January 1980, my first month in Dublin with its thin layer of snow on the ground, was a muddle. After a few days at the same B&B near Heuston Station I stayed at earlier, I managed more permanent lodging in Sandymount, after responding to a newspaper advertisement in the Evening Press.
Dublin suffered a chronic housing shortage, the result of over-regulation in all areas of life and an inclination among the powers that be that the younger generation ought not to leave home until properly married. To get accommodation, the drill was to go to the loading bay of the Evening Press, near the O'Connell Street Bridge at Burgh Quay. One bought a paper with a group of a half-dozen rivals, immediately went to the address offering a room or a flat, and waited in the cold, if the landlord or landlady wasn't immediately available, in order to be first or at least the second in line when he, or more likely she, granted the humble supplicant an audience. To wait for the newspaper to come to you, as one usually does, was to reliably miss the boat.
After a day or two of coming up with nothing, I ended up looking for an address in Sandymount. The streets looked familiar, and any of one of them I passed might have been the home of Stephen Dedalus in the movie Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which I had not only recently seen in Montreal but also recorded and typed out passages. One, of course, was my favourite: "The shortest way to Tara is by Holyhead"—meaning the quickest way to fame and fortune for an Irishman was to go to London via the Holyhead Dublin ferry terminal at Holyhead in Wales. But best loved and remembered was Stephen Dedalus’ objection to the IRA man's call to join the revolution, when he said: "When the soul is born in this country, there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight—you talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets."
There was also a statue in Sandymount Green of the seaside district's favourite son, William Butler Yeats, the poet who wrote of the 1916 Easter Rising, "A terrible beauty is born."
Not far from the Yeats bust on a pedestal, I found a boarding house with a big blowsy landlady, Maisy Meade, known to me ever since as the Venomous Meade, as she never had a good word to say about anyone in my hearing, although I was generously supplied with her views on many subjects. On taking me in, she asked me, or told me, that she hoped I wasn't like Americans, who wanted a bath every day. She ordered her guests about, moving them from one bed to another, insisting that all had to be out of the house by 9 a.m. and were not to return till 5:30 p.m. There were a half dozen of us, two girls and four men. Even though it was quite different in many ways, I could see a resemblance with Brian Moore's boarding house in his novel The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne.
But I wasn't there four days before I was thrown out. I had come home drunk, got home and to bed without incident; but needing to pee in the middle of the night, I forgot the landlady had shifted me from room to room. I went down the stairs to the john—but instead of turning right for the toilet as I had done before the room shift, I turned left and opened the door into the landlady's bedroom, causing her large but elderly German shepherd to bark long and loud. The woman sprung from her bed, fussing loudly and heedless of my apologetic explanations. Her anger seemed pro forma, as though this had happened before, as well it might with all the room shifting. While she wanted me out, she recommended I take up residence at another rooming house around the corner and made the arrangements for my transfer. I have a feeling her shifting people about to achieve optimum load factor in the house was not quite according to the boarding house regulations. So while she wanted me out, she made an effort to provide me a soft landing, and I exited with a minimum of fuss.
Except for the lethal cuisine of the wizened Mrs Keilly, the next house, with the equally wizened Mr Keilly, was a much better arrangement, as I had ready access to a telephone near the front door. And by this time, such access was becoming useful.
I first went to the offices of the Irish Farmer with my brucellosis story but was turned down on the basis that it did not display "enough prior knowledge." I tried to divine the editor's meaning, but I got the feeling he did not want to consider the story or me for reasons he did not want to divulge. I also did the rounds of the newspapers and was ready to brace myself for and overcome rejection, as that was all I had experienced thus far.
