Milestones along the Way – The Yards of Waterford by Geoff Cronin



In the 1930s the shops in Waterford City were dependent on farmers from the surrounding county for a considerable slice of trade, particularly at the weekends. Tradition was that a farmer and his wife would travel to town on a Saturday and as public transport was thin on the ground the pony and trap was the most common way of getting to the city.

At this point I must explain that well established pubs would have a yard with some stabling attached and a yard man would be in attendance, also many of these would be “bar and grocery” shops. So, having arrived in town the farmer could park his pony and trap in the care of the pub yard man, while he and his wife went up the main street – she to order bread for the week and to sell her eggs and home-made butter and he to visit the bank and the hardware shops, to order seeds and tools and the like. Instructions to the shopkeeper would be “send it to Dower’s yard, Grace’s Yard, Pender’s yard, Power’s yard”, or wherever the pony and trap was lodged.

Now in those days no woman would be seen in a pub but in a ‘bar and grocery’ establishment there was always a ‘snug’ where a lady could be seated while giving her grocery order and waiting for her husband. And, what harm if a glass of port or a beer on a warm day, or even a whisky in the cold weather, was served in the process. And when himself would arrive he could join in with a pint of stout and chat for often times there would be several ladies in waiting in the snug.

Serving behind the counter in my father’s bakery shop, I was quite familiar with the programme of the country people as we had a big proportion of our customers in that category.

There were great number of bars in Waterford and I often wondered why a pub should be called “A bar” until one day I noticed a very ornate, polished brass bar, elbow high across the window of a pub called the Dew Drop Inn in Greyfriars. After much research, I discovered that the origin of the “Window Bar” could be traced to a time when fairs and sales of cattle and horses took place in the street, or wherever there was a convenient square or open space. On such occasions, the bar prevented large animals from leaning against the window and probably breaking it. The bar served another purpose too. When a patron of the pub who was the worse for wear was leaving the premises, he could grasp the bar and ease himself along the window and thereby make a dignified exit.

In recent times I spotted a not so decorative iron bar across the window of a very old pub in a narrow street in a small provincial town. But it was many a bygone year since a horse or a cow was sold in that street.

In the ’30s the horse was king of the road and you could see iron rings sunk into the street kerbs where a horse or donkey could be tethered while his owner went shopping. Also there was a huge variety of trades, related to the horse, blacksmiths, farriers, saddlers, feed stores, leather and harness makers, coach builders, coach painters, wheelwrights, tackle shops, stables, hay and straw merchants and even street sweepers. But gradually all these trades and the employment they provided disappeared with the demise of the horse drawn traffic and even the skills associated with those trades became largely extinct.

Horse racing and breeding still support some of the old trades and the now dying sport of fox hunting plays a part too, but it’s only a fraction of what used to exist. Such is progress.

***

Definition: Syncopation, an unsteady movement from Bar to Bar!

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 Colour of Life, The Black Bitch and the previous chaptes of Milestones in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/

Milestones along the Way – The Tin Chapel Men and by Hook or by Crook by Geoff Cronin


The Tin Chapel Men

In my father’s day there were many crusades against the demon drink, in fact there was a slogan popular with politicians of the time, “Ireland Sober, Ireland Free”. Hence it was no surprise when a company of evangelists appeared in local halls around the country, preaching about the evils of drink among other things. They were known variously as The Hot Gospellers, The Sankey Mudie Men and The Tin Chapel Men. Incidentally, men whose surnames were Sankey and Mudie were associated with this movement.

The modus-operandi was the same wherever they appeared. A local hall would be hired and leaflets advertising a free evening lecture distributed around the town and free tea and biscuits might even be suggested. So the hall would be peopled by a selection of layabouts, drunks and those who had nothing better to do and the meeting would begin with one of the preachers speaking about the evils of drink.

