Friday 19 April 2024

Overbearing and ebullient, English Pete will be missed!

(Pic: Noel Barbour)

“I know what I am, Charlie!”

“And what are you, Pete?”

“I’m overbearing and ebullient, mate. That’s what I am!

“Well, ebullient is good. But if you know that you’re overbearing, did you ever think of maybe, I dunno, being less overbearing?”

“No, Charlie. Not really. No. Never.”

A wise man from Caltra once told me that self-knowledge is utterly useless, unless you do something about it.

Tragically it’s too late for Peter ‘English Pete’ Ryan to act on his self-knowledge, as he died a few days ago.

I know little of the circumstances, apart from the fact that he was found in his gaff, but to be honest, I don’t care.

I’m not being a hypocrite when I say that I’m sad Pete has gone. Many, myself included, often found his overbearing ebullience hard to take.

But he was a character, of the Old School Galwegian Blow-in variety, and his spirit will be missed.

I first encountered Pete when interviewing potential housemates for my semi-slum in Flea Lane, Salthill, back in 1993. Pete arrived half cut, with bodhrán in hand.

Despite the traditional instrument there came out his mouth a raw cockney accent, and I sat back as he told a great story.

Several minutes later, when he was into his third great story, I started to think back to Orla, that nice young woman who’d been up for the room herself a few minutes before Pete.

Pete had an inexhaustible supply of great anecdotes, which is a wondrous thing. Trouble was though that he felt it his duty to share as many of those great anecdotes with you as possible, at any given and all other times.

As he moved onto the fourth, in the manner of a runaway train gathering momentum rolling down a steep hill, I wept a tiny bit inside:

‘Will he ever shut up? I can’t live with this bloke. I’ll call back that Orla and offer her the room.’

Over the next few years Pete and I developed a friendship that was primarily based on his reading of Double Vision, back when this blog appeared weekly in its original newspaper colyoom form.

It’s safe to say that apart from a manic Texan who operates on the power of new-found sobriety, Pete became this colyoom’s #1 fan, so when I bumped into him - no, let me re-frame that - when he caught me off-guard by Johnny Massacre Corner, he flattered me something rotten by recounting what he’d enjoyed about that week’s piece. 

To protect friends in a small city I gave everyone I wrote about in DV a moniker, as a disguise, and when Pete was anointed The Waistcoat I think he felt a level of acceptance quite alien to him.

I know that sounds harsh but the man was - I think we asserted - overbearing, and sometimes you just didn’t have the energy for him.

When you heard his penny whistle playing half way down Buttermilk Lane you chose Druid Lane, and when he played in Druid Lane you might cut through by Healy’s barbers.

During Chelsea games in the pub, he would choose the ear on the head nearest him, and talk into it throughout the entire match, expounding on the finer points of football and illustrating his unique and frankly scary memory for details.

“Yeh, that’d be Saturday March 23rd, 1972, sunny and hot it was, when Barnet were beaten 0-3 at home.”

Back when I lived in or near Galway City, I’d always encounter Pete on one of my Organic Rambles around the early evening pubs, yet to his credit Pete let me speak frankly and straightforwardly to him:

“Look mate, gotta be honest. Great to share a pint with you ’n’ all that, but I’m on one of my rambles, and I’ve got to ramble alone.”

“Understood Charlie. No problem.”

And he walked off, leaving me alone.

At some point during each Galway Summer, I’d find Pete escorting a young middle-aged tourist around the city. He could be thoroughly charming, and he’d even be attractive if he’d ever washed his filthy T-shirts, but for some reason he managed to entrance many a Canadian 40 year-old, to whom I’d be introduced as one of his best friends.

Humbling and meaningful now, as I’ll never see him, be bumped into by him or try to avoid him again.

It matters not whether someone was the most popular man in town or a social pariah: we miss them all when they‘re gone: the rascals, the raconteurs and the ruined.

Yes, I will miss Pete. To his credit he managed to be all three of the above, and he constantly told me how much he enjoyed my scribbling, so it was through both vanity and humanity I saw him as my friend.

808 words
©Charlie Adley


Anonymous said...

Always was astonished at his capacity Charlie to recall minute details of matches in the 70's 80's.
RIP Pete.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

It was incredible - his memory defied his thirst!

Anonymous said...

Very well written, and yes I shared similar thoughts about the man, though I rarely saw him angry, he was if, nothing else a character worth remembering and I'm glad you did it so well. I'm sure there are many great stories to be added about him as well and I hope people use this as a place to do so. From one scallywags to another I bid him farewell and safe travels.

Anonymous said...

I knew Pete very well for the past few years. You are correct about a lot of interactions. He was a character of Galway. He was a good man. Would be great if you didn't take an opportunity to speak ill of him. His death has come as a shock to us .

Anonymous said...

Indeed, he was a man of many tales himself. Thanks for your kind words.

Anonymous said...

I don’t think I have spoken ill of him - he was, as are we all, flawed and wonderfully human. If you read my work you’ll know how self-critical I am, and I’ll not pretend otherwise of others. I knew Pete for over 30 years and he loved my scribbles, and if I dare say, he loved me. As the opening dialogue here shows, we both talked about our flaws quite openly together, and it would do him a disservice to pretend otherwise. Thanks for your observations.

Anonymous said...

In the tradition of posthumous writings, as it also is with conversation, decent people tend to avoid speaking ill of the dead. But I suppose you saw an opportunity and chose to ignore the cost.

Charlie Adley said...

Sorry Anonymous, but I disagree and to be honest, don't particularly care for your tone. I too am very sad at Pete's passing, and, as I said in my previous comment, more often than not, I am the biggest target of my own mockery and criticism.
Pete knew exactly how I felt about him, and we would laugh about it together. There is nothing in the piece that he would find upsetting or innaccurate. I am well aware of the tradition of writing of the dead, and tragically have had to write several obituaries of dear frends in this place, but it would do them a disservice were I to be a hypocrite and write untrue copy.
I'm very sorry you are upset and offended, Please take solace in the simple truth that Pete would not be upset in the slightest. he;d be dekghted, particularly in the fact that close to 1,000 people have shared this piece on social media. He was indeed much loved.

Larissa Doyle said...

Charlie Thankyou for your refreshing obituary.. I knew Pete nearly as long as you did & I think you got him down to a tee . Good for you. It takes courage to speak th truth. Pete. Ould ne loved it..

Charlie Adley said...

Thanks so much, Larissa. Glad you agree that Pete would’ve love it - not everyone agrees (see above) but I think they’re underestimating Pete. Good to hear from you. Hope all good.