Mikey Shea sampled his first cigarette at nine years of age. He enjoyed the experience so much that, by fourteen, had become a seasoned smoker. He would beg, steal or borrow for the price of a fag and was rarely seen without a Woodbine dangling from the corner of his mouth.
He was married to Peg and they ran a small farm and raised a large family in a cottage on the outskirts of town.
Mikey suffered from severe bronchitis as a result of the smoking. He made regular visits to Doctor Phil who strongly advised him to give up the cigarettes.
“Wisha Doctor,” replied Mikey “sure I’d have no life without the pint and the fag and a read of the Sporting Press.”
“You’ll have no life at all if you carry on the way you are.” the doctor warned.
His warning usually fell on deaf ears.
By the early nineteen sixties the children had left the nest and Mikey and Peg were on their own.
There was a bad flu going around that winter and Mikey could not shake it off. He visited Doctor Phil who put a stethoscope to his chest and listened intently.
“Your pipes are all blocked up.” the doctor informed him. “You are like a chimney that hasn’t been cleaned in years.”
“I suppose you’ll give me a few tablets and tell me to go off the fags again?” Mikey laughed as he buttoned up his shirt.
“Yerra no. Smoke away.” Doctor Phil replied, writing out a prescription. “You’ll probably be dead by Christmas anyway!”
Mikey stumbled out on to the street, shocked by Doctor Phil’s prediction. He made his way down to Burke’s Bar in The Square and called for a small whiskey. Dinny Connors came in and sat down beside him and ordered a pint.
“Any news?” Dinny enquired, cheerfully.
“divil a bit!” Mikey answered, still stunned by Doctor Phil’s revelation.
“Have you anyone coming for Christmas?” Dinny wanted to know.
“They are all coming home.” Mikey roused himself. “Sons, daughters, grandchildren, the whole kit and caboodle.”
“’Tis great to have the family around at this time of year.” Dinny pulled out a packet of Woodbine and offered one to Mikey who accepted it automatically and put it in his mouth.
“We have no one this year.” Dinny sounded lonely. He struck a match and reached forward to light Mikey’s cigarette.
“You would miss seeing them alright.” Mikey agreed before suddenly snatching the cigarette away from his mouth and tossing it on to the ground.
“What’s up?” Dinny enquired.
“I’m off the fags.” Mikey informed him.
“Off the fags.”
“Since when?” Dinny was sceptical.
“Since now.” Dinny replied. “Not another fag will pass my lips,” he continued. “as long as I live.”
“Mikey is after going off the fags, lads!” Dinny announced in a loud voice. The news was greeted with a cheer from the assembled gathering. It was widely known that Mikey was a martyr for the weed. Bets began to be taking on how long he might remain tobacco-free. Nobody believed it would last.
Mikey Shea died just before Christmas this year. He is buried in the old gravehyard and his funeral was a big one, attended by his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, relatives and a huge circle of friends. He was ninety three years of age and had led a full and active life since that fateful day when the late Doctor Phil had pronounced his death sentence all those years ago.
The doctor had been correct in predicting that Mikey would be dead by Christmas. However, he never actually stipulated WHICH Christmas.
A man well ahead of his time was old Doctor Phil.