Tip Offs

The Great Game is back in vogue:

Like Arbuthnot, Nairac believed in melding into the background in order to get closer to the enemy. He picked up a Belfast accent, dressed in an old cap, carried a stick, joined in the craic, knew every word of the IRA songs. The night he died, he was claiming to be Danny McAlevey from Belfast, and he sang the republican anthem, The Broad Black Brimmer. No one knows who tipped off the crowd that he was a Brit, but his end was as miserable as his exploits were daring. He was beaten horribly by his assailants, driven, half-dead, to a field by a river, tortured, and shot with a rusty pistol. A Catholic, he died with a prayer on his lips.

‘No one knows who tipped off the crowd that he was a Brit’? I’m guessing the crowd didn’t need tipping off.

I reckon I could do a far better job than Ampleforth-educated Nairac at pretending to be IRA-supporting Danny McAlevey from Belfast, but I still wouldn’t fancy my chances making a single patron in a South Armagh pub believe me.

The Ultras by Eoin MacNamee is a superb fictionalised account of Nairac’s machinations in Northern Ireland, by the way.

Another thing: was there such a thing as ‘the craic’ -as a discrete, specifically Irish activity- in the 70s?

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