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Capt. Keen's Burst Pipe

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By John Kelly

The Grahams were a proud, well respected and popular family from the small parish of Lucan. The grandkids loved nothing more than to chase the young chicks around Granny Graham's backyard and grew up on stories about their grandad's bravery and heroics on the fields of Somme and Ypres.

My mammy Joanie, who loved her nights out at the local dancehalls with next door neighbour and friend Sheila Flanagan, never strayed far from the family home, the last in a row of two-storey houses built by the Shackletons near Main Street for their workers in the local flour mill.

Joanie's father, Thomas, had returned - albeit riddled with shrapnel - to the village after fighting in the Great War and married Mary O'Neill in the parish church of St Mary's, his two war medals tucked safely away from view in a chest of drawers as the War of Independence reared its ugly head.

It was in this old stone terraced building on The Square that they reared 12 kids, and it was there that their beautiful, flame-haired daughter met and married a handsome young man from Armagh with a burning ambition to be a racing writer.

An accountant by profession, dad was a hard grafter with a strong work ethic and it wasn't long before he broke into journalism in the now defunct Irish Press, moving on in the early 1970s to campaign under the nom de guerre Capt. Keen as a tipster for the Irish Independent.

While mammy was a friendly and cheerful woman and always in good humour, Bob was intensely private and had no time for idle gossip and nosey neighbours. He played a straight bat but had a nice line in one-liners and seldom missed an opening.

One savagely cold winter morning Bob was above in the attic and in a foul mood struggling with a burst pipe when the doorbell rang.

Is this Kellys?

It is.

Have ye a leak?

We have but I ...

Hang on I'll get me stuff.

Before Bob could say ... didn't phone anyone your man in the blue overalls was back with toolbox and ladder, whereupon Bob decided to play schtum - far be it from him to stop a lad heaven-bent on fixing our burst pipes.

The missus is making a fry. Will we stick you in the pan?

Bejapers guv, that's decent of you. I wouldn't say no, could do with a good fry-up after last night - but let me fix that pipe first. Where exactly is the problem?

Oh, upstairs in the attic. By the way, is it true that if you leave a light on in the attic the pipes won't freeze over? enquired Bob, who was as good at DIY as he was at being a morning person.

A lot of people swear by it, but it's a load of baloney. Waste of electricity too. Just get the attic insulated - that'll do the trick.

A couple of hours later, the leak was sealed and Jim the plumber was making strong inroads into a full Irish when his walkie-talkie buzzed and a loud exchange ensued.

Jim! Where the hell are you?

I'm here at Kellys. The job is oxo, Paddy. Just fixed the problem and grabbing a cuppa.

Where's your Kellys?

Sarsfield Park.

Yeah? Well I'm here at Kellys in the old folks' estate in Sarsfield Close and you were supposed to be here two hours ago and this gentleman is not at all happy. Can you get down here straightaway!

At which point Bob shrugged his shoulders and with an impish grin asked, Anyone for more sausages?

There was no harm done. Jim polished off rashers, sausages, eggs and white pudding and went off to his assignment on the Close with a full belly and a story to amuse workmates.

In fairness, it's not every day you get to fix Capt. Keen's plumbing!