The Nuns At The Glue Pot 1946 by Geoff Cronin
It was five o’clock in the afternoon on the 16th of July 1946. The sky was dark and thunder rumbled intermittently. The rain came down like stair-rods and steam was rising from the warm road. I roused my three friends and we went downstairs for a drink before tea.
Being billeted over a pub wasn’t such a bad idea on a day like this, especially in a seaside village. We were playing in a dance band in the local hall for the season – we were the dance-band – and we would start work about eight o’clock.
The pub was known locally as “The Glue Pot” and as the evening wore on and people ventured out after the rain and made their way towards the dance hall which would be packed with holiday makers. Right now, there were only two old fishermen sipping pints by the window, the barman, Pat, and the four of us at the back of the bar.
I was lifting a lager shandy to my lips when I heard voices and the door burst open and three men came in, all laughing uproariously. Two were fishermen and the third, called Ritchie, was obviously a returned exile. It turned out he was back from the building sites in England and had been ‘trailing his coat’ around the village for days, drunk as a lord and looking for fights. Apparently, he had got his belly-full the previous evening when he had insulted an army gunner in a neighbouring pub and been promptly “butchered on the spot” by the said gunner.
Looking at Ritchie now, I knew he has both truculent and dangerous and when, he offered us a drink we declined with “much thanks”. So now, he stood at the bar with his two henchmen, smoking, shouting at everyone at large and drinking rum and blackcurrant “to keep out the wet.” He looked a sorry sight. The cheap brown suit was stained and limp. The black eye was green at the edges. A large cut adorned his swollen mouth and his high cheek bone was grazed.
He was glaring at no one in particular when the door opened quietly to admit two very young nuns of the order of “The Little Sisters of the Poor” and they were “on the quest”, with small collecting boxes held before them.
They looked fearfully past Ritchie and approached the barman who gave them a shilling out of the till and tuppence out of his pocket. They passed by the two old men and came towards our table. We were delving into our pockets to oblige when Ritchie reeled over and looked malignantly down at the two young girls as we dropped some coins into their boxes.
“Over here, Pat,” he bawled, “these two ladies are going to have a drink on me, isn’t that so Sister?” he leered.
Pat came up to the bar counter obediently and the little nun said, “alright so, you can buy us a drink.”
They both put down their collecting boxes on our table and stepped up to the bar beside Ritchie, as he regained what composure he could. Grinning hugely at all and sundry, he threw a pound note on the bar counter and said quietly, “what’ll it be girls?”
The little nun replied without blinking, “two large Powers, please.” The barman blanched visibly and Ritchie crowed, “fill ’em up Pat, bejazus, I never saw a nun drunk yet.”
Pat placed the two large whiskies on the bar with a glass of water and set up Ritchie’s glass beside them. A hush fell on the room as we watched the little nun pick up her glass without adding water and her companion did likewise. They turned to face Ritchie as he absently raised his glass, his battered face wore a bewildered look.
“Good luck and God bless you,” said the nuns in unison.
“Aye, good luck,” said Ritchie, downing his by now badly needed rum and black. As he did so, the nun produced a bottle from the pocket of her robes, and her friend produced a small funnel and placed it in the neck of the bottle and, while we watched, the two glasses were emptied into the bottle, the cork replaced and the lot disappeared under the robes.
In the silence which followed the nuns picked up their little boxes, smiled angelically at everyone, said “God bless you all,” and left!
The Little Sisters of the Poor cared exclusively for old people in their many convents and hospitals throughout Ireland and accepted any kind of donation which would contribute to the comfort and well being of their patients.
©Geoff Cronin 2005
About Geoff Cronin – 1923 – 2017
There were few jobs that Geoff could not turn his hands to, and over the years he mastered an impressive number of professional undertakings. Master baker and confectioner, mobile cinema operator, salesman, band leader, senior executive and master wood turner, storyteller and writer.
Geoff Cronin published his first book in 2005 at age 82. The Colour of Life is a collection of stories of life in Waterford during his childhood and early adulthood in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. This was followed by two further books that related tales of further adventures in Waterford and Dublin.
Thank you for dropping in today and you can read the previous chapters of The Colour of Life in this directory:
N.B. In conversation with Geoff when we bought our house here in Courtown we discovered that it was here that Dad and his band playing in the summer..