Introductory to Ballygullion

Lynn Doyle the pseudonym of the humorist & playwright Leslie Alexander Montgomery, was born in Downpatrick on 5 October 1873 (died 18 August 1961). He was part of the Ulster Literary Theatre movement and is most famous for his Ballygullion series of 20 books which fondly caricatured Northern Ireland village life. Interestingly he chose his pseudonym after seeing a large tin of linseed oil in a paint shop, initially signing “Lynn C. Doyle” but later dropping the “C.”

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He was a County Down bank manager.  It is also said at one stage he started to train as a reporter and that he practised shorthand by taking down the talk around the fireside. As a result his ear for dialect was extremely accurate, and gives his stories their wonderful richness and vitality and their great humour.

This is a book that has been a classic since the day it was first published in 1908, 106 years ago. Ballygullion is timeless in its appeal.

My Introductory

To my wife – Willie Oats.

Sucking an Ice Lolly held by our son, he said to her “E’ mollo” (It Soft and flacid), she looked at me and with her eyes sparkling and smiling and with a certain  expression, and everone knew the meaning of the look and all laughing out loud.

His introductory
To my wife – Lynn Doyle

My sporting associate and occasional client, Mr. Patrick Murphy, opened the door of my
Belfast Office about twelve inches, insinuated himself through the aperture, and seating
himself on the extreme edge of a chair, regarded me anxiously.
I had seldom seen him so serious. The humorous twinkle in his eye was quenched
momentarily for the first time in our acquaintance.
” I suppose ye hadn’t time since mornin’ to look intil that,” he said, nodding his head
towards a pile of manuscript on my desk.
” I’m sorry to say I had, Pat,” I answered.” In fact, I read it all through.”
” An’ what might ye think av it ?” he asked cautiously.
” I think we’ll print it, Pat,” said I. ” But I want to know first if it’s all your own.”
” Ivery word av it, Misther Doyle,” he said.
“Who wrote it all out for you then, Pat ?” I said. ” It’s not in your hand surely ?”
” Ye may swear that,” he answered. ” 1 wasn’t that long at school. Wait an’ I’ll tell
you the whole story :
” I was sthrolling along the road at me aise wan Sathurday afthernoon last October, when
I heard the tootin’ av a horn behind me.
“Pat,’ sez 1 to meself, Ye’d betther take to the ditch till that fellow gets by ; for the same
ginthry is no ways particular who they run down, from a hen till a human bein’.’
” So I tuk in to the side av the road, an’ ’twas well I did.
” Round the corner wi’ a whizz comes a fellow on a mothor bicycle, shoots clear av me
be about six inches, gives a couple av bad wobbles, an’ round the nixt bend in a cloud av
dust, lavin’ a stink behind him fit to throw a thrain off the lines.
” Bad luck to ye, an’ the whole breed av ye,’ sez I, stampin’ and spittin’ ; for you’re
the curse av dacint counthry people that the roads was made for. A bad end to you an’
your ould machine anyway.’
” ‘Twas only an idle word av mine, but ye niver seen an ill wish come sooner to roost.
I wasn’t more than a couple of hundhred yards furdher on till I come on him sittin’ in
the ditch.
” He got up very shaky lookin’ as I come near him.
I beg your pardon, sir,’ sez he, very polite, but would you mind giving me shove ? I got off,’ sez he.
” I could see that. He had rowled over a couple av times on the road aftherwards, too ;
but whin he said nothin’ about that, neither did I.
” The bicycle was lyin’ again the side av the ditch, stinkin’ away as busy as it could ; but
there was a kind av a publichouse whiff in the air, too, that I couldn’t well blame on it. I
took a hard look at the fellow an* give a sniff or two, an’ it come into me mind that he was
no teetotaler. Me heart softened till him a bit.
” It’s bad enough,’ thinks taken in dhrink wi’ a horse an’ cart but whin it comes to a mother bicycle it must be the very divil.’
Come on then,’ sez I to the fellow. But if i’d ha been you, I wouldn’t ha’ got
off. I don’t know how ye got on at the start, but ye should ha’ kept at it. Up wi’ ye,
anyway.’
“So I gets the machine out av the ditch, grips the handle wi’ me left hand, and gives
him a powerful shove wi’ the right.
” Away ye go ! ‘ sez I.
