By Mike Faricy
I didn’t need to be warned about Irish drivers. We had driven from Dublin to Sligo that afternoon, between incorrect signage, no signage, and four cylinder slow-mobiles, we thought we’d seen it all. But the country roads, that was another story. Just wide enough for a small vehicle, and in that part of Sligo, contained by eight foot hedges. Now it was my turn to drive under the speed limit, presuming we saw one posted somewhere. The locals are still probably complaining.
We had just left the country cemetery, rounded a bend in the road, when we were struck head on by a speeding, teenaged driver. He’d rocketed down the country lane, past a parked tractor, to hit us head on, after skidding one hundred feet on a frosty road. With steam clouding up from the sprung hood we assured one another we were OK. My companion is the daughter of a Command Sergeant Major in the Irish Army. She probably learned her skillful use of profanity from him. It was not the time to ask her, but the tone reminded me vaguely of my army basic training. Her first question to the driver was ‘Who are you?’ put not quite so delicately. “Thomas Connelly”, he replied, wisely retreating a few steps, and providing his lineage, back for the past century.
It was the luck of the Irish. No injuries, he hit us in front of his parents’ farm and across the road from the local man in this part of the county who does auto repairs. “Not to worry,” Thomas Connelly said to me, avoiding my companion. “John Walsh,” he said nodding across the road and up the hill from his parents’, “is the man for this job, and you’ll find none better.” I was going to remind him I really hadn’t wanted to meet John, nor anyone in his profession, at least not this way, when a small tractor rounded the bend. Thomas’s sister, Mary. She’d seen the accident, and not his first I gathered, since she knew exactly what action to take. We exchanged pleasantries while she secured the family towrope to our vehicle, directing me to get back in and steer while she dragged me up to Walsh’s.
My accent gave me away and within five minutes, I’d met John, his wife Betty, their dog Bastard, and four of their five boys. John Walsh drove all of us to the village Garda station, apparently spreading the word while we filed our report. The village pub adjoining the station had emptied out to view the next chapter in this international incident and we were subject to a street side interrogation. John Walsh took me aside and told me Mr. Connelly senior would most likely prefer to settle the whole thing on a quiet, cash basis rather than ‘trouble’ the insurance company involved. If Thomas were my son, I’d have thought the same, then looked for a jury of my peers, other fathers, who would let me off the murder wrap in record time.
John Walsh, ace mechanic and auto body specialist phoned the Connelly home and set up our meeting. Thirty minutes later we were in the Connelly kitchen, discussing who my people were, when they’d left Ireland and drinking tea. The cash agreement was handled on the way out the front door, almost as an afterthought. John Walsh, would begin at once and have our car repaired by the following afternoon once he deposited us at the village hotel, the Connelly’s apparently had a standing account there, for just such an emergency.
True to his word, the car looked and ran perfectly twenty four hours later. I asked John, what would happen to the Connelly kid, Thomas. “Ahh, Jesus, I hope nothing,” he said. “He’s so good for business.”