FRANKIE THE STRIKER
The revolutionaries were hectic all through 1969. In March they carried out a double bank robbery in Newry. This netted £22,000, and was at that time the biggest armed robbery in the history of the state. One man, who had noticed the robbers entering the Bank of Ireland, raced fifty yards down the road to the Northern Bank so that the police could be alerted. He became totally confused when he found robbers busy in that bank.
The two getaway cars were pursued out of the town by a police car containing two R.U.C. men, Hogg and McClury. When the cars crossed the border, the robbers sandwiched and rammed the police car. One of the R.U.C. men took off across the fields followed by Davis who was armed with a rifle. Davis quickly realized that the policeman was unarmed and began swinging at him with the rifle while calling him a "northern muck savage," before he tumbled on the rough ground. "I went arse over bollocks," he told Clarke in the Peacock later that night. The second policeman was grabbed and told that he had just invaded a neutral country. After he was roughed up Marsh pointed him in the direction of the border.
The eight men crowded into a badly damaged Cortina which was now the only functioning vehicle. As they entered Dundalk they received some curious looks from pedestrians.
"They must think we're a bunch of fucking farmers going to a fair."
They now had money and were well armed but, as the numbers on the run grew, it required almost a full time crime spree to keep the wolf, more accurately wolves, away from the door. After a raid on the Northern Bank on the South Circular Road they entered the airy National Bank in Kells on September 12th. This was opposite the Catholic Church and the raiders were watched by several hundred people who had turned up outside the church for the funeral of a popular local man.
On leaving the bank two of the robbers shouted "Up the Republic," at which some of the mourners broke into applause and yelled "Up the I.R.A."
After this raid some of the group issued a statement to the Irish Times claiming responsibility for the robbery and describing themselves as the Saor Eire Action Group. They signed the statement M. Price, using the name of the 1940's socialist republican leader and claiming that the money would be used to finance a movement which would strive for a Workers' Republic.
The Saor Eire political group in Cork, led by the former IRA man, Jim Lane, were most surprised by the statement. They were pestered by unemployed republicans looking for a few bob because Lane had earlier been involved with the Cork Unemployed Protest Movement. They became the Cork branch of the Irish Communist Organization, running a left wing bookshop in Church Lane but later resigned from the I.C.O. because of its endorsement of the Two Nations Theory.
At this time both Saor Eire and the Saor Eire Action Group had members active in Derry.
The Government decided to place members of the gardai on duty outside the banks. Kenny was outraged and aired the matter in the Trinity Maoist paper, Red Guard. He wrote that the protection scheme was at the tax payers' expense, and he asked why the banks, who he alleged were ripping off the public, were not made to employ their own unionized security.
The Fianna Fail leadership was particularly enraged at the swing to embrace militant street politics by the Goulding Sinn Fein leadership in Dublin, especially in relation to evictions. They had threatened landlords and even blown up cars belonging to one. Now there was a bunch of bank robbers declaring that their aim was to establish a Workers' Republic. Michael Moran and Kevin Boland referred to the activists as new left wing political queers and psychedelic Maoists.
While psychedelic Maoists were thin on the ground, Trotskyites, Peter Graham and Maureen Keegan were Saor Eire members and they were in contact with Liam Daltun who was a member of the Fourth International and a former member of the Marxist Irish Workers' Group based in London.
On October 7th the head of the special branch visited Peter Berry who was in hospital. Berry was one of the state's most outstanding civil servants. He served in the Department of Justice for 44 years, ten of them as Secretary, and all but the first 8 years as co-ordinator of the State's security operation. Of the visit Berry wrote, "I had a visit from a security chief who told me that a group in Saor Eire were planning armed robberies, that his own men were showing signs of the jitters and that lives were at risk. He told them that some of the group were psychopaths and that, short of placing them in detention without trial, he knew of no way of containing them except by having each individual followed by day and night "Magill.
