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Book Review - An Irish Christmas by John Keane
In the process, Doyle comes to some surprising revelations about himself, as does a seasonal traveler named Masterman, whose festive lust goes so wildly awry that his dishonorable designs lead him to a moral light.
Throughout this volume, whether visiting "The Greatest Wake of All" or illuminating "The Seven Year Trance" or telling the tales of "The Hermit of Scartnabrock" and "Awlingal Princess of Cunnackeenamadra," Keane bears benevolent testimony to the inhabitants and folk traditions of his colorful County Kerry.
Canon Coodle sighed happily. It was Christmas. He had just finished hearing confessions and to clear his head from the fog of sin, or what his parishioners believed to be sin, he had decided upon a walk around the church grounds which were as extensive as any you'd find in the country.
His thoughts turned heavenward as they always did after a session in the confessional. He would have liked a glass of vintage port but it was still bright. He looked at his watch and came to the conclusion that darkness was imminent. Perhaps when the dusk surrendered its diminishing claims to daylight he would indulge, just one glass, no more.
Before retiring that night he would consume two final glasses and then graciously surrender himself to the arms of Morpheus. Canon Coodle had spent eighty-two Christmases in the world but had never really felt the burden of his years. `I'll die in harness,' he informed his physician, `because I would hate to end up as a problem for someone.'
`Oh you'll die in harness all right,' Dr Matt Coumer assured him a few weeks earlier when the canon had called to the surgery for his bi-annual overhaul.
`Is there something wrong?' the canon asked matter-of-factly as though it did not concern him.
`Your blood pressure's up and your heart is tricky. I can think of no other word for that particular heart of yours. Apart from the fact that you should have been dead years ago there's little else the matter,' Dr Coumer put aside his stethoscope and indicated to his parish priest that they should both be seated. `You have only one problem canon,' the doctor leaned back in his chair and looked his elderly patient in the eye.
`And pray what would that be?'
`Two days hence on St Stephen's day you will have bands of wrenboys calling to the presbytery as they have been doing since you first came here. Your predecessors cleared them from the presbytery door for all the wrong reasons. You changed all that and we admire you for it but in one way you might be better off if the wrenboys stayed away from your door too.'
`Never!' Canon Coodle rose from his chair.
`Please sit down,' Matt Coumer spoke in the gentlest of tones as if he were reproving a wayward child. The canon sat and listened.
`In the past you have been known to dance jigs and hornpipes with each of the bands on the steps leading up to the presbytery door. All I'm asking you to do my dear friend is to dance with only one band on this occasion. If you do as I ask there's a good chance you'll see one more Christmas at least. If you persist in dancing with all the bands you'll be in danger of a seizure. Promise me now like a good man,' Dr Coumer reverted to the gentle tones he had used earlier, `that all you'll dance on St Stephen's day is one hornpipe and one reel. Promise.'
`I promise,' Canon Coodle forced out the words against his will. He rose and shook hands with his physician who, in turn, placed a protective arm around the old man's shoulder.
As the canon recalled his visit he regretted the promise he had made. Round and round the church grounds he walked as if he were competing in a race. `Promises were made to be broken', he recalled the saying and then he smashed the fist of his right hand into the palm of his left `but not by Canon Cornelius Coodle' he concluded in triumph with the voice of a man who had never broken a promise...
With apologies to Paul Harvey, we hope this brief excerpt will tempt you into reading "the rest of the story!"
A wonderful gift for yourself or someone else on your list, the book is available on amazon. please click here: An Irish Christmas
Called whin in the north and gorse in the east, furze was once a symbol of wealth and fertility of land as is emphasized by the saying: "gold under furze, silver under rushes and famine under heather."
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March 4, 2011
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