DUTY AND OTHER IRISH COMEDIES
FROM THE DRY POINT STUDY BY P. G-RASSBY
AND OTHER IRISH COMEDIES
SEUMAS O BRIEN
LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY
BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.
All rights reserved
Published, September, 1916
These plays are fully protected by the copyright law, all requirements of
which have been complied with. In their present printed form they are
dedicated to the reading public only, and no performance of them, either
professional or amateur, may be given without the written permission of the
owner of the acting rights, who may be addressed in care of the publishers,
Little, Brown, and Company.
SET UP AND ELECTROTYPED BY THE PLIMPTON PRESS, NORWOOD, MASS., U.S.A.
PRINTED BY S. J. PARKHILL & CO., BOSTON, MASS., U.S.A.
5 2 1*27 5
A COMEDY IN ONE ACT
HEAD CONSTABLE MULLIGAN . . A Member of the Royal
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 call.
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
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.
That s queer.
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
em meself .
I wouldn t like to be a Protestant after I m dead, Micus.
MICUS (knocks with his pint on the table and Mrs. Cot
ter 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 our
selves 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)
Who s there?
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 Bally-
ferris 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 al
ways 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 dan
gerous 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.
Telia what, Head?
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
years, ma am.
[Knock at door.
Who s there?
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
town, ma am.
There are, Sergeant.
There are indeed. (Coughs) I m sick an 5 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.
That s so.
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)
Ton 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 ,
ma am. (Coughs)
[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 handker
chief) Tis gone! I mean the bone. I feel meself
I m glad of that. (Looking at clock) Tis gone half-
past ten, Sergeant.
Plenty o time. We ll be a long time dead, an* happy
Tis my belief that we should all try to do good while
we re alive.
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
J Tis a cure for nearly every thin . 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 "spir
its" 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 some-
thin 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 Con
stables as clergy in the country, an only for the ser
geants an an odd constable tis unknown what *ud
The Head is a dacent gentleman.
You don t know any thin 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 11 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.
I ll I ll I -
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.
Who s there?
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! Sun
day! 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 grand-
childer 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-
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.