At this stage the increasing State violence against the Civil Rights Campaign in Northern Ireland was grist to the mill of some nationalist politicians in the Government, like Blaney and Haughey. Through intermediaries in the Irish Army and in the business world they sought to establish relations with Sinn Fein and Saor Eire. Cathal Goulding was given a small sum of money, with more promised. Some Derry IRA volunteers were given basic training by Irish Army personnel at Dunree Fort in Donegal.
Jock Haughey headed to London with former IRA man and Saor Eire member, M. Casey, to organize an arms smuggling operation. He had earlier been involved in a successful importation of arms at Dublin Airport for the IRA with the help of customs men who had republican sympathies.
Soon after this the cute hoors in the Government made a collective decision to incite a split in both organizations. Money and arms would only be given to the IRA if the Goulding leadership was replaced with elements which were not hostile to the Southern Government and if the IRA ceased its left wing military campaign against economic targets in the South.
The Special Branch had, in fact, already put into operation a third way: enticement. It was hinted to people who were believed to be Saor Eire members and who were detained for questioning under various dubious guises, that if they were true republicans, they would disappear over the border and help their discriminated-against co-religionist neighbours: that if they abandoned their left wing nonsense about equality as everyone in the South was equal anyway, and, if they stopped robbing banks the Law Courts in the South could adopt a lenient view to those who were already on the run and were facing serious criminal charges.
"After all, sure, at the end of the day, we're all Catholics together," said Connors, who was suspected of being an army intelligence officer, to Ructions in the Peacock one night.
There were activists in the group who were concerned that their attempts to instigate a socialist revolution in the South could be short circuited by the growing surge of nationalist sentiment in both parts of Ireland. In Dublin crowds were listening to nationalist firebrands at the G.P.O. telling them that the "Irish people is a most beautiful people," and calling on them to march to the nearest army barracks and demand guns.
As always at times of great political excitement many otherwise half-sensible individuals were out of their heads with fervour and confusion, not to mention the quare stuff. Groups milled around, sometimes coalescing to form ad-hoc commitees drafting programmes, preparing to write manifestos, then losing the run of themselves and drifting into other factions and fractions and momentary fictions.
That evening, around the edge of the G.P.O. hubbub, one patriotic prophet, crouched on the shoulders of a fat man who was known to many there as Mr Plopps, was preaching the particular advantages of holy wars to those lucky enough to die in one.
"Each Volunteer who falls on the streets of Belfast, defending the oppressed Catholics of that black Proddy hole from impious and irreligious attack, will awake upon that instant in the gardens of Paradise, where streams of whiskey are flowing into glasses held by lasses of surpassing comeliness and lascvious charms. Would yez spend eternity in them arms, lads? A bevy of beauties for every man-jack of yez bites Ireland's dust for Ireland's mother's holy cause!"
This greatly appealed to a couple of wags from Sheriff Street who'd spent a night or two absorbing the teachings of Hassan i Sabbah. What they'd learned from that old man of the mountains could have been written in large letters on three cigarette papers, but it inspired them to use their girlfriends' colourful scarves to make a decidedly political fashion statement. Looking as much as they could manage on the spur of the notion like sons of the desert they formed a Popular Front For The Liberation Of Pat. This group then straightaway held a general meeting to discuss hi-jacking a bus to the Fleadh Cheoil they'd heard somewhere was being held in some godforsaken place up Cavan way where there was no train. Shercock maybe, or Killashandra. Off the beaten track at any rate, out in Muck Savagery. When their lights of love then washed delicate hands clean of those eejits and decamped in search of more serviceable boyfriends, the Dublin Brigade of the PFLP was wound up. Split, decommissioned, dissolved and decidedly dumped the lads defected to Al Fatah Plopps who led them heavenwards past Parnell Square to the Peacock and the more realistic prospect of a bevy of pints. Where later that night the same guerriers were heard drunkenly singing: Glory O, Glory O, to the Mujahideen!
