“ The Duke” a true diamond
My Dad Garry, passed away on this day twenty one years ago . The smoking ban coming too late for him .He had worked all his life as a barman and had been a smoker himself but despite giving them up in his early twenties as the doctor said to him when he was diagnosed with emphysema “You are a passive smoker” “might as well have been smoking twenty a day as your working in a bar”. His advice to me when he caught me smoking was to “Give them up now before you really get started”, needless to say his advice went up in smoke. Un-headed for a couple of years and probably a couple of grand later thankfully I gave up.
Even though my dad was born before Andy Wahol made his now infamous quote in 1968 “In the future everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes” my dad’s claim to fame apart from being called the Duke for his uncanny resemblance to the queen of England’s husband the Duke of Edinburgh. Was he had been born in Holles Street Hospital Dublin despite his mother coming from Carlow they suspected she was having twins due to her large size (it was 1930 before scans.) was duly brought to Dublin where my lone father was born weighing in at more than thirteen pounds.( A good sized turkey) A record for the Holles Street at the time. A record he managed to hold onto for a couple of years.
Christmas in our house was always special as my dad loved Christmas as it was the only time in the year when he had two days off in a row apart from holidays. Or maybe it had something to do with being born the size of a turkey. Because my dad was a barman we always got a couple of red trays of real Coca –Cola. There was something special in popping the cap yourself and watching the bubbles make that special brown froth before you guzzled down the full glass much to the annoyance of your parents. After all the Cola was consumed which did not take very long, as we were a family of eight kids (Three hundred and seventy five children on our road it was a riotous place on Christmas morning) it was back to Taylor Keith lemonade and cream soda. My dad would also have a couple of glass soda- water fountains for the whiskey drinkers (it was before soda stream was invented.) and we would get to squirt this into the glass. Not an easy thing to do as you had to use the right amount of pressure otherwise too much soda went into the glass and Mr O Brien from next door would give you the dirty look having drowned his whiskey. After mass all the neighbours were invited in and they would have a few drinks before they were sent home late, for their Christmas dinner. After we had scoffed the Christmas dinner, and had the afternoon snooze our aunts and uncles would come for tea. Then after the Maureen Potter show was watched on telly (black and white) the holey would begin and the sing song would go on for half the night. Everybody would be in good spirits. They say my dad had a heavy hand (he did not use a sprit measure) for a barman. He loved to see people enjoying themselves especially at Christmas. We still gather a as a family every Christmas morning in the family home to toast our absent friends and The Duke.
Shortly before my dad passed away he spent some time in Beaumont Hospital and on one particular Saturday night he was in intensive care and was very unwell. The doctors advised us to go home and get some rest as we lived close to the hospital, which we duly did. The next morning we went up and when we went into the ward my dad was propped up wires coming out of him from all directions but he was smiling and he had a set of headphones on. The sister on the ward said he had come round but being unable to speak he was on a ventilator. He had scrawled out a note saying “Sunday Miscellany” the nurse he had given it too had not understood what it meant and on showing it to someone else they said “Ah that’s that stupid programme on RTE radio that my father and mother listen to every Sunday morning”
Now twenty years on as I walk the hill of Howth on Sunday mornings with my headphones on and tuned to that wonderful and (stupid to my children)programme “Sunday Miscellany “ my famous dad “The Duke” walks with me.
P.S There is a plaque on the basement wall in Holles Street with my dad’s name and birth year on it.