In the townland of Gowlan, about two miles from Killashee, lived Johnny McVeigh and Paddy Dowd in these houses 200m apart. They are featured together in this piece as they are linked in local folklore and because of their unconventional friendship.

Johnny was a farmer but to put it mildly, he didn’t pay much attention to the hard-working example set by his father Hugh.

That said he had figured out how to carefully manage the providence from his farm. And he was nonetheless, a social kind of person full of resourcefulness and wit.

Paddy was a plumber and his skills were widely sought after. He was so good that he was occasionally paid in advance, which was not such a great idea for someone keen on a few pints. My abiding memory of Paddy is that he wore wellingtons all the time, summer and winter. Maybe it had him prepared for any plumbing eventuality.

One night Paddy and Johnny had a disagreement that resulted in Johnny requiring medical attention. As Paddy had more in his hand than his fist when he clocked Johnny, the result was both of them appearing in court. The judge, on his first glance, knew he had a pair of gems before him. As he attempted to establish the facts of the case he enquired: “Are either of you two gentlemen married?” When they both answered in the negative he said the immortal line: “Well, at least there are two lucky women in the world!”

Paddy was fined and when he stated that he had no money to pay the fine. The Judge said: “Mr Dowd, if you don’t pay this fine I have now option but to send you to jail.” To which Paddy replied: “Well, I can’t pay it.” At this stage, Johnny said: “Excuse me your honour, is it all right if I pay it?” Johnny then paid the fine, along with both solicitors, much to the fascination of the judge. When asked why he responded: “Sure, he’s my neighbour and I can’t send him to jail!”

One night Johnny was in town late and had miscalculated his budget so having got Felix Nevin, the taxi man, to bring him home he declared outside his house to having no money to pay for the journey. Felix promptly brought Johnny back to town and released him on Main Street.

Johnny started to walk down Killashee street when he saw the lights on in Anthony Farrell’s house. Anthony, among other stuff, sold cylinders of gas. Johnny knocked on the door and having apologised for the late call said: “I have no gas to boil the kettle in the morning.”

Anthony said no problem and put a full cylinder and Johnny into the car. When he got to Johnny’s house and went to exchange the cylinders he said: “Johnny, this gas is half full” to which Johnny replied “Well that’s a sight, it was empty this morning.” Anthony returned to Longford with his full cylinder and Johnny went to bed having got home for free twice.

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