Random Monaghan

“Still I think I’m doing fine
Wouldn’t it be a lovely headline?
“Life is Beautiful” on the New York Times”

Rufus Wainwright

Sometimes someone suggests something to me and I don’t react, or it doesn’t seem to affect me, and then a week or so later I can think of nothing else.

I met a friend for coffee a week or so ago and she suggested that I should collate all the little Monaghan related stories I’ve written over the years in one place and see if I could do something with them. I was going to say that ALL my stories are Monaghan related, but I knew what she meant, but decided that now wasn’t the time.

And now I’m thinking about it all the time.

To distract myself from delving into past stories when I should be writing new ones I am still watching old ‘Poirot’s’, and have now added ‘The Last of Us’, and ‘This Flag Means Death’ to my TV consumption. I’ve started reading Kurt Vonnegut because another friend said that something I wrote reminded him of Kurt, and I bought two of his novels ages ago, and Robyn keeps asking me if I’ve read them yet.

 I also distract myself by waddling around Rossmore Park with Ray.

And this week I cooked tea for my Soulmate and I and we sat at the table for a long time chatting about things we’d been afraid to say out loud. It was a wonderful evening.

I also get fascinated by random facts that can then distract me for ages. The letter ‘c’ is pronounced differently on its three appearances in the phrase ‘Pacific Ocean’. Tulip Mania is always cited as the original financial bubble whenever talks about internet stocks, or crypto, but in reality it was a short lived phenomenon that involved less than 300 people, with only 35 trades of over 300 Guilders, and no one was bankrupted by it. Bob Dylan, while recording The Last Waltz, with The Band, changed his mind just before he went on stage and said he didn’t want his portion filmed. This would have ruined the Band , as they’d sunk all their money into the project. It turned out that Bob had recorded one of his own concerts and didn’t want The Band to be more popular than his. They eventually agreed to delay the release of theirs until 12 months after his, and he reluctantly agreed to allow them to record two songs.

I saw Bob Dylan play in Kilkenny years ago on a double bill with Neil Young. Neil was class , Bob wasn’t. Bob was Cavan, Neil was Monaghan.

Did you ever hear about the time Neil played in Mckenna’s on Park St. ?

 The plane landed in Shannon that February night in 1971 after a bumpy journey from Boston, on it’s way to London. One passenger in particular was agitated, distraught , and quite possibly high as a kite. Neil Percival Young was only 26 but had already released two albums with Buffalo Springfield, two solo albums, an album with Crosby ,Stills, Nash & Young, played Woodstock , where he famously told the film camera men “One of you fuckin’ guys comes near me and I’m gonna fuckin’ hit you with my guitar”, released his third solo album, ‘After The Goldrush’ to great critical acclaim and was now on his way to record two live shows with the BBC in London.

In the midst of all of this he was also trying to build a relationship with his estranged father, Scott Young. Scott had got divorced from Neil’s mother years earlier and had recently bought a small farm in Manitoba in a little place called Cavan- Millbrook- North Monaghan and Neil had been promising for four years since he’d bought it to pay a visit. Perhaps it was a combination of the stress he was under, the exhaustion….or the drugs, but when the passengers disembarked from that flight in Shannon , the long haired young fella from seat 3b demanded that he be taken to North Monaghan….immediately !

A taxi was duly summoned and a very tired and emotional Neil Young made his way across the country to Monaghan in a Ford Corsair. He fell asleep….which was probably just as well , the journey time from Shannon to Monaghan by car back then was at least 5 hours, even if you didn’t stop in Grogan’s in Glasson for a pick-me-up.

The Ford Corsair arrived in Monaghan just after 8pm and Neil Young awoke to be greeted by the imposing sight of  St.Joesph’s Church on Park St. “Where the hell am I ?” he asked.

“Monaghan.” The taxi man replied.

“Have we gone back in time ? This ain’t anywhere in Manitoba that I remember.”

The taxi man laughed “You landed in Shannon airport and demanded a taxi to take you to North Monaghan. And here we are.”

“Shannon , Ireland ???”

“Yes , Sir !”

“Jeez, I need a drink. Take me to a bar that plays music.”

The taxi man , being unfamiliar with the town, pulled up beside a shop, at least he thought it was a shop, there were certainly shoes and clothes piled up in the window. There was an elderly man locking the front door behind him. “Excuse me ?” the taxi man hailed though the passenger window “Could you tell me where there’s a bar that plays music ?”

Hughie The Buck turned and leaned in the open car window “What kind ?”

“What kind , what ?” the taxi man snapped.

“Music ! What kind of music ? There’s 58 bars in this town and at this time on a Thursday evening there’s music in most of them.”

“Good music” the passenger in the back answered.

Hughie opened the rear passenger door and hopped in saying “That’ll be McKenna’s on Dublin Street then, I’m going there myself. I’ll show you the way.”

