Episode III-Final Goodbye to S.B.

The scene begins with S.B. in the scullery making a cup of tea and it is clear that he is unable to sleep. As he goes to sit down, he touches Gar’s coat that sits on the top of his case and he glances towards his room door. This highlights the emotional side of S.B. that he is unable to communicate with his son.

When S.B. coughs, Gar wonders who is in the kitchen and he gets up but is stunned when he sees it is S.B. and the atmosphere gets quite awkward. They attempt to talk about how hard it is to sleep sometimes. Private encourages Gar to ask him about the memory on the boat but Public sticks to topics like new tyres for the van and fencing posts that have to delivered.

Public continues talking about items for the shop that he bought and things that need to do done before he goes to get pills to help him sleep. As he does, S.B. asks him, “you’re getting the mail van to Strabane?” S.B. is now completely out of his comfort zone but tells Gar that he should sit at the back of the plane but insists that this is what the Canon told him, as he would have no knowledge of planes.

Gar finally picks up the courage to speak about the memory of them fishing in Lough na Cloc Cor. He asks S.B. if he remembers the blue boat but S.B. says that he doesn’t remember a blue boat but that he does remember a brown one.

Gar replies, “It doesn’t matter who owned it. It doesn’t even matter that it was blue. But d’you remember one afternoon in May – we were up there – the two of us – and it must have rained because you put your jacket round my shoulders and gave me your hat.

He continues telling S.B. that he then sang a song, ‘All Round my Hat,’ and he asks him if he remembers. S.B. replies, “‘All Round My Hat’? No, I don’t think I ever knew that one. It wasn’t ‘The Flower of Sweet Strabane’, was it? That was my song.

This completely deflates Gar and it is clear that he now thinks that the memory never happened.

Madge enters as Gar is in the shop and she tells S.B. that the baby is fine but they are going to call it Brigid and not Madge, as promised. S.B. confides in Madge and looks for reassurance when he says, “Madge, I’ll manage rightly, Madge, eh?”

He then asks Madge if she remembers the trouble they used to have getting Gar to go to school when he wanted to stay and look after the shop. “D’you mind the trouble we had keeping him at school just after he turned ten. D’you mind nothing would do him but he’d get behind the counter. And he had this wee sailor suit on him this morning –”

Madge replies that Gar never had a sailor suit, which highlights how our memories work and how we all remember things differently. Both Gar and S.B.’s memories are not based on details but instead on emotion. Their details may have been incorrect but the feelings in those memories were real.

S.B. contemplates how the relationship with his son changed so drastically when he says, “you couldn’t get a word in edge-ways with all the chatting he used to go through … Maybe, Madge, maybe it’s because I could have been his grandfather, eh?” This shows how emotional S.B. really is but that he just doesn’t communicate his feelings.

S.B. goes off to bed and Madge gives a short monologue insisting that Gar and S.B. are two sides of the same coin and that when Gar is S.B.’s age he will be exactly the same and will have learned nothing. She puts £2 in an envelope for him, which shows how much Gar means to her.

Gar comes back in and Madge doesn’t tell him that they called the baby Brigid, she ignores the issue. Gar says to Madge, “Madge – Madge, you’d let me know if – if he got sick or anything?

The scene and the play ends with Gar Private asking, “God, Boy, why do you have to leave? Why? Why?” Gar Public replies, “I don’t know. I – I – I don’t know.” This shows that Gar is still unsure about going to America.

Questions:

  1. What does S.B. touching Gar’s coat and looking at his door indicate?
  2. Gar finally asks S.B. about the memory on the boat, how does S.B. respond?
  3. What have you learned about memories in this scene? Explain your answer with reference to the text.
  4. Why, do you think Madge does not tell Gar about the naming of the baby?
  5. Do you feel sorry for S.B. in this scene? Explain your answer.
  6. Madge says that Gar and S.B. are exactly the same, do you agree? Explain your answer.

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