BANNS

"Happy birthday dearest," Moroulla whispered as she deposited a Toblerone chocolate bar onto Edwards’ lap while she playfully nibbled at his ear. He was seated at a small table in their second storey flat on Mountjoy Square. It was his twenty third birthday.

Moroulla, a Greek Cypriot, was Edwards’ lover. They had been living together for some months, having met at a party after a Sean O’Riada concert in the Gaiety Theatre.

Moroulla

Since that concert the days had been one long drawn-out sequence of bliss until an ominous knock on the door from members of the Aliens’ Branch, based at Dublin Castle, a week earlier. Vague threats about deportation were made and she was accused of associating with some of the most disreputable elements that were at large and 'tipping about the country,' in the words of one senior detective. It was nearing the end of March 1969.

Edwards snapped off a triangle of chocolate from the bar and gently munched on it. He then broke off a second piece and placed it in Moroulla's mouth. He chuckled as he observed her involuntary facial contortions while she manoeuvred the chocolate triangle before it dissolved into a melting, manageable blob behind her lascivious lips.

Edwards got up from the table and peered through the net curtain. Despite the curtained haze the top windows on the opposite side of the square appeared to be on fire as they were caught by the final rays of the setting sun. The man in the car opposite the flat that he saw earlier, and who he presumed to be a Branchman, was gone.

"We're getting out of here tonight," he told Moroulla. Edwards was not sad to terminate his tenancy for twice recently he had harsh words with the uncompromising landlady about pubic hairs in the communal shower.

That night they booked into a nearby guesthouse on Gardiner Street as Mister and Missus Lambert Simnel.

It was not a comfortable time for Edwards. Just after midnight he awoke, sweatsoaked, tossing and turning, eating a pillow and trying to strangle Moroulla with a bedsheet. Lucky for the pair of them he was never much of a one for multi-tasking.

Somehow he calmed himself down and returned to sleep. Then a couple of hours later he woke again and went to sit at the draughty, dingy, dirty window. Looking out into the bright pulsating inner organs of the inner city. Dublin city at rest. As if!

And the moon was high as a hippy's mad eye. In the pyschedelic light of it Edwards saw a full bodied woman racing across the broad star-bright wind-swept plain of Mountjoy Square.

No wait, not Mountjoy Square. Not at all. This was the plain of Royal Cruachan. Cruachan as the bards described it. As Senchán Torpeíst himself, the King of them all, had sung it. The high halls, broad gates, stout walls of the Palace at Royal Cruachan. And him, Joe Edwards, standing there as bold as brass, a Red Branch Knight. The very flower of antique Irish chivalry. Watching a woman out of Faery running out of breath.

His blood surged as he realised that beneath her incarnadine cloak and flowing dark tresses the heavy-limbed woman was mothernaked. She carried a long sword and some distance behind her followed an unruly crowd.

"Save me Joe", she called out as Edwards ran forward. "Save me, it's me, Queen Medb of Connacht, mother of Maine Matheremail, Maine Athramail, Maine Morgor, Maine Mingor, Maine Mo, Maine Gaib Uile and Maine Andoe, not to mention other Maines, really many Maines, way too numerous to mention."

"Did she never hear of the pill?" Edwards wondered as the Connacht Queen leapt into his arms.

"Even though I am the consort of Ailill Mac Mata, Tiride Mac Connra Cas and Eochaidh Dala, you can have the friendship of my thighs if you keep those bastards away from my royal pelt."

"Thanks, but there’s no durex allowed here, only dodgy blue balloons in Hector Greys," muttered Edwards as he grabbed the sword and sallied forth shouting, "c'mon yez bunch of fucking muck savages, yez."

He swung the sword in a wide arc and with one blow he severed the surprised heads of the seven sons of Shem. The air quickly filled with ravens and large black crows which tore at the decapitated heads and at one another with beak and talon.

The crowd halted and a loud murmuring replaced the angry shouts. Edwards took out a Thompson sub-machine gun which he had borrowed from a friend in the IRA.

