10: The Holy Rosary Crusade

Padraig ‘Whacker’ Mullally, dark haired and good looking, was from the West of Ireland. He had a mellifluous voice and an inventive mind. Mullally and Dave the Dude O’Grady had a bit of bad luck in Punchestown with some money that was earmarked for the Prison Band case in the European Court the week before. As a result they were anxious to raise funds urgently. Mullally’s attention was grabbed by an article in the Evening Press which announced that the Catholic Church had launched a fund raising crusade for the canonization of Blessed Oliver Plunkett. If successful the Archbishop, whose withered head was on display in St. Peter’s Church in Drogheda, would be the first new Irish Saint in nearly seven hundred years.

“Even though he was probably an oul’ ballocks of a pro-Royalist aristocrat, he was a fellow jailbird who got a raw deal in the Tower of London after being informed on by the Franciscans,” Mullally explained to the Dude in the Peacock pub one night.

“Bleeden grassers,” muttered the Dude in disgust. “Why did they do that?”

“Ah, maybe they had a fiduciary complex because they were into poverty and here was Ollie prancing around in silk knickers. It’s hard to say. I read that Frankie of Assisi, the founder that is, went all over the Orient seeking martyrdom and he couldn't even find anyone to give him a kick in the bollocks. I mean that must have left them all traipsing about with a right pain in the hole. What d'you think?”

“I feel sorry…”

“But sure people are always getting fitted up.” continued Mullally. He took a slug from his pint and belched. “I mean, look at the case of the Kearneys up near Ballinascorney in the Dublin foothills. All three of them hanged outside their cottage for the murder of a land agent who was seen a year later drinking in a pub in Thomas Street. That's the fucking law for you.”

“Yeah. But I'm thinking of poor Ollie. Imagine being taken out of your comfortable flowery dell one day and bein’ hanged, drawn and quartered just because you refused to believe that the Virgin Mary had a ride. Sure, that's as bad as the Kearneys and anyway weren’t they O’Neill’s republican’s relations who maintained they were innocent while O’Leary said that he heard from some turf cutter on the Featherbeds that they were hung by public acclamation.”

“Ah! O’Leary was only ball hopping Charlie saying that and that the jury was still out,” he laughed.

“Yeah well Ollie’s legal team should have been struck off.”

“Yeah. But fair fucking play to the Catholic Church for wanting to get the lad who stood by them a front row seat in Heaven. That’s simply a bit of the oul’ noblesse oblige, isn’t it?”

“Exactly. Stand by yer Blessed,” agreed the Dude as he called two pints, "you know the Catholic Church has always been good to me or it was when I was a child going to Mass with my mother God rest her. She was very religious and she used to go into a swoon when the collection plate came around.."

"A trance?"

"Something like that. A sort of religious daze as she sat there alone with her Maker, just her Maker and her pain and I would have to pass on the plate. It would be full of threepences and sixpences and sometimes the odd half crown and I always managed to filch a bit of the silver."

"You bold bold boy."

"Yes I guess that was when I surrendered my soul to old Nick and I've never looked back."

Dave the Dude was a longstanding mystery to the Dublin underworld, which wasn’t even sure how long he stood (actually, about five foot seven in his thick woolen socks) or just how long he’d been standing there. Nobody even knew where the Dude was from; mainly because nobody believed a word that came out of his mouth. He was anaemic in appearance and wore rimless glasses on his long lugubrious face. He had a penchant for dressing in clerical uniform, dark suit and dog collar, though he sometimes booked into hotels as Doctor Joyce. Once when he was arrested in Galway he began winding up the cops in Connemara Irish overlaid with an affected Oxford accent.

The Holy Ghost Shall Come Upon Thee

The Holy Ghost Shall Come Upon Thee

“Where's this fucking chancer from at all,” cursed the hefty sergeant, “I can't figure out what fucking language he's yapping in.”

“Get a map of the world,” a garda suggested.

“Aren't you ferociously clever, you'll be getting my job in no time you smart fucker,” the sergeant laughed.

“Sure he left Templemore bursting with brains,” added another garda.

A globe was placed in front of the Dude. He stared at it for a while and then he placed his finger on Stockholm.

“He's a fucking Swede,” shouted the sergeant. “No wonder we couldn't understand him.”

“No wonder he looks sad,” observed another garda. “Sure that place is fucking dark half the year.”

“I heard they ride like fuck when it’s dark and party like fuck when it’s bright or visa versa…vice voce…you know what I mean…”

“Phone Rozzer HQ in Stockholm and see what the fuck they have on Ingemar Johansson here,” suggested the clever garda, smiling to himself as the sergeant dialled, spoke, dialled again, waited, shouted a bit, and waited some more before finally getting through to some multi-lingual Swedish officer.

“That's it, yeah. Pasty faced, thinning fairish hair…straight. Sure thing. What? Really! Jesus!!!!” The sergeant placed the phone piece down on the receiver and stared at the Dude for a second.

