1. One Day on Inishbog

ONE DAY ON INISHBOG

The old man’s eyes were deep in his head. He had chronic bronchitis and sounded like someone shaking a tin of rusty screws when he coughed. Clearly he didn’t have long to go. His face was long and had the appearance of a screwed up brown paper bag. There was a sharp crack, a heavy thump, then silence. He never did get around to fixing that shelf. It gave way and six 1 gallon tins of Johnstone’s blue marine gloss paint he was going to paint his 80 year old fishing boat with, slid off the end, hitting him on the head one after another. The last one executed the coup de grâce

His border collie Wingnut found him, lying there covered in paint, which mixed with his own blood looked like a melting stick of seaside rock. His neighbour had found him on account of there being no smoke coming from his chimney. He always had a peat fire going whatever the season, whatever the weather. Wingnut had lain next to his master in the paint for 9 hours, just enough time for the paint to semi dry on his already matted fur. The vet shaved as much off as possible to stop it nipping the skin. When he’d finished, the poor dog looked like a whippet on one side and border collie on the other.

The old man had died due to a blood clot on the brain, the doctor said. There wasn’t a coroner’s report so he had to go by what it said in his 1925 reprinted version of Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body. Blood clot it was then! Small islands like Inishbog didn’t even have a resident doctor, they had to get one from the mainland which was a 20 minute boat trip away, or longer in bad weather. Luckily it was only a bit choppy with a small swell.

The house, if you could call it such, had belonged to the family since they appropriated it from a victim of the famine. The old man was the last one, his ancestors had mostly emigrated to Australia albeit not all of their own free will. Even after 1868 when deportations became a thing of the past, members of his family had been “encouraged” to leave the island. There wasn’t much food in the house then and there wasn’t now. On another wooden shelf, also in imminent danger of collapse, were two tins of vegetable soup, a jar of pickled onions and a bag of sugar that was as hard as a house brick. Under the dirty, plain square sink was an unopened box of All Bran, a plastic bag containing sugar soap and an enormous bag of Winners dog food, inside which was hidden a pint bottle of Paddy whiskey.

Inishbog was a strange island. People compared it to the one in the film The Wicker Man without the rhododendrons but it was as benign as an island could ever be. Only rarely did anything happen. There was a bizarre incident in World War 2, a landmine jettisoned by a Heinkel whose pilot had obviously got the map upside down, realised he was flying out into the Atlantic and turned back, jettisoned the bomb which exploded and left a crater 80 foot across and 35 feet deep. When the dust had cleared, the remains of what was thought to be a prehistoric burial ground was exposed. On further investigation it emerged it was a series of smuggler’s tunnels, and they all led to Egan’s inn.

The crater is now filled with birch trees, the tunnels bricked up and access to the smuggler’s tunnels are via a dozen or so crumbling steps leading to a heavily padlocked black wrought iron gate. The site is fenced off with a small green sign riveted to a concrete post with “No entry” painted on it. Someone had daubed “IRA” on it but the weather had largely erased it. At the bottom are a few black stones and some rusty tins.

That was in 1941 and nothing else remarkable had happened since. Well, apart from young Finn Hurley falling down after a night on the whiskey commiserating the death of his cat and left a cruciform in the snow. It attracted a couple of hundred people of spurious religious persuasion, braving the choppy winter ferry crossings and who compared it with the miracle at Knock. The interest waned when it melted back into the sludgy grass banking, revealing a clod of earth and a sodden packet of Major cigarettes.
It was the first snow to blanket the island for 37 years due to it being on the edge of the gulf stream.

Way back in 1963 old Mr McCloskey stabbed his wife to death for nagging about him getting drunk every night, then calmly walked into the bog and drowned himself.
Come to think of it, sometimes things do happen. But not very often. Until now. The little matter of Siobhan Kelly winning £102,349 and 3p on Prestons pools.