Abridged for Public Reading
Father Blake was more familiarly known by the name of Father Phil. By either title, or in whatever capacity, the worthy Father had great influence over his parish, and there was a free-and-easy way with him, even in doing this most solemn duties, which agreed wonderfully with the devil may-care spirit of Paddy. Stiff and starched formality in any way is repugnant to the very nature of Irishmen. There are forms, it is true, and many in the Romish Church, but they are not cold forms, but attractive rather, to a sensitive people; besides, I believe those very forms, when observed the least formally, are the most influential on the Irish.
With all his intrinsic worth, Father Phil was, at the same time, a strange man in exterior manners; for with an abundance of real piety, he had an abruptness of delivery, and a strange way of mixing up an occasional remark to his congregation in the midst of the celebration of the mass, which might well startle a stranger; but this very want of formality made him beloved by the people, and they would do ten times as much for Father Phil as for the severe Father Dominick.
On the Sunday in question, Father Phil intended delivering an address to his flock from the altar, urging them to the necessity of bestirring themselves in the repairs of the chapel, which was in a very dilapidated condition, and at one end let in the rain through its worn-out thatch. A subscription was necessary; and to raise this among a very impoverished people was no easy matter. The weather happened to be unfavorable, which was most favorable to Father Phil's purpose, for the rain dropped its arguments through the roof upon the kneeling people below, in the most convincing manner; and as they endeavored to get out of the wet, they pressed round the altar as much as they could, for which they were reproved very smartly by his Reverence in the very midst of the mass. These interruptions occurred sometimes in the most serious places, producing a ludicrous effect, of which the worthy Father was quite unconscious, in his great anxiety to make the people repair the chapel.
A big woman was elbowing her way towards the rails of the altar, and Father Phil, casting a sidelong glace at her, sent her the right-about, while he interrupted his appeal to Heaven to address her thus:
You'd betther jump over the rails of the althar, I think. Go along out o' that, there's plenty o' room in the chapel below there"
Then he would turn to the altar and proceed with the service, till, turning again to the congregation, he perceived some fresh offender.
"Orate, fratres! Will you mind what I say to you, and go along out o' that? There's room below there. Thrue for you, Mrs. Finnit's a shame for him to be thramplin' on you. Go along, Darby Casey, down there, and kneel in the rainit's a pity you haven't a decent woman's cloak under you, indeed! Orate, fratres!"
Again he turned to pray, and after some time he made an interval in the service to address his congregation on the subject of the repairs, and produced a paper containing the names of subscribers to that pious work who had already contributed, by way of example to those who had not.
"Here it is," said Father Phil "here it is, and no denying itdown in black and white; but if they who give are down in black, how much blacker are those who have no' given at all! But I hope they will be ashamed of themselves when I howld up those to honor who have conthributed to the uphowlding of the house of God. And isn't it ashamed o' yourselves you ought to be, to lave His house in such a condition? And doesn't it rain a'most every Sunday, as if He wished to remind you of your duty? Aren't you wet to the skin a'most every Sunday? Oh, God is good to you! To put you in mind of your duty, giving you such bitther cowlds that you are coughing and sneezin' every Sunday to that degree that you can't hear the blessed mass for a comfort and a benefit to you; and so you'll go on sneezin' until you put a good thatch on the place, and prevent the appearance of the evidence from Heaven against you every Sunday, which is condemning you before your faces, and behind your backs too, for don't I see this minute a strame o' wather that might turn a mill running down Micky Mackavoy's back, between the collar of his coat and his shirt?"
Here a laugh ensued at the expense of Micky Mackavoy, who certainly was under a very heavy drip from the imperfect roof.
"And is it laughin' you are, you haythens!" said Father Phil, reproving the merriment which he himself had purposely created, that he might reprove it. "Laughin' is it you are, at your backslidings and insensibility to the honor of Godlaughin' because when you come here to be saved, you are lost entirely with the wet; and how, I ask you, are my words of comfort to enter your hearts when the rain is pouring down your backs at the same time? Sure I have no chance of turning your hearts while you are undher rain that might turn a millbut once put a good roof on the house, and I will inundate you with piety! Maybe it's Father Dominick you would like to have coming among you, who would grind your hearts to powdher with his heavy words." (Here a low murmur of dissent ran through the throng.) "Ha, ha! So you wouldn't like it, I seevery well, very welltake care, then, for if I find you insensible to my moderate reproofs, you hard-hearted haythens, you malefacthors and cruel persecuthors, that won't put your hands in your pockets because your mild and quiet poor fool of a pasthor has no tongue in his head! I say, your mild, quiet poor fool of a pasthor (for I know my own faults partly, God forgive me!) and I can't spake to you as you deserve, you hard-living vagabonds, that are as insensible to your duties as you are to the weather. I wish it was sugar or salt that you were made of, and then the rain might melt you if I couldn't; but no, them naked rafthers grins in your face to no purposeyou chate the house of Godbut take care, maybe you won't chate the divil so aisy." (Here there was a sensation.) "Ha, ha! That makes you open your ears, does it? More shame for you; you ought to despise that dirty enemy of man, and depend on something betterbut I see I must call you to a sense of your situation with the bottomless pit undher you, and no roof over you. Oh, dear! Dear! Dear! I'm ashamed of youthroth, if I had time and sthraw enough, I'd rather thatch the place myself than lose my time talking to you; sure the place is more like a stable than a chapel. Oh, think of that! The house of God to be like a stable! For though our Redeemer was born in a stable, that is no reason why you are to keep his house always like one.
