Let me tell you about Pearse…
I became aware of Pearse at a young age and eventually got to know him when he started to frequent my pub back in ’73. He was a right good character and everyone in town knew him. He rubbed shoulders with the rich, the famous and the not so famous. His wit and banter enjoyed by all. The Germans loved him. “Where is the old man” they would ask. No better man to join you for a pint and enthrall you with his stories. Most were true and some he would tell against himself.
To my mind the best story he had was about his pet Salmon ‘Georgie’.
Pearse was partial to a bit of fishing and netted many salmon. When I say ‘netted’ it could be with a landing net or fifty yards… ‘any which way’ was his motto!
However, he shared his time between the pub and the river bank and knew every pebble in the river.
One day he noticed a salmon struggling in the current close to the river bank so he grabbed him by the tail and laid him on the grass. He could see the fish was unwell so he carried him all the way back home.
He later told me the salmon had the flu and when I inquired how he figured that out he replied, ‘Sure I knew he had the flu when I saw the water running out of his eyes.
I wrapped a scarf around his neck and brought him home to a bath of hot milk and Poteen”.
In no time at all the fish started to recover and a fondness grew between the two. By day Pearse kept the fish close to him in a child’s bath tub and at night he put him back into the main bath. As their friendship grew they spent long evenings together watching TV… the fish wrapped in a wet towel on Pearse’s knee so he could see the television. By this time Pearse had given the fish a name… he called him Georgie in memory of an old fishing pal.
Word soon spread about the fish in the bath and the local kids loved to visit Pearse hoping for a chance to see Georgie. He began teaching the fish some tricks and soon he had him doing somersaults in the bath… it was the talk of the place!
Towards the end of the summer Pearse could see that Georgie was getting restless and eventually decided he should be released back to his natural environment.
Early one morning he told Georgie, “you and me have to part company so we are going to take one last walk”. Wrapped in a wet towel he placed the fish in a pram and walked him across town to the exact spot where they first met.
Pearse told me he returned to that spot every morning and at exactly 11 o’clock Georgie would jump to greet him.
The story of Pearse and his pet salmon spread around the country and people didn’t know what to believe so RTE arrived in town looking for Pearse. At that time Hall’s Pictorial Weekly was a very popular TV show featuring items of interest from around the countryside. The shows presenter was journalist Frank Hall who found Pearse in Leanord’s pub in Garden Street. The first part of the interview was filmed at the bar counter and when Pearse explained he still saw the fish every day Hall insisted they adjourn to the river bank. Pearse explained how he returned to the same spot each day and at exactly 11 o’clock Georgie would come flying out of the water doing a somersault for him.
With cameras running Pearse and Hall stood by the river… 11 o’clock came and went but the fish didn’t show.
“Mr Hall, I don’t think Georgie is going to show today”, Pearse said. Hall wasn’t impressed and asked why not… “Because he’s fed up looking at you on TV!
After the show was screened it was the talk of the country… people really didn’t know what to believe… was it true or not, they asked… particularly those who lived inland and had no experience of fishing. The highlights of the show were repeated at the end of the year and nominated as the RTE ‘Show of the year’.
Pearse is just a memory now… a memory however, that will never fade. My wife Jean suggested I should write this as we loved the story and his great imagination so I hope you have enjoyed it too. He was a legend… a lovable rogue who enjoyed life to the full. A good candidate for “The Most Unforgettable Character…