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No Medal For Village Corrs.

Short Story Courtesy of Thurles Author & Poet, Tom Ryan ©

The city dweller may not be aware of it, but there is a powerful personage whose influence for good or evil in rural Ireland is so great that I doubt if Dail Éireann could even stop him/her in their train. I refer to the village correspondent (‘Corrs’), who is a proud and pontificating part of Ireland’s provincial weekly newspapers and who rules his realm with courtesy, charm and cuteness.

He has come to his profession usually after many long years writing verse or worse, on all manner of people, places and objects, prior to the editor of the weekly signing him on for a remuneration of a few euro a week. But the money, such as it is, means nothing (and is indeed almost nothing), to the country ‘Corrs’. It’s being a ‘Corrs’ that matters (honour before honours), and being one is akin to having the village Mayoral chain of office.

‘Corrs’ could be a verse maker, farmer, poet, playwright and newsmonger or indeed all of these professions. He is at once, like all good honest newspaper folk who do their job without fear or favour; the most feared and loved in the parish. He is also more likely to be the recipient of verbal abuse, than a Staff Reporter on his paper. Being a great mixer, he was often nearest to the anger of him or her who received six months suspended for viciously attacking a harmless lamp post.

“Man receives six months suspended sentence, following attack on Thurles lamp post”.

Indeed, if a Staff Reporter wrote a court report about a character in the ‘Corr’s’ village then the ‘Corrs’ was nearest to the revenge of the defendant. And no sign at all of danger money for the job!

You see, when the village man’s private business becomes public knowledge at the local District Court, where no nonsense Justice Jailward presides, it’s a safe bet that the door of the ‘Corrs’ may be pounded upon that night. It’s no use the ‘Corrs’ telling the angry central character at that day’s District Court drama that he does not cover court cases. He will be branded as “being all the wan as that shower and of the same colour and bad breeding”. They are not pushed about such delicate details. Any scribe’s face will do when their blood is up. All that hassle for a man or woman who is not a member of the National Union of Journalists. They should strike a special NUJ medal for such unsung heroes of the Irish countryside, servants of democracy, after all “fair play is bonny play”.

In the scribe’s village on the Monday of every week you might see a fine flock of pilgrims filing along the boreen by the bog to the editorial cottage of the Scribe.
Many would come away happy after Scribe informs them that their daughter’s 21st birthday party photograph will get an airing in the following week’s paper or the wedding anniversary report or obituary or engagement will be in the week after.
Others who regularly file down that same well-trodden path, with their news bits, include the secretaries of the village community groups such as the GAA , ICA, Macra na Ferime, ICMSA, the darts club, the marbles association, the set-dancing group, the dramatic society, parish council or group water scheme.

But there is also a queue of long faced men and women, whose solemn presence lingers in the air of the Scribe’s lair, long after they have departed his abode. These are the folks who are about to be mentioned or have been already named as defendants in the court columns of the “Weekly Whatsit”.
These mercy seekers can receive no mercy from Scribe in the matter of having their names omitted from ‘the monthly honours list’, as Scribe calls it. For the ultimate arbiter is the newspaper editor, even if Scribe occasionally puts in the good word and character reference for a ‘dacent auld soul who wouldn’t harm a fly and is good to his mother‘, but in the company of good-for-nothing scamps had a pint or more too many, on the night he struck that bleddy lamp post, which is always in everybody’s way anyway.
And all this hassle for a man who is not a member of the National Union of Journalists and whose post carries no pension, holiday entitlements or bonuses, whatsoever.
The NUJ should strike a special medal for the village scribes of Ireland, who are at the coalface of the battle to preserve democracy, decency and Press Freedom in Ireland.
‘Corrs’ are beyond corruption and brown envelopes and it’s well-known such honesty and transparency puts him head and shoulders, in status above everybody else in the parish. For with him there was no hidden agenda. A fact is sacred and commentary is free.

Many years ago I attended a Drama Festival in Thurles, Co. Tipperary. I was a little nervous and just starting out in the business of journalism. But if I suffered from lack of any self-esteem, a Muintir na Tire man soon put that right. He said: “This is Tom Ryan and he is a member of the Press. No matter what, be nice to the Press.” It made sense. Pressmen and women are human and if you bite them, they’ll bite back like any newshound. Be nice and kind to them; ‘butter and jam them up and they’ll cover you in acres of flattering column inch’. It’s only human nature after all.
‘Corrs’ have a brilliant memory for the scandals, vandals, matches, and mismatches and all manner of events and people. He is omniscient. He has a good sense of humour also, as any scribe must have to survive. No harm to keep in with him.

Tom Ryan, ”Iona”, Rahealty, Thurles, County Tipperary.

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