Celtic Illumination, part 50, perverts, provo’s and prossies
I mentioned some time ago that my father had stuck up for me on two occasions that I could remember. The first was at Violent Hell when the priests thought they could get rid of me as they were unable to teach me anything. The second time he stood up for me was in Warrenpoint. I felt good giving him a couple of packs of his favourite pipe tobacco every week and he accepted my smuggling as most people would, as a bit of a giggle, a bit of harmless craic.
One Sunday afternoon, I was in the back kitchen, when I heard a commotion. I came through to see my father moving quickly, in the front garden, towards two men who stood at the gate. He was waving his arms and shouting at them telling them to go away. I recognised them as the bouncers from the Osbourne hotel; my mother explained that my father thought they were customs men coming to harass me. Thankfully we managed to catch my father before he got to the gate.
I always found the bouncers very interesting. I wondered how they could stand there all night and remain calm and at the appropriate moment end an argument, or fight, with the minimum of punches. They were both experienced boxers from Newry and always very smartly dressed and always happy and joking. Except at one o clock in the morning when they knew it would be likely their specific skills would be needed.
I do remember one function where there were no bouncers. Spud, the manager, called me in and told me to clear out the bar in the main ballroom. I thought it a strange request, but did so. Later that day I opened the rear delivery doors and a number of vans pulled up, men clambered out and stocked the bar. That evening a fund raising event was to be held for a Republican cause. I had to man the bar, but I wasn’t to charge for drinks, I was to serve drinks. All free.
The Wolfe Tones were playing as were a number of other highly popular republican groups. It was a great night and everyone was very well behaved, until the army arrived. If you can imagine the bar was beside the main entrance door to the large ballroom. I was amazed as I heard a commotion and then, saw what seemed to be a never ending line of heavily armed soldiers, like a never ending line of ants, running into the ballroom.
Everyone was arrested, even me. And we were all photographed and fingerprinted. As we stood in line you could hear the people in front taking the mickey out of the English army officer who was trying to record our personal information.
What’s your name?
Is it Pat or Patrick?
No I’m Pat, is your name Patrick?
No. Is your name Pat or Patrick?
Pat, what’s your name?
That’s not important, where do you live Pat?
In a house, where do you live………
It was quite a laugh and probably helped along by the nervous energy in the place. Once photographed and fingerprinted each of us were shown the front door. I passed Spud who asked me to come back the following morning; early.
I did and was given a clip board by Spud and told to follow him as we made our way around the hotel on an inspection. Because the soldiers were wearing camouflage paint on their hands and faces any wall that they had touched and was marked had to be repainted, and not just the wall but the whole corridor. Spud was saying things like ‘bed destroyed’ while I might find it hard to see anything wrong with the bed, but what was I to know. Spud took the list from me at the end, added the figures up, probably multiplied by two, added ten per cent for luck, and had the British army pay up. Such was life in Northern Ireland. Although the troubles ruined many, many, families and lives, the troubles also made many people very, very, wealthy.
My evasion skills were even brought to the fore while at the Osbourne. It was a winter’s night. I had closed the bar and was walking home when I suspected that someone was following me. At that time in Northern Ireland it was appropriate to be scared, if you thought you might be being followed, for there were quite a few nutters running about the province. I called on the training I had received in Belfast as a Master Candle Maker and stuck to the main thoroughfares. I hoped it wouldn’t end in hand to hand kung fu.
The figure kept pace with me and I knew that I was in trouble when I came to the bottom of the lane, the Bridal Loanan, for there were no street lights. There was no fecking street either just a rough old lane. I decided to wait under a lamp post and use the street light, should a confrontation ensue. With hindsight it may not have been a good idea to adopt the stance of a lady of the night but I waited as the figure came closer. I held my breath hoping he would walk on past but he didn’t. He grabbed a hold of me and dragged me into the shadows. He claimed to be from the IRA and said he was going to search me before he would question me.
I had nothing to hide from the IRA and allowed him to search me, but as his hands began to linger, I realised that here was another fecking pervert. My hand to hand, street fighting skills came in to play and I ran home as fast as I could, having delivered what I hoped would be a series of effective blows. I kept an eye open for him for years but never saw him again until about five or six years ago when I was informed that he was an elderly bachelor who lived on a remote farm and had nothing to do with the IRA.
But it would seem that with my good looks, and with having the loveliest legs in Ireland, I was destined to be hounded by perverts for a good many years. Even a friend’s father who was a builder and worked on some of the houses being constructed along the Bridal Loanan, would joke and laugh with us, asking us to perform feats of strength, even to wrestle. One day, on my way home from school, I accepted his challenge but as I wrestled with him I could feel the screwdriver in his pocket dig into me. It was as I struggled to get away from him that I realised that he wasn’t a carpenter, he was a bricklayer, and he didn’t have a screwdriver in his pocket!