Thursday, December 27, 2018

Stan Kiely


A NATURAL storyteller, Stan Kiely can regale for the day, drawing on stories from characters he met across his 77 years. Despite his age, he maintains an active role in Kiely Meats, which he set up following the closure of Clover Meats in 1984, and vows to continue to keep busy in life. His father’s death at 51 provided him with perspective and with a new wing to the business, Tastefully Yours who will specialise is curry sauces, relishes and jams, he has plenty of years ahead still

“Age isn’t a disease,” he states affirmatively, “it’s just a number”.

Stan was born in Kilmacow but the family moved to Sion Row in Ferrybank where his father worked as a primary school teacher. Third eldest of seven children, one of his most resounding memories is that of the presence of so many horses involved in people’s daily routine – with the bread man, ice-cream man and rubbish men flanked by a pony to carry and collect their produce. Aside from hurling, marbles and cowboys, the boys of that era entertained themselves with boxing bouts which often threw up questionable but explainable decisions.

“We used to have boxing matches and the judges were the people who were at it. One fella might bate the s***e out of another but the battered one would get the verdict because they had more brothers and sisters. He’d be carted out of the place but he’d be the champion!

“There would be fellas in charge of others – I was in charge of a fella once called Kevin Murphy. He had an unusual punching style (slashing his fist sideways in demonstration) and he was fighting some big fella. The big man said beforehand that he had just eaten a big Irish stew so I said to Kevin ‘there’s only one place to hit him’! As Kevin’s fist landed on your man’s stomach, the vomit passed by his ear!”

When rough weather brought the trawlers inland the youngsters would often run to the village to do messages for the vessel’s cooks, although that’s not to say they were doing it out of the goodness of their heart.

“Sometimes they could be in for a week and we’d go up to Paddy Murphy’s shop and get whatever they need. I remember one who was a lovely man brought about seven or eight of us up and gave each of us a block of ice-cream – we were rolling up our sleeves and grabbing fists full of it!”

As he was growing older, Stan, who now lives in Viewmount, thought he wanted to make a living with his hands, something he accepts his friends would find hilarious today. A year spent serving his time as a mechanic drowned that plan, and he explains “I could take a bike asunder, put it back together again and have five nuts left over without knowing where they were missing from”.

Instead, he picked up a job in Clover Meats in 1958, where he enjoyed great times and worked with some brilliant characters.

“Everybody seemed to be in great humour always. People were whistling and singing – even in the 50’s before I was down there you’d see hundreds of bicycles coming home from Clover and there was a fella Paddy Coady playing the mouth organ. Everybody would be in around him singing going along on the bikes.”

“People mightn’t know your Grandfather Ned Murphy but they’d know when you said ‘Nice Man’. I never saw him in bad humour – he was always codding and joking and tricking. There was another man there called Mattie Hennessy and if you ever passed the table he was sitting at, all you would hear is people saying ‘ah Jaysus Mattie, that couldn’t happen’. He was just unreal. He hadn’t one bad story.”

For 15 minutes, Stan rattled off some of Mattie’s finest yarns, each punctuated with a hearty laugh. There was the time he said it was “so windy there was trout blowing out of the river”. The story about an eel he adopted from the Suir and kept in a shoebox – feeding him liver as Mattie watched the news after work. Or the one about his greyhound who, having entered a race Mattie himself could win, stopped on the home straight to deliver a litter of pups before crossing the finish line in first place, with one of the offspring coming second.

“If you had a rat in your garden or house you didn’t look for Rent-to-kill, you looked for Mattie Hennessy and his cat. He accidentally broke the cat’s leg with his motorbike one day but he said it was too good to put down and that he’d keep her for breeding purposes. He made a splint for its leg using a wooden spoon. He was in bed one night and heard a bit of a racket downstairs so he went down. In the kitchen, he found the cat with the rat caught under its left paw and he was belting it over the head with the wooden spoon. He wouldn’t even smile when he was telling the story.”

Aged 44 when the factory closed, he relished the chance to get into the big bad world of business himself and while the industry has changed in terms of technology, machinery and hygiene, he enjoys seeing the advances made and adapting to each one. He also loves working with his family, including his daughter Mary Rose who is involved with Tastefully Yours.

While he has happily lived in the city since childhood, his Kilkenny roots ensure that when it comes to Championship, he is “a ferocious black and amber man”. If he could do anything to bring about a Kilkenny victory, Stan will do it. As he has before. Back in 1998 before an All-Ireland semi-final against the Deise, a certain DJ Carey called up asking if he could recommend somewhere he could walk in the sea in order to strengthen a weak ankle.

“We went out to Dunmore at 12 o’clock at night so nobody would see us. We were right down by the Strand Hotel a couple of nights to strengthen it. I was talking to my Waterford friends afterwards and told them I nearly drowned out in Dunmore East. I said the water was up to my eyes but when I looked to the side DJ’s shoes were right there – he was able to walk on water!”

Despite the rivalry which takes precedence during the summer, Stan is proud of the county where he lives, particularly the countless friends he has made throughout his life here.

“Even if you love the person next to you during the match, you’ll want to rip out there Adam’s Apple for that 70 minutes! But afterwards it’s back to normality and we’re all friends again.”

In conversation with Ronan Morrissey

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