This is a humorous story from Ray
Smith, about how Only Maloney acquired his nickname. It's totally 'tongue in cheek' and written in 'Lankyspeak' (Lancashire
dialect). We hope you like it.
Just half a mile above Slacktop, where farmland
gives way to moorland at the end of a rutted and stone littered track, lies the
quiet hamlet of Slackscar. Built to house the workers who toiled at the nearby
site of the former Squinting Cat drift mine, all that remains today is a tiny
huddle of houses. Everything else has been demolished, filled in or carted away
when the coal seam finally ran out and the mine closed at the end of the 1950’s.
Lengthways’s grandfather had worked at the mine
for all of his life, eventually managing to buy number 1, Slackscar Terrace,
with his earnings. His wife and her earnings helped him in this, as she did a
great deal of child minding for the isolated community.
In later years number 1a, the house next door,
had been purchased and the two houses knocked through into one. Passing down
through the family to the present day, the house had only Lengthways now as its
sole occupant, ever since his mother died. His sister had married a sheep farmer
and moved out some years before, though she wasn’t too far away.
Lengthways was also instrumental in getting Only
Maloney and his wife to occupy one of the other three houses at Slackscar. Only
Maloney had come over the water from Ireland to find employment, joined a
national construction company and worked his way through the Slackbottom
district. This was in the boom time when new motorways, bridges, tunnels and
roads were being built all over the place. Oh yes, there was plenty of work, all
One of these new motorways had been scheduled
through the West Pennines and Only Maloney, looking at things in his uniquely
Irish way, liked what he saw of the district and the people. Especially the
people. For, on his first Saturday night out in Slackbottom, he had met his
future wife and made the acquaintance of Lengthways and all the other regulars
who frequented The Ferret.
It was also on that Saturday night that he
acquired his nickname.
The best room in The Ferret on that Saturday
night was packed to the ceiling. Folk were jammed in everywhere and in each and
every corner. They were clustered outside around the open windows, even taking
their drinks out into the cool night air to stand on the pavement outside the
front door. The taproom was also crowded, but was a bit cooler and quieter.
The reason for all this excitement at The Ferret
was the appearance of BrandySnap, a local group who had become very popular and
successful on the West Pennine working-men’s club circuit. They were all
Slackbottom lads and Ferret regulars; Tanner the landlord had given them their
first bookings at the pub. As a thank-you to Tanner and their friends and fans,
they were playing a rare night off just for ale money.
Beamer, the group’s bass guitarist, was in deep
conversation with Lengthways in the taproom about the forthcoming season of the
Slackbottom and District Pub Quiz League. They were both mad keen team members
and wanted to introduce new blood into the team to boost their chances of
success, but didn’t know who to ask.
The rest of BrandySnap; Hogan the drummer, Nudger
the lead guitarist and Zoot the sax player, had set up their gear and bounced a
quick sound check off Wheelsnapper, their driver cum roadie. They were all now
wetting their whistles before the start of the first set.
The exception to all this activity was the lead
singer, Rebop. He was in the Gent’s toilet frantically mouthing through the
words of a new song, which had just entered the charts for the second time. The
new song was to go into the last set, and if successful, would then be included
in the band’s repertoire.
This very popular song has become a firm
favourite of audiences the whole world over, especially for the fans of its
famous American singer, Roy Orbison. It was one of his early hits, and has
always been popularly received even years after its initial success.
As BrandySnap launched into their first set at
The Ferret to the accompaniment of loud cheers and cries, Fergus Maloney, on his
very first foray into the nightlife of Slackbottom, pushed his way through the
crowd at the front door. He squeezed and squashed himself into a corner near the
stage, his hands clasped firmly around a pint mug of Guinness.
The band played their way comfortably through the
first two sets of their act, staging their own versions of the hits of the day
and one or two oldies. They tried out a couple of their own songs which went
down really well in their own backyard with their enthusiastic fans, and then
took a well earned break.
Taking the stage for the last set, BrandySnap
acknowledged all the accolades from their fans, and stormed into a frantic end
spell. They built up the emotion in their audience for a full forty-five
minutes, before calming themselves and the crowd down for the grand finale and
the final song.