There were three national newspaper groups: the Irish Press, the Independent and the Irish Times. The Irish Times was then well-known to my family. We even had a 1912 edition, which seemed to have coverage of wars worldwide, often from both sides. For the longest time, the Irish Times was my choice as the best newspaper in the world. Encouraging such a judgment was that it was owned by the Irish Times Trust, its only mission being to make a pound a year profit and use that pound or any other earnings to improve the newspaper. It paid no dividends. It was also a Protestant newspaper, not in the Ulster bayonets-fixed sense, but far more like the Montreal Gazette, always ready to make allowances for nationalist aspirations and minimising local politics as minor troubles in the servants' quarters while keeping its mind on lofty foreign affairs. Given my veneration of the Irish Times, I did not feel ready to scale that Himalayan height before I had more job search experience.
Dublin is not that complicated. It is split Northside and Southside by the River Liffey. Along its bank run the quays, which were no longer commercial docks west of the O'Connell Street Bridge, about 50 yards across. Shipping docks operate on both sides east of the bridge where the river widens and deepens and empties into Dublin Bay. Eastward, the north bank runs beyond the docks and rail yards into relatively new housing estates of ascending quality northward until it gets to the upmarket peninsular extension and traditional passenger pier, and the surrounding upscale neighborhood at Howth.
Looking eastward along the south bank, once past the docklands the river runs into Dublin Bay. Going south, one gets to the more settled suburbs of Sandymount and beyond, and finally Dun Laoghaire, which, although larger, is something of a mirror image of northside Howth. Also on the north-south axis are the railways going from the docks and Connolly Station (Protestant name: Amiens Street Station), north to Belfast and south to Cork.
That leaves the east-west axis running from Dublin Docklands on both sides of the Liffey to the sea and running west along the quays on the northside to the Four Courts, the Collins Barracks, Heuston Station again and the Phoenix Park. There, deer run wild, and tigers, orangutangs and other exotic beasts are caged by the Zoological Society of Ireland in the largest park in Europe. Running westward along the south bank from the O'Connell Street Bridge was city hall, or Dublin Corporation, Dublin Castle, which houses Irish officialdom, and Kilmainham Gaol, even then a popular movie set and a public museum.
Apart from the Irish Times, where I was interviewed more than a year later for an advertised position as a business writer, my attention was focused on the two main newspaper groups, the Irish Independent, or the Indo, and the Irish Press. I was to work almost exclusively for the Indo's stable mate, the Evening Herald. The Irish Press group was similarly set up, with the Irish Press itself a morning paper and the Evening Press occupying the PM slot. What divided them was politics, more specifically, what faction each backed in the 1920s Irish Civil War.
Following the dictum of 18th-century Irish rebel Wolfe Tone, that "England's disadvantage was Ireland's advantage," the Irish Republican Army, or what was later to become the IRA, rose up in the week-long Easter Rising in 1916 to fight the British Army for Irish independence while the British were fighting World War I. While the insurrection was crushed, it also kicked off the War of Independence that lasted till 1921. It ended when the British offered to sign an Anglo-Irish Treaty. It was at that point that the great fissure that divided the country opened into civil war and has divided the country ever since.
At first the news that London was willing to sign a peace treaty was greeted with unrestrained joy by Irish Catholics. But not all, as my new landlady, the wizened Mrs Keilly, was quick to remind me. "Chimney pot fighters!" she dismissed the heroes of 1916. And Protestants, who had been running the show, were adamant that "Home Rule meant Rome rule."
The offer came as a surprise to the IRA men, who were on the ropes at the end of the "Tan War," so called after the British recruited 10,000 troops no longer needed to fight in WWI to join the Royal Irish Constabulary as auxiliaries. They were called the "Black and Tans" because there were enough dark green (black) police jackets to go around, but not enough police trousers, which wore out more quickly. These were supplied by a surplus of khaki trousers no longer needed by the army as the war against Germany came to an end.
While hostilities between the Irish and the British had ended during the treaty talks, hostilities among the Catholic Irish were getting started. Simply put, the delegation who signed the treaty got less than the total independence from Britain that the Dublin leadership demanded. British military and naval bases were to remain; predominantly Protestant Northern Ireland would remain a British province; but most irksome of all, the Irish would be obliged to swear allegiance to the king. Ireland was to have "dominion status" like Canada's and Australia's. The new entity would be known as the Irish Free State, the same name as the South African province, the Orange Free State, which the British Army (actually it was the Royal Canadian Regiment, but I won't fuss) had crushed 20 years before in the Boer War.
That's when everything went sour. Arthur Griffiths and Michael Collins, who went to London to sign the treaty, went away as heroes but came back as villains. But the Anglo-Irish Treaty had been signed, and the Irish Free State had been formed. At this point, the country divided between Free Staters and Republicans, and the armed factions resumed the war of bombings and assassinations against each other. Anyone caught with illegal arms was executed by the Free State government, and many were. Then in 1926 Republicans divided among themselves with Sinn Fein ("we ourselves" but often taken to mean "ourselves alone") wanting to continue the civil war, while a new faction broke off to form a political party called Fianna Fail ("soldiers of destiny"), declaring themselves ready to contest elections with the Free State party, Fine Gael (Family of Ireland, often taken to mean "Refined Gaels"). All of which came with a demographic split, as Fianna Fail tended to be shop assistants and farm hands while Fine Gael tended to be shopkeepers and farmers.
Of course, the British also made it clear if the Irish did not accept the Free State deal, they would recruit tens of thousands more Black and Tans to lay waste the land, after having made a good start at it with only 10,000 men. The British recognised William Cosgrave's government. But he was weakened after the Republicans dumped their arms and opted to do political battle, and under Eamon de Valera's Fianna Fail won a majority in the 1932 general election and was still the ruling party in 1979.
Sinn Fein had its own schism in the 1969 Northern Ireland troubles when it divided into the socialist but anticommunist Provisional IRA, which wanted to continue the military campaign, and the Official IRA, which complied with the Kremlin's (Communist Party) instructions to stand down militarily to pursue other objectives, like trying to take over the British Labour Party. Sinn Fein survives politically today, holding seats in national, municipal, county councils and in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Thus, the two big newspaper groups supported one of these two movements, both of which had their eyes firmly fixed on the rear-view mirror when making judgments about the future. The Irish Independent was Fine Gael and enjoyed the biggest circulation, and the Irish Press, which stood a respectable, if resentful, distance to the rear, consoled itself that its policy was first policy of the nation as Fianna Fail formed the government long before and long after I was there. Perhaps this was because there were more shop assistants than shopkeepers and more farm hands than farmers.
There were three pubs where journalists of these three perfectly siloed tribes drank. The elegant, tasteful Pearl in Fleet Street was frequented by the Irish Times, where the crowd was as stand-offish as any gathering north of the Montrose Line in my native Westmount might be. In dark, dank, smoky Mulligan's in Poolbeg Street it was easy enough to talk to anyone, but it was a conversational minefield. Say the wrong thing about "transubstantiation" or Michael Collins' role in the treaty talks or any number of things about which one was either ignorant or naive, and there would be hell to pay, even offers of a punch-up. So I soon learned to tread warily at Mulligans and rarely went.
My natural home was the Indo pub called the Oval, a bright and busy place in Middle Abbey Street, where you could talk to most anyone if they weren't otherwise engaged, as long as you could interest them in what you had to say. Rowdy jocularity was the ambient tone, and it was where I met most of my future associates in the daily press.
While the Irish Press and the Irish Independent were both Catholic, the Irish Press was Catholic in a political sense in the way the IRA was Catholic. If the Irish Press men took exception to one's thinking that transubstantiation was symbolic rather than literal, as I did express once, my offence was not toeing the party line rather than voicing any theological differences. The Indo guys, seriously Catholic or not, would prefer to make light of it, or not discuss it, certainly not in the jocular atmosphere of the pub.
The big problem during the day was staying warm. Apparently keeping roomers out of a boarding house during daylight was a universal creed among Irish landladies. Pubs were warm enough, but they cost money and were to be avoided until I made some.
