Smorgasbord Short Stories – Milestones Along the Way – #Ireland – Shakespeare and Traditional Fencing Methods by Geoff Cronin

Following on from The Colour of Life, my father-in-law Geoff Cronin wrote two more books with stories of life in Waterford and Dublin from the 1930s. He collected the stories on his travels, swapping them with others in return for his own and then treating us to the results of the exchange. Geoff also added some jokes overheard just for the Craic…Over the next few weeks I will be sharing selected stories from  Milestones Along the Way.

The Bard Speaks

There is a passage in a Shakespeare play – Hamlet, if memory serves me – which is often quoted by philosophers of one kind or another and I quote! – “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will.” This quotation has been held to have a deep and significant meaning and at one time I shared this view.

However, let me tell you a little story which might change your mind.

A Shakespearean actor of note who was also a perfectionist, had a life ambition which was to play Shakespeare in the actual place where the Bard lived, Stratford on Avon – and in the famous theatre started in that spot. Well imagine his joy to be offered a principal part in Hamlet, to be staged in that town and in the original theatre. Not only that, but he would be able to speak the immortal line which began, “There is a divinity that shapes our ends…”.

Needless to say the actor was thrilled to think that his dream was to come true. In fact he was so excited at the prospect and being a perfectionist, he decided to stay in Stratford on Avon and to walk the actual ground where the Bard had lived and worked, so that he might absorb and soak up the vibes which he knew would exist there.

One evening, he was wandering the country lanes when he came across two men stretching a tall growing whitethorn fence. The process involved cutting the tall saplings halfway through and bending them down to the horizontal about waist high.

The actor had never seen this before and was intrigued by the whole process. He remained thoughtful for a moment and then addressed one of the men. “Why does it take two of you to do this job with it appears that one man would suffice”? The man replied, “Well, you see sir,
I rough hews them and he shapes their ends”.

When I heard this story it occurred to me that being a country man Shakespeare was merely quoting a local saying and not making a statement of deep philosophical significance… It makes you think!!

Traditional method of hedge laying

A finished hedge

In Shakespeare’s day, when a daughter was born to one of the stately homes it was the custom to plant an acre or two with Beech saplings. The idea was that by the time the girl was of marriageable age, 20 to 25 years, the landowner would have a stand of Beech trees to sell and thereby provide a dowry for the girl at a minimum cost! These plantations became known as Dowry Forests.

©Geoff Cronin 2008

Geoff Cronin 1923 – 2017

About Geoff Cronin

I was born at tea time at number 12 John Street, Waterford on September 23rd 1923. My father was Richard Cronin and my mother was Claire Spencer of John Street Waterford. They were married in St John’s Church in 1919.

Things are moving so fast in this day and age – and people are so absorbed, and necessarily so, with here and now – that things of the past tend to get buried deeper and deeper. Also, people’s memories seem to be shorter now and they cannot remember the little things – day to day pictures which make up the larger canvas of life.

It seems to me that soon there may be little or no detailed knowledge of what life was really like in the 1930s in a town – sorry, I should have said City, in accordance with its ancient charter – like Waterford. So I shall attempt to provide some of these little cameos as much for the fun of telling as for the benefit of posterity.

I hope you have enjoyed this weeks stories from Geoff and I hope you will pop in again next Saturday. Thanks Sally.

25 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Short Stories – Milestones Along the Way – #Ireland – Shakespeare and Traditional Fencing Methods by Geoff Cronin

  1. Being an ancient myself, Sally…I enjoy these old reminiscences. The Shakespeare reference is most interesting. Studying Hamlet, via the Open University – which I loved… was an eye-opener as to the language. Hugs xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – October 4th – 10th 2020 – Streisand, Narcissism, Dog Sitting, Mending Fences, books, reviews and funnies | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  3. Hedge layering is one of the skills that has faded, but I have heard that in somep laces it’s being taught again. As with dry-stone walling.
    A lovely tale, Sally. it’s important to remember these old stories. They carry so much wisdom.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a fascinating story, Sally. It doesn’t change the meaning in the play much, but it’s so interesting to learn the origin. And the Dowry Forest. That was a great idea. I should have thought of that… a “first home down-payment forest.” 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Entertaining as always! Hadn’t come across Dowry Forests – but I have seen hedge-layering being done but can’t remember whether it was here in Wales or in Ireland.

    Liked by 1 person

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