Tar Chippings And Tunes.

A delightful short episode of Hall’s Pictorial Weekly, broadcast on October 2, 1974:

While working on a feature about John B Keane, Frank Hall chances upon some Cork County Council road workers tarring a stretch of road between Kiskeam and Boherbue. […] Frank Hall initially wants to know if the men have seen Eddie Bradley, but the subject soon turns to turns to the difference between fresh tarring and loose chippings. Maurice O’Keeffe explains that loose chippings means there is a dangerous surface and Ned Dennehy adds that they could break the glass in the car.

Maurice O’Keeffe does not have a preference but decides fresh tarring gives a better result. He then asks Frank Hall if he has a fiddle in his car. When Frank Hall cannot provide a fiddle, Maurice O’Keeffe sends him on an errand to collect his own fiddle from his home in Kiskeam so he can play some music while the men take their lunch break.

I’m a sucker for this kind of Irish conversation (some of the men are more immediately comprehensible than others). Thanks, Trevor!


  1. Are they talking about resurfacing with asphalt versus with chipseal = tar-and-chip? But there obviously asphalt is better, chipseal is just cheaper, right?

  2. I love that. There’s this great queue of cars waiting while he’s discussing where to pick up his fiddle.

    It’s funny the men don’t give a straight answer. I’ve never heard of chipseal. We have gravel roads around here with lots of potholes. Tar lasts longer than gravel mixed with cement but it can occasionally get pulled off (like a scab) by snowploughs. I’m sure tar costs a lot more. More potholes will appear in the same area until ditches (and sometimes pipes across the road) are laid to drain the puddles. The advantage of potholes is that cars drive slower. The disadvantage is that pedestrians get splashed.

  3. Stu Clayton says

    It’s funny the men don’t give a straight answer.

    Like the woman on the bike, they seem to be flabbergasted by being spoken to by a stranger with a cameraman in attendance. It makes some of the men appear shy, but perhaps it’s just shiftiness. It’s all in the mind of the observer, after all, as far as quick assessments go.

    I get the impression that in the US now the presence of a camera causes people to haul out their highschool yearbooks, and pull up their shirts to show their Caesarean scars. At most they will pretend to be shy or shifty.

  4. PlasticPaddy says

    Boherbue (Ir. An Bothar Buí = the yellow road) is an infelicitous transliteration. Better anyway than Carrick TwoHill, where you will look in vain for two hills but might find a family name Tuathail).

  5. Carrigtwohill is the post office and local government spelling; Carrigtohill is the ordnance survey and national government spelling.

    In placename buí is most often anglicized boy; the Irish and English pronunciations have evolved away from each other in the centuries since that correspondence was fixed. Of other anglicisations, bwee, which best matches the modern Irish, is rarer than bue, though both are pronounced bwee.

  6. “How long will that take?”
    “Five minutes. And if you go fast enough, it’ll take you less.”

    Priceless! And all in a lovely Cork accent – thank you, lh!

  7. Charles Shere says

    Brings to mind the brilliant sympathetic irony of Myles na gCopaleen (whose Wikipedia entry, and particularly (predictably) its Talk page, provides entertaining distraction this morning).

  8. That Talk page is indeed enjoyable. “Yes, and let’s explore together why you were reverted, shall we?”

  9. David Eddyshaw says

    He continues:

    So, he used it on his own birth certificate? Was he his own father and mother, then? And specifically, he opposed the renaming of oneself with “Irish” names. As for his love of the language, that was nowhere questioned, so the strawman you charge at is a keepsake of your own. And my own nationality is something you can neither know nor comment upon. However, being unable to know a thing does not stop you elsewhere from commenting, so why it would stop you here is unknowable.

    I don’t think that can really be improved upon. I’d be prepared to stake money on the commenter’s nationality, though.

  10. Also featuring, at about 1:30 minutes in, a Ford Anglia, recently mentioned in this parish (can’t remember which thread, alas).

  11. I’d be prepared to stake money on the commenter’s nationality, though.
    It seems American.

  12. David Eddyshaw says

    Ha! lost my money. That’ll teach me.

  13. @AJP Crown: What do you mean by “gravel mixed with cement”? To me, “cement” in any kind of construction context means poured lime-based material; with gravel, it is concrete. I know this isn’t just a British-American terminology difference, since the Doctor and Romana discuss the recipe and terminology for such building materials in “Destiny of the Daleks.”

    Concrete is more expensive and much more durable than any hydrocarbon-based road material like asphalt. Since it is so expensive, it is pretty much only used in North America for restricted across highways, which both take a lot of wear and also do not have any pipes or wires underneath them, which might necessitate tearing up the pavement if they needed to be repaired.