To illustrate the point he would hold up a glass of water in one hand and a common earth worm in the other and he would say “See what I hold in my hands, a glass of God’s own fresh water and a lowly earth worm. Now I drop the worm into the glass and you can see he swims about quite happily. But now I show you a glass of the demon whisky, I drop a worm into it and the unfortunate creature shrivels up and dies immediately. And now, my dear people, what lesson may we learn from this?” He pauses dramatically, holding the glass containing the whisky and the now dead worm and a semi drunken voice from the audience says, “If you drink whisky you’ll never get worms”.

All I can say at this stage is, if it didn’t happen it should have!

***

A man whose neighbour was recovering from a serious illness was asked by a friend how the man was doing and he replied,

“Well, sure he’s between the bed and the fire.”

***

A tourist being shown over the Irish countryside by a local, paused when he saw some red berries growing on a plant at the roadside.

“Tell me,” he said, “what are those berries?” “Those are blackberries,” he was told.

“But they are not black, they’re red,” said the tourist.

“That’s true,” said the guide, “but you see sir, they’re always red when they’re green!”

***

By Hook or by Crook

There is a saying attributed to Oliver Cromwell concerning his approach to Waterford, Hook Lighthouse being on one leg of the estuary of the Suir river and Crook being a townsland on the far side of the estuary.

In my opinion this saying has nothing to do with Cromwell, but instead refers to the terms on which an old time landlord let a cottage on his estate to a tenant.

The conditions allowed the tenant to gather firewood on the estate limited to what could be obtained by Hook (meaning a Billhook) or by Crook meaning a long pole with a metal hook at one end by which rotten branches could be pulled down from the trees.

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 Colour of Life, The Black Bitch and the previous chaptes of Milestones in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/

Milestones along the Way – 100 Plants and snippets by Geoff Cronin


The Hundred Plants

When I married Joan Flanagan we went to live at number 30 St. Ursula’s Terrace, a rented house where Joan had lived all her life. As we had been courting for four years prior to the marriage, I knew all the neighbours in the area and they had decided that I would need good advice especially when it came to gardening as the garden was my first priority when I moved in.

It all began the moment I took a spade in my hand and went out to tackle the garden, which had been sadly neglected for years. My immediate neighbour on my left appeared the moment I sank the spade into the ground.

“I see you’re making a start there” he said, “and you have a tough job in front of you”. “I’ll tell you how to clear that land of weeds, first of all get yourself a hundred (cabbage) plants, next get a short stick and put a point on it, now get a bottle of water. Then when you have the ground dug and levelled come along with your pointed stick and put holes in the ground about two feet apart in rows and have two feet between the rows. Now get your bottle of water and put water in each hole. Then drop the plants in the holes and bring soil in around the stems and there you have your cabbage patch and those plants are so hungry that they’ll starve the weeds by eating up all the nourishment in the ground.

Then the following year plant your spuds in that patch which will be clean of weeds by that time. And there you have it!”

As I thanked my neighbour (for nothing) and as he left the scene, my next door neighbour on the other side appeared and approached me with the comment. “I see your thinking of making a start there and I noticed your man giving you the benefit of his experience. Well, let me tell you, he’s talking bullshit and you should pay no attention whatsoever to anything he says. Now I’m tilling this garden this last fifty years and I know a bit about it. Given see, you have a neglected garden on your hands there and there’s only one way to clear the weeds out of it and here’s the plan…

“First of all get yourself a hundred (cabbage plants) and then you’ll need a bottle of water and a short pointed stick etc. etc.” There followed precisely the same instructions but with this addendum. “I knew all belonging to you boy and I know the way you were raised and how could you know anything about gardening?”

So, not wishing to hurt his feelings, I thanked him for his advice and since by that time the daylight was fading I went back into the house for my tea.

A few days later I was walking down the town when a man from three doors down, stopped me. “Hello there” he said, “I see you’re making a start on the garden and I noticed that you were getting plenty of advice from your two next door neighbours. Well you can ignore whatever they told you because they know feck all about gardening and I’m going to put you right here and now. You can see what you have here is an old neglected garden and there’s only one way to clear the weeds out of it. Here’s what you have to do. First get yourself a hundred plants (cabbage), then you’ll need a short stick with a point on it and a bottle of water etc. etc.”

