It is, maybe, an unfortunate quirk of fate that Mr Tim O’Leary, of Mayo GAA fundraising fame, bears a more than passing resemblance to the latter day appearance of one Nick Leeson. If the name doesn’t ring a bell Google Baring’s Bank.
As we might say here in the West, while Nick Leeson was a great man, at the end of the day he only managed to bankrupt a 233 year old, multi-billion pound merchant bank; the second oldest in the world at the time. Tim O’Leary on the other hand is a lot more talented and ambitious, he’s seems to be trying to take down the Mayo County Board.
The whole sorry mess of the 250,000 being withheld due to issues of corporate governance in Mayo GAA, brought to mind a lesson I learned as a teenager working in my father’s pub.
1989 was a different era of course, a time of zero hour contracts and zero pay for 15 year old off-spring of family run businesses. In truth though it wasn’t a chore.
I remember the day in question was a Tuesday for the simple reason Tuesday was dole day and that invariably meant a few more customers on a Tuesday evening in a country pub. At some point during the night my father was gone off tapping a barrel of Guinness and I was left with a counter of 12 or maybe 14 customers to deal with on my own.
Bar tending has it’s own rhythms, so that while one person could easily handle such a small crowd the nature of men drinking pints and shorts in rounds meant that every 20 minutes or so you could get a short burst of activity and a call for 10 pints at the same time if you were unlucky.
Needless to say, one such burst duly arrived shortly after my father was changing a barrel. In the middle of filling one order a man at the end of the counter raised his hand and with his other hand pointed downward to the two pint glasses nearing their last rites.
An old blue twenty pound note between his fingers indicated he was a serious buyer!
I made a mental note of the order and finished the other customers I was serving and then set about filling the man’s drinks and after 3 or 4 minutes completed the transaction. As I gave him his change he says to me
‘ I’ve been watching you – Your a mighty young fella – here go buy yourself a bottle of pop’
He proceeded to leave a 50 pence piece on the counter and turned back to the man he was with and resumed his conversation.
Tipping of any description in any business was a silly pursuit of Americans in 1989. I looked over at my old man for some non verbal advice as to what to do, none was forthcoming, so I gingerly picked up the coin, thought fuck it and put in my pocket.
The rest of the night flowed peacefully and the last customer was gone by a little after midnight. As I was polishing the last of the pint glasses from the dishwasher – I went over to my father who was at the till and flipped the 50p coin into the tray like the big spender I was.
‘ I’m having a can of Coke ‘
His reply was steady but firm
‘ No you’re not – take a look at this till and tell me what’s wrong with it’
So I looked and on first glance, nothing looked amiss. However when I took the twenties out from their slot and started to count ( there were only 3!) there second from the top was a fiver not a twenty.
Big deal I thought. I just put a fiver in the wrong slot.
My father quickly disabused me of this pipe-dream and explained that while I was busy taking two or three orders together, the gentleman who had caught my attention with the twenty between his fingers calmly replaced the twenty and left a fiver on the counter.
As I was busy trying to get 3 orders out together, my brain relied on the the subliminal image of the twenty that was burned in my brain as I picked up the man’s money.
You might say I looked but I didn’t see.
There is a peculiar kind of shame in business when you know you have been done, especially, especially when you know it’s 95% your own fault and walk straight into it.
In 1989 a 15 pound mistake was more than the night’s profit – I was indeed a mighty young fella, the full meaning of the strangers words registering in all their glory.
‘Why didn’t you stop me ?’
‘ I wanted to see if you were paying attention to what people do? ‘ my father replied
My ears burned redder and I stormed out of the pub and went to sit in the car as he finished up and locked the bar. We drove home in silence and pulled into the back of the house. As I got of the car he told me to grab the plastic bag of messages for my mother in the back seat.
I was still berating myself as I was absentmindedly looking thru the bag of groceries.
A carton of milk, a block of Calvita cheese, a loaf of bread and…….a shiny red can of Coke.
I never forgot the kindness of the Coca-Cola or the value of the lesson.
Forgive the cynic in me.
At this point, I’d like proof that Mr O’Leary has all the money he collected rather than endless debate of how Mayo County board may eventually mis-use it.
Undoubtedly county boards all around the country could do with a shot of corporate governance but so to do groups of people going around the global village raising money under the banner of supporting Irish GAA.
After all…..the GAA public at the very least are entitled to know that the change of 20 is in the till and not in someone’s pocket.
Both sides in this argument have questions to answer and proofs to provide.