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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 3 years ago

Louis Roney: Irish!

Someone said, "An Irishman is never peaceful except when he's fighting."
by: Louis Roney Staff Writer

In U.S. Navy Midshipman School in Chicago in 1942, 12 of us slept in floor-to-ceiling bunks in a hotel room meant for two. The guy in the bunk above me was named Jay P. Reddy.

Jay and Don, a Stanford grad from San Francisco, and I gravitated into a triumvirate of inseparable joke-loving friends whenever we had a few hours off. Don and I came up with the name “Jay Primrose" for J. P. Reddy, and it stuck.

Jay was the most "professional" Irishman I ever met. It was easy for me to tire of his slobbering about "the old sod.” He emoted forever exclaiming, "There's nobody like the Irish." There was nobody like the Irishman named Jay Primrose – for sure.

Jay had a way of spouting out gratuitously such things as, "Louis, just wait until you get to Ireland, and see how they do things there. Why, there's no place anywhere like it."

If Irish whisky, or even American beer, were handy, Jay Primrose Reddy's eyes would soon brim with tears as he spoke of Irish girls, the beauty of the Irish countryside, and the unique qualities of Irish friendship.

One late afternoon in Madame Galli's, an Italian restaurant hangout near the Old Water Tower and a place where we sailors were welcome, I listened to a long sentimental spiel about the Emerald Isle. And for the first time I asked J. Primrose, "When were you last in Ireland?" "Oh," he said almost casually, "I've never actually been in Ireland. But my family is very Irish."

"I'd never have guessed," I said.

Three years after the war was over, I was singing concerts in Los Angeles. I wondered if Jay had survived the war and had come back to L.A., or if he was settled down with some blue-eyed colleen in County Cork. I looked in the L.A. phone book in my hotel room. There was the name, Jay P. Reddy – in Hollywood, where I was staying!

He had married, and he and his knockout of an Italian American wife took me to dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

"Been to Ireland yet?" I asked Jay.

"Not yet," he answered.

"Bet I'll get there before you do," I said.

And I did.

Shortly afterwards I was soloist with the Irish National Symphony in Dublin and Cork, and sang a program of opera arias on Radio-TV √Čireann in Dublin. I loved being in Ireland, and often wished that Jay had been with me after all his weepy palaver about the place.

The Irish are perhaps friendlier and more likeable than any other people in the British Isles.

Since the days of Cromwell things have not gone as well in the material world for the Irish as they might have. Perhaps for very lack of wealth the Irish people have excelled in conversation. Talk, whether at home with a large family or over a lingering pint with friends in a pub, is a natural thing for people without much money to do.

George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde were two Irish lads celebrated in English literature and theatre. Both Shaw and Wilde were sharp-tongued conversationalists who went to London and talked the socks off everyone around them. Frank Harris, another Irish-born Englishman, didn't do badly with a word either.

The Irish are also good natural singers. Singing is a musical art for which one need purchase no instrument. Ireland boasts great chorus singing in its churches. Indeed, a group drinking together in any Irish pub is an astonishingly good secular chorus when the mood strikes ’em. Only the Welsh, also a rather impecunious people, rival the Irish as singers in the British Isles.

The wit of Ireland is both aggressively fresh and self-deprecating. Who but an Irishman would put it this way? "It's as foolish to let a fool kiss you as it is to let a kiss fool you."

I like this one: "There's no point in keeping a dog if you are going to do your own barking."

There is calm wisdom in such a sayings as, "Forsake not a friend of many years for the acquaintance of the day."

How easy it is to forget: "A friend's eye is the best mirror."

Bernard Shaw opined, "There is nothing wrong with Ireland except that it is Irish, and there is nothing wrong with England except that it is not Irish." Shaw may have been serious when he said, "I showed my appreciation of my native land in the usual Irish way by getting out of it as soon as I possibly could."

Someone said, "An Irishman is never peaceful except when he's fighting."

John P. Mahaffey wrote, "Ireland is a land in which the probable never happens and the impossible always does."

The Irish have some strange beliefs, such as, "It’s very lucky for a hen and her chickens to stray into your house. Also it’s good to meet a white lamb in the morning with the sunlight on its face."

I doubt that such unlikely things ever happened to Jay Primrose in Hollywood, lucky as his Irish heart was.

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