Duty, and other Irish Comedies
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DUTY AND OTHER IRISH COMEDIES
[Illustration: FROM THE DRY POINT STUDY BY P. GRASSBY]
DUTY AND OTHER IRISH COMEDIES
A COMEDY IN ONE ACT
HEAD CONSTABLE MULLIGAN _A Member of the Royal Irish Constabulary_
SERGEANT DOOLEY _A Member of the R.I.C._
CONSTABLE HUGGINS _A Member of the R.I.C._
MRS. ELLEN COTTER _A public-house keeper_
DUTY was produced for the first time at the Abbey
Theatre, Dublin, December 17, 1913, with the following
Head Constable Mulligan, R.I.C. ARTHUR SINCLAIR
Sergeant Dooley, R.I.C. FRED O'DONOVAN
Constable Huggins, R.I.C. SYDNEY J. MORGAN
Micus Goggin J.M. KERRIGAN
Padna Sweeney J.A. O'ROURKE
Mrs. Ellen Cotter UNA O'CONNOR
_Back kitchen of a country public house. Micus and Padna seated at a
table drinking from pewter pints. Mrs. Cotter enters in response to a
PADNA (_pointing to pint measures_)
Fill 'em again, ma'am, please.
MRS. COTTER (_taking pints, and wiping table_)
Fill 'em again, is it? Indeed I won't do any such thing.
Indeed you will, Mrs. Cotter.
Don't you know that 'tis Sunday night, an' that the police
might call any minute?
Bad luck to them!
This will be the last drink that any one will get in
this house to-night.
'Tis a nice state of affairs to think that dacent men,
after a hard week's work, can't have a drink in pace
and quietness in the town they were born and reared
in, without bein' scared out o' their senses by the
'Tis the hell of a thing, entirely! I don't see what's
gained be closin' the pubs at all, unless it be to give
the police somethin' to do.
The overfed and undertaught bla'gards!
As far as I can see, there's as much drink sold as if
the pubs were never closed.
There is, an' more; for if it wasn't forbidden to drink
porter, it might be thought as little about as water.
I don't believe that, Micus. Did you ever hear of a
pint or even a gallon of water makin' any one feel
[_Mrs. Cotter enters and places drinks on table_.
PADNA (_handing money_)
There ye are, ma'am.
MRS. COTTER (_takes money_)
Hurry now like good boys, for forty shillin's is a lot
to pay for a pint o' porter, an' that's what 'twill cost
ye if the police comes in an' finds ye here. An' I'll
lose me license into the bargain.
One would think be the way the police are talked
about that they had charge of the whole Universe!
An' who else has charge of it but themselves an' the
magistrates, or justices o' the pace, as they're called?
They're worse than the police.
They're as bad anyway, an' that's bad enough.
Justices o' the pace!
There's no justice in the world.
Damn the bit! Sure 'tisn't porter we should be drinkin'
a cold night like this!
PADNA (_as he sips from pint_)
'Tis well to have it these times.
The world is goin' to the dogs, I'm afraid.
'Tisn't goin' at all, but gone.
An' nobody seems to care.
Some pretend they do, like the preachers, but they're
paid for it. I do be often wonderin' after readin' the
newspapers if God has forgotten about the world
I wouldn't be surprised, for nothin' seems to be right.
There's the police, for instance. They can do what
they like, an' we must do what we're told, like childer.
Isn't the world a star, Micus?
MICUS (_with pint to his mouth_)
Of course it is.
Then it must be the way that it got lost among all
the other stars one sees on a frosty night.
Are there min in the other stars too?
So I believe.
Sure, everythin' is queer.
If the min in the other stars are like the peelers, there
won't be much room in Hell after the good are taken
to Heaven on the last day.
The last day! I don't like to think about the last day.
Well, 'tis terrible to think that we might be taken to
Heaven, (_pauses_) an' our parents an' childer might
be sent (_points towards the floor_) with the Protestants.
If the Protestants will be as well treated in the next
world as they are in this, I wouldn't mind goin' with
I wouldn't like to be a Protestant after I'm dead, Micus.
MICUS (_knocks with his pint on the table and Mrs. Cotter
enters; he points to pints_)
The same again, Mrs. Cotter.
Indeed, ye won't get another drop.
This will be our last, ma'am. Don't be hard on us.
'Tis only a night of our lives, an' we'll be all dead
MRS. COTTER (_as she leaves the room with measures in
Ye ought to be ashamed o' yerselves to be seen in
a public house a night like this.
We're ashamed o' nothin,' ma'am. We're only ourselves
an' care for nobody.
MRS. COTTER (_turning round_)
Well, this is the very last drink ye'll get then.
Women are all alike.
They are, God forgive them.
They must keep talkin'.
An' 'tis only a fool that 'ud try to prevent 'em.
MRS. COTTER (_entering and placing measures on table_)
Hurry up, now, an' don't have me at the next Petty
MICUS (_after testing drink_)
Nothin' like a good pint o' "Dundon's."
'Tis great stuff.
May the Lord spare them long, an' they buildin'
houses for the poor an' churches for God!
An' all out o' the beer money?
Of course. What else could ye make money at in a
country like this?
'Tis a thirsty climate!
If all those who made money built houses for the poor
an' gave employment, there 'ud soon be no poor at all.
You're talkin' what's called socialism now, an' that's
too delicate a plant, like Christianity, to thrive in a
planet like this. So I heard one o' them preacher
chaps sayin' the other evenin'.
Well, be all accounts, we're no better off than those
who heard St. Peter himself preachin'. The poor still
only get the promise of Heaven from the clergy.
That's all they'll ever get.
The world must surely be lost, Padna.
If God ever goes rummagin' among the stars an' finds
it again, there'll be bad work, I'm thinkin'.
I wonder will it be a great fire or another flood?
Tis hard to tell!
[_A loud knocking is heard at the door_.
MRS. COTTER (_from the shop_)
May ye freeze there!
Or trip over the threshold and break ye'r neck!
