c/f £1265…………stakes £20
Mubaraza 5.00 K lost + 20 £1285
Private Equity 3.20 U lost + 20 £1305
Baltimore Rock 5.50 S lost + 20 £1325
Sandanski 3.55 U lost + 20 £1345
Court Knee 4.00 T lost + 20 £1365
Lots of big fields and big-priced favs on the flat today, so steering mostly clear of them!
CLEAN SWEEP TODAY, THOUGH I HAD TO GO IN RUNNING TO GET MY PRICE ON ONE.
SCENE 3: EXT. DUBLIN. BAGGOT STREET. DAY
SFX: Paddy is seated by the canal bank, singing. Sound of footsteps approaching
PADDY: ‘Twas a starry night for a ramble
through the flowery dell
beneath the bush and bramble
kiss but never tell…
You know somethin’ Hilda? It only takes one drink to get
me drunk these days…
HILDA: I think it’s around the twentieth one.
PADDY: Paddy drunk and Paddy sober
slobbering over his pint of porter
Let me tell you, alcohol is the worst enemy of the imagination.
Did you have a good Christmas, Hilda?
HILDA: Please don’t start all that again.
PADDY: D’you know how I spent Christmas day? And what I had to eat? A hard loaf and a stale, uneatable herring that challenged me on the condition of my digestion, the capacity of my stomach and the delicacy of my palate. I exist on the fringe of starvation. But there was the telephone. Fully connected……and silent. Dublin is full of warm promises, like the worst kind of woman. And then, when it really matters, she ignores you. That’s why I prefer London. You get the cold-shoulder there every day of the week – but at least you know where you stand –
London is full of mean houses in mean streets and it’s also the loneliness place I have known. I have always thought loneliness to be holy. When I was in London I wrote for four hours a day. I lived a life of quiet desperation. My leisure time hung around my neck like a millstone. But it was soon over, like a bad breakfast.
And as for the poet, a poet is supposed to be a moronic angel with none of the normal needs or appetites – a curse for which we have to thank Keats, Shelley and Byron. Not for us the holy trinity of pounds, shillings and pence. I once tried to sell a typewriter but it was like trying to sell an arsehole – everyone already had one.
I’ve lived in poverty for nearly twenty years now in this illiterate and malignant wilderness where money is the stomach to the soul and sin is when the stomach is empty. Poverty itself has nothing to do with eating your fill today – it has more to do with anxiety about what is going to happen tomorrow.
Mind you, I’ve never liked being happy knowing surely that after light comes darkness. (LAUGHS) Dublin – the writers’ paradise. Don’t make me fecking laugh! Do you know why so many of our great writers left this place? The likes of Joyce, Beckett, and O’Casey. Because they were exiles in their own country. And because we’re ruled by spivs I’d love to blow up the whole shaggin’ lot of them. Ah, Jesus, this place has us all paralyzed.
SFX: Sounds of Paddy drinking
HILDA: (VO) It wasn’t just the place. The drink had taken a hold
of him. Whiskey. Before, it wasn’t too bad; a pint of Guinness could be lingered over, could last ages. The whiskey was different…more potent.
He liked naggins; they were easy to carry around in his pocket, and he could take a swig whenever he liked…
PADDY: Do you know, the English pour the smallest measure that ever moulded the lips of man.
HILDA: Trouble was, he was drunk most of the time now. From
the late afternoon on anyway, and then he became morose and abusive..
PADDY: Have you not seen them, Hilda?
HILDA: Seen who, Paddy?
PADDY: All those so-called poets that gather in the Malice Bar. A pack of whore’s
bastards, that coterie of smug parasites who’d rather glorify Mr Yeets than
write anything themselves. Writing should be like wankin’ – best done
when you’re on your own. Oh, I got sucked in when I first came to Dublin,
listenin’ to their pontificatin’, believin’ they were the rale thing. That
shower never put pen to a dacent line in their lives. What they write is the
tiresome drivel between journalists and civil servants – the most appalling
nonesense I have ever had the disinterest to read. What they write is
phoney, phoney, phoney, utterly phoney. Nothing but phoneyness. What
other word can I use to describe the phoneyness of their writing?
HILDA: You’re a snob, Patrick A poetic snob. They’re struggling like the rest of
the writers in Dublin.
PADDY: The only thing that lot ever struggled with is getting out’a bed of a
morning. Did they ever plough a field with a headstrong mare between the
traces? Or thin drills of turnips with male-bags tied round their legs to
keep out the worst of the damp? Or try a hin. (LAUGHS) Did you ever try a
HILDA: Try a hen what, Paddy?
PADDY: Try her to see if she still had the egg inside her
HILDA: No, I never!
PADDY: My parents were great experts in making the hens lay in the winter – the
hens of the neighbours only laid when the birds in the bushes were laying
and prices at their lowest. (BITTER) My parents paid more attention to the
fowls than they paid to us children. Or so it seemed at the time.