The recipe was exactly the same as before and I had to smile but I thanked him for his advice and went on my way.

In the event I made a hen run in the section nearest the house, a row of loganberries was next followed by rhubarb, onions, carrots and lettuce and guess what a small cabbage patch!

My neighbours were decent and helpful in every way over the years that followed and I still cherish those memories of a happy if frugal time of my life.

Postscript

Joan and I lived at number thirty for several years. I built a kitchen on to the back of the house as the family grew and turned the existing kitchen into a living/dining room.
The building of the kitchen, which I did single handed, is another story. We left that house in 1955 and moved to ‘Selby’ and that is yet another story.

***

An apprentice shop assistant was ten minutes late coming back to work after lunch and the manager, who was a stickler for timekeeping, stopped him at the door and the following communication ensued:-

Manager: Why are you late back after lunch?

Boy: I had to get a haircut, sir.

Manager: You’re not entitled to get your hair cut in the firm’s time.

Boy: But it grows in the firm’s time, sir.

Manager: Well, it didn’t all grow in the firm’s time.

Boy: I know that, sir, but I didn’t get it all cut!

©Geoff Cronin 2010

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 Colour of Life, The Black Bitch and the previous chaptes of Milestones in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/

Milestones along the Way – Tradition and Smoke Signals by Geoff Cronin


Tradition

Three friends were in the habit of meeting every evening in their local pub to have just one drink on their way home from work. Each would buy in his turn and the round was three halves of Jameson Whisky. Well, after some years one of the friends was transferred to another town and his two pals continued to buy and drink the traditional three halves – just not to forget the absent one.

However, before the year was out a second member of the trio was transferred, leaving one solitary friend and he decided he was not going to forget his two pals. To that end he continued to buy the three halves which he drank – what else could he do?

Anyway this went on for some time until one day he went into the pub as usual and ordered just two halves of Jameson – The barmaid served them up and timidly asked “is one of your old friends dead”? To which he replied “ah no, it’s just that I’m off drink for Lent”!!

Smoke Signals

My first encounter with cigarettes was when at age six, in the early ’30s, I bought a packet of five Woodbines for two pence at Kirwan’s in John Street where I lived. Having smuggled them home, I went into the back yard, out of sight and lit one up. When I stopped coughing, having accidentally inhaled a mouthful of smoke, I found myself staggering about, felling dizzy and finally being sick all over the place. I didn’t smoke again till I was twenty!

The variety of cigarettes available in those days was endless and I can recall many of the brands:- Players, Carolls And Gold Flake were the main leaders and then there was Churchman’s, Passing Clouds, De Rezske Minors, Craven A, Kerry Blue, Drumhead, Players Weights, Senior Service, the list goes on. The price of smokes varied from Woodbines at five for twopence to sixpence for ten of the main brands and a shilling for twenty. The fancy brands cost up to one shilling and threepence for twenty.

Of course “serious men” of that time smoked a pipe and while the lower classes used a clay pipe the more respectable citizens used a Briar or even a Meerschaum, and a Corncob, an import from America, was for the more adventurous.

The equipment required for the pipe smoker seemed endless – the tobacco pouch, the pipe cleaners, the tobacco jar, the universal tool for tamping, reaming and stem cleaning, the pipe rack and the absolutely essential penknife also the pipe cover for smoking outdoors. Lastly the special big box of matches favoured by pipe smokers called “Swan Vestas”.

The shop which stocked all these items was called a Tobacconists and also stocked cigars, cheroots, humidors for storing cigars and of course tobacco in all its forms, namely plug, rubbed and loose mixtures plus many tinned proprietary brands such as Bruno, Mick McQuaid, Three Nuns, Players, Black Cavendish, Reilly’s Twist etc. Chewing tobacco was also stocked and then there is snuff. This last item was made by grinding up tobacco leaves and stems into a fine powder and was consumed by snorting it. Small containers, waistcoat pocket size were used to carry a supply on one’s person and in that context it was considered good manners to offer the open box to a friend or friends in company to have a “pinch of snuff”.

