Seumas O'Brien.

Duty, and other Irish Comedies online

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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.

Anythin' else?

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!"

What's that?

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
from me.

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
the Inspector.

HEAD (_in a rage_)
No more o' this nonsense! You'll pay for this night's
work, believe me.

CONSTABLE (_smiling_)
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)_
Certainly, Constable.

[_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._

HEAD _(startled)_
What's that?

_[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.

PADNA (_singing_)
"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!

HEAD (_indignantly_)
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._

HEAD (_shouts_)
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!



* * * * *




MARTIN O'FLYNN _A Resident Magistrate_
PHELAN DUFFY _A Barrister-at-Law_
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_.



_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
character. _(Applause)_

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.

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.

Order, order.

'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,
do you?

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

Order, order.

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

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