Talking Point with Ron Harris

Ron Harris'Picture by Lindsay Addison
Ron Harris'Picture by Lindsay Addison

Our chief reporter flags a moment in history

WAN o’ the most courageous men ah ever witnessed doing his job wisnae a sodjer, polis or firefighter. He was a comedian.

The recent stushie ower flags in Northern Ireland brought back tae mind the bad auld days mair than 30 years ago when, doing a freelance sidey for a Sunday newspaper, ah put a notebook in mah pocket, donned thirty-two inch waist nappies and heided ‘cross the Irish Sea tae cover The Troubles.

Ah found mahsel’ in one o’ the then very, very rare pubs in Belfast where both Protestants and Roman Catholics could gather together withoot a major rammie breakin’ oot.

And I watched in awe as a local stand-up comic ripped the knitting oot baith the IRA and UDA.

This was done wae such enormous skill that, at the end o’ his act, you didnae have a clue ‘which foot he kicked wae.’

Of course it was all done wae yon Ulster humour which is as black as the bottom o’ a Polkemmet mineshaft in a powercut, even getting laughs oot the then popular hobby in the city o’ using ony empty bottle handy tae convert intae a petrol bomb.

“So, Mrs McCree in the Shankhill says to her mulkman one morning: ‘I’ll have three bottles of Gold Top mulk please – and thirty empties!’

The mulkman asks her how she’s doing and she says: ‘Ah sure, ah’m doing foine; I’m getting about twenty houses to the gallon’.”

The wan thing ah mind was strictly banned oot yon pub was flags, so potent were they as a symbol o’ whitever side you took in the Province, a sorta Ulster version o’ the Central Belt o’ Scotland’s ‘no club colours’ rule but wan wae possibly fatal consequences should you be glakit/suicidal enough tae break it.

Like maist folk living oan ‘the mainland’, ah thought all was noo relatively quiet oan the North Western Front but it seems flags still have the power tae spark aff major civil stushies the like o’ which we’ve watched oan oor tellies for the past fortnight.

Personally, ah think a lot o’ wee neds in Belfast are just using the issue as an excuse tae smash up the joint and throw stanes at the polis but, thankfully, ah dinnae live there so ah dinnae know for certain.

Perhaps excessive importance being put oan flags is just a sign o’ a national identity crisis and ah only hope that, should Scotland decide tae go it alone in two years’ time, we actually see FEWER rather than mair Saltires flying.Onyway, back in Belfast in the Seventies ah had the laugh-a-minute experience o’ going oot wae the British Army oan patrol oan the Falls Road.

In yon days, afore body armour, the squaddies made their ain bullet-proofing arrangements, the heavy gauge photographic paper o’ the National Geographic magazine being famed for stopping at least a low-velocity roond.

The sodjers tied copies o’ this publication roond their legs under their Army breeks when going oan patrol and ah eagerly took their advice tae dae likewise.

Ah’ll wager there’s no mony Lanarkians who can boast they wance walked doon a Belfast street wae several semi-naked African tribeswummen wrapped roond their legs.