Life & Culture
Premium Irish Circle
Working in Ireland
Irish Name Register
Advice & Resources
Music & Songs
History & Archaeology
Heritage & Culture
News & Politics
Enter your e-mail address to receive our weekly e-Newsletter:
Cormac MacConnell - The West's Awake
A Plentiful Life Lived
October 22, 2008
The West's Awake by Cormac MacConnell
THE name on his birth certificate was Patrick Anthony Pacelli Murphy. His mother was a devout woman, and she added a good Pope’s Christian name to each of her seven children after they were born. That was for good luck both in this life and the next.
The Pacelli in Paddy Murphy’s name came from one of the Pius dynasty of Popes as far as I know. It did not really matter anyway because he was known to all and sundry as Paddy Plenty.
He was the most optimistic man in Ireland, maybe in Europe, all the days of his long life. I was up in Roscommon last weekend and I passed the graveyard he has been sleeping in for the last eight or nine years, and I thought of him for the first time in a while.
As you know we’ve had very little sunshine in recent months and lots of rain, but it was sunny when I passed the graveyard. When I was passing by (and I did cross myself) I thought that for sure Paddy’s spirit would be uttering something like, “Thank God we are getting plenty of sunshine today anyway.”
That was how he got his nickname. He could scarcely deliver a sentence without the word plenty being at the heart of it.
He had the nickname from his primary schooldays, according to what I was told by an old neighbor at the funeral. It seems that the bishop visited the school one Easter and in a gentle fashion was testing the religious knowledge of the young scholars like Paddy.
The bishop wanted to show how miraculous a thing it was for Jesus to feed a whole multitude with just five loaves and two small fishes, and he asked the class how many loaves and fishes did they think it would take to feed a thousand hungry pilgrims.
Up went small Paddy’s hand like a shot, and when the bishop nodded at him he replied, “Plenty!” And when the bishop asked him how much he would have eaten himself if he had been among the pilgrims he got the very same one-word answer.
And the nickname stuck to him forever after. And his speech pattern made sure that he earned it.
He was a good club footballer in his youth and was the captain of the senior team for his last two playing years. His rallying cry for his comrades was, “C’mon lads, give ‘em plenty of it!”
They did too because they won the county championship in his final season, and his photograph was in the Herald with the cup. The caption underneath read, “ Victorious captain Paddy (“Plenty”) Murphy with the Canon Agnew Cup after the presentation.”
There is this strange reality about Irish nicknames. Many men (and women too) live their lives without knowing they are nicknamed because these are only spoken behind their backs, never to their face.
In Paddy’s case he was probably more often addressed as Plenty than by his real Christian name. And always with real affection.
In his time and season he married Mai, inherited the home place and raised a family of five. He always had to work hard to manage that on a small place. The perennial optimism carried him through with some style.
In real times of hardship, if neighbors passing along the road were complaining, he would point to his vegetable garden and say, “Plant plenty of spuds and turnips and cabbage and carrots and kill a fat pig and we’ll always have plenty anyway.”
He was a staunch Fianna Failer, and the people asked him to run for the county council in real bad times in the fifties when there was scarcely a shilling in the whole parish. One Sunday after Mass his Fine Gael opponent landed an uppercut when he said, “We’re supposed to be living in the land of full and plenty and I bet all the change in all our pockets wouldn’t make up a single pound.”
Plenty was elected anyway and served two terms on the council. He did not say too much in the debates but did a lot of good work behind the scenes. In a way that led to what would have been a downfall for a lesser man.
He had to buy a small Ford to get to the council meetings and he was always a man that liked a pint. One October evening he was driving home somewhat erratically when he was stopped by the sergeant.
Old Saunderson asked him how much he had to drink and received the same one-word answer the bishop got!
Saunderson was of the Fine Gael persuasion as well, and one consequence was that Plenty was put off the road for two years. Maybe because of that (and it was a bit of a scandal too in those innocent times) he lost the council seat in the next election.
“Just as well,” were his rueful verdict afterwards. “After eight years I had plenty of it and I started to forget what Mai looked like.”
He quit active farming early enough, handed the place over to one of the sons, and qualified for one of those EC farmer’s pensions. “Now Mai and myself will have plenty of time to enjoy ourselves,” he said, and they did too for a while.
They went to New York for a holiday with a married daughter there, and when he came back he said it was a mighty city but you needed plenty of money there to get by “even though the Irish over there would hardly let you put your hand in your pocket, fair play to them.”
The son converted most of the farm into a state forest —”plenty of free Christmas trees nowadays” — and then he started up a small sawmill and his father helped out with the odd jobs around that project in his latter years.
The two of them got on very well together. “If you breed plenty of sons you are bound to get a good one or two. Jimmy is all right,” Plenty said.
Himself and Mai lived into their eighties, saw plenty of grandchildren, gently grew feeble and went into the same nursing home nearly in the same month. Mai died first, and he did not last out that winter.
They were buried side by side in that graveyard I passed by last weekend, two miles away from home.
The priest was a young priest not long in the parish I remember from the funeral, but he was very well briefed. During the homily he said what the Fine Gaeler said outside the same chapel all those years ago.
“Patrick has now already settled down with his beloved Mai in the land of eternal full and plenty.”
And there was that small ripple among the mourners that is appreciation for something said really well.
That’s plenty for ye now for another week!
Share this story:
Add to del.icio.us
Email a friend
© IrishAbroad.com 2009
Terms of Service
Add To My Site
| Bookmark us! (CTRL-D)
Use the code snippet below to link back to this page:
<a href="http://www.irishabroad.com/news/irish-voice/cormac/Articles/plentiful-life221008.aspx">A Plentiful Life Lived</a>