Monday 18 November 2019

A plot hole in Delaney's Donkey

Now Delaney had a donkey that everyone admired
Temporarily lazy and permanently tired
A leg at every corner balancing his head
And a tail to let you know which end he wanted to be fed

Riley slyly said we've underrated it, why not train it, then they took a rag
They rubbed it, scrubbed it, they oiled and embrocated it
Got it at the post and when the starter dropped the flag

There was Riley pushin' it, shovin' it, shushin' it
Hogan, Logan and everyone in town
Lined up, attackin' it and shovin' it and smackin' it
They might as well have tried to push the Town Hall down
The donkey was eyein' them, openly defyin' them
Winkin', blinkin' and twistin' out of place
Riley reversin' it, everybody cursin' it
The day Delaney's donkey ran the halfmile race

The muscles of the mighty never known to flinch
They couldn't move the donkey a quarter of an inch
Delaney lay exhausted, hangin' round his throat
With a grip just like a Scotsman on the five pound note
Starter, Carter, he lined up with the rest of them
When it saw them, it was willin' then
It raced up, braced up, ready for the best of them
They started off to cheer it but it changed its mind again

And there was Riley pushin' it, shovin' it, shushin' it
Hogan, Logan and Mary Ann Macgraw
She started pokin' it an' grabbin' it an' chokin' it
It kicked her in the bustle and it laughed hee-hah
The whigs and conservatives, the radical superlatives
Liberals and tories, they hurried to the place
Stood there in unity, helpin' the community
The day Delaney's donkey ran the halfmile race

The crowd began to cheer it, then Rafferty, the judge
He came up to assist them, but still it wouldn't budge
And the jockey who was ridin' it, little John McGee
Was so thoroughly disgusted that he went and had his tea
Hagan, Fagan were students of psychology
Swore they'd shift him with some dynamite
They bought it, brought it, and without apology
The donkey gave a sneeze and blew the whole lot out of sight

There was Riley pushin' it, shovin' it, shushin' it
Hogan, Logan and all the bally crew
Police, and auxiliary, the Garrison Artillery
The Second Enniskillen's and the Life Guards too
They seized it and harried it, they picked it up and carried it
Cheered it, steered it to the winnin' place
Then the bookmakers drew aside and they all committed suicide
The day Delaney's donkey won the half - mile - race

I am a great admirer of this account of an event in Old Ireland - but even as a young child I was troubled by what seems like a plot hole - and one that indeed casts doubt on the authenticity of the whole narrative.

I refer to the way in which the song begins by informing us about the day Delaney's donkey 'ran' the half mile race, but by the end the donkey is described as having 'won' it - despite the large measure of unfair assistance the beast received.

What clinches it for me, is that the bookmakers are said to have 'committed suicide' as a consequence of this result. But I find it inconceivable that the bookmakers would have agreed to pay-out when it is candidly acknowledged that the donkey was picked up and carried over the line.

As I say, this has bothered me since I was a kid. I know that Val Doonican was regarded as being a thoroughly decent chap (unusually among major showbiz stars) - but I think that with Delaney's Donkey (his first and 'breakthough' hit recording) he may have been guilty of a significant degree of dishonesty - perhaps driven to it by many preceding years of obscurity?



Mark In Mayenne said...

I could never recall, when singing this song to my self, if it was "ran" or "won". You have revealed all.

Bruce Charlton said...

M in M - You're welcome...

S. Richard said...

OT, but (I hope) relevant. Some people have told me that since most modern music (especially the electric kind, like rock) is bad for our culture and society, we should be listening to only "higher" forms of music like classical. What do you think of that viewpoint?

Bruce Charlton said...

@SR - In principle, I agree we must control exposure, else be overwhelmed. In general, the more recent the worse. And this applies equally to classical music. I suppose the proper answer is to practice and use discernment - monitor what music is doing in us, with us; and act accordingly.