Dol­phin­less Din­gle days


Fingal Independent - - INTERVIEW -

MORE than 30 years ago a young man from Din­gle moved to Rolestown and be­came one of the lo­cal Na­tional School’s most beloved teach­ers and after chart­ing the so­cial history of his adopted home some years ago, Carl O’Fla­herty has turned his cre­ative hand to record­ing the sto­ries of his youth and up­bring­ing in his na­tive Kerry.

In most houses around Rolestown you will find a copy of Carl’s last book which de­tailed some of the rich so­cial history of the area and his lat­est book is en­joy­ing a sim­i­lar re­ac­tion in his na­tive Din­gle where lo­cal fam­i­lies are grab­bing their copy of the book, if only to see if they are men­tioned in it.

Din­gle’s most fa­mous Dol­phin adorns the cover of the book but dear old Fungie does not fea­ture in the book beyond that be­cause th­ese are tales of Din­gle be­fore the bot­tle-nosed tourist draw ar­rived in town.

Carl be­gan putting the book to­gether as he stepped back from his work with Fin­gal Ravens foot­ball club to al­low his two boys take to the field of play for the lo­cal club with­out their fa­ther shout­ing at them as a coach.

The Rolestown NS teacher said he is not a his­to­rian but the book is a so­cial history of where he grew up and the sto­ries he col­lected ‘ talk­ing and lis­ten­ing to peo­ple’ at the fam­ily pub in Din­gle where he was told to ‘shut up and be quiet and lis­ten to the cus­tomers’.

The Ker­ry­man took that ad­vice se­ri­ously and thanks to his open ears, ‘Din­gle Be­fore Fungie Came to Town’ is a col­lec­tion of the sto­ries, char­ac­ters, traditions and places that made up a Din­gle youth.

Carl told the Fin­gal In­de­pen­dent: ‘Be­ing born and raised in a bar where you are told as a young fel­low to shut up and be quiet and lis­ten to the cus­tomers, there was an in­cred­i­ble amount of cus­tomers and char­ac­ters there go­ing back 50 years ago that were big­ger than life and th­ese were the peo­ple I lis­tened to and picked up all of their sto­ries.’

Re­mem­ber­ing the Din­gle of his child­hood, Carl said: ‘It was a Din­gle of very lit­tle trans­port and no com­mu­ni­ca­tions, very lit­tle tele­vi­sion. It was the Ire­land of 50 years ago and as young peo­ple we passed our time walk­ing around the town and we walked the beaches and went up the hills be­side us - it was Par­adise Lost re­ally.

‘I said it in one of the sto­ries, ‘ The Ram­ble to the Light­house’ that we were the last gen­er­a­tion that as Bob Mar­ley would say, our feet were our only car­riage. We all walked and ram­bled and am­bled and played foot­ball. We had to make our own en­ter­tain­ment and our own games and it was an in­cred­i­ble rich en­vi­ron­ment in which to grow up.’

It was a bi-lin­gual place too where Ir­ish was spo­ken on a daily ba­sis as Carl re­mem­bered: ‘We were what’s called ‘ townie Ir­ish’ - there wasn’t a day when there wasn’t Ir­ish spo­ken in our house and in the bar. As busi­ness peo­ple in Din­gle, you had to have Ir­ish. It wasn’t about the lan­guage, it was just com­merce and you had to speak Gaelic if they spoke it to you.

‘You would think Din­gle peo­ple have no Ir­ish un­til some­thing comes on Ra­dio na Gaeltachta that they are in­ter­ested in and sud­denly they are all lis­ten­ing and then they turn off and talk English again so there are th­ese bi-lin­gual con­ver­sa­tions go­ing on all the time and there is a great story in the book about that ac­tu­ally.’

Carl has al­ways had great time for the peo­ple we all know as ‘char­ac­ters’ and he tells the story of a run in he had with just such a char­ac­ter, as a youth work­ing in the fam­ily pub .

The lo­cal teacher said: ‘ There is a great char­ac­ter in the book, and ev­ery town has one. He was called Deniseen Houli­han and he could do any­thing. He was the first line of call for the women of the town if you wanted your sewer un­blocked or you needed white­wash­ing, or your kit­tens to be drowned, you needed a pup, you needed a sal­mon to be tick­led and brought back to the ta­ble - Deniseen could do all those jobs and it was sec­ond na­ture to him.