If the day was fine, often with a thin topping of snow, I would walk in from Sandymount, going through the settled red brick working-class district of Irish Town, where I discovered the head of the Nazi party lived. I had an idea to have him photographed in full Nazi rig standing in front of what I found to be the perfectly astonishing sight of a truck with a swastika emblazoned on its side bearing the name Swastika Laundry. I imagined my Nazi photographed, with him declaring he wanted to
"Clean up Ireland" and me elaborating on that point.
But I found that quite reasonably he did not want to talk to anyone about his seemingly erstwhile beliefs. A woman would only talk to me through a closed door, and that only to establish I wasn't anyone she was willing to see, and quickly shooed me away. What's more, no one thought the idea was of much interest anyway. In finding this out, I discerned there was no great revulsion of the Nazis in Dublin, thus no extreme knee-jerk reaction, as there would have been in Montreal. Later, I even saw 1930s photos of Irish soldiers in German helmets while wearing British uniforms and carrying Lee Enfield rifles. Further, it was clear to everyone but me that no one cared a jot about the Swastika Laundry, which had been a prosperous venture since 1912 when the swastika was best known as an Indian good luck charm and as innocently displayed as a yin-yang symbol is today. So I was barking up the wrong tree and not for the last time.
Irish Town was so named because it was the quarter where native Irish lived, while better neighborhoods in the 18th century were inhabited by those who thought of themselves as English. (Protesting that someone had taken him to be Irish, the Duke of Wellington said: "Because I was born in a stable doesn't make me a horse.") From there I would walk by Bolands Bakery, where one of the Easter Rising contingents fought long and hard. I then wended my way to Townsend Street, thence to D'Olier Street over the O'Connell Bridge, and up to the Parnell Monument and the Rotunda Lying-in Hospital, the world's first for birthing mothers.
If I were feeling hungry I might treat myself to a McDonald's Sausage-Egg McMuffin. Given the abysmal level of cooked retail food, I regarded the Egg McMuffin as the diamond of McDonald's culinary art. As Ireland's sole McD, it was also something of a health food store, a culinary consulate, an emporium of fine dining where quality towered over that of the late, unlamented and thankfully long-gone Wimpy Bar that nearly poisoned me with a horrible hamburger in 1966 on my way through to London.
This time round I would drop into the Oval, the Indo pub, and a nurse a half, hoping to make a useful contact. There I met a nearly broken-down photographer called Joe Faye, who was doing much the same as I was. He had been drummed out of service and PNGed by all the papers for reasons he did not tell me about, nor did I ask. But in these desperate days, his MO was to get wind of something that was going on and then get to the scene, perhaps cadging a lift with a reporter who had not been assigned a photographer. And if the story turned out to have a photo angle, Joe was there to take the picture—and sell it wherever he could. From this he eked out a bare living addressing everyone as "me old flower." I easily offered to do for him whatever I could, and he proved to be a greater value to me. Through him I came to know useful people at the Irish Independent, though more importantly its stable mate, the Evening Herald.
My continuing problem, in what people were calling the coldest winter on record, was keeping warm without paying for it. I was reminded of my courtroom days in Canada and England—that is, one keeps law courts open and judges warm. I feared a fate would befall me, that of those female tinkers and their pathetic children on the O'Connell Street Bridge, huddled in the falling snow under tartan blankets begging, their breath streaming, faces and arms protruding, holding McDonald's food boxes with a few coins rattling, crying out: "Please Sor! God bless y' Sor!"
Such a fate would befall me if I did not have a source of income soon. I feared them the way Scrooge feared Jacob Marley's ghost. Ireland had a habit of conjuring up images of hell. There was that emaciated Sisyphean dog in County Kerry that I recalled from time to time, craving rest he could not have, lying on the cold stones he was forced to lie upon if he ever stopped circling wearily on foot.
