It was late summer of 1922 when we boarded a train at Dundalk bound for Clones. We lowered the window with its strap and watched as others boarded. A small group of laughing men came walking along the platform. There were five or six large men who looked like farmers grouped around one small man wearing a brown trilby hat and a grey tweed overcoat that reached down to his toes.
We could see that the small man was the entertainer of the group. He talked unceasingly and what he had to say was obviously highly entertaining to his companions.
The guard sounded his whistle, the noisy group shouted their farewells to their departing friend and he called back to them saying how much he had enjoyed his time in Ireland and particularly their merry meeting. Just as the train started to move, he pulled out a large revolver, the biggest I had ever seen, and with deliberation and whoops of delight, he fired shot after shot into the roof of the station.
The train stopped at every small station and each time the Englishman would call out to people standing on the platform, engage them in bantering conversation and, as we moved on, send them scattering in panic with bullets screaming over their heads. What for many people was a truly frightening experience was, for us boys great entertainment. We were disappointed when at Ballybay (near the end of our journey) the man in the next carriage got off the train and soberly walked away, in the midst of the dozen or so departing passengers.
The bird had flown!