Archive for the ‘Tyrone’ Category

Another quiet week meant that I had time on my hands to immerse myself in the Irish culture before next week’s Donegal game down in the capital city. I wanted to get to the heart of rural Ireland to witness how the natives really live. Belfast does that to an extent but there’s only so much observations one can make about women in pyjamas walking to the Centra or young men with blue WKDs wandering around graveyards. Like Roy Orbinson, I just drove until something caught my eye of note. Rather foolishly, I spent the first hour casually freewheeling along the M1. Having realised that there was little happening on either carriageway, I took a turn off at Dungannon and kept it ‘between the hedges’ (as the man giving me instructions to Kildress said) until the fancy took me. It wasn’t until I found myself in the deepest mid-Ulster that I finally followed the banners along the road informing me of ‘Kildress Sports Day 2012’.

Woman out getting Irish News

I wasn’t disappointed. What I’ve always liked about my time here was the informal approach to everything, especially when it comes to crossing palms with silver. I’ve been in shops and the customer maybe didn’t have enough cash on them for their sausage bap, crate of Guinness and the Irish News. The shopkeeper would simply say ‘sure I’ll get it off you again’ which confused me at first as it never happened the first time, never mind again. Yet I gradually worked out that they’d pay up the next time they would be in the shop. I don’t think they ever did. And so it was at the entry to the sports day last Sunday. There was a man standing at a small table with a plastic chair beside it. I asked how much it was in to the event. He just said ‘sure whatever ye think yerself’. Extremely confused, I asked him to repeat the answer. He again retorted, ‘whatever ye think yerself, bai’. Partly afraid, slightly bewildered, I offered him a £20 note, hoping he could work it out from there. He put it in the tin, said something about how generous the Brits were, laughed and waved me on.

Happy after a 20-spot

It wasn’t a great start but maybe if I’d put the effort in earlier in the year to understanding the language this expensive mix-up wouldn’t have occurred. On getting out of the car, a young lad ran straight towards me, shouting something that sounded like a martial arts war-cry. I took the stance of a Korean Warrior waiting for the impact. Luckily, the excited ruffian was simply asking if I wanted a programme. I took it and he again shouted, ‘three pounds please’. Already fleeced, and knowing how the Irish didn’t care too much about payment, I said ‘sure I’ll see you again’. The young lad ripped the programme from my grasp and said something about being a tight English bastard’. My emotions were rather fraught at this point and I felt like a fish out of water. Luckily I managed to get my hands on a programme lying on the field. This ‘£3’ effort was simply a printed one-page Word document with 4 events written on it.

  • Tug of War
  • Ice Cream Van
  • Rita Fairclough from the TV and another Star Man.
  • Closing Prayers

I wasn’t here to judge the content of the day, just to breathe in the culture. I’d missed the tug-of-war, but judging by the field-fights still burning in neighbouring bits of land, it seemed to be a feisty occasion with a contested conclusion. Next up was the arrival of the ice-cream van. It seemed to be a novel experience for the locals and a rapturous roar built to a mighty crescendo when the vehicle appeared in the distance playing Molly Malone. The queues for the van made it impossible to taste its delights so I simply watched the locals enjoy the culinary delights of a 99. Of interest to me were two elderly men who managed to make their way to the front of the line. Instead of the cone, favoured by the youngsters, they asked for what they were familiar with – a rectangle of ice-cream in between two wavers, sometimes called a ‘slider’ by the rest of the world. These gentlemen, with the experiences of living in Mid-Ulster deeply imprinted on their wizened faces, took great care with eating their dessert. It was like a work of art, lick by lick. Soon, after some careful finishing, all that remained was the waver on either side of the ice-cream. I moved in closely as they returned to the van. This was what I’d come for. A closer look at the cultural traditions of rural Ireland that we don’t see on the TV. The leader of the two men, wearing his Sunday best, simply placed all four wavers back on the van counter and said, “there’s yer two burds back’. The vendor looked as confused as I did.

Ice cream between two burds

Next up was the appearance of Rita Fairclough. Hundreds of local men gathered with pens and paper waiting for her appearance on the back of the lorry resting in the goalmouth of the pitch. I was sort of excited myself, having watched her performances on the Street since I was a child. To the initial disappointment and eventual anger of the males in attendance, the local priest announced that Rita didn’t arrive at the airport this morning but that they had a special guest replacement – the ex-England goalkeeper Bob Wilson. There was a muted applause as a surprisingly elderly man made his way across the stage. He was barely able to stand without the PP propping him up. He was also wearing a fedora and what looked to me like a suspicious beard. The PP said he was too old to talk and swiftly took him off the lorry and into the public house. I was nearly sure Bob was only 60-odd. I followed up the story by going for a pint myself, sitting within earshot of the great ex-Arsenal keeper. He never spoke, apart from asking for a ‘half-un’ in a suspiciously local accent. After a few of those, Bob became careless and his hat fell off to display a shock of red hair. Some local sitting at the end of the bar shouted, ‘hi, I know that man. He’s one of the Yellow Boy Murphys from Galbally’. Bob took to his heels followed by the priest and then 2-300 locals with pikes. I got out of there before the whole thing turned sour. The prayer service was cancelled.

Rita didn’t make the plane

I think I’m not ready for the acclimatisation yet and look forward to the All-Ireland semi next weekend.