Friday, March 6, 2009

The not-so-good and not-so-great, number 8

Here's one Malcolm should have made earlier (which, conveniently, gets him off the hook identified in his previous posting).

The Bird Flanagan

This is, at Rialto on Dublin's South Circular Road, heading towards Dolphin's Barn, a more than decent pub.

The name originates from a Dublin character, Willie Flanagan, of whom the legends are endless. Willie was born in 1867, died in 1925, and spent the time between as a sporting gentleman, occasional farmer, but mainly living on his father's money.

The pub-sign tells of one of the Bird's japes.

He would buy a fowl in a street-market, and ask the stall-holder to leave the bird hanging.

Flanagan would then lurk, until a police constable was nearby. Then, inviting suspicion by all means possible, Flangan would skulk and sidle his way back to the stall, grab his fowl, and run off, inevitably pursued by constable. When Flanagan had the full attention of passers-by, he would allow himself to be collared, only to produce the duly-authorised receipt for ownership.

But that was not the root of the pseudonym.

There are many variants of this story. Malcolm believes the most credible to go like this:

In 1909 Flanagan attended a masquerade dressed as the Holy Ghost. His impiety offended the others present, who may have roughed him up a little. Flanagan then proceeded to lay an egg (a rugby ball) and depart at some speed.

Horses feature largely in stories of the Bird.

He is supposed to have ridden through the lobby of the Gresham Hotel, approached the bar, and asked for a drink. The barman apologised for being closed during Holy Hour (the statutory afternoon closure). The Bird replied: "It's not for me, you fool. It's for me horse." Once upon a time, if Malcolm's memory holds, the (over-priced and under-stocked) bar in the Gresham was also the Bird Flanagan.

The Bird was one of the founding members of the South County Dublin Harriers. When James E. Norton produced a history of the hunt, he included an anecdote from the 1920s. Sheila Meyers hunted a grey from the Bird's stable, which the Bird entered for the local point-to-point, with Sheila up. When she reached the saddling enclosure, she found the Bird's groom feeding the horse a strong egg-nog:
Eventually we started and I could not hold one end of the animal and kept finding myself in front. I swear he was a little inebriated as he kept falling on his knees when landing over a fence and the others came up with me. This went on for what seemed like hours until I found we were within sight of the winning post. I was still pulling for all I was worth when we passed the post - I had won!
Inevitably, the Bird makes an appearance in many of the anecdotes of early Twentieth-Century Dublin.

There is a short story by Oliver St.John Gogarty, The Bird Milligan (which was included in a Mercier Press anthology). The amended name is not an error on Gogarty's part: he left Ireland in haste after losing a libel action; and thereafter was over-careful.

Brian O'Nolan (a.k.a. Flann O'Brien and Myles na gCopaleen) referred to the Bird several times. Of these the best story is this, from a Cruiskeen Lawn column of 1962:
The Bird's heyday seems largely to have coincided with the reign of King Edward. It is said that when His Majesty, attending an important race meeting at the Curragh, strolled with Castle worthies to drop the flag at the starting post, he was approached there by the Bird and touched (successfully) for a fiver.
The Bird had a brother, Frank, always known as "The Pope". Perhaps we shall come to him, his wanderings and astounding range of acquaintance, later in this rambling sequence. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

Mark Humphrys said...

Right, so you use my information without the courtesy of a link to me.

And you use my images without credit, link or attribution.

Incredibly rude.

Mark Humphrys

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