Monday, December 8, 2014

The Art Scene in Ireland, ca. 1973

From What a View!

Then, in ‘73, a pair of field operatives in the Provisional IRA broke into a swish country house in Co. Kildare, beat up the resident Earl and Countess, stole a Vermeer, a Titian, a Watteau and a Yeats off the walls, and drove off in a Bedford lorry. Two days later, the Superintendent of the Co. Kildare Gardai Siochana and the editors of the Daily Posthorn and Irish Handstand received handwritten letters demanding a million punts in ransom to buy rocket launchers from Gaddhafi. The letters were signed Roisin Duggan and Errol Gallogly, a pair of well-known amorously linked but not overly clever Provos. They were soon tracked down through the franking stamps on the envelopes that clearly spelled out the town of provenance (Ballykilloran, Co. Westmeath), plus date. Greater Ballykilloran, pop. 750, was promptly cordoned off. The Bedford lorry was found parked outside a bungalow, through the front door of which Tom, representing the journalistic fraternity, crashed arm-in-arm with the guards. The lovers were in bed, the paintings stacked in the corner.
            “Feck me,” said Roisin Duggan, sitting up in bed. Her breasts were bare and to Tom's way of thinking quite perfect, if darkly aureoled.

            “Feck me, I was just gonna,” said Gallogly, a scrawny specimen with facial hair typical of that long-ago epoch (sideburns, mustache). The paintings were returned, and the miscreant couple sent to Limerick Jail, from which they escaped in short order. Tom’s write-up of the whole business drove the Daily Posthorn’s circulation briefly up and earned him a pay rise of a few bob, an interview in Wallace’s Wallet, and a brief stirring of interest in one of his historical romances at a local publisher, but it soon all fizzled out. There were no more art heists. Nobody in Ireland really gave a toss about paintings, anyway, if the Rah weren’t involved.

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