HILDA: What’s that got to do with the poets of Dublin?
PADDY: Well-heeled and well-connected, they’d rather talk about writing than do
any. They’ll still be talking in twenty years’ time. (HE PAUSES) And as for
meself, maybe they were right, maybe I wasn’t a real writer. My chin is
weak. I find it hard to make decisions. Maybe I’m getting a bit odd of
meself. For years I had been caught between the two stools of security on
the land and a rich-scented life on the exotic islands of literature.
(RECOVERS) But feck it! I had seen a strange and beautiful light on the hills
and that was all there was to it. But I did have my poetry. Holding the
handles of a rusty old plough that was drawn by a kicking mare, I made
my poems. A kicking mare in a rusty old plough tilling the land for
SFX: Paddy burping as he takes more drink
HILDA: I liked Paddy, we got on. The trouble was, he wanted more than I could
offer.. Maybe it was the attraction of opposites, but he could be
devastating company, when he was on form. And he liked the gambling.
Paddy loved a bet on the horses and dogs. But he was so unlucky that if
he was an undertaker people would stop dying. I guess that was one of the
reasons he was always broke. Paddy was more screwed up than
anyone I knew. If you sheltered with Paddy in a doorway for a few
minutes you’d depart knowing you had been in the company of a genius.
There were people in the street who would steer by his star, Anthony Cronin, John Ryan – myself included.
I suppose it was hero worship on our part. And Patrick loved it. Him standing there like a modern-day Messiah, sneering at the establishment and everyone who was part of it. He didn’t like De Valera’s Ireland – and wasn’t backward in saying so. That was really what he was talking about in The Great Hunger. This idealization of the small farm – the Ireland of the –
PADDY: ‘romping sturdy children, joyous with the laughter of comely maidens,
whose firesides would be forums of the wisdom of old age – ‘
HILDA: This rural Utopia inhabited by the frugal, pious, self-sufficient, Irish-speaking people that De Valera dreamed about, didn’t exist for Paddy.
PADDY: This country is full of men like Paddy Maguire; old, wifeless and childless, battered by the ravages of time and the harshness of their existence. They are nothing but human scarecrows; content to plough and harrow and scuffle their bit of stony soil, fantasize about women – and have the occasional wank on the headland. Men like Paddy Maguire are like sick horses, nosing around the meadow – locked in a stable with pigs and cows forever with no escape, no escape. Men, and women, suffering from the purgatory of middle-aged virginity
The Great Hunger is a poem which concerns itself with the woes of the poor. et a true poet is selfish and implacable. A true poet merely states the position and does not care whether his words change anything or not. And besides, how can you hold against a poem written on the backs of envelopes and scraps of paper, including lavatory paper!
HILDA: As you might have gathered, the one writer Patrick
couldn’t stand was Brendan Behan; his carry-on was that of the stage
Irishman that Paddy detested. The fact that Paddy quite liked the English –
PADDY: And I made no secret of it –
HILDA: Didn’t go down too well with Brendan, so I suppose their relationship was
doomed from the start. I think, too, there was an element of jealousy:
Brendan had made a lot of money in a very short time; Paddy had nothing
to show for more than twenty years.
PADDY: Brendan Behan made a career out of nothing apart from a bit of time in
borstal and a notorious involvement with the IRA. But sure, weren’t we all
involved in the fight against the English?
HILDA: Behan versus Kavanagh. The irresistible object versus the immovable force. It became the talk of Dublin. Whenever they met – and that was
quite frequent because they were usually staggering in and out of the same
pubs. Behan was a complete lunatic when he had a few jars on him, and
Paddy was frightened of him. You would see his big frame shake and he
would became agitated whenever Brendan appeared on the horizon…And
of course, there was still the fall-out from his failed libel action against
The Leader – a Dublin weekly that had lampooned him mercilessly in a so-
called ‘Profile’ – where Brendan’s evidence was instrumental in Paddy losing the case.
PADDY: The profile was a vicious attack on my character. Written by the devil, penned by a coward who had been down in Hell itself, a devil dosed with
strychnine, a devil ashamed to put his own name to the piece of poison
written about me.
HILDA: It described Paddy as hunkering on a barstool in McDaid’s, his great
booming voice reminiscent of a load of gravel sliding down the side of a
quarry, shouting out to anyone who would listen and plenty who
PADDY: “Yous have no merit, yous have no merit at all!”
SCENE 4. INT. COURTROOM. DAY
SFX: A noisy courtroom
LAWYER: Mr Kavanagh, please tell the court. Is Mr Brendan Behan a friend of
PADDY: Behan…a friend! I would rather be friends with a grizzly bear!. He’s a
blackguard, a scoundrel…the man is evil…he’s the two ends of a liar…I
wish I could go somewhere I could never see or hear tell of the name
Behan again…I’m thinking of emigrating – to the bloody moon. Behan is nothing but a phony. All his best lines are stolen from Shaw or O’Casey He used to be a national phony, now he’s an international one.