MRS. COTTER (_rushing into kitchen_)
Quick! quick! quick! (_Points to a door_) This way,
[_Micus and Padna enter a small room off the kitchen.
Mrs. Cotter locks the door and opens the street door for
the policeman, the knocking getting louder meanwhile_.
Wait a minit! Wait a minit! I'm comin', I'm comin'.
[_Opens door. Enter Head Constable Mulligan, R.I.C._
You took a long time to open the door, ma'am.
I know I did, but it wasn't me fault, Head. I had
the house locked up for the night, an' couldn't find
where I left the kay.
'Tis all right, ma'am. I can lose things meself. (_Looks
carefully around_) 'Tis a lonesome thing to see the
house so empty.
'Tis Sunday night, Head.
Of course, of course! All the same I'd prefer to see it
full--of bona-fide travellers, I mean.
Thank ye, Head. How's Mrs. Mulligan an' the
Wisha, purty fair. How's the world usin' yourself?
Only for the rheumatics I'd have no cause to grumble.
'Tis well to be alive at all these times. An' Ballyferris
isn't the best place to keep any one alive in
Or summer time ayther. Whin the weather is good
trade is bad.
That's always the way in this world. We're no sooner,
out o' one trouble before another commences. I always
admire the way you bear your troubles, though,
I does me best, Head.
Just like meself! Just like meself! The Government
makes laws an' I must see that they're not broken.
(_Rubbing his hands together_) 'Tis a cold night, an' no
doubt about it.
Bad weather is due to us now.
Everythin' bad is due to some of us. Only for that
shark of an Inspector 'tis little trouble I'd be givin'
a dacent woman like yourself a night like this.
He's very strict, I hear.
He's strict, disagreeable, a Protestant, a teetotaler,
an' a Cromwellian to boot!
The Lord protect us! 'Tis a wonder you're alive at
Wisha, I'm only half alive. The cold never agrees
with me. (_Looking at fire_) That's not a very dangerous
fire, an' I'm as cold as a snowball.
MRS. COTTER (_with her back to the door behind which
Padna and Micus are hiding_) There's a fine fire up-stairs
in the sittin'-room.
HEAD (_draws a chair and sits down_)
Thank ye, ma'am, but 'tisn't worth me while goin'
up-stairs. As I said before, I wouldn't trouble you at
all only for the Inspector, an' like Nelson, he expects
every one to do their duty.
'Tis a hard world.
An' a cold world too. I often feels cold on a summer
That's too bad! Is there no cure for it?
They say there's a cure for everything.
I wonder if ye took a drop o' "Wise's" ten-year-old!
It might help to warm ye, if ye sat be the fire up-stairs.
HEAD (_brightening up_)
Now, 'pon me word, but that's strange! I was just
thinkin' o' the same thing meself. That's what's
called telepattery or thought transference.
HEAD (_with confidence_)
Telepattery, ma'am. 'Tis like this: I might be in
I wish you were--
HEAD (_with a look of surprise_)
What's that, ma'am?
I wish for your own sake that you were in a country
where you would get better paid for your work.
Thank ye, ma'am. I suppose min like meself must
wait till we go to the other world to get our reward.
Well, as I was sayin', I might be in America, or New
York, Boston, Chicago, or any o' thim foreign places,
an' you might be in this very house, or up in your
sister's house, or takin' a walk down the town, an'
I'd think o' some thought, an' at that very second
you'd think o' the same thought, an' nayther of us
would know that we were both thinkin' o' the same
thing. That's tellepattery, ma'am.
'Tis a surprisin' thing, surely! Is it hot or cold you'll
have the whiskey, Head?
Cold, if ye please.
[_Exit Mrs. Cotter. While she is away, he walks up
and down whistling some popular air. Enter Mrs.
Will I bring it up-stairs for you?
Indeed, I'm givin' you too much trouble as it is. I'll
try an' take it where I am. (_Takes glass and tastes_)
That is good stuff.
I'm glad you like it.
Who wouldn't like it?
I don't know the taste of it.
HEAD (_as he finishes contents of glass_)
May ye be always so, though there's nothin' like it
all the same. (_Handing coin_) I think I'll have a
little drop from meself this time.
MRS. COTTER (_as she takes the money_)
Will I bring it up-stairs?
Erra, don't bother! I'm beginnin' to feel meself again.
[_Fills his pipe until she returns_.
MRS. COTTER (_entering and handing drink_)
Did you bring your overcoat with you, Head?
Why so, ma'am?
Because the cold o' the rain is there. I wouldn't
make any delay but go home immediately. You
might get a wettin'.
HEAD (_feeling his tunic_)
This wouldn't leave in a drop o' rain in a hundred
[_Knock at door_.
Police, did I hear?
'Tis the Sergeant's voice.
Glory to be God! I'm ruined! If he finds the smell o'
whiskey from me, he'll tell the Inspector, an' then
Head Constable Mulligan is no more!
Is he as bad as that?
He has no conscience at all. He's a friend o' the
Inspector's. (_Knocking continues at door_) Don't open
that door till I tell you--that's if you don't want to
find a corpse on the floor.
Sure, I must open the door.
Time enough. He's paid for waitin'. Have you such
a thing as an onion in the house?
I didn't see an onion for the last three weeks.
HEAD (_scratching his head_)
What the blazes will I do? (_Looking towards coal hole_)
Whist! I'm saved. I'll go in here until he's gone.
(_Goes in and puts out his head_) You can open now,
but get rid of him as soon as you can.
[_Exit Mrs. Cotter. Enter the Sergeant_.
So you opened at last. Well, better late than never!
I'm sorry for keepin' you waitin', Sergeant. I don't
open the door for any one on Sunday nights, an' whin
you said "Police," I thought it was one o' the boys
tryin' to desaive me.
I see! I see! There's a lot o' desaitful people in the
There are, Sergeant.