It was on such occasions that a very mean person, unseen by the donor, would squeeze a penny edgewise in the pocket between finger and thumb thus creating an indentation in both so that he would get a bigger pinch of snuff. Such a man would be known as a penny pincher which led to the general term “penny pinching”, meaning economising to excess.

It is not generally known that in the ’30s tobacco was grown in Ireland for a number of years and there are still examples of the tall drying houses where the leaves were dried for a period after harvesting. Once can still find antique silver snuff boxes which are collector’s items though the practice of “snuffing” still exists.

Incidentally, there was a factory in the Back Lane in Waterford, Hanley’s by name, which produced clay pipes until the early forties if my memory serves me right. The clay pipe broke easily and very often the stem would break off in the pocket leaving the bowl with a very short stem, but it could still be used and was known as a Dudeen or Jaw Warmer.

In fact I can remember as a child seeing old women smoking Jaw Warmers behind their shawls and when a jaw warmer eventually broke it was not unusual for it to be ground to a powder and mixed in with a measure of snuff as the clay pipe would have absorbed a considerable quantity of nicotine in its life so it closely resembled the snuff.

 

©Geoff Cronin 2010

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 Colour of Life, The Black Bitch and the previous chaptes of Milestones in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/

Milestones along the Way – The Banks (of The Suir) by Geoff Cronin


The Banks (of The Suir)

In the 1930s, when I was a boy there were five banks in the City of Waterford. The Munster and Leinster, The Bank of Ireland, The Provincial, The National and The Penny Savings Bank. The population of the city at that time was approximately twenty five thousand.
The bank manager was regarded as a very important man in those days and in fact his employees, clerks and typists etc., were held to be a cut above the ordinary. The clerks were required to join the golf club and to be seen in all the best places – they were paid about thirty shillings a week!

Banking then was seen as reserved for wealthy people, shopkeepers, property owners, solicitors, big farmers and the like and people who could boast a cheque book or a bank account were thin on the ground. In general business was done in cash and wages were invariably paid in cash.

In the previous century, powerful families founded their own banks and produced notes for one pound, one guinea, two pounds, three pounds and fifty pounds and these were signed by family members or partners as guarantors. The prominent Waterford banks of the time were Newport’s Bank and Roberts Bank. Samples of their bank notes, now quite rare, are illustrated in this book and I learned that a Waterford Bank note for nine shillings was recently sold at auction in Canada for £800 sterling.

But back to the 1930s – at that time there was a bank in every town and village in the country, some of them in remote parts, and a story is told of one such bank in a small town. At this point I must tell you that the standard minimum staff in such an establishment would consist of a manager, a cashier and a porter. Bank Inspectors were employed by the head office to visit the branch offices without prior notice to check up on the operations of same. Needless to say the branch staff did not welcome such visits.

However, a visit from an inspector was scheduled by head office for this particular bank and he arrived at 11 o’clock on a Tuesday morning. The little town was not fully awake at that hour and there was nobody about as the inspector approached the bank. He checked the time as he walked purposefully through the entrance noting that the porter was not “on the door”.

There was nobody to be seen in the bank. No porter, no cashier and no manager! No customers either! The inspector was perplexed and as he pondered the situation, he heard faint voices coming from the manager’s private office. He went quietly towards and opened the office door a crack and saw the three boys engrossed in a game of poker. He retreated quietly and passing the cashier’s box he pressed the alarm button.

Well the bell went off with a deafening volume and the inspector stood in the middle of the foyer and waited for the inevitable panic to erupt. But nothing happened. No movement from the manager’s office. Nothing!

But while he stood there, perplexed and dumbfounded, the bar man from the pub across the road appeared carrying a tray with two bottles of stout and a large whisky, entered the bank and vanished through the door of the manager’s office. Almost immediately he re-appeared carrying the empty tray and as he passed the cashier’s box he reached in and switched off the alarm.