  14. What do you mean by “gravel mixed with cement”?
    this I assume

  15. Actually it seems there’s a discussion about names also going on in Wales at the moment.

    Brett. Daleks can’t even go up stairs, let alone mix concrete. Concrete is Portland cement, fine aggregates, coarse aggregates and sand – plus admixtures that affect things like colour, and speed of curing – with fresh water. The proportions and initial time of mixing are critical to the curing, which takes a minimum of 28 days. What I’m talking about here is a tiny bit of dry cement dust that’s mixed into gravel and dumped in potholes. The whole stiffens a bit when it rains but it’s in no way concrete. You can also buy a slightly cementy sand at hardware stores and builders’ supplies for grouting between cobble stones or pavers in your garden. It makes them stable and it’s supposed to stop weeds (ie grass) growing. A former New York colleague of mine noticed that in Stockholm’s sidewalks they lay utility cables in builders’ sand and then lay the pavers directly on top. So if something breaks or needs adjustment they – the Swedes – don’t need to rip up the street asphalt with jackhammers, they merely remove a few pavers with one hand while eating a couple of knäckebröd with gravlax. She wanted to know why we (they) don’t do this in NY.

  16. “Chip and seal,” as I believe the usual name in the US is, is a notoriously unpleasant surface for riding a road bike. Lots of vibration. But it’s cheaper and therefore common on county-maintained roads that don’t get much traffic (good for cycling), particularly in rural areas without much of a tax base.
    What we call asphalt and is generally called tarmac (short for tarred macadam) in the British Isles is much smoother. Somehow the word tarmac in the US seems to have become associated with airports (do others have this association)?

  17. “It’s funny the men don’t give a straight answer.” Perhaps because they assume the questioner must know the literal difference (doesn’t everyone) and are trying to answer a different question – what’s the difference in consequences for driving on fresh tarring and loose chppings? That would be a reasonable assumption since he said that he’s seen signs saying both and asks what’s the difference – so you might think he’s asking, what’s the difference for the driver?

  18. David Marjanović says

    Daleks can’t even go up stairs

    Define “go“.

    do others have this association

    In a US context? Sure.

  19. Having been mocked by the fourth and fifth Doctors for their inability to ascend stairs, the Daleks’ first demonstration that they had overcome that problem was in “Remembrance of the Daleks”. (This serial also benefitted from the rereleases of the surviving early Doctor Who stories. During their visit to the Coal Hill School, Ace picks up a book from where Ian had set it down twenty-five years earlier.)

  20. “some of the men are more immediately comprehensible than others”

    Many will have recognised the Irish cliché “suigh síos agus lig do scíth”, ‘sit down and rest yourself’.

  21. John Cowan says

    I think that every pilot in the U.S. calls it tarmac and only in reference to aprons, taxiways, and runways at airports. I do too, but that’s because I’m married to one.

  22. Also daleks are like skateboards, they don’t work on uneven surfaces. While we, some of us, are watching Dr Who the daleks are watching a programme with scary humans climbing stairs two at a time, dancing and skipping around outdoors.

    Do daleks still cry “Exterminate!”? They did when I was a child. My favourite Dr Who was Episode 1. After that it went (only metaphorically, because daleks) downhill, I thought.

  23. David Marjanović says


    …that’s a yes.

    (It’s also a cliffhanger: comes at the very end of an episode where nobody expected the Spanish inquisition.)

  24. They’re like weedkiller. But just as we have evolved in the past 50 years, some of us, perhaps it’s time to bring on eco-daleks, ones who (ones that?) can tell Greta Thunberg from Johnson, Trump & co.

    Btw, is everyone here aware of Donna Haraway, who writes about cyborgs, dogs, feminism and suchlike? Is it just me who wasn’t, until recently? I only ask because my daughter is reading everything and writing about her (for school). I live in the bush and I’m not sure how famous she is.

  25. Looked her up, apparently she believes that humanity is entering new era which she termed Chthulucene.

    Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

  26. Chthulucene is nothing, SF. According to her SF stands for Stick Figures. But don’t rule her out. She writes interesting stuff and the young peoples just love her. I’m just wondering whether she’s sort of well-known, the kind of person who Terry Gross might interview on NPR.

  27. David Eddyshaw says

    multispecies feminist theorist Donna J. Haraway

    Accept your symbiotes and parasites! They are you, too!
    (Most of these species don’t have sexes at all. Perhaps that is the point?)

    String figures, apparently. Makes much more sense, I think we can agree.
    “Tentacular practices” sound … enjoyable? Or not. As you may think.

  28. Tentacular practices

    Since the Avatar movie, I’d like having a long tail, would be cool and useful for many things.

    Not sure about tentacles

  29. STRING figures, thank you. I mustn’t make that mistake again.

    Ooh, now I can link the Hokusai print to tentacular practices (with credit to Language & SF). That must be worth quite a lot of parental points, you’d think. Sometimes there’s no response, sometimes a big thank you. One never knows.

  30. John Cowan says

    Not that plenty of sf, especially in the old days, wasn’t full of stick figures.

  31. xkcd shows that well-executed stick figures can be surprisingly emotive.

  32. David Eddyshaw says

    However, X Trapnel’s magnum opus also comes to mind in this connexion.

  33. “We only have Trapnel’s assurance that this manuscript [floating in the canal] was indeed Profiles in String.”

    Despite String, I don’t buy Camel Ride to the Tomb as a title for the best first novel since the war, not unless it was by Harrison Ford.

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