…I normally keep my blog posts fairly brief, but am making an exception today to carry a chapter from GHOSTS OF KILRUSH, written by my Irish pal, Joe Riley, a long-time resident of the Philippines… GHOSTS OF KILRUSH is a book not just about the small town of Kilrush. This story could be about any rural town in Ireland. It’s a story about down to earth people who were in essence the salt of the earth but had that wonderful sense of Irish humour that got them through hard times. This book is full of humour and sincerity a time in history long gone past in the 1940s and 50s… the book’s available on Amazon…
…this sample chapter encapsulates much of the small village community approach to life back then…the black and white real photographs trigger mem’ries of my own upbringing in an era sadly more and more forgotten these days… I LUV IT… enjoy…
THE LOVE BOAT
Kilrush could be considered by some as an ‘end of the line’ town. Unlike Ennis or Limerick we weren’t on the road to anywhere in particular. However being a port albeit small, we were reminded that somewhere over the horizon there was a world out there by the occasional ship putting in to our town.
This would happen perhaps seven or eight times a year. The ships would either be delivering timber or loading flour from Glynn’s flourmill for Europe. A visit by a ship was a cause for not only excitement but was an opportunity for a few days work to many unemployed men. We were always the first to know of an impending visit as Katie’s husband, Johnny Enright was the head of the stevedores union, and his duty was to recruit the necessary manpower.
Johnny had told us that a ship bringing a load of timber for Doherty’s sawmill was too due to arrive. Small vessels could be brought right into the Creek but the one expected was about 15,000 tons and would have to dock at the Cappagh pier.
On a lovely spring evening, Katie, Lulu and I accompanied Johnny to the pier. We could see the ship anchored in the Scattery Roads waiting for high tide. The pilot from Scattery Island was already on board when they lifted the anchor. The pilot guided the ship up the river on the Kerry side and then cut across at Kilimer into the deep water channel close to Hog Island before bringing it alongside the pier.
Once the ship was tied up and the gangplank in place our local custom’s officer together with Johnny went aboard. We stood waiting patiently while the formalities were being completed. The custom’s officer would after a few bottles of beer of unknown origin would clear the ship while Johnny would seek out the ships 3rd officer to plan the unloading.
It was not long before Johnny appeared at the rail and waved to us to go on board. As soon as we reached the deck Johnny introduced us to the 3rd officer whose name was Hans Bruni Jensen. Hans was from Denmark and very Scandinavian in appearance. He was five feet nine inches tall, fair skin, blonde hair and blue eyes. He took us all to the officer’s mess and gave us coffee and chocolates. Unfortunately Hans could speak only a little English but his eyes spoke a great deal as he kept his gaze on Lulu. Few of us noticed that Lulu appeared mesmerized by Hans. We stayed in the mess for about an hour and then Hans insisted on accompanying us on the walk home.
It is a true saying that familiarity breeds contempt. I had been an infant when I entered the Deloughery household, and Lulu had been just a slip of a colleen, the baby of the family. I had not noticed that she had become a petite and good-looking young lady of nineteen. She had the typically Irish dark hair but vivid blue eyes and a ‘peaches and cream’ complexion. Lulu had also developed the Deloughery sense of humour and was always quick with a smile. It is little wonder then that on our journey home Hans just couldn’t keep his eyes from her.
The following morning all was ready to start the unloading. The West Clare Railway had a station at Cappagh Pier. The line ran through the station and ended at a set of buffers that were close to the slipway. The pier itself was at right angles to the railway line but a set of tracks ran the length of the pier. A hand-operated turntable allowed goods wagons to be stationed alongside a ship. The empty wagons would be parked either in the station itself, or in an adjacent siding, the day prior to unloading. An engine would select a wagon and shunt it onto the turntable. A gang of men would physically turn the wagon to line up with the rails on the pier, and then push it to its required position alongside the ship.
Once the wagon was fully loaded the services of Jack Hanrahan would be employed. His council work had to be abandoned for a few days and his cart left behind. Instead, a large collar was fitted to the horse with two long chains attached. With a little help from the men the horse would drag the now heavy wagon back to the turntable where it would be realigned with the main track. The horse would then drag it along the spur to the buffers. Once there were a number of fully loaded wagons the engine would then take them from the pier directly into Doherty’s sawmill for unloading. Of course if flour was being loaded for export, the process would be reversed. During these times the pier was a hive of activity. The work was hard, the hours long but the money it put into the pockets of the men employed was very welcome.
Unloading timber for Doherty’s Mill at Cappagh, notice theRailway lines
I don’t know when it happened but at some time during their initial meeting of the previous evening, Lulu had promised to meet with Hans. She had to tell me of course because I was to be the excuse for her “taking the air.” Taking the ‘Air” was another way of saying were going for a walk.