Crowds of people marched up and down O'Connell Street smashing windows. Some smashed the windows of Findlaters, drank the wine they had expropriated, and then threw the empty wine bottles at the gardai. Others actually got buses to Belfast but after sobering up they got out at Drogheda, or Dundalk for the more inebriated, and arrived back in Dublin with hangovers the following day.
One member, Frankie the striker, suggested to Redican and O'Donnell that he wanted to form a flying column which would 'strike out' in Northern Ireland. He brought the two men into a bedroom and threw open a large wardrobe door. The wardrobe was stacked high with bandages and miscellaneous medical equipment.
"Jesus, Frankie, you must be expecting an awful fucking lot of casualties," Redican laughed.
"It's class warfare, not religious pogroms that we're on about," said O'Donnell.
Despite this fear that their armed campaign could be disrupted or sidetracked by the increasing violence in the North, Liam Walsh, managed to supply 15 rifles of various calibre to members of the Northern Defense Committees who were, at that time, trying to defend Catholic areas against attacks from Orange mobs and B Specials.
"We need a theoretical pamphlet," said O'Donnell.
"Nobody reads those fucken things any more," Marsh scoffed as he was still miffed by the intellectual in the Liverpool Bar catching him out on the Anti-Duhring book.
"To really piss off Fianna Fail, we need to take a spin down the country," said Davis. "A friend of mine in Limerick showed me something one night."
A few days later the men arrived in Limerick. There, they stole a green Triumph car belonging to Desmond O'Malley T.D. who was Parliamentary Secretary to An Taoiseach, Jack Lynch. The men zipped back to Dublin in the car.
"Be Jaysus, she's a lovely little runner. I think we should all join Fianna Fail." On Thursday, November 20th at 2 p.m. a green Triumph passed the National Bank in Coolock. The bank had adopted a large two storey house in its own grounds as its premises. As it was directly opposite the garda station it was unguarded. The green Triumph passed a garda patrol car which was parked outside the station. Ten minutes later the Triumph passed again. The patrol car was still there. Edwards drove down to the 'Sheaf of Wheat' public house and Marsh hurried in. He rang the garda station and reported seeing a strange looking fellow in a long white mackintosh and a black beret peeping from behind a garden hedge on the Coolock Road.
"If more members of the public acted like that fucking busybody who just phoned in, we'd have no fucking crime in this country," said the patrol car driver as he mosied to the garda car. He was on the heavy side and had a bad tempered-looking, red face.
"Yeah, but we'd all be run off our fucking arses," his younger and lighter companion pointed out. "Will you stop off at Cadburys on the way? That little creepy bollix with the bald tyres last week promised me a load of chocolates if I squared it for him."
Two minutes later the robbers entered and left the bank with £5,000 in a bag. They got out in Fairview. Edwards drove towards the Dail where he was to abandon the getaway car. However, he lost his nerve, just as he had done when he was to propose to his sweetheart Moroulla, and, instead, abandoned the car near the home of Frankie the striker.
On December 3rd, Nolan told the garda who was guarding the Northern Bank on Prussia Street that a bearded man down the street had exposed himself to an old woman in a wheelchair.
"See the red car down there?"
"Might be, yeah. See the next car?"
"Looks like a Vauxhall."
"The one past that."
"Can't make it out. The grey one?"
"Yep, that's the one. See the fella?"
"He's standing in the doorway, see his nose sticking out?"
The tall, good-looking guard walked slowly down the street. It was an authoritative, measured step which was designed to inspire confidence. The guard halted and looked back. Nolan beckoned him on with an urgent wave of his hand as out of the corner of his eye he could see the human antique, rubber-masked Tommy Marsh, sprightly alighting from the getaway car which Edwards had parked on the opposite side of the road. By the time the young guard had sauntered back to the bank, it had been robbed and the getaway car had been abandoned in the middle of the road near the home of Frankie the striker.
Some of the Prussia Street money was invested in plastic explosives. This came from Spain but as everyone was aware of being unaware of its strength it would have to be tested, so the nitroglycerine man was called upon.