"And now I will read you the list of subscribers, and it will make you ashamed when you hear the names of several good and worthy Protestants in the parish, and out of it, too, who have given more than the Catholics."
FOR THE REPAIRS AND ENLARGEMENT OF BALLYSLOUGHGUTTHERY CHAPEL.
PHILIP BLAKE. P. P.
Mickey Hickey, £0 7s. 6d. "He might as well have made it ten shillings; but half a loaf is betther than no bread."Return to Irish Dialect Recitations
"Plaze your Reverence," says Mick, from the body of the chapel, "sure seven and sixpence is more than the half of ten shillings." (A laugh.)
"Oh, how witty you are! Faith, if you knew your prayers as well as your arithmetic, it would be betther for you, Micky."
Here the Father turned the laugh against Mick.
Billy Riley, £0 3s. 4d. "Of course he means to subscribe again!"
John Dwyer, £0 15s. 0d. "That's something like! I'll be bound he's only keeping back the odd five shillings for a brush-full o' paint for the althar; it's as black as a crow, instead o' being white as a dove."
He then hurried over rapidly some small subscribers as follows:
Peter Hefferman, £0 1s. 8d.
James Murphy, £0 2s. 6d.
Mat Donovan, £0 1s. 3d.
Luke Dannely, £0 3s. 0d.
Jack Quigly, £0 2s. 1d.
Pat Finnegan, £0 2s. 2d.
"Edward O'Connor, Esq., £2 0s. 0d. "There's for you! Edward O'Connor, Esq.a Protestant in the parishtwo pounds."
"Long life to him!" cried a voice in the chapel.
"Amen!" said Father Phil; "I'm not ashamed to be clerk to so good a prayer."
Nicholas Fagan, £0 2s. 6d.
Young Nicholas Fagan, £0 5s. 0d. "Young Nick is betther than ould Nick, you see."
Tim Doyle, £0 7s. 6d.
Owny Doyle, £1 0s. 0d. "Well done, Owny na Coppal--you deserve to prosper, for you make good use of your thrivings."
Simon Leary, £0 2s. 6d.; Bridget Murphy, £0 10s. 0d. "You ought to be ashamed o' yourself, Simon: a lone widow woman gives more than you."
Jude Moylan, £0 5s. 0d. "Very good, Judy, the women are behaving like gentlemen; they'll have their reward in the next world."
Pat Finnerty, £0 8s. 4d. "I'm not sure if it is 8s. 4d. or 3s. 4d., for the figure is blotted, but I believe it is 8s. 4d."
"It was three and fourpence I gave your Reverence," said Pat from the crowd.
"Well, Pat, as I said eight and fourpence, you must not let me go back o' my word, so bring me five shillings next week."
"Sure you wouldn't have me pay for a blot, sir?"
"Yis, I would; that's the rule of backgammon, you know, Pat. When I hit the mark, you pay for it."
Here his Reverence turned around, as if looking for someone, and called out, "Rafferty! Rafferty! Rafferty! Where are you, Rafferty?"
An old gray-headed man appeared, bearing a large plate, and Father Phil continued
"There now, be activeI'm sending him among you, good people, and such as cannot give as much as you would like to be read before your neighbors, give what little you can towards the repairs, and I will continue to read out the names by way of encouragement to youand the next name I see is that of Squire Egan. Long life to him!"
Squire Egan, £5 0s. 0d. "Squire Eganfive poundslisten to thata Protestant in the parishfive pounds! Faith. The Protestants will make you ashamed of yourselves if you don't take care."
Mrs. Flanagan, £2 0s. 0d. "Not her own parish, eithera fine lady."
James Milligan of Roundtown, £1 0s. 0d. "And here I must remark that the people of Roundtown have not been backward in coming forward on this occasion. I have a long list from RoundtownI will read it separate." He then proceeded at a great pace, jumbling the town and the pounds and the people in the most extraordinary manner: "James Milligan of Roundtown, one pound; Darby Daly of Roundtown, one pound; Sam Finnegan of Roundtown, one pound; James Casey of Roundpound, one town; Kit Dwyer of Townpound, one roundpound, I mane; Pat Roundpound,Pounden, I manePat Pounden a pound of Poundtown alsothere's an example for you!