There are indeed. (_Coughs_) I'm sick an' tired o' the
I thought it agreed with you. You're lookin' very
I'm not feelin' well at all thin. (_Coughs_) There's
nothin' more deceptive than looks at times. (_Coughs_)
'Tis in me bed I should be instead of troublin' dacent
people like yourself a night like this. (_Coughs_) But
duty is duty, an' it must be done. If I didn't do
what I'm told, that bla'gard of a Head Constable
would soon have another an' maybe a worse man in
The Lord save us!
But as herself says: There's no use in the Government
makin' laws if the people don't keep them.
Keepin' the world in order is no aisy business, ma'am.
'Tis a great responsibility.
SERGEANT (_drawing a chair to the fire and sitting down_)
'Pon me word I'm tired an' cold too.
Wouldn't ye go home and go to bed, Sergeant?
If I went to bed at this hour, the Head would send a
report to his chum the Inspector, statin' that I was
That's a bad cough. How long is it troublin' ye?
Only since supper time. I was eatin' a bit o' cold
meat, an' a bone or somethin' stuck there. (_Points at
An' what did ye do for it?
What could I do for it?
Ye could take a drink o' somethin' an' wash it down.
I tried some cold tea. (_Coughs_)
I wonder would a bottle of stout do any good.
'Twould be no harm to try.
Will ye have a bottle?
To tell ye the truth, I don't like bein' disobligin',
[_Exit Mrs. Cotter. While she is away, he walks up
and down, whistling the while_.
MRS. COTTER (_at door_)
Ye might as well come up-stairs, Sergeant. There's a
fine fire in the sitting-room.
I'm first rate where I am. Thank you all the same.
[_Takes stout and finishes it without withdrawing it from
his mouth. Coughs_.
How do you feel now?
SERGEANT (_wiping his mouth with a large old handkerchief_)
'Tis gone! I mean the bone. I feel meself
I'm glad of that. (_Looking at clock_) 'Tis gone half-past
Plenty o' time. We'll be a long time dead, an' happy
'Tis my belief that we should all try to do good while
There's a lot o' good people in the world, Sergeant.
There is, ma'am, but nearly every one o' them thinks
that they're better than what they are. That's what
Sure 'tis imagination that keeps the world movin'.
Yes, an' ambition. All the same, 'tis a good job that
people can't see themselves as they really are.
They wouldn't believe that they were themselves if
I suppose not.
Won't ye come up to the fire in the sittin'-room?
Don't be worryin' about me. I'm all right. That was
'Tis a cure for nearly everythin'. Only for takin' a
little now an' again, I'd never be able to stand all the
hardships o' me profession.
Hard work isn't easy.
True! But a good drop o' stout, or better still "spirits"
makes many things easy. 'Tis the seed o' pluck,
so to speak. I'm feelin' just a little queer about the
nerves. I think I'll have a drop o' "Wise's."
[_Exit Mrs. Cotter. While she is away he fills his pipe_.
MRS. COTTER (_entering with drink_)
That's like the noise of a row down the road.
Erra, let 'em row away! The Head is prowlin' about.
Let him separate 'em. 'Tis about time he did somethin'
for his livin'. 'Tis a damn shame to have the
poor rate payers supportin' the likes of him.
I wouldn't be talkin' like that, Sergeant.
Why wouldn't I talk? There's as many Head Constables
as clergy in the country, an' only for the sergeants
an' an odd constable 'tis unknown what 'ud
The Head is a dacent gentleman.
You don't know anythin' about him. Grumblin' about
havin' to shave himself he does be now, an' only for
havin' a bald patch on one side of his face, he'd let
his whiskers grow altogether.
[_The Head sneezes in the coal hole_.
What noise is that?
MRS. COTTER (_startled_)
That's only the cat in the coal hole.
SERGEANT (_leaving his chair and moves toward it_)
He must be suffocatin'. I'll open the door an' let
him out. Under the grate he should be a cold night
like this. (_Opens the door and sees the Head_) Heavens
be praised! 'Tis the Head himself!
[_The Head comes out, arranges his cap, and is not aware
that he has a black spot on his nose_.
'Tis the Head an' every inch an' ounce of him too
that stands before ye.
I thought 'twas y'er ghost I saw.
What the blazes would me ghost be doin' in a coal hole?
What I'd like to know is what y'erself have been doin'
That won't take me long to tell. Waitin' and watchin'
to catch the likes o' you is what took me there.
Now, Head, with all due respects, I'd try an' tell the
truth if I were you.
Sergeant Dooley, sir, anythin' you'll say or be likely
to say 'll be used in evidence against you.
An' anythin' that you say or don't say may be used
in evidence against you.
Do you know that y'er addressin' y'er superior officer?
The less said about superiority the better.
You can't deny that I found you drinkin' on these
licensed premises while on duty.
I might as well tell you candidly that you have no
more chance o' frightenin' me or desaivin' me than
you have of catchin' whales in Casey's duck-pond.
You'll have a drink from me, an' we'll say no more
about the matter. I wouldn't blame any man for
takin' a drop a cold night like this. I suppose 'twill
be "Wise's" the same as the last? That's if me sense
o' smell isn't out of order.
HEAD (_crestfallen, blows his breath on the palm of his
hand and looks at the Sergeant_) Is it as bad as that?
I smelt it the instant I came in, an' wondered where
'twas comin' from.
I only took it to avoid catchin' cold.
Just like meself. We must avoid catchin' cold at any
cost. (_To Mrs. Cotter_) Two glasses o' "Wise's,"
[_Exit Mrs. Cotter_.
SERGEANT (_to Head_)
Wait, an' I'll wipe that black spot off ye'r nose.
[_He does so. Enter Mrs. Cotter_.
MRS. COTTER (_handing drinks_)
The fire up-stairs is blazing away, an' there's no one
sittin' by it.
We're all right. (_Holding glass_) Here's long life to us!
Health an' prosperity!
HEAD (_after finishing drink_)
We must have another, for I'm not feelin' too well,
an' 'tis better be on the safe side. 'Twas through
neglect that some o' the best min died.
We must not forget that!
