An evening at the Clarence
Hot Press’s Peter Murphy meets Pat McCabe and Gavin Friday
In the black and white corner, in a dark suit and white shirt, Gavin Friday, a dapper hybrid of Dub Rat Pack poise and course Behan-esque wit. In the other black and white corner, an equally dark-suited Pat McCabe, the Clones Cyclone, a dauntingly erudite literary madman who occasionally morphs into a toad-licking Travis Bickle.
Both men have lost a lot of weight recently, probably from a combination of overwork and each other’s company. They’re obviously thick as thieves, and to witness the two brainstorming is enough to intrigue any sociologist, psychologist or etymologist. Gavin’s remembering something that happened in Monaghan not so long ago.
“Culchies . . . ” he begins, then trails off. “Sorry, Pat gets very upset about this . . .”
“Oh, I’m deeply wounded, Gavin”
” . . . but I remember the time coming out of The Butcher Boy premiere, and he’s there in the limo, as is (Neil) Jordan, and we’re all goin’ out to a night club, and he goes, ‘Fuck off ya jackeen cunt, get a taxi! The culchies are on top tonight!'”
“The Culchie Liberation Front,” Pat deadpans, throwing down the gauntlet. “And not one Dubliner I’ve ever met knows where the word ‘jackeen’ comes from.”
“It means flyin’ the Union Jack,” Gavin proclaims.
“Shut up!” roars Pat. “Shut up! I told ye that!”
“The story is this,” Gavin drawls. “‘Jackeen’ doesn’t sound as good as ‘muck savage’ or ‘culchie’. ‘Culchie’ has this poetry. ‘Shut up ya muck-head, savage, bog warrior.'”
Such choice phrases merely bounce off Pat McCabe’s throbbing skull. “The boy here tackled a bunch of the new corporate fuckin’ Irish sean-nos dudes when we were down in Whelan’s,” he relates, nodding to Friday. “There was potato famine an’ shit everywhere. And up he comes – ‘Ya fuckin’ culchie bastards!’ That’s the realest thing in the world, the natural banter between city and country, that’s just hoppin’ the ball really, it’s something they should lighten up on. I’m not comfortable with the preciousness that has entered this appropriation of peasant culture. I’d sooner have the guy saying, ‘Ya culchie fucker and yer stupid books!’ You can’t go from 1975, with people goin’ ‘Ya bogman ya!’ to suddenly everybody being heterogenous or something.”
Excerpt from Bleedin’ Jackeens & Bogmen with bony arses, by Peter Murphy, Hot Press, reproduced by kind permission of Niall Stokes, editor