Gerry Moran looks at the origins of the famous saying
and the man who inspired it


Thursday. Late morning. I am cruising the aisles of the supermarket with a wobbly trolley and a crumpled shopping list, compliments of my missus, when I hear the voice behind me.

“Well, how’s the form, Gerry?” I turn. It’s Jim, an acquaintance of mine, who I bump into occasionally. We shake hands. Jim, a big man, almost crushes my mitt and I thank God I have health insurance.

“Not a bother,” I reply, flexing my hand and resetting the bones. “And yourself?”
“Happy as Larry,” smiles Jim which makes me smile. Contagious things, smiles.
 “Have you ever seen him?” I ask Jim.
“Larry who?”
“That famous Larry you’re as happy as.”
Jim smiles again, gives a wee chuckle and says with a bit of a grin, “I think he’s invisible.”
“Then, how do you know he’s happy?” says I, pleased as punch with my speedy and apposite riposte.
Jim raises himself up to his full stature, folds his arms and looks vaguely into the distance. “Larry,” he says, after some deliberation, “is a bit like God…I think you have to believe in him.”

And before you know it we’re talking about a higher being, an intelligent designer even, and then move on to minor philosophical observations such as: sure we might as well be happy, what’s the point in being sad, and what the hell if the world is going down the tubes, we have our health haven’t we, what more could we want?

And we’re singing from the same hymn sheet now as the other shoppers weave their trollies around us. And I can’t help but wonder if Larry sings, happy Larry that is, though in fairness not all happy people sing. Not all happy people CAN sing. And, for sure, not all singers are happy.

And these are the daft, random, sort of thoughts I have when I bump into Jim.
And don’t ask me how but now Jim moves on to aliens and the possibility that they visited earth millions of years ago and that we’re actually their descendants.
“Von Daniken,” I pipe up, ‘Chariots of the Gods’, an interesting book about that theory.”

But I don’t think Jim read that book, or maybe he didn’t hear me, and we’ve come a long way now from ‘Happy as Larry’, plus I’m beginning to fret about my car, parked in a nearby loading bay.
As much as I’m enjoying the chat with Jim I don’t want to have fork out €40 for a parking ticket; that, I tell Jim, would make me very UNHAPPY.

Jim chuckles and reaches out to shake my hand but I decline (I may yet have to see a bone-setter). “Listen,” I say to Jim, as we prepare to go our separate ways, “I’m thinking of hiring a private detective to check out this Larry, because I’m not so sure he exists, or ever existed, in fact I think he’s just another figment of our imagination.”
“Do that,” says Jim. “Oh, and by the way…get him to check out God while you’re at it.”

I smile, give a chuckle, head to the checkout and scuttle off to my car.
So, who exactly was this Larry? Well, I did a bit of detective work myself and discovered that Larry was, by all accounts, one Larry Foley, an Australian boxer, who was born in 1847.

He was a very successful pugilist who never lost a fight and retired in 1879 at the age of thirty-two. Larry collected a purse of £1,000 for his final bout (a substantial sum of money back then).
 Money can’t buy you love, but it obviously bought Larry Foley happiness back in the 1870s!

If ever a man was happy with his lot, it was Larry Foley, and he was renowned for being so. Larry, you’ll be glad to know (and so, I presume, will Jim) lived to the ripe, and happy, old age of seventy and passed away in 1917.