I saw a wedding photograph recently that attracted my interest.
The groom was sitting on a chair at the side of
a railway line.
The bride was sitting on his lap, but part of the bride was over the railway line. It just looked as if the groom was waiting for a train to come by and then…
And where was the wedding?
It was at or very close to Donnybrook.
My first thought was that this wedding was off to a shaky start.
It was a delightful photograph, by the way. It showed that the photographer had some imagination.
But a railway line?
Many Donnybrooks can be found, but the photograph reminded me of a place called Donnybook
just south of Perth.
My wife and I were walking past a sports ground several years ago and we saw a sign that Donnybrook was playing someone, I think Bunbury, in Aussie rules. We simply
walked in and watched the match.
Players and officials were running in all directions and my wife remarked at some stage – “who are playing, the players or the officials?”
But the game concluded without a hint of a fight.
The people who live in Donnybrook, no matter what country the town
might be in, must have a stressful time. Do people expect them to be a pugilistic lot?
Donnybrook, to most people, represents fighting.
Why is this so?
Well, the Donnybrook I want to talk about is a suburb of Dublin, Ireland.
In the year 1204 King John gave Donnybrook permission to hold a two-week fair every August.
As the years wore on, everybody who was anybody had to be seen at the Donnybrook
fair and the alcohol flowed freely.
The fair was eventually reduced to one week, but by this stage Donnybrook became almost synonymous with one big punch-up.
They even had a committee pushing for the fair to be abandoned.
My big dictionary says that in 1852 Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine commented
that Irish patriots insisted on having a donnybrook to themselves.
In 1915 the Literary Digest said the New York World had called a campaign a donnybrook.
In 1966 The Economist said “imagine the donnybrook there would be in France or Italy”.
Soon the word, written in lower case, represented
a fight, no matter where it was held, even though the original Donnybrook fair was abandoned around 1855.
The word began appearing in dictionaries to represent fighting.
One dictionary said a donnybrook was larger than a brewhaha but smaller than a fight. Another said it was an inordinately wild fight.
American author Chrysti Smith in a book I bought in Orlando, Florida, says a donnybrook is a loud, uncontrolled argument in the spirit of the rowdy fairs of the old Irish district.
I have no doubt she was speaking of that Dublin suburb, “three miles south-east of the city centre”.
Over the years the donnybrook name has been given
to an Irish jig, even to some shops.
I did see a site saying “romantic accommodation” could be found in Donnybrook.
Imagine if you will – “our romance got off to a good start; we found a place in Donnybrook”.
Synonyms include a free for all, a brawl, a quarrel,
But, and apologies to the good people from Donnybrook, wherever it might be, the word to me represents a fight, or at least a brewhaha.