19th February 2011
Carpools and polling
Gettin' the vote out is always one of the big challenges on pollin' day. In years gone by party loyalists put themselves and their vehicles at the service of the party to pick up the isolated and those without transport and bring them to the pollin' station.Nowadays the lift to the pollin' station isn't such a big thing as most people have a car or can ask a neighbour or a relative to give them a lift. Before the rise in car ownership, vehicles of all kinds could be seen whizzin' around the parish on pollin' day loaded with citizens bein' transported to the polls by party hacks in the hope that they would vote "the right way".
Of course, a lot of people used the opportunity of the free lift for more than one purpose. Many is the man or woman that drove voters to the pollin' booth and ended up bringin' home a boot laden with bags of coal, sacks of flour and calf nuts.
The kinds of people who gave lifts to the pollin' station were often the unsung heroes of the local party; people who wouldn't wear their political colour too openly. In many cases they were safe people, the kinds of people who had rugs on the seats of their cars and checked the oil and water before they left the yard.
One such man was Peter Leahy, a retired school cigire and a loyal member of the Soldiers of Destiny. He always kept a good car; indeed whenever the rumour went around that Peter was changing the model there'd be a queue of customers for his trade in at the garage in Clonmel where he did his business.
Those who knew him claimed that Peter was by breedin' and disposition more suited to the Blueshirt tradition, they said he brought the politics from his mother and the breedin from his father. Anyway, he was always on hand to do a bit of drivin' for the FFers on pollin' day.
Durin' one particular election he was sent to bring the Haycock Hogans from their isolated farm out beyond Coolandeeda. The Haycocks were three bachelor brothers who worked like hell on a farm that hadn't advanced much since the Bronze Age. It wasn't safe to take them away from the wilds of Coolandeeda as they were as mad as March hares. To be fair, askin poor Peter to take his gleamin' Austin Cambridge up to the backend of beyond for those mad hoors was an injustice.
When Peter arrived in the yard for the Haycocks he found one of the brothers standin in a barrel of rainwater in the yard covered in suds with another at the door of the house, naked as the day he was born shoutin' at the fella in the barrel to hurry on. The third brother was in the haybarn dryin' himself with a sop of hay. This last one seemed to be the spokesperson for the group and as he tiptoed in his nakedness across the cobbled yard he shouted; "Good day to you Mr. Leahy, we were told to expect you. Could you back the car over to that shed there behind you and we'll be with you as soon as we get dressed."
Peter did his best to disguise his fear and trepidation as he reversed the car over to the appointed shed.
After a few minutes the three brothers emerged from the house pullin' on jumpers and coats that could have badly done with a visit to the rainwater barrel. Before Peter knew it they had the boot of the car open and were loadin' in bags of hayseed. He was too shocked to say anything and once the brothers climbed into the car he simply drove out of the yard with the undercarriage of his beloved Austin Cambridge scrapin' the ground. Every few yards along the boreen the brothers got him to stop and when he did they took a bag or two of hayseeds from the boot and threw them over the ditch, "God bless you, Mr. Leahy; that will spare us havin to carry the stuff," said the spokesman in the front seat.
When the last bag was thrown over the last ditch Peter sighed with relief that his suspensions wouldn't suffer terminal damage, but the worst wasn't over. After castin' their votes in the school in Killdicken the three brothers spent an hour in Walshe's pub and would've been there for the night only they had a cow calvin'. On the way home they got Peter to drive around by Borrsinangoul to a farmyard where they collected two scoury calves they had bought from a fella they met in the pub. They deposited the calves into the boot to join the loose hayseeds that fell from the bags on the outward leg of their journey
As Peter dropped them back to Coolandeeda he knew from the smell that the calves had left strong evidence of their presence in the boot. "Good bye Mr. Lea
"But," said a shocked Peter Leahy, "I understood you were Fianna Fail voters."
"Oh, we're from a mixed marriage, Mr. Leahy and we give each side their turn at every second election; this time twas the turn of the mother's side; herself and all belongin' to her were blueshirts to the core. Sure it doesn't matter a scutter either way; they're all the same."
Peter didn't volunteer his services at the next election.