"But what are you about, Rafferty? I don't like the sound of that plate of yoursyou are not a good gleanergo up first into the gallery there, where they will give something to keep their bonnets out of the rain, for the wet will be into the gallery next Sunday if they don't. I think that is Kitty Crow I see, getting her bit of silver ready; them ribbons of yours cost a trifle, Kitty Well, good Christians, here is more of the subscription for you."
Matthew Lavery, £0 2s. 6d. "He doesn't belong to RoundtownRoundtown will be renowned in future ages for the support of the Church. Mark my words! Roundtown will prosper from this day outRoundtown will be a rising place."
Mark Hennessy, £0 2s. 6d.; Luke Claney, £0 2s. 6d.; John Doolin, £0 2s. 6d. "One would think they had all agreed only to give two and sixpence apiece. And they comfortable men, too! And look at their namesMatthew, Mark, Luke and Johnthe names of the blessed Evangelists, and only ten shillings among them. Oh, they are apostles not worthy the namewe'll call them the poor apostles from this out!" (Here a low laugh ran through the chapel.) "Do you hear that, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Faith! I can tell you that name will stick to you." (Here the laugh was louder.)
A voice, when the laugh subsided, exclaimed, "I'll make it ten shillin's, your Reverence."
"Who's that?" said Father Phil.
"Hennessy, your Reverence."
"Very well, Mark. I suppose Matthew, Luke and John will follow your example?"
"We will, your Reverence."
"Ha! I thought you made a mistake; we'll call you now the faithful apostlesand I think the change in your name is better than seven and sixpence apiece to you.
"I see you in the gallery there, Rafferty. What do you pass that well-dressed woman for? Thry backHa! See that, she had her money ready if you only asked her for itdon't go by that other woman there Oh, ho! So you won't give anything, ma'am? You ought to be ashamed of yourself. There is a woman with an elegant sthraw bonnet, and she won't give a farthing. Well now, afther that, rememberI give it from the althar, that from this day out sthraw bonnets pay fi'penny pieces."
Thomas Durfy, Esq., £1 0s. 0d. "It's not his parish, and he's a brave gentleman."
Miss Fanny Dawson, £1 0s.0d. "A Protestant out of the parish, and a sweet young lady, God bless her! Oh, faith, the Protestants is shaming you!"
Dennis Fannin, £0 7s. 6d. "Very good indeed, for a working mason."
Jemmy Riley, £0 5s. 0d. "Not bad for a hedge carpenther."
"I gave you ten, plaze your Reverence," shouted Jemmy; "and by the same token, you may remember it was on the Nativity of the blessed Vargin, sir, I gave you the second five shillin's."
"So you did, Jemmy," cried Father Phil; "I put a little cross before it, to remind me of it; but I was in a hurry to make a sick call when you gave it to me, and forgot it afther: and indeed myself doesn't know what I did with that same five shillings."
Here a pallid woman, who was kneeling near the rails of the altar, uttered an impassioned blessing, and exclaimed, "Oh, that was the very five shillings, I'm sure, you gave to me that very day, to buy some little comforts for my poor husband, who was dying in the fever!" and the poor woman burst into loud sobs as she spoke.
A deep thrill of emotion ran through the flock as this accidental proof of their poor pastor's beneficence burst upon them; and as an affectionate murmur began to rise above the silence which that emotion produced, the burly Father Philip blushed like a girl at this publication of his charity, and even at the foot of that altar where he stood, felt something like shame in being discovered in the commission of that virtue so highly commended by the Providence to whose worship that altar was raised. He uttered a hasty "Whisht, whisht!" and waved with his outstretched hands his flock into silence.
In an instant one of those sudden changes so common to an Irish assembly, and scarcely credible to a stranger, took place. The multitude was hushed, the grotesque of the subscription list had passed away and was forgotten, and that same man and that same multitude stood in altered relationsthey were again a reverent flock, and he once more a solemn pastor; the natural play of his nation's mirthful sarcasm was absorbed in a moment in the sacredness of his office, and, with a solemnity befitting the highest occasion, he placed his hands together before his breast, and, raising his eyes to Heaven, he poured forth his sweet voice, with a tone of the deepest devotion, in that reverential call for prayer, "Orate, fratres!"
The sound of a multitude gently kneeling down followed, like the soft breaking of a quiet sea on a sandy beach; and when Father Philip turned to the alter to pray, his pent-up feelings found vent in tears, and while he prayed he wept.
I believe such scenes as this are of not unfrequent occurrence in Irelandthat country so longsuffering, so much maligned, and so little understood.
Oh, rulers of Ireland! Why have you not sooner learned to lead that people by love, whom all your severity has been unable to drive?
Selections from Dick's Irish Dialect Recitations, edited by Wm. B. Dick, New York, Dick & Fitzgerald, Publishers 1879