Your grandfather had a totally unblemished professional record – 36 fights, 36 defeats
‘Oh, good Lord, Ross!” the old man went, like he’d suddenly remembered something. “Were you aware that you had a namesake?” This was, like, last Saturday night? He and Helen invited me and Sorcha over for dinner and I decided we might as well go. It’s nice to be nice. “What are you bullshitting on about?” I went. He was like, “Well, there I was on Thursday night, driving past Leopardstown Racecourse, thinking about poor old Seán Quinn senior and his most recent travails, as I’m wont to do, when all of a sudden I saw a poster, advertising a night of boxing of all things – in Club 92, don’t you know! Helen here is my witness. There, on the – inverted commas – bill was a certain Ross O’Carroll-Kelly. I mean, what are the chances of there being two?!!!”
I was there, “There aren’t two. It’s actually me they’re talking about?” I swear to God, roysh, the way he looked at me, you’d swear I’d just said, “I think I’ll take my mickey out and stick it in the bisque there.”
“You’re . . . boxing?” he went.
Sorcha got in on the act then. “Charles, do not even go there. I’ve been telling him it’s ridiculous. Fighting’s not exactly in your blood, Ross.”
That was when the old man went, “That’s not strictly true, Sorcha,” and of course I was suddenly all interest. “Fighting is in his blood. Your grandfather, Ross. He was a well-known figure on the professional boxing circuit in Belfast. This was between the wars.”
I laughed. “Did you hear that, Sorcha?” because she hasn’t been as supportive as she was of my rugby career back in the day. “It turns out that fighting’s in the old genes after all.”
The old man got up from the table, disappeared into his study, then came back a couple of minutes later, holding, like, a picture frame? He handed it to me and went, “That’s your grandfather there, Ross.”
I looked at it. It was a photograph of my grandfather alright, wearing, like, shorts and a vest, with his two fists raised like a proper actual boxer? I got this sudden surge of confidence. I was like, “You never told me about this.”
“No,” he went, then he sort of, like, smiled sadly. He never talks about his old man. They never got on, see. That’s portly why he’s always trying to be bezzy mates with me.
I handed the photograph across the table to Sorcha and she started at it.
“See?” I went. “Even Buckets of Blood said I had one or two moves in training that surprised him – for a novice anyway. It’s obviously in the DNA, babes. And there was you worrying!”
She handed the frame back to the old man. He looked at it one last time – a definite sadness in him – and went, “Ah, yes! Killer Kelly!”
I laughed. I was like, “That was what they called him, was it?”
“No, no,” he went, “that was what he called himself. Had it embroidered on the waistband of his shorts. Possibly on his robe as well. Killer Kelly. What they called him – well, it was rather cruel.”