The letterbox squeaked as the envelope with the book inside was pushed through by the postman. It bounced twice on the floor of the hall, somehow aptly, before I opened the envelope and saw the full-color smiling face of the legendary politico glinting up at me.
It was Jackie Healy-Rae of Kerry and an electoral legend, a flaringly flamboyant character I knew well in the past, and the book, The Healy Raes, captured me totally for the rest of the afternoon and indeed the most of the evening as well.
Over there ye think ye are currently in possession of a very colorful and flamboyant election candidate on the Republican side of your presidential campaign. Well, those among you with Kerry connections know already that Jackie Healy-Rae, born in poverty in hard times on a tiny Kerry mountain farm, beats Donald Trump into a cocked hat on every point of the scale. That's even though he always wore a flat cap during the decades he was building his political legacy and his continuing dynasty.
Here is just one fact from Donal Hickey's splendid book about that dynasty. The family are now in their third political generation and a Healy-Rae has never been defeated in any election for Dail Eireann or for Kerry County Council, the relatively powerful local authority for Kerry.
If Jackie died and went to heaven just over a year ago it is true that one son, the almost equally flamboyant Michael, succeeded him in the Dail with ease. Another son, Danny, is a poll-topping member of Kerry County Council today.
And that is not the end of the story either. Danny's son Johnny is also a poll-topping member of Kerry County Council.
The old maestro only entered that council in 1973 at the beginning of his highly independent career after a lifetime's commitment to Fianna Fail before that. If the party had treated him with more gratitude he would never have left them to run as an independent.
We have all benefitted in so many different ways from that decision because, in all fairness, with his flat cap and canny countryman's craftiness, he not alone hugely benefitted his people but also burned like a bright and sometimes bawdy spark along the corridors of power. Trump, as Jackie himself would put it, is only trotting after him.
When I met him in Galway in the late sixties he was already a colorful character. He was actually the chief organizer of the huge bonfire celebrations favored by Fianna Fail when they yet again won most of the seats in one of their traditional heartlands.
Jackie's bonfires were huge and he did not spare the petrol. The mountains and city squares flared brightly as he illuminated the electoral victories in his own inimitable style. Already he was wearing his bright tweed caps and was larger than life.
The broad Kerry accent and his colorful speech patterns further set him apart. The first remark he made to me as I covered one of the celebrations was, "I came flying down from Dublin today as fast as I could. That's the best thing to do if you find yourself trapped up there in that bloody place for longer than a couple of hours!"
After he left Fianna Fail because he did not feel they were treating him with respect, he had no difficulty in being elected to the Dail as an independent. The circumstances developed that Fianna Fail governments, with a wafer majority, needed his support in those years and, putting it bluntly, he screwed millions out of them for Kerry as the price of his support.
His rural sayings and style were the stuff of amusement for many of the slickly besuited young politicians of that era in Dublin, but the reality was that he achieved more for his local people than any of them. And the thanks of the Kerry folk down all the years since has created that dynasty which, as I said earlier, has never known electoral defeat at any level. His TD son Michael now wears the flat cap and is building his own legacy.
If Donald Trump wants some tips on how to captivate the grass roots of your states he should lay hands as quickly as possible on Donal Hickey's highly entertaining history of the dynasty. He (and ye too, and I warmly recommend the work) can access it via [email protected] any day of the week.
Trump will pick up a lot of folklore and you will get a good belly laugh as you turn every richly rascally page.
I leave ye with just one quote from Jackie about the poverty of some of the folk who were seeking his help on one issue or another, "Some people coming to me are so poor they couldn't buy a jacket for a gooseberry!"