“I'll fucking throttle you,” he shouted as he grabbed the lapels of the immaculate, dark grey, waisted overcoat. He dragged the Dude onto his tippy toes and devoured him with pale blue eyes as deep as the Sally Gap.

“WWhat the fffuck,” stuttered a nervous garda.

“He's not a fucking Swede,” said the sergeant. “He's Dave the fucking Dude from some arsehole of a place in Ireland. One of them culchie black holes nothing escapes from except the quarest of quare things. Like this charged particle here.” He grabbed the Dude around the neck.

“What's this,” the Dude managed to gasp out.

“It's deliberative democracy minus the democracy,” muttered the sergeant frog marching the dapper miscreant to the cells below.

Mullally had long since ceased to puzzle about the Dude’s mysterious past, thinking his dubious present was enough to be going on with.

“I had an idea last night,” he announced. “It came to me in a dream.”

“A voice from the inferno, I suppose,” the Dude droned in a ghostly monotone. “This was not a voice Dave, this was a vision of you as a Padre.”

“Jesus! Me a priest! Where's the informer?” he asked jocosely.

“Well, a Monseigneur really, with Archbishop McQuaid on your arm, walking into the Peacock pub, and across the road Ructions, baton an all, conducting a choir of young girls, Holy Communicants, singing Panis Angelicus. Clarke's eyes nearly exploded and he muttered to me, whatever he's up to its bound to be the con of the decade and then I fucking woke up…”

The Dude shook his head. “And what was it was so fucking illuminating about that bizarre dream?”

Mullally took a gulp from his pint. “Fuck all.” “Were you on the jungle juice before I met you?”

“No,” Mullally laughed “But you see the dream set me thinking. Set the wheels in motion, got the cogs spinning, like I told you it started me thinking.”

The Dude took out his cigarettes. He passed one to Mullally. His face maintained a bemused expression.

“You see we're both Catholics,” stated Mullally. “Are we?”

“Well, we might be lapsed but I mean we were both brought up as Catholics, you know altar boys, Father Cuthbert and so on…”

“Don't go there, but I suppose, theologically speaking…” “Sure don't I still know the seven deadly sins off by heart.”

“Course you do. You commit at least two or three of them every day.”

“The point,” continued Mullally, “is that we have as much right to collect for a good cause as the official church.”

The Dude's face lit up. He took a long drag on his cigarette. “But what are we collecting for?”

“For ourselves of course, and a donation for the prison band.”

“But nobody is going to put their hands in their pockets; not for us, and certainly not for some prison band they’ve never heard nor heard tell of,” the Dude scoffed.

“Of course not. No. What we have to do is launch another Rosary Crusade and have Masses said in Rome for donations.”

“Masses said in Rome? How are we supposed to manage that? What kinda eejit do we know would be up for a stunt like that?”

'“A priest. I know this fellow from my neck of the woods. He was a great man for the local pub. Cops would never raid it when he was ensconced there. Did a great rendering of ‘The West's Awake'. He couldn’t remember more than a verse or two but he had a grand tenor voice for humming the rest of it. Every fucker loved him except the oul’ bishop and a few holy Marys. They eventually had him hunted out of it as a dypso. Sent down the country somewhere for treatment and then on to Rome. Kind of a pissed-up pilgrimage like. Anyway he'd do it for a few bob for whiskey.”

“Sound's good Whacker. We'd need an address or a mail box or something.” “I have the very place. There’s an unoccupied house at the Ranelagh end of Northbrook Road. Dessie Barnes the wino was using it before Bob Bradshaw gave him a job caretaking houses that he was painting. The back entrance is unlocked. We'll just need to put ads in the papers.”

“A second Rosary Crusade sounds fishy to me,” said the Dude, his enthusiasm waning. He was concerned that another spell in Mountjoy might be spent in protective custody in the dreary prison basement. While there he would be confined to his cell for twenty-three hours a day. He would then have to share his one-hour exercise period walking around the small prison yard with garda informers and sexual perverts. The prospect filled him with profound gloom. He sighed deeply, regretting having written prison letters for Winston Dunbrell, the illiterate, super heavyweight bootboy from Finglas West to Winston's wife Lily.

Dunbrell had been arrested after a brawl in the Duck pub in Finglas village. The row began after one curly haired fellow with the letters 'love/hate' tattooed on his knuckles claimed that Dunbrell had missed out on his turn to buy a round of drinks for the six or seven who were in the company.

“Its not my fucking round,” said Dunbrell forcefully. “Well whose fucking round is it then?”

“Micksers,” said another who wore a vest with the words 'Prepare for War' adorning the chest area.

“And where's Mickser the shirker?”

“Right behind you and I'm no fucking shirker.”

Many slurred words led to many other slurred words and in next to no time tables, chairs and drinks were flying through the air. Inside the pub the sound of the approaching garda sirens was drowned out by the sound of screeching women, bawling men and breaking glass.

