In Front of St. Malachy’s
a one-act © by John Arnold
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 Ancestry.com 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?
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?
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.
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.
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 Ancestry.com
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?
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 Ancestry.com.
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?
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.
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!
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?
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.