There are so many stories about Ulick O’Connor that they’d fill a book. And did. And will.
Here are just two.
Ulick had many, many rows. If fact, I feel let down that he didn’t have one with me – not directly anyway – before died.
He had several with Vincent Browne (with whom I did, thank God, have a row.)
This time, they were both, independently, in the old Hibernian Hotel on Dawson Street one day.
It appears that a visiting family was in the same vicinity. An English family. With children.
Ulick took exception to the noise being made by the children.
And he said so in words along these lines:
“Could you keep your English brats quiet please?”
Vincent, rightly, took exception to the tone and content of what Ulick had said.
And he told him.
It didn’t go down well.
And you know/can imagine the rest.
The second story concerns one of Ulick’s visits to UCD.
It was, I believe, to the L&H though there’s a chance it might have been to my own, old debating society the C&E which was equal if not superior to the L&H for a period in the 70s.
This appearance was shortly after Ulick had been up before a District Court judge in relation to an animated confrontation he had had with the conductor of a bus travelling through Dublin’s city centre.
How the legal end of it finished up, I don’t know. But it’s immaterial.
Ulick was a guest speaker that night in UCD. And so he took his place on the platform to await his turn.
The lecture theatre was packed for the occasion.
And a few of us were primed.
The debate droned on.
Ulick was called.
He stood to speak.
And as he did, the first student stood.
“Fares, please, fares please, ding ding ding,” he said in a Dublin accent, mimicking the voice of a bus conductor as he supposed it to be, and the sound of the bell on his ticket machine.
Our old friend, the muffled titter, ran around the room.
Ulick almost smiled. Sixty seconds elapsed.
Ulick opened his mouth to speak.
On the far side of the theatre, a second student stood.
“Move along the car now please, move along the car. Ding ding.”
The muffled titter went for another run.
Ulick’s smile narrowed.
He opened his mouth.
Only 15 seconds had passed since the last “conductor.”
Yet another stood.
“Plenty of room on top now, ding ding, plenty of room upstairs.”
Another student stood.
“No standing up stairs now please ding ding.”
“Fares please, anyone lookin’ for a ticket?”
And three more.
“Anyone need a ticket? Ding ding.”
“Move along now please, move along.”
“Fare please, fares please.”
Soon, twelve students were standing shouting bus conductory things.
An Ulick gave up.
The muffled titter had become uproarious laughter.
And I’m pretty sure I saw at least three men who eventually became judges – one in the Supreme Court, another who became a well known broadcaster, several soon to be business leaders, a future senior politician and, maybe, a future journalist and writer of a blog, among the “bus conductors.”
No names, of course.