WARTS AN’ ALL
An entertainment by Tom Power
and Tom O’Brien
(c) 2017 Tom Power & Tom O’Brien
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or
transmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of the publishers,
except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed by a
newspaper, journal or magazine.
Published by tomtom-theatre3
A Bar somewhere in rural Ireland
JOHN, an aged man, with a younger friend, MICK, in the bar, waiting for friend JACK, from
England. MAGGIE is behind the bar.
All scenes take place in the bar
JOHN: Two pints please Maggie; I must say you’re looking good tonight.
MAGGIE: Plamás will get you nowhere.
JOHN: You never know your luck in a strange town, if I was a day younger I’d ask you out.
MAGGIE: Maybe if you add a few years to that day I might think about it. You’re in a good mood
tonight, and this town isn’t strange, the only thing strange ‘round here is you and your books and
poetry, I see you have a few of them with you.
JOHN: Yes Maggie, I’m in good mood, it’s been a good day and hopefully a better night. I’m
meeting a friend, Jack and his wife here tonight, well an internet friend, although we were in
England at the same time years ago, I never met him or his wife, and the good news is, he’s an
author, playwright, and a poet as well, and good at them all.
We became friends through email, and exchanging our books and poems.
And would you believe, I was in Waterford today, and as I was walking up through the apple
market, I heard someone call my name, I turned around, and there she was Tess, another friend I
knew in England, and who I haven’t seen for many years. I’m meeting her for a chat in the Tower
Hotel tomorrow night. So tonight, Mick will sing a few songs, I will read a few poems and a page or
two from my books and Jack will do the same, and a good time will be had by all, and maybe a
dance or two.
MAGGIE: Here’s your two pints, and don’t save the last dance for me.
JOHN: Ah now Maggie, it’s got to be rock ‘n roll music if you want to dance with me, you can
keep your ould line dancing, that’s only for the older generation.
MAGGIE: Older generation? And you’re not?
JOHN: Only on the outside Maggie…only on the outside. Come on Mick. Let’s take these two pints
to a quiet table, and you can tune up that guitar.4
John and Mick at the table, Mick tuning his guitar, John taking a slug from his pint
JOHN: Ah. That’s good I needed that.
MICK: How is your poetry C/D going?
JOHN: It’s doing alright, it got a great review in the Munster Express from Liam Murphy, and the
Americans love it, a shower of begrudgers around here, “I knew him when he had no arse in his
trousers, and he thinning turnips at twelve, and now he’s writing poetry, ‘tis far from poetry he was
MICK: The girl you met in town…her and you were ye? I mean…
JOHN: Ah Mick, spit it out, yes we were an item for a while… a beautiful girl, Tess.
I met her on the Easter Monday bank holiday, at the travelling fair on the edge of Hampstead
Heath; there were always a fair there over the Easter bank holiday, merry-go -rounds, hurdy-gurdys,
coconut stalls, swings, chair-o-planes, and of course the bumpers, all the fun of the fair as they say,
you could say she bumped into me. I was showing my skills on the bumpers, when bang! From
behind and there she was smiling at me.
MICK: Hang on; wait till I get a refill.
Mick goes to the bar.
MICK: Pull another two pints Maggie.
MAGGIE: John’s in a good mood tonight, I’d never tell him, but his book is good, and I enjoy his
poetry, I suppose he and his friend will read a few poems tonight.
MICK: I’m sure they will Maggie, and I’ll sing a few songs. At his age, if you like his books and
poetry, you should tell him, you may not get the chance again.
Mick brings the two pints to the table
MICK: Now oil your vocals cords with that, and tell me more about this fair.
JOHN: Ah yes, the famous Hampstead Easter fair, well as I was saying, she hit me a right clatter,
and when I looked around there she was smiling at me, well needless to say I chased her down, and
then we gave each other a right bashing around that circuit. I bought her candy floss, and won her a
gold fish at the coco nut stall. That’s how we met; we were together for about two months, nothing
serious, just on and off, some weekends I’d see her, and other weekends she was…well, I don’t
know, somewhere else.
