Granny Begley had her brood reared by the late seventies, most of them had already started families of their own. Only Uncle Mike and PJ were still living in the little cottage with Granny and Granddad. The cottage stood on top of a hill in the middle of the country and was surrounded by a few fields, wild hedgerows and scattered stands of trees. It was an ideal place to call home.
PJ and Mike were typical young lads, always on the go and only seemed to pass through the house. They would fly in the door and wolf down whatever Granny had dished up for dinner before scooting off to some other great adventure. When they were not taking cars apart, or working, or planning some stunt or other, the two brothers loved to go shooting. Both of them had shotguns and brought home the odd pheasant or rabbit. Nothing went to waste in the Begley home and what ever the boys shot ended up in the dinner pot.
Ireland was far from ideal during those years. Our island was still ripped in two by conflict, an occupation of our shores which had now stretched nearly eight hundred years. The six counties in the north were still controlled by England and this was causing a bitter and violent division. On one side lay the nationalists, who wanted Ireland reunited and on the other side lay the unionists, which wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom. It was a dark time in our history and I don't believe any right minded person on either side would ever willingly return to it. The blood of both camps pooled the soil of the six counties.
Around that time a wild cat started turning up Granny Begley's yard and he was one savage feline. He'd clearly had a tough life and was somewhat of a survivor. Around the cat's neck hung an old rabbit snare and it seemed to have been in place for a long time. Granny tried to take it off but the cat would let nobody go near it. The animal would spit, hiss and growl when anyone approached it, making such an awful racket. He reminded her of the Reverend Ian Paisley, a particularly confrontational leader of the Unionist movement and who was famous for his thunderous preaching against anything nationalist. That was how the cat got the name Paisley. Uncle Mike had the bad luck of accidentally cornering Paisley in the turf shed one night and received a dozen claw marks in a dozen sensitive areas for his trouble. After that night Mike and Paisley were sworn enemies.
One evening Granny Begley was listening to a news report on the radio when Mike came trundling in from work. During the report there was a clip of Reverend Paisley loudly proclaiming that, "Ulster says NO!" to whatever the other side had just suggested.
"Holy God, that Paisley is an awful thorny yoke," Granny said, shaking her head. Now to his credit, Uncle Mike was half listening to her as he struggled to get out of his concrete stained overalls.
"Thorny is right," agreed Mike, before lumbering away toward the bathroom to wash up for dinner.
"Somebody is going to shoot him one day," she professed aloud.
"What was that, Mammy?" yelled Mike from the bathroom.
"I said, Someone will shoot Paisley!" she called back and started dishing up Mikes dinner.
A minute or two later a shot boomed through the house, causing Granny to clutch her chest in fright but sadly she was holding Mikes dinner at the time and it ended up all over the place. Then there was a second deafening explosion from the direction of the bathroom. Granny raced into the hall to find a half dressed Mike coming out with a smoking shotgun in his hands.
"What the blazes are you doing!" yelled Granny.
"Shooting Paisley," said Mike bewildered.
"Not that Paisley!" said Granny swatting Mike with the tea towel.
"Oh feck!" said Mike relising his mistake. "Tis alright, Mammy, I missed the slippery yoke and he escaped down the field."
When PJ got home and was told the story he laughed so hard he got a pain in his side. Over the coming weeks, the story of how Mike tried to shoot Paisley made the rounds of all the pubs in South Tipperary, and by accident, he became a local legend.
Understandably enough, the furry Mr Paisley never set foot inside Begley's yard again and to my knowledge, either did his two legged counterpart.