For the 2023 Gentleman’s Jolly we returned to one of our favourite routes, a gentle stroll from Rosscarbery to Leap, visiting various hostelries along the way for refreshment and entertainment. The last time we went on this route we enjoyed gentle breezes, the sun on our faces and a generally enjoyable experience. This year, however, the Gentlemen endured an ordeal worthy of one of those old songs that goes on for ever, if only someone had been sober enough to compose it. This brief report will have to do.
The ordeal started, ominously enough, before we had even met up. The original plan was to meet in Nolan’s in Rosscarbery Square, enjoy a few libations, and then set off on our jaunt. Since the Gentlemen were coming from all points of the compass, both severally and together, some measure of communication was necessary to pass on this vital information. Only an hour before we were due to meet up, the dreadful news came over WhatsApp that Nolan’s had actually burned to the ground a couple of days before (well, a small fire in the fusebox, but the pub was shut). What should have been regarded as a dreadful portent for the travails to come was blithely ignored by the resolute Gentlemen, and word was passed to convey our carriages to the Abbey Bar instead.
Alas, when the first Gentlemen arrived at the Abbey Bar, its doors, too, were shuttered—it didn’t open until the evening—and we turned in desperation to O’Brien’s across the Square. (It is rumoured that there are still a few Gentlemen wandering the windswept streets of Rosscarbery looking for the rest of us—perhaps they could be returned to their rightful owners in due course.) With the susurrating murmur of the commentators on the horseracing on the television as background, the Gentlemen began to gather. Unfortunately, outside, the clouds also began to gather …
O’Briens is not the brightest hostelry in the land. Situated in a terrace, it has a Northerly aspect and the windows are shaded by the louring lime trees planted in the square. However, it was with some degree of trepidation that the assembled Gentlemen realised that it was much brighter inside the pub than it was outside, and that the gathering clouds had all but blotted out the sun—day had become as night. It began to rain, not, dear reader, the gentle rain of summer’s ease, but a sheeting sideways b*stard mid-November type washout. The Treasurer, being generally an astute and sound fellow (who is also writing this report), opined that there was a bus leaving from the Celtic Ross at ten minutes past the hour, and the Gentlemen would do well to be on it when it left, and arrive at their destination in good order. His wise counsel was ignored and Mr. Mulhall (for I believe it was he) said that “Sure, ‘tis but a shower”. Never was the phrase “head in the clouds” more apt. At Mr Mulhall’s great elevation it may well have appeared to be an inconsequential precipitation, but to the more vertically challenged of our gathering, the rising waters represented a far more existential threat.
Sartorially ill-equipped as we were for such unseasonal downpours, one enterprising member repaired to the local emporium and returned with a roll of black plastic bin-liners, from which a couple of Gentlemen fashioned waterproof overcoats. Yet another repaired to the fashion boutique across the road and returned sporting a fetching ladies’ hat with discreet floral decoration. So equipped, and optimistically regarding a slight easing of the downpour as a likely cessation (and no doubt fuelled by Dutch courage), we ventured out into the storm …
Within minutes of leaving the calm of O’Briens, the deluge renewed with, if anything, increased ferocity. To say the rain was coming at us parallel to the ground was only untrue because we were walking down a steep hill. Dear readers, we girded the parts that you gird, put shoulders to the onslaught and trudged into the unknown …
Braced against the wind and driving rain we battled. Fortunately the Rowry Bridge had not been swept away in the storm and, having made the river crossing, we began the long climb towards Leap and safety. Half-blinded by the deluge, and aiding each other through the swamps and mud, we reached a gate halfway along where supplies had been left to fortify us on our journey. It was surprising how, in the midst of all this water, one could rack up a decent thirst and, with a bottle each in our hand, we toasted our survival of the ordeal so far. It was at this point that several farmers drove by in separate vehicles. Through the frantic wash of their windscreen wipers they would have seen a peculiar sight—a diverse and motley crew, some dressed in what must have looked like silage wrap and floral hats, drinking ale from green bottles, halfway along a boreen in the middle of a biblical downpour. Perhaps viewing us as recent escapees from the local asylum, they ruefully shook their heads and waved sad and slightly concerned waves (while making sure the doors to their vehicles were well locked), and accelerated away as fast as possible in a spray of cow manure and other agricultural detritus. We turned to the road. A long journey lay ahead of us …
Soaked to the skin, borderline hypothermic, but still, surprisingly, jolly, we cheered as, what felt like hours later, the outskirts of Leap hove into view below us. We repaired forthwith to Connollys, eschewing all other temptations, because, in addition to great thirst, our ordeal had generated a great appetite. Removing outer garments, we compared degrees of waterlogged clothing, poured water out of our boots, and sat gently steaming as we perused menus and ordered victuals. With several dozen pizzas ingested, and copious further amounts of wine and beer imbibed, the ordeal began to take on a rosy hue. Is it not true that, to the torture victim, the mere cessation of pain and misery comes as a great relief? It was in this spirit that the rugged and resolute Gentlemen did make merry, probably greatly irritating other patrons of the Inn who had to endure ribald banter and the smell of wet socks.
At length our feasting came to a conclusion. Fortified by our sustenance, it was apparent that the resolute Gentlemen had gained a new, if unsteady, wind, and various sorties were organised to other hostelries, near and far, to spread the word of this epic odyssey, ere memory should fail us, to anyone who would listen, and many more who would rather have not. At this point, dear reader, it becomes necessary to draw a discrete veil over further proceedings. As far as we are aware, no permanent damage was done to man nor beast, nor any appropriation of property or other offence other than talking shoite in a built-up area. We raised the sum of €250 for the Club, and a harder €250 has never been raised—blood, sweat and, unless it was just rivulets of rain, tears were shed, for which the Gentlemen should, and by all rights are, to be congratulated.