Waterford Characters what about Francie Cahill? This query appeared on the margin of a copy of the "Waterford News" which my friend, Mike Fitzgerald, of Santa Maria, California, received from a Mrs. Englehart, whose address is 1845 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, California and who stated that she had recently returned from a ten months’ holiday in Waterford. She is quite unknown to Mike, as she is to me, although she must be a native of the city. At any rate, Mike proceeds to answer the question as follows:
Francie Cahill was a well-known character of the Urbs Intacta whose chief claim to fame lay in the fact that he spent more time in jail than out of it. The police had long tired of tabulating his transgressions and when a Magistrate enquired as to the number of previous convictions against him, Francie usually replied "one more, your honour." Then Francie was on his way once again to Ballybricken Jail, escorted by a burly "peeler" and it was a sight to see him coming up Patrick Street smoking a clay pipe, while at the same time playing "God Save Ireland" on a penny tin whistle through his nose. Poor fellow, he was entirely harmless, though somewhat of a nuisance.
Do any of your readers, I wonder, continues Mick, remember "Mary-go-to-Heaven?" Frequently, when she imbibed too much of the cup that cheers she would numb one’s ears with a raucous rendition of "I’m one of a large fam-il-ee, that in number was eleven, and when I die, plaze God I’ll tread, the rocky road to heaven." Some however, uncharitably held that she was sliding down the road in the opposite direction.
Then there was "Rotten Onions." She gained entry to houses on the pretext of selling stale onions - hence her nickname. She was an utter stranger to soap and water and her fingers had an adhesive quality to which anything she could reach clung possessively. One day she was passing by the Cathedral, outside which sacred edifice stood the carriage and pair of the late Bishop Sheehan, with the coachman in the driver’s seat, drowsily awaiting his Lordship. Something inside the carriage caught the eye of "Rotten Onions" and she quietly entered. There was a contrivance on the carriage floor, which she stepped upon caused a bell to ring - the signal to the driver to be on his way. Inadvertently "Rotten Onions" stepped on it, and the driver, thinking it was his Lordship, drove off down Barronstrand St., and along The Quay. Near Reginald Tower, the late Rev. W.B. O’Donnell, then Administrator of the Cathedral, saw the Bishop’s carriage, halted the driver and walked over to greet his Lordship. After more than fifty years, says Mike Fitzgerald, I still get a thrill out of the conjecture as to what were Father O’Donnell’s reactions, when instead of the dignified Dr. Sheehan, he beheld the unwashed and hag-like features of "Rotten Onions" and heard her plea: "For the love of God, let me out of here."
Waterford Today - Jack O’Neill’s Pages from The Past: