Celtic Illumination, part 62, working for British Intelligence.
At the end of the six weeks basic training most of the guys had their parents and girlfriends come to watch their passing out parade. I didn’t bother informing mine, I knew they wouldn’t be able to make it. I sent my kit on to my next unit and went home for a long weekend. Warrenpoint had changed. It had changed the previous year when I went to London for the summer but it seemed that it had changed even more this time. I suddenly felt that I wasn’t a part of it any more. People were too busy doing stuff, going places. I was an outsider.
The pervert priest came round to say hello, which was nice as I still thought he was my father. I told him I was going to a place called RAF Locking to be trained as an electronic engineer. He smiled and explained that I would like it there. He had been stationed there during the Second World War, it was just outside London. I looked forward to revisiting my old haunts in and around London; however I doubted if the plant smoking would be allowed.
On the Sunday afternoon I met up with Phelim and Peter. Phelim had his wife along and Peter his girlfriend. We went to a local hotel and began drinking. It was one of those days where, as they say in Ireland, the craic was mighty. We were having a good old laugh and when the hotels closed at two o clock, we thought well why not take a little jaunt on the ferry to Omeath and have a couple more drinks. The thirst was on us.
So, crazy rules in the North of Ireland then. On Sunday the pubs couldn’t open but the hotels could, however they had to close at two and then open again at six. In Omeath, just across the lough in the Republic, they were open all day long. It wasn’t an arduous journey so we nipped across and went into the Dublin House hotel/bed and breakfast. The place was heaving and I remember that sitting at the bar were three or four fellows, all wearing black leather jackets, black sunglasses and black berets. It would be IRA men on the run. We settled ourselves at a table and continued to drink.
We were quite loud and boisterous, in a good natured way, however at one point a terrible silence descended on the place. It was just after Peter stood, he was really quite drunk, and announced to all in the pub, “I don’t care if Boris is a Brit, he’s still my mate!” I hadn’t mentioned this before, but my nick name in Warrenpoint and at Violent Hell was Boris. I think it was because I had an affinity for the actor, or at least the characters played by the actor, Boris Karloff.
The men at the bar in the matching black berets became interested in Boris too, not because they wanted to know the origin of the name but they wanted to know what a Brit, a term for a member of the British armed forces, was doing drinking in an IRA pub in the Republic of Ireland.
Had I remained there I suppose I could have told them that it was because the drinking venues in the North were closed, however I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and had made my exit from the pub before they began to turn around. By the time they had crossed the four or five yards to where Peter and Phelim were seated, I was already leaping onto the ferry down at the landing stage. By the time they had got themselves out of the pub and into the street to look for ‘that Brit bastard Boris’, I was already halfway across the Lough, secretly praying that the marines would zoom up in their zodiacs and provide a bit of heavy machine gun cover, if needed.
I have to admit that it was quite exciting to be in such a situation. Problem is that is wasn’t the only situation that had happened that weekend. I had gone to the Ballyedmund Castle Hotel for a function on the Friday evening. While standing around with all the boys, enjoying a cocktail or two, someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked that I go with them. I didn’t know who the person was so suggested that he go away.
Another person arrived and the pair of them announced that I was to go outside with them. It was at that point that the mood of the evening changed. I had no choice but to follow along as the new fellow was pointing a handgun at me. The Ballyedmund castle Hotel had erected barriers about ten feet in front of the hotel, all the way around. It was to deter potential car bombs from being parked close to the building. My escorts led me away to the left of the hotel and as we rounded the corner I saw that someone had moved the scaffolding poles, that the barrier was made from, and two cars were parked next to the building, all the windows were rolled down.
I suddenly realised just how good the training I had received in England was, for I was able to recognise at least one rifle barrel and two handguns beginning to emerge from the vehicles. There was an awful lot of talking and trying to get organised when around the corner came my very good friend, Studs Morgan. I think Studs had to be connected to the double top secret cabal who were preparing me for greatness. He went over to the group of men and introduced himself.
They drew away from him as if he had some sort of superpower or contagious disease. All the men got back in the cars and drove away. Studs suggested we go back inside and enjoy the remainder of the evening. I began to realise that perhaps there was something Studs wasn’t telling me.
I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, honest. I felt that I wasn’t wanted in England, for anyone I met needed to tell me an Irish joke; they needed to show their superiority to me, as many English people do wherever they go. In Ireland I had crossed a line, however, this was easily rectified, I mean the IRA’s quartermaster for the whole of the Island of Ireland was ex British Special Forces.
I wasn’t really interested in going back to England; I wasn’t really interested in staying in Ireland either. I knew that if I stayed I could clear up any misunderstanding, with the men in black jackets and berets, as to my allegiance; after all, I had been to school with most of them. Something that amazed me, if the British intelligence services were so good rather than spend many, many, millions of pounds on spies and informers all they had to do was get a list of the boys who had attended Violent Hell over the previous five or six years and they would have had a list of the IRA senior command.
However I also understood that if I were to stay in Ireland this would not only require me to follow another path but I would have to prove myself as well. I was wandering along and met a fellow who ran mobile discos. I began to help him load his van and I explained my predicament. He told me that he had spent time in the Navy and warned that if I didn’t go back that they would come for me. He pointed at an army patrol driving past and reminded me that there were more of them that there were of me. Unlike my friend at Newry Technical College, who was on the run from the Irish army, I wouldn’t have that option.
He gave me a lift to the bus stop and I began my journey back to England. Little did I know that this time I was going to be away for a lot longer than six weeks.