My Memories of Murt O’Sullivan of Barracurragh
Jennifer O’Sullivan (Nee Nolan)
MURT: “That’s a nasty bull over in that field beyant, don’t walk near it.”
JEN: “Would a bull burst through electric fencing?”
MURT:“Oh yeah, we had two bulls at one stage and they managed to get into the same field together. I had to drive the tractor down to separate them. They would have destroyed the jeep. ”
JEN: “Were you ever attacked by a bull?”
MURT:” One day, when I was bringing a bull to a heifer I had an experience that was ‘close to having wings’. I was minding my own business, opening a gate but in a split second, the bull lowered his head and head-butted me up into the air.It was like slow-motion and I was so high up, I could see the roofs of all the sheds .” He smiled fondly remenescing.
JEN: ” Were you not hurt?”
MURT:“Well, you see, I was very lucky because, the strange thing was, I landed on my feet.”
At this stage Murt jumped up from his chair to demonstrate his ninja-style landing.
When Murt was in hospital on morphine he hallucinated and had amusing stories to tell us about his experience.
MURT: “I remember a rug floating up to the side of my hospital bed. I climbed onto it and the window in my ward opened automatically as I flew out on the magic carpet. I remember flying by all the roofs of the houses and spotting burglars climbing in a window of a house. Then I came back to the hospital on the magic carpet and flew through the wall into the room next to mine where I saw doctors doing an autotopsy. I flew back into my bed and when the doctor’s came in to check on me I warned them about the bottomless pit I could see beside my bed but when they walked over to me, I realised I was hallucinating and I started laughing with the doctor.”
When I was studying James Joyce’s Ulysses in college, Murt was a great help. He knew the book inside-out. He would talk about the characters as if they were neighbours he knew all his life. When I arrived down to Barracurragh on a Thursday after college, Murt would ask me “so where are you now?” and I’d tell him what episode I was reading and he’d smile and say “oh you’re getting close to the good part!” When I dressed up for Bloomsday in college, he helped me to choose a character and pick out a costume. He was a very intelligent man but very modest with it.
One day when I was helping Murt to put a car up on blocks we got talking about healthy foods. I asked him did he eat garlic and he said “I could handle garlic raw if you don’t mind, but one day Dilly had enough and told me it was her or the garlic, so that was that”.
Learning to Drive
When I was learning how to drive, Murt would take me out for driving lessons. He would pretend he needed a lift but I think he was just trying to give me confidence driving. On the day of my driving test, Murt met me down at Murphy’s after coming from Tom Pick’s. He helped me put air in my tyres and fixed my seat belt (which had broken that morning). He gave me some advice which gave me the confidence I needed to go into Gorey for the test. When I got back to his house he wasn’t in the kitchen but I could hear his voice on the baby monitor. He was talking to his grandson Max in the other room. When he came into the kitchen I told him I had passed and he gave me a big hug which meant a lot to me.
Cleo the Cat
Murt loved to observe nature and had great patience.
MURT: “‘Cleo was some cat. She used to pretend she was asleep to trick the swallows. She would let a swallow come closer and closer to her as she lay down as still as a statue in the middle of the yard. When the swallow got really close she would strike out with her paw like this.” Murt would demonstrate her sharp movements with his hand. “She was the smartest cat I ever saw. She would also walk up to the cows and drink the drops of milk from their elders. Sometimes she would reach up to their elders but she always kept her claws in, if ya don’t mind, so they never kicked her.”
As Murt got weaker, he spent a lot more time in the house and would often look out the window observing the birds in the garden. When we got home he would tell us about what he saw.
MURT: “Today I saw a magpie standing on a branch outside that window there and the swallows were flying at him full speed and then closing their wings at the last minute and diving at it.” Murt would close his arms close to his body theatrically to mimic their movements. “They were whacking the magpie, trying to get him off the branch. They were attacking the predator and protecting their young. Very brave little things. Very brave indeed.”
One evening Murt had put the dogs into the shed. I was washing my hands in the kitchen sink and I spotted a golden animal running in the ditch.
JEN: “I think Goldie is after getting out there, Murt.”
MURT: “Where? No, the shed door is closed. Let me see.”
Ciaran came over to look with us and the three of us saw a beautiful fox trotting up the garden with his tail brushing off the ground. The fox came closer and up into the yard. The three of us slowly and quietly moved over the the opposite window to watch. The fox came right up the yard and smelled our car tyres. Then he walked over to the shed door where the dogs were and sniffed under the door. After urinating in the yard, he trotted up the lane. Murt commented on how brazen the fox was and we all went back to what we were doing but it was a special moment for all of us.