“It was like Dodge City without Wyatt Earp,” remarked one garda to the Station Sergeant as Dunbrell and five other combatants were led into the Finglas Garda Station.

“Is that with an 'e' or an 'i'?” inquired the red-faced Station Sergeant who was trying to write up the brawlers’ details on the charge street.

Dunbrell was well able to spell his own name even if he could not write it. However he was confused and angry, especially since it seemed to him that the fellow who had accused him of funking out of buying his round had evaded arrest. He was then unaware that his accuser was on his way in an ambulance to the Mater Hospital.

“With a what?” shouted Dunbrell.

“Maybe Dumbell is his name,” snapped a red haired, freckle faced young garda, the station intellectual, who was sitting at a typewriter to the left of the counter. He was angry with the witless thug from bullydom as he saw him for he had been typing an apology to his new girl friend who was a student nurse in the Childrens' Hospital in nearby Temple Street. The previous day, both having taken leave, he decided to bring her to visit Foley's Folly up in the Dublin Mountains. He had read about it in a Beckett story not knowing that it didn't exist or that it did but as Barrington's Tower.

“It's somewhere up around Two or Three Rock Mountain,” he told her. They drove aimlessly in his old black Anglia and then gave up when they were on the Featherbeds as he thought that the car engine was overheating. They took a picnic basket from the car boot and a short distance away they sat down in a small trough out of the wind under a blue sky ever changing in hue and shade. While eating the ham and cheese sandwiches she had made that morning, they could see, in the distance, across the moorland of peat, ling and bracken a number of people digging.

“What would they be doing digging up here?” she asked. “Heather?” “Turf. They are turf-cutters,”

When they headed back to the car the sky was darkening, Two Rock and Three Rock Mountain were covered in mist and the flat bog-land looked more than usual like a desolate wasteland. Then, as the car jaunted down past Leslie Allen's pub, the young garda’s day brightened considerably with Nurse Jackie inviting him in to her flat on Royce Road.

Yes, he concluded in her flat, he had not deceived himself as he glanced at the way she tossed back her unruly black hair. She was beautiful. He thought that the slight slouch in her walk enhanced her mystery and when she stood in front of him with her toes pointing inwards and her hands held tightly by her sides while inquiring in a vague voice if he took sugar he sucked breath. This was definitely the best day of his life. They were getting on well, so well in fact, that when she leaned over the sink to rinse a cup, he believed, without knowing why, that he had a moral imperative to put his hand up her mini shirt. To his surprise, she swung around and screamed: “Get out! Get out now before I warm you with a clatter.”

Now his apology was stalled. The words just wouldn’t come for him. His life was over. And not just metaphorically! In an instant Dunbrell was behind the counter and standing in front of the writer’s blocked almost terminally shocked typist. He grabbed the heavy Underwood typewriter and heaved the machine through the side window of the station. It took four gardai, who were swearing their brains out, to bring him under control.

The whole episode, despite the eloquent protestations of his legal council Seamus Sorohan BL. landed him in Mountjoy after an outraged judge imposed a two year prison sentence stating that assaulting gardai and smashing up police property deserved condign punishment, or was at least to be stringently discouraged.

The Dude at this time was doing a short sentence for fraud. He noticed that every time Dunbrell returned from a prison visit from his wife Lily he was in a bad mood, a very bad mood. After a few searching questions, the Dude deduced the cause to be frustration. And the main reason for the frustration was the lack of privacy. As a result, it was next to impossible for a prisoner or his wife or partner to hold an intimate conversation or talk frankly about their private lives with a prison officer listening to every word. The Dude decided that the world in general and the nick in particular would be a better and happier place if he helped Dunbrell to write to his wife.

The Dude proved himself to be a kind and helpful teacher, certainly more patient and considerate than the Christian Brothers who had frequently boxed young Dunbrell's ears in the Dangean Industrial School and before that in the Letterfrack Reformatory.

In his letters to Lily he introduced and explained to Dunbrell such words as 'alluring,' 'lascivious,' 'vivacious,' 'sybarite,' and so on.

In his final letter, because the Dude was due for release two days later, Dunbrell told Lily how he was now working in the prison carpenter's shop and how, when he was released, he would be able to earn a living making tables. The Dude altered 'tables' to 'baseball bats'. And lots of press-ups in the gym became lots of push ups in the knocking shop. He made a number of other changes but nothing over the top.

“I think Winston,” he advised, “in finishing off you should say that when you come out you will take Lily and her sister to that famous chipper up near Christ Church.”

“Jaysus Dave, that's a great idea. Lily will only eat fish if it’s out of a chipper and has plenty of vinegar.”

“Ah yes, vinegar, a great aphrodisiac,”

“What the fuck is that?”

“Its something that gets the juice flowing in the women. Called after Aphrodite the Greek Godess of how’s yer father.”

