John James Cosgrove died last night, 20th March 2013. He was born in Leitrim in 1927, and relocated to the south of County Sligo aged 20 in 1947. After a difficult start in life, he devoted his remaining days to helping the Sisters of Charity raise and teach unwanted children and orphans at Banada Convent. In return, they helped him to find a home and an identity in County Sligo. John James never married, but he loved traditional Irish music, a game of 25’s, and the craic. He also preserved the ancient Irish art of brewing a “fine drop” with the blessing of the fairies.
A while back, a local radio station visited his “local” to record the music and story-telling. John James was full of amusing stories from the auld days and he was asked to give a recitation to the listening audience. After a couple of refusals, and a couple of brandies, this is what he got up and recited to an enthralled audience:
It was a few days before the All-Ireland Football Final, way back in the 40’s and 50’s, when this lad from Tubbercurry decided he’d like to see the big game. All the trains and buses to Dublin were fully booked for a week in advance, so Paddy made a plan to cycle all the way to Croke Park. He set out in good time on the Thursday. He had a mate in Longford who put him up for the first night in a pub just outside the town. Then on the Friday he cycled all the way to Maynooth where he had a cousin in the seminary, training to be a priest. Paddy said a few prayers in the Maynooth chapel on Saturday, and then headed off to the big city for the big match the following day. He got digs with a nice family near the stadium, and he was all set for the Football Final after mass on Sunday.
Paddy had about four hours until the throw-in, so he ventured into a few pubs. The Sligo and Leitrim buses were pulling into town and the fun to be had was mighty. If all truth be told, he had a few too many pints of porter. Anyway, the pubs started to empty as the teams began to line out, and the lad from Tubber was carried along by the crowd heading for Hill 16. The game passed in a blur. It was a close game and it didn’t matter who won or lost. It was a thrill to be there, simple as that.
After Sam was awarded, all Paddy’s new friends headed back to the north Dublin pubs outside Croke Park. The lad from Tubber thought “I’ll just have a roam, and then find some more digs on the way home.” Well, he had one for the road, and then one or two more – and then he couldn’t remember where he’d left his trusty bike at a quarter to four. He was sure he last saw his bicycle outside a pub near Parnell Square, so he had a few more jars up the top end of O’Connell Street but the bike was not there.
As midnight approached, he searched the back alleys. Apart from courting couples trying to hide, the Sligo lad could find nothing to ride. Before he knew it, he was down by O’Connell Bridge. It was late, and cold, and he was hungry, and exhausted from his day out in the capital city. He saw a few vagrants laying out beds on the bridge’s wide parapets; they looked lost but okay. He grabbed some cardboard boxes, and down beside the tramps he lay.
Paddy must have dozed off because the next thing he knew, a big chauffeur-driven car pulled up by his pew. The rear door opened and a pretty blonde lady said, “Why are you sleeping here, when I have a bed?” Well the lad from Tubber woke with a start, and he climbed into the back of the wealthy lady’s cart.
As they drove through South Dublin, our laddo told his tale. The kindly lady said, “I’ve no bike, but I’ve got hot food and ale.” The chauffeur dropped them outside a big house, and he was welcomed inside. The blonde lady prepared him a hot bath, and a clean robe she did provide. She told him that she’d cook him a steak dinner to be washed down with cold beer. Paddy was in heaven, thinking “I’ve hit the jackpot here.“
After dinner, they danced and started to kiss. I’m nearly at the end now, if you’re needing to p …. pay a visit.
“Now Paddy,“ says she. “Go warm my bed up, whilst I powder my nose“. Without no more prompting, young Paddy lay his head on her pillows.
And then she appeared in a see-through negligee, and the boy from Tubber thought this really is my lucky day. “Move over” she said, as she climbed in the bed, giving our Paddy a peck on his forehead.
“Move over a bit more.“ The room span and he went all dizzy in a jiffy. And that’s when our Paddy … fell into the River Liffey.
County Sligo have never appeared in a Men’s All-Ireland Football Final in Dublin. Neither have John James’ native county of Leitrim. That’s what makes John James’ story-telling all the more ridiculous and charming.