I soon had fewer meteorological concerns when I found the courts as I expected—toasty warm and long, long lasting—and entertaining to boot. The Four Courts is centred on a large rotunda dome under which lie a circular tiled floor and four doors leading to four grandiose courtrooms in the elaborate British style, with barristers in wigs and gowns, and the room itself partitioned into slots and pens at various levels, with even an elongated desk and bench for reporters. Just like the movies.
The building itself is the finest in Dublin, a massive granite edifice with its riverside portico covered by a grand pediment spanning 20 yards supported by six ornate feathered Corinthian columns, which I thought odd, because I associated such Corinthian showiness with commercial establishments like banks. I thought plainer, less ostentatious Ionic or Doric columns would be more fitting for courts of law—also as a testament to the civil war, where bullet holes scarred the columns, a reminder of one of the few pitched battles when the Republicans held the Four Courts with a captured Rolls Royce armoured car on which they defiantly painted the word MUTINEER.
As I watched a murder case unfold, perfectly warm at last, I marvelled how malleable was English Law, which ruled in Ireland, though not Scotland. Scotland gave England its king with the ascension of James I on the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, so the Scots retained their own legal system. The English took over Dublin and surrounding areas (the Pale, as "in beyond the Pale") and established English Law 50 years earlier by conquest, as they did in Wales in 1283.
The murder case was tricky; a local householder had stabbed and killed an Irish Navy seaman who was singing with his mates outside the accused's house in the early hours of the morning. After shouting from his window, telling them to move on or keep quiet, the bolshie sailors sang louder still. The householder came downstairs, with his wife seeing everything from the upstairs window. The accused then confronted the sailor in a threatening manner, and when the victim said something like "What are you going to do about it?!" the householder fatally stabbed him. By then, neighbours were awake and called the guards, as the police are called.
Two things made the case interesting. One was the pretty wife's testimony. While plain and credible enough, she showed little sympathy for her husband's plight and considerably more interest in one of the cops, mentioning how nice he was several times and looking at him as if to catch his eye. Of more enduring interest was how the judge, despite his British appearance—sitting on high, bewigged and gowned in magisterial splendor—was such an active participant in the proceedings. Not like remote English, Canadian or American judges, Irish judges weighed in constantly, questioning and cross-examining witnesses throughout the trial, more like French inquiring magistrates. This was not my experience even of Quebec courts where, apart from the language of the proceedings, the process was much the same in that the judge intervened minimally.
I ran into Joe Faye on the street and told him of my problem, that there was good material in the courts, but I could see the reporters’ bench was full. He laughed and said I had to go to the lower courts in the Bridewell Yard behind the main Four Courts building. Or the District Courts at the western end of the Four Courts.
This I did and found useful material. It was small stuff, but as I tell younger lads, readers are small people too, with small problems, and they love to hear of others in the same boat. I can't remember what I told the news editor Ray Doyle at the Oval that night, except that there were a lot of stories that might have been written had I been paid to write them.
So he told me to come in and see the fiftysomething Vinnie Doyle (no relation), the rotund editor of the Evening Herald. I was not in the office for long before I noticed red pails filled with sand suspended on high at each floor to douse fires that would inevitably come if we did not heed what the Virgin Mary statues were trying to tell us, looking up imploringly from low pedestals or looking down reprovingly from on high. Looking harried, Doyle made short work of me. I barely got out my basic spiel when I got the feeling that he hardly noticed me, and he told me that Ray could tell me what to do, as he rushed off to do something far more important than vetting me.
And that's how it began. Ray told me the drill. I was to phone the copy takers, typists who took dictation over the phone. Also, there could be "night markings," but that is where an element of subterfuge entered the game. Until I got my NUJ (National Union of Journalists) card, I could not be assigned work. Ray, another harried fellow about 40, then told me the charade we must play until I got the card. He could not assign me any work, but he could take work that I offered. That began a game we played for the better part of a year.
