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Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: I silently curse myself for giving St Michael’s College credit that they don’t deserve

No less a judge than the great Jerry Flannery once described me as “one of Ireland’s greatest thinkers"

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Ross O'Carroll-Kelly in his Leinster rugby jersey. Illustration: Alan Clarke.

No less a judge than the great Jerry Flannery once described me as “one of Ireland’s greatest thinkers” – and even though it was in the course of a Charity Roast in the Sin Bin in Limerick, I think his point still stands.

Being a great thinker, I actually love this time of year? It’s, like, a period of – I want to say – reflection between New Year and the stort of the Six Nations Championship, a time for looking back, and for looking forward, and for considering the big questions – like, for instance, how the fock am I going to get rid of the Christmas tree?

Yeah, no, that one has been on my mind since about four o’clock on Christmas Day.

Disposing of the tree is traditionally one of my jobs, because if it was left to Sorcha – a committed environmentalist, bear in mind – we wouldn’t have one in the first place. It just so happens that I love a tree? But unfortunately, once you’ve cut one down, it can’t be replanted, a fact that Sorcha explained to me, using scribbled diagrams and her trademork patience, five or six Christmases ago.


Yeah, no, the tree has to be somehow gotten rid of once Christmas is over and that challenge gets horder and horder with every passing year. So after, like, mulling it over in my mind for a week, I whip out my phone and I ring Ronan.

“No,” he goes – that’s, like, his opening line. “Fook off.”

I’m there, “Dude, I haven’t even said anything yet?”

He’s like, “You’re rigging to ast do I know addyone who can get rid of yisser three for you.”

I’m there, “Why would you think that?”

“Because,” he goes, “you rig me this time evoddy year to ast me the same question.”

I’m there, “I was actually ringing to wish you a belated Happy New Year. But since you were the one who brought it up–”

He’s like, “No, Rosser.”

“What about your mate?” I go. “Buckets of Blood? He has a white van, doesn’t he?”

He’s like, “What, just because he’s woorking class and he thrives a white van, he’s in the Christmas tree disposal business? Do you know how prejudiced that is, Rosser?”

I’m there, “What if I offered him a hundred snots?”

“He’ll do it for two-hundrit,” he goes. “Cash in haddend.”

I’m like, “Just tell him to come between one and four. Sorcha’s having lunch with her old pair.”

So the hour duly arrives. And so does Buckets of Blood. He comes roaring up the driveway in his – like I said – white van. I’ve already removed all the decos from the tree and the thing is waiting in the front gorden for him to take it away.

He’s like, “How was yisser Christmas, Rosser?”

And I’m there, “The usual,” because I’ve always had a hell of a lot of time for Buckets. “A focking nightmare.”

He goes, “I always say that Christmas is for the childorden.”

I’m there, “They certainly find a way to make it all about them. Anyway, I don’t care where you dump that thing, as long as it’s–” and I sort of, like, make a motion with my hand to say far away from here.

“What, the northside?” he goes.

And I’m there, “If necessary, yeah – but just not somewhere where it’s going to be traced back to me, okay?”

He throws the thing into the back of the van, takes the two hundred snots, then off he focks. I go back inside, hoover up the pine needles, then I wait for Sorcha to arrive home to give me a pat on the back and maybe even an ‘attaboy’.

She arrives home shortly before five. She’s like, “Oh my God, the tree has gone!”

And I’m there, “I keep my promises, Sorcha,” which I don’t, but she doesn’t pull me up on it.

She’s like, “What did you do with it? You didn’t try to replant it in the gorden like you did five or six Christmases ago, did you?”

I’m there, “No, I took it to – believe it or not – St Michael’s College. They’re running, like, a whole recycling operation this year,” and I silently curse myself for giving them credit that they don’t deserve.

“Oh my God,” Sorcha goes, “that’s so amazing. By the way, there was a thing on the Dalkey Open Forum earlier – someone’s dumped their tree on the pavement outside the Guinea Pig in Dalkey.”

I’m like, “People are just–”

“Apparently,” she goes, “they pulled up in a white van and just threw the thing out.”

I’m like, “– animals, Sorcha. Sub-human pond life.”

She goes into the livingroom and I text Ronan to tell him to tell Buckets that I want my two-hundred sheets back. Still, I think, at least there’s nothing to tie us to the thing, one Christmas tree being pretty much the same as the next.

That’s when Sorcha calls me. She’s, like, going through the decorations and she’s there, “Ross, where’s the one that my mom and dad bought us for Christmas?”

I’m there, “Er, refresh my memory again?”

She goes, “They had a photograph of me, you, Honor and the boys put on to a bauble.”

I’m like, “Did they?” at the same time thinking, ‘Fock them!’

“Yes,” she goes, “and it’s not here! You must have left it on the tree.”

Oh, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.

She suddenly offers me an unexpected way out, though. She goes, “Do you think it’s possible they found it in Michael’s before they recycled the tree? Why don’t you drive out there and find out?”

And I’m like, “That’s a brilliant idea,” already on my way out the door.

So I drive to Dalkey village and I throw the cor outside Finnegan’s with two wheels up on the kerb. I spot the tree outside the Guinea Pig and I race across the road and stort examining the branches, looking for this famous decoration with our ugly mugs on it.

Except there’s literally no sign of it. I’m turning the tree over for the third or four time when I hear a beep behind me. I turn around and it’s, like, Sorcha, sitting at the wheel of her Nissan Leaf – with the famous decoration dangling from her fingers.

She goes. “I was only pretending it was lost, Ross, to trick you into coming here. Rest assured, we’ll be having focking words about this when you get home.”

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

Ross O’Carroll-Kelly was captain of the Castlerock College team that won the Leinster Schools Senior Cup in 1999. It’s rare that a day goes by when he doesn’t mention it