Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Trove Tuesday - A Caustic Wit

As I was reviewing the Trove articles I had tagged as Denis Tierney I reread this article about my 2x Great Grandfather, which is truly Trove Treasure.

What makes this article stand apart is that it is not just a list of facts  and positive traits but an honest  description of the character that gives us an insight into the person, of Denis Tierney.

I have clipped the first lines of this article and am pasting below that a typed transcript of the full article.

1894 'The Late Mr. D. Tierney.', Dungog Chronicle : Durham and Gloucester Advertiser (NSW : 1894 - 1954), 23 February, p. 2, viewed 11 January, 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134308176

"The Late Mr. D. Tierney.
In the death of Mr D. Tierney. re- corded in your issue of the 6th inst., just received, Dungog loses one of its most characteristic members. At once one of the oldest residents and a man of pronounced individuality, the late Mr Tierney commanded much atten- tion on the part of his fellow towns- folk and might be said to have occupied  a privileged position among them. He had for years past the undisputed right to criticise the sayings and doings of all Dungog and district, and dearly did the old gentleman love to exercise this right. Few have escaped his censure, and that pronounced in the most vigorous and explicit terms, but com- ing from Tierney it was always taken calmly, or at least with the best grace possible. For one reason, perhaps, the old man possessed a caustic wit that it was just as well not to provoke, though in nine cases out of ten I honestly believe no harm was meant, and the criticism merely resulted from the very pleasure of exercising his pri- vileges and creating amusement. Many amusing stories might be related of Tierney's onslaughts on those who dif- fered from him in politics or religion,traceable, as we all know, not to any inherent bigotry in the man, but purely and simply to the feeling and dispos- tion just mentioned. It not unfre- quently happened, in fact, that those he "tackled" (to use his own expres-     sion) the oftenest, he valued very highly, and never missed an oppor- tunity of rendering them a service. Typically Irish as he was in his appre- ciation of humor, he was none the less so in his warm-heartedness and whole- souled generosity. Tierney's house and property were well known to be parish institutions, available to all,without class or distinction, who chose to make use of them. Everyone un-derstood him, and to understand him was to appreciate him. I venture to say, further, that those he so often "tackled" on Home Rule and kindred   topics will feel his loss and miss his familiar figure quite as much as his immediate friends. Nor do I think I exaggerate if I state my conviction that the old man will be missed as much by one and all for his harmless vanity and other little foibles as for his originality, his wit, his candor, and his many other merits. Who will not remember kindly his claims to be an Irishman of uncommon mould, and the only local authority on time and time pieces ? Or who will evev forget the pride with which he exhibited his in- comparable blackthorns, and related their history, as the gifts of distin- tinguished admirers, in one as being the very stick that Daniel O'Connell pointed out with scorn in opening his famous encounter with Biddy Mori- arty ? Above all, what visitor to his domicile will ever lose recollection of the supreme satisfaction it gave him to show his "patriotic art gallery" as  he proudly termed it, where hung in state (the room being consecrated thereto) large sized portraits of Grat- tan, Emmett, O'Connell, etc., ranged as he stoutly maintained against all-comers in the true order of their merit? So much for the humorous side of the old man's character. Turning to what was practical in him, he enjoyed the reputation in his younger days of being a skilful tradesman, and one who brought a good deal of ingenuity to bear upon whatever he undertook to do. Of late years, however, he was unequal to the strain of continuous labor, and worked very little at his trade. Like many other of the old pioneers of the district, he may not have been very successful, but per- haps, as it is said of a fellow-country- man, "his heart and hospitality had   much to do with that." After all, the measure of a man's success is not al- ways the measure of his worth in this luck-influenced world. But, as a sportsman, few will deny his claims to rank among the very first in the dis- trict in which he spent more than half a century of his existence. In days gone by it might almost be said that horse racing, at least, was impossible without Tierney's guidance and assis- tance. Even to the last he was no mean judge of horseflesh. It was only a couple of years ago that, as he and I were standing together on the Dun- gog course, he tipped the first and se- cond horses as they cantered by, and all have heard him tell how he did the same thing at Randwick on a particular occasion. As a marksman also, he owned few equals in the Williams River district. His William Tell-like performances with the rifle well-known to all Dungogites, how he put a bullet   through a bucket of water carried on the head of one man, to that individual's   great discomfiture, and broke a bottle by the same means on the stump- protected cranium of another, for I think a five-pound wager. All his actions in those days proclaim him to have been a man of nerve and vigor,and one of a class fast dying out. Nor in milder forms of pastime was he lessproficient, being for one thing a draught- player of the very toughest order, asthose who have encountered him in a game will readily admit. His exten- sive taste also included a turn for mathematics, at which he was originally no mean hand. Well do I remember him putting his "posers" from the old     Irish mathematicians to groups of us boys coining home from school, and the strictures passed upon us and our teachers when, as often happened, we were obliged to own ourselves "licked." His talented daughter, Jane, inherited this mathematical bent from him, as well as other intellectual gifts the old man possessed. But like her, and his wife, and other relatives, he has now been laid to rest in Hanley's Flat— that peaceful spot in which he has himself laid so many. Yet he shall not be soon forgotten, and I for one will feel, when I visit Dungog again, that it possesses for me one charm the less, and one sad memory the more."
As it happens I have in my possesion one of those treasured Blackthorns or Shillelaghs  that was presented to Denis by Mr Mackay, Mayor of Dungog. I wish I knew that heirloom.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Obituaries and wedding reports. How wonderful they were.


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