"What about that poxy landlord in O'Connell Street?"
"Landlord! Who? Where?" Marsh stuttered.
"Dirty Dan the O'Connell Street bollocks who was mad to see Robert Emmett chopped up."
"Sure it couldn't happen to a nicer person," agreed Marsh who had now declared war on landlordism and non-union places of work.
At 4.30. a.m. on December 27th, a sanguine Marsh and Davis crossed over O'Connell Bridge. It was cold and a number of party stragglers shuffling up Eden Quay seemed to sully the winter emptiness. The nitroglycerine man was already waiting at the monument. After a bit of a struggle the two managed to boost him up onto one of the angels. The passing revellers took little notice of the bomber, who appeared to be hugging an angel; after all, it was Christmas and a time for men to be of good cheer. There was no possibility of the bomber managing to climb further up on the stone and bronze monument so that he could place the bomb between O'Connell's bronze legs.
The two below began to get panicky.
"Leave it at the fucking angel."
The three then hurried across O'Connell Bridge. There was an enormous bang as the angel, 'the Winged Victory of Courage', took off from its plinth and landed in O'Connell Street. Many windows in the Lower O'Connell Street area were shattered and dozens of burglar alarms disturbed the night air.
All garda leave was cancelled as cordons were mounted around Dublin and in border areas. Gardai took up duty outside the Ulster Bank and other premises to prevent looting.
Soon after a second test was carried out on the O'Connell round tower in Glasnevin Cemetery. While the tower withstood the explosion the inside stairway was so badly damaged that it had to be removed. The Special Branch announced that they were looking for a Protestant extremist group. However, this was for public consumption. Soon after the explosions they called up to Marsh's mother's house in Drimnagh.
"Is Tommy in?" asked nspector 'Blackie' Byrne. "No. I haven't seen him for a week. Is everything alright?"
"Just tell him that his U.V.F. days are numbered."
"We can't allow impertinence like that to go unanswered," declared Edwards in the Peacock.
"Just who do these people think they are?" asked Ructions.
"Fucking policemen," said Colm Long, the anarchist.
Long was a slight figure who usually wore a full length leather overcoat.
He had an argumentative personality and a habit of nitpicking, in a quarrelsome manner, the most irrelevant minutiae in a political discussion. Despite his pernickety arrogance he was well liked, very well read, and a committed revolutionary.
A short time later a car bomb exploded in Ship Street at the back of Dublin Castle. And, soon after that 'Blackie' Byrne's car, which was parked outside Pearse Street Garda Station, was blown up. Another car was bombed in Kilkenny. This belonged to the owner of a caravan factory who had refused to recognize the union. A note pinned to his front door read, no imperialists wanted here.
In Ballymun, residents complained to Ructions, who was living there, about having to walk around a boundary wall which had been erected between Pinewood Grove residential area and the Corporation complex. Marsh went out and surveyed the ten foot 'Ballymun' wall. He informed the residents of the flats that the situation was intolerable. Under no circumstances would he stand for private barricades. This was Dublin, not Derry. He would use his influence with certain people to see that something should be done about the matter immediately.
"Really Tommy! Something like a little door, like."
"Of course," Ructions assured them, "sure Tommy is an expert on the law of trespass and right of way."
The following night a large explosion blew down part of the 'Ballymun wall.' Later in the week two cars belonging to a landlord were blown up on Usher's Quay.
In February 1970 raiders cut through two steel doors at an F.C.A. magazine in Waterford and seized one Vickers machine gun, two Bren guns and some .303 rifles. The following day they cut off the town of Rathdrum in County Wicklow, raiding the Hibernian Bank and local gunshop. Garda Frank Arrigan was held at gunpoint until the armed men, wearing combat fatigues, drove off to their mountain base. One of the getaway cars belonged to Aodh O'Broin, a Past President of the G.A.A. from the West Wicklow village of Rathdangan.
