Roger Millington Publishing...
My Friend Flanagan: tall tales told by Packie Manus Byrne
In this brand-new collection, Packie Manus Byrne shows a different side of his remarkable storytelling talent: pure comedy. Packie has gathered or invented hundreds of yarns over a lifetime, and here he retells the pick of them in inimitable style.
These are not folk tales -- you won't find many fairies or banshees here. They are Irish stories, told by an expert, and packed with the dry wit and unexpected twists so typical of the genre.
Star of the show is one Seán Flanagan, who is both a master of repartee and a shameless opportunist. Flanagan is accompanied by a superb supporting cast of comic characters.
Below is the table of contents from My Friend Flanagan.
You Have Been Warned!
I suppose I should start by telling you that "My Friend Flanagan" never did exist. I know there are Flanagans all over the world, but the Flanagan who appears in a number of the stories in this book could be anyone with a sense of humour and a ready wit, who has liking of life and can talk himself out of any trouble that his talk got him into in the first place. Maybe it's because it's a well-known and very respected old Irish name or perhaps it's because it's easy to remember, but whatever the reason you'll find the name Flanagan linked with comedy and good humour in every company and in ninety-nine stories out of a hundred Flanagan will come out on top.
I started telling Flanagan stories in England in the early 1960s, when folk clubs first came into being. In a short time I had quite a following of Flanagan worshippers, especially among youngsters, who really believed that I had such a friend. They'd hardly listen to my songs but as soon as I'd mention Flanagan they'd sit up and take notice. Here's hoping you'll enjoy some of those stories, plus a few others, as much as I've enjoyed telling them over the years.
Packie Manus Byrne
Flanagan and McGrath were working in a trench in Bradford. They were about twelve feet or so below the level of the street. Flanagan went up to the toolshed to get a hammer and just as he was getting back he saw the side of the trench falling, burying McGrath under tons of mud.
He called the gang who were working farther up the trench but by the time they got to McGrath he was dead. Someone had to break the news to his wife, so Flanagan insisted that he'd go. After all, wasn't McGrath his mate and best friend. So he got on his motorbike and went off to visit McGrath's wife, leaving the others to put the dead man into a van.
Flanagan arrived and rapped on McGrath's door. Mrs McGrath opened the door and said, "Can I help you?"
"Are you the widow McGrath?" asked Flanagan, politely removing his hat.
"No," said she. "I'm Mrs McGrath."
"Are you sure?" asked Flanagan.
"Of course I'm sure. I should know."
"I still think you're the widow McGrath."
"Now look, you," said Mrs McGrath. "For the last time I'm telling you I'm not the widow McGrath. Now clear away and leave me alone."
"All right," said Flanagan. "Have it your own way. But you'll change your mind when the van gets here."
Flanagan wanted to get rich in a hurry but didn't know how to go about it. He tried a few ways such as betting on horses and dogs, doing the pools and working overtime and weekends but somehow he didn't seem to be saving money fast enough. Then one day he was in the King's Road in Chelsea and stopped to look in an antique shop window. When he saw the price of some articles — eighty pounds for an umbrella stand, two thousand and forty for a chest of drawers, six hundred for a chair needing a coat of paint — the idea struck him. He'd become an antique dealer!
Here was money for the picking up. Didn't he see better articles thrown out in yards at home? So off he went to Ireland, rented a house in a back street in a small town whose only redeeming feature was that it was a holiday town and there might be some rich visitors during the summer months. Flanagan bought up all the old articles he could find — furniture, beds, wheelbarrows, farm tools, lamps, shoes and clothes — and filled the house with useless scrap.
Come summer time the visitors arrived, took one look in the window, smiled and walked on. Flanagan could not figure out why no one was coming in to buy, so off he went to the pub to cheer himself up. Barney Heekin the gravedigger was sitting at the bar looking the picture of misery.
"How do Barney?" said Flanagan. "How are things going?"
"Blow me, I didn't do a stroke since Saturday. There's no one dying these days!"
"True," said Flanagan. "And this nice weather isn't doing your profession much good either. Who in their right minds would want to die on a day like this?"