“Ah right. Lily is going to miss the letters Dave.”

“Sure get one of the politicos to write for you. Aren't they always writing statements about this, that and me dialectical bollix, me historical bollix, me materialistic bollix, me labour theory of surplus bollix value of labour bollix or something, me bourgeois bollix, me proletarian bollix, me lumpen proletarian bollix, not forgetting me Bolshevik bollix, the most dangerous bollix of them all, even more dangerous than me ballocks, bollix.”

“I don't think Lily would understand that Dave, anyway I would only trust you with me private bits of things like.”

“Fair enough,” said the Dude and then he added a PS saying: “And Lily, after the chipper won't you let me fondle your sister's quim?”

Mullally gave the Dude a nudge. “Have you any better suggestion? I mean the way things are with me at the moment, its shit or bust.” He got off the stool and squatted to demonstrate his predicament. Clarke stared down at him from behind the counter. “Its OK Jimmy I was just explaining to Dave that the world is fiscally constipated at the moment...”

“Which has got nothing to do with either the price or the quality of your pints Mister Clark,” assured the Dude.

Clarke shook his head as he pulled a pint for Plopps who had just squelched in. “How about the Holy Rosary Crusade?” suggested the Dude out of the blue. “You're a fucking genius Dave,” acknowledged Mullally rubbing his hands together.

“A Holy Rosary Crusade is one step nearer to Heaven than a mere Rosary Crusade. How the fuck did you think of that?”

“The grannie. My mother's mother in Borris...” “She wasn't on the con as well...”

“No,” the Dude laughed. “When we were on holidays meself and me sister used to stay with her for part of the school holidays. She used to say the Rosary every night but she always called it the Holy Rosary. Jesus I fucking hated it. But then my sister started to hang out with this girl Siona, a local and sometimes she would kneel down in the kitchen and say the Rosary, the bleeden Holy Rosary with us. She was around my age, I think. This night she was kneeling down at the same stool as me and I, you know, leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek.”

“Oh you cheeky fucker. What age were you anyway?”

“Old enough to want to want to kiss her. Jesus Christ, she jumped around and stared at me and the granny in the middle of the extra bit for the conversion of Russia. Ah but Jesus Whacker, if you'd seen her! You'd eat chips out of her knickers.”

'I'll pass on that Dave. What happened after?”

“I thought I'd had it,” explained the Dude. “I couldn't sleep that night thinking of her legs on the one hand and thinking on the other that she might have told her oulwan who was a big thick culchie fucker with an arse on her like a John Brown tractor. How a big oulwan like her,” he laughed, “gave birth to such a beautiful creature as her was a genetic miracle,”

“Did she squeal?”

“She didn't turn up the next night or the night after. I was sweating and I couldn't fucking ask my sister anything in case she got suspicious but then on the third night she was back and knelt beside me. Jesus I was on cloud nine.”

“Did you carry on then with that smoochin’ carry on?” “We both did until I had to go back a few days later.”

Mullally gave him a clap on the back. “Did you see her after that?”

“I was really looking forward to the next summer holidays but didn't the grannie die in the meantime. And even though she was in the coffin with a face like stone I kept expecting one of her eyes to open and stare at me. I saw Siona at the funeral with her big oulwan. She looked at me. Well I think she did. I never saw her again.”

“Lucky girl.”

The first three days after the Holy Rosary Crusade launch were fruitless. Then, to their surprise, the mail began to flood in.

For nearly three weeks the pair of con artists entered by the rear of the unoccupied house on Northbrook Road, having fitted their own lock. The mail kept arriving every morning. Cash donations were counted, divided and pocketed, while the accompanying letters, seeking a happy marriage, a peaceful death, a lifetime pensionable job for the second eldest son or a prayer for a religious vocation for the third son were burned in the sitting room fire grate. No money was given to the prison band.

It could raise suspicions they believed and the Dude thought that charity was only a step away from going on protest marches with the communist Dennehy and promoting the ridiculous idea of free houses for people.

“I mean, what's he fucking on about. Hasn't he a caravan in Benburb Street. Almost in the city center.”

“It's sort of redlight there,” said Mullally.

“Sure that makes the property even more valuable,” the Dude laughed. “We know from history that that way of thinking can eventually lead to priests being hung from their pulpits and the mass rape of nuns in their convents,” he warned Mullally.

On the Thursday of the third week the pair had just finished burning the letters when there was a mild knocking on the front hall door. They froze for a second. Then the Dude made to make a run. Mullally grabbed him.

“Its not the cops,” he whispered.

Both crept to a front window and squinted out. They could see a tallish, well-dressed man who appeared to be in his fifties with a letter in his hand. He was standing on the bottom step giving the solid two-storey basement house the once over. After a while he walked off towards Ranelagh Road, the letter remaining in his hand.

“He might be an architect or something,” the Dude surmised.

