Singing and being Irish in England

Submitted into Contest #149 in response to: Write about two people who form a bond with each other through music.... view prompt


Funny Friendship Happy

Singing and Being Irish in England

Patrick O’Connor worked for a big English company, which should come as no surprise as he had moved to England less than two years ago for just that very purpose. But he had not allowed for the possibility that he would feel as isolated as he did now every day. The colleagues in his office were all as bloody English as they could be. And they took great joy in mocking his very Irishness, especially his accent. And some of his expressions. They would often ask him what he was “after doing after work”. One of the others would reply, “He is after going to the pub, where soon he would be after peeing.”

They would also mock the great Irish sport of hurling, asking him on more than a few occasions whether it was called that because all of the players were drunk and would throw up after running down the field. The first time anyone asked that rude question, Patrick explained with more patience than he felt that he had that it was named after the English name ‘hurley’ for the ash wood stick each player used to strike the ball. He added that hurling was the fastest field game in the world, much faster than football. That didn’t seem to sink in, so he didn’t respond the next few times the question was asked.

That and his complete loneliness was starting to drive him to ‘the drink’ actually a short walk down the road from work to the local pub and a shorter stagger to his apartment in the opposite direction, although that part of the journey would often take him much longer.

The problem was that the job paid better than any he had held before, and he could not afford to give it up.

The Boss

He did not feel that he could go and complain to the big man himself, the CEO of the company, the boss. Patrick had never actually met the man as he hadn’t been at Patrick’s job interview. And they had never spoken to each other. The man had the air of command about him, and certainly intimidated his office colleagues as well as himself without a word being spoken when he walked into the room headed for the elevator. When the boss passed through the office, Patrick would just look down onto his desk like he saw some strange and menacing insect walking across it. 

A Bad Day at the Job

Patrick had experienced a particularly hard time at work that day. Not only did he have to catch up on the boring accounting side of his job, but the boys in the office were hitting him with every slight, every Irish joke they could muster, like they were competing with each other to be the nastiest. It wasn’t in his nature to fire back with counter insults about the English, although there were a few choice remarks dancing a lively jig in his mind. On most such occasions, that would put a smile on his face, but not on this day. They had gone way too far. The workday passed way too slowly.

It was a Friday, so he would be going to the pub down the road to drown his sorrows of the day, drinking alone as he had done ever since he arrived in England. He had never done that back home in Ireland, but it was the only way that he drank here. There was little joy in to be sure, but it was better than just walking home to a lonely apartment. At least it was an escape of sorts, as his office mates went to a much posher place further down the road. One of his colleagues had said loud enough for him to hear that Patrick’s local was “too seedy a place” for him to go, as “they let anybody in” and “that the walls were probably painted green”. They all laughed, knowing that it was where Patrick went to drink.

It’s Time To Be After Singing

The workday finally ended. He waited for the others to leave before he did, so there would be no remarks about where he was going. After the last one entered the elevator, he got up and walked over to the stairs, and slowly made his way downward. Once he got to the bar, he drank his first three pints of Guiness in the time that he usually only drank just one. Then Patrick felt the urge to be yelling out, as he would in one of the local pubs back home, “It’s time to be after singing”. But he knew he would not get the response in this English pub he would get back in Ireland. There would probably be silence.

Still, he felt the need to sing. Then he got an idea. He went over to the bartender, and paid his bill, not that he was finished drinking yet. Then he walked outside and stood leaning with his back to the pub window. He shouted out, “It’s time to be after singing”, and so he began one of his favorite songs, “The Wild Colonial Boy,” about a young Irish man who went to Australia, and was shot dead by the local police, a song he always sang with a strange joy:

“There was a wild colonial boy, Jack Duggan was his name.“

And just as he was starting to sing the next verse, he heard himself being accompanied by a man also singing: “Of poor but honest parents, he was born near Castlemaine”

Patrick looked over to his left, and saw to his great surprise that it was the big man himself, the CEO of the company. The two of them together sang the song through, neither missing a word, both displaying the mellow tones of an Irish tenor. When the song was done, they sang another, of the boss’s choosing, the IRA connected song, “Off to Dublin in the Green”. When that was joyfully done, the boss opened the door, and they walked into the bar together. It would become a tradition for both men on a Friday. After a few beers, they would sing of the Wild Colonial Boy. For they were now fellow countrymen, united in song. 

June 05, 2022 19:54

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Seán McNicholl
21:35 Jun 16, 2022

John, as an Irishman, I just had to read this! Loved it! And loved the uniting you captured with the songs - it’s very true, it’s a unifying spirit to our ballads. Maybe it’s because we’re often brought up with them, or maybe it’s a strand that hold all the diaspora together. Really enjoyed this story. And a side note on Irish music, so many sad tales are told with bright music (Roddy McCorley/Sean South, Kelly the Boy From Killanne, Wearing of the Green, Fields of Athenry, even Molly Malone!)


John Steckley
02:02 Jun 21, 2022

Really glad that you enjoyed it, especially as you are Irish.


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Bruce Friedman
20:49 Jun 05, 2022

A great warm simple tale with interesting cultural overtones, John. Small suggestion. If you would break up some of your longer paragraphs, you would introduce a little more momentum to the plot.


John Steckley
15:18 Jun 06, 2022

Thanks for the advice Bruce. I will do a little editing now.


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