"Sit down behind me," he ordered Medb, "and pull that cloak tight around you, I think it's yer bare arse that has them'ns sucking diesel."

Edwards fired a burst from the Thompson in the direction of the crowd, shouting, "This is the rhythm. And here come the blues!"

Just at that moment the wind stilled, Medb and the mob misted away and the night flared off with a crack of dawn. Then silence except for a knocking sound, and a woman’s voice called out, "Two gentlemen to see you Mister Simnel."

"Fuck it, the Branch," cursed Edwards as he jumped out of bed. He opened the door and stepped onto the landing: he was naked. He closed the door behind him.

"Ah! Joe, very inventive name, indeed."

"No offence in that."

"No, no. I suppose some people just become ashamed of their own name for various reasons."

The two officials from the Aliens’ Section laughed, and the remark even elicited a snigger from Edwards.

"Actually it's not you that we wanted to see, it's……Missus Simnel." Again the two chuckled.

"You mean my wife?"

The two officials glanced at each other.

"Congratulations," said one tentatively. He was slightly taken aback with the magnitude of the breaking information. "You do have a marriage certificate I suppose?" he added.

"I do," Edwards lied.

"Good. Can we see it?" asked the other one as he peered sagaciously over his rimless spectacles.

"No."

"Why not?"

"You can go over to Lombard Street and get your own copy if you want."

"We will," promised the officials, staring at the nude figure. "Oh, enjoy your honeymoon."

That night Edwards sought sanctuary for Moroulla in the South side home of a former IRA man who was married to a Greek Cypriot. Then he headed to the Peacock for advice.

"This is definitely below the belt," grumbled Marsh.

"it's a welly into the jock strap, if you ask me," Davis scoffed.

In the company was Tim Richards. Richards had been involved in the bombing campaign in England in the 1940’s. He had been imprisoned in England but had escaped. In 1949 he was one of the leaders of Arm na Saoirse, a militant republican splinter group.

Tim Richards

Thus, he was about twenty years older than the others. He was lean and elegant in appearance and his fine features bestowed an intelligent look. He was always suited and his straight silver hair was combed back and slightly curled at his collar. As he spoke in a soft neutral accent he could have passed for a diplomat or a spy and, as was the way in both those professions, he had contacts in unlikely places.

"The word unconstitutional does not appear in the lexicon of the Aliens Branch," Richards warned. The Department was a law onto itself, he told them, which could do virtually anything it wanted to do in connection with the arrival and departure of foreign nationals.

"Soon the fuckers will be telling us who to marry," scoffed O'Donnell.

"That's it," exclaimed Richards.

"What?"

"Marriage. By all That's legal! They can't deport somebody’s wife."

Edwards was well aware of this but his reluctance to explore the matter further was because he considered it absurd to get a certificate from, above all people, a priest, after a ritual based on mumbo jumbo.

He considered his atheism to be an integral part of his revolutionary suit of armour. But now he wondered about his choices.

"How much time have we got?" asked Richards.

"I don’t know. They could move on her at any time. Why?"

"Marriage takes time," he warned. Richards was married and knew all about the business.

"There’s also the problem of publicity," he added.

"Publicity! What the fuck are yeh talking about?"

"Banns, banns. You have to have banns read out in the church, newspaper notices, just in case you’re already hitched or you’re trying to have it away with your cousin. They have to be read out weeks before the poxy wedding."

"Me cousin! Her name is Verakis for fuck's sake!"

Edwards was bewildered and shocked by this information. He had never thought that life could become so complicated so quickly.

"She can't be married in a Catholic Church," he announced firmly.

"Why not?" "She's Greek Orthodox."

Richards gave a dismissive little laugh.

"She doesn't believe in any of that bullshit!"

"She does actually."

Richards chuckled again.

"It wouldn't be a problem. I have a few friends who could sort that out. Sure the two fucking religions are almost the same."

While Edwards became more desperate, the conspirators turned their attention from the vagaries of the constitutional to the intricacies of canon law.

"What about Archibald: the book?" suggested Marsh.

