HERE’S a conversation we overheard in the Cork Arms.
‘According to this, Cork County Council will fork out as much as fifty thousand euro for a sculpture in Cobh of Jack Doyle.’
‘Jack Doyle. He was a famous boxer, singer, nobber and drunk. From Cobh. Long ‘go.’
‘Never heard of him!’
‘I’m not surprised. But your grandparents might, if you ever had any. It says he was famous for his consumption of the gargle and for chasing women, and that he had a good voice even on his last legs.’
‘Was he a good boxer?’
‘Good, but not great. Says here a total of 23 fights, 17 wins and six losses. And that he made a lot of money and wasted it all on women and gambling’”
‘And that’s why Cobh is putting up a statue to him?’
‘Yeah, and why not?’
‘Because from what you say, he was a loser, a flop, a total washout and a clunker? Now, if I remember right, Cobh erected a statue to Sonia O’Sullivan, a year or two ago. That made sense because she’s a role model.’
‘A role model?’
‘Yes. Youngsters look up to her and try to do what she did. She deserved the statue.’
‘I take your point. But hang on a minute. What other town in the civilised world would honour someone who was ‘langers’ all his life? That’ll certainly put Cobh on the map.’
‘But for the wrong reasons! Was he a good boxer?’
‘Nah! He was known as the Horizontal Hero … for obvious reasons.’ (Laughter all round)
‘Tell us more.’
‘Well, according to this, he had a good right hand when he began his career in the early 1930s, after he left the British Army, and he had a few straight knock-outs. But he had to be revived by cups of brandy during the rounds. His big break came in 1933 when he got a crack at the British Heavyweight Championship, even though he did most of his training in a nearby pub, and was suffering a bad dose of the crabs.’
‘The crabs? And he was boxin’ at the same time. Fair deuce!’
‘Yeah, but he was disqualified for fightin’ dirty and banned for six months.’
‘Because of the crabs?’
‘No, boy. Because he kept punching yer man in the kidneys. After that he became a singer. And he wasn’t bad either. Sold a lot of records. A kind of pop star, like. Hang on a minute. I can’t read in this light.
‘Ah yes. And he was in two films. With Errol Flynn and Clark Gable. Got divorced and moved in with a one who was heiress to the Dodge motorcar fortune until the family threw him out at gunpoint.’
‘Then he took up with an actress called Movita. Married her in the early 1940s and toured with her, singing and performing on stage – they even came to Cobh. Didn’t work out, though. She left and got hitched to Marlon Brando.’
FELLED BY A HAYMAKER!
‘And did Jack Doyle go back to boxing?’
‘Yeah! But he was a bit of a langer. Says here his biggest fight was against a chap called Buddy Baer. Huge money. He floored this fella Baer in the first round, and thinking he was home and dry decided to blow a kiss to his bird, who was in the crowd. But while he was blowing his mushy kiss, Baer was getting to his feet and Doyle was too dopey to see him.
‘So Baer gave him such a belt that it knocked the Cobhman into never-never land. And that, more or less, was the end of his boxing career, although it wasn’t until the 1940s that he called it a day when a Mullingar blacksmith landed a haymaker on his chin after a minute-and-a-half into the fight.’
‘What did he do with his money?’
‘Spent it on slow horses and fast women.’
‘Then, in the 1950s he tried his hand at wrestling but by that time the drink had him.’
‘When did he die?’
‘Hmm. Let me see. In 1978, in Paddington, at the age of 65. Without a bob to his name, sleeping in an abandoned taxi. A few of his auld butties had a whip-around to bring his corpse back to Cobh and he was buried there. Brass band and everything.’
‘And for that he gets a statue?’
‘Yeah and, oh, it also says that he served a stint in Mountjoy Gaol for knocking out a guard in a Dublin pub, and four months in Sligo Gaol for bouncing cheques.’
‘That’s sad, like. But, if memory serves me right, aren’t there already two plaques to him in Cobh; one in the Promenade and one in the Holy Ground where he was born.’
‘Yeah! But for Cobh people that’s not enough.’
‘Jaze, they’d want to cop themselves on.’
‘Yeah, and besides this statue will be kinda special. There’s a picture here. He’ll be sitting on a stool in what looks like the corner of a boxing ring, his arm stretched along the rope and, on another stool, tourists can pretend to be talking to him and get their photograph taken.’
‘So the thing is for tourists, so?’
‘Yeah! And listen to this. There are also plans for a Jack Doyle Festival that will include the wearing of carnations just as the Gorgeous Gael used do in his day – and there will be singing and boxing.’
‘In the street?’
‘How do I know? Anything is possible in Cobh!’
‘They’re hard cases in that place.’
‘You can say that again. Bonkers, boy! Bonkers! Call another pint, will ya? I’m flah-ed out after reading all this.’
AND now for something different: the travails of Mickey Martin. Earlier this month, the esteemed leader of Fianna Fáil made one of his now predictable attacks on Sinn Féin, accusing it of being an ‘apologist’ for the IRA and controlled by unelected individuals in Belfast.
His accusation was in line with the finest gems of ‘unbiased’ and ‘impartial’ political analysis that certain headshrinkers provide every week in The Sunday Independent.
Do the bombardments plunge Sinn Féin into a blue funk? Err, no, not exactly.
According to the results of the latest Sunday Times/Behaviour and Attitudes poll, Sinn Féin has become the second most popular party in the country, outstripping Fianna Fáil and placing Mary Lou McDonald streets ahead of Micheál in the satisfaction ratings.
In the meantime, calls have become strident within Fianna Fáil for the party to ‘change direction’ or risk a general election wipe-out. In other words, Mickey would want to start behaving in a politically rational manner.