08 November 2006

Why Jams o Donnell?

Why not? Actually I was inspired to chose the name Jams O’ Donnell because of an episode in Flann O Brien’s wonderful satire on the hard life that is the lot of the Gaels, An Beal Bocht – aka the Poor Mouth. In it the main character Bonaparte O’ Coonassa, is at his first day at school:

We all gathered in the schoolhouse. We all sat on benches, without a word or a sound for fear of the master. He cast his venomous eyes ever the room and they alighted on me where they stopped. By jove! I did not find his look pleasant while these two eyes were sifting me. After a while he directed a long yellow finger at me and said: “Phwat is yer nam?”

I did not understand what he said nor any other type of speech which is practised in foreign parts because I had only Gaelic as a mode of expression and as a protection against the difficulties of life. I could only stare at him, dumb with fear. I then saw a great fit of rage come over him and gradually increase exactly like a rain-cloud. I looked around timidly at the other boys. I heard a whisper at my back: “Your name he wants!”

My heart leaped with joy at this assistance and I was grateful to him who prompted me. I looked politely at the master and replied to him: “Bonaparte, son of Michelangelo, son of Peter, son of Owen, son of Thomas's Sarah, grand-daughter of John's Mary, grand-daughter of James, son of Dermot…”

Before I had uttered or half-uttered my name, a rabid bark issued from the master and he beckoned to me with his finger. By the time I had reached him, he had an oar in his grasp. Anger had come over him in a flood-tide at this stage and he had a businesslike grip of the oar in his two hands. He drew it over his shoulder and brought it down hard upon me with a swish of air, dealing me a destructive blow on the skull. I fainted from that blow but before I became totally unconscious I heard him scream:

“Yer nam, said he, is Jams O'Donnell!

So there you have it. I hope you sleep easier with this knowledge in your head. It’s like will never be there again….

10 comments:

mullet said...

by jove! I'm sure the old 'tales of the unexpected' ripped this one off!

elasticwaistbandlady said...

Wow, that was some snippet from the book. I'm not being snarky at all when I say that it grabbed my attention, and I want to read it now.

I have no great works of literature to accredit, just a butt load of pregnancies, and poor exercise habits to give me the fitting name of elasticwaistbandlady.

jams o donnell said...

It's an expression we just don't hear anymore/.. Perhaps we should bring by Jove back!

I love the book ewbl. I will put something up again about it over the weekend. It is a vicious satire on the way gaelic langueage writers presented irish speakers. That said it is a funny read in its own right...

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a cautionary tale I heard on an Equal Opportunities course... about the manager who told his Asian secretary that he would call her Mary because he couldn't be bothered to learn how to pronounce her real name.

jams o donnell said...

It is very much along that line Roger. Gaelic names can look pretty well unprnounceable (my real name looks pretty daunting when I translate it back in to gaelic!). Besides the Gaelic speakerss were rather less than second class citizens in days gone by. We truly will never see their likes again!

MC Fanon said...

Very nice. Do you tell that to everyone who asks?

Steve Bates said...

Splendid, jams. I'll bet I will remember the story, if not its author or the particulars. On the other hand, that opening is indeed compelling; if it's readily available on this side of the Atlantic, perhaps I'll find and read it.

My own online name is my real name, and it couldn't be more uninteresting. I do have some Irish ancestry, though (from the north; I didn't get to choose), and I play a bit of Irish flute and pennywhistle. My blog's name... the YDD, my real blog, not my Blogger blog... is a combination of "yellow dog Democrat," a mostly Southern U.S. expression for someone who would vote for a yellow dog if that's what the Democratic Party ran for an office... and doggerel, of which I used to write a great deal, mostly political. The name came to me one day as I was sitting in the smallest room of my apartment, which origin seems somehow appropriate to me. :)

jams o donnell said...

Only if they ask nicely, Dave!

Flann O Brien's books are readily available from the Dalkey Press. One of his works, the Third Policeman got a huge boost in sales when it was seen briefly in an episode of that inexplicable tv show Lost.

My family are from the South West of Ireland. My parents left in the 40s, my dad to join the RAF in 1941, my mum to become a nurse in 1948. I cant play an instrument to save my life though.

Politically I am Labour to the core even if some of the last few years have been rather uncomfortable

mullet said...

since we talk about pasts....yes jams, some similarities.......my family are from the north....my parents left...(thinking old? i was very late) i nearly became a nurse!.........so ultimately, we have nothing in common - lol - antithesis - opposites lol!

jams o donnell said...

Ah Vive le difference....and the similarities