Do you know a ‘Bear’ or a ‘Bull’ or even a ‘Horse’? John O’Connor takes a look the many Irish people given nicknames inspired by animals.

Two burly middle-aged men strode into the South Manchester public house shortly after it had re-opened for the Friday evening session. They each moved with a slightly stooped gait, which identified them immediately as Irishmen. Minutes later, pints in hand, they made their way to a table some distance from the thirsty building workers who stood in groups along the bar. From working on the same site I knew them as two ground work sub-contractors, widely known as “Mad Ass Connolly” from County Kerry and “The Donkey Joyce” from Galway.

With cigarette smoke floating lazily towards the nicotine-scarred ceiling, and Irish voices and hearty laughter getting louder, a strapping young fellow, dressed in muddy work clothes, strolled into the bar.
He nodded to a few acquaintances and in a thick, untamed, Mayo accent he ordered a pint of Boddingtons. Then, pointing to the two subbies, said to the barmaid, loudly enough for them to hear, “and give the two ould animals over there a bale of hay to keep them happy”.

For a few seconds the place went quiet and I was sure a skirmish might break out. But soon the chatter resumed and the young lad got away with nothing more threatening than icy glares from the two sub-contractors.

“That Young Pony Lavin is going to get himself into trouble one of these days,” said an older man next to me. “He can’t be talking to the Donkey and Mad Ass like that.”

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own