Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Murder of Crows

The Baker St Boys – The Murder of Crows.

Some couples are blessed with children, some would beg to differ. The Casey’s of Baker Street were legendary throughout the city of Limerick in the fifties and sixties. Mr Casey ran a butcher shop with his father. When he married Lucy O’Neill, a perfect storm of fertility was unleashed on the city. Within a year they were blessed with a bouncing baby boy, closely followed by bouncing twin boys. In short the kids kept bouncing out until their little house was splitting at the seams, every one of them boys. By the time the Casey’s moved to Baker Street, there were nine rambunctious little rascals tagging along between the ages of four and twelve, including two sets of twins, one identical one not.

The house the Casey’s moved to was a three story townhouse. It backed directly onto a row of single story, crofter cottages that had been there long before the city grew around them. Baker Street was never the same after that day. All of the Casey boys had been blessed with vivid imaginations. They could turn any stick into a gun, any hole in the ground into a castle. There wasn't a bad bone in one of them, but their high spirits often bordered on riotous. One of their favorite places was the roof of their house. The older boys soon found out that they could climb out of the skylight on the back of the house and into the gully in the roof. From there they had a vantage point over the whole city, all the way to the banks of the Shannon. They played spy, soldier, and knight up there. They soon found they could clamber down the drain pipe on to the boundary wall which separated their tiny back yard from the little row of houses behind them. From there it was only a scamper over the roofs and a short drop into Farmers Lane. 

This was years before the term ‘Health and Safety’ sucked the joy out of life. Back then, an adults reaction on seeing a troop of pre-teen boys clambering down the outside of a three story building was less “Oh my God, they will be killed’ and more ‘Oh my God, I’m going to kill them’.   To the people that lived in the little cottages, the thunder of hobnail shoes crossing their roofs became common place. The only one that ever complained was old Mr Ryan, he was a grumpy old sod that lived directly behind the Casey’s house. One day after a particularly exuberant game of Cops and Robbers followed by a roof top chase, Mr Ryan tuned up at Mr Casey’s shop, hopping mad. When Mr Casey got home he rounded up all the boys and read them the riot act. He stopped their pocket money and took away all their comics for two weeks. Two weeks! Having your comics taken for a week in the sixties was the equivalent of shutting off both the TV and the Internet toady.

That night the Casey boys held a meeting in Eoin’s bedroom after dinner. They decided that they had enough of Mr cranky pants Ryan. Eoin had a plan, all he needed was a twenty thousand tonne container ship full of corn and a few other odds and ends. Two days later a very similar ship pulled into Limerick City Harbour.  With grain shipments came crows, lots of crows. That evening the Casey boy’s ran home from school like their tails were on fire. Soon the whole clan had gathered on the roof of the Baker Street. Dozens of crows were perched on the roofs and chimneys all around them. The birds didn’t seem to be bothered by the smoke coming from Mr Ryan’s house. Eoin had his catapult with him, a prized possession. His little brother Eamon handed over a fistful of ball bearings he had salvaged from a dumped washing machine earlier in the week. Eoin loaded the catapult and took careful aim. The ball bearing pinged off the edge of the chimney making the birds flap in alarm but they soon settled back down. Eoin’s next shot sailed over the heads of the birds, in the distance the sound of breaking glass made him duck quickly under the ridge tile.

“Give me a go, you cross eyed yoke,” said Eamon grabbing the weapon. Eamon loaded the catapult and took aim. His little arm shook with the strain as he drew back the rubber, sighting between the v, aiming a foot over the heads of the massed crows. He let the ball fly, all the boys watched as the shiny silver missile crossed the few feet between the Casey’ roof and the Ryan’s Chimney pot. The little ball found its mark, one crow vanished in a puff of feathers down the chimney while all the others flew away. Nine little heads peaked over the ridge tiles like smiling pumpkins when the back door of Mr Ryan's flew open. Black smoke billowed into the sky in a rolling cloud. Old Mr Ryan stumbled out half choking, the stink of burning feathers could be smelt in Dublin. The Casey’s tumbled back through the skylight, laughing delightedly. Operation ‘Singed Feathers’ was a complete success. The boys hugged and laughed until Mr Casey shouted up the stairs to keep the racket down. From that day on Old Mr Ryan never complained about a few footsteps on his roof again.