Celtic Illumination, part 314, Don’t tell him your name Pike!
Having returned safely, from my erotic adventures in a convent, young Master Charles was once again kidnapped by his grandmother and was in for a long evening of cuddles, sweets and singing. I on the other hand was off down the street again to meet up with the boys. I knew some would be heading off to the golf club where they could swap wives and tell each other how important they all were. I was off for an evening with the good ol boys, they might be wife swapping but only for something like a decent three litre ford mustang with a custom paint job. It was great seeing all the boys again as and I had expected they ripped the piss out of me, claiming that I now sounded all English and ‘la tee da.’ It was standard procedure as was Peter taking to the stage when the band had their break and blurting out a couple of numbers on his guitar.
We were gathered in a clump at one end of the bar when I noticed a fellow come in and order a drink. I felt a jolt of electricity run through my body as this was the fellow who had cornered me one night on my way home from completing a shift behind the bar in the Osbourne Hotel. The same hotel that Finbar and I had been lifted by Special Branch, at Heathrow, and accused of burning down. This fellow had claimed that he was a member of the IRA, had searched me and began to interrogate me, but as he kept his hands on my body as he questioned me, I began to think that he was more of a pervert than a provo, so managed to get away from him. At the time it was difficult because you didn’t go around asking who was in, or not in, the IRA. And to accuse a gunman of being a pervert might not be the cleverest thing to do. But at the same time if he wasn’t in the IRA and actually was a pervert he, as they say, would have been confronted with the evidence of his activities. Most of the main players in the area were either on the run or had been ‘scooped’ and were interned, so there wasn’t really anyone I could turn to for positive support.
But now, all these years later, I found myself in the same room as the fellow. I pointed him out to Phelim and asked about him. Phelim said that he was a single man, with three brothers, who pretty much kept himself to himself, a famer type. I asked if he was ‘one of the boys,’ a euphemism for belonging to the IRA. Phelim didn’t think so, which wasn’t good enough. There was an outside chance that this fellow might have been connected and it would be totally unaccepted for an ex British forces chap to give an IRA man a bit of a hiding, no matter what the reason. I waited for him to use the toilet so went in and stood beside him. I didn’t say anything, I didn’t think that I could for if there was any truth in the jokes that the boys had been making about my accent there was a chance that I could have been mistaken for an undercover Brit.
As I stood beside him I satisfied myself that he would not have put up much resistance to the beating that he deserved. I had to leave it but hoped that fate would bring us together again and that the next time would be more favourable for me. At least I now had a name; I knew that I would be speaking to Brendan before I left so with a bit of luck he could sort the situation out for me. I tried to forget about him but it annoyed me that I couldn’t touch him. Phelim asked me if I would like to go with them all to Omeath the next day, on the rip, but I explained that I was off to Glenarm the following day to visit my Aunt Nora. Now I was given a lecture on what roads to take and what roads to avoid. If I was stopped by any road blocks I was not to say that I was from Warrenpoint as the RUC had a downer on anyone from Warrenpoint at that time.
I didn’t say anything about my dog tags on my key ring, which normally got me past most military and RUC checkpoints. It had been a good night and when I left the pub to go home I found myself in the middle of a seriously heavy downpour. I jammed my hands in my pockets and slowly wandered, the long way home, around by the shore enjoying the heavenly soaking while watching the sea tear itself apart. Next morning my mother sat in the rear of the car with Charles and we set off. I didn’t need a map or directions as I had travelled the road so many times as a youngster I knew it by heart. It was on the stretch of road between Belfast and Larne that we were stopped. It was an RUC patrol who had established a road block and were checking every car.
As the RUC man came to my widow I rolled it down and was about to get my keys, so that I could flash my dog tags at him, when he instructed me to keep my hands on the steering wheel where he could see them. He began to ask who I was and where I was going and after the warning I had from the boys the night before, I tried to answer in the most general terms that I could. “Where are you going?” “Glenarm.” “Who are you going to see?” “Auntie Nora.” That really pissed him off. “Nora who?” he demanded. “Nora Morris.” “And where does she live?” The game continued and it wasn’t that I was making him work for his answers, or was holding anything back, or was even trying to be obstreperous, I was just trying to keep my answers within what the boys had told me. “Where have you come from?” “South Down,” I said, which was the truth, but geographically wishy-washy. I thought I might have got away with it until I heard him ask, “Whereabouts in South Down?” I was about to say, “Just outside Newry,” when my mother, from the back seat blurted out, “We’re from Warrenpoint.”
The RUC reacted as I expected they would, especially when faced with such a huge terrorist threat of a small hire car containing an ex member of the British Forces, an eighty year old woman and an eighteen month old child. They ordered us out of the car and stripped it bare. All because we were from Warrenpoint. The RUC claimed that the nationalist population didn’t like them very much, but they only had themselves to blame for that. My mother couldn’t understand why we were being subjected to a thorough search but I knew exactly what they were up to, they were sending a message to the Catholic community as they knew I would spread the word when I got back. Shame they were not wearing their bowler hats and orange sashes when on patrol, it would have made their actions more understandable.
All in all it took about forty minutes for them to take the car to pieces and then put it back together again, after which we were allowed to continue on our journey. They made no friends that day. It was nice to get into the calmness of Glenarm, one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth. Nora and my mother spoke about the incident and even Nora, who had served as a doctor in the British army, was livid at the way we were treated. I took Charles all over the house and showed him all the nooks and crannies, for wouldn’t the house be his one day. I didn’t want to leave Glenarm, not because I feared I might run in to another RUC roadblock but because I loved the place so much. It had everything a little boy, and many grown up boys, wanted. It had a forest, a river teeming with fish, a castle, a harbour and a beach. There was far too much to show Charles and he was far too young to begin to appreciate Glenarm, at least he would have something to look forward to, as long as everything continued following the plan. And sure there would be no reason they shouldn’t, was there?