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Feather's Miscellany: ‘Masher’ Rooney

...Lady Withington fully dressed peeped round the corner of the bathroom door and stared in horror at the empty space where the wardrobe had been. “My God!” she gasped. “He’s been taken!” and rushed after the two removal men, but she was too late. By the time she reached the entrance, they’d hoisted it onto the van and were driving off...

John Waddington-Feather tells with great gusto the fate which befell ladies-man 'Masher' Rooney.

‘Masher’ Rooney – or to give him his proper name Seamus Patrick de Valera Rooney - was a very respected and much loved citizen of Keighworth; respected because he was head of a successful auctioneering business in the area, and much loved because he was – well, to put it diplomatically – a gigolo, a womaniser of the first order, a toyboy to the rich.

He won women’s hearts – and purses – because he was dapper and good-looking, though a little on the short side, leastways in height. He’d a good head of curly auburn hair which he oiled fastidiously with some sweet smelling hair-cream and his after-shave lotion smelled equally seductive. His eyes were brown, deep and melting, so sultry when tuned that they turned on women like hot water taps once he’d got them going. His dress was immaculate and he stepped forth daily from his bachelor apartment sartorially impeccable, always at ease with the world.

As well as being the managing director of his firm, he was also the senior antique furniture expert. The firm had their sales room in the centre of town as well as branches in Skipworth, and Leeds. Once a year Rooney and Co ran an antiques fair at Harrogate, that couthest of Yorkshire spa towns.

As you might guess he was of Irish stock. His grandfather had come from Ireland many years before horse-dealing, but one year stayed on in Keighworth and switched trades to become first a pawnbroker then an antiques dealer. He had both brains and blarney and his business prospered. He educated his son, Patrick, at Keighworth Grammar School; and Patrick opened his first auction room in town, making such a good job of it he was able to send his son Seamus to a minor public school in North Yorkshire, which gave him more polish than he would have had had he gone to the local comp.

Under Seamus, whose philandering earned him the by-name ‘Masher’, the firm went from strength to strength, for Masher had inherited all his forebears’ blarney and charm, but in addition his public school education gave him ‘edge’. He spoke proper with no hint of the local twang, and that in itself pushed him straight away into the upper crustian bracket in Keighworth. It was in upper-crustian circles that his paramours always took place; generally among wealthy ladies who…how shall I say?...who were less than satisfied by their husbands in a vital aspect of their married lives.

He earned his reputation during his time at Cambridge, where he had an affair with the wife of the Master of his college. When the Master found out he was sent down and joined the family firm earlier than expected and from that time on his life followed twin courses: antiques and affairs. His affair at Cambridge was just the beginning for because he was so couth he mixed easily with the county set and continued his philandering; but an affair with a titled lady led almost to his downfall, one is tempted to say his exposure, as you’re about to hear.

For some time he’d been having a liaison with Lady Withington of Withington Hall up the Dales. Her husband knew nothing about it, or so he claimed; but like many ageing aristocrats he was rather glad of Masher’s help. It kept his wife satisfied and a satisfied wife is always sweet. In the way of ageing aristocrats, he took cuckolding in his stride. It was essentially part of his stiff upper-lip lifestyle; just as many a well born lady turned a blind eye to her husband’s peccadilloes throughout marriage.

But to my tale. One day Masher visited Lady Withington on two counts: first, to pay his respects, and second to pick up a valuable antique wardrobe in her bedroom, where both were romping starkers and enjoying themselves hugely in the large four-poster bed, when they suddenly became aware of loud footsteps clomping along the corridor outside.

“Your men are coming for the furniture I’m sending to the sale-room!” her ladyship wailed. “I’d clean forgotten they were due this morning!”

That the lovers were alarmed would be an understatement. They leapt out of bed, she grabbing her clothes and dashing into the adjoining bathroom, where she locked the door and quickly got herself dressed. But Masher in a blind panic bolted straight from bed into the nearby wardrobe, where he cowered naked scarcely daring to breathe.

The heavy footsteps drew nearer then stopped outside the bedroom door. As the door opened they heard the maid’s voice: “It’s the wardrobe in here which her ladyship wants to go to the auction.” Then she retreated.

Masher listened intently; then, to his horror, the furniture men approached the wardrobe he was in and he froze.

“We’d best lock the wardrobe door then it don’t fly open,” said one of the men, who turned the key and locked Masher inside. He braced himself against the sides of the heavy wardrobe as the two men began hoisting it.

“By gum but it’s ‘eavy!” gasped one of the men as he jerked the wardrobe onto its side and with the help of his mate began to lift it.

“Tha can say that again!” grunted the other as he, too, took the weight of it. “Just take it steady down them steps, Frank, we don’t want to drop it.” - and off they went.

As soon as they’d gone, Lady Withington fully dressed peeped round the corner of the bathroom door and stared in horror at the empty space where the wardrobe had been. “My God!” she gasped. “He’s been taken!” and rushed after the two removal men, but she was too late. By the time she reached the entrance, they’d hoisted it onto the van and were driving off.

She followed them frantically in her car all the way to the auction room where the wardrobe was to be auctioned. Meanwhile, Masher was sweating cobs. It was hot and clammy but fortunately for him there was some latticework on top of the door which let in the air. He was at his wits’ end and tried in vain to ease open the door, which was firmly locked, and when they arrived he was carried upstairs straight into the auction room, where one of his colleagues was waiting to start the sale.

By the time it started, Masher was gasping and sweating profusely. He gasped even more when he heard the auctioneer calling for bids for the wardrobe and recognised her ladyship’s voice bidding to get the wardrobe back. Then it happened. The auctioneer decided to show off the finer points of the wardrobe and asked his assistant to open the door to reveal the rich panelling inside. He did so and there in all his naked glory stood Masher, his hands covering his vulnerable parts smiling sheepishly. The audience gasped and the auctioneer for once was lost for words. Then the bidders began laughing as Masher was handed a blanket and stepped out.

But cool as ever Masher made light of it and called out: “Make your bids, ladies and gentlemen, for this unparalleled piece of furniture which I guarantee is worth every pound of your money for I know it inside out.” Then he wandered out and found some clothes.

Lady Withington stopped bidding but the wardrobe sold well, and the tale about Masher’s stunt stepping from the wardrobe naked was told for years afterwards in Keighworth; and ever afterwards, too, when he was playing out with a lady friend, Masher made sure his clothes were to hand.

John Waddington-Feather ©


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