You can’t beat a good…SURPRISE!!!

I’ve often by struck by how simply being surprising gets you noticed and remembered.

It might sound obvious. And it is obvious.

But simply being surprising can go a long way.

Because you make a deep impression.

And deep impressions stay with you.

I will never forget the first big surprise of my life.

Yet another of my Irish peasant farmer antecedents had died. Farming not too stressful obviously and it’s a physical activity. They all lived into 80s.

So i got dragged along to yet another funeral.

Funerals meant going to mass and being bored for me. I think i was like eight years old at this point.

When we got to the church, i noticed there was an Irish flag on my grand uncle’s casket.

I wondered why. he was a farmer. not a soldier.

After the mass we all went to beautiful cemetery in the shadow of a ruined medieval abbey by a river. It faced an old Norman keep. Just lovely.

And the catholic priest did his funeral rite at the grave. And he left.

But nobody else left. Which struck me as odd. I knew how this went at this point.

And then, out of nowhere, appeared six guys wearing masks and in military fatigues. They all pulled out assault rifles and fired shots over the grave.

I couldn’t fucking believe what i was seeing. This was like TV!

They then disappeared back into the crowd. And a young bearded man who i would later find out was Gerry Adams emerged and read a speech in Gaelic.

It was the IRA.

My grand uncle had been a hero in the original incarnation of the IRA in 1916.

It turned out he was a hero for his dispatching British army recruiters that would come to the area during WW1. England wisely thought twice about imposing conscription to Ireland, then a colonial possession. So they had to send recruitment officers to Ireland to get paddies to fight the Hun. After a while they stopped sending recruiters to his area.

My grand uncle was a bad ass!

I was so psyched. This was so exciting!

So the usual post funeral boring pub session was suddenly electrified.

I was very keen about this one.

What the hell was that all about???

8 responses to “You can’t beat a good…SURPRISE!!!

  1. Brilliant story Vinnie. Have you read Sebastian Barry: A Long, Long Way? It’s wonderful novel about the Irish lads in France in WWI at the time of the 1916 uprising. Very evocative of the war, the times and the conflicted strangeness of being Irish in those tumultuous days.

    • i should check that out simon. a very interesting time in irish history for sure.

      here’s another good one. in post world war one Ireland my maternal grandfather contracted smallpox, then still a potentially fatal and highly contagious disease. And he had to walk quite a few miles to get treatment. on his way to the doctor/hospital. A crossley tender filled with the notorious black and tans stopped and asked him where he was going. he told them. they felt sorry for him and gave him a ride to the hospital. my grandfather had lost a brother at the Somme. Funny old world. So, conceivably, I owe my very existence to the Black and Tans!

  2. What no beer or whiskey!?

    This is a great story. Not as great, but still worth sharing is when my grandmother on my mom’s side died during the NYC grave diggers strike. Jewish people have the funeral at the grave and after it was done the cemetery worker comes over and says due to the strike the grave will stay uncovered for days but they will get to it. Or we can cover her up. So we did. They gave us shovels. We took our suit jackets off and we filled it in. And I thought that was not only really cool, but a fitting way to have closure for a wonderful woman.

  3. Here’s an interesting fact Vinnie, in WW2 the first three VCs were won by Irish men (Merchant Navy, Royal Navy, and RAF).
    The VC (Victoria Cross) is, as you probably know, the highest possible decoration, hardly anyone gets it.

  4. i didn’t know that dave. Ireland’s neutrality during WW2 was a source of embarrassment to a lot of Irish people. But then Premier Eamon DeValera had just led the fight for Irish independence. Speaking of Irish VC winners, I coincidentally came across this radio documentary recently on the very subject of Irish VC winners.

  5. That was an amazing radio programme Vinny.
    Afterwards I checked on the net and it turned out Ireland actually won 8 VCs in WW2.
    7 for men from the south, and 1 from the north.

  6. glad you enjoyed it. and i bet the one from the north was a Catholic dave ;-)

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