EPISODE 71 BUNMAHON IRELAND ALAN SKEOCH’S JOURNAL MONDAY AUGUST 15, `960 TO AUGUST 23, 1960
This I think is Mr. Casey proudly posing in front of his cottage (home). Most of our men had houses like this…centre door, rooms
on right an left. Very few were as well manicured as this was. The income for workers was $1.40 per day in 1960.
MONDAY AUGUST 15, 1960
This is a big holiday in Ireland…the day that the virgin Mary was automatically
assumed to have entered Heaven. John and I drove to Tramore and then
on to Waterford to clean up our repair business. Got a haircut and then went
to the Tramore races in afternoon. Lost on all my bets that were modest anyway.
Races…2 shillings entry fee
Golf…4 shillings for two of us
Meal…2 shillings, sixpence
Dodge’em cars…1 shilling
Total cost of $2 Canadian
The Tramore races…not my picture but accurate pic of Irish wagerers…wit kids in arms. Count the cloth caps.
People back in Toronto must be shocked at our lifestyle here in Ireland…if
they even hear about it. Normally our work in mining exploration is seven days
a week no matter what the weather. A holiday is the chance to stay asleep in
a tent where the bugs can’t get us. So Ireland must seem like a dream.
Best not mention the trip to the racetrack on a Sunday. If you need a laugh
just think of two men playing Dodge’em against 10 year old kids.
The funniest thing today was when a drunken woman went into the Men’s
washroom and stayed there. The men carried on as if she was not there.
TUESDAY AUGUST 16, 1960
I had to fire my first man today when Andy Kiely did not show up for work.
No explanation. Sent day setting up the base line (#3) Managed to
complete 12,000line feet after setting up the motor generator and the rounding
rods. (* FIRING Andy was a mistake on my part. I did not know his
91 year old father was dying and that Andy was the principal caregiver.
I should have asked. Makes me feel bad.)
I put John Fleming in charge of the staking crew. He is our oldest
employee and the most highly respected. All of the men live on
one acre lots with small houses. John Fleming manages to keep
two or three cattle and other farm animals on his tiny plot. Gathers
hay along road allowance. i do not talk to him often but I’ve given him
the same respect that the men all do A nice man scraping out an
existence in difficult circumstances. Grows potatoes as well of
course. All the men seem to have gardens.
John Fleming (left), Barney Dwan (centre)…forgot name of man on right. I had feeling he disliked me on the job. It is very
difficult for gown men to take order from a 21 year old like me. The bridge is permanent…and inexpensive.
Willy arrived today with an awful hangover from yesterday’s celebration.
So hung over he could not keep up with us.
John Hogan made the front page of the Dublin newspapers…subject
of our Bonmahon mineral explorations.
WEDBESDAT AUGUST 17, 1960
The damn cattle destroyed about 1,000 feet of our baseline cable
last night. We are operating with a skeleton crew since Barney is
sick. He does the work of two men. i depend on him to get me safely
over the stone field walls tat are topped with gorse (brier). Sound stupid
to say this but getting over these small fields with their high brier fences
is a tough job. And Barney has to check in case there is a bull loose
in next field.
A photographer came here from Waterford to take pictures of our
crew in operation and get an interview. The lads are quite excited
about their sudden fame.
Got a letter from the Scottish Forestry Commission today saying
that the Skeoch Wood is located on the isle of Bute…not too far
from Prestwick where my return flight to Canada is booked. If I
can swing it I will try to find the Skeoch Wood.
THURSDAY AUGUST 18, 1960
Photographers were here again today. Had a very successful
day….due in part to the two new employees I hired to try and
protect the base line from cattle. The young boys are really excited
about the job. Joyful.
Still no money sent from Toronto. Must meet my payroll somehow.
John Hotan phoned , He is stuck in Carlow as the Fiat broke down.
Barney and I worked our way into the old stopes (i.e. places
where the high grade ore was found). West of Bonmahon
This was a hair raising experience. The ladder we used
just barely spanned a chasm at one spot. And a little
further we were separated when a rock slide pinned Barney
to the support wall on the edge of a shaft that went straight
down to who knows where Very tense. But the air was good
as our candle lit without difficulty. There must be other adits
nearby. Somewhere in these adits, shafts and passageways
the IRA hid from the British Black and Tans in the 1920’s.
Hard to imagine living in here.
Found nest of boby rabbits when we crawled out…missed them
on the way in.
FRIDAY AUGUST 19,1960
The day looked foreboding but we got to work anyway and managed
to get 11,600 feet doe before the deluge struck. Finally received a telegram
from Toronto that money was on the way.
We had a nice warm fire in the fireplace.
The Waterford News and Star gave us a front page spread with pictures.
The article quoted me but that was not what I said that I remember. The
whole village is excited as a result of the story…especially the families of
the lads. I borrowed sixty pounds from John in order to make the payroll
Tommy told me that the caves we explored yesterday were once the
hideouts of the IRA back in the 1920’s. Confirmed what Barney said.
SATURDAY AUGUST 20, 1960
Only achieved 4400 feet today but did manage to tie in the base line.
While working across the cliffs we encountered two young foxes.
Then Barney and I visited an island where the Danes lived in past
ages. The Danish sailors are reputed to have seen the mineral stains
on the cliffs at Knockmahon and may have done some mining.
