By Mattie Lennon
It was September 1939. Serious things were happening in the world but Fianna Fail was in power.
The Liffey Hydro-Electric Scheme was almost complete. The dam at Poulaphouca was in the final stages of construction. The sluice gate would be closed on October the first and flooding of the valley would begin.
Eamon De Valera decided that he would do a day’s trout-fishing in the King’s River before it was subsumed, by what was to be known as the Blessington Lakes, for ever. He called the head of the Irish Meteorological Service and inquired as to the weather forecast for the next few hours. The weatherman assured him that there was no chance of rain in the coming days. So, he headed off and parked his car in Blessington.
As he was walking across the Killeogh bog he met Jimmy Norton with a donkey and cart. Jimmy prefaced nearly every statement with, “what I mane to say”. “What I mane to say Sir,” says Jimmy, “ye should go back to your motor car, for it’s goin’ to teem outa the hoorin’ heavens.” Dev was polite to Jimmy and said : “I hold the head meteorologist in high regard. He is an extensively educated and experienced professional. And besides, we pay him very high wages. He gave me a very different forecast. I trust him and I will continue on my way.” So he kept going.
However, a short time later a torrential shower fell from the sky. De Valera was soaked to the skin. Not in the best of humour he returned to Dublin to sniggers in the office, behind his back, at how “the long-fellow got drenched.” He gave instructions that the head weatherman was to be dismissed at once.
A senior Cicil Servant was despatched to Ballinastockan to offer Jimmy Norton the prestigious and high paying role of chief- forecaster. “What I mane to say” said Jimmy, “I know nothin’ about weather forecasting, to tell you nothin’ only the fuckin truth. I get me information from the donkey. If I see me donkey’s ears drooping, it means with certainty that it will rain. “
The government hired the donkey. And so began the practice, whenever Fianna Fail was in power, of hiring asses to work in the government and occupy its highest and most influential positions.
(c) Mattie Lennon
Mattie Lennon was born in 1946 at Kylebeg, Lacken, Blessington. He spent the first 25 years of his life on a small farm, but moved to Dublin in 1971 to work at construction. Joining CIE in 1974 he worked as Conductor, Driver and Inspector until his retirement in January 2011. In 2005 he produced a DVD, Sunrise on the Wicklow Hills.
In 2006 Mattie edited ‘There’s Love and There’s Sex and There’s the 46A’ a collection of transport workers’ writings. In 2010 Mattie wrote ‘And All his Songs Were Sad’, a play based on the life and works of the late Sean McCarthy. It was staged by the Pantagleize Theatre Company in Fort Worth, Texas in October 2010.
Mattie Lennon has compiled and presented radio programmes for RTE, Radio Dublin KICK FM, Liffey Sound and WFU Radio in the Bronx. He recently edited a further collection of “Bus” writings, ‘It Happens Between Stops’. He now lives in Lucan, Co. Dublin.
Click here to go to Mattie Lennon’s website at http://mattielennon.com