The Parting Glass

An old bloke died just before Easter. He was Irish. I knew him well, as did my father, and his father before that. I think that’s quite special.

 

Let’s call him Paddy.

 

Paddy arrived in Australia in 1951 I believe. He had nothing in his pockets, but was full of hope and as strong as an ox. Paddy was the youngest of 16 children who grew up on a small farm in County Cork, Ireland. I once saw an old picture of their house. It looked like a barn. I heard that being the youngest Paddy was spoiled by his older siblings. By “spoiled” I think they mean that he got three feeds a day.

 

Making a living on the subsistence farms in Ireland was precarious. And it wasn’t for him. Paddy told the Poms they could shove their 10 pound passage to England to work all day and night for nothing. (these days we’d call it people trafficking). Instead he fattened his own cows, sold them, and paid his own freight to Australia. He was 18 when he got off the boat. Up the rebels!

 

As a young bloke in Ireland he was pretty good at Hurling, which is a peculiar game that combines hockey, rugby and fighting. He brought that sporting and fighting attitude with him to Australia, working seven days a week to establish his own business (which became very successful). He took on the Hawks as his footy team of choice, but spent a good amount of his time watching amateur football. Tennis and squash were the games he played for leisure.

 

Paddy married and fathered 6 children. I learned during the eulogies that the house was always full of people drinking and singing. It became famous as the local area’s social hub. If you were a friend of the family you could come in. If you weren’t you could still come in but you might be watched closely for a while.

 

Paddy was the typical bristling Irishman. As one of his Daughters-In-Law said, “He had his moments”. Being Irish, according to WB Yeats, means having an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustains them through temporary periods of joy. Or, as Brendan Behan once said, “It’s not that the Irish are cynical. It’s rather that they have a wonderful lack of respect for everything and everybody.”

 

During one of the eulogies a story was told of the time that Paddy went back to Ireland with two of his boys; Paddy junior, and Bernie. They were being driven home from the pub one night by Paddy’s brother, Tommy, when the Garda pulled them over. It was the mid-1980s and The Troubles were still boiling along in Ireland. New faces were always treated with suspicion. Being a local fellow, Tommy knew the copper personally. The conversation went like this:

Garda – Hello Paddy

Paddy – Hello Michael

Garda – Who’s dat you’ve got in your car wit you Paddy?

Paddy – Ahh dat’s my brudder Paddy. Behind him is his son Paddy, next to him is my son Paddy, and the fella way over in da corner dere, well dats Bernie.”

 

Priceless.

 

Paddy was seen out with the Irish bagpipes and a song by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem that is as good as it gets:

 

The Parting Glass:

O, all the money e’er I had,

I spent it in good company.

And all the harm that ever I’ve done,

Alas it was to none but me.

And all I’ve done for want of wit

To mem’ry now I can’t recall;

So fill to me the parting glass,

Good night and joy be with you all.

 

O, all the comrades e’er I had,

They’re sorry for my going away.

And all the sweethearts e’er I had,

They’d wish me one more day to stay.

But since it falls unto my lot,

That I should rise and you should not,

I gently rise and softly call,

Goodnight and joy be with you all.

 

 

Thanks for choosing Australia all those years ago Paddy. And thanks for giving it all you had. You didn’t always get it right, but who does?

 

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Dips a great story beautifully told , Go Paddy

  2. Dips- A lovely tribute. He sounds like a ripping bloke who lived well. Love the WB Yeats lines. Of course, everyone should have an Irish mate called Paddy. When we lived just outside of London we had a party one Saturday. At one point I looked around and saw Paddy from Ireland, Barry from North London, and then Jimmy from Glasgow. Thanks.

  3. DBalassone says

    Beautiful tribute Dips for a beautiful life. Makes me want to be Irish. And love those lines from “The Parting Glass” (which I now realise Dylan used as the basis for “Restless Farewell”).

    I love that Paddy’s ‘house was always full of people drinking and singing’. Every household should be like that.

  4. Nice one Dips

  5. Poignant and heartfelt, as always Dips.
    I checked up the history of the Parting Glass song/poem. Its SCOTTISH, and in its earliest versions over 400 years old.
    “It was known at least as early as 1605, when a portion of the first stanza was written in a farewell letter, as a poem now known as “Armstrong’s Goodnight”, by one of the Border Reivers executed that year for the murder in 1600 of Sir John Carmichael, Warden of the Scottish West March.”
    As long as they hate the English, I guess its all Celts together, Dips.

  6. PB that can’t be right. The poor old Scots are as deluded about the song as they are about whiskey and bagpipes, which also originated in Ireland.

  7. Peter Fuller says

    Thanks Dips for a beautiful tale, delightfully told.
    DB, with attitudes like those you’ve expressed, there’s likely some Irish in your background, and if not, you could probably make a plausible pretence.
    PB, no surprise that you’ve nailed the Scottish connection of “The Parting Glass”; after all, the lyrics of “Danny Boy” were drafted by a Pom.
    There’s a lovely You Tube clip of Liam Clancy’s funeral, where the congregation at the graveside, sing in sequence “The Parting Glass” and that other Scottish tune that jumped the Irish Sea, “Will Ye Go Lassie Go.”

  8. E.regnans says

    Good one, Dips.
    What odds on Pat McKernan’s version of “Parting Glass” popping on the iTunes shuffle precisely as I opened this piece?
    Almost mystical.
    Well played.

  9. E.regnans says

    And condolences to all. Dave

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