“That's a fucking religious freak if I ever saw one,” Mullally corrected. “That letter he had was for us. Once he checks out the house the game is up. Fuck him anyway.

There's always one inquisitive fucker who should have been aborted because don’t you know that he probably put his mother through a long lingering labour. Wipe down the place, I'll go down to Feeney’s and get some bleach.”

“Why not torch the kip?”

“No need to go down that road. It's not that serious. Remember we're Catholics and within our ecclesiastical rights, and remember God never closes one door without opening another.”

“Like what?”

“Well that born again Orangeman Luther fucked up on the indulgences but you know I was reading somewhere that in the Middle Ages selling relics was a real little money spinner. Start thinking about that as a new line Dave.”

A light drizzle was falling later when they arrived in the Peacock. The politicos Ructions and Marsh were ensconced there. While not mentioning their Holy Rosary Crusade scam, the Dude told them how he was once arrested in Killarney for passing a number of dud cheques. He had false identity papers on him and produced them denying that he was Dave O'Grady from the arsehole of nowhere. He could not say otherwise for the documents he had produced named him as Valentine O'Brien from Leaba Shioda in County Clare. After some time a puffy faced sergeant with a fine mop of wooly grey hair called him to the desk.

“Mister…eh…ahm O'Brien you are free to go as Irish law in this great little country of ours prevents us from charging you with any offence and forbids me adding any stain to the many other stains that you may have upon your innocent little Johnston's baby powder arsed character.”

“Really sergeant.”

“Yes really. You see these documents mean that you are under the age of responsibility.”

“Responsibility!”

“That's correct. According to these papers you are six years old. So while I don't use bad language in front of children, in your case, I think I can make an exception.”

“An exception?”

“Correct. So fuck off out of my station and fuck off out of my town and out of my county.”

“Yes, fuck off to Montenotte,” added a tall detective.

It later transpired that Mullally had been correct about the visitor to their business address. The man, a senior civil servant in the Department of Justice and devout Catholic from Belgrave Road, had thought it wonderful that for a few shillings one could have a Mass said in Rome by an Irish priest. He had taken it upon himself to personally compliment the disciples and to ensure that the Mass also included a special prayer for his wife who was undergoing an identity crisis. He was surprised to find that the house looked unoccupied. He subsequently inquired in his local church in Rathmines about the Holy Rosary Crusade and he was astonished to learn that the church knew nothing of the particular religious venture.

“That’s a down below job for all eternity,” the elderly priest told him. “Its religious debauchery,” he shouted wringing his hands as he walked around in circles. His bad limp on his left side gave the impression that he was giving tentative genuflections to the Unknown God. He was breathing heavily.

“Calm yourself Father, this is a job for Naaga, the chief of the fraud squad, he’ll have them in irons in solitary confinement before they even get to meet their Maker.”

“When they stand before their Maker there’ll be a permanent thrusting in and out of red hot pokers up their arses for all eternity, just you mark my words. When the Almighty calls them to account for such an abominable transgression of His laws they’ll be falling into that dark foul smelling prison, an abode of demons and lost souls…where, because of their great number, the damned are heaped together in the sickening stench; where all the filth of the world runs behind walls which have been measured by eminent theologians with the holy measuring tapes of indefatigable assistants and found to be four thousand miles thick. Oh yes, those damned are so utterly bound and helpless that they are not even able to remove from the eye the worm that gnaws it.”

“Is that Joyce?” the man asked.

“The very bucko. A cast iron pagan who knew his Hell thanks to the Jesuits and he may even know it better now,” said the priest his eyes appearing to glitter in the dim light of the church.

“And the saints,” said the man.

“Ah yes. Saint Anselm, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Bonaventura and Saint Thomas…”

"Philosophers all, and theologians, clever men,” the civil servant cut in. “With the beautiful ecstatic Catherine amongst them, and she herself a most graceful Doctor of the Church, a seer of miraculous visions, being united in marriage with Jesus through an invisible wedding ring and, in the end, allowing nothing to pass her pale puckered lips but only the Blessed Eucharist…now that's hunger striking for you!" the man cut in.

“He didn’t listen to them,” snapped the priest.

He sat down on a long wooden bench and lit up a cigarette despite his breathlessness. He shook his head. The civil servant looked down at him.

“Can I be confidential with you Father?” he asked in a low voice.

The priest stood up and took a long drag from his cigarette. “Me,” he said dreamily. “Can you be confidential with me!” He placed his hands on the man’s shoulders and pressed his grey head into his chest. “You can tell me anything at all my son. In here I am God’s vicar. Not the Vicar Apostolic nor yet the naughty vicar at a tarts and vicars fancy dress party, but yes, my son, a vicar, God’s vicar.”

“Its my wife Father,” he said hesitantly.

The priest stood back and shook his head. “I hear it all the time. The women, poor souls, not getting a rub of the relic often enough, barely once a week as I hear tell.”

