The Measure of a Man

– By Colette Moore –

John Reilly of the Hill (as he was always referred to) was a first cousin of Daddy’s. Everyone in the town of Portarlington would say “you could set your watch by John Reilly”. John lost his beautiful young son Paddy at a very tender age. While Paddy was very ill, the local priest Fr. Keiran Byrne would call to visit him.


John worked in the Power Station and depending on his shift he would cycle to the graveyard to his son’s grave. The graveyard was well outside the town, a good cycle after a long shift, but none the less John never missed a day.

After he retired from the Power Station John cycled to 10 o’clock Mass every morning and then on up to the graveyard never missing a day or changing his routine. Just like John Reilly Fr. Keiran Byrne was also a very likeable decent man.


John told Daddy this story.


After Paddy died he would call up to the graveyard every morning if he was on the late shift, but on one particular morning he just couldn’t make it, so when his shift finished at midnight he got on his bike and decided to call to his son’s grave. With nothing but the moonlight to guide him (as there wasn’t street lighting). He had a small light on the front of his bike. As he left the town it got darker and darker. When he reached the cemetery he left his bike at the gate and walked in, he thought he heard voices. He told Daddy “Every bone in his body froze” but his legs just kept moving. Slowly he moved further up the path and the voice was definitely coming from his son’s grave, the hair stood on the back of his neck and he was sick with fear, under the moonlight he could just about see a dark figure sitting on the grave, just as he reached the grave the figure turned around and said “God John, you frightened the life out of me, I wasn’t expecting anyone” John absolutely, in total shock looked at Fr. Keiran Byrne and said “In the name of God what are you doing up at this hour” to which Fr. Keiran replied “Well it’s like this John I used to call up to Paddy for our chats and he said to me one day “When I die you’ll forget about me” and I promised him I’d still call to him for a chat, and well I’m so busy during the day that sometimes I don’t have the time, the only time I have is this time of the night”.


Is that not the measure of a man.

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