” But I was wrong. To this day I don’tknow what wint asthray ; but whin 1 riz out av the ditch me boy was lying undher the machine in the middle av the road.
” Up I gets, pulls the machine off him, an’ gets him on his feet. He was in a lamentable
state wi’ dust an’ bits av sticks, an’ the sate av his breeches all soakin’ where the paraffin had
seeped out av the tin tank.
” That was a bad start sez he, lookin at me very sayrious.
”  It was,’ sez I, c mortial bad. But it’ll make a brave finish if ye’ll let it. Just you
sit down by the roadside an’ let the wind blow on ye a bit, an’ in half an hour’s time ye’ll be
fit to ride her on a tight-rope.’
” I’m all right,’ sez he, straightenin’ himself up that far that he nearly sat down on the road
again. ‘ Hould on till I get me pipe ‘ an’ he begins gropin’ all over himself.
” Prisintly, he out wi’ an ould briar pipe, takes out a match, an’ reaches for the leg av
his breeches wi’ it.
“‘Hould on, hould on, man!’ I shouts.  Do ye want to desthroy yourself an me too ? ‘
” ‘ What’s wrong wi’ ye ? ‘ sez he, blinkin’ at me.
” Look here, me dacint fellow,’ sez I, if ye light that match on your breeches, an’ thim
soakin’ wi’ paraffin, they’ll burn through to your inside in about two minits or less, and
thin,’ sez I, c judgin’ be your breath, ye’ll blow up. Away intil the middle av the nixt field if
ye’re on for that. I’ve me wife an’ family to think av.’
” Niver mind then/ sez he, puttin’ up the pipe, an’ takin’ the bicycle handles from me ;
gimme another shove. Aisier a wee bit nor the last ; for me head’s a bit light wi’ the fall.’
” This time we done the trick. Away he goes like a good one, the machine spittin’ like
a mangerfull av cats. But he wasn’t more than fifty yards up the road whin off bumps his
lamp. I could see him grippin’ the brakes.
” Now, you’ve done it,’ sez I. An’ sure enough so he had.
” The machine stood on the front wheel for a minit, emptied him off on the road, an’
then come down on him with a souse would ha’ made jelly av a sober man.
” Up I runs an’ pulh the bicycle off him again. But when I turned to see if he was
dead, he was on his feet again as full av pluck as iver.
” I got off for me lamp,’ sez he.
” I noticed that,’ sez I. An’ ye’ll stay off too. I don’t want to waste a day on a
Crowner’s jury, an’ the potatoes comin’ out. Sit down on the ditch, and we’ll have a crack
till ye come round a bit.’
” I can’t,’ sez he, I must be in Belfast the night, an’ I’ve a long way to go. Gimme
hoult, an’ I’ll push her along a bit, an’ thin get on ‘ ; an’ he takes the handles.
“The machine leans away from him a bit as if it wasn’t very sure av him, he overbalances,
slides across the paraffin tank on his belly, stands on his head on the far side for a minit,
an’ thin rowls over intil the ditch.
” ‘Look now,’ sez I, as I pulls him up again, ye’d betther finish the performance wi’ that,
for if ye won’t sit down an’ have sense, I’m goin’ home ; an’ I’ll take the bicycle wi’ me.’
” What’s your name?’ sez he, takin’ me by the hand.
” ‘ Murphy,’ sez I, < Pat Murphy, if that’s any good to ye.*
” ‘ Well, listen to me, Pat Murphy,’ sez he. If iver man or woman offers ye champagne
on an empty stomach, don’t you take it, that’s all ; especially if you’re goin’ to take whisky
afther it.
“Til promise,’ sez I. ‘The next time Molly brings home champagne for me supper,
I’ll make her drink it herself.’
“‘You’re jokin’ now,’ sez he; but I was givin’ ye good advice. An’ if iver ye should
get a dose av it, go home on your feet. Champagne an’ mothor bicyclin’ is two different
kinds av amusements,’ sez he, an’ should be kept separate.’
“‘Where did ye get it, anyway?’ sez I. ‘ It’s mighty scarce in these parts, I’d think.’
” I’ll sit down,’ sez he, ‘ if I must, an’ tell ye all about it.”
” ‘ I was up at a big garden-party at Lord Lord-knows-who,’ sez he, ‘ it doesn’t matther
much writin’ a report av the proceedin’s for a newspaper ‘
” ‘ Is writin’ your thrade, thin ?’ sez I, breakin’ in.
“‘Just that,’ sez he. ‘Why?’ ” ‘ Oh, nothin,’ sez I, ‘ but I often wished
1 had some skill av it.’
” ‘ What’d ye do if ye had ? ‘ sez he. ” Sure there’s nothin’ to write about here ?’
“‘Is there not ?’ sez I. ‘I tell ye what it is, if some av you writin’ chaps was to come
down intil the counthry instead of writin’ about it from the towns, ye’d do well be it ; for if ye
only know’d, there’s a dale av good crack to be picked up.’