This last number took the stage into complete
darkness with just Hogan beating out a slow rhythm on his bass drum and hi-hat
cymbals. Then, as Wheelsnapper flooded the stage with the spotlights, so the
four musicians began that famous backing vocal: ‘Dum-dum-dum-dummy-doo-wah,
Oh-yea-yea-yea-yeah, Dum-dum-dum-dummy-doo-wah-a-a-aah, Only the lonely, Only
This was precisely the point where Rebop, as lead
singer, was supposed to come in with the main lyrics, but when opening his
mouth, nothing emerged. The lads were professional enough to run through the
intro again, as if it were well rehearsed. Still nothing from Rebop, except for
an increasing look of terror on his face. His lips could be seen to be moving,
but whether in an attempt at singing, or a silent prayer to be released from his
own personal hell, no one will ever know.
After the fourth repeat of the intro with still
not a squeak out of Rebop, and a few sharp glances between each member of the
band, Beamer decided to take the lead vocal himself. Taking his left hand from
the neck of his bass guitar, he waved it in a circular waving motion, the
universal musician’s ‘keep playing’ signal.
They all sang the intro once again, for the fifth
time, and just as Beamer was about to start the song, a loud tenor voice rang
out from the front row of the audience: ‘Only Maloney, know the way I feel
tonight, Only Maloney, knows this feeling ain’t right.’
Beamer rapidly scanned the crowd with his eyes
until he found the singer, and beckoned him onto the stage. ‘Carry on, carry
on,’ he whispered urgently to Fergus Maloney as he clambered up still clutching
his pint glass. Fergus didn’t need much encouragement; he’d been a regular
barroom singer back home in Cork especially after a few pints of his favourite
He did indeed carry on. So much so that the
audience gave him a standing ovation and shouted that he sing it again! Which he
And again. Which he did.
And again, this time with his arm around Rebop’s
shoulders, whose memory had suddenly started to function again, and who now sang
He was a sensation, adamantly refusing to let go
of his pint or take off his flat cap. He wouldn’t stop, even when BrandySnap put
down their instruments and switched off their amplifiers and P.A. equipment. He
would have carried on all night except Tanner turned out the lights. This was
finally when Fergus’s voice faltered and stopped in the darkness.
When the lights came on again, Beamer, Rebop,
Nudger and Hogan, not to mention Zoot and Wheelsnapper, crowded around Fergus
clapping him on his back and pumping his hand. For his part, Fergus just stood
there grinning from ear to ear. Tanner came over with a drink each for the band
and one for Fergus himself, saying how much he’d enjoyed the evening.
Fergus stayed on the stage chatting to the lads
as they stripped down their gear, asking where they were playing next as he’d
like to come and watch them and maybe get up and sing again. Beamer told him and
then asked something that had him puzzled.
‘Tell me something,’ Beamer said. ‘The words of
the song are “Only the Lonely”, so why did you sing “Only Maloney” every time?’
Fergus looked aghast.
‘They’re surely the right words, aren’t they?’ he
replied in his fine Irish brogue.
Six heads shook in unison, especially Rebop’s.
‘Well, to be honest,’ he sighed, ‘I’ve only heard
it a time or two meself in the brew cabin, and what with them jackhammers and
them compressors a-blastin’ and a-wheezin’ all the time, well then, I musta
heard it wrong. Mind you, now I come to think about it, I did think it was a bit
unusual for somebody to put me name in a song an’ all!’
This is how Only Maloney acquired his nickname,
met his wife (who was in the crowd at The Ferret that night), and eventually
finished up as a resident in the district. He also began a firm friendship and
became a follower of BrandySnap in the process.
He was also to become the new recruit that Beamer
and Lengthways were seeking for the forthcoming Slackbottom and District Pub
Ray Smith 1998
Check out Ray's forthcoming
Grey Mare mini blues festival
in Ramsbottom, Lancashire
Check out other Lancashire stories from
West Pennine Boogie Blues
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