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Tue 06-Oct-2009 11:59
More from this writer..
The Squinting Eye
Get away from that microphone, ya silly bollix!'
‘Will the owner of car number …’
It’s two in the dead of night. The stadium, some distance outside the town, is in inky darkness.
However, there is one person moving about slowly in that murky place. That person has felt their way in the dark to the cubicle at the top of the stand from where the Public Address system is controlled.
Then there comes a brief clacking sound as it is switched on. Then a voice, slightly slurred, is heard in the night.
‘Would the owner of car number so-and-so please remove it immediately – otherwise it will be towed away and the owner have to pay ninety euros to get it back.’
‘The Gardai have informed us that pickpockets are at work in the ground – we would advise everybody to guard their wallets and purses in case one of them lads gets aholt of it.’
That ghostly voice makes similar announcements that echo off the dark, empty terraces and stand. Then, after a short while, comes the sound of the PA being switched off. A dim figure makes its way down the stairs and out of the stand and stadium.
This strange event happened at least three times before it eventually stopped altogether. It was the last chapter in an event that began about three months before.
This story concerns a decent enough fellow, a pint-drinker of some renown, who was a loyal member of the club. Like many of us, he imagined his voice to be more pleasant and attractive than it actually was.
For years he longed to be in control of the Public Address system on the days of matches. He imagined himself reading out the names of the teams with great emphasis, taking on an authoritative air to tell people to stand for
Amhrán na bhFiann
and making various announcements.
That fellow was Marcus W, a long-time member of the club committee. For years, this stout fellow dreamed that his voice would go ringing out over the field, the stand and terraces on the days of matches. Unfortunately, the PA task was in the charge of the Club Treasurer.
Marcus loved the sound of his own voice. He had been given to singing loudly in his local pub until the manager told him that some customers had complained about the noise.
For some years his croaky baritone was inflicted on Mass-goers from the choir gallery. The Parish Priest could see people grimacing, twisting their mouths, while trying to endure the sounds of hymns being bellowed.
The reverend man felt it was surely one of the reasons fewer and fewer people were attending Sunday Mass. A wily fellow, he persuaded Marcus that he should stop singing, in the interest of the good health of his vocal chords.
‘After all, even Pavorotti and Frank Sinatra had to rest their voices for periods during their careers,’
he said soothingly.
Then, as it happened, the Club Treasurer suddenly disappeared following the discovery of mysterious black holes in the financial fabric of the club.
Marcus immediately put his name forward for the job of the PA announcer. The Club Secretary had doubts about this. He was advocating Sylvia M, the very personable Public Relations Officer, who had an excellent speaking voice and was a star of the local dramatic society.
However the Secretary felt that Marcus deserved his chance.
‘OK – you be in charge of the PA next Sunday and we’ll see how you get on.’
Marcus was so elated that, the following Sunday, he had several pints before hurrying to the stadium. Spectators were actually filling the ground when he went up the steps to the PA cubicle. He was in a state of high excitement. He tapped the microphone exultantly. Then, in an unexpected opening, he announced:
‘I want to welcome each and every one of you here today on this great occasion.’
Some in the crowd looked at one another and asked
‘What great occasion is he talking about – sure it’s only a first round match.’
Just before the match, Marcus began to call out the names and numbers of the competing teams. His voice got louder and more strident as he went through the names, like the tones of a horse-racing commentator rising and rising as the nags near the winning post.
‘He must think we’re all stone deaf’,
some woman said, putting her hands to her ears.
Then came the playing of the national anthem. Marcus had been so enthused that he had neglected to familiarise himself with the numbers on the CD player. He roared out:
‘Would ye all stand to attention for our national anthem, Amhrán na bhFíann.’
Everyone got to their feet and stood to attention. As they did, the sound of the Number One Army Band playing
‘Phil the Fluter’s Ball,’
boomed out of the loudspeakers. Of course it was cut off abruptly and after a minute the anthem was played.
The game got under way. But not long after it started the hectoring tones of Marcus came thundering over the field.
‘Would the owner of car number… please remove it immediately. Immediately.’
Then it was repeated. And again. At that the referee blew the whistle and brought play to a halt. He looked up at the office on the top of the stand and jabbed his forefinger angrily at it.
By that time the Club Secretary had decided that enough was enough. In a state of anger he went bounding up the steps and burst into the PA office. Unfortunately the mike was still on and quite a few people heard the Secretary’s voice:
‘Get away from that microphone, ya silly bollix.’
Nothing more was heard over the PA up to half-time. Apparently, there was a noisy row behind the scenes between Marcus and the Secretary, with members of the committee becoming involved. The upshot was that Marcus stormed out of the stadium and went straight back to the pub.
Just as the teams came out on the field for the second half Sylvia M’s dulcet tones were heard over the PA, as she informed the spectators about the next round of matches to be played. Her voice was pleasant, in a quietly authoritative way.
The spectators all looked at one another, impressed by her clear enunciation and warm tones. Some of them guessed who it must be.
‘She brought the house down last month at a concert on Galway when she sang Oft in the Stilly Night,’
enthused one male spectator of advanced middle age. He declared that her voice range was that of a mezzo-soprano or a contralto.
A bony, weedy fellow of about fifty, piped up.
‘Never mind the range, she have one of them ‘come to bed, a stóirín’ voices.’
Marcus was very upset by what had happened. He went on the beer for a few weeks.
It was during that time that he went into the stadium in the small hours and made announcements to the dark, empty ground.
The kindly bar manager got wind of it. He advised Marcus not to risk life and limb floundering about in the dark.
‘Look, Marcus if you want to sing here in the pub wait until I give you the signal.
From then on, at closing time, when the manager was hustling hard to clear the pub of the hard-core drinkers glued to their seats, the loud baritone of Marcus could be heard bawling out
‘Love’s Last Word is Spoken,’
‘The Old Refrain.’
Marcus would never have made to doing PA in Páirc an Chrócaigh either...
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