HEAD (_to Mrs. Cotter_)
The same again, Mrs. Cotter.
[_Exit Mrs. Cotter with glasses_.
I saw be the papers last night that the Royal Irish
Constabulary are the finest in the world.
Sure every one knows that!
I wonder what kind are all the others?
That's what I'd like to know.
MRS. COTTER (_at door_)
Will I bring them up to the sittin'-room, gentlemen?
We're first class as we are, ma'am.
[_Mrs. Cotter hands the glasses and a loud knock is
heard at the door_.
'Tis the constable!
The bla'gard surely!
What'll we do?
Take the drinks first, an' consider after.
[_They finish drinks and hand back the glasses to Mrs.
I suppose we had better hide in the coal hole. He has
a better nose than yourself, an' one word from him to
the Inspector would soon deprive us o' both stripes
I suppose the coal hole is the best place, though it
does offend me dignity to go there.
Wisha, bad luck to you an' ye'r dignity. Come on
[_The Head enters, and the Sergeant follows. Mrs. Cotter
opens the street door and the Constable enters._
Thanks very much for openin' the door, ma'am.
I'm sorry for keepin' you waitin', Constable. I was
sayin' me prayers up-stairs before goin' to bed.
If I had known that, I wouldn't have disturbed you.
I hope you said one for me.
Of course I did. I always ses a prayer for the police.
An' right too, ma'am, for 'tis little time we have for
prayin'. There's no rest for a man once he joins the
Force. Whin y're not kept busy thinkin' o' one thing,
y're kept busy thinkin' o' somethin' else.
Thinkin' is worse than workin'.
A hundred times. (_Looking at his watch_) 'Tis a long
time since first Mass this mornin'. Saturday! Sunday!
Monday! 'Tis all the same whin y're in the
Force. On y'er feet all day, an' kep' awake be the
childer all night. An' whin pay day comes, all y'er
hard earnin's goes to keep the wolf from the door.
God help us!
Say what ye will, but life is an awful bother.
We must go through it.
Well, 'tis a good job we don't live as long as the
alligators. We might have to support our grandchilder
if we did, an' I may tell you it gives me enough
to do to support me own.
How many have you now, Constable?
Seven, an' the wife's mother.
I thought she was dead.
Dead! There's five years more in her!
You seem to be in a very bad humor to-night.
An' why not? When I have to put up with that
bla'gard of a Sergeant--not to mention the Head-constable!
We all have our troubles.
Some of us get more than our share. An' 'tis far
from troublin' a dacent woman like you I'd be, only
for the Sergeant, ma'am.
Excuse me, Constable. I can't keep me eyes open
with the sleep.
I'm sorry for troublin' you. But duty is duty, an' it
must be done whether we give offence to our best
friends or not. Sure, 'tis well I know that you have
no one on the premises.
We can't please everybody.
CONSTABLE (_as he draws a chair to the fire and sits down_)
Who would try? I wonder is it snow we're goin' to
If you're cold, come up to the fire in the sittin'-room.
Or if I were you, I'd take a good walk.
I'm tired o' walkin', an' the cold gives me no trouble.
'Tis the pains I have here (_placing his hand on his
heart_) that affects me.
What sort are they?
Cramps--of the worst kind.
Gracious me! Have you taken anythin' for them?
What would be good for 'em?
Hot milk an' pepper.
I tried that.
Nothin' except a smoke.
Maybe a little drop o' "Wise's" would do some good?
I'd try anythin' that 'ud lessen the pain, though I'd
rather not be troublin' ye.
'Tis no trouble at all.
[_Exit. While she is away, something falls in the room
where Micus and Padna are. The Constable fails to
open the door, and returns to his chair before Mrs.
Cotter comes back with the drink_.
MRS. COTTER (_handing glass_)
Drink that up, go straight home, bathe ye'r feet in
mustard an' water, an' ye'll be as strong as a Protestant
in the mornin'!
CONSTABLE (_taking glass_)
Thank ye, ma'am.
[_Drinks it off. The Head in the coal hole sneezes, and
the Sergeant shouts_ "God bless us!"
Oh, that's nothin'.
[_Another sneeze and_ "God bless us!"
Well, if that nothin' isn't somethin', I'm dotin'.
[_Opens door and Head and Sergeant fall out on the
'Tis all your fault with your blasted sneezin'.
Now, maybe you'll believe that I've a cold.
Don't be botherin' me. I can't believe meself not to
mind a liar like you.
HEAD (_to the Constable, after he has got on his feet_)
Now, sir, what have you got to say for yourself?
'Twill be useless for you to deny that meself an' the
Sergeant here (_points to the Sergeant who is still on the
floor_) have caught you drinkin' on these licensed
premises durin' your hours o' duty.
An' what about me catchin' the pair o' ye hidin' in
the coal hole o' the same licensed premises, an' a
strong smell o' whiskey from ye?
'Tis from yourself that, you smells the whiskey.
CONSTABLE (_takes an onion from his pocket, peels it, and
eats it slowly_)
I defy you or any one else to find the smell o' whiskey
HEAD (_to the Sergeant_)
Well, don't that beat Banagher?
The Devil himself couldn't do better.
Well, gentlemen, I'm sorry for troublin' ye, but duty
is duty. I'll now place ye under arrest an' send for
HEAD (_in a rage_)
No more o' this nonsense! You'll pay for this night's
work, believe me.
I'll pay for a drink for both o' ye for the sake of old
times, an' the less said about this night's work the
better. (_All remain silent for a short time_) Well, are
ye goin' to have the drink?
SERGEANT (_to Head_)
We might as well take it, for 'tis the first time he
ever offered to stand, an' it may be the last.
HEAD (_after much consideration_)
Very well, then, I'll have a drop o' the best.
An' I'll have the same.
Three glasses o' "Wise's," Mrs. Cotter.
MRS. COTTER _(from the bar)_
[_The Head and Sergeant remain silent, and the Constable
paces up and down with his hands in his pockets,
whistling some popular tune, until Mrs. Cotter brings
in the drinks_.
