That Monday morning in April 1967 was typical as I made my way to work as a labourer in Tommy Brosnan’s building providers and production yard. Many of my workmates arrived with sore heads after a weekend on the beer. There was hardly a word spoken between any of us during the morning but I sensed a twitch of something unfolding about midday when the yard came alive and a lot of laughter and sniggering began to get louder. Miss Miles the office secretary was not amused by what was about to unfold in the sleepy town of Tralee that afternoon.
It was then I heard the name Jayne Mansfield for the first time. Connor ‘the Nose’ was the first to talk about the urban district council being called into special session. The council chairman announced that an American actress was coming to the Mount Brandon hotel to do a show for half an hour for the magnificent sum of £1000. For a lad of 16 years of age who had only a few shillings for myself after paying £2.50 for lodgings I wondered how anybody could afford to pay that kind of money. One of my workmates ‘Holy Joe’ added caustically that the devil looks after his own but on the other side of the grave it would be God that would have the last laugh. Look what happened to Marlin Munroe he spluttered. It didn’t take me long to understand exactly what he was talking about.
Over the next few days pictures of this Jayne Mansfield started to appear in the local newspapers. Upon seeing the pictures I began to see what all the fuss was about. There was no doubt about it laughed the foreman Crowe, that there was plenty of eating and drinking to be had in the cleavage on display. Elvis Malone fancied that he could pull a bird like Jayne Mansfield no bother. Not at £1000 you wouldn’t, laughed the protestant Smyth.
It was Connor ‘the Nose’ that informed us that following the special session of the local urban district council, the management of the Brandon hotel were urged to withdraw their invitation to Miss Mansfield.
Miss Miles vigorously concurred the crucifix dangling across her chest as she roared ‘Tralee is no place for one who would dare sully the minds of gullible and impressionable young people yet to flower and bloom into adulthood’. She added that Brandon’s £1000 could be put to better use helping the poor and destitute by way of Catholic charities. She had no doubt that the good bishop of Kerry would put the Mount Brandon hotel in its place by a couple of slaps of the crozier and put to flight the devil and his handmaiden. Satan would not hover over the town of Tralee, looking for souls that he could devour. I already knew which side I was on when the real fun and craic started.
I started hanging around the bar at the Brandon hotel to hear tit bits of the ongoing saga. I knew it would not take long for the temporal powers to spring into action. The bishop of Kerry was rumoured to be taking his orders directly from a Dr John Charles McDaid the archbishop of Dublin. Word was that he was on the war path and praying for the wellbeing of the good people of Kerry.
An archbishop I heard was only a footstool away from being the Pope. I heard it said that the bishop of Kerry was under fierce pressure from Dublin. People were praying for the bishop of Kerry since his health had been bad for some time, the poor man had one foot in the grave. Any faltering steps on his part, in allowing the jezebel Jayne Mansfield as she began to be called in some quarters, could consign the bishop to the pits of hell. His solemn duty was to protect the boys and girls of the town of Tralee and more particularly their virtue lest it be soiled by filth.
As if by a miracle of prayer the bishop girded his loins and prepared for the fight. He would not be found wanting. From his sick bed he rose like Lazarus and issued a statement to the Press declaring that all young people of the whole of Kerry should stay away from the Mount Brandon hotel on the Sunday of Jayne Mansfield’s visit. From the pulpit he poured down fire and brimstone upon her head. He described her as a failing film star who could neither sing nor dance but compensated instead by a programme of sultry songs laced with sexual and provocative breathing suggestive of the deepest intimacy confined to the marriage bed. It was enough to send poor Miss Miles into a swoon. People of the town wondered how the bishop could speak with such authority. Much relief was to be had when Connor ‘the Nose’ informed us that such details came from the archbishop Dr John Charles McDaid via his contacts in America.
The Bishop of Kerry described Jayne Mansfield as a Goddess of Lust who had sold her soul to the devil for transitory fame, money and adulation. He further lamented that Miss Mansfield had been fortunate to have been born into a good Catholic family but became negligent in her religious duties as she got older. She fell away from the sacrament falling prey to the cunning devil himself. Sadly she was now living a profoundly sinful life, having had 3 husbands and 5 children and now living with a fourth man. The bishop was emphatic that the presence of Jayne Mansfield in the Mount Brandon hotel was both objectionable and a defilement of Irish womanhood, sacred to the Catholic tradition.
(c) Michael Clemenger
Read Part 2 of this here.
About Everybody Knew:
Michael Clemenger was handed over as a baby to the unloving care of a religious-run children’s home. Aged eight, he was transferred to St Joseph’s Industrial School.
Chosen as their ‘favourite’ by two Christian Brothers, Michael endured years of sexual abuse at the hands of both men. Brother Price struck at night, while Brother Roberts took pleasure in a weekly bathtime ritual. Although everybody at the institution knew, even the two Brothers’ ‘protection’ did not save Michael from merciless beatings by other sadistic men charged with his care.
Despite the unbelievable trauma of his early life, Michael emerged unbroken and determined to make something of himself. Everybody Knew is a story of remarkable spirit and courage.
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