MICK: Or with someone else, what happened, did you break it off?5
JOHN: No…No, I don’t know what happened, we were dancing in the Galtymore on Saturday
night, I told her I had to go to Birmingham on a job for a week, we arranged to meet in The Rifle
Volunteer in Kilburn high road the following Saturday night, she never turned up. And I haven’t
seen her since. I enquired around; it was rumoured she had gone back to Ireland for a funeral, or
something, maybe she stayed there. Anyway I moved back to Birmingham with the job, and stayed
there for two years and then came back here.
MICK: Maybe she’ll explain all tomorrow night.
JOHN: Maybe, Mick, maybe, anyway some good came out of it, that poem I wrote that you put a
tune to; I wrote it a few weeks afterwards.
MICK: You mean, “Permanent Tear”.
JOHN: That’s the one.
MICK: Will I sing it now?
JOHN: Not yet Mick, wait till Jack gets here.
A man enters the pub, he looks around and John sees him
JOHN: Well, speak of the devil, I think that’s him, Jack? Over here.
Jack walks to the table reaches out to shake hands with John
JACK: John? Yes it is you, I recognise you from your face book photo, great to meet you, and I’ve
been looking forward to it.
JOHN: Me too, you’re on your own?
JACK: Yes. Theresa, my wife is meeting Mary, a friend of hers, she dropped me off, and she’ll call
JOHN: This is my friend Mick, a musician and songwriter, he put a tune to a few of my poems.
MICK: Great to meet you, John has been telling me all about you it’s not every day we have two
writers in this neck of the woods.
JACK: Just dabblers Mick, dabblers, that’s all.6
MICK: Oh ye’re more than dabblers, I’ve read your book “Cricklewood Cowboys”, and I went to
see your play “Johnjo”, and I’ve read some of your poems, I’ve read John’s two books, “The
Mysterious John Grey”, and “Dust Covered Memories” and I have his C/D “The Spoken Word”.
JOHN: Let me get you a drink, what are you having?
JACK: A pint of Guinness.
John goes to the counter.
JOHN: Three pints of Guinness please Maggie.
MAGGIE: So that’s your friend Jack, writer, playwright and poet.
JOHN: And he’s good at it too.
MAGGIE: I’ll take these to the table for you.
JOHN: Thanks Maggie.
John returns to the table.
JACK: I suppose we’ve done alright for turnip thinners John, especially outside of Ireland. How
much a drill did they pay you?
JOHN: Hah! Pay? Farmers would pay ya nothing, boy! Only barely enough for a ticket on the
cattle boat. Maybe it’s because we are turnip thinners we haven’t done well here, if we had a higher
education we might be more successful here.
JACK: Nothing new in that John, it’s in the bible, Luke…And I quote “Truly I say to you, no
prophet is accepted in his homeland.”
JOHN: I’ll have to take your word for that, Jack!
MICK: I think here we are more inclined to judge people by their background, not on their work.
Maggie, coming towards the table, overhears
MAGGIE: I’d say prophets are scarce on the ground around here.
JOHN: Ah now Maggie, I’m sure many prophets down through the years have rested their elbow
on that counter.7
MAGGIE: They have exercised their elbow no doubt, the only thing you hear them prophesying
around here is the latest price they might get from the Mart, the milk price from Glanbia, or who’s
going to win a hurling match, or what horse is going to win at Leopardstown.
JOHN: Speaking of Leopardstown… I was in a pub with a friend not far from here, we were
discussing poetry and of course Yeats was mentioned. The barman overheard us and said, he had
some win yesterday, did ye have him backed? I said, no, I didn’t think he was in a fit state to run.
He answered, oh he ran alright, and ran well, flew past the post. I got off the stool and said, “I will
arise and go now.” My friend said, to Innishfree? I answered, no, outside to bang my head of the
wall a few times.
JACK: No wonder your brain is rattled, but bar rooms such as this, has provided many writers with
inspiration down through the years. Behan, Dylan Thomas, Hemingway, Fitzgerald. Myles Na
Gopaleen, and, of course, Paddy Kavanagh…
You do not come down that road anymore
Past the ash trees where the gap in the hedge revealed
Your blue dress trimming to the bottom of Callan’s field
And the free-wheel of your bicycle likes the whirr
Of the breeze in the black sallies. If you could see
The clay of time falling away from my feet
When you appeared this side of Callan’s gate,
Ah yes, Paddy wrote some of his greatest poetry while under the influence of Arthur Guinness.