MRS. COTTER _(as she places the drinks on the table)_
I don't like to see ye in this cold kitchen, gentlemen.
Can't ye come up-stairs to the sitting-room?
'Tisn't worth our while, ma'am. We have our work
to do. (_Taking glass in hand_) Slainthe!
[_Drinks half the quantity of whiskey. The Head and
Sergeant do likewise. A noise like the falling of furniture
is heard from the room where Padna and Micus are._
_[There is silence for a while, then Micus is heard singing._
"We are the boys of Wexford
Who fought with heart an' hand
To burst in twain the galling chain,
An' free our native land."
HEAD _(to Mrs. Cotter who has come from the bar)_
I'll have the kay of that door, ma'am.
What kay, Head?
The kay o' that door, ma'am.
[_Strikes door with his fist_.
Erra, Head, what's the matter with ye? That door
is nailed up this seven years. That singin' comes from
the next house.
Glory be to God! Do any one alive tell the truth?
_(Catches hold of chair by the back)_ If you don't give me
the kay, I'll burst open the door.
I have no kay, Head.
HEAD (_holding chair over his head_)
Once more I demand the kay in the name of His
Majesty the King, before I puts the legs o' the chair
flyin' through the ledges.
MRS. COTTER (_crying, hands key_)
Oh, wisha, what'll I do at all?
HEAD (_taking key_)
You'll be told that later on, ma'am.
They are only two neighbors like y'erselves. Can't
ye go away an' lave 'em alone?
HEAD (_placing key_)
Not a word now, ma'am, for anythin' that you will
say or won't say must be used in evidence ag'inst ye.
"Who fears to speak of Ninety-eight?
Who blushes at the name?
When cowards mock the patriots' fate,
Who hangs his head for shame?
He's all a knave or half a slave,
Who slights his country thus:
But true men, like you, men,
Will drink your glass with us."
HEAD (to _Mrs. Cotter_)
That's a nice song to be singin' on a licensed premises,
ma'am. 'Twould cause a riot if there was enough
o' people about. No less than raidin' the police
barracks would satisfy the likes o' that songster if he
was left at large. (_Opens door. Padna and Micus
stagger on to the floor. They fall but get on their feet
again_) What are ye doin' here?
What the devil is that to you?
Or to any one else either?
Do ye know that this is a licensed premises?
PADNA (_looking at Micus_)
Of course we do.
An' do ye know that this is Sunday night an' that
I'm the Head Constable, an' that one o' these min
here is the Sergeant an' the other is the Constable?
PADNA (_buttons his coat and looks defiantly at them_)
An' do ye know that I'm Padna Sweeney from Clashbeg?
MICUS (_also buttons his coat and looks aggressively at
An' that I'm his old pal Micus Goggin from Castleclover?
PADNA (_as he staggers_)
Don't mind him, Micus. He's drunk.
What's that you're sayin'? Who's drunk?
Be jaikus, ye're all drunk.
Come on away home, Padna, an' don't mind _them._
They're a bad lot.
The smell o' drink from 'em is awful.
'Tis disgustin'. I wouldn't be seen in their company.
Padna. Come on away.
HEAD (_to Sergeant and Constable_)
Arrest these min!
Do ye hear that, Micus?
MICUS (_opening his coat_)
I do, but I won't be insulted be the likes o' them.
PADNA (_opening his coat also_)
Nayther will I!
Why don't ye arrest these min, I say?
PADNA and MICUS (_together_)
Arrest us, is it? (_They take off their coats, throw them
on the ground, and take their stand like pugilists_) Come
on, now, and arrest us!
I'll take the best man.
An' I'll take the lot.
[_The police try to arrest them, and a desperate struggle
ensues. The police lose their caps and belts, but eventually
succeed in overpowering them._
MRS. COTTER (_rushes to the rescue_)
O boys, for my sake, an' for the sake o' ye'r wives
an' families, have no crossness but lave the house
PADNA (_as he struggles with the Sergeant_)
Don't fret, ma'am. We'll have no crossness. All we
want is to wipe the police from the face o' the earth
That's all. We'll have no crossness.
[_Handcuffs are placed on Micus and Padna._
Take these min to the Barrack.
[_They struggle violently, and sing as they leave the house._
PADNA and MICUS (_together_)
"When boyhood's fire was in my blood,
I read of ancient freemen
For Grace and Rome who bravely stood,
Three hundred men and three men.
And then I prayed I yet might see
Our fetters rent in twain,
And Ireland, long a province, be
A Nation once again."
[_Mrs. Cotter follows them to the door, and while the
Head is alone, he writes in his notebook, talking aloud
as he does so_.
"Found drunk an' disorderly on the licensed premises
o' Mrs. Cotter, Ballyferris, during prohibited hours.
Using bad an' offensive language. Resistin' arrest,
assaultin' the police, an' doin' sayrious damage to their
garments. Singin' songs of a nature likely to cause rebellion
an' threatenin' to exterminate the whole Royal
Irish Constabulary." (_Places book back in pocket_)
[_There is a little whiskey in each of the three glasses
that were placed on the mantleshelf. The Head pours_
_the contents of each into one and drinks it before Mrs.
Cotter returns. Enter Mrs. Cotter._
Oh, Head, you won't be hard on a lone widow, will
ye? Don't prosecute thim poor min. Sure, they
have done no more harm than y'erselves.
HEAD _(as he stands at door)_
Mrs. Cotter, ma'am! I'm surprised at you.
For what, Head?
To think that you'd dare attempt to interfere with
me in the discharge o' me duty!
* * * * *
A COMEDY IN ONE ACT
MARTIN O'FLYNN _A Resident Magistrate_
CORNELIUS JOHN MICHAEL O'CROWLEY _A New Justice of the Peace_
PHELAN DUFFY _A Barrister-at-Law_
BRENNAN CASSIDY _A Solicitor_
PETER DWYER _Clerk of the Petty Sessions Court_
MARGARET FENNELL _Wife of Richard Fennell_
SERGEANT HEALY _A Member of the Royal Irish Constabulary_
CONSTABLE O'RYAN _A Member of the R.I.C_.