The next day, I mounted the reporters' bench as a journalist for the Evening Herald in the District Court with a feeling of pride that I had a real place in the proceedings. What was true in England and Canada turned out to be so in Ireland as well: In the case of a voir dire, a trial within a trial, when a jury might be told to leave the courtroom so as not to hear a discussion on the admissibility of evidence, the presence of the press was regarded as the presence of the public, thus keeping the proceedings in the open rather than secret in chambers. Having a role, however tangential, made me feel grand for the first time, as I bent to my tasks of getting as many stories as I could for £2 - £3 apiece. The big stories in the hallowed halls of the Four Courts were covered by the staff of the papers. My competition came from the Evening Herald staff men. If they arrived on the scene, I must leave and find another courtroom.
Still, I got there early and they got there late. Our relations were none too cordial because the only reason they were there and not lounging about the office waiting for the pub to open, as they would prefer to be, was because I was there turning in stories. Soon the paper resented paying for stories out of its freelance budget when they could have just as easily got them from staff men who they could see lazing about the office doing nothing—or so they thought.
The staff men who came did not do better than I did. Their resentment eclipsed any sense of fun they might have had and that I relied on to winkle out stories from the most trivial of cases. They went for the more serious cases, which tended to be much of a muchness but, while more serious, not serious enough to interest the desk, often as not. Which only made them more hostile.
The cases I dealt with were small potatoes indeed. Shoplifting at a Clerys department store in O'Connell Street. Normally, it would not have been worth it, had the accused been a tinker on the bridge or some gurrier, as the local toughs were called, from the Liberties. But if you got a terrified-looking matron with a respectable address in Ranalagh or Howth, that would ring up £2. The street address alone would do the trick. Sometimes you might ring up £2 for something as petty as a failing to have a taillight on a bicycle if the defendant and judge were both named Seamus Kelly.
To get £3 or even £5, one might come up with a story of a landlord who was living in a trailer on the grounds of a Georgian house he owned but could not occupy because lodged within were rent-controlled flats with tenants, who by law could not be dislodged, paying £4 a week. The landlord, with his retarded son who shared the trailer, was hauled before the courts because he had failed to change a lightbulb in the hall. When I met Joe Faye in the pub, I told him to go out and catch the landlord and his boy.
Rent control was one of those regulations that had gone wrong years ago. But it served nefarious ends ever since. The rents were set at market levels of the 1940s, when £4 a week was reasonable. But rents had gone up four and five times since. And once a flat was declared rent controlled, so it remained. Over time, these flats, often above shops that lined the streets everywhere in premises built before 1960, fell vacant. The landlords, most often the shopkeepers, did not offer to let them out except to their families, and then only rarely. They mostly let them fall to rack and ruin. This was quite visible from the upper deck of city buses, where one was at eye-level to the floor immediately above these shops. There was hardly a building that didn't display what might have been a decent flat if it were only fixed up and rented out.
Of course, doing so would alleviate the housing shortage that plagued the city. One can understand that landlords preferred this way of life to an end of rent control and sudden flood of flats on the market. God forbid, a return to unfettered supply and demand!
This situation was also blessed by the church, which favoured young people being dependent on parents until they were properly married and set up on their own, not with an intermediate independent runabout singles stage. Everyone knew what carry-on that had led to in England in the satanic North. The church was at that moment fighting the same rearguard action to preserve social control that it had fought and lost in Quebec in 1960 and in Spain and Portugal in the mid-'70s.
Now, my mornings were fully occupied to the tune of £25 a week. I soon learned the drill. Cases had to be wrapped up in one session with a conviction or an acquittal. The Evening Herald was not interested in the continuing case of the broken taillight. In a court case it is important to get the name, age and address of the defendant; the specific charge—not whether it was an alleged breach of "Sub Section 4 of the 1932 Property Misappropriation Act" as it might be listed on the charge sheet, but whether it is theft as opposed to robbery (with violence or threat of violence); the plea, guilty or not guilty; what is said by the prosecution and what is said in defence. Then the judgment and what is said by way of mitigation, and finally the sentence. All these elements must be in a court story. And nothing must be phrased in a way to say someone is guilty before a judge says so. Thus no one is arrested "for" murder. He is arrested "in connection with a murder" or, to be perfectly twee about it, is "helping police with their inquiries."
