One Act: In Front of St. Malachy’s

Photo by Chinche

In Front of St. Malachy’s

a one-act © by John Arnold

Castlewellan, Ireland

THOMAS is waiting in front of the church. He is obviously a tourist – camera in hand, tour guide in his pocket.

EILEEN enters hurriedly.

EILEEN         Are you the Yank looking for his granddad?

THOMAS         I am. Actually, it’s my great grandfather.

EILEEN         (Holds out her hand) I’m Eileen from the Church Store.

THOMAS         (Shakes) I’m Thomas Hamilton from the United States.

EILEEN         Oh, that’s a grand Irish name!

THOMAS         I’m named after my great grandfather – Thomas Hamilton.

EILEEN         And you’re looking for him, so.

THOMAS         The driver said this might be a good place to look.

EILEEN         Well, it might be. Was he from Castlewellan?

THOMAS         We think so. We found his census papers on and all it said was County Down.

EILEEN         Well, that’s a start! You’re in County Down, so.

THOMAS         I’m hoping he may have lived here.

EILEEN         And well he might! If there’s one person would know it’s Mary Brennan, the church secretary. She’s at mass now, but it will be over soon and we’ll ask her. So, whereabouts in America are you from?

THOMAS         Los Angeles.

EILEEN         Oh! Do you know any movie stars there?

THOMAS         No.

EILEEN         That’s a shame. I thought everyone in Los Angeles knows a movie star or two. I would love to meet Matthew McConaughey. Now there’s a good Irish name.

THOMAS         No, I haven’t run into him.

EILEEN         Well, keep an eye out. And if you do meet him, tell him Eileen O’Brien would like a date! (They laugh. She indicates the church behind them) Do you know anything about St. Malachy’s? It’s over a hundred years old. And it was named for the first Irish saint to be canonized by the Pope. He did miracles and had visions. He even named the last 122 Popes! But Mary can tell you more. She knows everything and everybody. She probably even knew him! (Laughs, then serious) Are you a church goer?

THOMAS         Well…

EILEEN         (Slaps him on the arm) We’ll make a practicing Catholic out of you! (Turns) Oh, mass is over. (Waves) Mary! Mary Brennan!

EILEEN         (Loudly) Mary, this is Thomas Hamilton. He’s from America. (Winks) He’s a friend of the movie star Matthew McConaughey.

MARY         Who?

EILEEN         Matthew McConaughey. He’s a movie star.

MARY         Never heard of him.

EILEEN         He’s from Los Angeles.

MARY         Who is?

EILEEN         Thomas Hamilton here and Matthew McConaughey. He’s going to get me a date with him.

MARY         What?

EILEEN         Perhaps you can take a look in the church records and see if you can find his great grandfather Thomas Hamilton. (Turns to THOMAS)

Mary Brannan is better than any Ancestry-dot-com and that’s for sure.

MARY         I’m what?

EILEEN         He was looking for his great granddad on

MARY         Whatever it is I’ll bet it’s no good.

EILEEN         Not good as Mary Brennan, that’s for sure.

MARY         Do you know your great grandfather’s date of birth?

THOMAS         1814.

EILEEN         Well, there’s a start.

MARY         I’ll have to ask the Father first.

EILEEN         Oh, he’ll say yes for sure.

THOMAS         I don’t want to put you to any trouble.

EILEEN         Oh, no trouble at all. Mary does it all the time.

MARY         If he’s from around here I’ll find him.

EILEEN         She can find a needle in a haystack, that one.

MARY         (Modestly) Oh, now…

EILEEN         No, it’s true. Maybe you should be getting a website yourself like

MARY         (Waves it off as nonsense) Oh, now…

THOMAS         I really appreciate it. We found his census papers and his immigration papers, but all we know he was from County Down.

EILEEN         And lucky he was. This is a beautiful county.

MARY         It is indeed. Have you been to the Mourne Mountains?

THOMAS         No.

EILEEN         Oh, you have to go to the Mourne Mountains.

MARY         They’re beautiful.

EILEEN         People come from all over to see the Mourne Mountains.

MARY         And what about Slievenaslat?

EILEEN         Oh, that’s lovely, too.

THOMAS         I’ll bet the driver will cover that.

EILEEN         Well, he’d better, wouldn’t you say, Mary?

MARY         I would.

EILEEN         You should see all the Germans walking all over the Mourne Mountains! With their walkin’ sticks! We have Germans all over the place this summer, don’t we, Mary?

MARY         Indeed we do.

EILEEN         Don’t know why the Germans like the Mourne Mountains so. Do you Mary?

MARY         No I do not.

EILEEN         Maybe it’s because it reminds them of Hawaii.

MARY         Hawaii!!

EILEEN         They’re so green and low with the clouds hanging over them…

MARY         What would you know about Hawaii, Eileen O’Brien?

EILEEN         I watch Hawaii 5-0, I do, and the mountains they show remind me of the Mourne Mountains. Indeed they do.

MARY         (Shakes her head incredulously)

EILEEN         Not many Yanks this year, though.