CONSTABLE MCCARTHY _A Member of the R.I.C_.
A COMEDY IN ONE ACT
_Scene: Room in courthouse at Ballybraggan. Magistrates
and clerk of court seated on the Bench. Barristers,
townspeople, and police in body of the court_.
MARTIN O'FLYNN _(rises and wipes his brow with a red
handkerchief_) Members of the Munster Bar, Members
of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and--gentlemen
(_pauses_), and ladies also, before the Court opens
for the dispensation of justice, I would like to say a
few short words about a matter that concerns not
only ourselves here present, and the town of Ballybraggan
in particular, but everybody alive to their
own interests and the whole world in general. We
have with us to-day one who is no stranger to the
people of this historic town, and it is with feelings of
the highest regard that I stand before you in my privileged
capacity as resident magistrate to perform what
seems to me to be the most pleasing and likewise the
most joyous of duties that could fall to the lot of any
man, whether he might come from where the waves of
the tumultuous Pacific wash the shores of the great
Western world or from the town of Mallow itself. And
that is to have the honor and glorification of introducing
to you our new and worthy magistrate, Mr. Cornelius
John Michael O'Crowley. (_Applause_) Far be
it from me indeed to flatter any man, but there are
times when we must tell the truth. (_Applause_) And
when I say that there is no one more humble for a
man of his achievements from here to Honolulu than
Mr. O'Crowley himself, I am only telling the truth
in a plain and unadorned form. Every effort put
forth by Mr. O'Crowley for the welfare of mankind
has been characterised by success, and what greater
proof of his ability could we have than the fact that
he is one of the largest wine merchants and hotel
proprietors in the length and breadth of Munster?
Indeed, if Mr. O'Crowley wasn't fully qualified for
upholding and sustaining the dignity of the coveted
title, Justice of the Peace, His Excellency the Lord
Lieutenant, who is both a scholar, a gentleman, and a
Scotchman to boot, would not be so pleased and
delighted to confer on him an honor only worthy of a
man of his attainments, sentiments, and quality of
On behalf of the legal profession of which I have the
honor of being the oldest member, I am not only
desirous but extremely overjoyed to have the golden
opportunity of congratulating our worthy townsman
Mr. Cornelius John Michael O'Crowley on the great
distinction that has befallen him. We all have heard
of that Englishman who said one time, with all the
cleverness of an Irishman and a native of Ballybraggan
at that: "Some are born great, others acquire greatness,
and more have greatness thrust upon them."
Now to say that Mr. O'Crowley had greatness thrust
upon him would not be a fact, and whether or not
he was born great we don't know, but one thing is
certain, and that is, he has acquired greatness.
And when I say so, I wish it to be distinctly
understood that I am not talking idly or glibly,
but with all the sincerity of my heart. With the
same sincerity that has characterised all my actions
since I was first called to the Bar, and made of me
what I am to-day. With the same sincerity that
characterises every successful member of the legal
profession, be he Irish, Scotch, or American. Let
critics say what they will, but the fact remains that
success is the best answer to adverse criticism. A
man's true worth may not always be appreciated in a
cold and heartless world like ours, but there will ever
be found a few who can always sympathise with us in
our sorrows and rejoice with us in our triumphs. And
Mr. O'Crowley has the rare gift which enables him to
do both. (_Applause_) He is a man of large and noble
ideals, of sterling qualities and knows human nature
in all its many phases. He knows the wants of the
people and what's more, he knows how to satisfy them.
He would not allow any man's light to be hidden
under a bushel, so to speak, and why should we allow
the bushel to bide his? (_Applause_) Let credit be
given where credit is due, was ever his motto. And
only one month has elapsed since he said to me, after
defending his own brother on a breach of the Sunday
Closing Act in this very courthouse, "My heartiest
thanks and warmest congratulations for your splendid
victory. There isn't another man in the whole country,
not even Tim Healy himself, who could win that case."
On behalf of the Royal Irish Constabulary, I wish to
be associated with the hearty and unanimous welcome
extended to Mr. O'Crowley, whom I have known
since the first night I came to the town. And my
only regret is that I did not know him before, because
men with his rare traits of character are not to be
met with every day. His genial and kindly disposition
has endeared him to us all. His doors are never closed
on either Saturday, Sunday, Christmas Day, or any
other day. Friend or foe, stranger or native of Ballybraggan,
are all the same to Mr. O'Crowley. Each
and every one is received with the same hearty welcome.
He is a man whom we think of in our hours
of suffering, whether it be on the scorching heat of a
summer's day or the blighting cold of a winter's
night. It is my earnest wish, and I am sure that I am
only expressing the sentiments of the whole of Munster,
that the success which has attended Mr. O'Crowley
in all the ventures of his useful life will be doubled
in his capacity as Justice of the Peace. (_Applause_)
In all the long years that I have acted as clerk of this
court, I never felt more pleased at the coming of a
new magistrate than when I heard of the discretion
of His Excellency in selecting Mr. O'Crowley for this
most exalted position. All that I might say in my
congratulations and welcome has already been said,
and I can only concur in the good wishes that have
been offered, and though a lot more might have been
said of one so praiseworthy, I know that Mr.
O'Crowley will understand, it is not that we like
him less but that we respect him more. Mr.
O'Crowley is a man who is above pride and does not
want the walls of Rome or the stones of the Munster
roads to know what he does for mankind. So I will
now conclude by wishing him all the success that he
deserves, in the future and hereafter.
MR. C. J. M. O'CROWLEY
Brother magistrates, members of the Bar, members of
the Royal Irish Constabulary, and gentlemen: From
the bottom of my heart I thank you for all the high
compliments you have paid me this day, and I only
hope that I will be long spared to be a source of comfort
and consolation to the men and women of Ballybraggan.
