Tim Finnegan's Wake
Ah, hello there an’ welcome, ‘tis yerself?
Are ye well settled there?
I sincerely hope this story finds ye well. And if yer not well I hope it finds ye nonetheless.
It’s all about a poor man Timothy Finnegan, or Tim as we all knew him.
Now Tim was born a gentleman, never a nicer man could ye meet. A gentleman surely, but as poor a blighter as ever ye seen.
His father was a cooper. They don’t have many coopers these days, which is a shame. For those who don’t know, a cooper is a man who makes wooden barrels. They don’t have many wooden barrels these days either, which is a shame. His mother was a saint. Livin’ and true, she was a saint, God be good to her. They lived over by Walkin Street, ye know it? Just off the old Callan Road? No? Never matter.
Anyways as poor Tim grew sure didn’t he grow into a problem. Ye see, Tim was fond of a drink. He’d have a tipple for breakfast, a gargle for lunch, and a feed of pints for supper. It was both the making of him and the ruin of him.
An’ of all the drink that the Good Lord gave us it was whiskey that Tim had a taste for.
Now, that’s whiskey with an ‘e’.
Not that bleedin’ scotch whisky, the divil knows why they spell it like that. Feckin’ eejits.
Well Tim had a love for the whiskey, or uisce bheatha as he would have called it being a native Irish speaker. That’s uisce bheatha. Pronounced ish-ka va-ha. Say it quickly and ye’ll be up to speed.
Ye see uisce means water. And bheatha means life. So whiskey is literally the water of life!
So there’s a few words of Irish for ye, or as we say here cupla focal as gaeilge.
Anyways, I’m getting lost in me-self here, where was I? Ah yes.
Tim loved drinkin’.
It was the drink that got him sacked from his first job as a hod-carrier. For those that don’t know a hod-carrier is a man that carries hods.
And ye may rightly wonder how a man could be sacked for carrying hods but ye see our Tim would work manys a day half cut; the boss men don’t take too kindly to that sort of thing. T’find Tim all ye had t’do was followed the trail of bricks he’d dropped along the way. And more often than not the trail led to the pub.
Tim never had a trade t’call his own but he could turn his hand at almost anything. And so he spent his life working as an odd job man, picking up work here and there, never staying on the books too long and spending every last penny on another drop a drink, God love him.
One day ye might see him slapping paint onto the side of a house and the next he could be putting bricks together to build a garden wall next door. He’d be down digging in a hole in the mornings, and scurrying up a ladder by tea.
Always with a smile, always with a drink.
Well, it was on a fine Thursday, I remember it like it was yesterday, that he put his hand upon the ladder that was t’be his downfall. Ha, and down fall he went. And sure the Divil himself must have pushed him, for he landed on his head, square on his head. B’God, the crack of it could be heard three streets over!
We all knew what that meant.
Poor Tim wouldn’t b’found with a paintbrush in his hand, he wouldn’t b’found with brick and mortar, he wouldn’t b’found up a ladder. There was only one place he’d b’found now, and that was in a six foot hole.
Well the doctor was called. He arrived out in this fancy motorcar, took one look at the poor man and pronounced him dead. A wile fancy car for such a simple job, for every dog in the street knew that poor Tim was dead.
Ah well, the boys threw him onto the back of a cart and the horse pulled him home. Thanks be to Our Lord above he had no family t’speak of. His mammy and daddy had long gone to their eternal rest by then.
He was cleaned up and wrapped in a sheet and laid out in the house, as was the tradition at the time. An’ t’be fair, it still is today, though ye don’t see it as much these days, which is a shame.
Once the word had spread about Tim the crowds flocked. As I was telling ye, Tim was a gentleman. And people being good people wanted t’pay their respects.
Ye see, the typical tradition in Ireland is t’have the body laid out in the home house for three days so that people can pay their respects, tell stories, have a few laughs, maybe a few drinks, and t’say their final goodbyes. People flock to the house day and night at all hours, it’s just the way we do things.
Sure me-self called out on the third night for t’do me bit.
Now I did mention there was drink.
As poor Tim lay dead the bed there was a bucket of whiskey by his feet and a barrel of porter by his head, for any man or woman who wanted t’whet their sorrows.
As I was saying, I was there me-self on the third night for if I hadn’t been I wouldn’t be telling you this story because I damn well wouldn’t have believed it.
Anyways, the hour was late, maybe 11 or so, and there were a few of us gathered around the bedside blethering and talking as you do. Biddy O’Brien began sobbing and said to no one in particular, “sure you’d never have seen a finer looking corpse.“
Well Maggie O’Connor who was a widow herself didn’t agree with this at all, for she thought that her husband had been a finer looking corpse.
Now, Maggie wouldn’t b’the brightest tool to be fair. The brightest tool? That doesn’t sound right. Hardly matters. She’s not a bright tool. Then again, neither is Biddy. In fact between the two of them there’s a few coins short of a shilling.
Well they were nattering away between themselves when all of a sudden Maggie O’Connor took a swing at Biddy and caught her full square on the jaw!
Biddy, not t’be out done, swung back and knocked Maggie flat on her back.
And poor Tim laying dead in the bed! Would ye believe it!?
Well some of the men tried t’intervene, and somehow in the midst of it they ended up brawling themselves. And before we knew it the whole room was at it!
There were punches flying, women crying and in the midst of it all poor Tim beyond dying.
The row escalated as all rows do; there were cups of tae smashed, the tae-pot was battered around some poor fellas head, it was all out civil war!
In the run of things some ignorant sod hurled the bucket of whiskey and fired it at poor Mickey Maloney who, thanks be t’God, chanced t’see it coming at the last moment an’ ducked.
The bucket carried on its way and smashed into the wall over the bed sending a shower of whiskey over poor Tim.
That hushed the room.
And b’God didn’t we see his tongue tickle the drops on his dried lips. Not once, not twice but three times.
Let me tell ye, nothing stops war quite like a man rising from the dead.
His eyes staggered open, much in the way that poor Tim would have staggered down the street, an’ before our very eyes sure didn’t he sit up in the bed with his bleary eyes looking ‘round us all.
“Thundering Jaysus d’ye think I’m dead?” says he.
“Ye are,” says us.
“I don’t feel dead,” says he and he threw his legs round the side of the bed and asked for a bite to eat. Like yer little girl said to Our Good Lord!
An’ out of the bed he rose, gave a quare stretch and tottered out of the room.
We all followed him, sure what else would ye do but follow a dead man risen. And where did he head to but straight to the pub an’ ordered another glass of whiskey, that uisce bheatha, the water of life.