We had our very own Denis the Menace in the family
No doubt the rest of you don’t have to wander too far back to boast of bishops, patriots, priests and politicians - whereas in my family there is a fractious roadblock at my grand-uncle, one Dinny Comaskey.
Dinny, was such a character that his sayings and exploits are still talked about right to this day. He had the sharpest tongue, the quickest wit and people got great mileage from him... unless of course those at whom his put-down or scam was directed.
The fact of the matter is that Dinny was a rogue, ruffian and scoundrel. Unlike all of his siblings, Dinny was a man without any scruples. Not only was he a black sheep, but he blackened black sheep. Like Thomas Tusser, he believed that ‘a fool and his money are easily parted’, or even more to the point he agreed with WC Fields, to ‘never give a sucker an even break’. My grand-uncle believed that separating people from their hard-earned money was fair game for him. He did not burgle, rob or steal; Dinny did it subtly, face to face, whilst always wearing a collar and tie. Money was there to be had by whatever means – except work, of course!
Auntie Betty called Dinny ‘Uncle Denis’ for a while, when the ball stopped at her name on the roulette wheel that was his rotating will. His farm was ‘sunk’ in about four different banks – and if there was such a thing as negative equity in those days - well, that’s where Dinny resided. The ‘favoured nephew/niece’ got changed regularly – depending on which one he was dangling the leaving of the land to at that particular time. In the finish up he left it to none of the family!
Dinny wasn’t all that young when he married a lady from a highly respectable family. The two Miss Holloways ran a restaurant – or ‘eating house’, as it was known in those days, in the village of Delvin. Dapper Dinny, resplendent in his swallow-tail coat and leather riding boots, rode his horse to town every day for drink. After a few tipples - the pinnacle of his good humour and charm, ‘Uncle Denis’ would enter the restaurant with a flourish not normally associated with a small town eating house. The sisters were charmed to bits; one was so smitten she became ‘Mrs Dinny’, and took up residence in Glaxtown – presumably with her share of the eating house in gold sovereigns or some other negotiable currency. Lizzie’s first night back at the ranch had a less than auspicious outcome – and certainly not one that a new bride was entitled to expect.
The welcoming home house party involved the taking of a fair sup of drink. Dinny liked Miss Holloway – but his first love was drink. As a result, the groom had to ‘lie down’ before all the guests had left. A few of the lads floated him to the room and berthed him on top of the new double bed. Not wishing to appear too eager, the bride waited until all guests had departed before making her way towards the marital bed, on which her brand new husband was sprawled in a comatose state and still fully clothed. But this turned out to be the least of the new Mrs Comaskey’s worries: there in the bedroom door, baring his teeth and snarling at the intruder was Dinny’s protective dog – which wasn’t in favour of any hanky-panky and stood guard over his master. Lizzie sat up all night by the kitchen fire!
My father was his only nephew and the only male line carrying on the name. For years he did loads of farm work for his uncle and without ever receiving a rex. ‘Isn’t it for yourself you are doing it, Johneen’, is what he was told at the conclusion of every chore. One day Daddy was ploughing when a Mullingar solicitor drove into the yard; and it was obvious that the will was about to be ‘freshened up’ again. When the legal eagle asked my father to sign as a witness he knew that his name had dropped off the leader board and there was no more ploughing!
Dinny was under threat to pay something on another occasion and went to a solicitor to see how he could get out of it. ‘My advice to you is to pay this debt,’ summarised his solicitor. As his client stood up to leave, the solicitor added, ‘and my advice is worth ten shillings’. ‘I suppose it is’, replied Dinny... ‘but I’m not going to take it’! And neither of them got paid!
I met Dinny once, when as a child I visited his house to see an old man drinking a bottle of stout in the corner. God, I’m great to be as good as I am!
Most family trees have a shady branch.
- Bernie Comaskey, email@example.com
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06 Aug 2013Sitting in his office on Bishopgate Street surrounded by files and papers, in a suit four inches too big for him, even though it was only purchased seven weeks ago, is Willie Penrose, almost half the man he used to be.