January 2002

Return to Editor's Cell

by Dick Tynan


Dear Francis,Long time no see....

But not so long a time compared to the happy reunion I witnessed yesterday afternoon in Capel Street.

Strolling down the ancient boulevard in company with Jazz Legend, the drummer Johnny Moondog Butler, who had recently returned to Ireland from the U.S.A. where he had lived for more than 30 years, I was struck by his quiet, almost pensive demeanour – a condition that seemed to intensify as the day wore on.

Moondog had ambled the city’s pavements marvelling initially at the changes; particularly the North and South Quays from Heuston – although he still knew it as Kingsbridge Station – to the Point Theatre, another venue he couldn’t quite recall !The further he roamed the more mute he became, until finally when he arrived outside the Dublin Corporation Civic Offices, on Wood Quay, he had lapsed into complete silence. And, Francis, that’s the sad point, Moondog was so disoriented he couldn’t seem to recall any of the places his tired legs had brought him.

The Theatre Royal and The Capitol – even The Corinthian, the popular cinema on Eden Quay known as “The Ranch”, had disappeared, as had Nelson’s Pillar and also Woolworth’s of Henry Street. But, worst of all, from Moondog’s point of view, the venues where he had gigged in the 1950’s and 60’s – The Olympia on Pleasant St., The Four Provinces on Harcourt St. and The Metropole, the Crystal and Ballerina Ballrooms, had all gone. Johnny Moondog Butler, it seemed, had become the legend of a city that no longer existed…..

All this I could read in his mind as we moved forlornly through the fair city’s pavements. In desperation, Francis, I felt so sad for him, I found myself frantically eyeing the passing populace in search of someone I might know that I might introduce him and perhaps lessen his feeling of isolation.

All my efforts seemed in vain, until passing St. Michael and John’s Church on Essex Quay, I called upon the patron Saint of Lost Causes and implored Saint Anthony to come to my aid. My silent prayer had hardly been uttered, when the request I had asked was miraculously and immediately granted – manifesting itself in the form of a warm, loud bellow.

“Moondog, is it yourself ?”

“Milo, you son of a gun, I can/’t believe it !”

I faded discretely into the background to allow fellow expatriots, actor Milo O’Shea and Johnny Moondog Butler renew old acquaintances of early days when Johnny was playing at The Jolly Sixpence Pub in New York where Milo would visit – and even earlier days, as Milo recalled Moondog playing with his father’s orchestra in Bray’s ‘Bar B Ballroom’ in the 50’s.

Later on, Francis, while reflecting on this whole poignant episode, and in particular the warm way in which Milo and Moondog had greeted each other, I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not St.Anthony had been working on, not one, but perhaps even two lost wandering souls.

I do know however how deeply I felt about this happy reunion and was grateful to have been present to witness it.

Your old pal, Dick.