Thursday, 19 September 2013

Sargent Kelly


In my dad’s time, the law in our town stood six foot two, and was stronger than a Russian power lifter. Sargent Kelly had an on the spot interpretation of the Irish penal code, and dispensed justice with personality. Things back then would best be described as very wild-west, without a hint of political correctness.

Sargent Kelly (or just Kelly if he was not in ear shot), was the angriest man ever to walk in shoe leather, I don’t think he once smiled while in uniform. In every town there the bullies who pick on the weak, then there are bigger bullies, who pick on them. Sargent Kelly liked to pick on the biggest of the bullies, but if they were unavailable for a punch, of the smaller ones would just have to do.

Sargent Kelly universally terrified everyone under the age of thirty, was loved by everyone over the age of sixty, and mistrusted by all in the middle. He'd walk up and down the town in massive strides, his hands clasped menacingly together behind his back. He didn't stop for chats, nor friendly nods of recognition, because Sargent Kelly was hunting, hunting for someone just asking for a thick ear. He'd pass the pubs were the tough lads gathered, and anyone with an ounce of sense made a close examination of their shoes when he appeared. A glance at the wrong time, or at the wrong angle, would result in a little tap.


That phrase became legend around the town, after Sargent Kelly arrested three men for fighting in the street, one night after pub closing time. When they appeared in the dock the next day, the Judge was horrified at the state of them. Their clothes were in ribbons, each of them had black eyes, busted lips, and a sideways nose. Sargent Kelly was in the witness box, about to give his evidence when the Judge asked, “What in heavens happened, Sargent?” 

“Your Honor, I was coming down Main Street at 11.50pm, when I saw three men arguing in the street. I approached them, and told them to make their way home, but they continued to argue and refused to follow my instructions. I then took the men into custody.” Sargent Kelly said matter-of-factly.  

“Can you identify which man lashed out first, Sargent?” asked the Judge.

“I don’t follow, Your Honor,” said Sargent Kelly.

“Which of these men, hit one of the other men first, Sargent,” repeated the Judge.

“Oh, they were shouting , not hitting , your Honor,” said Kelly.

“How did they end up in such a state,” asked the Judge, clearly confused.

“Well, they refused to stop shouting and leave the area, so I had to give them a little tap,” said Kelly, not quiet understanding what all the fuss was about.


After the Judge gave Sargent Kelly a dressing down, and instruction on excessive force, he dismissed the case against the defendants feeling they had suffered quiet enough. Outside, Sargent Kelly was heard to complain that in his day, "fellas like those, would never get to see the inside of a cell, never mind the inside of a court house. The whole world was going soft."


But the story that  best represents peace keeping Irish style happened on a sunny Sunday morning. Sargent Kelly was making his presence felt in the main square, when a young lad of about sixteen, came speeding through a stop sign on his bicycle, forcing an oncoming car to break hard. With two huge strides, Sargent Kelly was straddling the line in the middle of the road, blocking all escape for boy and bike. The teenager came to a skidding stop.

“Young McCarthy, I should have known. Did you not see the stop sign? The made it nice and big, even painted it red, you gobshite,” Sargent Kelly barked at the young man. 

Brian McCarthy was not renowned for his brains, but his cheek was legendary. “I did, Sargent. I slowed down, and saw it was fine, so kept going,” said the young man with a little grin. Kelly’s blood began to boil.

“Is that right McCarthy? Well that’s all right then, isn’t it?” said Kelly, his words dripping sarcasm. “Stop means STOP McCarthy, not fucking, slow down.”

“What’s the difference?” asked the young-lad, pushing his luck to the limit.

“Get off the bike and let me explain it to you,” said Sargent Kelly, his hands planted firmly on his hips, and his face glowing read with rage. 

The young lad swung his leg over the bar of the bike, but before it even hit the ground, Sargent Kelly grabbed the back of his jacket, and with one twist of his wrist, the kid was on his tips of his toes. Sargent Kelly swept his foot up with a footballer’s skill, and planted it firmly in young McCarthy's arse. The boy screamed in pain while Kelly booted the young lad about eight more times. 

Young McCarthy tried to run but only ended up going in circles around the massive Garda. They looked like a dog, chasing his own tail. Before long, a large crowd of mass goers had gathered to watch the fun. As suddenly as Kelly had attacked the boy, he stopped again, holding the lad up so they were face to face. “Right so McCarthy, would you like me to slow down, or stop?”

“Jesus Christ, STOP!” yelled the young lad. 

Kelly dropped him and said, “Glad you get the difference,” before stomping up the street in a rage.  

Get more stories like this - The Misadventures of Father Tom
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