Returned to Mrs. Kennedy’s shed where the men had gathered as
this is payday. Thankfully John Hogan had the cash I could borrow.
Then John and I drove to Waterford to get the Avometer fixed.
In the evening we amused ourselves with a game of twenty questions.
i.e. “I spy something that is orange.” “Is it near me?” “Is it on me?”
“Is it on the table?” YES. “Is it the left over package of Wild Woodbine
Cigarettes?” YES. “Now it’s my turn.” “I spy something that is red.”
“Is it the scar left by the tick that we had to cut out?” YES.
SUNDAY AUGUST 21,1960
Typical Irish soft day. In other words it rained all day. Of course that
is why the countryside is so green…lots of water. Wrote letters
in morning then did topographical in afternoon. Then we
drove to Waterford to see ‘A touch of Evil’ which featured Orson
Welles. All in all a very dark, dull and depressing day.
MONDAY AUGUST 22, 1960
Started early in morning and worked in spite of heavy rain.
Managed to only cover 3,000 feet.
Called off the job…pointless as we were all soaked.
In the afternoon John Hogan drove me to Tipperary in
a rented car
where we saw the famous Cashel Rock.
The Rock of Cashel (Irish: Carraig PhÃ¡draig), also known as Cashel of the Kings and St. Patrick’s Rock, is a historic site in Ireland’s province of Munster, located at Cashel, County Tipperary. The Rock of Cashel served as the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion. Few remnants if any of the early structures survive; the majority of buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries. Cashel is reputed to be the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century AD. The buildings which crown the Rock of Cashel present a mass and outline of great complexity, rivalling for picturesque qualities other sites in western Europe. The complex has a character of its own, unique and native, and is one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture to be found anywhere in Europe. According to local lore, the Rock of Cashel originated from Devil’s Bit, a mountain 30 km north of Cashel when St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave, resulting in the Rock’s landing in Cashel.
Buildings on the Rock
The earliest and tallest of the Cashel edifices is the very well preserved round tower (28 metres, or 90 feet), which dates from c.1100. Its entrance is 12 feet from the ground, necessitated by a shallow foundation (about 3 feet) typical of round towers. The tower was built using the dry stone method. Modern conservationists have filled in some of the tower with mortar for safety reasons.
Then we toured through central and southeastern
counties to Carlow where John’s Fiat was being repaired.
Glad to get back home…long day. Spent evening planning
how to wind up and recover Base Line #3 and begin
layout of Base Line #4.
TUESDAY AUGUST 23, 1960
What a great day. We worked hard and managed to cover
15,000 feet of line…i.e. 3 miles.
Tommy brought over a skin book…i.e. book with sexy pictures. Censors
do not allow such books in Ireland so they are highly valued.
John Hogan is very easy to get along with…in other words he does not
seem like he is scrutinizing everything I do. He is Irish and tries to
get as much touring in as possible. Often he wants company such as our
visit to Cashel Rock which was wonderful. Built of stone. Towers had
entrances that were very high off the ground so that Monks and people
could barricade themselves in event of attack. Inside the towers must
have been claustrophobic … extremely so. The towers must have
been built overtop a source of water otherwise the protection provided by
the tower would be pointless.
We had the usual beer and dart game before supper then
spent evening planning tomoorow’s work day. Mrs. Kennedy
came up to say I had been quoted in the London Daily Mirror
about the Postman mystery. Then she told us the full story
of the Postman.
Larry Griffin was a popular postman who just disappeared into thin air on December 25, 1929. He was last seen
at the local pub in Stradbally…not farm from Bunmahon. He was thought to have been murdered…then again
he may have died from a fight…or from falling down stairs at the local police station. His disappearance is still
a matter of heated controversy to this (2020). There are people in Stradbally who know what happened but
they do not want to talk about Larry Griffin.
WhenI was in Bunmahon the postman mystery was guaranteed to trigger arguments. That is still the case.
A reporter visited the Stradbally pub in1986 intending to make a movie about the case of Larry Griffin.
To start a conversation he said to a local Stradbally citizen.
‘Was it upstairs or downstairs that it happened?”
The response was quick
“I think it might be a good idea if you fuck off out of here.”
So the mystery remains. The mystery is not too difficult to solve think most people. Larry Griffin was drinking in the Sradbally pub on Christmas Day. He got into a
fight with someone and got knocked down. The local police hauled him over to the police station where for one reason or
another he died. The problem was that Larry Griffin was drinking on Christmas Day If the publican was caught serving beer on that day he would lose his
licence and Stradablly would lose its pub. Worse still, the local police were part of the cover up and they would be charged. Someone or some group
in Stradbally thought it best that Larry Griffin disappear otherwise they would lose both their pub and their police station. Larry’s body has
never been found. Sadly, Larry’s wife became instantly poverty stricken. No body, no pension.
That is my interpretation of the evidence. I would advise you say nothing if having a pint of Guinness in Stradbally.
Ignore my advice and you will be told to ‘Get the fuck out of here’
When Mrs. Kennedy told me the story she left out the word ‘fuck’ but that was in 1960 when
the word was not used quite as much. Mrs. Kennedy was taking a big chance just telling
me her interpretation of the mysterious disappearance of Larry Griffin.
Below is the Stradbaly pub as you will find it today.