‘A country without village idiots is not worth living in. Without them there is no way of knowing who are sane.’
– Oliver St. Gogarty, *As I Was Going Down Sackville St.*
[The 2nd Festival of Fools took place in Dublin recently, along with some other unsynchronised idiocy in New York and Belfast. We now join our hominid on the scene, The Mostly Revered Count Hellshaw Zorro O’Blather I, by live telegram link-up – transcending time, space and several by-laws to the scene of the crime:]
‘Sounds like the most serious, intrepid and desperate act in Dublin since the Holy Order of the Lemon filled the River Liffey with lemons a few years ago…’
Robert Anton Wilson on The Festival of Fools 1999
T’was a warm and pleasant spring afternoon – 5pm on Tuesday, March 29th 1999, when the Count O’Blather, resplendent in his motoring leathers, clerical collar and wide-brimmed hat, loped up Dublin’s South William St. towards The Castle Lounge, more commonly known as Grogan’s. On nearing the lounge doorway, he caught site of the handsomely aquiline features and lengthy gait of Smolian rounding the corner. The two exchanged greetings, threats and irrelevant unpleasantries before ducking inside the tavern.
Inside was an cheery chaotic morass – amidst the ancient wood panelling adorned with contemporary art, were all manner of craythur, some bedecked in absurd finery, others content in laundered mufti. It wasn’t often that Grogan’s – arguably the last bastion of licensed sanity amidst the bourgeois hoi polloi and theme-pub culture of the turbulent city – was so tumescent with imbibers so early on a Tuesday… most of those present however, had an inkling of the reason for this borderline paranormal phenomenon.
On the street outside, the Bishop of Fools and the Abbot of Unreason cavorted for bemused press photographers, whilst those exemplary mummers, Ridiculusmus, noosed themselves together, taped up their gobs, and silently abused passers-by. Things were coming to a head.
The head of St. Flann that is. The mottled crew had assembled to spark off the annual celebration known *The Festival of Fools* (*Féile Na nAmaidi*) – ‘An arts and entertainment festival for the King of Unrule’. The First King and Patron Saint of the Festival of Fools is the long deceased but since transcended Dublin writer, wit and drinker, Flann O’Brien/Myles na gCopaleen/Brian O’Nolan – referred to herein as Flann. Flann, who died on, significantly, April 1st 1966, also has the dubious honour of influencing this writer when choosing a moniker for this irregular diatribe of paranormal rambles.
‘The Festival of Fools (FoF) came to life, during a conflagration between the Abbot and the Bishop, one soaking wet September evening in 1997. Initially, they sought to host a festival that would honour Flann O’Brien for whom there was as yet no public commemoration. They wanted to have a Foolsday that would rival Joyce’s Bloomsday. But the fool wanted more.’ – FoF website.
As matters haphazardly got underway, a strange ritualistic train of presentations took place *behind* the bar of Grogan’s. Eilish Rafferty of the Dublin Writers’ Museum presented the Head of the first King and Patron Saint of the Festival, Myles na Gopaleen, to Tommy Smith – proprietor of Grogan’s Bar & Gallery. He presented the Head to the sculptor of the Head, Victor McCaughan, who then presented the Head to the Abbot of Unreason and the Bishop of Fools, a questionable act which launched the Festival of Fools 1999. There have been reports implicating a transvestite Oinseach in the chain of presentation, but these heinious claims are, whilst true, probably unfounded.
Taking a brief sojourn from the Guinness fumes of Grogan’s, many fools plied themselves with drink in the evening sunshine, many accosting yet more innocent passers-by, while others engaged in cogno-intellectual discussions with a fine-looking canine named Pepper, only occasionally interrupted by the horn-blowing of the Jester, a curmudgeonly specimen with an exquisite pair of ears, the likes of which are rarely seen outside the works of Arthur Rackham or Gene Roddenberry.