Neil laughed and introduced himself , the taxi man grunted and they drove to McKenna’s. Hughie turned to face the young man “You’re a long way from home Master Young, but I think you have God on your side, so you’ll be alright.” He laughed, Neil laughed, the taxi driver just muttered something about ‘Northern bastards’.  They could hear ‘Voodoo Child’ playing on the jukebox when they pulled up outside McKenna’s Bar, Park St. Monaghan, ‘Home to Bona Fides’. When they entered the bar they doubled the number of people present. The barman, young Seamus McKenna, was playing dominos on the bar with Paddy ‘The Hangman’ Clarke, WW1 veteran , seller of combs and all round character. He looked up to greet the new long haired arrival “ Good Evening Preacher , I see you’ve brought the good Lord himself with you tonight.”

Hughie smiled, although he was fond of his own opinions, only Paddy called him the Preacher, “Good evening to your good self, Hangman. May I introduce to you Master Neil Young, a visitor to these shores in search of good music”.

“How’re y’all this evenin’ ?”

Neil extended his hand in greeting to Seamus, who shook it warmly, but when he turned to Paddy The Hangman, he found his hands firmly folded across his chest “Are you a Yank ?”

“No” Neil answered “I’m Canadian”.

“That’s just a watery Yank !”

“Don’t mind him” the barman interjected “ He’s in a grumpy mood because I caught him cheating at the dominos…again.”

“They just slipped a bit !” Paddy replied, with mock indignation. He held out his hand to Neil “Only joking, you’re welcome indeed. And now just to show that there’s no hard feeling, I’ll let you buy me a drink.”

Neill smiled and nodded to Paddy, “Barman, let’s set these fellas up. And may I buy you a beer too ?”

“Please call me Seamus. And yes, you may.” Without asking what anyone wanted he pulled four creamy pints and as they were settling, he placed four whiskeys on the counter to keep them going. They had chatted for a good while, they were on their fourth round, and the crowd was now into double figures when ‘Woodstock’ by Crosby, Still’s Nash & Young came on the jukebox. There was a crash of broken glass behind the bar and they all turned to see Seamus staring at them.

“Jesus Christ of Almighty ! You’re that Neil Young ! Holy Mother of Christ ! Neil fucking Young !”

Hughie answered “Calm down Seamus ! Are you only realising that now ?”

Neil was surprised by this and turned to face the old man “ You know who I am ?”

Paddy’s laughed “Of course he knows who you are ! I stopped calling into his shop because he played that feckin’ ‘Goldrush’ album on repeat till it wore out the stylus….and then he still played it…he said it sounded better ! He has us all bored to tears with the stories he believes you’re telling in your songs. ” He looked at his nearly empty pint , picked it up and gently wiggled it “Anyway, Story Boy, it’s your round again.”

Neil nodded again to Seamus who had recovered somewhat and began to pull the pints. The conversation tore on with Paddy regaling them with his WW1 adventures. Neil told them tales from Woodstock, his search for the perfect band, his worry that the world wasn’t ready for his change in direction. Hughie joked “ The country’s ready for you Boy. Are you ready for the country ?”

Neil jumped up off his stool “Seamus ! Is there a guitar here ?”

Seamus  ran out the back and up the stairs. They could hear him hurtling back down the stairs and he rushed into the bar, out of breath holding the guitar out to Neil with both hands “ It…would …be…an…honour.”

Neil took the guitar, tuned it and started to strum. Seamus unplugged the jukebox. After a minute or two Neil began to sing :

“ Slipping and sliding

and playing domino

Lefting and then Righting,

it’s not a crime you know.

You gotta tell your story boy,

before it’s time to go.

Are you ready for the country

because it’s time to go?

Are you ready for the country

because it’s time to go?

I was talkin’ to the preacher,

said God was on my side

Then I ran into the hangman,

he said it’s time to die

You gotta tell your story boy,

you know the reason why.

Are you ready for the country

because it’s time to go?

Are you ready for the country

because it’s time to go?”

When he finished, they erupted with cheers and clapping. “Again ! Again !” they all cheered and Neil duly sang it again. Hughie became quite emotional and wiped his eyes…and his nose with his sleeve. This time Hughie, Seamus and Paddy all joined in the chorus.

When they finished Paddy simply said “ Jaysus, if I’d known it was that easy I’d have become a feckin’ rock star meself !”

Neil smiled and said “I get it now. That’s why they call you the Hangman, you kill people with your comments.”

Seamus and Hughie looked at each other and laughed out loud. Eventually Hughie replied “No it’s because whenever you’re in a round with him he always leaves people hanging when it’s his turn to pay.”

True story.

Anyway I have to see the ‘Ready Aim Fire’ guy on Monday, so say a wee prayer to your god for me.



Author: paul

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