Chainless cycling

There is a story told of a Wexford man who owned a bicycle, a black Raleigh Rudge with a Brooks saddle, as many people do and did, for getting to and from the nearest town. For some reason or another, perhaps the local cycle store closed down or he fell out with a new assistant, he said he would never buy another bike in this life for as long as he lived. He declared he would use his present machine for as long as it would last and that would be that.

The tyres wore out over the bumpy miles and he replaced them; the spokes bent and the wheels became bockety in potholes and he replaced the wheels, or had them repaired well enough for his purpose, which was the same thing.

People noted all this and wondered at the life that was in that bike and its owner and rider. When the chain grew so old and rusted that it parted from itself one time too many and even a new split-link would not remedy the situation they were sure he would have to admit defeat and buy a new bicycle.

However, the solution was a simple one, as it is in most stories, none more so than in Wexford. The man lived at the foot of the hill into town, as his people had lived for centuries before him. As his body grew slower and older he was no longer able to pedal the bike up the hill; so he took to walking himself and his bike up the hill to conduct his business in the town.

Once there, he took to throwing the bike in a ditch while he was away. It was an easy matter for him to retrieve the chainless bike on the way back, for nobody would steal a bike they could not pedal, they might as well walk without the encumbrance of a stolen bike beside them and the law behind them.

Conveyance retrieved once more the aged cyclist threw his good leg over the bike, pushed off with his spare foot and freewheeled down the hill, with his messages hanging from the handlebar having no need whatsoever for a chain or pedals to get him there safely, and in due course.

The collection of stories in Wexford Folk Tales is like that man, if it resembles anything. The stories are here to enjoy; but a printed story is no more than a butterfly caught in time. They must be released in the telling.

Pick a story for yourself at random; sit up on your bike and freewheel all the way to the end of the book.

Safe travelling and mind the dark bend at the foot of the hill where the woman in the flowing dress and the cloak await you, for she too has a story to tell, if you dare listen.

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