One of the guys I worked with in the old C.I.E, building buses and trains, was a great Bowie fan. Ziggy was tall, lean and as wiry as fuck, so it used to make us laugh when asked, what he worked at, he’d tell the girls he was a bodybuilder.
We hung out in that great musical age of the early 70s. Going to the Dublin Revolution night club, up a back lane off Parnell Square, after scooping pints in ‘The Goalpost’ pub, where we discussed the wonders of the universe, including whether pencils had a brain. Drinking to talk, to discuss, to chat up girls. Living the dream on an apprentice’s wage.
We all had long colourful scarfs, under the illusion that the girls would go more easily for the Trinity College Dublin student look. Except Ziggy of course. He’d wear his Bowie coat, floor length, screaming white imitation leather, imitation feathers and imitation lifestyle. The rest of us wore the normal attire for the age, long hair, flowery shirts, corduroy hipster flared jeans. empty pockets. We all looked cool. Except Ziggy, he looked like a long blond haired acne faced pimp. Or worse still, a rent boy.
Much was the abuse we used to take as we walked through Dublin town with Ziggy. The taxi drivers wouldn’t even give us the time of day.
“Fucking perverts,” was their warning call to the city watch, all the while giving it large with the accelerator. No #MeToo back then to protect a fragile teenager’s angst. In reality, we didn’t give a fuck, whatever was screamed at us, by wankers with a bottom-feeder self-esteem. We looked and felt pretty confident. But deep down, as one famous Beatle admitted, we were all scared shitless of the future.
We had free travel on the buses and trains and we did avail of this one time to head on down to Kinsale, a coastal town in County Cork. There was rumour circulating that there was 53 German student girls heading for Kinsale, over the bank holiday weekend. Kinsale was famous for many things but mostly as the place where the remains of the Spanish Armada came ashore. Joined up with the Irish forces and got the shit kicked out of them by the forces of the crown, at the Battle of Kinsale. So a big gang of Dublin gurriers, with free train tickets, headed for Kinsale in search of these mysterious 53 Frauleins.
We looked very Hollywood back then. Arriving in Kinsale, with our flowery shirts, flared jeans and of course our rakish scarfs. “Just show us the movie set.”
Inquiring about a camp site we were told, “Free camping at the Charles Fort.” It was a bit of a trek out of town, past The Spaniard, a pub dedicated to yet another failed attempt of the, “King of Spain,” to give a dig out to his Irish pals. So, on up to the old fort, built around 1682. So not exactly a Disneyland or Universal Studios tourist magnet. Just a rundown fort with some grass to stick our tents.
We set up our tent and headed on down to The Spaniard. Our mob consisting of Wacker, Gaybo, Ziggy and Peter the Bear. Gaybo used to tell the girls Peter had a Zip in his stomach where he kept his pyjamas. Wardie had that Afro well-tanned Colonial look. He could easily have been Phil Lynott’s ugly younger brother. Joey Smarts, who had that swarthy untrustworthy Slavic sailor look about him. Joey wasn’t the smartest tool in the box, but was all excited about meeting the 53 German students. Ringo was our musician.
We took over the Spaniard and Ringo found a guitar and started serenading some young ladies. Wacker had some barney with the Bartender and came back very angry. Next up he is feeding the open fire with bits of the furniture. Me, Gaybo and Ziggy left before it got nasty and headed down the road into the town. In search of the 53 German girls.
Buy the rumour, sell the news. We bought the rumour and bought the news as well.
We wandered the town asking about these wondrous unattainable fraulein nymphs. We settled in a pub and me and Gaybo went into our mystic act. Gaybo chatted up some English girls and informed them I could tell their future by reading the life lines on their hands. I of course totally refused to do it, it being far too dangerous. After all, tampering with the old gods’ ways was tampering with the life force itself. We were never to know our future. It could cause all sorts of problems.
This invariably caused the pressure to build up to get it to happen.
Gaybo then, as per our act, persuaded me, the reluctant psychic, to give it a go. Persuaded by pints of creamy Guinness, I went to town on my palm reading, getting all the information I needed off the chatty girls. Then regurgitating their words back to them via the life lines on their given palm, a technique that worked like a treat every time. It was a huge success.
Getting them to come back to our four man tent, did not go so well.
Disappointed, we headed on back up the road passing the closed Spaniard. There was houses opposite and they looked like empty summer residences for the upward mobile city crowd. Ziggy decided he was going to break in and sleep in a bed for the night. Leaving Ziggy to it, we continued on to our campsite outside the fort.
