Memories of Mick: Genuine, likeable, and very (very) unique

By Noel D Walsh

Three years isn’t a big age gap, but at school it can be, and so it was with Micky McCormack. He was three years older than me. It meant I never really knew him until we’d left school.

It was October 1986, and I found myself digging holes in Liverpool Street, London, after having failed my first Arts summer and autumn exams in Galway. On an awfully wet winter’s day, I heard, amid all the traffic noise, someone roaring and jeering. It was Micky, shouting down from four storeys up on a building site scaffold. He came down to where I was digging, me covered in muck, looked at me and said, “I hear you’re flying it at college”, followed by the big belly laugh.

We had many a great night in London, Galway, Dublin and Ballagh over the years and Micky’s genuineness and likeability was there to be seen from day one. It all stems of course from the inherent decency he (and his siblings Maria and John) inherited from parents Phyllis Morley and Pa

McCormack. You don’t get such qualities from the wind.

I even heard during the week someone say, “Jaysus, even the Mayos liked him”. Sure how could they not? I mean, he might chastise them for not knowing where they’re from (too right too!) but there was no falling out. Micky was of course a staunch Rossie supporter.

About twenty years or so ago, Micky had contemplated opening a pub. It never came to fruition, but I asked him a while after, if he had a name in mind for the pub (had he opened it). Was it going to be ‘McCormack’s’, or ‘Micky’s’, or ‘Micky Doodles’, or what?

Not at all, he said to me, all those suggestions were way too predictable, he had some other name in mind. The name he had in mind was “Mayo Me Arse”. Maybe it was for the best it didn’t happen!

Micky was, in more ways than one, larger than life. He had the ability to walk into a pub he’d never been in before and have everyone within be enthralled by him in a couple of minutes. I honestly don’t know of anyone else that can do that. He was very intelligent and so witty. He had the ability to laugh at himself and could be deliciously self-deprecating.

We were sitting outside the Quays Bar in Galway

one Saturday evening about fifteen years ago. A pint in front of me, a pint and a brandy in front of

Micky and me, for some reason, smoking a cigar. An American woman was passing by on her way into the pub and said, “Oh my God what are you guys celebrating?” Of course we weren’t celebrating anything, just a regular Saturday evening, but Micky replies to her, “We’re celebrating a most wonderful victory”. The American was wondering what this victory was, as was I, so she asked, “what victory is that?”, to which Micky replied, “after a long struggle, I’ve finally overcome my anorexia!”

The American woman just burst out laughing as did the two of us, Micky in his own trademark way. She then asked Micky what he worked at. He told her that he had enough money to keep himself going for the rest of his life! She was well impressed with this. But then Micky added, “mind you, that’s provided I die by next Thursday!”

Folks, the above encounter happened before our pints had even fully settled. That’s the type of craic you’d have with Micky.

Micky had the typical Irishman’s sense of humour. That sense of humour can be difficult to define, never mind to get across to an audience. It doesn’t seem to work in movies or sit-coms but it works perfectly in plays. No wonder Micky loved plays. He’d land in Galway, acquire Druid tickets off his first cousin Garry Hynes and head off to The Leenane Trilogy. All three are great but Micky particularly loved The Lonesome West. He could recite quotes from it for weeks and months afterwards.

I landed back in Ballagh one evening from Galway and went to Spells pub. Micky was sitting with a

few others in a semi-circle at the bar. Cocktail sausages had been left out on the counter and at tables earlier and as I entered, Micky was in the process of taking the last cocktail sausage out of a basket. When he looked up and saw me, he held out the sausage to me and said, “I saved the last

vol-au-venteen for you Valeen”. Very few present might have got that line from The Lonesome West

but I always marvelled at how split-second his timing was to have even thought of it.

Micky McCormack was the best conversationalist and the best company you could hope to have on a night out. He was also a great storyteller, a hijacked word nowadays for narrative spin nonsense. I valued his friendship immensely and will miss him terribly.

We were taught at English class never to use the phrase ‘very unique’ because there are no degrees

of uniqueness, either something is unique or it’s not. Micky McCormack was unique. I think that if those who drew up the rules of grammatical english had ever met Micky, they’d have written the rule as, “don’t ever say very unique, unless you’re referring to Micky McCormack. Then you can use very. Or two verys”.

Micky McCormack was very very unique. May he rest in peace.