When he was dead level with the open mouthed inspector, he said “The manager wants to know what are ye havin’ ”?

One Pound note from Waterford Bank, 1880

Three Pound note from Roberts Bank, 1809

***

On his way home from school a boy, the extent of whose finances was one halfpenny, went into a cake shop and asked for “A halfpenny stale penny cake!”

My father recounted this story from his schooldays in the 1890s.

©Geoff Cronin 2010

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 Colour of Life and the previous chapters of The Black Bitch in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/

A Pavrotti Fan achieves his dream of a lifetime………as told by Geoff Cronin


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My father-in-law Geoff Cronin who died in February was 93 and with a memory like a bear trap… and who is also a great raconteur.. and I had a conversation one weekend about the music series on the life of Luciano Pavarotti with William Price King.  I know that since his death you have been enjoying his stories and since we will not be starting his third and last book next weekend you might enjoy reading this post again.. or for the first time.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/classical-music-with-william-price-king/

Anyway my father-in-law had a wonderful story about one of Pavarotti’s greatest fans.

Michael lived in Donegal and his mother, who was a music teacher and introduced him to opera and specifically the work of Luciano Pavarotti back in the 1980s.

This began a lifetime’s obsession with the singer and despite being short on cash, Michael bought every recording the great man released. He would also record any television appearances and cherished the DVD of the one film that Pavarotti made.. Yes Giorgio… and successive girlfriends were forced to watch copious times during predictably short-lived romances.

Eventually Michael set up his own business with a record shop and bookstore. Over the years he saved up money in a large cake tin, hidden on the top of his kitchen cabinets in his flat above the shop. His friends down at the pub on a Friday night would indulge Michael’s fantasy of one day attending the great Pavarotti’s performances; laughing behind his back when he would enthuse about the singer’s most recent album release.

Finally, after twenty years, Michael had saved enough to buy a front row ticket for a performance to be given in Modena, Italy.  There was also sufficient left over to hire a tuxedo and spend a night or two in a modest hotel on the outskirts of town.  He headed off to Dublin and the airport on the train. This was his first flight and excursion out of the country and he was beside himself with fear and excitement.

Eventually he arrived in Modena and was grateful that the lady who ran the small hotel spoke English.. She was very helpful in getting his suit pressed and getting a taxi to take him to the concert on time.

Three days later Michael arrived back in Donegal in a state of bliss. He couldn’t wait to get to the pub on the Friday and tell all his friends about the most amazing experience of his life.

Sure enough his friends were all ears when he began to tell them about his adventures. None of them had ever left the country nor flown in a plane and they plied him with questions about every aspect of the trip. Finally one asked about the actual concert.

Michael, relishing being the centre of attention, and with all eyes on him, talked them through the evening moment by moment.  The venue, the beautiful women in their expensive gowns, the men all in black tie and the champagne in the interval. His front row seat had offered him the most wonderful view of the performance and his heart had beaten rapidly at being so close to his beautiful Pavarotti.

One of his friends asked him if the singer was as good in person as on the recordings.

‘Oh he was superb and it was so thrilling to see him live; I cannot tell you how amazing those two hours were.’

One of them piped up. ‘And what was he like as a man, you know did he interact with the audience.’

Michael shook his head and grimaced slightly. ‘Well he doesn’t like it much when you sing along with him!’

dad-on-birthday

You can find the serialisation of Geoff’s books so far in this link: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/

The Black Bitch and other Tales by Geoff Cronin – Street Musicians and Snippets


We have come to the final chapter of Geoff’s book of tales but next weekend I will begin to share his last book that he wrote.  Tomorrow, one of his favourite shaggy dog stories.

Street Musicians by Geoff Cronin

In the 1930s and early 40s in Waterford there were many street musicians to be seen and heard. They varied greatly in appearance and expertise and they appeared on different days of the week for reasons which never became clear to me.

One such character who comes to mind was a tin whistle player known as ‘Cock Up’ and his repertoire consisted of traditional Irish music. After playing a selection he would call on all the shops within earshot and collect whatever few coppers the occupants offered. In this way he covered the length of the main street and then went on to the areas where doors were closed rather than open.