LAWYER: I have here a book. As you can see, it is called Tarry
Flynn, written by your good self. Could you read the inscription inside the
front cover, please?
PADDY: (taking book) To my…good friend…Brendan…..
LAWYER: Louder please, the jury wish to hear you.
PADDY: To my good friend, Brendan Behan, on the day he painted my flat.
LAWYER: Ah, so he once painted your flat for you –
PADDY: Black! He painted it black, the gurrier. Everywhere, even the windows.. I
didn’t get up for three days because I thought it was still night.
LAWYER: I rest my case!
SCENE 5: EXT. CANAL BANK. DUBLIN. DAY.
SFX: Footsteps as Hilda approaches.
PADDY: Hilda! What are you doing down Baggot Street? I’ve not seen you for ages
HILDA: Not since I got married.
PADDY: Oh, yes. Mrs Hilda O’Malley. It has a nice ring to it. They say your Donagh’s going places. All the way to the Cabinet, so they say.
HILDA: So they say.
PADDY: That’ll be nice for you.
PADDY: Not bad for a quack architect.
It’s no good looking at me like that. Sure I wasn’t good enough for you.
A doctor’s daughter, studying medicine at UCD, and me, a small farmer,
studying droppings on a dunghill? Well, you know what they say? There’s more than one fish in the sea.
HILDA: I’m beginning to come to that conclusion myself
PADDY: Are you now? (PAUSE) Do you see how messed up I am, Hilda? Crushed is not the word for it. I think it started before me father died. He became forgetful; he’d wander off, looking for something. And there was always question on the tip of his tongue. Trouble was, he could never remember what the question was so I could never give him the answer. Names of people and things would dangle in his brain just beyond the rim of recollection. And then after he died, I used to wake up at night in a cold sweat, wondering if I would wind up like him. Not knowing the question. D’you see…?
My father played the melodion
outside at our gate
there were stars in the morning cast
and they danced to his music.
Across the wild bogs his melodion called
to Lennons and Cannons
as I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
I knew some strange thing had happened.
Outside in the cowshed my mother
made the music of milking
the light of her stable-lamp was a star
and the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.
The time of death is a good time when life has been lived fully. ‘Tis like
going on a cruise to Eternity with baggage complete and passports in
order. Every old man I see now, reminds me of my father.
HILDA: I think you’re drunk.
PADDY: Aye. I’m drunk all right. Drunk with power. The power of knowledge.
The knowledge that all you have to do is ‘ask and you shall be given’
This country…this country…This country is like myself….banjaxed…
Here in this nondescript land
Everything is second-hand
Nothing ardently growing
Nothing coming, nothing going….
Do you want to know what I write nowadays, Hilda? Tripe! I write nothing
But tripe. Tripe I can write with the best of them.
SFX: We hear the rustle of a piece of paper.
HILDA: What’s this?
PADDY: Give me that! I’ts nothin!
HILDA: Oh, can I read it?
(reads) Unless you come
I shall die in a ditch,
Poet dead in a ditch
There will be no bluebells there,
Only the vetch,
Smelling of death
Weeds around me,
The mud of hooves
That prance there
Falling over my eyes.
I shall die in a ditch
Like a dog or a bum,
Poet dead in a ditch
Unless you come.
PADDY: I was waiting for you, but you never turned up. Don’t you remember? We
were going to the pictures. ‘Muting On The Bounty’. Clark Gable,
Movita…and a few more I can’t remember now.
HILDA: Charles Laughton was one, I think.
HILDA: I’m sorry I stood you up.
PADDY: Ah, shure what does it matter? There’s a lot of water flowed down to the
say since then – I’m a lonely man, Hilda. The grim monster is never far
from my door nowadays.
HILDA: They tell me you have no loyalty – only opinions. And they rarely flatter
anyone – not even your friends. Is it any wonder you’re lonely?
PADDY: I tell the truth as I see it. I cannot do otherwise
HILDA: Temper it. Temper it with a little compassion. Otherwise you will wind
up talking to yourself.
PADDY: I already do that.
HILDA Answering yourself back, then.
PADDY: Hould on! Who tells you? Have you been follying me?
HILDA: Like you used to follow me? Ah, hardly now, Paddy! Anyway, there’s no
need. You leave a trail behind you these days. You and…Brendan
PADDY: That hoor is the bane of my life. He should be locked up, he’s a lunatic.
HILDA: That’s the reason I’m in Dublin. I met him in Limerick a while ago…
and he suggested that my, that Donagh was, was…well, having affairs up
here…I thought you might know something….