A cement strike, which had crippled the building industry, was beginning to get bitter. Many workers had been arrested for hijacking lorries coming from the North and dumping the cement on the roadside. The group waded in with an ambush on some cement trucks near Swords, where they took pot shots, with rifles, at the lorry tyres.
"You won't believe what I've discovered?" said Sean Farrell as he sat down in the Peacock beside Marsh and O'Donnell.
"A rubber hose."
"Yer late. The rubber hose was invented years ago. Sure didn't Dinny Blackwell use it on Cathal Goulding in the late forties."
"Well this one appears to be devoid of human flesh and is connected to a tap in a yard with a mountain of imported cement not a hundred yards from here."
Farrell was of medium height and build. He had a dark complexion and wore his dark hair sleeked back. Like most of the others he was a former IRA man from the mid sixties. He had a tendency to speak out of the side of his mouth in a conspiratorial manner and to pick his words carefully as if he was telling someone something very confidential even when he was only asking for a match to light a cigarette.
Earlier in the day he had, by chance, passed a small yard in Cathal Brugha Street when he noticed a lorry with a Northern Ireland registration number reversing into the yard. He mosied around and then saw a number of men unloading bags of cement from the truck. He also spied a roll of green hose connected to a tap near the front gate.
"Jimmy, will you put on a pint for Sean and keep an eye on ours we have to do something. We won't be long."
"We all have our responsibilities," Clarke shouted after them.
The trio left the pub. Marsh tapped on the side window of the green Morris Minor. The lone Branchman peered out. "We're going to join the A.A.," he called out.
They walked up Parnell Street and circled back around to Cathal Brugha Street. Almost within sight of the Peacock they climbed over a blue wooden gate. Marsh whistled. "There must be a hundred ton here."
They placed the hose on top of the pile of bags and after ensuring that the hose was fixed firmly to the tap they turned on the water.
"We've changed our minds," said Marsh to the Branchman as they re-entered the pub.
The pub was now busy. The trio looked at Bill Doyle who was standing at the counter slugging back pints of Guinness.
"Cost a fortune to get into a round with him."
"I know. He's no swallow."
"All that beer and on top of it the two to three pints of saliva that our mouths produce every day," O'Donnell laughed.
They were joined by Jason the Cabra bricklayer. He looked like he had lost all belonging to him to some flesh eating disease and that he was after catching it himself.
"Jaysus Jason, you look like you just won a million dollars," Marsh laughed.
"I got sacked," the bricklayer groaned, "Sacked by a fucking German."
It seemed that the German foreman was particularly fussy and especially intolerant of lines of bricks that did not run horizontal. Earlier in the month he had a stand-up row over the quality of some pointing work. The bricklayer threatened to involve the union. The German laughed. "Remember we took on the Red Army so don't think you're mickey mouse union scares me."
Jason had gone over to the Long Hall pub where some of the union officials often held court. They were most sympathetic to the man's plight.
"The problem I see," said one official at length, "is this hun's nationality."
"What the fuck has his nationality got to do with anything?" pleaded the bewildered bricklayer.
"Everything," said a tall official, who, except for his height, looked slightly like Leon Trotsky. "You see it could be deemed as racism. Now if he was a Brit !"
"Racism," agreed another. "It's the new kid on the block. We could be on firmer ground with a Brit because of the North, yah know. But a Jerry, no fucking way. By the way, you're over three years out of union dues or is there somebody else of the same name…"
"I was planning on getting over this very week," said Jason sheepishly.
Two days later a brick fell from on high on the building site and narrowly missed the foreman. Jason was told to leave forthwith or face a charge of attempted murder.
Ructions joined the company. He shook his head in disgust on hearing the sad tale. None of the men were that fussy about the bricklayer himself. They considered him to be a bit of a greedy bastard, who was in any case working on the lump and had a sniffy attitude vis-a-vis his badly paid labourers. Nevertheless, Ructions pointed out that it would be a cultural disaster for the Irish working class if German managers were allowed to establish unsociable work practices in the country.
"These fuckers see us as merely economic units." Farrell complained.