MARY         No. Not so many.

EILEEN         So you are most welcome.

THOMAS         Thank you.

EILEEN         And I hope you will see the Saint Patrick’s Center in Downpatrick. That had better be on your itinerary, too, I’d say, wouldn’t you, Mary?

MARY         I would.

EILEEN         It’s a lovely place. A trip to the St. Patrick’s Center will make a practicing Catholic of you! (Laughs)

MARY does not laugh and stares at THOMAS.

EILEEN         St. Patrick did much more than you think.

MARY         He did.

EILEEN         He did practically everything but invent the wheel, he did!

MARY         (Disapproving) Now, then…

EILEEN         Some say he was an Englishman but I don’t believe it, do you, Mary?

MARY         I do not.

EILEEN         No, he was an Irishman. Everyone knows that.

MARY         Indeed they do and indeed he was.

EILEEN         And while you’re in Downpatrick you can pay your respects at his grave. Or where they think he’s laid to rest. It’s next to an Anglican Church, but we won’t speak of that, will we, Mary?

MARY         We will not.

EILEEN         Oh, Downpatrick is a lovely place, but not quite so lovely as Castlewellan. (Looks around) It’s a shame you don’t have time to go explorin’ here.

MARY         Maybe next trip.

EILEEN         Yes, maybe next trip.

MARY         Do you know what your granddad did for a livin’?

THOMAS         It said he was a policeman and a justice of the peace.

MARY and EILEEN give each other a look.

EILEEN         Well, then.

MARY         Well, then. All bits of information can help now, can’t they?

EILEEN         Do you want me to be writing this down for you, Mary?

MARY         Certainly not. I still have my memory.

EILEEN         Indeed she does. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast!

MARY         Do you have a photo of your granddad?

THOMAS         No, I’m sorry, it’s back at the hotel.

MARY         (Frowns) Well, that’s all right.

EILEEN         You might visit the Down County Museum while you’re in Downpatrick. Don’t you think Mary?

MARY         You might.

EILEEN         You never know – they might have a photo of your granddad up on the wall! Maybe he did something of notoriety!

THOMAS         I’ll keep an eye out.

EILEEN         You never know where a relation may pop up!

THOMAS         Oh – I was going to ask you – can I get a Castlewellan t-shirt around here?

EILEEN         (Looks at MARY) A Castlewellan t-shirt?

MARY looks at EILEEN.

EILEEN         Now, there’s an idea. We should do that for the church and make a bit of money. (Turns to THOMAS) Would you wear a St. Malachy’s t-shirt?

THOMAS         I would.

EILEEN         (To MARY) You should ask the Father.

MARY         (Purses her lips) I don’t know…

EILEEN         I bet those Germans would buy them. (To THOMAS) Thanks for the idea. On your next trip through we’ll have some t-shirts for you to buy! (Pause) So, do you like Irish music, then?

THOMAS          Of course.

EILEEN         That’s the right answer! You should hear Mary sing. She sings like an angel…

MARY         Well, I used to…

EILEEN         No, you still do. You still sing like an angel. Sing “Danny Boy” for the lad. The Yanks all like “Danny Boy” so.

MARY         I am not singing in the car park.

EILEEN         Why not!

MARY         No…

EILEEN          Then sing “Seven Drunken Nights”…

MARY         Certainly not!

EILEEN         When Mary has a few drinks in her she sings “Seven Drunken Nights”!

MARY         I do not!

EILEEN         And she does it well, believe you me.

MARY         I’ll not be singing and let’s drop it.

EILEEN         All right.

A van horn honks.

THOMAS         Looks like I have to go. The van’s ready to leave.

EILEEN         Oh, that’s too bad.

MARY         (To THOMAS) I will do my best to find your granddad. I know he would be very pleased to know you are looking for him.

EILEEN         Yes, it’s a lovely thing when people look for their family roots. But you never know what you may find!

MARY         I’m sure Thomas Hamilton was an upstanding and lovely man.

EILEEN         Oh, I’m sure he was, indeed.

THOMAS         (Hands them each a business card) Here’s my contact information.

EILEEN and MARY stare at the card.

MARY         (Holds out her hand) Well, then, a safe journey to you.

MARY shakes hands with THOMAS.

EILEEN         (Shakes hands with THOMAS) And if you run into Matthew McConaughey tell him you know a fine Irish woman who wants a date.

THOMAS         I will. ‘Bye! (Exits)

EILEEN and MARY wave.

EILEEN and MARY begin to walk off.

EILEEN         Come on, Mary, let’s get you a cup of tea in the social hall.

MARY         All right.

EILEEN         These Yanks be so sentimental about their Irish relations!

MARY         They are, indeed.

EILEEN         Do you suppose he’ll ever run into Matthew McConaughey?

MARY         Who?

EILEEN         And I do like the idea of the t-shirts.

MARY waves her hand dismissively.

EILEEN         Why don’t you ask the Father.

MARY         Now I’m not asking the Father about any t-shirts…

EILEEN         Why not!

MARY         I need me tea.

They exit.


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