Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Cobbler

"If the accused could speak he could a tale unfold -- one of the strangest ..." James Joyce

Now, my father was hung for sheep stealing
My mother was burned for a witch
My sister's a dandy house-keeper
And I'm a mechanical switch

It's forty long years I have traveled
All by the contents of me pack
Me hammers, me awls and me pinchers

I carry them all on me back
Tommy Makem

When Teddy Sullivan died in May , his boy, Mossie, went through his boxes of treasures. Teddy kept letters 'from home' in Castleisland County Kerry.

Teddy came to the States and settled in Chicago in 1960. Me met Meg Joyce from Galway at a dance at Cannon Hall of the Hibernians on Halsted, courted and married the girl. Teddy had a good job working at the Audi Home, first as a boiler fireman and then as a Stationary Engineer. He and Meg moved out of their small apartment across from Sherman Park on Garfield Blvd when the girl was expecting Mossie. The Sullivans now lived in St. Ethelreda Parish in a two flat at 85th and Wolcott. It was there that the Sullivans of Chicago took shape.

However distant and cold about Ireland in his musings, Teddy kept close touch with those 'back home.' Teddy treasured his roots and never wanted to return to them. Teddy kept tickets from the small Kerry movie house where he saw The Searchers in Ireland. Among these trinkets, Mossie found a ticket-stub for a pair of dress shoes that had been paid ( £ 1,three shillings, eight pence) for but never been picked, before Teddy emigrated to Chicago. Today that would be about £ 17 Irish Pounds -very dear, or expensive as Hell!

Teddy and the late Meg Joyce-Sullivan never returned home to Ireland.

Mossie tucked the ticket into his wallet and with his young family went 'home' in July 2011 - it was Mossie's first trip back to Ireland.

The Sullivans enjoyed their time in Galway and county Clare took the Tarbert Ferry across the Shannon River and drove over and down the far-famed Kerry Mountains and into Castleisland County Kerry.

Mossie's wife Kerry and the three little girls shopped the second widest street in Ireland and enjoyed ice cream with a generous spike of Flake Chocolate, while Mossie searched out Old Dan Brosnan's Cobbler Shop out near the new market pens.

He found and entered the Georgian shop with a charming ring of the tiny bell above the door. Dan Brosnan's is a tight dusty and leathey space filled with brogans, boots, loafers and four generations of ladies boots, pumps and sandals. This was a history of Twentieth Century footwear.

Out of the back room shuffled a tiny man in his 90's interrupted of the next bite of his Noon Tea who wiped a bit of Chef's Sauce from the corner of his gray whiskered mouth with a "God Bless, Yank."

"Hello, are you Dan Brosnan?'

" I am, so."

"My father was from here."

" What Yank never tells me the same?"

" He left here in 1960 . . ."

" A Castleisland Engineer from Chicago, so!"

"Yes, sir he was."

" He's gone on, then."

"Last May."

" God be good to him."

"His name was Teddy Sullivan and he . . ."

" Mick the Dairyman's boy and brother to Dec, Turney, and Sarsfield who all went to Canada."

" You have a remarkable memory, Mr. Brosnan."

" I do so. How else can a man make a living in this vale of tears."

Mossie dug the yellowed cardboard ticket-stub marked S-786.

" In fact, I found a receipt ticket for a pair of dress shoes that my Dad had made in 1960 and paid in full £ 1,three shillings, eight pence."

The ancient cobbler shuffled to his shop counter's files and pulled the partner of the emigrant ticket seperated by force of his powerful fingers and fifty years and joined at this moment in geneological magic. Dan Bosnan smiled broadly.

" They'll be ready Thursday, Yank."

No comments: