As we drove around Ireland and I'd sung a song about every town we passed through Oaf said, 'Shut up Woody!' The lad
My dear departed friend, Pete ‘Oaf’ Bromhall, the one time Star of this column, is still a constant companion three years after his passing, not least because I have countless photographs from our jaunts across Europe in search of wildlife, but ‘Facebook Memories’, and random old snaps, from the Far East of Poland to the Western Isles of Scotland, ensure he pops up when I’m least expecting him. Take this picture here, three rogues if ever there were any, myself, Oaf and his son Henry during a sea-fishing trip off the coast of County Kerry thirty years ago. I should point out, that ‘wildlife watching’ was a euphemism for travel, Irish music, fine food and plenty of drink, and sometimes a game of rugby, what a heady mix, and Oaf appeared at least once a month in my columns across the land. We were the Laurel and Hardy of our time, and he got more mail than me. He was naturally funny without knowing it, like once when driving past a Little Chef restaurant Oaf said, 'How does he reach that grill?' and another time as we watched a salmon run, it was, 'Hey Woody, there's a flying fish!' He was a bit like me Mam really with her spoonerisms, ‘I won’t be down this weekend,’ she would say, ‘I’ve got a bit of a chest injection’, and my favourite mix-up with regard to my many interests, ‘Sean, you’ve got too many balls in the fire!’ Ouch Mother. As for Oaf, there are so many tales, but I loved his innocence with the following when, tongue in cheek I him asked to bring a brace of swans to my 60th birthday weekend in the Dales and he asked, ‘Can I get them from Mettrick’s?’ Our first jam-packed adventure was probably around 1980, when we visited my Artist friend, Edna Whyte, seen here, on the Isle of Luing, a tiny slate isle in the Inner Hebrides. Edna is 90 this year and still making work for exhibitions from Ayr to Inverness, delivering the work herself in a little green Mini, a true inspiration. Edna loved Oaf. We saw whistling otters for breakfast, prancing roe deer for lunch and a host of whales and dolphins breaching for dinner; Luing is indeed a Paradise and we returned many times. In recent years Southern Ireland was our favoured destination, and the story of the three of us in the picture was taken on our first trip to Kerry and centres around young Henry. You see, there were about five of us sea-fishing and everyone, including Henry was pulling out good sized cod and pollack for the table that night, whilst I had ‘ner a nibble, not even a tickle, not even a lick of a fishes lip. I pretended not to care and carried on, pointing out this and that, a minke here and ‘that’s a red gurnard there, put it back’, only to see it lifted off of the surface by a lesser black backed gull. On reflection, what a waste as they are delicious, but oh so beautiful. Suddenly I felt a little pull on the line, but being ‘ultra-cool’, I said nothing, then it became a definite yank, followed by an unfeasibly bent rod, and I let out the immortal, ‘Got a big ‘un here lads!’ It soon became a tug of war, as I hauled my way, only to get a mighty tug back the other, and very soon I had one foot up against the side of the boat and the rod bent double. At this stage, I heard the Captain shout, ‘Begorra, the young fella, he’s going in!’ as he jumped up and grabbed hold of Henry’s shoulders before he went sleeping with the fishes. Truth is, it could easily have been me that was keel-hauled, as our lines had tangled beneath the boat, and as I pulled one way, Henry pulled the other. And yes, I returned to our cottage at Portmagee empty handed, but did have the consolation of cooking Henry’s cod. Valentia Island was just across the way, where the first transatlantic telegraph signals were made in on 16th August 1858 with the message “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will to men.” Sadly, there were no outgoing messages that day concerning the size of my catch, so let’s finish with another Oafism. If I asked him on my way to the bar, ‘what do you want Oaf?’ he would always reply, ‘World peace and happiness Woody’, and you can’t say fairer than that. What a gift Oaf and me Mam had, to make us laugh for always.