Monday, May 10, 2004

Dublin still has it’s share of characters. There’s a guy who sellotapes advertisements for gigs to the walls of café’s and bars. No matter what the weather he always wears a big coat and an old fashioned Russian hat. He’s also well able to sing. One afternoon four years ago I heard him singing in the Beanery café on Burgh Quay.

In contrast, a Dublin institution closed it doors recently for the last time. Coyles hatter and gents outfitter at number 8 Augner Street is no more. Mr. Coyle is a small sprightly man in his seventies. I used to see him sometimes in the early mornings on my way to work, walking briskly along.

Mr. Coyle can tell by the way a man wears his hat whether he’s from Dublin or the country. According to Mr. Coyle a countryman will tilt his hat to the left while a Dublin man will tilt his hat to the right.

Because of his many appearances on tv and radio he became a kind of local celebrity. On one interview he related the following anecdote.

Robber to sales assistant: One false move and you’re geography.
Sales Assistant to robber: Shouldn’t that be history?
Robber to sales assistant: Stop changing the subject.

Across the street George Parnell used to have a barbershop. It was an old fashioned establishment none of your fancy stuff here. It was also cheap, which was handy when your wages were bad.

Parnell as he called himself was a man in his late seventies, snow white haired, diminutive and walked with a limp. He talked incessantly about his own and his wife’s medical problems. Like him she was bad on the legs, but the two of them struggled together through life. They had no children and lived near Harolds Cross on Dublin’s South side.

Mrs Parnell originally came from Achill Island in county Mayo. A bridge connects the island to the mainland now.

Mr. Parnell could relate stories of his exploits. At one stage he had a liking for the drink. He’d shut up shop for lunchtime and go for a few pints in the local pub. On returning both hair and ears would be cut. “I was a devil,” he said roaring laughing.

He could tell you all about the glory days of League of Ireland football. Mr. Parnell used to follow a team called Transport, who are now long gone. “There used to be arguments in the pub” he told me “One lad would be for Shelbourne, another Rovers and another Bohemians. “Who do you follow?” one lad would ask me “Transport” says I “Ah there’s no more Transport, ya just want to have a go at everyone””. Again he be roaring laughing.

Ill health caused George Parnell to close up shop six years ago. Mr. Coyle closed up shop in Augner Street earlier this month. Transport football club are gone and by and large forgotten and Achill Island is no longer really an island.

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