Sometime in the region of 6:30pm, a noisy procession of gobshites, made up of the Bishop of Fools, the Abbot of Unreason, the Oinseach, The Whirling Dervish, the Chief Rabbi, Anubis and other notable AmadÃ¡ns stumbled across the road to the Dublin Civic Museum, whereupon all were ritually frisked and harassed by the voluntarily mute Ridiculusmus, with many a pert buttock being grasped firmly by warm hands. At this stage, several passers-by of the touristic persuasion were manhandled through the door and subjected to strip-searches and mandatory consumption of Jameson’s Whiskey, including an acquaintance of the Reverend Count, Princess Z of Spain. Candidates then ascended the ornate staircase, pausing on the first landing where they were made to prostrate themselves before the aforementioned effigy of Saint #1. Inside the grand-big room inside, the geeks paid homage (out of the corner of their pineal glands) to the battered head of Horatio Nelson, a vital component of the failed Irish space project of 1966.
All fools in attendance managed to reach a plateau of gobdawness, and were subjected to several renowned lÃºdramÃ¡ns on the subjects of foolosophy, foolore and idiotology. Peter Costello (occasional Fortean Times contributor, lake monster research, historian and author) ranted out some of Myles the Jester’s work translations of the rants of Mad Sweeny – King of Dal Araidhe, cursed by Saint Ronan:
My curse is on Sweeny!
His guilt against me is immense,
he pierced with his long javelin
my holy bell.
The holy bell that thou hast outraged
will banish thee to branches
it will put thee on a par with fowls-
the saint-bell of saints of sainty-saints
Just as it went prestissimo
the spear-shaft skywards,
you too Sweeny, go madly go-gone
Eorann of Conn tried to hold him
by a hold of his smock
and though I bless her therefore
my curse is on Sweeny
When the Sweeny rants were done with, and the massive fire that had broken out at the back of the hall – ‘Tine!’, the Jester weakly yodeled – Costello was finally relieved by the formidable Patrick Healy – a man who has the frightening distinction of having recorded a spoken-word version of Joyce’s *Finnegans Wake*.
There was no stopping our man Healy – the sheer brilliance of unrepeatable performance, as he plucked ripe ideas and colourful metaphors from the orgone-laden ether, will surely be retained in oral tradition for posterity. We would not dare sully his fine speech with a mere commission to print. It was all about the finery of foolishness, and let’s leave it at that.
A gentleman, the name of whom presently escapes us, then took took the stand, and gave forth, in a most endearing fashion, on the tradition of the Tarot Fool – an archetype with which far more folk should pay attention to (or pretend to ignore). With this, an unholy thirst came upon the army of idiots. Having signed the roll-book – enabling acquisitions of postal degrees in (we think) Foolosophy, Eekonomicks and Arkiteckture from the Polyversity of Foolosophy and Codology all repaired to Grogan’s holding aloft their newly printed (it was still wet) Filthy Lucre – official currency of the FoF. More pints of Ardilaun were disposed of, while pigmeat and cheese-toasted effigies of the snack invented by the Earl of Sandwich (which he consumed during marathon card-playing sessions) were munched.
Despite the transatlantic banana wars raging in the real world, the decadent fools shared out bananas, and other fruits, whilst hard-boiled hen’s eggs were secreted in fob pockets for later examination.
Outside, the clatter of tiny hooves on cobblestones signalled the arrival of Messrs. O’HogÃ¡in and Breathnach to speak about more traditional foolishness… a flock of Spanish students were kidnapped and forced inside the Civic Museum, whilst various inebriated regulars ran riot round the rotunda of the lecture hall, resulting in a ritual beating doled out by the normally peaceable jester…
In a state of exhausted buffoonery, the fools eventually lurched
On April 1st, the Count O’Blather was suspiciously absent from proceedings, due to some surgical shenanigans, but we are lead to believe that a parade rolled downhill from the The Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square, along O’Connell St., through College Green, and up Grafton St., finally coming to a creaking halt at Harry St.