MICK: And songwriters as well. Many a great lyric was found at the bottom of an empty whiskey
bottle. Could a non drinker have written? “Sunday Morning Coming Down” could a snowball
survive in hell? Christopherson was reliving his experience in that song.
JACK: And speaking of that great man Mick, would you sing that song for us?
Mick picks up and tunes his guitar, then sings
On a Sunday morning sidewalks, wishin’ lord, that I was stoned,
‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday, makes a body feel alone,
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’, half as lonesome as the sound,
On the sleepin’ city sidewalks, Sunday mornin’ comin’ down…
JACK: Great Mick, that brings me back… Kilburn High Road, Camden Town, Shepherds Bush,
and many the Irishman, smoking and coughing his way to the nearest pub for a cure, and company
on Sunday morning
JOHN: Anyone who was ever drunk on a Saturday night can relate to that song. My friends and I
used to meet in the Pembroke Arms in Chalk Farm on Sunday morning, pints of Guinness, and 8
cheddar cheese and crackers on the counter, that was our breakfast, Kenny Rodgers and Ruby on the
jukebox. You’re right about the company Jack, bedsits, or dosshouses can be lonely places, the pub
provided company. Was that what Pierce and Connelly and their comrades fought for? So that
Ireland’s sons and daughters could get pissed in some lonely city on a Saturday night, Ireland
answer to unemployment…emigration, to England, Australia, America, or any part of the world
where work was to be found. And that brings to mind a poem I wrote some years ago, it’s called
RETURNING, so here goes.
Down the road he walked, and there just ‘round the bend, stood an ivy covered ruin that was his
Thousands of miles he travelled, for something seemed to call, the voices of his ancestors, born
within that old stone wall,
As he stands outside that place, now empty and decayed, he looks around at quiet fields, where his
forebears worked and played.
From dawn to fall of night, so hard they had to toil, for their food upon the table they depended on
Then there came a year, when the potato crops all failed, from valley and from mountain the
agonised all wailed.
The spectre of starvation cast its shadow across the land, thousands died from hunger, while others
lived so grand.
Evicted and burned out, cast on to the side of the road, families torn asunder, dying in the wet and
Ragged covered walking bones, not dead…yet not alive, scavenging the countryside, desperate to
Ireland turned to America in those grief filled years; you threw her out a lifeboat when she was
swamped in tears;
Our hard working sons and daughters found refuge on your shore, you gave to them a welcome, and
you never closed you doors.
They sailed across the Atlantic, from hunger and from strife, in our darkest hour you were a guiding
A real good friend and neighbour, you helped them through the pain, you gave a home and work,
restored their pride again.
And there they worked so hard, they shed sweat, tears and blood, they helped to build your railroad
across mountain, plain and flood.
They joined your armed forces, fought for the stars and stripes, and when you lost John Kennedy,
they cried with you that night.
You took in our emigrants, they proved loyal and true, you gave to them a home, and they gave
back to you.
Distinguished sons and daughters, who worked with heart and hand, descendants of those
emigrants, became presidents of your land.9
And now some are returning to their forebear’s native soil, but not in rags and poverty, they return
And lands that once were barren are now bountiful again, but the famines not forgotten here, or the
poverty and pain.
And as you walk among us and trod your forebear’s sod, we will all remember those who died in
field and bog,
America we will remember it was you who gave the call, and said come on I’ll help you there’s
plenty here for all.
JACK: True John, so true, but to paraphrase W B Yeats, all has changed, utterly changed under
Trump, a terrible narcissist blowhard has arrived.
JOHN: But how long will he stay! The world looked up to America, but now I get the feeling,
America is being laughed at; anyway Jack, as the actress said to the bishop, what’s that you have in
Jack holding some papers in his hand says.
JACK: This is something I wrote on the way over. I’m not saying it’s true…but maybe some of it is
JOHN: Get away with ya! You never told the truth in your life! Shure what writer does?
JACK: It’s called THERE WERE NO FAST WOMEN ONLY SLOW HORSES.