“Don’t you be breathing a word of this, Riley? If you do and my ma finds out sure and I’ll kill you myself so I will,” she said. “Mention one word about Hans I promise. I’ll kill you.”
“Hans who?” I nonchalantly replied. Lulu seemed to forget that it was not that too long ago I had done the same thing when Katie wanted to meet Johnny. I was an expert at this type of subterfuge although I wasn’t sure if Hans would know he was supposed to pay me sixpence a time. I just hoped Lulu would inform him of this local custom.
That evening, after she had returned from her job in the Monastery Lulu disappeared to her bedroom. When I had finished my tea, I went to the bottom of the stairs and shouted up loud enough for Auntie May to hear “Lulu. I’m going out for a walk. Would you be wanting to join me?”
“Just a minute Joe. I’m just combing my hair and then I’ll come with you,” a voice shouted back. “Will that be okay, ma?”
“Where are you going?” asked Auntie May.
“Probably up around the Square,” I answered. “Just to see who is around.” It was obvious that Auntie May was making no connection to the fact that a ship was docked at Cappagh. Lulu came to the top of the stairs she looked stunning. She had on a dress I hadn’t seen before her hair was immaculate and she looked a million dollars. If Auntie May saw her dressed up like this the cat would have been out of the bag for sure. Lulu knew this as well as she signaled me to check on Auntie May’s location. I casually strolled into the kitchen pretending to look for something. Auntie May had settled into her favorite chair. I walked to the bottom of the stairs and signaled Lulu who came rapidly down the stairs. We shot out of the front door down the path and out of the gate. We quickly crossed the road and rounded the corner at the house of Mrs. Corbett rapidly walking down the lane until we were sure to be out of sight. We then slowed the pace and enjoyed our walk out to Cappagh Pier. We chatted a bit although Lulu’s mind seemed preoccupied.
Hans was anxiously leaning on the rail of the ship when we got there and he came hurriedly down the gangway to the pier and greeted Lulu. Johnny said hello and gave a big smile, a wink and a nod of approval to Lulu. This was the usual time for Joe to get lost again with or without sixpence and do something until it was time to go home. I decided I would stay with Johnny as he continued to unload the ship into the late evening. Lulu and Hans went for a walk out past Ryan’s house to Aylevaroo. This happened for the next three days until the ship left.
We walked out to Cappagh in the evening of the fourth day and Hans and Lulu said their good byes on the pier, a sad occasion for them both. By now Lulu was madly in love with her handsome prince who came in on the Love Boat.
We watched as the ship left the pier and Lulu was in tears as we stood their waving goodbye. We stayed and watched the ship sail into the sunset out between the heads and into the Atlantic Ocean.
It was impossible for Lulu to keep her budding romance secret because after that our postman Michael Corbett (Senan’s elder brother and our local postman) was kept consistently busy delivering letters addressed to Lulu bearing stamps from all over the world. As soon as one was delivered Lulu would grab it and run up the stairs to her bedroom where she would sit on her bed reading and rereading every one of them.
Some of these letters organised a telephone conversation. On the appointed day and at the hour agreed, Lulu would be waiting outside the one public telephone box in the Square. This little green telephone box was the contact point between the citizens of Kilrush and their friends and relatives scattered all over the world. At the appointed hour Hans would put a call through to the box and Lulu would dive inside to breathlessly answer it. Hans would call from all over; Spain, Denmark the U.S.A., wherever his ship had docked.
In one letter Hans told Lulu that he had some leave due to him and he wanted to use it to visit her in Kilrush. A conference was held with Auntie May as inquisitor. To everybody’s surprise Auntie May appeared to fully accept Hans as a possible suitor for Lulu and not only agreed with him visiting but suggested he stay in the house. A lot of lobbying as you would imagine went on in the background before this situation was brought to light. Discussion with Girlie Gorman, Cisse Rowan just to smooth the way
His holiday was a bigger success than anyone could have dreamed. He had been writing and telephoning for over a year during the course of which he had been studying English. He had to speak slowly and sometimes he got his grammar mixed but at least we could talk with him. He had brought his camera and used it extensively around the town and on the many trips he and Lulu took. Towards the end of his holiday he sat in the kitchen, and in halting English asked Auntie May for the hand of Lulu. To everybody’s surprise Auntie May agreed. She could see that they were totally in love with each other but more importantly she respected Hans. She could see that he was a gentle-man in every respect, very strong minded and a traditionalist. He didn’t drink or smoke.
As they were engaged the second request which was also approved was that Lulu accompanies him to Denmark in order to meet with his family. Arrangements were made the services of Gerald Griffin contracted and off they went covered in liberal sprinklings of Holy Water by Auntie May.
One year later Hans returned to Kilrush together with his brother who was to be his best man. They stayed down the road with Johnny and Katie. Hans had agreed to convert to Catholicism so Father Ryan again came to the rescue and organized another fast-track conversion on behalf of the Deloughery family.