"That's fucking criminal law, Tommy. This is more serious," said O'Donnell. Richards mentioned that while he was in prison in England, he had stood as a godparent by proxy for a nephew in Ireland. If they were to get a proxy for the beautiful Greek bride it would be impossible for the Branch to storm the church and re-enact a second Helen of Troy in the middle of Dublin. Further, he had an aunt who had held gelignite in her under garments for Dan Breen during the War of Independence and who detested the Special Branch and he was in no doubt that she would agree to do the trick.

Edwards, who had been nodding sullenly over his pint drink, jumped up off his stool.

"Youse can fuck off if youse think that I'm going to marry someone's granny," he declared as he headed towards the toilets.

There was a ghastly silence as Marsh passed around his cigarettes. When Edwards returned Richards was deep in thought pacing up and down outside the counter.

"The jacks are empty Tim," Clarke joked.

"There's a smell of semen in them," said Edwards.

A ray of afternoon sunshine stole through the front window and illuminated a flaky red patch on the far wall. Those at the counter watched Richards through a cloud of smoke in pregnant silence. Sometimes he materialized for a second in the sunbeam and then he almost became ethereal as he paced to and fro, in and out of the sunlight with his knuckled fist pressed firmly to his mouth, giving the impression that it was preventing his lowered head from falling onto the dusty floor.

"I have it," he suddenly shouted. "The Mormons! The fucking Mormons!"

The smokers stared at the talking, glowing orb. Edwards knew nothing about the Mormons except that he considered them to be responsible for the murder of the socialist Joe Hillström.

"Aren't they the fuckers who look like F.B.I. men?" inquired Marsh warily.

"Don't take any notice of that," Richards shrugged as he explained to Edwards that he was fairly certain that he had read somewhere that some kind of instantaneous marriage could be registered in a Mormon church. "I'll hunt out a few contacts. You keep the quare wan under the blankets for a few days and we’ll get back to you."

Several days later, the atheists, some cynicals and the Greek Orthodox sat in an Austin Princess car and drove out to a South Dublin suburb to meet the leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. Despite the comfort of the Austin Princess, which came courtesy of a friend of Richards who had a car rental company, the Greek Orthodox was quite alarmed. She had only just learned of the scheme, as Edwards' reputed nerves of steel had failed him every time he considered telling her of the plan.

Marsh was in a determined mood. This was not the time to worry about such trivialities as love (whatever that was) or suitability or compatibility or chemistry or any of that nonsense. Sure didn’t half of those fellows who spent their time in attics drooling down love poetry either hang themselves or live in the depths of alcoholic depression. This was something on a higher plane, he assured her. Her marital status was now a central weapon in a battle against the state. It was a battle that the meddlesome sleuths in Dublin Castle could not be allowed to win.

Richards was in a buoyant mood. He was delighted with the Austin Princess. First impressions were all important, he emphasized. It was the leader they were meeting: when you wanted something done fast, you did not mess around with the sweeper-up, you went straight to the top. He turned to Edwards.

"Now, here’s the SP. Don't use the word Mormon: it's the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or the Latter-Day Saints for short. It was founded by Joe Smith over a hundred years ago."

"Sounds like a fucking alias to me," said Davis.

"This fellow wrote a piece of scripture called the Book of Mormon. According to Smith, true Christianity died with the death of the last of the original apostles," continued Richards.

"Bejaysus he got that right," said O'Donnell.

"Smith claims that it was restored through his ordination and ministry. He also produced a book of the Bible which some Mormon groups use."

"Some!"

"Yes. Over the years about twenty five distinct groups have come and gone: there’s always splits."

"Sounds like the I.R.A."

"Smith’s book is a book of revelations."

"Wouldn’t the Slug love to get his hands on a book like that."

"The Restoration as a result of Smith’s ministry was to find an earthly visible manifestation in Zion and a new Temple."

"Would yah ever fuck off Tim," said Edwards..