I like to kid myself that my current losing streak began back in 1973, the year Crisp got
mugged in the Grand National by Red Rum. I stood to win a small fortune, having backed
him at price at up to 20/1 from Christmas onwards. Instead I lost a small fortune, which
increased somewhat when my rented telly sailed through the open window and disintegrated
in the back garden shortly after Red Rum passed Crisp yards from the winning post.
In truth, the rot had set in well before then. Probably in 1962, the year Kilmore won the
National, and I had a shilling each way at 28/1. Kilmore had been bred and trained in the
area before being sold to England, and everyone in the county seemed to know it was going
In hindsight, I should have quit then while I was ahead.
The rot had well and truly taken hold by 1968. By now I had followed Kilmore’s hooves to
England. The Land of small shovels and big money, as I was led to believe. I fetched up in
London, where a stint as a painter at Highbury Stadium convinced the foreman that a dog
wagging his tail could do a better job. Still, jobs were ten a penny in those days, and I decided
to try my luck as a barman.10
Barmen work long hours, but there was always free time in the afternoons – and where better
to while away an afternoon than my friendly local bookies? Barry Brogan, David Mould, Ron
Hutchinson, I cursed them all – and the three-legged nags they rode when my money was
down. And pretty soon not just my money but the pub’s as well. It wasn’t very difficult to
divert some of the takings from the till to my pockets.
The surprise was that they made it so easy for me. One obliging manager even gave me the
weekend’s takings to bank for him: I got on a bus and didn’t stop till I was in Soho!
That became my modus operandi; gain their trust till they let you near the money – and then
One particular Epsom Derby meeting was very profitable for me. I managed to land a job at
the Tattenham Corner House, which overlooked the course, in the week leading up to the
Derby. The weather was warm and the punters thirsty, and by the time the meeting was over
everyone was knackered. At closing time, the manager decided to dispense with the usual
‘reckoning up’ of the tills, and to treat the staff to a party instead. And guess who was given
the job of locking the tills away in the safe?
I couldn’t believe how much money was in that safe. I stuffed bundles in every conceivable
carrying place, locked the safe, and then excused myself from the party, feigning a migraine.
I then slipped out a side door, walked to the nearest bus stop, and was in central London in
less than an hour.
I had fun while the money lasted, but this was tempered by the sense of shock I felt when I
was eventually caught and sentenced to eighteen months in goal. It was a salutary lesson, but
it didn’t stop my gambling. I found it quite easy to gamble in prison; the only difference that
the currency was tobacco not money. I soon discovered that losing ‘snout’ was just as easy as
losing money. And when I finished my sentence and was deported, I found my losing streak
just as easy to maintain back in Ireland.
John: Christ Jack, for years we have been exporting our young people to England, he must
be the first one they sent back.
JACK: Yes John…and in the police car on the way to the plane, Elvis was singing, return to
sender. Not that he hung around here too long; London was a great place for those with little
inclination to get out of bed in the morning, and as the time of the first race usually dictated
when I got up, I was soon back there. When I was really desperate, there was always a day’s
work to be had digging holes for some Irish subby, with cash in your hand at the end of the
shift and no questions asked?
Monday mornings were a sight to behold; bleary-eyed and broke we gathered, at the Crown
in Cricklewood or the Nags Head in Camden Town, our only trait in common that we were
looking for a ‘start’ – and, more importantly, a sub. In my case, enough to tide me over until
the next win came along. With others it was the drink – the ‘Diesel’.
MICK: You should have tried the dogs, Jack.11
JACK: Well now Mick I did… I did. Hendon, White City, Hackney, I tried them all, and
came out poorer but no wiser.
I occasionally bumped into Jack Doyle at the White City, usually with some old ‘duchess’ on
his arm. Jack had come a long way down in the world since his heyday at the same venue,
when 90,000 came to see him fight Eddie Philips. And another 100,000 outside, if you
Asked what his downfall was it was always the same reply; ‘fast women and slow horses’
JOHN: A fellow gave me a tip onetime; he said it was a sure thing.
MICK: Did you back it?
JOHN: No I didn’t, I said thanks very much, but I don’t back women or ride horses. Sorry
Jack, carry on.
JACK: Park Royal was my favourite dog track. It was there that I almost made my fortune.