After each case worth doing, I sat down on a bench outside the courtroom and wrote out the story in what I called my Everything Books. They were small but thick tradesmen's receipt books with 150 pages or more. Long gone, sadly, because they would be useful in writing this. Having written, I would phone the kindly but perpetually stressed Ray Doyle as the paper moved to deadline. I briefly told him what I had, and he would then transfer me to copy takers, who typed out the stories and passed them on to the desk. There were two of them, one friendly and prone to make mistakes; the other meticulous, but unpleasantly brusque. After a time, there was no need to make the stopover with Ray. I went directly to the copy takers.
Life went on cheerfully with money coming in at last. I opened an account at the Dublin Savings Bank, which I found to be a mirror image of my no-fuss, no-muss City and District Savings Bank in Montreal. I also managed to sell more stories to the Evening Herald.
The Anglo-Canadian Rat Mining Corporation (Ireland) Ltd - Part II
About this this time, Simon Twiston Davies appeared, rather like Paddington Bear. His brother, David, who some will remember was a fellow reporter on the East Anglian Daily Times in Ipswich, Suffolk, a decade before, was now ensconced for life as the obituary writer at the Daily Telegraph, after serving a year or two on the Winnipeg Free Press. I had received a please-take-care-of-this-bear note from David. Simon was in pretty poor shape then but went on to greater things in Hong Kong, where we both live in 2020. Although Catholic, Simon had a bumptious and British Raj accent and a manner that seemed designed to irritate the Irish. Nonetheless, he was a hearty, hail-fellow-well-met type and brave as a lion, as I was later to discover to my relief at the Siege of Leinster Road years later. I immediately set him to work to find us a flat, which he did in short order. It was a squalid little hole in the basement of a shop at 65 Upper Rathmines Road, but it would do. We dubbed it the Ratmine, or more formally, the Anglo-Canadian Rat Mining Corporation (Ireland) Ltd.
I then made an attempt to get an NUJ card from the Dublin Freelance Branch at one of its regular meetings, which seemed to be a small gathering of people who had once sold an article in Dublin and then ceased to sell any more. I got some of the names of the committee, and no one I ran into had ever heard of them. I came with my usual job-talk scrapbooks of clippings from Canada, England and Ireland. But it was the Evening Herald stuff that caught their eye.
"How did you get this published without an NUJ membership," said one with a constabulary air, delighted he had found a high crime or misdemeanor to complain about.
"I offered it to them, which is allowed under the NUJ's contract with the Evening Herald," I said, having boned up on the rules.
Then one of them, who evidently had not been listening to me when I provided evidence of more than a decade of professional experience, asked me: "Why do you want to become a journalist," as if I was an aspiring cub reporter.
Ceasing to be polite as I realised they were only trying to come up with reasons to deny me an NUJ card, I said: "It was too late in life to take up neurosurgery."
I left, knowing they would sit on my application until they forgot about it. I renewed my love for Margaret Thatcher, the British prime minister, as I looked up with dread at the tallest building in Dublin, inappropriately called Liberty Hall, dedicated as it was to stamping out any liberty they could find.
But my fortunes increased nonetheless. I bought a bicycle, and a three-in-one stereo. This was possible because I was able to sell more to the Evening Herald.
One of the joys of the Evening Herald was being able to read one's stories in the paper the same day they were written, something my mother and father had experienced. Chances are a story phoned in at noon would be in the paper at 5 p.m. I once sent home all the editions of a single day's Evening Herald and Evening Press to show how the papers were continually made up throughout the day. Not just a few pages, like the front and a turn page, or stock market's close, but pages throughout the paper. I never ran into newspapers where the word "today" was used as often in stories as it was in Dublin. Unless it was of world-shattering importance or truly sensational, most any story at the Montreal Star or the Vancouver Sun written on one day could wait till the next.