on the wrong side of the blanket, of a darling old lady whose natural goodness had long since retrieved her one and only fall from grace. Patsy had reached his fiftieth year without reaching the age of reason, He had a double squint, a string-halt in his left leg and a scurrilous tongue and yet, the town loved him. He was unique, he was honest, and, above all, he stood to his given word.

Patsy would sell his mother for a pint, but would wade through fire and water to carry out a promise he had given to get that pint. The bright boys of the town knew that and often played on it. They got him to kiss Minnie Lyons, the town beauty, coming out from the crowded twelve o’clock mass on Easter Sunday, and bribed him with a quart of Guinness to welcome the judge of the Assizes on the steps of the courthouse on the morning of a packed trial of political prisoners. This antic reduced the proceedings to ridicule and got Patsy a month in jail for contempt. But the triumphal reception on his return and a gallon of stout in eight pint glasses was ample recompense for all. The bright boys kept Patsy in mind for Lartigue Day.

It was a great day. From noon onwars, coaches, broughams and landaus issued from the mansions of the county families within easy reach of Listowel. They brought Sandes and Dennys and Kitcheners, Crosbys and Hares and Gunns, brilliant in army red and navy blue, their chests full of medals and their sleeves full of chevrons. Monsieur Lartigue  and Madame had a carriage all to themselves, just behind the brougham reserved for the Chief Secretary, who did not come and sent an Equerry to deputise for him. Balfour had tired of his practical joke and feared, perhaps, that the intractable natives might return the compliment, if he appeared in person.

I got myself a good view of the proceedings from the top of the engine shed and watched the celebrities take their places in order of precedence. The Frenchman and his wife, a man in a top hat sat in the front row beside the equerry, saying little and bowing a lot. There was a great to-do when the Tralee Garrison Artillery band played God Save the Queen. The notables rose and stood self-consciously to attention, but the scrabble of townsmen whom circumstances had forced to be there looked on with blank faces and heads covered until the alien anthem was finished. Then the proceedings began.

Brindsley Fitzgerald, a descendant of The Vesey, who “out of his bounty built a bridge at the expense of the county,” spoke first. Then the Equerry introduced Monsieur Lartigue in the effete public school English which sounded so washy beside our own strong home-made speech. The Frenchman got a rousing welcome from the townsmen. It was enough that he was French and the French had a fine military record against the English. No one cared if he looked small, podgy and foreign with his needle moustache and his little goatee on his chin. He was a godsent to release the holiday feeling without boosting the lordlings who brought him there.

Lartigue’s speech was short. No-one knew whether he spoke in English or French and we only knew he was finished when he bowed himself backwards and bumped into the man in the top hat who had sat with him. Tophat raised his head for the first time and limped his way to the edge of the platform. Waving the hat on high, he yelled The Cottoner’s well known cry-‘ haha dee, haha dee.” The crowd craned forward, doubting their eyes and their ears. Patsy gave them no time to burst into cheers, but went on to declaim the verse of doggerel the playboys had drilled into him.
“Good neighbours all, of the County Kerry,
Where’s the cause to be bright and merry?
Balfour sent ye th…the…the..
The Cottoneer forgot his lines and improvised “Ah to hell with Balfour and Mary Collins and the whole bloody lot of ‘em.  God save Ireland!” He scrambled down into the crowd and was bustled away to safety.

The Lartigue Railway was a weird contraption. The tracks ran on triangular trestles, four feet high and six feet apart, the main track on top of the balancing tracks on each side.The general appearance of the line was of a low roof of interminable length. On this the carriages rode astride just like young boys riding a gate. The passengers sat back to back, as on the Irish jaunting car, but with a wooden partition between each half compartment. Their ears, being within six inches  of the top driving wheels, were deafened by the rumble so that conversation was almost impossible. Nevertheless, its curiosity value made it popular during the holiday season.

But it couldn’t last. The journey was too short and when the original rolling stock called for replacement, there was none to be got. France was far off, Lartigue was dead and the British had other notions and preoccupations to bother with a freak child of theirs. It closed down and was sold as scrap to Wards of Leeds. Nothing remains but a memory and a few abutments and idle bridges to worry antiquarians of future generations.

I think O'Connor would be surprised to see the beautifully restored replica which is soon to open to tourists for the 2017 season.


Kerry Nuns

When I posted this photo a few weeks ago I captioned it Listowel sisters. Well that set some people thinking and naming. Margaret Dillon was the first to spot that the good sisters were not Presentation nuns at all but Mercy. This set us thinking in terms of the hospital although some felt that there were far too many sisters with his lordship, Bishop Moynihan to be from the hospital. 

Then came a voice from Dubai to clear up all confusion. Alan Stack recognised a face beneath a wimple.

He wrote;

Greetings from Dubai. With regard to your recent posting of the photograph "Listowel Nuns" - the sister on the far right is Sr. Maria Stack, my aunt, who died last September. She taught in school in Ballybunion and I believe this photo may have taken outside the front steps of the adjacent convent, so these may be Ballybunion nuns as opposed to Listowel? 


Kiosks still standing Empty

In Ballybunion Eir have removed the phones but left behind the phoneboxes. Will they be put to good use?

Meanwhile in Athea;

We are delighted to announce that we have decided to go ahead with the Defibrillator project for the village in conjunction with Athea Community First Responders Group which will be known as 'Heart of Athea Project' or 'Croílár Ath an tSleibhe'. This will be a fantastic project for our community and one that will demonstrate our commitment towards the health and wellbeing of our community. This will be the first of its kind for the county but it is hoped that there will be a national rollout of defibrillator phone boxes in the coming years. This will make the locations of the boxes instantly recognisable and has the potential to save many lives. Anyone interested in training on how to use a defibrillator, please contact any member of the Community First Responders. We have secured the support from local Councillors - Browne, Galvin, Sheehan and Collins for the project but we are also left with a shortfall of funds to raise. Anyone interested in supporting this project and having your name/ business mentioned on the phone box, please get in touch.

Source; Athea Tidy Towns on Facebook


Wisdom from my Calendar

In a matter of principle, stand like a rock, in a matter of taste, swim with the current.

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