In the emerald-hued after glow of St. Patrick's Day, a stroll or stagger down some byways of old Killoyle (above). Here we meet the city's patron saint, St.Oinsias.
Oinsias O’Jaggery, better known as St. Oinsias, patron saint of Killoyle, was a domineering but controversial figure, and, some say, barking mad. First case in point: He circumnavigated the island of Ireland in a single day, rowing a coracle at incredibly high speed, returning home in time for supper leftovers (“It’s a miracle! Oh no, it’s you,” said his mum, Niamh). Second case in point: On one of his business trips South, St. (first-class) Patrick himself, CEO of all Christian operations in Ireland (umbrellas, wellies, pretty pictures, passes to Heaven, photo ops with the Almighty, and all kinds of free giveaways for the kiddies), stayed overnight at the now-defunct Stationary Hotel on Stationary Square. He had the prawns au jus, which he pronounced excellent. However, whilst enjoying a snifter of cognac after dinner, he was suddenly punched on the nose and unceremoniously bundled out of the hotel and cast into the outer darkness by none other than Oinsias O’Jaggery, who thereupon proclaimed himself Number One Saint in Killoyle and started wearing loud wooden clogs and a vicuña hairshirt. The Three Families were incensed; they had business dealings with St. Patrick (a stable, a manure emporium, an anvil shop), so the headmen, Proinsias Oyt, Dan-Dan O’Bladda and Blather O’Bladdy, got together and, with minimal pushing and shoving, and only one head-butt to midriff (Proinsias to Dan-Dan), they signed a pact to “go after the bustard (sic) and set him on fire.” It was no easy task. Oinsias O’Jaggery, son of Brian, the local scarecrow, was a local wide boy who’d had a colorful career (jousting, singing, boxing, etc.) before retiring to the hermitage (now the Hermit’s Hotel****–RIAC, AA, Opus Dei, Visa/MasterCard) on the placid shores of Lough Dough, SSW of Killoyle City. There he spent seventeen years, from 582 to 599, meditating on the sins and failings of men and, with the aid of our small friends the gnats and mosquitoes, developing the once-famous haunch-slapping dance. One sullen October day a spy from the Three Families spotted the great anchorite practicing a double-jetée, quite naked, amid a cloud of gnats. The snitch promptly sailed to Rome and told the Pope, no less a personage than that hearty trencherman and seer-of-visions Gregory I, known to his friends as “Gregory” or “just a Great Guy.” According to Phelim Hickman’s fact-based romance novel Loves of Oinsias, the description of nudity really got Greg’s attention (“coglioni grandi?” was his first question), but he drew the line at meditation (“meditazione?Va fanculo,” he snapped, between belts of rough Frascati and bites of his favorite panino). Still, the old Vicar of Christ had a soft spot for the lad, so as a special favor, Oinsias was promoted to Saint First Class and not burned alive until his birthday (September 2).
The Immolation of St. Oinsias
It was a grand old hooley and its memory lingered long in local lore. It is said that the saint, having enjoyed a final smoke with Proinsias Oyt, tossed his fag-end into the bundled kindling at his feet, thereby causing a slow fire to start smoldering, but not quite fast enough for the crowd, who began to growl menacingly when the ever-present rain put out the flickering flames, then started brandishing shillelaghs and blackthorn sticks and making ancient Celtic gestures indicative of fisticuffs and carnal self-knowledge. Oyt, quaking in his short and hairies, called in Petey and Neill O’Bladda, local flame-throwers, who briskly rubbed together Swan Vesta safety stones under an umbrella helpfully upheld by Oinsias. Hours passed and the mood grew nasty; but Oinsias, nothing daunted, entertained his restive audience with a spot of conjuring, a quick round of Twenty Questions, and, backed on instrumentals by The Wains, a then-popular musical-serf ensemble, a few hits of the day (“That Smell Is Mine”; “My Wife’s Two Cows Wide”; “Who’s the Fella with the Big Friggin’ Beard?”; and much, much more), as the flames finally licked ever higher, fanned into profusion by Petey and Neill (who were later hanged, drawn and quartered down the pub). It was long believed that the saint’s last words were “O, optimum est,” now the official motto of Killoyle City (and which can be seen hand-carved into the side door of the Killoyle Corporation offices, 5 Pollexfen Walk, and again in the Men’s WC; admission free, unless Big Tom’s using it), but in 1958 P. D. Turboboylan, a local historian and bogtrotter who needs no introduction, came upon a sixth-century monolith under the grass, upon which the true last words of St. Oinsias had been meticulously carved by Groin, the local scribe, and preserved for future generations: “O, fuck this.”
The immolation of St. Oinsias was long a favorite subject of medieval votive artists in Ireland and abroad, notably Blessed Jams O’Donnell of the Bogside (1221–1278), who painted the seminal “St. Oinsias Lights his Last Fag” (now hanging in the Letterkenny Museum of Fine Arts) and Dino of Umbria, “The Master of Poggibonsi” (ca. 1152–1206), whose masterpiece “St. Oinsias Ascends to Heaven” (Sant’Onsi Monta Nella Strada del Paradiso), hangs above the altar in the 13th century Cathedral of St. Virgin in Citta Assoluta (Liguria), next to the racetrack. A local Killoyle real estate magnate, Lord Maher of the Strand, who has extensive business holdings in Italy, has vowed to intercede with the Italian Government to purchase the work for display in perpetuity in Killoyle. (See Personalities, below.)
Where the Big Gay Chef restaurant now stands (No. 5). Note also Spinks’ Travel Agency at No. 7 and the knockout gal behind the desk. What a figure, eh? That’s Nuala O Mavourneen. We used to be neighbors when I was a lad, and believe you me, the showers we took together, the crevices we jointly explored...! But I digress.