Another well-known man was an ex-army band master whose pension was not sufficient to match his fondness for ‘the bottle’ and he played the piccolo with a flair which showed that he was not an ordinary ‘busker’.

This man was a practised entertainer and without a sheet of music to guide him, he presented a programme of classical, operatic and popular numbers, always finishing with a military band tune. ‘Colonel Bogey March’ was a favourite and featured a particular part for a piccolo.

There were many others, singers as well as musicians but the pair which really took my fancy were a real Vaudeville turn who became known as ‘The Beery Fiddlers’.

One of them played the violin and the other played the tenor banjo. I fondly remember their version of ‘Lily of Laguna’ which they always played and sang. I can see them now, strolling along the footpath in time to the strains of ‘She’s, my, lady-love’… These guys were great musicians and even played requests on occasion – my mother got the violin player to render a number called ‘Humouresque’, which had been popularised at that time by Fritz Kreisler, and he did it in expert fashion.

Those were the days when cars were few and streets echoed with human voices, the sound of a messenger-boy whistling a tune as he cycled by, an occasional hawker shouting his wares, the laughter of children playing and the sound of a dray cart as it went along delivering heavy merchandise to the shops and overall, completing the wonderful mosaic of sound, the street musicians.

* * *

A bachelor is a man who never made the same mistake once.

How to get the maximum heat from a bag of coal:-

Put it up on your back and run around the garden for ten minutes. By then you will be warm and you’ll still have the bag of coal intact.

A Short Answer

On meeting an old friend, recently, we were reminiscing about our young days when he mentioned the name of a very good looking girl who happened to be an old flame of mine.
I was curious to know if she had married and when I put the question, my friend said, “Well no, she never got married, but to give her her due I’d say she flattened a fair bit of grass in her time.”

I decided to change the subject.

©Geoff Cronin

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 Colour of Life and the previous chapters of The Black Bitch in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/

 

 

The Black Bitch and other Tales – The Bermuda Triangle by Geoff Cronin


The Bermuda Triangle by Geoff Cronin

People think they know where the Bermuda Triangle is – They don’t!

I can tell you where it is – it’s a few miles off Wellington Bridge in the County Wexford. At least that’s the feeling I got the first time I drove round that area.

I was new to Co. Wexford at the time and I fondly imagined that when a signpost pointed in a certain direction that was the way to go, until a local told me that I couldn’t take that for granted because the chaps (young lads) turned them around for sport!

But to get back to the point of my story – I had made a call in the area, late in the afternoon in question, and was heading back to Wexford – or so I thought – and when I came to the same crossroads for the second time, I decided I needed help of some kind. The area I found myself in was I discovered later Carrig on Bannow, and I stopped the car and decided to wait on some passer-by to give me directions.

After about five minutes a man on a bicycle came towards me, head down, travelling on the wrong side of the road and I blew the horn at attract his attention. Well he saw the car, too late, and trying to stop he fell onto the bonnet of the car.

I need not have been concerned, however, for he picked himself up, laughing and saying, “wasn’t that a good one now, I never saw you till I fell over your car!”

I said I hoped he wasn’t hurt and he laughed again and said, “not at all sir.”

I said, “perhaps you could direct me how to get on to the Duncannon Line.” Referring to the main road to Wexford.

“Sure, of course I can,” he said, “amint I a native of the area?”

“OK,” I said, “which way do I go?”

“Wait now,” he said, “till I see which way is the best for you?” Then he adjusted his cap and half closed his eyes and went on thus :-

“Carry on this road and take the next turn left, go through the next cross and you’ll see two cottages the like of that one there – pass them by and take the road to the Post Office and you’ll know it ’cos ’tis painted yellow, but a quarter of a mile before you come to that take a right and then a left and go up the hill and you’ll meet the Duncannon Line. Now you could get petrol at the Post Office and the woman that runs that place is an O’Brien from Duncormick, she has black hair and her husband is a big fat fella and she has two fine looking daughters and her sister is a very clever woman and she’s over the vegetables in the mental hospital in Enniscorthy etc. etc.

