John McCullagh March 9, 2004

‘She needs a square of being round!’ – she’s intellectually-challenged:  she has a wee want in her: she was behind the door when brains were being given out etc.


But the expression reminds me of a story of my first job, many decades ago.  It was the custom then – it may well be yet – to ‘take a hand out of’ every new recruit. You know the kind: Get me a new bubble for my spirit level.. a new knot for my tie etc.

 I worked in Thompson’s Cellars where the Pound Shop is today [Credit Union until recently]; we packed orders for licensed premises across the province.  Henry Thompson’s and Quinn’s the Milestone [Protestant and Catholic firms respectively] had amalgamated.  Our delivery drivers included Oliver McCaul – from Orior Road, and Jim Parks, then of High Street.  We’d have to check our schedule as we did our rounds:  if we were in a Unionist area, we announced ourselves as Henry Thompson’s, if Nationalist, as John Quinn’s!  Where it was ‘safe’ [for us that meant the latter areas] the driver might make a fool of his new helper by ordering him into the premises first, to request ‘a long stand’ with which to help empty the van’s contents. 

I was a bit ‘green’ and was certainly fooled the first time – being told to wait a while until the proprietor concluded the numerous chores that were apparently busying him.  When I cottoned on, I also realized that the ‘long stand’ was in fact doing me no harm at all, so I stretched it out, and joined in heartily in the laughter which followed at my expense!

There were certain generous proprietors who had no problem about putting up ‘a bit of grub’ or even an odd pint.  [There was certainly no fuss made then, forty years ago, about a driver having one only.]  But you had to ‘know your man’.  You usually timed your deliveries to ensure that lunch-time [anytime between twelve and two] coincided with your arrival at one such owner’s friendly door.

‘Go on in first there, lad, and ask for a ’round square’ to help us with this drop.’

‘You sure?  A round square?  Doesn’t sound right!’

‘None of yer cheek!  Do what yer told, and be quick about it!’

I obeyed.

‘John Quinn’s delivery.  The driver said, if you don’t mind and as it’s lunchtime, could he and I have the usual round.  He’s in the bookies but he’ll be along in a minute.  If that’s all right, that is!’

‘Cheeky get!  Which driver is it today?’

‘Mr McCaul.  If it’s all right with you, I’ll have today’s Special, with a large glass of iced milk!  The driver will pay for it.’

‘Bit forward yerself, young lad, aren’t ye?  Well all right, just this once!’

Five minute later, Oliver strolled in with a broad grin on his face.

‘Well, young lad, did you get the ’round square’?’

‘I ordered the round, all right.  And I explained to the barman that you’d square him!’

After that, I got the respect I thought I deserved!

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