Under the Bed
by Robert Pierse (A Little Platoon, €15.00; copies from bookshops, or email@example.com / 087 1844378, for €20 inc. post and packaging)
This is a collection of interesting stories, drawn from the lawyer author’s experience of many different places and people, many, however, close to home on the Munster Circuit by a solicitor based in Kerry.
Robert Pierse records amusing stories from his law practice and work in the courts which remind one of Maurice Healy’s classic of Irish life and law, The Old Munster Circuit.
First tale included is about a desert island off the coast of Belize in Central America. Robert Pierse and his wife Olive travelled to Belize to link up with one of his sons and a daughter-in-law. They were accommodated with others in a flimsy dwelling on the edge of the ocean.
After an idyllic period enjoying the sun, swimming and fishing, a violent storm swept over the area. The Pierses and the others had to shelter under beds to escape the ferocity of the storm. During the long hours waiting for the storm to blow over, Robert helped to while away the hours by telling stories. This, it seems, was the genesis of this publication.
Also included in the list of places is the Peoples Republic of China. Robert accompanied colleagues from the legal profession on an exploratory trip to that enigmatic world power. The trip was organised by Dermot Kinlen, his barrister friend.
Kinlen was sometime President of the Irish-Chinese Cultural Society. His aim was to research the Justice System in China and to investigate its treatment of human rights. He also had an ancillary aim, namely to acquire information on the Chinese Catholic Church.
Robert noticed that the official guide had a person taking copious notes on what the Chinese they met said to them and never allowed any of these Chinese to be alone with the visitors from Ireland.
When the delegation requested an opportunity to attend Mass, they were escorted to a church under the jurisdiction of the Chinese Patriot Catholic Church, the creature of the Communist Party.
Robert Pierse emerges as a family man and a highly intelligent workaholic with a mischievous sense of humour”
In narrating stories about his extended family Robert expresses his pride in them and his affection for them. He displays a particular regard for his brother Gerard.
A Redemptorist priest, he spent his life ministering in the Philippines. He was mostly engaged in providing missions and retreats. A strong swimmer, he drowned at a relatively young age, while snorkelling in a reputedly safe bay in Australia.
Robert’s description of the circumstances surrounding that tragic event, the journey he and his brothers took to bury their brother and the details of Gerard’s obsequies is sad reading.
Fr Gearóid O’Donoghue, another member of the extended Pierse family – he was Olive Pierse’s brother – appears in a number of Robert’s stories. He was a person of extraordinary energy and excelled as an academic and sailor. He persuaded Robert to join him in sailing across the Atlantic to the US on two occasions.
Fascinated by the history and the lore surrounding St Brendan, one of his many achievements was to have a magnificent monument erected to ‘St Brendan the Navigator’ in Fenit harbour.
In telling his stories, Robert Pierse reveals his personality and character. He emerges first and foremost as a family man and a highly intelligent workaholic with a mischievous sense of humour, but most of all as a person with a serious attachment and commitment to Christian values.
The Old Minster Circuit, with a new introduction by barrister and author Charles Lysaght, is available from Wildy Classics / Wildy, Simmonds & Hill, £14.95.