Essence of Clontarf gets king-size role

‘Vinny, we’ve been thinking about the key roles in our Battle of Clontarf reconstruction and feel you’re the ideal candidate to play the role of Brian Boru’

Brian Boru about to be put to the sword.

Brian Boru about to be put to the sword.


If the numbers were down on the blood-thirsty hordes of a thousand years ago, Vinny Fitzpatrick was impressed by the turnout as the great, and not so great, shuffled into the parochial hall at the rear of St Gabriel’s Church on Sunday evening.

“What Bohs could have done with a gate like this against Rovers on Friday night,” mused the corpulent bus driver as huge numbers of Clontarf tribesmen and women filed into the musty hall.

It was over 45 years since Vinny had first crossed the dark doors of the ‘proke’ as a roly-poly member of the local cub scouts, but he knew its nooks and crannies like the back of his hairy hand.

He could still recall the exact corner, near the toilets, where he’d once dared to grope Imelda ‘The Ice Maiden’ Downing at a disco in the 70s, only to receive a knee in the goolies for his troubles.

Clearly, the advance notice, the posters, leaflet drops, emails and coverage in the Clontarf Courier had done the trick, as had the promise of complimentary refreshments, which was always guaranteed to rope in a few hangers on.

Even so, what mattered most was every dog and divil from Fairview Bridge to Dollymount Strand knew about the ‘Millennium Meeting – A Chronicle of 1,000 years of Clontarf’ and were intrigued at what was planned.

On the platform at one end of the parochial hall sat the ‘Millennium Committee’, a cross-section of Clontarf’s pillars of society.

As he wolfed down a very fine Bakewell tart, Vinny recognised a few of the heads.

There was Charlie St John Vernon, wealthy local landowner and a Foley’s regular, Fr Leo ‘Noisy’ Lavelle, the local parish priest, Grace Cadwalder of the Clontarf Warblers, and Tommy Moloney, a decent skin independent councillor from Black Banks.

It was Noisy who called the meeting to attention, or at least tried to. Because he spoke in a whisper, no one could hear a word Noisy said. After a bit, Charlie Vernon took the microphone and assumed charge, rolling his r’s to twee-mendous effect.

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your pwesence this evening. As you know, 2014 marks the millennium of the Battle of Clontawf, the most famous affway on Irish soil.

“And we’d like to celebwate the occasion with a sewees of events, including a wee-cwee-ation of the battle, on Dollymount Stwand.

“Before anyone volunteers, take note that this will weequire a huge commitment from the pwincipals involved, namely Bwian Bowoo, Sitwic, and Bwodir who slays Bwian.

“The owiginal battle was fought on Apwil twenty twee. We have the go-ahead from the City Council, thanks to Tommy here, to wee-cwee-ate the battle on Easter Sunday next, April twenty.

“Building up to the battle, we will have a Festival of medieval events and exhibitions, including the pwesence for the week of a genuine Viking Long Ship which will be sailing all the way from Twondheim to Clontawf.

“This Millennium week will put Clontawf on the map and we need your help to make it a success,” finished Charlie, to thunderous applause.

From the rear of the hall, where he had polished off his second almond slice, Vinny kept one or two thoughts to himself. It wouldn’t do, he knew, to rain on Charlie’s parade by pointing out that the bloodiest conflicts in the Battle of Clontarf actually took place on Richmond Road in Drumcondra and at Cross Guns Bridge in Phibsboro.

And that Hedigan’s hostelry, known as the Brian Boru, could lay authentic claim as the Dublin pub closest to the heart of battle, far more so than Foley’s. It was close to Hedigan’s where the bould Brian met a grisly end while in prayer.

Keep shtum
On this day, it was best to keep shtum. As Inky Potts, the old newspaperman, used to joke in Foley’s: why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

Vinny knew what he could to do to make the week a success. Just as Dublin had the Viking Splash Tours, so Clontarf would have its own Viking Long Boat tour.

He’d commandeer a couple of amphibious buses, kick off from Hedigan’s and head to Clontarf, stopping off at Brian Boru’s Well on Vernon Avenue and finishing with a sightseeing trip on the Long Ship.

As he prepared to sell his idea to Socket Twomey, Vinny felt a tap on his shoulder. He looked up to see the ‘Fab Four’ of the ‘Millennium Committee’ gathered about him. It was Noisy who spoke, although Vinny had to lean forward to hear what he was saying, a bit like when he used to dispense Vinny penance – it was invariably three Hail Mary’s and a Glory Be.

“Vinny, we’ve been thinking about the key roles in our Battle of Clontarf reconstruction and feel you’re the ideal candidate to play the role of Brian Boru. It’s not that you’re aggressive, far from it, but we feel you represent the essence of Clontarf. You were born here, raised here, have worked your adult life here and still live here. We feel no one is more worthy of being our Brian Boru than you.

“You regard the highways and byways of Clontarf like the arteries of our community and have always stood up for local causes, like that ill-fated idea by politicians to raise our beloved sea walls,” he added, fixing a stony stare at Tommy Moloney, who shuffled his feet in embarrassment.

“Vinny, we would be honoured, Clontarf would be honoured, if you would wear the crown of our late great high king, Brian Boru, in 2014.”

He wasn’t often speechless but as he stood there guppy-like and glassy-eyed, it took an age before he found his tongue. “I’d love to. Thanks very much,” he said.

Composing himself, he called after Charlie St John Vernon. “Charlie, on a point of information, who gets to be Brodir, and chop my head off at the end of battle.”

Charlie smiled. “We had a volunteer for that wole wight away. Someone who’s had a few knocks in life but is as Clontwaf as you, or me. It’s your old fwend, Lugs O’Leewee.”

Instantly, the smile vanished from Vinny’s face. Instinctively, he rubbed his hand against the back of his neck. “Whatever swords we’re using, they had better be blunt,” he thought to himself.

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