My paternal grandfather was an inveterate gambler, whose compulsion resulted in a life of wildly fluctuating fortunes. His great passion was greyhounds, closely followed by horses: two creatures whose speed and courage are much admired by the Irish.
I've never been drawn to the world of gambling myself and was conscious, whilst growing up, that the subject was one to be frowned upon.
My father was quick to remind us that the only person who ever made money following horses was a ploughman and that wagering hard-earned cash on any game of chance was foolish in the extreme.
Grandfather's gambling habit, coupled with alcoholism, led him from boom to bust with his unfortunate family following disconsolately in his wake.
Departing this life in his nineties, seemingly unrepentant, he left us little other than a few well-thumbed racing guides, a battered bowler-hat and a couple of beautiful walking-sticks which he must have twirled to great effect in his dandyish heyday.
Two walking-sticks with greyhounds' heads
embellished by a silver band,
were all he left us, nothing more.
Fortunes, though he had won a score,
vanished, slipped from his careless hand:
all lost on tardy thoroughbreds.