"They want to replace our society with an economy," O'Donnell echoed.
"That German wants complete capitulation to vapid consumerism," Ructions warned.
"I read that if indefinite and unrestrained capitalism is not curbed it will eventually lead to fucken environmental and economic collapse," said Marsh gravely.
"Sure there's only so much space in a finite world," explained O'Donnell, "and I think that this cunt is running out of space."
"If fuckers like him had their way," snarled Marsh, "we'd all be getting up at six 'o fucken clock in the morning. People would start to believe that they were just born to work to make some rich cunt richer."
"That's what the American workers are brainwashed to believe. We can't allow that to fucking happen here," declared Ructions.
Marsh made the salient point that for all anybody knew this 'cunt' could be a war criminal on the lam.
"All I want," pleaded the bewildered bricklayer, "is for youse, you know."
"Know what?" inquired Ructions.
"You know, kick the conjoculars outa the fucker."
"What d'yah think we are. A bunch of fucken gangsters?" snapped Marsh.
The bricklayer wisely kept his thoughts to himself as the others continued to speculate on the feasibility of the planet surviving unrestrained economic growth and the possibility of the country succumbing to German market rules.
"Sure with the technology that's around now, there's no need for anybody to work more than twenty hours a fucking week. It's only a matter of preventing the rich cunts from grabbing so much of the world's swag," O'Donnell explained.
"With more time to spend in the pubs, people won't be giving themselves indigestion by swallowing down pints like Bill Doyle," proffered Ructions.
The small pub was now humming. Clarke was behind the counter working the taps like a trapped maniac in a hellish puppet show. People, who normally would not raise their voices, were shouting at him and he was roaring back. "Fuck off an' wait yer turn. I've only got two fucking hands."
Fitzgerald pushed his way to the conspirator's table hugging his pint. He listened to another version of the bricklayer's sad tale. This version contained the snippet that the German was looking for someone to install a central heating system in his house on the Navan Road. However, none of the plumbers on the site would take on the job for the price that the German was offering.
This information detonated an irrational frenzy which cybernetically criss-crossed at the speed of light the molecular structures of deoxyribonucleic acid in Fitzgerald's brain. He stood up and thumped the table with his fist. The pint glasses hopped.
"The plumber, that's it. Frankie the fucking striker," he shouted.
After a great deal of Machiavellian counselling the confused bricklayer was told to contact Frankie the striker. He was to tell him of this German's hatred of decent workers, and, in particular, his detestation of trade unions. Fitzgerald instructed the brickie with a wink to, somehow, confidentially so to speak, let it slip that the German's war record was one Mossad might like a look at but that, magnanimity being the order of the post-war world, Frankie might consent to do the central heating for him.
Some days later Frankie's van was spotted outside the German's house. Now, Marsh got on the phone to Frankie from the Peacock pub.
"Frankie pal, Tommy here," he announced in a plawmawsing tone.
"Yeah, how are things?"
Frankie cursed at the other end of the line.
"What's that?" inquired Marsh.
"Listen Frankie, I believe that you're doing a bit of a job for a friend of Simon and mine on the Navan Road."
"Who told you that?"
"Oh a little birdie. Just make sure an' do a good job."
"I only do good jobs."
"Of course, of course. It's just that this fellow is the salt, you know, a real rock. Why don't you drop in to the Peacock some night?"
Frankie slammed down the phone.
That night Frankie sat on his own, as he usually did, in his local pub in Portobello. The taciturn figure stared hard into his pint of Guinness. He was deep in thought. So now they were in contact with some kind of fascist. He would go straight over to the Navan Road in the morning and tell the German where to put his copper pipes.
Was there no end to their depravity, he wondered. It was only last year that he had heard O'Donnell, drunk, slobbering on about dialectical and historical materialism as if he was some kind of intellectual. And what did Marsh say about Stalin. There was too much good guy about him. Frankie shook his head. Now, they had the neck to ask him to do them a favour. How dare they. How fucking…
It was them, he was certain, who had got into the habit of dumping getaway cars almost outside his house so that the regular bursting down of his front door by gangs of armed branchmen had left him the talk of the neighbourhood. Indeed, he had noticed a growing number of people crossing over the road when they saw him approaching.