‘Foolsday itself blasts off with an extreme sporting event – the Carnival of AmadÃ¡ns. Finn Rowley, the King of Unrule, will lead a gang of fools, songsters, jugglers, jokers, stiltwalkers, fireaters, and daft participants in a jocund, rollicking dance through Dublin. Fools through the ages and from many cultures will represent their own particular brand of idiocy and engage the public in an awesome free-for-all’. (FoF website).
Here the proceedings declined into a ‘Seismic Slam’, where, as the website proposed: ‘All those who durst claim to be poets, you are deemed so only if you can survive an explosive afternoon, in the traditions of nonsense, humour and improvisation that should leave you proud to be called a fool.’
We are pleased to announce that the Mostly Rev. Comte struggled free of his manacles, eluded his keepers, and threw off his pyjamas in time to catch the ‘Election and Sacrifice’ at 9:00pm on April Fool’s Day, when the King had her head lopped off to a standing ovation (no-one had the foresight of bringing deck-chairs) from the waving and beering populace, and a New King of Unrule was levered into office. We are not so pleased, however, by the gargantuan cleaning bills received at *this* office, due to the impressive bloodstains acquired by the Count while performing his journalistic endeavours.
Codology – the practice of codding, fooling
Cod – hoax, joke, lie, humbug
– usage – ‘Are you codding me or what?’
Oinseach – (Own-shock) a fool, usually referring to a foolish woman,
but can be applied to the male of the species
Craythur – ‘creature’ – a person, often used as a term of affection or
Tine – (t-na) gaelic for fire
Flann O’Brien – The No-Bicycle Page
How Blather got its name
Robert Anton Wilson
The Holy Order of the Lemon
Joyce and Bloomsday
IRISH UFO UPDATE
Following our recent reportage on a couple of Irish UFO sightings, a few theories have come to light. With regard to the the fireball seen by Edel Chadwick, a rather nameless representative of the *European Gravitational Scientific Research Systems* was in touch, to posit the theory that what had been witnessed was in fact a reflection from an Iridium satellite…
The correspondant was evidently unaware that we had covered the possibility of Iridum flares, in light of a different matter, in an earlier issue (*Big Lights Out West*, February 12th 1999). We say this as they recommended checking out the same website that we referenced in that earlier issue, the *German Space Operations Center*. The correspondant said that they were surprised that ‘Astronomy Ireland didn`t mention to you that it could have been an Iridium Flare’. Well, considering one of the witnesses was David Moore, a well-known astronomer and editor of *Astronomy & Space* magazine, we trust he was able to decide on the nature of his sighting.
In addition – and we’re happily open to correction on this matter – the time of the sightings by Edel Chadwick and David Moore were reported at 23:30 and 22:50, respectively, on March 6th. Going by our reasonably regular monitoring of Iridium forecasts, it would seem that satellites are only visible in Ireland from between around 0500 until 0800 GMT and later on from 1700 until 2000 GMT, apparently ruling out any possibility of sightings later in the night. *We may be wrong*.
If any of the readership haven’t a foggiest about what an Iridium
satellite is, check out the aforementioned earlier Blather issue…
As for the second reported UFO, preceding the Dublin fireworks show on March 13th, Andrew Shiel offers a theory with which we would be happy align ourselves – a runway children’s helium balloon, reflecting light from below, and drifting in the wind. Those that were on sale were apparently silver in colour…
With the very recent re-launch of hellshaw.com (a.k.a the site formerly known as *The Rev. Hellshaw’s Pearly Gates*), a site incorporating the *Flann O’Brien No-Bicycle Page*, *The Holy Order of the Lemon* and some of the work of the late Tarot scholar James Reeducks, we are proud to inform the readership of the online publication of an excerpt from Barry Kavanagh’s *The Babalon Working*, a play based on the rituals performed by Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard in 1946.
This subject was touched on briefly in an earlier Blather, *Hellfire
Dave (daev) Walsh
April 13th 1999