Came the day of the wedding we had difficulty explaining to Hans as to why he and his wedding party had to go down the lane to Francis Street in order to not see the bride. He was most anxious to meet with Lulu that morning but it was explained that this was not the Irish custom and to meet Lulu was bad luck however with a shrug he eventually was persuaded to accept this Irish custom of not seeing the bride before you get to the alter. Upon arrival at the church Father Ryan was at the alter ready to conduct the wedding. At this point Han’s introduced his brother who was to be the best man.
Father Ryan asked “is your brother a catholic”
Hans replied “No father”
Father Ryan “well I am afraid he cannot be your best man, your best man has to be a catholic if you want to be married”
By Now Hans was embarrassed and spoke to his brother in their native language Danish to explain the situation. Hans was totally confused as we all were and somewhat upset, however being the gentlemen that they were Hans and his brother accepted Father Ryan’s judgment and Andrew, Lulu’s brother, stepped into the position of best man.
When Lulu arrived at the church she was surprised to see Andrew who was the best man standing there in the aisle. She had no idea at this point as to what had transpired; she said nothing and the wedding proceeded.
Lulu’s wedding party proceeded to the church the usual way. She walked up Pound Street past the handball alley, turned right into Toler Street past the Christian Brothers School and into St. Senan’s Church. It was a beautiful Saturday morning with the sun blessing us all. Mary, Lulu’s other sister was her bridesmaid. Lulu was smiling and obviously so excited.
Lulu came down the aisle dressed in a perfect pink dress lovingly made for her by her sister, Katie on the arm of Gerard, who, as Uncle Andrew was no longer with us, assumed the position as head of the family. I sat holding hands with Auntie May. We were both happy to see Lulu marrying such a grand fellow as Hans, but sad because Uncle Andrew wasn’t with us to see it.
As Father Ryan said the Mass and conducted the wedding ceremony, the solemnity was occasionally broken by the loud chatter of Joseph the two-year-old son of Katie and Johnny.
While we were all at the church, the very good friends of the Deloughery family, Sue Morrissey, Cissy Rowan and Kabee Blunnie were busy preparing the wedding breakfast.
We all enjoyed the wedding breakfast and after the breakfast it was time for the honeymoon. Unlike in many other countries the Irish are not content with tying a few cans to a vehicle’s fender and waving the happy couple farewell from outside of the venue of the reception. No way. The Irish like to make sure the couple arrives safely at their honeymoon destination. Thus, the services of Gerald Griffin and one other were sought and two cars proceed in tandem to Galway. A bemused Hans was being introduced to yet another local West of Ireland tradition.
The party had a bit of excitement on the way. Just before we came into Lahinch the cars stopped as we had spotted a pod of whales about 300 yards off shore. The pod consisted of about a dozen killer whales a beautiful sight to see and we watched them for about ten minutes as they swam past. When we arrived at the hotel in Galway we all went into the restaurant and had a cup of tea and something to eat before making the return journey home to Kilrush.
Sean was the only one that stayed behind in Katie’s house with a few other guests having a wedding drink. This was the day he really blotted his copybook. Sean, a person who for all intents and purposes did not drink at all, got a bit tipsy. He also gave some drink to little Joseph and the baby was also a bit tipsy. Katie was not amused and hit the roof. We all laughed about it later and I don’t think Sean ever took another drink.
Hans and Lulu settled in Denmark where they had five sons and a daughter. Such was the love of Hans for Lulu that he gave up international seafaring and became one of the senior officers of a car ferry that traveled between Puttgarten in Ger-many and Rodby in Denmark. This allowed him to be home every two days.
Hans not only loved Lulu very much but also Kilrush. He had planned for himself and Lulu to live in Kilrush once he retired. They had packed and shipped their personal effects and furniture to Kilrush but on the very day he retired Hans sat in a chair to relax, he had a heart attack and died in Denmark. In accordance with his wishes Lulu brought his body to Kilrush and buried him in New Shanakyle cemetery in a spot overlooking Cappagh Pier. The prince returned to rest in the Shannon Estuary and the islands where he met the love of his life.
Lulu did live in Kilrush for a few years taking care of Willie and Andrew until they too passed away after which she returned to Denmark to be near her children.
I have little doubt that Lulu like all Irish women would have occasionally prayed to St. Jude for a loving husband. St. Jude not only answered her prayers but found someone from far across the sea. If you do not believe in the power of St. Jude after this story then there is little hope for you.
Taken at Lahinch on the way to the honeymoon in Galway —Left to right, Andrew Deloughery, Katie, Lulu, myself and Aunt Margaret
…Joe tells me that options for a movie have been signed, and he with some friends in Manila have composed some songs (trust the Irish, eh!) which may form part of the backdrop sound… here’s the YouTube clip for his version of ‘Love Boat’…
…enjoy, Lads and Lassies of Blog Land… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…
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