Don’t Tell Anyone

Katie May

Thady Finnegan was a solitary type of chap, often spotted roaming the mountains with a black and white sheep dog at his heels. Since his father died, the house was quiet. But then, it had always been that way, even in his mother’s time. Though they were a happy, united family they had never had any major chats or discussions, except maybe to talk about the farm jobs.

‘We’ll turn the hay tomorrow.’

‘OK so, I’ll get the pikes ready for the morning.’

And that would be it. Poor Thady missed his mother badly when she passed away. As they struggled to get a bit to eat, light the fire and dress the beds, it was only now they could appreciate how much work she’d done around the place. His grieving father only lasted the bare year after her. Although they might never have had much to say they were good parents. He remembered how his mother had supported him when he struggled with his lessons in school. One time she’d got the notion that maybe becoming an altar boy might bring him out of himself and so she went off in the ass and cart to the village to meet Fr. Mulvaney. He took him on and Thady’s parents were bursting with pride when they went to Sunday Mass and watched their son in his black and white uniform, above inside the rails helping the priest, and answering the mysterious Latin responses.

Introibe ad altare dei

Ad deum que laetificat, juven tutem meam

Thady didn’t seem that happy though. Even now, his heart pounded remembering the smell of whisky on the priest’s breath the morning he’d ordered him into the sacristy and locked the door. When Father Mulvaney made a house visit Thady saw him coming and hid in the room.

‘Mrs. Finnegan,’ said the priest. ‘I’d like if you could take your son down to my house some evening of the week so that I can help him with the Latin – for the answering of the mass. He’s a bit slow, and, and needs some help.’

When his mother told Thady he vehemently refused to go.

‘I’m not going to his house. I don’t want to be an altar boy any more either. I don’t like that priest.’

His mother was shocked – and a little disappointed. However she decided to leave it go and Thady’s black soutane was consigned to the barn with other unwanted, useless items. That was all in the past now. His mother and father were dead and Thady had to become used to his own company. At least, he had the consolation of the beauty of nature spread out around him there on his own doorstep and at forty-seven, he was tough and hardy from travelling the rugged mountain terrain. He never felt easy in company though because he was no good at small talk. Maybe the teacher, who had constantly labelled him a fool and a dunce in school, had some part to play in that. Thady was a god-fearing man, paying his dues and going regularly to Mass. Quiet and inoffensive, one neighbour summed him up by saying that he ‘wouldn’t say ‘boo to a goose’!’ Women rarely came into his head at all and he never put himself in the way of meeting them. The fire and the dog were all the company he needed at night, and looking after his flock of sheep on the mountain kept him busy by day. He had his reek of turf stacked against the side of the house, the well down the field, and the pony and cart at his disposal when he needed to go to the shop. Although Thady was shy, he liked to help the neighbours and often joined the meitheal when they were short a man. Wasn’t that how he met Mary Hegarty? He was sitting on a long bench at the kitchen table with a few of the men, on the day of Casey’s threshing, when a stout block of a girl with rosy cheeks addressed him.