There was quite a gang camped outside the fort. A big bonfire with a crowd around it. It looked so fucking picturesque I nearly cried. I sat in that crowd. There was a long legged guitar strumming red headed girl, singing the most soul chilling Joni Mitchell songs. I sat chatting with her about life the universe and the 53 missing German student girls. I lost my heart that night. And never quite ever found it again. I made her laugh when I said this magic moment was fucked. As my eyes were getting cut from the smoke. The fire was no longer picturesque, as some idiot had thrown a dead crow onto it, the stink and the black smoke of which quickly dispersed the crowd.I immediately suspected Wardie who was just that sort of knob-head to do it. The red head disappeared into the night, as they invariably do, and I, Chingachgook, Last of the Mohicans, wandered into the dark fort to take a closer look.
No safety measures back then. It was incredibly black within the fort as I wandered around. I remember walking forward and I could see the blackness just get blacker. It made me stop, and I turned and went back to our tent.
Next morning having spent a night on a hard ground. I went back up to check out the fort in daylight. I found the place I’d stopped. There was a 100ft drop straight down on to rocks below. This scared me shitless. As I contemplated myself plunging to my demise in the dark. Alone, without anybody knowing I was gone. Then promptly forgot about it, and went back to pining for the lost 53 German student girls.
The dance that night was in a converted cinema. We sat in the front row seats and watched the natives giving it like it was 1919. Country and western was big in the hinterlands back in the day. Sugary sweet songs of the poor emigrant Paddy in his bed-sit in London, pining for his golden haired girlfriend and his silver haired mother while he drank himself into a stupor.
Ringo and the boys stormed the stage and manhandled the instruments of the local band and started playing Whiskey in the Jar, Thin Lizzy style, followed by a mix of the nasty Stones and a touch of Celtic Rock via Horslips. The local lads were not impressed, but the girls seemed to enjoy the dangerous buzz the Dublin boys brought to the party. Most girls like a bad boy, and we had them in droves that night.
Ringo disappeared with the local blond pom-pom cheer leader. Who had danced seductively in front of him, as he went through his slick guitar hero moves. He whispered promises of a dream Exodus life in the golden metropolis that is Dublin town, if only she parted the Red Sea and let his people go. Or so to speak.
We still hadn’t given up on the Germans. So me Gaybo and Peter the Bear sat in the cinema seats and watched what looked like a Cliff Richard musical movie. Taking part in front of us. The local boys were back in action with their sugary coated country music. Abandoning the dance we headed back up the road to The Spaniard.
Ziggy was sitting surrounded by a group of posh Dublin Southsiders who were enthralled by the hardship stories of the north side of Dublin. He had gone to bed after jemmying a door to a summer house and awoke, like Goldielocks, surrounded by the six upward mobile posh city bears. The Southsiders were in shock at this intrusion. Ziggy gave them the usual spiel about tough times on the north side of the city. And the posh mammy bears swooned around him, thinking it all very romantic and more or less adopting him. Gaybo and I just laughed at this load of bollox.
It was probably the highpoint of our trip to Kinsale.
I ended up in Denmark with most of these guys. As we followed our great European Union adventure in to the East. The false mystic in me could not have foretold any of their futures. The Three Norns that control the fate of Gods and men, sit spinning their web at the bottom of the great tree of life, Yggdrasil. Was Ziggy’s life already spun, by those Norns, so it ended as tragically as it did?
Ziggy was lost overboard on the Holyhead-Dublin ferry. Coming back from a trip to Denmark. Suicide or fell? Nobody knows. Gaybo got married had some kids then his wife died of cancer. He was never really the same after that. Wacker, Ringo, Joey Smarts, Wardie and Peter the Bear, they all ended up back in Ireland. Doing whatever you do when the adventure goes south.
I never saw any of them again.
I remember that trip to Kinsale, as the last hurrah of that generation of C.I.E gurriers. Did that quest in search of 53 German student girls inspire our European Danish adventure? Did the Three Norns, those old women, who sit at the foot of Yggdrasil and spin the life threads which included the tale of the 53 German Student Girls, set us off on that unfilled hero quest? If we had found them. Would it have made us more secure in ourselves?
I know this.
If I ever found the gurrier who started that rumour I’d knock his fucking lights out.
Cover image courtesy of Giuseppe Milo via Flickr