Leisure - Fiction
Chapter 19 Full Irish
Next morning I decided to make a return to the dining room in Breaffy House.
As a potential landowner in the area I decided that I couldn't keep on hiding
from the manager. Plus in my favour too, I hadn't had any further run-ins with
the police in the last few days.
"I'll have the full Irish Breakfast," I said to the young lady attending the
morning diners who were presumably all residents of the hotel.
"Tea or Coffee Sir?" she asked smiling.
I sipped my orange juice and read the paper anticipating the big fry-up that
was to come. There it was in the paper - a photograph of the tall thin man and
this time identified definitely as Minister O'Ryan of the Mayo constituency
indicted for drug smuggling. According to the political correspondent writing
the story in the Irish Times the minister had been using the diplomatic bag to
bring drugs into Ireland - cannabis and cocaine for personal use it seemed. They
weren't quite sure exactly how he managed to bypass the normal sniffer detectors
- dogs and infra red gas detectors but following a tip-off the forensic people
had found significant traces of both cannabis and cocaine in his official car
and house. His Garda driver aide de camp was being held for questioning. In
spite of the significant evidence that appeared to have been unearthed -
evidence that the Irish times was prepared to publish - the minister was still
at work in his office and hadn't been arrested yet. He was a powerful man.
"Oh! Oh!" I thought, on reading this and rubbing the back of my head and
feeling the still-sore spot where I had been banged over the head a few days
ago. I thought I knew exactly how Minister O'Ryan was "bringing in a couple of
kees" as Arlo Guthrie put it at Woodstock all those years ago. Whatever about
getting onto the aircraft in the first place - presumably this is where
diplomatic immunity came into it as a foreign government minister would often be
feted onto an aircraft in the country of departure with full diplomatic honours.
It was different on the home leg, however, and at least that day in Shannon he
had to go though the normal baggage handling procedures the same as everyone
else. Even to the extent of having to endure the same long delays as all the
other passengers on the plane in fact. The trick seemed to be to simply switch
bags - putting his stash into the bag of some unsuspecting fellow traveller when
in the transit/arrivals area. Easy to do by just grabbing a bag as it emerged
from the carousel or even perhaps behind the scenes before it appeared in the
open. The minister's policeman accomplice would be able to ‘access all areas’
relatively easily. When the dupe had recovered their baggage and walked through
the customs area and through any potentially troublesome detectors or customs
inspections the minister’s accomplice would then simply 'inspect' the passengers
bag and 'find' the pouch that they had planted. Presumably they would go through
a charade and spin a yarn that they had spotted someone planting drugs in their
bags and thanking the dupe for their unasked for help. If the real customs
officers caught the dupe that was his or her tough luck they were on their own
and the minister would have to write off that particular stash. The recovery of
the drug pouch would probably be done somewhere outside the terminal. In my case
something had obviously gone wrong in that I had driven 10 miles or more down
the road before the had caught up with me. But there had been a major foul up in
the baggage handling at Shannon on the day I was chosen as the minister’s dupe.
Everything that possibly could go wrong did go wrong behind the scenes in the
baggage handling area apparently. My bags did not appear on the carousel as they
should have after the 'item' had been planted in it. It looked like my bags were
picked up by mistake by somebody else altogether and then abandoned when it was
realised that they had taken the wrong bag through customs. I had found my bags
abandoned outside in the main terminal area so whoever didn’t spot their mistake
until they had actually smuggled the pouch through.
I mulled it all over as I munched on my breakfast trying to clarify the whole
thing. Of course, using a Garda accomplice made it very easy for the
drug-smuggling minister to recover his bags. Presumably the uniformed Garda, if
indeed he was a real policeman at all, would simply approach the unsuspecting
courier, search their bags as if he were a police officer who was genuinely in
search of drugs. He would then remove the diplomatic bag - which they had
stashed in the person's bag - either surreptitiously or else by explaining that
they had actually seen someone planting the bag in their luggage. Finally they
would actually thank the citizen for their co-operation and that would be the
end of the matter as far as the dupe was concerned. A neat operation, but
obviously in my case something had gone wrong. The forensic team that had
examined my car at the hotel car park suggested too that maybe someone was on to
the scam and that they had been under surveillance that day in Shannon.
I hardly tasted my full Irish breakfast - the first one I had actually eaten
since arriving with the full regalia: eggs, sausages, rashers, tomatoes,
mushrooms, fried bread, potato cakes, brown bread with butter and marmalade. I
wondered how long it would be before I was called in for questioning again.
Should I approach the Gardaí and explain my theory? Would the minister send
goons after me? The night that I was knocked out and dumped at Moore Hall was
obviously linked to the whole affair too. Maybe I would be better simply to take
off for a few days around the county and keep a low profile while trying to
follow up on a few more leads from my mother's shoebox?
I decided on the latter course of action - or inaction - as the case may be.
No police station, no goons chasing after me. I packed a small bag in case I
decided to stay overnight away from Castlebar. I recovered the shoebox from the
hotel safe, again to smirks from the receptionist as she handed over the
precious box! I decided to head to Crossmolina and
Ballycastle as these
place names came up quite a few times in the old correspondence from Ireland to
the USA especially in the more recent items. There might be a better chance of
finding a living relative in the area - as opposed to the deserted village on
Achill Island where there wasn't even a gravestone.
