14: Legion Of The Van Guard

This wasn’t the first time the Slug had found himself thinking how Nipper’s tendency to slobber on, gilding the lily and then over-polishing the silver, had held the poor sod back, career-wise. Nipper was smart enough and he didn’t mind putting the hours in pounding the streets, at least he didn’t mind lifting the overtime for it. It was just his running on and on at the mouth that had kept him barely the one step above directing traffic, and doomed to stay there.

Then again this wasn’t the first time the Slug had missed the train of thought that carried promotion boards to their sometimes inscrutable conclusions. Not long after the Slug had written off his prospects Nipper found himself the chief Harrier in charge of the prison van carrying Martin Meehan, Anthony 'Dutch' Doherty and a number of other IRA men.

This shower of miscreants had been detained after a four hour gunbattle with the British Army across the border. They were now on the journey back to Mountjoy from Dundalk Courthouse, having been charged with firearm offences.

Both Meehan and Doherty had already become famous having escaped from Crumlin Road prison in December 1971.

“Aren't they great men?” all the same, enthused Nipper, as he walked up and down the van admiring the prisoners. “Jeeeesus aren't they the fucking greatest thing, the mightiest men since the laughing boy, Mickey Collins, himself. No, strike that, the mightiest fightingest men since fucking Brian Ború…”

“Is that the club?” asked a prison officier.

“Is that the, is that the fuck, yeh ignorant lout, I've a good mind to whip out me .38 and kneecap yeh.”

“Is it for those muck savage thick yokes that these men have risked body and soul to throw the little streets down the arsehole of the British Empire…” added Pah Wah who was also a member of the escort detail.

“Didn't they give the Brit fuckers a pasting and have the cry-babies squealing so that they could be heard for miles over on the occupied side of our beloved Mother Mary’s lovely little country. C'mon lads, give them a round of applause, c'mon lads, louder, I can't fucking hear yis,” demanded Nipper as he strolled up and down his clapping hands held high above his head.

“These patriots shouldn't be in here, we should open the fucking emergency door and let them make a run for it,” shouted a young prison officer.

“We'd all lose our pensions, if we did that,” shouted Mister Mahon.

“Don't worry, these lads will be released by the court,” advised Nipper, “remember no man can stop the march of a nation or whatever the fuck that whoremaster said. Let’s have a song for fuck’s sake. Pah Wah. The Bold Fenian Men, so. How’s about that?”

“What about the Wild Rover?” asked a prison officer.

“Ah, that's about a fucking grasping landlady who is looking for a ride and prays to the patron saint of cracked arses or something,” explained the young prison guard.

“Ructions, remember him, when he was in in ‘68, was telling us about this English landlady...”

“Go on Pah Wah, the Bold Fenian Men, and then we'll say a quick decade of the Rosary that these mens' charges are thrown out by that fucking Blueshirt cunt of a judge next month.”

“And for the other lads on the landing,” said Bunhead. “What other lads?” Nipper asked Meehan. “Oh…Charlie O'Neill and Simon O'Donnell.”

“On your landing? There must be some mistake surely.” “How d'yah mean?”

“But sure they are, yeh know,” explained Nipper giving Pah Wah a wink, “fucking gangsters who don't go to Mass...”

“Don't go to mass me bollix,” quipped Pah Wah…”aren't they known to whore around the city with, yeh know, ladies of the night all the way up from the West and when they're not riding they can be found talking through their arses up in Gaj's restaurant about pussy and the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall…”

“And more pussy.”

“And the externalisation of the relations of capital in the form of interest- bearing capital…”

“And more pussy…

“They hate Catholics more than Paisley, sure when good prison Chief Macker asked O’Donnell what he would write down for religion on the prison admittance form he said communist, then he changed his deranged mind and said atheistic communist and then he asked Macker to cross out religion and instead write scientific outlook! ”

“The cheeky fucker.”

“They seem alright to me,” said Meehan.

“As down by the glenside...” began the young screw in a strong melodic tone having become lost to the complexities of the otiose conversation and soon the prison van was rollicking down the Whitehall Road to the loud refrain of...'Glory Oh, glory oh to the Bold Fenian Men'.