“Is there is any p-p-person here with a j-j-ust impediment then let him s-speak now or forever hold his p-p-peace” said the stuttering Priest.
The Roman Catholic Holy Man, Ollie Water, didn’t normally have a stutter, but when he had been given the task of marrying the daughter of one of the Heads of the Five Taffia Families to one of the those with links to the Provisional IRA- it was understandable.
The Priest looked around him at the congregation of St Illtyd’s Roman Catholic Church in Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil and noticed on the right side of the church the number of men dressed in suits, sat in the pews with hands like Napoleon Bonaparte, tucked inside their outfits resting on their concealed weapons, and on the left others from the famous O’Toole clan also used to holding their piece on a regular basis.
Who would have thought that the Barsini and O’Toole families would have one day forged such an unholy alliance?
The little mining Town in the South Wales Valleys was used to an influx of foreigners, with the Irish arriving in their droves after the Irish Potato Famine of 1845- to undercut local labour and the Italian families arriving nearly a Century later, fleeing the persecution of Mussolini during the Second World War bringing with them cafes, coffee, ice cream and the Cosa Nostra.
In a way, in view of the size of the local population ,it was written in the stars that the two families would one day be linked and consolidate their business empires into legitimate means.
Whereas in the past, the O’Toole family had specialised in the supply of Semtex and illegal guns, and the Barsini family had run the numbers rackets on illegal gambling and started the sale of their highly addictive drugs in the form of their patented invention of ‘Ice a cream’ from mobile ice cream vans that toured the Valleys area.
Now in 2019, they had legitimised their business enterprises selling ‘feesh n cheeps’ to the Town folk under the protection of the Bride’s Father - Don Giacomo Marrone Barsini, the Codfather of Sole.
In the 1970’s, it was rumoured that the American Giant Corporation Coca Cola was using a small amount of cocaine in their bottles of Coke, so too was it believed that the current Barsini chips contained some unknown ingredient in their secret recipe that was equally as highly addictive.
But what was it?
Who would have thought that simply cooking chips from Irish potatoes in ground nut oil would have such an impact on the population?
As most Welsh people couldn’t get enough of them.
Queues of people stretched around the block, as they waited for their chain of fish shops to open at 11.30am – with fights often taking places over positions and people asking others ahead ‘to get me a cob n chips’.
There was even a death on 14 th February in 1975, after a particularly long Funeral and a scuffle over the last fish supper – which was dubbed the St Valentine’s Day Mass-Haker.
In response to the Priest’s question- there was absolute silence, which seemed to last forever- until Don Barsini nodded to the pulpit.
As the Priest declared the married couple wed there wasn’t the usual cheer or people reaching for confetti boxes.
Bride Lucia Barsini turned to face her new husband for the traditional kiss.
But as she was six months pregnant , she had the turning circle of an oil tanker and ‘crudely’ knocked off the glasses and flat cap of family member, Tam O’Shanter in the movement.
“You Feccking eejit’ he muttered under his breath cursing the woman, like he was a cast member of Mrs Brown’s Boys, but stopped short of a slap with one frightened look on the Holy Man’s face.
The Peaky Blinder suddenly went pale, as he realised where he was and the company that he was in.
It was the same tense atmosphere like watching someone smoking next to a powder keg.
Bridegroom Seamus O’Toole gave his adopted Countryman an evil look but soon relented when he felt the soft caress of his new Bride’s finger on his face.
He was forced to bite his tongue and turn the other cheek- after all he was in God’s House- and had to obey the sanctity of the sanctuary.
“All R-r-rise” stammered Ollie Water.
Nobody dared move until Don Giacomo Marrone Barsini-the Italian version of James Brown -the Codfather of Soul ordered musically: ‘Get up now , Get on up’.
Pews creaked as the heavyweight laden pasta brigade got to their feet and the Stout Irish made their way to the front door in anticipation of a pint of ‘Liffey Juice’ laced with a shot of Irish Whiskey.
The combination of the two was known as a McGuinness due to its explosive force and was guaranteed to turn your faeces blacker than an Al Jolson album cover.
Once ‘taken’ in volume , it also had a depressive side effect, of turning the drinker’s mood darker than a Liam Neeson movie.
Now if one thing the Irish know what to do, it’s to combine the misery of a shotgun wedding into a World Class wake and then later into a Wild West free for all.
Even a ‘Quiet Man’ like John Wayne got punchy after a good hitching.
‘Dukes’ were raised after the least innocent comment by a reveller that had too much and invariably it would end up in fisticuffs and broken bar stools.
So why they decided to place their church with expensive stain glass coloured windows next door to a social club the Catholic God only knows.
I suspect it was for prophet.
As the two tribes yet to go to war, stood outside the Church, the Wedding photographer-
Snapper Roddy Doyle, provocatively asked the various henchmen which side of the family they were on.
‘Bride or Boom?’
Not surprisingly, the Italian Mob didn’t want to be photographed, whereas the Irish didn’t mind being photographed as long as the picture frames didn’t have a hard border.
