There is a conversation during Brian Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come! that raised smiles at the theatre back in November. Gar O’Donnell who works for his father, the village shopkeeper in the early 1960s, aspires to marry the affluent, middle class Kate Doogan, daughter of a member of the Irish Senate. Kate is anxious that Gar have an income sufficient to support them
“You’ll have to see about getting more money.”
“Of course I’ll see about getting more money! Haven’t I told you I’m going to ask for a rise?”
“But will he -?”
“I’ll get it; don’t you worry; I’ll get it. Besides I have a – a-a source of income that he knows nothing about – that nobody knows nothing about – knows anything about.”
“Investments? Like Daddy?”
“Well … sort of … You know when I go round the country every Tuesday and Thursday in the lorry?”
“Well, I buy eggs direct from the farms and sell them privately to McLaughlin’s Hotel for a handsome profit but he knows nothing about it”.
“And how much do you make?”
“It varies – depending on the time of year”.
“Oh, anything from us 12/6 to £I”.
“Every Tuesday and Thursday?”
There was humour and pathos in the moment. An audience could have been forgiven for smiling at the aspirations of young Gar, but few enough of them would have appreciated how hard it was to have earned the money.
Putting the week’s shopping away, I pondered the eggs as I put them into their shelf in the fridge door and remembered the lines from the play.
My Nan used to keep free range hens that laid big brown eggs, these were collected each day and carefully wiped clean before being placed into cardboard trays. Each tray held dozens of eggs – the filling of them demanded hours of caring for hens and collecting and cleaning eggs. Every so often the egg man would come and collect the eggs, presumably to sell to somewhere else in the manner of Gar O’Donnell. I would not have dreamed of laughing at my Nan’s work and felt guilty at laughing at Friel’s lines in the theatre.
If the economy turns and money becomes hard earned again, perhaps it will be the young Gar O’Donnells of the world who will come into their own