Cruiskeen Lawn March 7th, 1958


It’s not clear which if any particular example of the pernicious influence of cinema provoked this particular Cruiskeen Lawn. Films showing in Dublin at the time included Around the World in Eighty Days, Bad Day at Blackrock, and I was a Teenage Werewolf. There was also the courtroom drama Witness for the Prosecution, about which the Metropole’s newspaper advertisements included the teaser: “Surprise ending! Patrons not admitted during final 10 minutes of film.” In any case, when resorting to melodrama himself, Myles had a habit of calling his female characters “Bella”. – FRANK McNALLY

Yet, going home that evening, I was remembering my small self, thinking of all that had happened through the years, re-examining the melange of achievement, grief and disillusion which I am please to call my life, or ma vie bohemienne. Lord, what a skillet of strange stew that has been! Praise I have received, blame also: yet how vain are both, how easy of purchase in the mart of men! I feel that one thing at least stands forever to my credit in the golden ledgers – the rather generous provision I made for the widow Manity and her children when her husband, my best friend, died after a long illness. Poor suffering Hugh Manity, I kept the promise I made to him on this death bed.

When I reached Santry I was in an odd mood for one who is a philosopher and world authority on the Scaligers. I felt . . . old. Age hath like a brandy a mellowness yet withal a certain languor. My daughter was in the next room; my daughter was humming and putting on her hat. I called her. “Hello, Bella. Sit down for a moment will you.” “Yes, Poppa. What’s the matter?” A long watery stare out of the window. The pipe is introduced and fiddled with.

“Bella, how old are you?”

“Nineteen, Poppa. Why?”

Another pause without comfort.

“Bella, we’ve known each other for a long time. Nineteen years. I remember when you were very small. You were a very good child.”

“Yes, Poppa.”

More embarrassment.

“Bella . . . I have been good to you haven’t I? At least I have tried to be.” “You are the best in the world, Poppa. What are you trying to tell me?”

“Bella, I want to say something to you. I am going to give you a surprise, Bella. Please don’t think ill of me . . . but . . . Bella –”

With a choking noise she sprang forward and had her arms about me. “Oh Poppa, I know, I know! I know what you are going to say. You . . . you’re not my Poppa at all. You found me one day . . . when I was very small . . . and you brought me home . . . and cared for me . . . and now you find you have been in love with me all these years.”

Well boys adear, what would you do, reader? Ah? With a coarse oath I flung the trollop from me, went to the wardrobe and pulled on the long dark overcoat Dev gave me many years ago. With collar up, I stamped out into the rain, hurrying with long loping strides to the local cinema. In my pocket was the old-fashioned blue-metal Mauser, a present from Hamar Greenwood. I demanded to see the manager. This suave ruffian came out and invited me into his private office.

Soon afterwards two shots rang out, and I sincerely hope I will be given the opportunity of explaining to the jury that I had merely wished to suggest to the girl that I had worked and scraped for years to keep other people in luxury, and that it was time I should be relieved of the humiliation of having to press my own trousers.

To celebrate the work of Myles na gCopaleen, The Irish Timeswill print one of his Cruiskeen Lawn columns each day during October