Using his wide angled lens to get the heavily pregnant Bride, into the shot, he was concerned that she was so ugly it might crack his expensive camera lens.
It took him merely 15 minutes to get the Irish side of the family set and photographed, as they were so eager to get a pint but the Italian Mob would only agree to their shots if the camera was set on ‘Reader’s Wives’ mode.
In view of Lucia’s face like a bulldog’s arse chewing a wasp, it took nearly 30 minutes to find her best side and that included putting two brown bags over her head ‘for scale reasons’.
Boy was Roddy going to work hard to get this one looking beautiful.
Even in his darkroom.
Don Barsini insisted in having a photograph of him and the Bride for his mantelpiece- but in truth it was to keep his future grandchildren away from the open fire.
Seamus O’Toole, the Bridegroom clearly hadn’t been looking at her mantelpiece when poking her fire.
But beauty is in the eye of the beholder and Guinness can have a magical effect on a man capable of transforming even the most ‘stoutest’ of individuals in the Rose of Tralee after a dozen or so pints of the dark stuff.
It can even make the Welsh Rugby Team look like World beaters.
As the guests filed into the reception, instead of the usual Bucks Fizz, there were pint glasses of Guinness with Lucia and Seamus 2019 written in the foam topping.
A nice touch for such a classy wedding.
The other table had a selection of red and white wine from the vineyards of Bardi- whose viticulture and grape varieties dated back to Roman Times, which Romulus & Remus had reputedly fought over as their Mother’s Wolf Tit had stopped lactating.
It was normally the Bride and Groom that entered the hall last but not when they had the Head of the Five Families of the Welsh Taffia ‘orchestrating’ the reception.
He was surrounded by several men with full violin cases but none of them looked very musical.
If anything, they looked like a more threatening version of the Ant Hill Mob from the Hanna Barbara cartoon the Wacky Races- shame the Groom didn’t have a Pitstop otherwise there wouldn’t have been the need for a Wedding.
The room previous full of chatter, fell eerily silent as the Don made his way to the top table with one of his entourage checking under the beautiful white laced Neapolitan covers with a mirror on a selfie stick in case of explosive devices.
As he removed his Fedora Hat, and his expensive jacket from his shoulders, at least two of the attendants collided like a version of the Keystone Cops in the rush to hang them up.
Everyone in the Hall stood up, as a mark of respect until Don Barsini motioned Pontiff-like with his hands.
There was a flash of 24 carat gold from his replica ‘Fisherman’s Ring’.
The Bride in complete contrast looked like Gollum coveting it next to him.
No sooner than he had given his signal than the Head Caterer, Lucretia Borgia, who had flown all the way from Italy for this occasion, signalled for her own ‘Mob’ to commence serving the food.
Not surprisingly, the Top Table was first followed by the closest relatives and ultimately those with the least influence in the pecking order located at the back of the hall.
Which in truth suited the Irish contingent as it was closer to the bar and easier to get to the toilets in a crowd.
Nerves and Guinness had already got the better of Best Man, Pete Boggs, who was building up to his big speech by clearing his bowels.
Most Irishmen are piss artists but Pete was different.
He was a crap artist and had manoeuvred his posterior just like an icing bag to leave a perfect Guinness shamrock of shite on the back of the toilet rim.
It was such a work of art, that it would have been a shame for any toilet brush to spoil it.
Whether it was genetics or just the time his Father had spent in H-Block at Maze Prison that had created this Irish Armitage-Shanks version of Banksy -no-one could be certain, but once the Catholic candle of remembrance had burned away the smell…it was a shite to behold.
Pete Boggs was such a perfectionist, he didn’t even need to was his hands after.
As he started to read out the cards and telegrams of good luck as the introduction to the speeches, no-one could tell otherwise that it wasn’t gravy.
Don Barsini was also artistic, he had spent nearly five minutes preparing the food on his plate into the shape of Italy- resembling a little boot of pasta poking out into a Mediterranean sea of tomato sauce.
Surrounded by a tiny life raft made from a Garibaldi biscuit.
The room was a little on the small size for the number of guests and did in fact breach the maximum number of occupants by 30 people.
So it was no surprise when the Bride lifted her massive ‘bingo wing’ arm flab and bumped the Don’s precariously placed plate and dinner onto his lap.
It is a scientific fact that when you drop a piece of toast on the floor it always lands butter face down.
So too with Italian crockery.
The expensive designer suit was ruined by the Gino D’Campo sauce.
If it had been anyone else rather than his Daughter, then chances are they would be ‘sleeping with da feeshes’- but the former Lucia Barsini now Lucia O’Toole could do no wrong in her Father’s eyes.
Lucretia Borgia snapped her fingers and immediately sent over her most attractive waitress to mop the lap of the Codfather.
As she transfixed him with those big Sophia Loren eyes all thoughts of murder left the Don, as he felt his trouser Vesuvius threatening to erupt – just like the last days of Pompeii.
At that instant, best man Pete Boggs tapped the side of his Guinness Pint Glass with a pencil topped by a tiny rubber version of Warwick Davies dressed as ‘der Leprechaun’.