Eventually I cut him short and thanked him as I started the car and prepared to move off in the general direction he had indicated. Just as I did however, he took a fit of laughing and tears ran down his face. “Wasn’t that a good one now sir,” he said, “I was turned the wrong way when I was giving you directions!”

My own internal compass came to the rescue in the finish and I found my way on the Duncannon Line and home, no thanks to my erstwhile friend!

Postscript

One thing I discovered during my time in Wexford – the village of Taghmon is four miles from everywhere according to the signposts. Quite true in fact if you could drive across the fields!

* * *

Advice given to a Co. Wexford boy on the occasion of his first solo trip to New Ross by bicycle:All you have to do is follow the telegraph poles and you’ll get to New Ross, but remember they’ll be on the other side on the road when you’re coming back.”

©Geoff Cronin 2008

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 Colour of Life and the previous chapters of The Black Bitch in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/

The Black Bitch and other Tales – He Who Laughs Last and Technique, Kerry Style by Geoff Cronin


He Who Laughs Last

A farmer and a shopkeeper in a small town were at loggerheads over a piece of land. Solicitors’ letters had been exchanged and a court case was imminent when the farmer called on his solicitor to find out how things stood.

“Well,” said the learned lawyer, “I’ve had counsel’s opinion, which you can read for yourself, and you’ll see he says that you haven’t a hope of winning the case.”

The farmer scratched his head and said, “surely there’s something we can do?”
But the solicitor shook his head and pointed to the counsel’s opinion.

At that point the farmer brightened up and smiling said, “how would it be if I sent a turkey to the judge?”

The solicitor was horrified at the suggestion of even the thought of such a move.

“If you did that,” he said, “you’d almost certainly land in jail for perverting justice and perhaps contempt of court as well.”

“Well anyway,” said the farmer, “let the case go to court, I’m not going to give in to a bloody shopkeeper.”

It was well known at that time that farmers thought that a shopkeeper had a soft job, with nothing to do but take money over the counter and put it in the till and he was in out of the weather too. At the same time, the shopkeeper felt that the farmers only came into town to run up bills, the payment of which always depended on the harvest, the price of cattle of some other damn thing and could be strung out from one harvest to another.

To sum up, the farmers and shopkeepers were, at best, uneasy bedfellows and this farmer was not about to ‘bend the knee’.

In the event, the case went to court and contrary to all expectations the judge found in the favour of the farmer. The solicitor was surprised, counsel was amazed but the farmer was not.

“How the hell did that happen?” The solicitor asked the barrister.

“I think I know,” said the farmer. “It was probably because I sent a turkey to the judge.”

“You did WHAT?” said the barrister.

“Don’t worry,” said the farmer. “I put the shopkeeper’s name on the gift tag!”

There are more ways to etc… etc.

* * *

Technique – Kerry Style

The motorist and his wife were touring around County Kerry and having spent a comfortable night in a Bed & Breakfast establishment they now partook of the ‘Full Irish’ and were planning their itinerary for the day ahead. A local map indicated a ‘Lake Drive’ within easy reach and it was decided to take that route.

The sun was shining as they set off and the winding road was easy driving and when they turned a bend the scene confronting them was really a picture begging to be taken.

On a hillock stood a single donkey held by a lad of about twelve and seated on the donkey’s back was a black and white collie dog. In the background and slightly to the right was a small lake shimmering in the sunlight.

The motorist grabbed his camera, checked the setting and took two shots of the scene delighted to have come upon such an opportunity. He was heading back to the car when the boy approached falling into step with the man and saying:

“Did you get a nice picture of us sir? I trained that dog meself and I only have to say “get up Rex and do your work” and he jumps up and sits on the donkey and do ye know sir, I’m training another dog too and next year please God, I’ll have the two of them on the donkey and wouldn’t that make a great picture?”