"It's good weather for your business," said Barney. "I see a lot of visitors about."
"Visitors be damned," said Flanagan. "Do you know, I'm open three weeks and never sold one article yet. If things don't pick up soon I'll walk out and go back to London. Tell me this Barney, do you ever happen on any rare things when you're digging graves?"
"Seldom," said Barney. "An odd ring or maybe a set of false teeth, but nothing very valuable."
"If you find anything worthwhile let me know," said Flanagan.
"I will surely," said Barney.
A few days after, Barney came into Flanagan's shop. He could hardly talk he was so excited.
"Come quick till you see this."
They ran all the way to the graveyard, and even Flanagan couldn't believe what he saw. A skull at least four times bigger than any skull they had ever seen, with a perfect set of white teeth. They rolled it out of the grave, and Barney stood guard while Flanagan went home for a handcart. They took it to the shop and cleaned it up and put it on display in the window.
Next day a huge car drew up and a man got out dressed in a Stetson hat, thonged jacket, jeans, and high-heeled boots, with a camera slung from his neck. Probably not a local. He looked at the skull and ran into the shop.
"Is that skull really from a human?"
"It's human all right," said Flanagan.
"My God, it's some size," said the American (for that was his nationality). "Do you know who it belonged to?"
"I do," said Flanagan. "It belonged to one of the greatest men ever born in Ireland. A man called Finn McCoole."
"Well, I'll be darned," said the visitor. "I heard my pa tell stories about Finn McCoole. Wasn't he some sort of a giant?"
"Well now," said Flanagan. "He wasn't exactly a giant but he was a big fella, and he could run and swim faster than anyone in the world, he could jump three times his own height, he could lift a horse in his arms, and he could shout so loud he could be heard fourteen miles away. He had more brains than ten judges of the court all put together. That's why he had such a big skull — to accommodate his brains."
"I guess it's for sale?"
"Well, I'm not too anxious to part with it," said Flanagan. "It draws a lot of spectators and as it's the only one in the world, it would take a lot of money to make me part with it."
"Oh, I wouldn't take less than three hundred pound for it," said Flanagan.
"Right," said the visitor, pulling out a sheaf of Irish money and counting out three hundred. Flanagan gave him a hand to put the skull into his car and the minute he was gone, locked the shop and away to tell Barney.
"Be gob," said Barney. "That's great!"
"It is," said Flanagan. "We could be on to a good thing here. If you find another, bring it round."
Next day Barney arrived with a very tiny skull. Flanagan wondered what kind of a story would suit it. He was putting it in the window when a very attractive woman stopped.
"Is that a real skull?" she asked.
"It is," said Flanagan. "And it belonged to a very famous Irishman called Finn McCoole."
"You're a liar!" said the woman. "You sold Finn McCoole's skull to my husband yesterday."
"I know, ma'am," said Flanagan. "But this is Finn when he was a young lad."
It was Sunday morning and McCann was fed up: a whole long day before him with nothing to do. He couldn't take the dog out for a walk because he didn't have a dog. He couldn't wash his car because he didn't have a car. He couldn't dig the garden because he didn't have a spade. And he couldn't watch the football because he didn't have a telly.
Mrs McCann had just condemned a chicken to death and was busily engaged dissecting its intestines, a sight which McCann found more than a little abhorrent. So he said,
"Will you be much longer at that chicken?"
Mrs McCann was a woman who used speech very economically.
"No," she said.
"Bung it in the oven," said McCann, "and let's go back to bed and rest ourselves."
Mrs McCann — using her second word of the day — said "Aye!"
So she put the chicken in the oven, turned the gas full on, and away to bed they went. They were just settling down to have a "rest" when the cooker exploded. The blast blew the sidewall out of the house, and blew McCann and his wife out of the bed and across the street, landing them in the garden opposite.
Flanagan, who lived a few houses down, was tying up a rose tree in his garden when he heard the explosion and looked up just in time to see McCann and his wife flying across the street and landing in the garden opposite. He reckons that was the first time they were seen out together since the day they were married!