That was the question asked by our bus driver as we were about to set off from the AOH Club in Newry to go on one of our early trips to Celtic Park.
The year was 1984, the year of the miners strike, and the members of the club, both young and old, were excited about going to Scotland for the weekend.
We had about thirty members in the AOH CSC at that time and we received our full quota of tickets from Celtic Supporters Association in Glasgow. My job was to organise the bus, a very simple task I was led to believe, and after some phone calls I was able to come up with a very reasonable (cheap) bus company from South Armagh. The owner informed me that all his drivers were experienced and knew Scotland like the back of their hands (he did not
tell me that they didn‘t know how to get there). We had to leave early in the morning to catch the sailing from Larne so the Club stayed open until the bus arrived. There were a lot of happy smiling faces as we boarded the bus. I did a head count, all were present and I said to the driver,
‘Right! Let’s go to Scotland!‘
‘Does anyone know the way to Larne?‘ he asked – inauspiciously.
‘You are joking aren‘t you?‘ I asked.
He wasn‘t. This was his first trip.
‘The boss said that some one on the bus would know the way – and I am very good at taking directions,‘ he offered, cautiously.
Francie Lennon shouted from the back of the bus,
‘Leave this to me. I know how to get there . I have been up at the Giant‘s Causeway.‘
So we left Newry on our trip with Francie as our navigator. We only got lost twice; once coming into Belfast and once going out of Belfast! It was only later that I found out that one didn‘t have to pass the Giant‘s Causeway to get to Larne but that was Francie‘s way and who were we to argue? At least we made it to the boat.
The boat trip was uneventful except that most of the happy smiley faces had turned sad ashen faces by the time the boat docked in Stranraer. With all persons accounted for we boarded our bus again.
‘Let‘s head for Ayr and the Darlington Hotel,‘ I shouted to the driver.
Down to the main gate we sped and turned right.
‘Left! Left!‘ we shouted in unison. The bus reversed with the driver saying, ‘Oh sorry.‘ He said that many times on the way.
One can guess what his nickname became.
Up spoke Davy Hyland: ‘ Leave this to me lads. I know the way to
Ayr.‘ Everybody groaned.
En route we stopped at a shop and all disembarked for the usual sweets, piddle etc. The driver overheard Francie Lennon say:
‘Don‘t let the driver off. He won’t know how to find his way back to the bus.‘
Driver and Francie nearly came to blows but tempers soon settled down and eventually we got to Ayr. Now all we had to do was find the Darlington hotel.
Another a new navigator appeared, namely Musky Cunningham.
‘I have been there many times. I shall direct our driver.‘ More groans.
The driver adhered to Musky‘s directions. We passed a row of houses and outside one door was a mother and a young child. All those on the right hand side waved to them. They waved back. We went down a hill and met a bridge which was too low for our bus. The bus reversed and went back up the street. All those on the left hand side waved to the mother and child. They waved back. More directions and more confusion. Back down the same street. More waving. The mother went inside taking the child with her. I think she thought we were from an asylum on a day out.
Then, low and behold, the Darlington appeared as if by magic. Musky said, ‘ I don‘t remember it been here but I knew I‘d get you here.‘ No one knew what he was talking about but at least we were there.
Sometime after unpacking and having a wash and a bite to eat we all assembled in the bar for a drink. The bar manager was one Quintin Young an ex-Rangers player but for all that he was ok! At about ten o’clock my brother Aiden came over and told us about this tune on the juke-box. It was beautiful. We asked what it was called and were told it was a new tune called ‘Flower of Scotland‘. We fell in love with it, so much so that we played it 28 times – one after another. At this stage Quintin came down and informed us;
‘The patrons of this establishment have instructed me to tell you that if that tune is played one more time they will come over and shove a thistle of Scotland up your…’
He didn‘t have to go into the gory details as we had grown to hate the tune anyway. There was nothing left after that except bed.
Saturday morning came early. We wanted to be away early for two reasons:
1. To make sure we made it to Glasgow in time for the game.
2. To make sure the bus driver made it to Glasgow in time for the game.
Those with sore heads soon put a stop to that. Four of us went outside for a breath of fresh air at about seven o‘clock when some of us got talking to bin men working in the locality. PJ McCoy asked the driver if there was an early house open.
‘Yeah!‘ he replied. ‘Hop on board and I will take you there.‘
The four of us hopped on to the back of the bin lorry and were taken to the docks and to an early pub. The bin men wouldn‘t come in but wished us all the best for the game. We quenched our thirst along with some rugby supporters and some sailors. The singsong started but before we could get into full swing we heard the sound we feared. It was the sound of our bus. Our driver had found us and we were unceremoniously escorted to the bus.
‘He couldn‘t find Larne or Ayr but he could find us when we didn‘t want found! PJ muttered under his breath.
Believe it or not we had no problem getting to Glasgow and Parkhead. We had to park the bus away from the ground (not like now) and as most of us did not know how to get back to the bus Micky McNeil suggested we find a land mark.
‘See that big chimney, well when we leave the ground all head for the chimney. That way you will know you are in the direction of the bus.‘
‘Look it‘s easy. Find the chimney – find the row of buses – find our bus. Any idiot can do that.‘ replies Micky.
One idiot missed the bus…’Find-a-Land-Mark-McNeil.‘
Everyone enjoyed the weekend, well everyone except the driver. I think he ended up a nervous wreck. We arrived home safe and well on Sunday, a tired but a happy bunch of supporters.
One thing always puzzles me; not one of us can remember who Celtic played that day or anything about the game.
I wonder why?
… Uncle Raymond Carroll …