“Ah no Father its not that. Well sort of…”

“Its always the how’s yer father, Father, that they confesses to me about,” insisted the priest.

“Its, its difficult to say it Father, but its the wife…Fathe…she thinks she’s Molly Bloom.”

“The thundering strap!” exclaimed the priest.

“She’s taken to the spare room at night and when she’s not sleeping she’s reciting Molly Bloom’s soliloquy.”

“Holy mellow! Beatified yellow! (For yellow vestments are prescribed to be worn in the Sarum use for the feasts of Confessors.) Boys, paint me arse amber, impale me on a black and white concrete post and call me the whore’s Belisha Beacon of Holiness!”

“It’s beginning to get on top of me Father. I mean I have a very responsible job, gathering facts, putting legs on rumours, indexing false gossip, filing hearsay, sorting out loose ends, tracing false leads, securing secret facts, memorizing codes, interpreting telephone transcripts, sifting through malicious whispers, explaining dross, translating gobbledygook, cataloguing drivel, breaking alibis, correcting false confessions, classifying case papers, justifying expenses, exposing incompetence, unravelling aliases, examining criminal conversation, handling false documents, investigating dead ends, counteracting fake news, scrutinising character references, hiding super grasses, probing for welfare fraud, stamping arrest warrants for water protestors, interrogating communists, unearthing agent provocateurs, unmasking double agents, ferreting out whistleblowers, revealing spies, infiltrating demonstrations, trailing enemies of the state. Yes, enemies of the state. And on that very point Father, why just today on my desk, a memo, stating that four of the worst, the very worst, have gone missing after leaving the Peacock scuttered, and not a sight or sound of them has been seen since with all brains in Dublin Castle fruitlessly combing the city.” He let out a hysterical laugh. “Brains!!”

“You have big responsibilities, to be sure my son. How did it start?”

The civil servant shook his head, a ghastly expression on his face. “Oh it was just little things at first like the day I came home and the picture of Pope Pius XII had been replaced by Che Guevara…and then the photo, in uniform in the Castle Yard, of Michael Collins, was replaced with one of Charlie Chaplin.”

“Come to our aid now, Paraclete!,” the increasingly agitated cleric intoned. “Wild Goose of the Gael that tears lumps out of all that lovey doveyness.”

“It’s a huge burden father. And the wife awake and walking up and down the bare floorboards at all hours, sometimes until the night is fading into morning, going to and fro, her voice strange, trembling and then clear ‘I’ll put on my best shift and drawers let him have a good eyeful out of that to make his micky stand for him I’ll let him know if that’s what he wanted that his wife is fucked yes and damn well fucked too up to my neck nearly not by him 5 or 6 times handrunning theres the mark of his spunk on the clean sheet I wouldn’t bother to even iron it out’ sure I’m going in to the office bleary eyed Father and in trepidation that some day the chief or worse, minister spumy hair will walk in and find me snoring on the big Turkish couch and then there’ll be…and then she’s off again into the broadest of profane literature with her voice rising up and out into the darkness ‘and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said I will Yes’ All that horrible, pagan, affirmation. I can’t take any more of it!”

“You poor soul, would you like me to call on her, I could give her spiritual….”

“Ah no Father,” he said grimly, “with no disrespect to yourself, she’s past that, she’s too far gone now, which is why I wanted the Holy Rosary Crusade to have a Mass said for her from the very fountain of sanctity itself in Rome. It’s a professional job she needs now father. Psychiatry of some kind.”

“Expensive,” the priest emphasised “and that fellow not a million miles from here with a face like a scouring brush knows how to charge.”

“Was that the fellow who was in the papers a few years back.”

“That’s the bucko. Sent his secretary off to London for a week, and the world knows why. Of course God’s Laws are not for the likes of…but the seal of the confessional you know. I can say no more.” The priest stubbed out his cigarette with his good leg.

He sat down, ran his wrinkled hands through the few thin remaining strands of his dirty white hair and put his head in his hands.

“Are you alright Father?” inquired the civil servant. “I’m damned, damned.” the priest moaned.

“Of course you’re not Father, sure you’re a man of God. A faithful servant of the cloth.”

The priest looked up at the man and spread out his arms. “I’m sex crazy,” he blurted out, “I should be mercilessly whipped like Him from pillar to post.”

“I’m sure you’re not father, I’m sure you haven’t broken your vow of chastity.”

“No not by deed. But only today I wished eternal sexual torture on those Rosary blackguards and I took pleasure in thinking about it. Thinking of them….”