“Well,” said the man, “do you come here every day?”

“Seven days a week sir,” came the reply.

Now they were at the car and the man’s wife had the window open, listening to the soft Kerry voice.

“And,” continued the man, “do many tourists stop to take your photograph?”

“Well some of them do and some of them don’t,” said the boy, now standing close to the open car window and smiling shyly at ‘the wife’.

“So, do they pay you for your trouble?” said the man, walking straight into the trap.

“Ah God sir,” said the lad, “I wouldn’t ask anyone for money, but at the same time sir, you’d count a person very mean if they didn’t give you something!”

Half a crown changed hands, the boy doffed his cap and smiled broadly as he said “thank you sir, thank you ma’am.”

©Geoff Cronin 2008

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 Colour of Life and the previous chapters of The Black Bitch in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/

The Black Bitch and other Tales.. Technique and The Soliloquy and Snippets by Geoff Cronin


Technique

The Bank of Ireland, at College Green, Dublin is the head office of that establishment and it is a most impressive building, being originally designed to house the Irish Parliament. The massive iron railings at the front serve to set off the granite façade perfectly and complete the picture of grandeur and gravitas.

The man standing with his back to those railings, however, did nothing whatever to enhance the scene. He was middle aged, unshaven with a flat cap and stooped shoulders, over which he wore a shabby gabardine coat. His general appearance was just pitiful and he stood there, motionless, watching the people passing by and occasionally looking towards the bank entrance.

Quite suddenly he stepped out to intercept a man emerging from the bank carrying an umbrella.

“I beg your pardon sir,” he said, “I am sorry to trouble you, but could I borrow your umbrella just for a few minutes, please sir?”

“Whatever do you want my umbrella for,” came the reply.

“Well you see sir,” said the man, “I haven’t eaten since yesterday, I’m very hungry and there’s a crust of bread behind the railings and I can’t reach it but I could perhaps poke it out with the umbrella.”

As he spoke he pointed to a dirty piece of bread just out of reach behind the railings.

“Oh, my God,” came the response, “don’t eat that – here, take that and get yourself something decent to eat.”

The man took the coins saying, “may God increase your store sir,” and walked off.

But some minutes later he was back again at the railings again – just watching.

His technique was immaculate!

* * *

The Soliloquy

The bakery shop stayed open till 9 pm on Saturdays and at about ten-to-the-hour a tramp walked into the shop, just as the owner and his son were preparing to close the premises.

He addressed the owner directly saying, “Would there be any chance of some bread to feed the hungry – there’s three of us sir and we’re camped out the road a bit – we’d be grateful if you could spare us something.”

The owner said nothing but handed him a misshapen loaf. The tramp thanked him and took the loaf and held it in his upturned palm. He stared at it for a moment and then said.

“A loaf between three of us – little enough for two of us and God knows one of us would eat it!”

As he paused the owner handed him a second loaf, also misshapen, saying, “there take another one, you’ve earned it.”

The tramp tucked both loaves under his coat and as the owner shut the door behind him he was smiling hugely.

Snippets

A hotel porter reporting to his manager, said. “The electric kettle in the night porter’s station is broken; I think it needs a new elephant.

* * *

A woman reporting on a sick neighbour:-

“She’s gone into the hospital – I heard she had to have an ex-directory.”

* * *

A young entrepreneur, who was by way of being a high-flying business type, quite suddenly was declared bankrupt, unlike his father who was a successful and wealthy man.

When I asked my father what had caused the man’s downfall, he gave a short answer:-

“I’d say he thought he could fart like his Da!”

* * *

An application form for a vacancy in the Civil Service had the usual sections for name… address… And in the box marked ‘sex’, one applicant had entered ‘twice in Tralee’.

* * *

A boy who was late home from school was asked by his father why he was late. He replied. “The teacher was telling us all about Yates.”

His father was sceptical and said. “Well I think you wouldn’t know a yate if one came up and bit you.”

©Geoff Cronin 2008

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 Colour of Life and the previous chapters of The Black Bitch in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/