Celtic Illumination, part 56, Dundalk, the Gardai and the hair of the dog
I was enjoying life, ish. I still had my father giving me private tuition every day. After that I would have to work around the house. It was a brand new house so I was allowed to dig the garden. This was not some gentile act of wandering around with a hoe and poking out weeds. A couple of tons of top soil had been delivered and deposited on the drive. I was allowed to turn the garden over, with a fecking pick axe, before spreading the top soil all around.
This took me more than a day or two, for it was quite a large garden. Mum wanted rose bushes so I was allowed to use the wheel barrow. Dad sent me into the local fields where I had to collect barrowful’s of horse and cow manure and bring it home for the garden. I didn’t mind wandering around the local fields collecting manure. In fact a new neighbour Tommy Toal would sometimes accompany me with his shotgun. I must have been the only armed shit shoveller in the North.
It was only a single barrel shot gun and you would think that the last thing a normal person would do is wander about fields, in bandit country firing a shotgun at anything that moved. I had created myself a little business. If we managed to shoot anything, which normally would be rabbits or hares, I would take them home and skin them. I would cure the skin and then make watch straps or lighter pouches or even wallets.
I was staggering home one night and met a fellow staggering the other way. He was carrying a bulging plastic bag. We knew each other and stopped for a chat. He was on his way to the dock wall to dump the three dead pet rabbits he had in his bag. I relieved him of his load and took the rabbits home dreaming of a pure white rabbit fur lighter pouch.
Attending Newry Technical College was quite enjoyable and I was certainly meeting lots of new and interesting people. One of my class mates was actually on the run from the Irish army. He had joined the army, decided he didn’t like it and came home to Newry. They couldn’t touch him, as long as he stayed north of the border.
My sister Carol was in her final year at Trinity in Dublin and she invited me down for the weekend. Another fellow I was friendly with at the time, Mickey Rush, came with me. Mickey like myself worked part time in the hotels and bars around Warrenpoint. Mickey however had not been entered into any training programme by a double top secret cable. Our moral compasses didn’t exactly point in the same direction. I learned this as we got on the train at Dundalk.
In those days the train line was often blown up or blocked with suspect vehicles or containers between Newry and Dundalk. So a Belfast to Dublin train journey would often involve a bus trip between Newry and Dundalk. Dundalk of course to us was bandit country, it really was Dodge City with the amount of IRA men there and it wouldn’t raise an eyebrow to see in the local newspaper the headline, gun battle on Dundalk Street. As the train pulled out of Dundalk, Mickey opened his rucksack to show that he had stolen a bottle of almost ever spirit available.
And so the party started on the train there was Mickey, myself, a teacher from the Newry Technical College and the train conductor. We were hammered by the time we got to Dublin and my sister was not impressed. She sent Micky and myself off for a walk so that we might sober ourselves up. The walking was tiring stuff so we decided to have a bit of a sit down and a rest, in a pub.
Mickey and I were sitting at the bar and Mickey hadn’t noticed that the barman had opened a trap door in the floor. He had descended into the cellar and it was only as he began to emerge that Mickey caught sight of him and began screaming that the very devil himself was coming up through the floor boards. We were asked to leave, which we did when the Gardai turned up.
That night as we ploughed into the drink, along with my sisters friends, we were told of a dance. Eager to show off our skills Mickey and I made our way to the dance. It was a final ball for graduating doctors so everyone assumed that we were medical students. I wish we had been for I tell you we could have done with some medication for the hangovers that crushed our brains the next day as we headed back north.
Once again we left the train in Dundalk and began to walk across town to the bus station. We had met some fellow on the train and we were sharing a bit of banter as we strolled along. He stopped outside a grocers shop and checked his watch.
“You know lads,” he said. “We’ve a fair bit of time to wait until the bus leaves.”
We nodded as we were aware of the amount of time we would; have to pass in the less than exciting bus terminal.
“Do ye fancy a beer lads?” said the fellow, to which Mickey and I nodded eagerly. We might not have been medical students but we surely knew the medicinal benefits of the hair of the dog.
“Come on then,” says the fellow, as he walks into the grocers shop. Strange we thought but there were two of us, should this fellow turn out to be nothing more than another pervert. We nodded at the shopkeeper and simply traversed the length of the shop and entered another room which, this was Ireland, was a bar. Not only was it a bar but there was a party in full swing and sure it wasn’t even ten o clock in the morning yet. Never mind ten o clock in the morning most of the people in the bar had been there all night long and when the time came for us to leave and catch the bus into the north it was tempting to think perhaps we should catch the later bus.