“Oh well now the good Lord in his wisdom…”

“And when I’m giving out Holy Communion I can’t help lingering on and watching the receivers, the women, you know, the ones with the big arses returning to their seats. You know imagining their big creamy white arses wobbling down the aisle, quivering underneath their overcoats, I try, God knows I really try to avert my gaze to the Holy Host, calling the Paraclete to my aid, that the Wild Goose would distract my mind, but I can’t take my eyes off them. Indeed ever since I was a boy breaking out of short trousers my eyes were fixated on women’s rumps and the more I saw the more I wanted to see and then in the seminary there was this woman cleaner, a big hefty one; you know I used to hang back in the library pretending I was reading Butler’s Lives of the Saints…”

“Well sure we…”

“…and I’d watch her through the books, on her knees scrubbing the floor with her stockings down her thighs and the white skin and Jeeesus…”

“Ah now Father, you’re only upsetting yourself. Sure it’s perfectly understandable to want to rut with her…”

“But I’m a priest you see.”

“Yes father but you’re also a man and its Lucifer who is filling your mind with arses, with big floppy white arses and big wobbly arses, not forgetting the pert bum getting scarcer and scarcer with the increasing obesity…but the mind Father don’t forget about the tricks of the mind…remember what that great Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins said about the mind?”

“O the mind,” declared the priest in a reverential voice, “mind has mountains, cliffs of fall, Frightful, sheer no-man-fathomed…”

“The mind has caverns and deep gullies,” added the civil servant.

“It sure does,” agreed the priest as he took in a deep breath and then gave a few phlegm coated coughs. “You know what I’d be afraid of?” he grumbled with a gloomy expression on his face.

“What?”

“I’d be afraid I’d end up like that big bruising paederast who was discovered in the boys’ dormitory with his cassock pinned up about his waist like the woman bather in the Rembrandt painting.”

The civil servant shook his head. “Not a tall Father. You mean the Offaly fellow?” “The very bucko. He refused to repent you know.”

“Refused! Good Lord !”

“Said he was doing God’s work,” said the priest blessing himself. “Of course he had that anti-Christ in the Law Society giving him advice, a cousin I heard of the other conniver who had to send his secretary to London….”

“Ah them!” the civil servant retorted in disgust, “a blasphemous bunch to be sure. But he did leave, didn’t he?”

“You must be joking me,” the priest snorted. “Oh he thought he was away with it alright with the PP. in the tipplers’ hospital but the Curate was a man of the old school don’t you know, Father Ignatius, I think, a bit of a golloper himself in his younger days,” he added, giving the civil servant a confidential wink, “but he got off the tracks when he saw the train coming.”

“I wasn’t aware of that.”

“Well it wasn’t common knowledge but did he not do his ecclesiastical duty!” The priest gave a low whistle.

“I heard he was strict alright.”

“He was stern, very stern, he had him drummed out, and I mean Drummed Out. He crucified the bejaysus out of him. Would have had the hangman measure him up for the gallows if he’d had his way and then a big shock. You see he was on a kind of a spiritual holiday in Vatican City and reflecting on the decrepitude of some of the older priests there and the peculiarities of others, probably oul fellows hobbling about the place," he laughed, "when I should be in Knock praying for a pair of legs to replace these crocks.."

"If you were doing that Father you'd be telling lies."

The priest smiled. "Well it was one of those glorious evenings with the sinking sun glowing in the Heavens and you just knew that the Almighty was close at hand. The square was filled with a majestic calmness and contentment, he told me, and everybody seemed in rapture. At the far end of the square this tall priest in dark glasses and the standard black cassock emerged from one of the entrances. He appeared to be almost bouncing on the balls of his feet as he danced across the square in a carefree fashion. He was throwing his head from side to side as if he was greeting everybody on his left and right as he passed. Then, when he drew level with the Curate he chirped in a top of the morning to you tone 'how's the mickey Iggy?' before the Curate could recover from the shock the figure had disappeared into the gloaming. The poor man never got over it. He said he would chew the Host itself if it wasn't the Offaly bucko. It was the beginning of the end."

“God be good to him. He was old school alright,” agreed the civil servant as he dabbed his nose in a handkerchief. “Was it his mind?”

The priest nodded his head and grimaced. “Something like that. A growing shadow in the grey matter ever so muted until imperceptibly…. total derangement. He became convinced that he was a woman’s leg.”

“A woman’s leg!!?”

“Yes. The right leg, insistent on the right. Might be something like sitting on the right hand side of God,” the priest mused. “Was Lucifer on the right side before the Fall?”

“Ah the Fall! The Lord upholdeth all that fall and raiseth up all those that be bowed down but I don’t know whether it was the right or the left side. No matter…the right leg of a woman you said!!”

The Interrogation Of The Unrepentant Priest

The Interrogation Of The Unrepentant Priest

“That’s what I heard. A big fat floppy creamy white blubbery quivering squelching garterless goose pimpled wobbly succulent blotchy hairstrewn flabby…” The priest began to tremble.

The civil servant leaned down and placed his hands on the priest’s shoulders. “Take a deep breath and calm yourself Father,” he advised.

“I am calm, in fact I am the calmative itself. I’m just thinking of the Curate’s last thoughts,” said the priest.