When I couldn’t afford the admission I watched the racing from the roof of a nearby disused
factory which overlooked the track, and that was how I discovered that fast starters were
seldom caught. A dog a couple of lengths clear at halfway invariably won. I also discovered
something else; the commentaries in the nearby betting shop were at least half a minute
behind the real thing. Most dog races were nearly over in 30 seconds!
The answer of course was walkie-talkies. My friend – let’s call him Larry – and I acquired a
couple of these gadgets from a store in Marble Arch and soon the money was rolling in.
Of course not all selections won; but at least half of them did – which was more than enough
for us to be rolling in it. I proceeded to give most of it back again to William Hill and Co,
until Larry suggested we go in for ‘furniture removals’.
It was a brilliant scheme; we invested in a van, Larry inspected empty properties on the
pretext of buying them, then we had keys cut. We then proceeded to order furniture and
kitchen equipment on the never-never – which we were never-never going to pay for, waited
for its delivery, and promptly removed it again. Unfortunately for us, two things happened
almost simultaneously: Larry crashed the van and broke his leg in several places, and Park
Royal dog track was sold for re-development. End of dream.
MICK: Fair play Jack, you certainly led a colourful life, if only half that is true is it?
JACK: I couldn’t possibly comment!
JOHN: I remember Jack Doyle. They say he was a better singer than boxer.
JACK: My mother was a better boxer! He had only one punch, and God help you if he hit
you with it. In one fight he threw a haymaker, deliberately missed, and went flying out of the
ring. He was counted out sitting on some poor fellas lap. A technical knock-out. The only
fighter in history to knock himself out!12
JOHN: Another one of De Valera’s finest exports who had to cross the water to make a
name for himself.
MICK: Of course a lot have emigrated, but I don’t think we can blame Pierce and Connelly –
or Dev – for that, or for when people over indulge; Pierce and Connolly eventually got what
they set out to get, Independence.
JACK: Independence! What Independence? If you think we have, or ever had independence,
you’re suffering from delusions.1916 was a disorganised skirmish that was an inconvenience to the
majority of Dublin citizens and killed many of them. If the English had not executed the leaders it
would have been quickly forgotten, that act of execution turned the people of the Country in favour
of the revolution. I agree they had a vision of Independence but how it turned out is entirely
JOHN: I think you’re right Jack. Pearse might be happy enough with the outcome, he got what he
wanted, a rosary reciting right wing Catholic country, but I think Connolly is turning in his grave,
Connolly was a socialist and his vision of an independent Ireland was not an Ireland run by the
MICK: We are not run by the Church, they might have had a say in something’s, but overall we
have been run by successive Governments down through the years, since Independence we’ve had a
free and vibrant country.
JOHN: Never free, never vibrant. What the visionaries of 1916 had in mind never came to pass. De
Valera handed over the running of the Country to the Catholic church, we got rid of the Monarchy
of England and accepted the Monarchy of Rome, and when we threw the shackles of Rome away,
we were ensnared by the EU, and every Government since England left, be they Fianna Fail, Fine
Gael, or Coalition, has handed the running of the country to Rome first and then the EU, our liberty
never got off the ground
JACK: And the Troika walked down O Connell Street, but then we were always used to the Troika
here, we’ve had our own Troika for years, The Catholic church, Fianna Fail, and the GAA. Between
them back in the forties, fifties, and sixties, they turned us into a North Korea, brainwashed by afore
mentioned Troika; we were living in the teapot and looking out the spout. But then Sean Lemass
took over from De Valera and lifted the lid of the teapot and let the light in, and we were
enlightened, and it seemed at last after all the years of emigration and poverty, we had arrived.
JOHN: Jobs were created, emigration was down, and prosperity walked every street, road, and
boreen. And the GAA lifted the ban on what they referred to as foreign games, a code name for
soccer and rugby. Because foreign games weren’t banned, American football is more of a foreign
game here in Ireland that soccer and rugby ever was, and they allowed that game to be played in
Croke Park. So things were looking good, GAA people could attend a soccer or rugby match and 13
not be ostracised in their own parish. The future looked bright… and then we had Charlie, and then
Bertie arrived, and with him a return of the Troika, but not a home grown Troika, but a foreign one.
JACK: Bertie Ahern? He was some tulip
TO BE CONTINUED…