SUNDAY MISCELLANY: DATED FOR DEC. 22 1991
Today, as you may be pleased to remember, is the day before the day before Christmas Eve. For some weeks, normally sober and sensible people of every stratum and most persuasions have been inmbued with an uncontrollable desire to consort together in warm hostelries for the singular purpose of alcoholic imbibition.
Using the run-up to Christmas as an excuse for drinking is nothing new as you are about to see. In an epic Limerick poem, the Bard of Thomond describes the meanderings of one famous inhabitant of St.John's island on a Christmas Eve in the mid 1800s. The hero was known to all and sundry as Drunken Thady and he was very much a real person of that time. As the disclaimer goes nowadays, "only the name has been changed to protect the guilty."
.......Thady loved intoxication
And foiled all hopes of reformation
In every grogshop he was found
In every row he fought a round
The jail received him forty times
For midnight rows and drunken crimes
Pre Christmas drinking in those stirring and distant times seems to have been confined to the day before the Day. There is no evidence of the current office party mentality, where today's Thadies start shaping up from the first day of December and are in a state of almost perpetual in-ebriation from then til the New Year. Christmas that year was on a Sunday. Thady was a scrivener cum bookkeeper for a general merchant in the city of Limerick, with an office overlooking the River in the vicinity of the present day Whistling Bridge.
.....The flying week, now past and gone
Saw Thady earn two pounds and one (two guineas!)
His good employer paid it down
And warned him to refrain from town......
Now lest you worry that the few bob mentioned would not go far on Christmas Eve in Limerick, allow me to remind you that at the time of Catholic Emancipation our hero would have been seriously into the Yuppie bracket. All that was missing was the Filofax and the cellular phone. Thady's employer continued with a gentle admonishment...........
.....And banned the divilmint of drinking.
But Thady scorned his sober thinking;
He tossed a coin with spirit light
To desk and master bade goodnight
And like a pirate frigate cruising
Steered to the crowded city boozing.......
I am not going to bore you with gory details of the pub crawl except to note that the office closed at six and we next find the bould Thady early the next day; AS IN VERY, VERY early next day, in a premises in Nicholas Street.
.......At half-past-one the town was silent
Except a row raised in the Island;
Where Thady, foe to sober thinking,
With comrade boys sat gaily drinking.
A table, with a deck of cards
Stood in the midst of four blackguards
Who, with the bumper draught elated,
Dashed down their trumps and swore and chated (sic)
The noise of the row attracted the Peelers; the party was dismantled and the hard men were turfed out into the street. I suppose it was only the day that was in it that saved them from overnight accomodation at the town Gaol.
Our hard man had to leg it home in the flogging rain across John's Bridge. And it was upon this Bridge that Thady had an experience that was to change his life. But that is another day's sailing.