“Last thoughts…”

“Yes final thoughts. You see after the leg faded into the void he believed he was a footfall in the Stonebreakers’ Yard in Kilmainham Jail in 1916. He heard the shots, all of them and the echoes endlessly rapping the arrivals and departures and refusing to… That was before he completely lost it and believed that he was the last crow in Ireland before he passed on.” The priest sighed and looked towards the ceiling.

The Last Crow

The Last Crow

The civil servant blinked and shook his head. “Stop the lights!” exclaimed the priest.

“The Lord works in mysterious ways Father but rest assured…you will never be like either of those men.”

“Thank you,” said the priest as he stood up. I’m glad I met you. He hobbled towards a confession box and, anxiously reflecting, slowly sat therein.

As the civil servant left the church he could hear the priest sobbing in the confession box. “Forgive me father for I have…”

And he wept on, sobbing, gulping for breath as his tears rolled penitently through smoke and ash. For indeed he had.

Some days later Mullally sat bolt upright in bed and grabbed his wife. “Did you get an erection?” she asked in an urgent tone.

“No, the cunten newsreader, listen,” he replied.

Both listened to the item on the morning news alerting the plain people of Ireland to the lamentable fact that unknown individuals with no proven connection to the Catholic Church were fraudulently collecting money on behalf of a Holy Rosary Crusade. The item also stated that the Garda Fraud Squad had been notified and were investigating the matter.

On the following Friday Mullally met the Dude in the Peacock. He was bristling with indignation.

“The fucking cheek of them to cast aspersions on our integrity.”

“Exactly. And themselves trying to pawn off everlasting life somewhere in the yawning void and we only offering to…”

“We have to call a press conference,” said Mullally in urgent tones burning with righteous indignation.

“Are you off your fucking head? We'll be arrested and brought to the Tower of London,” the Dude laughed. “I actually cycled past it this morning and not only was the front door wide open but there was someone standing in the hall and the sun shining in on his white mac coat and it looked a lot like fucky the ninth Ryan. I think it was Kevin O'Kelly the journalist who was outside on the footpath looking as if he was about to interview the Angel Gabriel.”

“I'll tell you what we'll do.”

“Did you have another dream,” the Dude laughed as Clarke put two pints on the table.

Two days later the papers carried a statement from a Mister Hanley. He claimed to be the director of the Holy Rosary Crusade. He challenged those who called him a fraud and disputed his right to collect money for religious purposes to a discussion in a hotel in County Wexford the following Saturday night.

On the appointed night the hotel conference room filled up. Mullally and the Dude watched from the comfort of the lounge, as Kevin O'Kelly, the renowned religious correspondent passed by in the company of some nuns. They were followed by members of the Fraud Squad, a representative of the Archbishop of Dublin, many theologians, other journalists and distinguished lay people. The room began to buzz as the hands of the clock crept towards eight p.m.

On the stroke of eight a man entered the room and stepped onto the stage. He apologized and said he regretted that Mister Hanley was indisposed and could not attend but he would now play a cassette tape over the hotel’s loudspeaker system which he was advised would clarify matters.

The audience looked towards the speaker in rapt silence. Then perplexed expressions grew on their faces as a sound like a belch was heard above the sound of a flushing toilet.

“Ah there you are Hanley, you scoundrel,” a voice on the tape shouted.

“How dare you, how fucking dare you doorstep me in a public toilet Cummiskey. I know what you're up to when you're doing confessions in the Loretto Convent…”

An elderly nun gave O'Kelly a quizzical look.

“Are you going to give the Holy Rosary money back you chancer?” said a voice. “My donors get top whack, Cummiskey. Top fucking whack.”

At this stage some of the audience began to leave as the angry voices continued. “Is that Mulligan, the defrocked drunkard who's saying the Masses?”

“Father Mulligan to you sir. He has this oul’ Holy Book with all the names in it. Its a book like the Book Of Names the Special Branch has but it’s much more accurate and it’s blessed by being stroked against the thigh bone of Saint Therese of Lisieux, and…”

“Stroked it is to be sure, and massaged with Jameson from Dublin.”

“He'll spend a lot less time in Purgatory than you, yeh fornicator because the little pincheen of the cratur is his only vice…”

“That's right Hanley, that's why he'll be too poxy drunk to know whether he's in Purgatory or Hell or the basement cells of Portlaoise.”

“He won't be going to Hell, Cummiskey, he will not indeed because although he has a lot more under his black cassock, a lot more than you, he keeps it to himself.”

“How fucking dare you impeach my manhood, I'll, I'll tear your slanderous mutton head off your wretched body and feed it to you up through your wife's arse, I’ll…”

“C'mon then. C'mon you fucking horny turd and we'll…”

The remainder of the audience hurriedly left the hotel while the sound of breaking porcelain and course language filled the room.

The following day the newspapers reported that a blasphemous tape had been played to the audience and that Mister Hanley had failed to attend.