The Tale of Shawn-a-scoob: A Limerick in Crisis

An Irish Brushmaker C.1850s (Illustration Only)

The local government could not decide who should be the mayor of Limerick.

The problem grew as the impasse persisted. The first man to cross Thomond Bridge at first light on the following Saturday morning was the idea that one deserving Father finally came up with. Thomond Bridge connected the town to county Clare and the western seaboard. He would be named the city’s mayor, whether he liked it, wanted, willed, or wished it. Everyone concurred that this was an incredibly straightforward and workable approach, and for the first time in a long time, the hefty and wide-waisted City Fathers shared the same opinion.

In those ancient times, a person went by the name Shawn-a-Scoob to everyone who knew him or saluted him. He shared a wattle cabin in the Cratloe Woods with his devoted wife. Even though he was modest, his profession was honourable. He produced brushes and brooms. Depending on whether he was building a broom or a brush, he spent the entire week laboriously chopping twigs and gathering heather, gorse, and shrubs that he then attached to long and short wooden shafts. He would bring the week’s brooms to the marketplace in Limerick City early every Saturday morning while lark and linnet were high in the sky, early curlew, and rooking crow were all present. Because scoob in Gaelic means broom or brush, he was also known as Shawn-a Scoob or John of the Brooms for this reason.

Thus it turned out. When the City Fathers were on alert that Saturday morning, Shawn was the first man to cross the Shannon River via the Thomond Bridge. Shawn was casually daydreaming his way to market and pondering his early morning thoughts when he was confronted by the full Council of City Fathers. Shawn was barely longer than his big toe across the Bridge. Shawn was totally surprised by this.

Before he could catch his breath and express his astonishment, they informed him there and then on that infamous but historical spot that he was the first male human to cross Thomond Bridge that morning and as such was therefore, as of this most solemn moment, Mayor of the city. He knew them well enough by the rich robes of office they wore. The formal swearing-in ceremony to begin assuming office was all that was left. They reassured him that this would be done right away, without further delay, and put into action.

He was immediately taken to their massive, neoclassical granite Town Hall, with its towering columns, formal front, and carriage arcade, leaving him speechless and confused. When they arrived, they crammed him into the formal robe room, draped the historic gold chain around his rugged neck, and stuffed the symbolic silver mace into the palm of his native hand before donning him in the official crimson and ermine robes.

That evening, they held celebrations all around the town with lights and coloured bulbs, luminosities, and vividly sparkling fireworks in his bewildered honour. The less important members of the office staff were busy planning Shawn’s procession through the streets of his city the following morning, the Sabbat, in front of the entire populace.

Shawn’s healthy and honourable wife started to wonder what in the world had happened to Shawn after he hadn’t shown his face home the previous Saturday night back in Cratloe Woods, in his husbandman’s wattle hut. She came to the heartbreaking conclusion that he must have run into some drinking buddies in the town who had gotten him so wasted he couldn’t get home. Or perhaps he ran into a youthful, flitting, carefree person who turned his head and took him carelessly off course without his knowledge. Even at this very dying moment, he might be laying prone and bleeding from his pride and pocket in a city gutter or someplace in a ditch by the side of the road.

So, When Shawn didn’t arrive on Sunday morning, she draped her long black shawl around her shoulders and headed toward Limerick. as she arrived at Thomond Bridge and crossed it, She discovered the entire local population on the streets in a joyful mood with the entire town tastefully decorated for a grand parade. Then the parade came into view, with soldiers marching and soldiers galloping on horses, all polished and adorned with buckles, buttons, and brass. A brass band with spinning drumsticks and stomping band majors with moustaches was present.

The lofty ecclesiastical orders walked with ease as they explained the simple goal of their own purple and gold-embroidered authority. The Mayor himself, no less, was seated inside the finely sprung, open Mayoral vehicle, which was pulled by snow-white prancing horses. The Mayor waved amiably to the shouting, flag-waving citizens of his city while smiling benignly.

The poor woman found it difficult to accept what she had seen with her own two eyes as she gazed upon his porkchop, rural face. he was regally seated in the Mayoral carriage, waving benevolently and almost Papaliy greeting the ecstatic crowd with a brilliant smile of delighted success and happiness that was as wide as a shark’s. Her one and only, larger-than-life, honest spouse, Shawn-A-Scoob, sat, decked out in crimson silk and ermine fur, with a gold chain necklace and a heavy mace dangling from his skinny arm.

The sight undoubtedly made her pause. Nevertheless, not too long. She moved as soon as reality set in. She sprinted out and shoved the jubilant onlookers aside as she ran. All around her, she is senseless and blind. She burst through the adoring crowd yelling “Shawn! Shawn!” her eyes wide and concentrated on the image of himself in front of her, as in a trance or euphoric transportation.

She then appeared by his side. One hand reached out in prayer as the other grabbed hold of the French-polished carriage work. She shouted out, “Shawn. Don’t you know who I am, do you even know who I am? Her harsh voice attracted his attention. For a little period, he took his attention away from the cheering crowd—his happy people. He stood at the mayor’s height and stared down at her. He gave her imploring eyes a close examination. Even his eyes smoked. He raised his brows. The red fabric of his robe slipped back from his rough wrist as he raised his mayoral hand as though in blessing. His expression was solemn, and that of a strong church prince. “Shawn. Shawn. Do you not even know who I am?” She sobbed once more, desperate.

Shawn spoke haughtily in a single breath, “Go away from that woman. How can you not see I don’t even know myself?

credit: Desmond O’Grady, Old Limerick Journal, Volume 1, December 1979

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