I know, of course, that I am not a pararagom
of perfection, but I have the wonderful satisfaction of
knowing that I have been appreciated in my own
time, and that's more than some of the world's best
poets, philosophers, and other servants of mankind
could have said. The superdalliance of some and the
pomposity and congential insufficiency of others have
always been a warning to me, and when opportunity
sallied forth from her hiding place I never failed to
recognise her queenly presence and extend a _cead-mile-failte,_
and make of her my own, so to speak.
Such was the way of Wellington and his contemporary
Hannibal, and such must be the way of every man
who must serve his country and himself. And believe
me, much as the people of Ballybraggan think
about me, I think every bit as much about them. It
is hardly necessary for me to say that we only get
what we deserve in this world, and sometimes a little
more or a little less as the case may be. The desirable
propensities of the people of the town have endeared
me to them with a spirit as strong as that which
makes the ivy cling to the oak, and as we see the ivy
fondly clinging to that monarch of trees, whether it
sprouts its green leaves in the glorious sunshine or
falls to the ground with decay, so will I cling to the
people of Ballybraggan. Once again, I thank you,
but in conclusion I must say that I will do all in my
power to prove worthy of the reliance and confidence
placed in me. (_Applause_)
The court is now open for the dispensation of justice.
The only case before us to-day is one of house-breaking,
drunkenness from excessive use of poteen, which
is an illegal drink, and resisting arrest by the police.
The charge is laid against one Richard Fennell, and
cross-summonses have been issued to Mr. and Mrs.
On behalf of my client, Mrs. Fennell, I wish to impress
upon the Bench the gravity of the offence with
which the accused Richard Fennell is charged, namely,
drunkenness from excessive use of an illegal intoxicant
known as poteen, house-breaking, terrorizing and almost
paralyzing with fear his highly strung and sensitive
wife, and adding insult to injury in resisting
arrest by his Majesty's guardian of law and order,
Sergeant Healy. These are grave charges indeed, and
who will gainsay that a man gifted with the spirit of
destruction like Mr. Fennell is a menace to the peace-abiding
town of Ballybraggan? Not since the heartless
barbarians made their ruthless descent upon the
Roman Empire was there such havoc wrought in any
one house, or did any individual member of society
suffer so much from nervous prostration as Mrs.
MR. FENNELL (_interrupting_)
Can't a man dust his own furniture and chastise his
own wife if he feels like doing so?
Order! order! There must be no interruptions in this
court of justice.
PHELAN DUFFY _(continuing)_
You can well imagine how poor Mrs. Fennell thought
that the end of the world was coming when she saw
every bit of ware on the kitchen dresser smashed in
pieces no larger than threepenny bits on the floor.
And the alarm clock that woke Mr. Fennell every
morning and reminded him that it was time to get
up and make his wife's breakfast, which she always
got in bed, struck dumb for ever with its works battered
beyond recognition. Think of this poor woman's
feelings at such an awful moment.
MR. FENNELL (_interrupting_)
Feelings! She has no more feelings than a tombstone.
PHELAN DUFFY (_continuing_)
Think of this decent, self-respecting, loving wife and
mother, who has had no less than three husbands.
MRS. FENNELL (_interrupting_)
An' I'll have another too, please God!
Think, I say, of three husbands, and ten children.
Six resting in the little churchyard at Ennisbeg, and
four resting in the Royal Irish Constabulary. That
Mr. Fennell was what we would call a model husband,
before he touched this poteen goes without saying.
Everything that his wife told him to do was done,
and done to her satisfaction, and done whether he
liked the doing of it or no.
MRS. FENNELL (_interrupting_)
I always made my husbands do what they were told.
Mr. Fennell is no doubt guilty of a serious offence,
but whoever sold him the base liquor is far more
guilty in the eyes of the law, as well as the public.
Needless to state, this fact does not in any way lessen
the gravity of Mr. Fennell's offence, and I would ask
the Bench not to allow any feelings of sentiment to
interfere with the discharge of their duty. I would
ask that the severest penalty allowed be inflicted on
the accused for his unwarranted, unmanly, and blackguardly
MRS. FENNELL (_to Phelan Duffy_)
Wisha, bad luck to your impudence to call my husband
a bla'gard. A dacent man that never went to
the likes of you or any one else for anything.
'Tis only the likes of lawyers that have the insolence
to insult dacent people. Sure when they aren't ignorant
they're consated, and their wives and daughters
are no better than themselves.
Order, order. Unless you behave yourself, you must
be placed under arrest.
Sure, you don't think I can stand here with a tongue
in me head and listen to me husband being insulted,
Order, order, Mrs. Fennell, please.
[_She attempts to speak again, and the sergeant places
his hand over her mouth. She resents this action, and
in a struggle which ensues the sergeant falls to the floor.
He is helped to his feet by Mrs. Fennell, and both look
at each other in a scornful way._
SERGEANT HEALY (_to Mrs. Fennell_)
'Tis a good job for you that you're not Mrs. Healy.
And 'tis a blessing for you that you're not Mr. Fennell.
Order, order. This conduct is scandalous, Mrs. Fennell,
and you must keep quiet.
You might as well be asking a whale to whistle "The
Last Rose of Summer" or asking the Kaiser to become
a Trappist monk.
Order, order. Now please, Mrs. Fennell, come forward
and give your evidence.
All I have to say is that my husband got the delirium
tramens from drinking poteen and broke every bit
of furniture in the house, an' he might have killed
MR. FENNELL (_very disgusted_)
I wish I knew how.
MRS. FENNELL (_continuing_)
Only for having the good sense of rushing to the front
door and shouting for the police. I'm an orphan,
your Worship, and that's why I'm here to seek protection
from the court. All the same, I haven't a
word to say to my husband, the cowardly ruffian,
only for his love of poteen, bad temper, and contrary
That will do, Mrs. Fennell.
Thanks, your Worship.
