It was Saturday morning and the old, hand-wound, alarm clock had burst into life on the dot of 7.30am, as indeed it had done for over the last 20 years, rudely awakening with its racket the seventy one year old Parish priest, Fr Tommy Ryan.
The clocks tinny clamour had suddenly returned this failing old priest from his dream-time, back into the world of reality and just as he was about to reel-in one of the biggest trout ever caught in the river Suir.
Now fully wide awake and conscious of the fact that he had a morning funeral and an afternoon wedding; both to preside over, he quickly rose from his warm single creaky divan. Through the drawn thin curtains of his east facing bedroom window, he became aware that God had bestowed on his tiny parish, yet another fine bright spring morning.
Feet on floor, he stretching himself and shuffled to the window to open it; fully intent on inhaling a few deep breaths of God’s abundant and richly oxygenated country air.
On pulling back the curtains however he became almost immediately aware of the body of a dead donkey. Same was lying on its back motionless in the middle of his front lawn, feet pointed almost skyward. He focused his dimming eyes on the scene for several moments to determine if there was any physical movement from the animal and seeing no movement he quickly turned and dressed himself, before heading downstairs to the telephone in the hallway. Picking up the receiver he promptly began to dial the telephone number which would connect him to his local rural police station.
On duty at the local police barracks was a tired Sergeant Timmy Tynan. He had just released, with a severe behaviour warning, a detained drunk from the barrack cell without charge. He knew his own personal warning to this offender as to his constant late night alcohol abuse would probably, as in the past, fall on deaf ears, but he also knew that this abuser, on being reunited with his wife, would receive a far harsher punishment than any court in the land could legally administer.
He was about to lock up his small rural barracks, having completed an otherwise uneventful night shift, when the phone rang and according to reliable local reports, the ensuing telephone conversation between both these men, went something like this:-
“Good morning Sir. This is Sergeant Tynan here. How might I be able help you?”
“Ah and the top of the morning tar yerself Sergeant,” said the priest. “Tis Father Ryan here from the presbytery beside St. Mary’s Church. There’s a donkey lying dead in me front lawn and I’m wondering would ye be so kind as to send a couple o’yer lads over to take care of the matter, before Johnny Murphy’s funeral comes in past, at 10.00 o’clock this morning?”
The 7ft-4inch weary Kerry born Sergeant, well known and respected locally, mainly because of his quick wit which often bordered on raw sarcasm, decided, that he would try to avoid, if possible, the good Father Ryan.
“Well now Father Ryan”, said the Sergeant, “t’was always my understandin that you people up in that Presbytery is totally responsible for takin care of the last rites yourselves!”
There was deafening silence on the phone line for a moment, before Father Ryan was overheard to reply: “Aye,’ tis certainly true Sergeant; but we in the presbytery are also always obliged to notify any known next of kin first, which is the very reason for me callin ye.”
No one knows who took eventual responsibility, but the dead donkey was gone well before the body of the late Johnny Murphy arrived to St Mary’s Church, to enter for the very last time.