Who was the robber he had asked himself, more than once, who during the raid on Rathdrum, was reported as shouting in a loud voice, "c'mon there Frankie," "Put them up against the wall Frankie," "Shoot them if they move Frankie." Who else but this pair of jokers, who for all he knew, were probably standing outside the late night chip shop that night, laughing, as they watched him being dragged across his front garden in his pajamas by some very angry branch men. He continued to think hard.
After some time a regular customer noticed him shake his head a little and chuckle into his pint.
"Tell us the joke Frankie?"
"Ah, just a thought that came into my head."
Just then Ructions arrived in the Peacock with news concerning Dolores Lynch the prostitute. Her attempt to politicize other prostitutes was having an adverse effect on one pimp, John Cullen. He pulled a knife on Dolores and told her that if he saw her anywhere near his patch again, she would be able to sell her face for a road map. It was time to pile into the red Volkswagen. Soon the pimp was spotted trying to do a deal with two sailors near the Twangman public house on the docks.
"Go, go, go," shouted Davis to Edwards. He put his foot down. The pimp recognized the car racing up the quays and he knew that it did not belong to the vice squad. He took off with a fistful of dollars belonging to the sailors. They thought that the pimp was trying to rip them off. They took off in hot pursuit as the car screeched to a halt. Davis emerged with an automatic pistol in his hand. He loosed off a number of shots after the galloping pimp. Cullen escaped injury but the confused sailors were wounded and security chiefs were called into Leinster House.
It transpired that the sailors were combat troops from a U.S. Army regiment on leave from Vietnam. Soon news of the shooting made the international press and Davis' action received loud praise from the Cuban newspaper 'Granma.
News of this international incident, the 'shots heard round the world,' reached as far as the German. "That could be considered an act of war," he said to Frankie as he helped him in with the radiators.
It seemed like no time at all before radiators were braced onto upstairs and downstairs walls and shiny lengths of copper tubing were flashing through the air. The German was astonished at the man's efficiency. It was the first time, he believed, that he had chanced upon an Irishman who could make a German worker look like a dosser. The fellow was a one man army, he thought, and he would highly recommend him to all his friends when the job was completed. He must remember to get a business card off him, he reminded himself, because it had just occurred to him that he only knew the frantic plumber as Frankie.
Frankie worked fastest in the upstairs rooms. There, the carpet had to be put to one side, and the pipes run between the joists. Many floorboards had to be lifted and small grooves had to be cut into the joists to facilitate the pipes. In some joists, especially chosen by himself, the saw cut seven inches in leaving two inches untouched. And, every time he firmly nailed back a floorboard he entombed the corpse of a fresh herring. He finished ahead of schedule and the system worked a treat. The German was so pleased, that out of character with himself, he insisted on giving Frankie a bonus. When he inquired about Frankie's name and address, Frankie was most obliging. He gave his name as Frankie Thomas Marsh and he gave O'Donnell's address.
It was late March and the weather was beginning to warm up. Despite this, the German, like a child with a new toy, switched the system on every night. He even brought his neighbours in to inspect it because at that time central heating was not very common in the homes of County Dublin.
Less than a week after Frankie had completed the job, the German wondered what the hell his neighbours were cooking. Later, he had health inspectors check the sewers. Finally, by the end of the month, the German and his family were ensconced with friends as members of the rodent section of Dublin Corporation tore the house asunder.
"Does he keep a fucking seal in the bath?" asked one as the pile of rotting herrings mounted.
That autumn the German wished that he had never heard of Ireland when the ceilings began to sag a little, and then a lot, and then collapse. This was the result of the slow seepage of water from the many tiny holes in the copper piping which the vindictive Frankie had surreptitiously drilled some months earlier.