“Can you all charge your glasses and be upstanding to thank the caterers for providing a meal fit for a Prince!” said Pete lifting his own glass of Guinness in the air.
He paused for dramatic effect and silence before motioning with his fingers to an imaginary dog.
“ Here Prince….!”
The crowd laughed and feeling buoyed by his little joke pushed it further.
“ And Don Barsini’s trousers would also like to thank the caterers for a lovely meal!” he continued.
The room previously full of noise and mirth suddenly went as silent as the Vatican when faced with allegations of Priestly paedophilia.
Even Bobby Sands Junior stopped eating.
There was a pregnant pause in which you could have cut the silence with a Sicilian knife.
But then a guffaw of laughter from Don Barsini burst the hitherto Trappist audience, and everyone joined in.
The almost non-cholent nod of the Head of the Taffia to his most trusted sidekick, Moi Derra, went pretty much unseen – as was to be the fate of Pete Boggs from tomorrow on, when the marital couple were to be on honeymoon.
The foundations for the concrete structure supporting the Spaghetti Junction flyover would now get an additional body to add to the existing five ‘missing persons’ making it the Birmingham Six.
As the speeches started in earnest, one of the O’Toole family, Sean Finn got up to offer his advice.
“In any marriage it is important to base it on Love & Trust” declared the Dubliner.
“I have been married to my Wife now for nigh on 20 years and I don’t love her and she don’t trust me…..but it won’t be long now ….isn’t that right Sinead O’Connor? “ said Sean slapping her bald head like Benny Hill.
The long suffering Wife- not just from a poor marriage but stage two cancer- caught him with an uppercut that Connor McGregor would have proud of and Sean sailed across the bar like he was in the Copacabana.
This was the signal that Video-Disco Jockey, Chuckie O’Larr had been waiting for and shouted at the audience ‘Boys, Boys, Boys’ before adding (Summertime Love) as he linked into the film of Italian Beauty Sabrina diving into a swimming pool as the music started.
It had the desired effect of raising the testosterone but calming the crowd.
Normally, it is traditional for the Bridge & Groom to start the dancing off but not in the most dangerous family arrangement since a Montague met a Capulet.
But if there is bad blood in a family then it is always best to spill it and invariably there will be a woman behind it.
Opening the Wedding cards, Lucia Barsini read aloud proudly…
”There is a good wish message here from Shane McGowan, the Lead Singer of the Pogues!”
“ Why didn’t you have this Fairytale in New York?”
“ I could have arranged for the NYPD choir to sing Galway Bay and had the bells ringing out for you!”
“Look there’s one from Bono too…’in the name of love never trust anything that bleeds but doesn’t die?....what does he mean?” asked Lucia suspiciously.
“Ignore him…he just likes to be on the Edge!” slurred Seamus.
The Disc Jockey was being pestered by both sides of the hall to put on music that was more suitable to the other family.
The Italian Mob wanted ‘Volare’ whilst the Irish Mob wanted Dana’s ‘All kinds of everything’ .
The argument continued with the Italian Mob suggesting sarcastically to put on ‘Zombie’ by the Cranberries and the Irish Lynch Mob suggesting that they ‘Shaddap ur face’ by Joe Dolci.
Chuckie O’Larr played a neutral song by Musical Youth song from 1982, which the Italian contingent then corrupted to ‘Hang Il Duce from the left hand side’.
As the drinks flowed then the tempers soon got even more frayed.
Especially at the bar.
“Barman gimme a JFK Cocktail !” demanded Nucky Tomasino, as he shoved his way from the back of the crowd straight to the front trying to intimidate the young student on minimum wage into serving him first.
“What’s a JFK cocktail?” asked the youngster.
“Loads of shots that make you feel like your head is exploding with a potato on the side of the glasses…!” said Nucky shamelessly.
“ Do you think that’s funny?”?” protested Freddy Fenian angrily at Don Barsini’s henchman.
“You think its funny that our Catholic President was assassinated do you?” wailed red haired Banshee, Connie O’Mara.
“I do actually….take a shot…said his fellow Italian Mobster, Hitman Tomaso Hearns offering a tray of WKD drinks around …..everyone else in this room did bar Lee Harvey Oswald did….!”
“I heard the Mafia were responsible for his death!” said Freddy angrily.
“ The funny part is just like THESE shots it was on Don Barsini’s orders!” replied Tomaso completely stone-faced.
“Why would HE order it?” asked Freddy sceptically.
“Back in the day, the Boss had a big crush on Marilyn Monroe….she rejected him for JFK and he had the pair disposed of…..he came to Merthyr to hide away until the ‘heat’ went away….back in the day it was much easier to get away with murder….no DNA or science….all you had to do was get someone drunk….force feed them barbiturates….and leave an empty pill bottle at the scene and you could just snuff them out like a candle in the wind….!” Continued Tomaso.
“Now you have to be OJ Simpson to get away with it!”
“Gimme a half a Bass and Half a Guinness….I think they call it a Black N Tan!” said Nucky provocatively.
“Now you have gone TOO far!” said Irishman Kerry