Now I cannot remember if it was in 1982 or 1983 but I think it was in 1982 and I am no longer sure of the time of year. Whatever, there was me and big Frank driving down Belfast’s M1 en route to Dublin and a weekend of bevvy, bonking and rugby. There was an international on but don’t ask me who was playing because I cannot remember and anyway I never made it to the game and there were a couple of more important things for a fairly good-looking wee Scotsman to do in Dublin’s fair city. Whatever, there we were driving down the road and about thirty miles north of Newry or about half way between the border and Belfast the road was, all of a sudden, closed for some reason or another. The IRA actually had this habit of blowing up the border post at regular intervals and at regular intervals it would move about ten yards closer to Belfast. Now, Frank, a native of East Belfast, knew the back road to Newry but the only thing was the last time he had driven on it things had been a wee bit different. Still, off we went down through South Armagh and in just about the time it takes you to say, “Bob’s your uncle”, or something similarly ridiculous, there was Crossmaglen in the distance with the Irish tricolour flying proudly from a lamp-post and soon we were there and just as we were passing the UDR barracks out came a landrover, out it came, bombing out in front of us, onto the wee narrow road and sitting in the back were six squaddies, supping a bottle of whisky and when we got into the country, out onto the wee narrow roads lined with hedges, there they were pointing their SLRs at us, just in fun of course, but I didn’t find it very funny, because those boys, you could see, were at the end of their tethers, nerves frayed, baggy eyes, ready to crack up, and we couldn’t overtake because the road was so narrow and all of that and I thought, “what if the fuckers decide to strip search us” or, worse, “what if the Provos decide to blow them to kingdom come?”; a sort of regular occurence in South Armagh! Well, we would have been fucked wouldn’t we? Now it was getting a wee bit dark as we approached Newry but believe me I was so over the moon when we got to that wee town and on we went down to Dublin and somewhere between Dundalk and Drogheda, I decided that I had enough tension for the weekend and …. Well, I have never been a big rugby fan, anyway!
The picture above shows an Irish tricolour and a mural of James Connolly stuck to a lamp-post above Crossmaglen, County Armagh.