Australian poet Banjo Paterson took leave in Ireland. Here, while on a fox hunt, his Cousin Norah explains to him the Irish thirst for revenge for every stereotyping "Mick and Pat" joke that's ever been told...
"Watch yerself annyhow", said my Cousin Norah. "They'll get ye down if they can."
"Get me down. Why?"
"Just devilment. Half the comic stories in the world begin 'There was an Irishman named Mick;' and the other half begin 'There was an Irishman named Pat.' An' the boys don't like it. Whin they see a stranger they say to thimselves: 'We'll give ye some Mick and Pat for it, me bold lad, before ye're much older.' Ivry one makes 'em out to be monkeys, and they'll act like monkeys."
"But I never told a story about Mick and Pat--never in my life."
"No. And if they can get ye a good fall, 'twill be a lesson to ye niver to tell one."
Arrived at the meet, people did not gather together in groups and chat in the usual manner. They circled slowly round looking at my hat; and me Cousin Norah said darkly:
"If they don't have sport one way, this day, they'll have it another."
I was riding a fine, bold-going, four-year-old; but when the hounds settled down after a fox I did not try to distinguish myself. The Master was a big heavy man and I followed him as accurately as though I were towed behind him by a piece of string. I reckoned that wherever he went I could go. Thrusters on fast horses cut in in front of me and dashed away, looking over their shoulders as though challenging me to follow. Not a bit of it. I had read the adventures of Soapy Sponge and how the members of the Flat Hat Hunt either ran across him at a jump, or tried to lead him into a bog. The Master for me every time!
We lost that fox. While jogging across to another covert the Hunt Secretary and one of the whips placed their horses just in front of me, and before I knew what I was doing I was following them. Nobody else followed.
"Come across here," they said. "It's a short cut."
We came to quite a harmless-looking hedge and the whip gathered his horse together, popped over it, and disappeared from sight. The Secretary followed him, and then it was my turn. My four-year-old rushed it eagerly and not knowing the place he jumped very big. When we were in the air I found that there was a drop of at least seven feet to the field below. A lovely place!
Before I had time to think of any suitable last words the big Irish colt landed on his knees, his nose, and his hoofs, distributing the shock among them, and making a perfect three point landing. Only a horse as clever as a cat could have done it. I heaved a sigh of relief, and decided that only a man with a revolver would get me away from the tail of the Master's horse for the rest of the day.
Then the Secretary found out that I was an Australian, and he was full of apologies.
"Sure I didn't know," he said. "They're great comic people, the Australians, I hear; always puttin' men on buck-jumpers to get them a fall. I'd, like to go there and see them, they're that comic. Come and I'll introjuice ye to the Master."
The Master was all dignity and deportment, though I think he knew more about the proceedings than he cared to admit.
"Are you making a long stay in Ireland," he said.
I told him that I was only staying for a few days.
"Well," he said, "you won't want to buy any horses so I'll tell 'em to keep off you."
I said, "How do you mean keep off me?"
"Everybody here," he said, "rich and poor, swell and peasant, they all have horses for sale. If they think you're a buyer they'll give you no peace. There's ladies of title here so keen to sell their horses that if they saw you lying on the ground after a fall they'd jump on you just so as you'd have to notice their horse."
Relieved of any fear of assassination I concentrated on navigating my four-year-old over such country as I had never met in Australia. Most of the jumps were banks about four feet high with a six-foot ditch each side; and the horses had to jump on top of the bank and then jump off again. The hedges were all thorns, with only one place where you could get at them, and that place all boggy and slippery. I thought I was doing wonders to get along at all, until I looked round and saw a little girl on a fourteen hand pony following me. It was very pretty to watch her. The pony would go at the first ditch and land about half-way up the bank; then he would scramble up to the top and slide half-way down the other side. Poising here for a moment like a chamois, he would gather his feet together and spring out over the second ditch. The little girl never interfered with him, beyond tapping him on the shoulder occasionally with a stick when she wanted him to make a spring. I said to a man riding next me that I had never seen jumping like it.
"Jump, is it," he said. "Ye could hunt a cat on that one and wherever the cat'd go that one'd be treading the tail off it."
Then came the catastrophe.
We arrived at a ditch about twelve feet across, six feet deep, full of water, and with steep slippery banks. We could only get at it in one place and had to take our turns and go at it one at a time. Someone spoke to me and distracted my attention for a moment and when the horse in front of me made his jump, my horse took me by surprise and jumped at almost the same instant. The two horses were in the air together, one exactly behind the other, and when the horse in front of me fell short and landed half in and half out of the ditch mine landed on top of him--climbed up his back one might say--knocking both horse and rider back into the ditch. It was an accident, of course; but my part in the affair looked like a combination of bad riding and bad manners, and I was in terror till the horseman rose from the ditch like Neptune rising from the sea, cursing fluently, while his horse made a heave and a scramble and got out also. Neither of them was hurt. As I did not know the proper etiquette under the circumstances I went away from there as quickly as I could and caught up with the Master.
"I've done a terrible thing," I said. "I jumped on a man and knocked him and his horse into a ditch; but they're not hurt."
A Master of Hounds is entitled to say anything to anybody--he can even be-devil the Prince of Wales--so I knew that whatever was coming I had to sit and take it. We were only riding at a walk from one covert to another at the time, so the riders all crowded round, grinning, to hear the Australian told off.
Looking round to see that his audience were all attention the Master opened out.
"You jumped on a man, did youl" he roared. "Just because we're poor Irish, you think you can come all the way from Australia and jump on us! In the Shires they'd stand you up against a wall and shoot you! But I'll tell you what I'll do."
Here he had another look round to see that nobody was missing it.
"There's a lot of these lads here haven't paid their subscriptions," he went on. "I'll point 'em out to you, and you can come along and jump on 'em to your heart's content."
When I got home, and handed over the horse to the head groom, I told him about knocking the man into the ditch.
"Ye done well," he said. "They'd have felt hurted if an Australian hadn't done something quare for 'em."
A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson, "Happy Dispatches"