16 Feb 2012


(Irish Independent 11/02/2012)

Mike Lawlee, outside the family shop with his greyhound ‘Lawlee’. SEVEN thousand he paid for the dog. An injured dog at that. Seven grand, his life savings. The doggy people thought he was  mad. Mike Lawlee called the 7K dog after himself. The dog ran very badly on his first few runs. But then from nowhere Lawlee the dog turned the last chance saloon at Sevenhouses into a pub crawl. “He burst the clock,” said veteran timer Fergus Keane. Mike Lawlee worked hard all his life. Clearing out old houses. Never wronged anyone. A gent. And it showed at Seven houses. Check it out on Youtube. The dog’s favourite, Red Haired Mary, was beautifully sung by consultant psychiatrist Louis O’Carroll. Everyone loves Mike. The celebrations went on for days. Minister Phil Hogan presented the cup. “And who might you be?” asked Lawlee. Obviously Lawlee had never heard of septic tanks. DEDICATED Lawlee dedicated the win to his old mentor Patsy Browne from nearby Dogstown. There’s a story about Patsy. He bought a dead donkey to feed his dogs. Lawlee was the head chef with a gift for getting the best stew out of bony asses. One hot summer’s day Patsy tied the (dead) donkey on to the roof of his car, which was parked in Kilkenny city. He fell into company and forgot the donkey. The stench, after three days, was unbearable. The Corporation had to remove the donkey. “I loved Patsy,” said Lawlee. “He was very good to me. Treated me like his son.” That’s the way it is with the coursing fraternity. As they see it, hares are there to be chased, not killed. The biggest cheer at coursing meetings is when the hare escapes. That said, it ain’t cuddly teddy-bear lovely, but the dogs are muzzled. There are fors and againsts. This column isn’t about that, but coursing is the last arena where the big boys can be beaten by the little man – the dreamers who see every new-born pup as a champion. The Sevenhouses Cup was won in such style, Lawlee was immediately installed as favourite for the JP Mcmanus-sponsored Irish Cup. Eightyfive grand for the winner, but Lawlee the man will never handle a penny of it, if Lawlee the dog wins. The big boys moved in but Lawlee wouldn’t even talk to them. “I didn’t ask what money they were offering in case I was tempted,” he explained. Bookie Berkie Browne, Lawlee’s boss, reckons the price of Lawlee the dog could be anything up to 50 grand. “Big money never suited me,” said Lawlee the man. “I got a right few quid out of an accident and I blew it. I’m happy just to be working hard as a bookmaker’s penciller and making a few pound selling bits and pieces.” So now you know where to look if you want to buy a second-hand fridge. Some of you might remember reading here a few years back of Mike’s plan to get rid of a giant stack of unsellable second-hand mattresses. Mike offered the bedding to Ballybunion Golf Club, cheap, for their coastal erosion defences. Lawlee gave a lot of the claim money to charity and more to the bookmakers. There were big dinners, London weekends and pints of Creme De Menthe. Women, too. Lawlee was always mad for dogs. After-school study in St Michael’s College in Listowel started at 5.30. Mike was never in time. He was always helping his father with the cattle or the greyhounds. Lawlee tiptoed in. More than 150 boys pounded their feet on the old timber floor to the exact tip-tap of Lawlee’s footfall. The teachers never took any notice. He was an all-of-school pet. Mike is a genius at maths, and at busy meetings like Listowel and Galway he can add and subtract faster than any laptop. He’d never see a neighbour stuck. When my dad was dying, Lawlee went into Tralee for a special bed. Three times and back. He forgot some piece of the bed, but he kept on going until the job was done. I’d swear the ould lad kept alive so I wouldn’t be giving out to Lawlee. The family shop in Listowel is a hundred years old this year. Mike’s sister Celia runs the store. She opens religiously every Christmas day. It’s tradition. The shop is cheaper in the long run. No chicken biryani here or potatoes dauphinoise to distract you on the way to the spuds. We check it all out. Investigations reveal Mike Lawlee is not the registered owner. Edward Carpenter is the registered owner. “Did you sell the dog?” I asked. Edward is Mike’s nephew. My old pal Liz is his mother. Last week Edward had a very serious operation. He may not be able to attend the Irish Cup next weekend at Limerick Racecourse. Every penny of the prize money will go to Edward. It’s all about the glory for Mike. His lovely sisters Annette and Elaine will be there to cheer on their brother, and the dog. Celia will be minding the shop. As ever. His brother Liam grows a street garden next to the post office. It’s an urban idyll. Mike loves the Lawlees and Lawlee the dog, too: “He’s the best looking dog I’ve ever seen in my whole life. Ninetythree pounds. All muscle and no big arse on him like some coursing dogs.” Dan Brassil, the dog’s trainer, says Lawlee is in great form “but he’s very fragile physically”. Vet John O’connor told of how dogs with a sacro-lumbar injury only have a one in three chance of making it back. And very few can run fast. O’connor worked his magic in his clinic in Knocknagoshel. Lawlee gambled his life savings on those long odds. TRADITIONALIST Brassil is a traditionalist. Boiled beef and brown bread every day. The diet must work. Dan Brassil is seeking to win his third Irish Cup. He gives the dog a chance “if he stays sound”. Lawlee the man has been driven mad by all the advice. He soaks it all up like his mattresses. O’connor had to tell him he couldn’t fit a human pacemaker in the dog’s chest, as advised by a bar room veterinarian. “Who will play you in the movie?” I asked. “John Wayne,” he replied without hesitating. “He’s dead, Mike.” “I never knew that.” “Sure can’t you send a mass card.” Someone suggested Vinnie Jones. “He’s our man,” agreed Mike. “I met him once in Clonmel at the Derby.” Vinnie it is, then. By next weekend Lawlee the dog might be as forgotten as Cuchulain’s hound’s brothers. Six courses. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A lot can go wrong.  A disorientated crow can distract a greyhound. A dog can pick up a chill or a sore toe. But until then the dream lives on for Lawlee the man. And what a man.