Regular readers will be aware that I have written before about the days (or nights) of the village carnivals, when, for a fortnight or so every summer, never-to-be-forgotten excitement came to our normally quiet, dull villages when the showband stars of the time arrived in their brightly-coloured buses, togged into their beautifully tailored suits, and – for a few hours – entertained hundreds, sometimes thousands, of their fans in the specially erected marquees –complete, for the benefit of the dancers, with their shiny maple floors.
Now I was a young gasun when the carnivals were at their peak, and even though I would go to some of the dances in Creggs – mostly by sneaking across the surrounding fencing and slipping through the canvas on the sides, thereby avoiding having to pay in – I have to admit that at that time I had no interest at all in the opposite sex. So why did I go? I used to like to listen to the bands, maybe like to look at the female lead singers, sometimes I’d get a mineral in the mineral bar, but mostly I went to see the almost inevitable fight.
As sure as night follows day, late on as lads were getting contrary at getting no women, and being well full of Guinness, or beer, or even an odd shot of whiskey, a fight would break out and for a while, until the lads on the fences intervened, all hell would break loose.
Immediately on the start of the fight an imaginary ring would be made by the dancers around the protagonists and usually two, but sometimes three or four lads, would throw a few punches, a drop (often a good drop) of blood would be spilt, the shirt that mammy spent ages ironing for the dance would be torn to bits, you’d have some lads being held back, others being egged on, until eventually everyone would be shuffled out of the marquee and the combatants would fade off into the night.
I would always stand at the back of the crowd making sure I didn’t get in the way of a stray punch. I would gaze in awe at the fearsome, bare-chested fighters (usually bare-chested as the shirt had been ripped off them) as they sorted out whatever (usually imagined) grievances they had.
The next night, probably with different lads, but often with the same ones, it would all happen again, but the good thing is that the format was always the same! A bit of pushing and shoving, a bit of roaring abuse, an odd slap, a lot of bluster, and, apart from a bloody nose or a black eye, no harm done; as they say, it was all good clean fun. Those were the good old days, but later on the whole scene changed; fists were no longer the weapon of choice, bottles and glasses took over, and, later on again, knives and even guns became the norm, and the taking of life over minor disagreements seemed to nearly be accepted.
All this came into my mind today when I read of two appalling decisions taken by members of the judiciary to effectively allow two people who ‘glassed’ others in nightclubs, causing horrific injuries to their victims, to walk free with suspended sentences and be at liberty to carry on with their lives. I have to say that the one thing that fills me with dread is the thought of having a broken glass thrust into my face with force and how any Judge could allow someone who actually did such a thing to walk free is beyond my comprehension. Is it any wonder we have lost faith in the legal system?
In one of the cases, where the victim lost the sight of an eye, even after an appeal, the original verdict of a suspended sentence was upheld by three eminent Judges, so all I can ask is – what were they thinking? Sticking with the legal system, I am amazed at the compensation claims that we are continually reading about in the papers – there is no doubt that the so-called compensation culture is at its highest right now, and some of the recent claims have bordered on the ridiculous. Thankfully, in this case, the Judges seem to have a bit of cop-on and have thrown out a load of these outrageous claims –just a pity they wouldn’t be as wise in more serious cases.
You have often heard the old story of waiting for ages for the bus and how two then come together, (although presently no one comes at all), and so it was, that where sometimes there might be nothing happening in Creggs, last Saturday night we had two big parties in the village.
My nephew, James, celebrated his 18th birthday with a bash in his home, while down in Mikeen’s, former Creggs Rugby Club stalwart Ivor Heavey was having a ‘do’ for making it all the way to 40. Each party was very well attended and because I take my writing duties so seriously I did a while at both of them and thoroughly enjoyed my night out, and I wish both James and Ivor by now belated happy birthdays.
Down in Mikeen’s, McVeigh, a band consisting of another former Creggs front row forward, Kevin Garvey, and Alan McDonagh, were busy entertaining the crowd, and they went down a bomb with the party-goers. Their musical programme was varied and very interesting, and I think it was the first time ever that I heard an opera song (done brilliantly, I might add) in a pub set.
Kevin sang one of those famous Italian opera songs, so famous that I don’t know what it was, and he was rewarded with a standing ovation for his efforts. I’m told that they are adding two more to their line-up for an appearance this weekend in Kate’s Bar in Castlerea, so if you are down that way, call in to listen to them and you won’t be disappointed – Kevin was a good rugby player, but he’s an even better entertainer.
Appeal for help on Church project
Finally, for this week, Delia Harkin from Newbridge, a parish which my own ancestors came from, has asked me to tell you about the efforts the parishioners are making to repair and restore the local (St. Patrick’s) Church. The church is in bad need of repair and it is estimated it will cost up to half a million to fix it, and while the good people of Newbridge have put together €200,000 towards the work, they are appealing for any financial assistance they can get.
Parishioners, former parishioners, newcomers, in fact anyone who can help, are invited to make a contribution, which will be confidential, so if you can help in any way, please contact Delia Harkin (Secretary), Gunnode, Newbridge, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway, or ‘phone her at 086-4093670. It’s a good cause; so if you have a few bob to spare, send it to Delia.
‘Till next week, Bye for now!