As a young boy, nothing pleased my uncle Stíofáin more than
to accompany anyone who’d take him, to and from a fair.
This particular wet day, he was accompanying an old man home
from the fair of Tuam, who had just purchased a new donkey.
Eager to see how the donkey handled a small load the man asked
the garsún to ride the donkey home. Man, boy and beast were
more than happy with the result.
That was until they passed a nosy and elderly couple outside
Peake. ‘Isn’t that typical of the younger generation’ said one
to the other. ‘They have no respect for the elderly’.
Stíofáin was always a sensitive and kindly person and
immediately beseeched the old man to take his place.
They carried on merrily for awhile.
Just outside Ballyglunin they came across a group of young
lads aimlessly pucking a sliotar to and fro. ‘Ya should be
ashamed of yourself, ya auld geezer, making a young lad
walk all the way from Tuam’ said a gangly bloke with a
Stíofáin was having none of it and gently urged the old man
to ‘push up and make room for two’. If the donkey slowed a
tad, that was the only reaction to the extra weight.
going swimmingly until they were approaching the
wooden bridge over the Abbert river on the bog road. Two
‘animal rightsers’ were furtively searching for something to
‘That donkey is perspiring unduly and labouring excessively
under its load. You should be jailed for your misdemeanours’
they said imperiously.
Stíofáin had had his fill of interference for one day.
He hoisted the donkey up on to his broad shoulders while the
old man proceeded to lift from the rear. Things would have gone
perfectly only that the old man got a hob nail stuck in the wooden
bridge, stumbled and the poor donkey was upended in to the
swollen waters of the Abbert river. It’s likely it would have
continued on uninterrupted to the weir in Galway if its body
had not become enmeshed in the net of an illegal, and clearly
agitated, salmon fisherman in Claregalway.
My uncle Stíofáin rarely resorted to anything resembling bad
language, but on the odd occasion that he felt impelled to, he
would resort to the Irish language.
‘Padraiceen’, be began in English. ‘The moral of that story is
that ‘Má dheannan tú iarracht chuile dhuine a shású, is feidir
leat do thóin a phogadh’.
‘If you try to please everyone, you may end up kissing
your ass goodbye.’
Who are you going to please this week?