Richards was undeterred: in the past few days he had engaged in sedulous research aided by a single volume history of religion which he had unofficially removed from the reference section of Phibsborough Public Library. As a result of his diligence he now considered himself an expert on ‘Mormonism’, and also an authority on numerous other religious isms. Elaborating further, he explicated on, The Doctrines and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.

"If we had a few of those we could stay out of the banks" remarked Marsh.

"Did I read somewhere that these fuckers were polygamous?" inquired Davis. On hearing such the Greek Orthodox became even more alarmed. As the car pulled up she refused to get out. Richards led the way to the polished oak door. He seemed to have an extra spring in his step.

"I wonder how many women has he in there?" muttered O'Donnell as Richards pressed the bell.

The door was opened by a middle aged man of medium build who was dressed in casual attire. He led the men into a medium sized living room which was tidy but showing signs of children at play. Richards warmly shook the Leader’s hand and was extremely gracious. He did all the talking, indeed so much of the talking that the Leader became confused: he thought Richards wanted to become a Mormon.

"No, no, no, I'm much too old for that sort of thing," he said effusively. "it's my young friend here who seeks the conversion," he explained.

Richards went on in an avuncular fashion about his young friend’s problem. He spoke like a politician, in riddles, giving frequent knowing chuckles. The matter was so simple that he almost felt guilty at bothering the Leader at all. The longer he talked the wider grew the Leader’s eyes. At last Richards rested his case.

The Leader was quite blunt: almost abusive. Nobody just walked into his Church, not even from an Austin Princess, and walked out again with a marriage certificate. Instruction had to be taken. He thrust a bundle of leaflets into Edwards' hand. Marsh was giving the Leader a gimlet stare, and, at one stage, O'Donnell thought that he was about to lash out at the ‘little twerp’ as he referred to him later.

Richards was undaunted and reassuring. Instruction was no problem with his young friend: he could take it at home, weekly. He then supplied the Leader with Edwards' parents' address, and the men left.

"The cheek of that fucker," snarled Davis as the limousine drove away. Edwards was seething. "What the fuck did you give that cunt my home address for?" he asked as he flung the bundle of evangelical literature out of the car window.

The Greek Orthodox relaxed a little in the purring Princess. Richards was hardly able to drive the sleek limousine, for despite the reproachful stares, he was laughing uncontrollably.

"Fuck it, we gave it our best shot," he managed to gasp out, "our best shot."

Some weeks later Edwards was confronted in the Peacock pub by his younger brother. Edwards was now wearing a black hat as a form of disguise. Otherwise he was in normal attire: white shirt, tie, suit and a light overcoat. To Paul, his brother, he looked like a Mormon.

"What the fuck are you up to?" Paul demanded.

Edwards was taken aback by the tone.

"What are yah talking about?"

"There’s fucking Mormons calling to the house looking for you. The parents are doing their nuts."

On the first night that the Mormons called to the Edwards home, Paul watched them through the window. He thought that they were Special Branch. There was nothing unusual about that, as there was often a green Morris Minor filled with Branchmen parked outside the house anyway. Then he noticed that they were all carrying books, and he was fairly sure that the Branch, in his opinion at least, had not suddenly acquired a taste for literature. He was anxious, and he went downstairs and opened the hall door. They said that they had been asked to call to give Mister Joe Edwards religious instruction in the Mormon religion.

"What did they want?" asked his father when they had gone.

"Joe, something about instruction in the Mormon church!"

His father’s face turned ashen grey.

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph: it’ll kill your mother."

There were Fenians, republican tearaways, even poitin-makers in the history of the Edwards family but never a Mormon.

In the three weeks it had taken Paul to track down his fugacious brother the Mormons had called three times to the house. Now he stared at his brother in the black hat: it looked very much as if his father’s worse fears had been realized. Edwards himself had almost completely forgotten about the Mormon episode, and he went into fits of laughter as he tried to tell Paul about the shambolic meeting. From the bits that Paul could decipher he could see nothing funny at all.

"Why are they calling to the house?" he asked suspiciously.

Edwards was shaking his head and banging his fist on the counter. Clarke was giving him a funny look.

"Richards," he gasped, "Richards, the fucker."