DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 36 2018
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3
Day 26 of our British/Irish adventure and we are staying with friends, Andrew and Sandy Varley at their beach house at Sandsend on the Yorkshire Coast. Return to their main residence at Scholes, to the east of Leeds, via Helmsley, then the lovely village of Crayke, where we have a walk in the church yard and, sitting on a log, enjoy beautiful views of the Howardian Hills. Lunch at Michelin rated, Durham Cow pub, where there are a number of handsome family groups, and the barmaid is so friendly. The soup and vegetable fritters are excellent. Guest beer is Old Vic from Warwick. One drink at ‘The Bull’, Bridgeborough, where youths drop litter everywhere in the park.
Andrew cooks dinner – a chicken curry, with lots of chillies. Watch video of Andrew’s son, Jack on reality TV show, ‘Coach Trip’. Another crap reality show.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4
There is a Leeds United shop at Leeds/Bradford Airport, from where we fly to Dublin, Ireland. Sit beside retired police officer, Gerry Smith, 74. and his wife, Theresa (nee Hoolihan) from Pickering in Yorkshire. Our Dublin cabbie is a rugby union fan. Check into Dawson Hotel, and then enjoy a drink at ‘The Duke’ pub, before a procession of musicians entertain us at O’Donoghues. Our barman lived at East Brisbane for a time, and loved the Story Bridge Hotel.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5
Breakfast at the Dawson is basic. An American lady, who reminds me of the mum from ‘Two and Half Men’, sums it up beautifully. “The Worst”.
Nightmare drive out of Dublin in our hire car, but we do not take one wrong turn. Amazing. Picnic lunch at Leighlinbridge in County Carlow, followed by a drink at flash, Lord Bagenal Inn, which has horse racing theme, with trainer, Paddy Mullins featured prominently. Leighlinbridge is the birthplace of Patrick Moran, Australia’s first (Catholic) Cardinal. Walk the River Barrow to a weir. A fisherman tells us it has been a long day. “Just a few pike”.
Check into Hotel Ormonde, Kilkenny. Drinks at Lanigan’s Bar, which has strong links with hurling and revolutionary Michael Collins. At Playwright pub, a charming gent tells us a Dave Allen joke. “They have opened a restaurant on the moon. The food is great, but it has no atmosphere”.
‘Kilkenny Reporter’ newspaper carries family notices and ‘miracle prayers’.
Seafood chowder and lamb loin at the Ormonde is quality. The same could not be said for the service.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 6
Walk the grounds of Kilkenny Castle. ‘The Field’ pub has an original turnstile from Croke Park in Dublin. Marie and I saw a Gaelic Football match there in November, 1977, courtesy of Malahide gent, Joe Duffy. There is a Sean O’Brien rugby jersey on the wall. In a story about Test prop, O’Brien, he says he will not go vegan, like Irish rugby league international, Anthony Mullally. At ‘Matt The Millers’ pub we chat to an 80-year-old chap with the surname Watson (He is about the only Watson in Ireland, he tells us). An ex dairy farmer and railway worker, he lives in London. Music tonight at Kyteler’s, as I celebrate my 66th birthday.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7
Waitress in the lobby cafe at our hotel, lived in Perth for 12 months and loves the Aussie accent. Why wouldn’t she. Walk Woodstock Gardens, with morning tea in the conservatory. The monkey puzzle (Chilean trees) avenue is impressive. Another walk along the River Barrow, where workman are consolidating the river bank, near a lock. Back in Kilkenny we have drinks at tiny ‘Hole in the Wall’ pub, where the barmaid is from Palm Beach in Sydney. She is a qualified teacher in forensic science. Live music at Mick the Millers is mainly 1980s stuff. The Irish are always saying ‘perfect’, which I suppose is their version of no worries.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8
Drive to Wexford County, through New Ross to Fethard, where there has been a triathlon. A bloke wearing gum boots and shorts, stands outside the ‘Droopy Inn’, having a smoke. There is also a pub called ‘Neville’s’. Fatty Vautin would love it – I should say, he would love both names. At Slade Harbor we see several large fish. Then to Hook Head Light House, the oldest continually operating light house in the world. Catch ‘Passage East’ ferry over River Suir. One drink at Mead’s Pub (on the outskirts of Waterford), and it is full of characters and wedding goers. Back to Kilkenny, via Waterford, where my 1990 Kangaroo Supporters Tour stayed.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 9
Leave Kilkenny for Tralee, driving along a maze of roads, including one through Glenn of Aherlow, before lunch at a fast food establishment in Charleville. I scare the living daylights out of one young bloke, with tales of deadly spiders back in Australia. One drink at O’Connor’s, where Camogie (women’s hurling) final between Cork and Kilkenny, is live on television, from Croke Park, Duiblin. Marie’s niece, Emma Kelly was part of the march past at Croke Park, but we didn’t realise it, at the time. There are Limerick hurling flags everywhere on our drive through the countryside, with the locals still celebrating the win over Galway in the Men’s final on August 19. It was Limerick’s first All Ireland hurling win in 45 years. On the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’, at Ballybunion, there is a statue of former American president, Bill Clinton.
In Tralee, we have drinks at ‘The Rock’ Bar, where a few IRA songs are belted out. Lots of characters, old and young.
The Sunday Times from England, carries a letter from Steve Ball, which reads in part: ‘Does the Sunday Times think people in the north don’t read the paper? There were two and a half pages of rugby union coverage last week, but no rugby league. This is the North -South divide personified.” Couldn’t have written it better myself.
Photo 1: Kilkenny
Photo 2: Is this man the only Watson in Ireland?
Photo 3: River Barrow
Photo 4: Hole in the Wall, Kilkenny
Photo 5: Irish road
Photo 6: The Rock, Tralee
Photo 7: The Rock, Tralee.