The play concerns the Hannigan family, father Jim, mother Chris, eldest son Noel, middle daughter Eileen, and youngest son Seamus. We meet the family at breakfast time. Jim, Noel and Eileen are preparing to leave for their jobs, and Seamus for school. Noel has a new job working construction on the new housing project, near the one that has just opened. The kids petition their father to apply for one of the new houses as their current apartment is old, dirty, in poor repair, and too small for the needs of the family as currently constituted.
Jim is steadfast in his commitment to his current situation. He has no love for the apartment, but the new development is too far from work, besides, good men were reared in these houses, leaving would be no way to honor them. The family banters charmingly. They are joined the half senile neighbor, Mrs. Camody, for whom Mrs. Hanningan cares. Jim and Eileen leave. A letter arrives from the Dublin Corporation. Behind her husband's back, Chris has applied for a new house and has been approved.
She and the kids move to the new house while Jim is at work, leaving a note for him to meet them there when he gets done. Jim finds the note and is understandably miffed. He has some drinks at the pub before making his way to the new house. On the way, he meets his new neighbor, Gabble Gibbons, an effusive braggart. Gabble has been similarly tricked by his spouse. Jim finds his family and begins his new life in the new house. Thus ends part one.
In part two the family, or more specifically Jim and Noel, have to deal with Chris’s plan to start a garden. She wants them spread out a shipment of manure into the yard, a task to which they are both apposed. They are interrupted by the arrival of Gabble Gibbons, who has come to avenge his son for the fight that Seamus had with him. The argument that erupts between Jim and Gabble causes Mrs. Carmody, newly arrived next door, to come over and faint. Jim and Gabble are sent to the pub to get her some brandy, where they drink healths and loose track of their animosity. It is here that Gabble reveals his wife’s own garden plans and concocts a plan to trick the police into spreading the manure and preparing both his and Jim’s gardens.
The play is slight but amusing. Very amusing actually. It reminds me of Hobson’s Choice, in the way it mocks patriarchal pretensions. Despite Jim’s protestations, Chris is the true authority in the household.