Is there a constitutional lawyer in the house? Preferably one with a sense of humour or a sense of the ridiculous. For a very odd reference to former Governors General of this State has popped out of Tony Farmar's book Ordinary Lives. He writes of Donal O Buachalla, whom de Valera made a sort of ghost Governor General of the Free State in 1932, after he had sacked the real Governor James Mac Neill, brother of Eoin, one of the great founders of modern Ireland. O Buachalla was not to live in the former Vice Regal lodge, now the Aras, but in a house in the suburbs which the Government bought for him. In other words, the Governor Generalship was being made a cod of.

Anyway, to the point made in the first line here. O Buachalla is reported by Farmar as announcing that he was not going to send King George the woodcock pie for Christmas, traditionally sent by his predecessors, on the grounds that he saw no reason for continuing the custom, especially since he hadn't met King George." You wonder if this is Dublin Opinion or Jimmy O'Dea country. Farmar says that he took it straight from newspaper files he was consulting, and believes this may be from the Irish Independent.

A couple of legal eagles, consulted on the matter, had never heard of the custom. Didn't know how it might have arisen. One suggested that the Prince of Wales, later to be King Edward VII often came over to shoot woodcock at Ashford Castle when it was a Guinness property. Would the custom have arisen then? First the Lord Lieutenant and then, in succession, Tim Healy as first Governor General of the Free State, later James Mac Neill. One of the legal men thought he had read a referenced to this in, perhaps, a work by J. P. Donleavy or maybe Gabriel Fielding.

Surely, if it was a long standing tradition, it couldn't have dated back to the Act of the Union? Or could it? How many wood cock to a woodcock pie? The economic war was raging then. Was this a blow deliberately struck against His Majesty?

It's all very amusing now. Perhaps illusionary. And Farmar's book, a paperback with a saucy front cover from a picture of Cecil Salkeld is a marvellous farrago of sense and nonsense from three years: 1907, 1932 and 1963. Published by A. and A. Farmar, a paperback at £8.99 in Fred Hanna's.