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Red Lick Records



Only Maloney
Ray Smith

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 right!

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 the lonely.’

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 ‘Chateau Dublin.’

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 did.

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 along together.

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 Quiz League.

Copyright Ó Ray Smith 1998   

Check out Ray's forthcoming Grey Mare mini blues festival in Ramsbottom, Lancashire

Check out other Lancashire stories from Ray:
West Pennine Boogie Blues

Hogan's Heroes

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