” ‘ What about ? ‘ sez he. ‘ Potatoes an’ cabbages ?’
” ‘ Men an’ wimmen sez I, ‘ betther av both than ye can show in the town, an’ more
variety av thim. Sure you townspeople is all as like as peas in a pod, an’ any notion ye have
in your heads ye get it out av the papers. There’s fun in the counthry too. It vexes me
to hear people talkin’ about it bein’ quiet an’ dull. It may be ; but I niver seen three or
four people gathered about a four-roads but they riz a bitav a laugh before theywint home.
I’ve heard more good stories, too, round a counthry fireside av a Sathurday night than
would make a betther book than a good many that’s goin’ about.
” ‘ Tell me wan or two while I’m sittin’ here,’ sez he. c I can take thim in now. That last
knock has settled me brains.’
” It’s well it didn’t settle thim on the side av the road,’ sez I. Ye must carry thim in
a brave thick case. But wait till I get out the pipe, an’ here goes. A while more av a rest
’11 do ye no harm.’
” So I tould him the first wan or two stories come intil me head, an’ he was well plazed. Ivery
now an’ thin he’d break out in a snirt av a laugh, an’ slap himself on the knee, till if I’d
been rale sure ’twas the stories was doin’ it I’d ha’ been as well plazed as himself.
” I’d always had the name in the counthry av tellin a good story ; but I’d niver thried me
hand on a town man before.
” They’re good,’ sez he, at the last, ‘ they’re good. I believe you’re right ; people would
laugh at thim.’
” l’m not so sure av that,’ sez I.
” Why ?’ sez he.’; Didn’t I laugh ?’
“‘Ay, but sez I, ‘iverybody hasn’t come fresh from a garden party.’
‘”Tut/ sez he, lookin a bit foolish, ‘there’s nothin’ the matther wi’ me now. I’ll tell ye
what, though/ sez he. ‘It’s time I was out av this’ lookin’ at his watch ‘but I’ll be dhrivin’
back on the bicycle to Dublin to-morrow, and if ye’ll show me where to find ye, I’ll stop
awhile an’ thry the stories on spring wather. If they stand that, they’ll do. Ye can tell me
two or three more, an’ I’ll fix thim up a bit.’
“‘Divil a fix sez I. ‘Ye’ll just put thim down as I tell thim to ye. There come a man
here wanst an’ got two or three cracks av the counthry-side, but he only spoiled thim. Be-
tween cuttin’ out this to keep thim ginteel, an’ puttin’ in that to give thim a tone, whin he had
done they were nayther wan thing or another. There’s no use stickin’ in big long college words
in plain counthry people’s crack. It’s like puttin’ a cloth patch on a pair av cordhuroys.
Come down the morrow an’ put a story or two down for me just as ye get thim, an’ I’ll pay ye
anythin’ in raison for your throuble.’
” ‘ Ye’ll pay me nothin’ sez he. ‘ I owe ye a skinful av whole bones, an’ ye ean take it out
in ink an’ paper. If they look well whin they’re copied we might do somethin’ wi thim.
Give me a shove now. I’ll see you to-morrow.
“The nixt day he come out sure enough, an’ another two Sundays afther that, an’ was in
big heart about printin’ the stories. Thin for a long while I heard no word av him, an’ at
last there come the big parcel av paper ye have there, an’ a letther to say he was away in London
an’ couldn’t come out any more, but he’d sent what stories he’d wrote down an’ wished me
luck wi’ thim.
“The parcel lay in the cupboard iver since, for I didn’t know what to do wi’ it ; till comin’
up to Belfast the day to the sale I bethought meself av you, Misther Doyle, an’ put it in me
pocket to show to ye.
“An’ if, as ye say, ye’ll face puttin’ it in print, there’ll nobody be betther plazed than I
will. Do ye think it will do ?”
” We’ll try, anyhow, Pat,” I said. ” Is there anything you’d like to add ? ”
” Divil a word, Misther Doyle,” he answered, ” if I have my way av it.”
” You wouldn’t like to describe Ballygullion and the country round it ?”
“Betther not,” he said. “Thim that reads till the end’ll know as much about Ballygullion
as is good for thim or me, either. I don’t want to be hunted out av the counthry wi’ a
pitchfork.”
” Very well, Pat,” I said.” “I’ll have the manuscript printed as it stands.”

I feel it due to myself to say that I have rigidly kept my word. The readers of the
following pages are consequently looking at Ballygullion through the eyes of Mr. Patrick
Murphy.

Illustration:  “Bringing him to the point”  Hugh Thomson Ulster Museum

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