mortar and arson: sd Ireland christmas story

by seamusboyle

If you have ever been inside of a building that has some glass paneling underneath the railings, it is likely the handiwork of the SD Ireland company. SD Ireland has a near-monopoly in the local construction industry, getting such contracts as the Davis center and The Pit. The company’s most recognizable contribution to Burlington culture are their string light cement mixer trucks, which fill children’s hearts with holiday cheer as much as they fill oncoming traffic with fear. 

Galway, 1889. It is Christmas Eve and a young stonemason by the name of Tadgh Doyle walks down through the main avenue of the town. He has just left a meeting with the town council and earned a contract to repair St. Nicholas’ cathedral. His mortar is the strongest in 6 counties, and he is the only man in Ireland who’s paste can be trusted to reinforce the dome, which is sagging from decades of acute dampness.

Doyle is over the moon. He plans to use the money from the repairs to move his wife and daughters to America. His brother has opened a profitable chiseling business in Manhattan to create facades for the new skyscrapers. Tadgh daydreams of his suspension over the new cities.

Rufus Ireland, a dark figure and suspected highwayman, also lurks the town this night. Teased relentlessly his whole life by the town for his on the nose surname, jealousy and single malt pulses through his veins, for he has no Christmas hearth to dry his socks by. A rascal he was, and a drunk one that eve. And as so many men before and since, a chance encounter would alter their lives forever. 

Tadgh liked to walk with his eyes closed, a bit of what would come to be known as a hippy, he liked to focus on the cobblestones beneath his boots. Those who knew him would joke it’s why his mortar was so resilient, but it was just the peat resin. His coin purse with the advance swung to and fro. Rounding a corner, he collided into the backside of Rufus Ireland, who was relieving himself against the wall of a bakery.

“Oh I beg your pardon sir” cried Tadgh. He was incredibly non confrontational, having always been his mother’s favorite. But Rufus swung in blind rage, pants still undone. He knocked Tadgh down into a bale of hay, ever so precariously perched on the hill of Galway which has since been leveled, where he became stuck. Scrambling to escape but drowning in straw, he was successful only in rolling himself down the hill, striking a lamppost on the way down. The bale was aflame, and Tadgh rolled down far into the peat bogs, never to be seen again.

Rufus picked over his belongings and came across the concrete plans, he knew this was his chance to leave the liquor, and the old country behind. Stowing away in a merchant ship, he made his way to America. Still a fugitive, he could not stay in the cities lest he be recognized. He made his way to Vermont, where he could live a simple life in an emerging market. Using that old mortar recipe, he forged the brutalist brick palaces of the Burlington skyline, becoming a man of considerable wealth and influence. 

But still, every Christmas, he sets his cement mixers ablaze through the town. Some say it is the only way he can cope with this secret memory, others see it as a boastful celebration. But, dear reader, it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. The Ireland family will continue their bland crusade to real estate domination, and you had best watch your tongue lest you find yourself cast in concrete one winter’s day.

Categories: around town, dec 7, vol 25

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