This is a letter I wrote to my brother in law, a man not known for his ability to hold his nerve in what he might regard as a ‘situation.’ It was written in the time of the troubles but it is in no way intended to be offensive or to minimise the pain suffered by the people of Northern Ireland at that time. It was written in response to joke letters written to my husband.
The Northern Ireland Fellowship for Peace in the Province
17 O’Connell Street
Belfast 12A 4JH
25th January 1982
Dear Mr Deeley,
I am writing to you as your name has been passed to me by an acquaintance of yours that has had business dealings with you in your capacity as a professional Master of Ceremonies. I understand from this mutual acquaintance that you have now, more or less, retired from this profession but I am hoping that you may be persuaded to help me out of my present dilemma.
My name is Mr B. O’Reilly and I am the Social Secretary for The Northern Ireland Fellowship for Peace in the Province. My reason for writing to you now is that it is my responsibility to organize a St. Patrick’s Day dinner dance on 17th March 1982 in aid of the above organization.
My problem is that our usual M.C., a man of great courage and forbearance, is in hospital recovering from minor injuries, unfortunately, received at last year’s dance. Although in the circumstances, he is making remarkable progress his doctors inform me that he will not be sufficiently recovered for him to honour his commitment to our Fellowship on St. Patrick’s Day. Therefore it is necessary for me to look for a replacement.
I am told that you are a man of similar courage and that you are not at all the sort of person that would be scared off just because of a few bomb threats. Perhaps at this juncture, to prevent your wife from becoming unnecessarily alarmed, I should point out that these bomb threats rarely amount to very much, and your wife might be suitably encouraged if I tell you that almost fifty per cent of last year’s guests managed to escape unharmed. Of those hospitalised, brave Brendan Brannigan (the M.C.) was the only person still in Intensive Care after three months. So you will see that it is quite unnecessary for your wife to be unduly alarmed. Having said that, and anticipating your acceptance of our offer, it would be imprudent of us not to have a plan that would accommodate any unfortunate eventuality.
No doubt you will agree that the first priority is to get you into the Province in suitable condition for you to be able to fulfil your engagement. I have worked with professional people before so I know that you will have complete disregard for your own personal safety and that your only concern will be that “the show must go on”. I feel, however, that such unreserved bravery demands our very best effort to provide you with at least enough protection to get you there in one piece…even if we cannot maintain that effort for the return trip. Always assuming that we will need to worry about the return trip!
Anyway, to outline the plan, I will start with the method of arrival. This will be an Air Lingus flight (first class) for yourself and your good lady, arriving under cover of darkness at Dublin Airport at 1.00 a.m. From there a short drive by armoured car (with outriders) to a five-star hotel, which, unfortunately, I cannot name, as I am not sure at this moment, which one of the two remaining hotels is listed as a possible target. However, I am expecting this to become clear quite shortly.
On arrival at the hotel, you will be met by the Maitre’d who, to relieve any worries on your wife’s part, is armed… as indeed are all the waiters, and all personnel including chambermaids, are expert in the ‘Martial Arts’. Having greeted you the Maitre’d will then throw a blanket over your head and hustle you inside before anyone can get a fix on you in their sights.
You will spend a comfortable night at the hotel, secure in the knowledge that armed guards patrol the corridor outside your room. However, in the interests of safety, should you or your wife need to visit the toilet, I urge you most strongly to leave the door open so that our guards can afford you maximum security at a time when you are most likely to come under attack.
Although no guards have been assigned to your room, you will see that we have left no stone unturned in the matter of your safety, and in this respect, we have commissioned from the dog section of M.I. 5 (Mick Intelligence) a particularly vicious Alsatian who will be stationed at the bottom of the bed anxiously guarding your every sleeping moment. But you will understand, of course, that a dog does not possess the discriminatory powers of a human being and cannot, therefore, differentiate between the ‘goodies’ and the ‘baddies’, so to speak.
Consequently, I must ask you to keep movement in bed down to a minimum, which may be of some small benefit to your wife. This information is probably unnecessary as I am reliably informed that you have considerable experience in canine matters but, nevertheless, I would ask you not to attempt to make friends with the brute. To gain access to your bed, however, it will be necessary to softly call his name, which is: - MJHOBAUMDINGAMGOMBE…spoken of course… in Gaelic!
On the evening of the 17th, you will be taken by fast car or Ambulance (depending on your condition) to the venue the notorious, I beg your pardon, the well-known “Shamrock Club”. But as our Fellowship includes both Catholic and Protestant members, who are at times, liable to forget their peaceful intentions, the Committee think it best to dispense with the services of our usual ‘Bouncers’ and leave you to deal with any fracas on your own.
Should any nasty-looking characters dressed in military-style combat jackets, wearing dark glasses and little black berets on their heads, push their way into the hall, we rely on you to point out that admission is by ticket only. Though in all honesty, I don’t expect you to be troubled by them as usually they only appear at a funeral…or when one is expected!
Although the dinner usually passes off without any trouble, but should anybody shout “Duck” please don’t sit there waiting for the next course.The highlight of the evening is always the raffle, and this year we have been particularly fortunate in that we have had an excellent selection of prizes donated as there is a month’s supply of Guinness as well as one or two nice pieces of weaponry, but the star prize, recently acquired from the British, is undoubtedly the tank…the brand new…Centurion Hatchback!
If, towards the end of the evening, when the ‘Guinness’ is flowing freely, you should hear shots being fired … please… don’t panic. Just pick up the microphone and casually announce the Last Waltz. Then, taking hold of your wife, glide gracefully onto the floor. This should draw their fire long enough for the non-combatants to seek refuge. It will help you to dodge the bullets whistling past your ear, if you can imagine yourselves competing in the finals of ‘Come Dancing’ and to keep everyone calm it would be a good thing if you could remember to…SMILE! If you can’t manage that then I suggest you give a nod to the Band to change the music and do a Quickstep out of there.
P.S. When confirming acceptance of this offer…please give details of blood group.