At any rate this promised to be one happy day. Napoleon and I were off to select an ambush position on the Ballyduff road. Even the sun was shining. Outside Aileen, Mrs. Welch’s daughter, was holding her cob by the head waiting to ride cross country with his lordship’s dispatches.
She was a splendid horsewoman. Some of the lads were standing around admiring the horse but paying no attention to the girl. The girls were very useful for carrying dispatches and for scouting purposes.
We were taking our time as we intended to make a day of it. After a leisurely crossing of the old Mount Odell demesne we came out on the Ballyduff road but we were quite unable to find a suitable position until we got to Kilbane some miles to the west. Here there was a beetling quarry cliff and lots of natural cover. Napoleon earned his name by picking out an excellent post for the shotgun men. The local company, or companies, usually supplied about eight or ten shotgun men for an ambush. Buckshot set in candle wax was used in the cartridges. Most of the shotguns had choke barrels with the result that the impacted charge blew off about an inch or more of the barrel at the first shot. We always tried to give the shotgun men as wide a berth as possible.
After selecting the position we directed our gaze to Big Maigue Landy’s pub which was close by -altogether too close. We were both thinking the same thing. My companion remarked, in a quite practical tone, that is was too bad the pub had been built in that particular place but the ambush position we had been forced to select was the only suitable one to be found for miles around. He added that we could not pass by without calling to see our old friend.
Big Maigue was a very fine person but she had an awful tongue and she never spared anybody. She weighed thirteen stone, if she weighed an ounce, and she never had a cigarette out of her mouth.
“Well if it isn’t the lads”, said she as we came in, “having a nice country walk for themselves.’
We let her think that. In the event of a nearby ambush her house was most likely to be burned to the ground as a minimum reprisal. She filled out two half whiskies for us - we dared not ask for lemonade or even sherry.
“I suppose ‘ye been over to Cappagh House having tay with Percy Ussher?”
We let this sally pass.
“I hear the Count is with ye?”
“There is a Captain Murphy staying with us.”
“G’wan with you, sure everybody knows who he is”.
We sipped gingerly at the whiskies.
“I suppose ye don’t know that two lorries of Tans passed this way this morning?”
This made us prick up our ears.
“Sure ‘tis ye have the fine times hiding in the hills, sitin the poor people out of house and home and letting them divils drive all over our roads.”
Napoleon got very nettled at this caustic remark and said she was soon going to find out all about that and I had to nudge him to keep his mouth shut.
“And when will you be getting married, Napoleon?” she next queried.
Napoleon looked vague. Big Maigue was always teasing us about girls whenever we went to see her, in fact, it was her favorite subject. She now got on to this vein and the more embarrassed we got the more vulgar she became.
“What ye lads need is a good hoult” she said quite coolly. We were getting uneasy and ready to go when she started off “The night Landy and I was married - ” We had heard this before as it was a local legend so we said we had to leave. “Be careful of yourselves” was her parting sally.