PADDY: Donagh and me? (LAUGHS) Politicians tend to stay well out of my range of
fire. Especially Donagh. But Behan’s probably right. They’re all at it up
here. And Donagh always did have an eye for a pretty girl. I should know!
HILDA: What should I do? Did you really write that poem for me?
PADDY: About you, Hilda, not for you. Throw it away.
HILDA: Oh no! Can I have it? What’s it called?
PADDY: Dead in a Ditch.
HILDA: Dead in a Ditch. What should I do?
PADDY: Go back to Limerick. What you don’t know can’t hurt you.
HILDA: I suppose you’re right. We had a few laughs, didn’t we, Paddy?
PADDY: Aye, we did. Here, give me your finger.
Finger in finger and never draw back – and if I do, may my hand be cut off
tomorrow morning. So long now.
SFX: Hilda walking away again.
HILDA: (VO) Paddy never said goodbye – only ‘so long’. But it would
be goodbye this time; he was never to see me again. Oh, there would be
other loves – some of them serious, for that was Paddy’s nature, he
couldn’t resist a lovely young woman –
PADDY: But there would never be another Hilda. Hilda ‘was the one’.
HILDA: Really, Paddy. What about Maeve Mulcahy?
PADDY: She was in love with Frank O’Connor. I wanted to marry her, I proposed
we marry on a Tuesday. I was a fresh and foolish fellow from the happy
HILDA: And what of Peggy Gough?
PADDY: She was in love with Arthur Duff. Why is it the woman I want are in love
with men who are married to other women?
HILDA: At least Peggy took pity on you.
PADDY: Aye, she let me plough her furrow – if only on occasion. She must have
liked being with the most talked of man in Dublin – infamy gives a man a
great lift with the women.
HILDA: And Treasa Maguire? Seventeen with long black hair. And what of Nola
O’Driscoll? Were you not engaged to be married until her family put a
stop to it?
PADDY: Do I detect a hint of jealousy? Sure, I wouldn’t marry the woman now if
her backside was studded with diamonds.
HILDA: That’s what you say now.
PADDY: So I chase women like some men go on pilgrimages. What the harm?
I’m a lonely lecher whom the fates
by a financial trick castrate –
HILDA: The nineteen fifties had been a see-saw decade for Paddy. He got cancer and had a lung removed, and he became an alcoholic.
PADDY: I had no home, no wife, no family, no property, no health. In and out of
hospital, first with lung cancer then with ulcers, bad circulation and
Osteoarthritis. I suppose that’s the price to pay for being a poet, although I
was always shy of calling myself a poet.
PADDY: All I ever wanted was a shilling for the gas meter
HILDA: At least we got The Great Hunger out of you.
PADDY: The Great Hunger is tragedy and tragedy is underdeveloped comedy and
not fully born. I only started to write well in the summer of ’55, when I sat
on the bank of the canal and let the water lap idly on the shores of my
mind. And as for my poetry, I don’t like anything of my own. All my
poems have been fruitless and atrocious, although lately I’m beginning to
get an idea as to how it’s done. To achieve lightness of touch, that’s the
hardest work. My problems are all in the mind, Hilda. What am I to do
with the void growing more awful every hour?
HILDA: You know all the younger poets look up to you, don’t you?
PADDY: They should open their bloody eyes and look at the world instead. There’s nothing wrong with the lot of us that a shower of fivers wouldn’tcure.
HILDA: Of course, on the plus side, as the decade drew to a
close he was now recognized as Ireland’s greatest living poet. Not that he
mellowed any. One woman acquaintance, hinting that he should buy her a
drink, said ‘Can’t you see I have a mouth on me?’
PADDY: How could I miss it? And it swinging between your ears like a skipping
HILDA: In the sixties he met Katherine Moloney. Katherine, who was a niece of Kevin Barry, lived in London, and Paddy spent the next few years to-ing and fro-ing between Dublin and London, keeping Katherine a secret from
nearly all his friends. When they finally married they had been together
for over seven years – and hardly anybody knew about it. It was his by far
his happiest – and longest – relationship with a woman. But as you might
expect, Paddy must have the last word.
PADDY: Must I?I suppose you’re right. I have failed many times
to get my cattle to the fair. I got nothing for my trouble except joy – and
joy cannot be minted to buy bread or cigarettes. But though the coin of joy
isn’t legal tender in the mundane shops of the world, it is in the lands of
imagination – and today, jingling my purse of memory, I know I am richer
than Rockafeller or Henry Ford or the Rothchilds ever were. It’s only in
normality that you can have originality. And as for Ireland. It is green and chaste and foolish. But when I wander over my own hills and talk again to my
own people, I look into the heart of this life and see that it is good.
SFX: Paddy and Hilda sing the opening verse of On Raglan Road,
BOTH: On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I would one day rue:
I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.
© Tom O’Brien