As I drove down the long drive from the hotel, a police car passed me going
towards the hotel. If they were looking for me it was too late - I was outa
I followed the signposts to the Céide Fields as
Ballycastle and Crossmolina were en route. Pontoon came first and
I just had to stop there when I saw the swans in the lake as I came round the
corner. A large lake lay to the South with a beautiful hotel tucked in under the
local granite, facing out on a bay full of swans. I stopped to take a photograph
to add to the collection I had been building up. As I was getting back into the
car I noticed that where I had parked there was a strange looking walled structure. It
was open on the end facing the road with a tall wall at the back at least 10
metres high and the two side walls sloping downwards at the top. It looked
vaguely familiar but I couldn't quite place it. Ivy clambered all over it and
there was even a small tree growing out of the end wall.
"Thinking of playing handball?" said a voice at my shoulder, startling me.
"You look more like a basketball player!" I turned to see a small bespectacled
man with a fishing rod in his hand.
"Ah so that's what it is," I said "I thought that it looked familiar - it
reminded me of a squash court but not exactly like the ones I used to play in
"There's hundreds of them
littered all over the West of Ireland" he replied. "I think they were part of
Dev's dancing at the crossroads thing. Sorry DeValera I should say - a former
Prime Minister and President" he said explaining because a Harlem Globetrotter
like me obviously wouldn’t be expected to know who Dev was.
"Ah the Taoiseach…" I said to wind him up. "You've been fishing?" I said,
stating the obvious and pointing to his extra long rod.
"Dapping, for all the good it did me." He said with obvious disappointment
and annoyance in his voice. I suspected that I had pressed the button and was
about to hear the full fisherman's tale about the one that got away.
"The farmers have wiped out the shaggin’ fish," he said. "It's as simple as
that. It started when they began spreading liquid cow shite all over the place
during the winter about 15 years ago. The green goo that used to wash up on the
shore hereabouts and up at the waterworks near Crossmolina. You could have
bottled it and sold it as Bird's Jelly Deluxe. Toxic algae did for the arctic
char - the fish that used to spawn out on the gravels off the islands in
"Never heard of them," I said
"Well it's a sad story so it is. The arctic char were left behind by the ice
when it retreated at the end of the Ice Age about 12000 years ago. Nearest
relatives now hang out around the ice caps up inside the Arctic Circle, way up
North where the water is cold and clean. But they survived here," he continued
pointing out over the lake with a sad kind of gesture. "They survived for 12,000
years until the middle 1980s when farmers were told to start making silage to
feed their cows and to bring them in during the winter and to fill up these big
tanks with piss and shite. Of course tanks fill up and have to be emptied so
they just dumped it out on the fields. Disaster."
"Sounds disgusting" I agreed.
"Now the trout are disappearing too and there's nothing but coarse fish that
the bloody English anglers brought in."
"I had planned to do a bit of fly fishing, " I said a bit tentatively.
"Where's the best place to go then? It sounds like Lough Conn has gone down the
"It's not lost yet we live in hope that the County Council and the Fisheries
Board will do something and prosecute the bastards responsible. But the bloody
IFA people don't give a damn about the environment I'm afraid and all the
politicians care about these days is brown envelopes."
"The what?" I didn't get the brown envelope reference.
"Oh that's what they put the bribes in nowadays before they hand them over!
The politicians override the planners and they grant planning permissions in
return for hard cash - half of Dublin was built on this system and lots of
tribunals to prove it - corruption." He was getting quite animated now warming
to his theme. "It's a conspiracy between the farmers and the politicians. The
land here isn't worth a damn so now they've turned to ‘farming’ sites." I
realised now that there were a lot of things about Ireland I didn't know. Sites?
What sort of a crop or animal was this?
"Housing sites - they're just property speculators. They can't compete with
New Zealand farmers in price so they just take the subsidies and then try to
sell off bits of their land a half acre at a time so that rich Dubliners and
Germans can build holiday homes here. Bungalow Blitz is destroying tourism and
our lakes and rivers. They are destroying the landscape and scenery that they
come here to enjoy in the process. The big house perched on top of the drumlin
ridge to get "The View" effectively destroying the same view for everyone else.
Of course they claim that they are building the houses for their children who
for some peculiar reason won't live in villages - it's against their religion!"
he said sarcastically. "Agricultural land sells at £3000 per acre but sites -
£50,000 per acre - greed and damn the environment. But that's only the start.
The 'children' live in the house for a year or so and then sell them off at
another big profit just like any speculator will and leave a leaky septic tank
that's covered in water half the year spewing out shit and dishwasher effluent
into the lake." He spat on the ground in disgust. "Anyway I didn't catch a damn
thing over the past week and this should be the best time of the year. Gotta go.
Now enjoy your holiday."
"Nice to talk to you." I said watching him attach his rod to the top of his
car and drive off towards Castlebar. I realised that he never actually answered
my question about where I should go fishing.
Next - The tale of the Protestant ancestor from Crossmolina
© Copyright 2002 by the author(s) and www.castlebar.ie
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