Dynamite and Cake- A true account of when the IRA came to visit

The following is a true story as told to the Editor of East Coast Stories by Bill Lean, who as a young man was visited by the Irish Republican Army.

Bill was very proud of his job as construction foreman. He was  young with huge muscles, but even for him the work was exhausting. The construction company was doing the excavation work in preparation for the foundation of the new hospital. There had been a long stretch of good weather with no rain which was very unusual in Ireland. The company was taking advantage of the weather by having the men work 12 hour days 6 days a week.  The work was tough going since there were a lot of gigantic boulders hat had to be blasted to pieces before they could be excavated.  Bill was in charge of the whole excavation crew. It was a big responsibility for such a young man and the money was good.

Bill lived with his parents in a little house outside of town. His mother always made wonderful dinners, followed by tea and dessert. She knew how physically demanding Bill’s day was and wanted to make sure he got enough food.

They had finished dinner and were having tea and cake when the knock came at the door. Mrs. Lean answered, only to find two IRA men standing there. Everyone in town knew who was in the IRA, of course. The British were always trying to find out who was and was not in the IRA. No one would ever tell the British; but everyone knew.

The IRA men were very polite and asked if they could speak to Bill. Mrs. Lean invited them in and everyone sat at the big table having tea and cake. They spoke casually for about ten minutes about how lovely the weather had been and how lucky it was that Bill had found a good steady job.

Then one of the IRA men leaned forward and said, “So Bill, we understand that you are in charge of blasting the rocks at the construction site.  How many sticks of dynamite would you say it usually takes to blast out a rock?”

“It depends,” said Bill. “Some rocks use two sticks. A really big one may need as many as five.”

“Well, here’s what’s going to happen tomorrow Bill. You are going to sign out five sticks of dynamite from the company. You are going to use two sticks to blast the rocks and then slip the other three into your lunch pail. Sean and I will come by again tomorrow”

The IRA men then got up, complimented Mrs. Lean on her excellent cake and then left.

The men never threatened or said what would happen if Bill did not take the dynamite. They did not have to. In Ireland no one has to explain who is who or how things work.

The next night the men showed up again about the same time after dinner. They politely declined tea and quickly took the three sticks of dynamite and went back into the night.

Many years later Bill moved to America and he now works construction in Connecticut. He is getting old now but is still very large and muscular, and still has a thick Irish accent . He lives in a big house with his wife, who is also from Ireland, and his two children.

He will never tell you whether or not he agreed with what the IRA was going to do with the dynamite. If you ask him he laughs at how naive Americans are. We feel safe enough to believe we have a choice.

In Ireland when certain men ask you to do something you don’t say no. It doesn’t matter how soft spoken or polite they are. You just offer them some of your mother’s cake and say “yes”.

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