Saturday, 12 July 2014

Paddy Quinn

Visitors to my little bar find the old photos dotted around the place very interesting. This one sit's high on the wall in a battered old frame and is a favorite of mine, with a story to boot. The tall figure with the slight stoop on the left is Paddy Quinn, a local legend. The other legend in this photo is his horse, Snowflake.

Paddy was a dray man. Six days a week, himself and Snowflake would wander the highways and bye-ways delivering goods dropped at the train station by the coal train from Cork. You would be hard pushed to find someone that would say Paddy was lazy. Hail, rain, sleet or snow, Paddy never missed a days work. He was far from flawless, like many men of his day, Paddy had a gruff manner and an endless thirst for whisky.

Each evening, when the last delivery was made, Paddy drew to a halt outside this very bar. Snowflake stood quietly in the tines of his cart while Paddy went shopping for Mrs Quinn. Both the Quinn's were creatures of habit. Invariably Paddy would return with a brown parcel tucked under his arm, tied with hairy twine. Inside you would find: a fresh loaf of bread, six hen eggs, half a pound of green ham, a packet of gold grain biscuits and an ounce of pipe tobacco. Paddy's weakness was liquor, for Mrs Quinn, it was the pipe.

Paddy dropped the package on the back of the cart and gave Snowflake a pat on the rump."On you go lad." Quiet as you like, Snowflake clopped up the street and away home while Paddy took his place in the bar where his picture now hangs. Paddy Quinn would tip cup to lip for the rest of the night, arguing with anyone foolish enough to talk to him. A little before closing the clip clop of Snowflake could be heard on the road outside and Paddy would stagger for home.

One particularly memorable night, closing time came with no sign of Paddy's lift. It was a frosty so he remained at the bar and had more than one for the road. The barman had the place cleaned and stocked and ready to lock. Paddy Quinn still was propped against the bar looking into his empty tumbler and mumbling to no one in particular.
"Come on Mr Quinn, you'll have to wait outside," the barman said putting on his coat. Paddy took a mighty wobble as he tried to dismount the high stool.
"Woah there, let me give you a hand," said the barman taking him by the arm just in time.
"Sushhsr I'm jussst grand," Paddy said, lying heavily on the barman's shoulder. Mr Quinn's head wanted to go one way but his feet insisted on going the other. The two men struggled through the door sideways, like a crab, but the street was empty. Just then a young guard, fresh out of the training college in Templemore, rounded the corner twirling his baton jauntily.

"What's going on here?" the young guard inquired as he got closer.
"Mr Quinn's waiting on his lift," said the barman.
"It's a bit late for that, closing time was ages ago."
"Snowflake will be on in a minute I'm sure."
"Yep, Snowflake."
"Are you taking the piss out of me lad?" said the Guard puffing out his chest.
"Not at all, here he comes now."

The frozen air was filled with the sound of metal on cobbles. In the darkens a tendril of mist swirled and broke upon the movement of a ghostly specter. A lighter black in the dead of night advanced on the men with dreadful menace until in a puff of warm breath, Snowflake arrived. The young guard stared disbelievingly as the horse pulled to a stop in front of the bar. On this night, the timber cart wasn't empty, held down with a rock was a tattered bit of paper. The barman helped Mr Quinn into the cart, where he promptly flopped backwards like a landed haddock. The barman retrieved the piece of paper from under Mr Quinn's shoulder. On it in childlike scrawl was, "Bring fags, you forgot tobacco." The barman was buggered if he was opening up to get Mr Quinn cigarettes, nor was he going to search the mans pockets for the price of them because surely the bloody guard would arrest him for robbery. Instead the barman searched his own pockets and found a half packet of Woodbines. He walked up to Snowflakes head taking him by the halter and turning him around. When the horse was facing the right way, the barman pushed the packet of cigarettes between the horses bridle and his neck. The young Guard could hardly believe his eyes, drunk as a lord the snoring man in the back of the cart farted loudly, the other madman was giving a horse smokes. What kind of a town had they sent him to at all. The guard had enough. "You can't let him drive, he's drunk."
"True enough officer," said the barman standing back from the cart just as the prone Mr Quinn levered himself upright and slapped Snowflake on the rump. "But Snowflake's sober."

The young guard could do noting but watch Snowflake clip clop happily into the darkness Mr Quinn leaving another rasping fart fly in farewell.

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