SERGEANT HEALY (_takes out his notebook. A day pipe,
box of snuff, and handkerchief fall to the floor. The
snuff falls on the handkerchief. He replaces the snuff
box and the pipe in his pocket, and wipes his face with
the snuffy handkerchief. He then opens his notebook
for reference and begins_)
On the night of December third _sneezes and says:_
God bless us!) I was on me rounds doin' beat duty
in Market Square in the town of Ballybraggan
(_Sneezes_)--God bless us!--and all of a sudden without
a moment's notice, I was disturbed from me
reverie of pious thought, be a great disturbance like
the falling of porter barrels from the top floor of a
brewery, and without saying as much as the Lord
protect me, I swung to me left from whence the
noise came and beheld Mrs. Fennell (_Sneeze_)--God
bless us!--rushing out of her own house the way
you'd see a wild Injun rushing in the moving pictures
and shouting like a circus lion before his breakfast:
"Police! police! police!" An' as though it was the
will of Providence, I was in the very place where me
presence was required.
Accidents will happen, Sergeant.
They will, and disasters too, if you don't hold your
SERGEANT HEALY (_continuing_)
Well, in with me to the house without a moment's
delay, and what did I see but Richard Fennell sitting
in an easy chair and smoking a cigar and looking as
happy an' contented as a Protestant after a meal of
corn beef and cabbage on a Friday. An' the house,
the Lord save us!--one would think that 'twas struck
be a cyclone. The only thing that remained whole
was the chair that he sat in and the decanter that fed
the broken glass from which he drank the poteen.
"What brings you here?" ses he, to me. An' only I
had the presence of mind of clapping the handcuffs on
him before I had time to answer such an impertinent
question, there might be one more above in the old
churchyard and one less in this court of justice.
(_Sneezes_) God bless us! The story is nearly ended.
(_Sneezes_) God bless us! I--(_Sneezes_) God bless us!
I--(_Waits for an expected sneeze and when disappointed
he says_ "Thank God!") I brought the prisoner to
the barrack and have here the poteen that changed
him from a law-abiding townsman into a fiend incarnate.
(_The sergeant then places the bottle of poteen on
the counter, looks very hard at it, pretends to faint from
sudden weakness, and asks for a drink of water_) Can
I have a little water, if you please?
[_Several rush to assist him. There is no water in the
court, and the clerk gets the kind of inspiration that the
sergeant desires and fetches the poteen. He pours some
out in a glass and gives it to the sergeant_.
PETER DWYER (_to the sergeant_)
Try a little drop of the spirits, Sergeant, as there
isn't a drop of water to be had. The plumbers are
working at the pipes.
Bad luck to them for plumbers. They are always a
nuisance. (_Before putting glass to his lips_) I suppose
I must take it, because I am dry as a bona-fide traveller.
(_He finishes it all in one drink_) It doesn't taste
too bad after all, and water at its best isn't much
good for one who must do a lot of talking. I'll have
a little more, if you please.
You can't have any more, Sergeant. That would be
abusing your privilege.
SERGEANT HEALY (_softly_)
Alright, your Worship. When a man's as full of the
law as meself, 'tis hard to remember when he's privileged.
[_The sergeant recovers and the case proceeds._
BRENNAN CASSIDY (_for Mr. Fennell_)
On behalf of my client, Mr. Fennell, I wish to point
out the absurdity of the charges brought against him.
For no reason whatever and without a moment's
warning, the sergeant rushed into his house without
an invitation or observing the laws of common propriety
by ringing the bell, and ruthlessly placed handcuffs
on Mr. Fennell and marched him off to prison
like a common felon. And not a shadow of evidence
as to misbehavior against him except the statements
of his wife about the breaking of some furniture.
Now, let us suppose that Mr. Fennell did break the
furniture. Was not that his own affair? The furniture
was his property, and he could do with it as he
pleased. Perhaps he did not like the manner in which
it was designed, and Mr. Fennell, mistaking his aversion
for things not in keeping with his artistic ideals,
came to the conclusion that he was only on a voyage
of destruction when he merely was proving how little
of the philistine there was in his nature by removing
from his home such articles as did not harmonize with
his conception of the beautiful. The fact that the
whole affair happened so hastily only goes to prove
that Mr. Fennell has the artistic temperament.
The artistic temperament, my dear! What next!
The idea of doing away with the furniture, which Mr.
Fennell emphatically states he disliked,--and what
greater proof of the fact could we have than his action
in destroying it?--came to him like an inspiration, and
being a true artist he seized the opportunity, and the
world was made all the lovelier by the riddance of ugly
things. I think, in fact, I know that I have proved
that the charge of house-breaking is absurd. (_Takes
out his watch, holds it in the palm of his left hand_)
This watch is mine, and if I should choose to smash it
into a thousand fragments, who is there to prevent
me? What power has the law over such matters?
None whatever. Well, it would be just as ridiculous
and absurd to punish my client for smashing his own
furniture, which he purchased with his own hard
earned money, as to punish me for smashing this
watch if I should feel like doing so. (_Applause, which
is suppressed_) To charge Mr. Fennell with drinking
poteen is equally absurd. He does not know what
poteen tastes like. The idea of taking a decanter and
a bottle of whiskey out of any gentleman's house
without his permission is tyranny of the very worst
kind. It is a grievous offence in the eyes of the law
as well as a breach of etiquette. What, might I ask,
would happen if any of us were to break into His
Worship's hotel and steal, or take if you will, some
choice samples of his wines? Would we not find ourselves
in a prison cell? Most assuredly we would,
and what's more, our good name would be gone forever.
The finger of scorn would be pointed at our
children and our children's children, and posterity
would never forget us.
'Tis only worse he's getting.
There is only one course for the Bench to adopt, and
that is to discharge Mr. Fennell. He has already
suffered enough and any one with such a ballyragging,
unreasonable, unladylike, and headstrong wife deserves
MR. FENNELL (_with indignation_)
Mr. Cassidy, sir. How dare you stand up there in
my presence and insult my wife! You're no gentleman,
sir. Remember when you offend my wife, you
offend me. Do you hear that?
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