‘The Tay is Wet’ is a compilation of sixteen humourous stories about farm life in eastern Co Meath, Ireland, set mostly in the 1950’s. The goings on in the fictional Roggart community featuring the Deery family and their neighbours will make you smile. The hero, Timmy’s adventures at the “Grand” Cinema recall the magical experience of moving pictures.
The title of the book refers to a phrase widely used in Ireland and simply means that the tea (tay) is ready. “Wetting the tay” was used in both city and country. James Joyce uses the phrase in Finnegan’s Wake to convey the act of procreation. So true is it that therewhere’s a turnover the tay is wet too.
The stories are loosely based on the author’s own experiences and the reminiscences of present and past generations. The narrative can be read in sequence or the reader may dip in or out to individual stories as each chapter is a complete unit.
The cinema and the dancehall played a significant part in providing, not only entertainment, but also some relief from the grinding and unending struggle to put bread on the tables of rural Ireland during the nineteen forties and fifties. Whistling and singing at work made mundane tasks seem lighter. Annual holidays became the norm. The general theme of the book is this bygone social scene of “pictures and dances” as recalled by the author and conveyed through the character, Timmy Deery, a simple man who makes us laugh but who also commands our respect for his innate good nature and decency.
Many of the stories merit a re-reading because, although they are funny, there are underlying serious issues dealt with. The hero, Timmy, is “different” because of a childhood accident and how it was treated. There are stories dealing with family disputes, clerical attitudes, alienation and suicide.
Cinema was a social phenomenon not only in Ireland but in all countries whose ideology permitted its influence. Many of us who grew up in those time...