Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Published: Evening Herald, January 2008


31/32 Lower Pembroke Street, Dublin 2

There’s no mistaking the large Nigerian guy at the bar. He’s clutching a pint of MiWadi orange and regarding his surroundings with perceptible distain. He doesn’t beat about the bush.

“My good friend” he begins (and I know what’s coming next…) “You must accept Jesus into your life. God has a plan for you, my friend.”

“Does his plan include you buying me a drink?”

Martin is not amused.

“I am talking about salvation, my friend.”

Martin’s attempts to convince me to accept Christ into my life are a pain in the hole, quite frankly. But they’re also purely perfunctory. He sincerely believes that I am going to hell, so he likes to make a token effort to save my soul once in a while. But he isn’t under any illusions.

I let him at it for a minute or two. Then I change the subject the surest way I know how – by asking after his children. Martin shakes his head in mock exasperation. He idolises his girls.

His oldest, he says, has taken up camogie, a development with which her father does not entirely approve. Its unsafe, he says. (That’s probably isn’t his only reason. Martin is very old fashioned. When we worked together he was scandalized to discover that my girlfriend did not make my lunch. When Kathleen and I visited his church, Martin’s wife even raised the issue privately with Kathleen!)

We get to talking about our own childhoods.

“Once, when I was a boy” he recalls. “There was a teacher I very much disliked. So one day I played a trick on him.”

“What was that?”

“I slaughtered his goat.”

The thing with Martin’s stories is that rarely unfold quite as you anticipate.

“Christ. What did you do then?”

“I ate it.”

After a few more MiWadis, he tells another.

“There are two big hills” he says. “On one hill is my village. On the other hill is nothing. One night when the village is sleeping there is a great mudslide and in the morning, when we wake…” (He rubs his eyes to illustrate.) “We have a brand new view!”

“You’re saying that your entire village slid down the side of one hill, and up the side of another hill intact and no one woke up?”

He nods.

“I don’t believe you.”

“I am a man of God” he says very seriously. Then he cracks a smile. “Would I lie to you, my friend?”