‘It was al­right be­ing a char­ac­ter but when you worked in­side the bar you dealt with th­ese char­ac­ters for four hours ev­ery evening, for seven days a week and for eight years, as I did with Deniseen, and all of a sud­den the char­ac­ter be­comes the bane of your life. ‘ The great con­test is be­tween me and the lo­cal char­ac­ter - the man with the na­tive cun­ning ver­sus the col­lege boy and there was only go­ing to be one win­ner and that was Deniseen - he took me to the clean­ers.

‘I barred him and Deniseen be­lieved he was the first line of Bord Fáilte and do­ing his bit for tourism and he would take out his mouth or­gan and play away but he was very slow to leave the bar at clos­ing time which of course, brought the gar­daí into us and they put pres­sure on me.

‘ This went on night in and night out un­til even­tu­ally, I barred Deniseen and he told me: ‘Je­sus Christ kid­die, you’re worse than blight.’ Well, in a town like Din­gle where the Famine was so preva­lent and there’s the Famine grave­yard that’s there on the back of the book where 8,000 of our towns­peo­ple are buried, to say you are worse than blight showed where I was in Deniseen’s book.

‘But char­ac­ters have great sto­ries and have a great view of life and they root us in what we are re­ally. They root us and tell us who we are and we should have re­spect for them and lis­ten to their sto­ries. I could win­kle a story out of any­one by lis­ten­ing to them.’

Grow­ing up in Din­gle gave Carl a life-long love of na­ture and he’s well known around Rolestown for bring­ing hoards of school­child­ren on

na­ture walks where a but­ter­fly or two might be cap­tured.

His love of na­ture, of Ir­ish cul­ture and the lan­guage all en­rich his teach­ing and mean that his north county Dublin pupils get a solid ap­pre­ci­a­tion of all of those im­por­tant cor­ner­stones of who we are as a peo­ple.

He sees par­al­lels be­tween the Din­gle of his child­hood and the ru­ral com­mu­nity that Rolestown still is to­day. Carl said: ‘Both ar­eas are ab­so­lutely stepped in cul­ture. You have the mum­mers here, for ex­am­ple and we have the wren boys in Din­gle. Our foot­ball club here in Fin­gal Ravens was started by Farmer Ka­vanagh and Kiddo go­ing out with the mum­mers and col­lect­ing for geansaís for the Ravens and we did the same things in Din­gle.

‘If we keep close to our her­itage and keep close to our GAA club... Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine - we all live in each other’s shadow and that’s what makes us a re­mark­able lit­tle com­mu­nity, is our ap­pre­ci­a­tion of our her­itage and our peo­ple and who we are and if we keep that, we will keep strong. ‘ There’s an in­cred­i­ble link be­tween the two places. I’m bring­ing foot­ball teams to Din­gle from here for 32 years. Butsy Daly and our chair­man, Peter Ket­tle will be able to re­count to you days around Din­gle play­ing foot­ball and now they are bring­ing their chil­dren down there and those links are still go­ing on.

‘It’s a link I think they all want to main­tain. I re­mem­ber, God be good to him, An­drew Ket­tle com­ing down and he had an in­tense cu­rios­ity about what was hap­pen­ing down in Kerry. He could go into any pub down there and talk Gaelic foot­ball and he spoke the lan­guage and loved it and loved to be ap­pre­ci­ated as a fel­low Ir­ish per­son.’

Andy Ket­tle was an iconic fig­ure in Fin­gal Ravens and was the chair of the Dublin GAA’s county board when he sadly passed away in De­cem­ber of 2014.

An­drew knew Carl was writ­ing this book and was to be the one to launch it for him in Rolestown. Sadly, that could not hap­pen but Andy’s son and the cur­rent chair­per­son of Fin­gal Ravens GAA Club, Peter Ket­tle stepped in to do the job and Carl thanked him for the kind words he spoke on a spe­cial night in Ket­tle’s Coun­try House Ho­tel where the book had its sec­ond launch after a sim­i­lar event down the fam­ily pub in Din­gle. Carl also thanked lo­cal man and a great sup­porter of this com­mu­nity, Pat McDon­agh for his help in get­ting the book out. If you want to pick up a copy of Carl’s new book, it’s avail­able from Day­break in Ro­le­town or from Rolestown Na­tional School or if you are down Din­gle way as this re­porter was re­cently, you can pick it up at O’Fla­herty’s beau­ti­ful bar.


Ciaran McCul­lagh (left), Aaron Lee, Faye Canny, Ash­ling Parkin­son, Han­nah Kate Don­nelly and Tom Ryan with Carl O’Fla­herty at his book launch in Ket­tle’s Coun­try House Ho­tel.

Carl O’Fla­herty at his book launch in Ket­tle’s Coun­try House Ho­tel.

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