"The Irish have never been a race to miss an opportunity that presents itself. Show them any old piece of ground or artifact anywhere on the Emerald Isle and if hasn't yet entered Irish folklore, you can bet your sweet life that before another spud has been grown and eaten or another pint of Guinness drunk, it will have been immortalised in every public place between Portlaw and Portlaoise!
I can even lay good money as to who the 'teller' might be. At the top of the list will be 'dear old mum,' followed closely by a 'peg-selling gypsy' or a 'travelling vagrant' who'd once trained as a priest before he got a milk maid pregnant and went off to live as a hermit on Croagh Patrick Mount in County Mayo for the next fifty years as a penance for his misspent youth.
I was always able to talk bluntly and straight forwardly with my mother as I grew up. To her no subject was either unsuitable or improper between mother and child to discuss, providing that the intent of the young inquirer was one of genuine interest and curiosity and not salacious pruriance! One day out of curiosity in my mid teens I asked her where I'd been conceived. Everyone knows where they were born, but very few mothers ever tell their child where they were conceived! My mother's reply was, 'Beneath the shadow of 'The Metal Man' in Tramore; some ten miles from where you were born, Billy.' I have always believed in the maxim that 'Those who dare, do' along with the wise addage, 'If you don't ask, you don't get!'
It is the strangest of facts, but life has taught me that the truthful tale is less often believed than an untrue story or as my friend Graham Smith might sceptically say, 'He's weaving without weft and the holes in his argument are plain to see.'
Though I have told all my six brothers and sisters this truthful account of my conception as revealed to me by my mother in my teens, not one of them believes me. Perhaps on reflection, 'wants to believe me' would be nearer the mark? All my siblings think that 'I'm romancing the stone' as the folk from Blarny Castle might say.The simple truth is that none of my mother's other six children would ever have dared asked her what I did. That is why she told me many things that she never revealed to them; not because I was her first born, but because I dared to give a damn and wanted to find out!
This famous landmark comprised initially of three-high concrete pillars standing in a field. Perched on the top of the central concrete pillar is a figure known as 'The Metal Man'. These three pillars were erected as a warning to boats and ships coming into Tramore's shallow waters, warning them to keep out from the dangerous rocks.
Built in 1823, 'The Metal Man' is still standing strong today. The first owners were 'Lloyds of London', an insurance company who held it for over a hundred years and then, when the wars raged in Europe, the Irish Lights in Dublin took over ownership. 'The Metal Man' was erected on top of the central pillar after the dreadful tragedy of the 'Seahorse,' went down with over 360 people on board in Tramore Bay in 1816. Will all the astrologists out there please note that the sunken ship was called the 'Seahorse' and that I was born in the Chinese year of the Horse! I just love these happy coincidents of life.
After my mother had revealed this part of her private past to me, I naturally visited 'The Metal Man' every time I returned home on holiday thereafter. Unfortunately, it is cordoned off to today's sightseer in Tramore and unless you are prepared to risk prosecution and to duck the pellet shot of the farmer's shot gun who protects the field in which it is erected, you will just have to view it from a quarter-mile-away distance. I'm so pleased that the Irish authorities considered it to have been highly improper to continue to allow the footfall of millions of tourists to Tramore to walk on hallowed ground where my dear old mum once lay!
I include a picture of me in my early twenties hopping around it with my grandfather in hot pursuit. My grandfather's tale about 'The Metal Man' cannot be found in any text accessible to anyone who wasn't conceived there, but he said that however many times a man can hop around the tower in one's stockinged feet without pause, will represent the number of children that grasshopper will eventually father.
Okay........if you must know I'll tell you, providing you keep it a secret. I did manage to hop around seven times, but to the best of my knowledge I've only ever fathered four children. Will any 'pretenders to the throne' who happen to be out there please submit blood, hair and tissue sample to the solicitors of my estate following my passing and I assure you that if you're mine you'll not be forgotten. I can assure you that your name and order of ascendancy in the Forde family tree will be duly recorded in the frontispiece of the family bible and it will also be inscribed on a brass plate alongside the names of my other children. That plate can be found attached to the central pillar of 'The Metal Man' in Tramore today.
It's such a pity that you may not get to see it though..... unless that is, you're prepared to make a run for it under a shower of Irish farmer's buckshot besides risking spending the rest of your days in solid confinement within the walls of the only high-security establishment for criminals in the South of Ireland; Portlaoise Prison in County Laois!" William Forde: May 8th, 2014.