‘Ah I’m from Ballybejaisis on the west coast, but I left there a long time ago.’

The trick of the disappearing act…

Lord Lucan is probably the most famous vanishing act of all time. The fact that he was a fugitive, wanted for the murder of his children’s nanny, adds even more intrigue to his baffling disappearance. Worse, if it could be that, is to know that ‘Lucky Lucan’, mistook the nanny for his wife – or as he might claim, he got the wrong woman twice!

That was 1974, and you have to imagine that it would be almost impossible to pull off a similar stunt in this day and age. Leaving aside those who flee after a crime, how difficult must it be for someone who chooses to change his or her identity and make a new start far, far away? Go on, admit it, you have fantasised some time or other about slipping away with whatever loot you could get your hands on, died hair, brown horn-rimmed glasses and a new name…

It is not illegal to change your name, and therefore your identity, in Ireland. That is the easy bit, but I doubt if there is another tribe anywhere in the world from which an individual might find it more difficult to lose him or her self. You remodel and reinvent ‘the new you’ before heading for the remotest spot on the globe. (Provided it has an Irish pub, of course!). Black sunglasses, cap covering ears and forehead, you tentatively edge your way in and plonk down in a corner to watch a GAA match on TV. You have only spoken the two words necessary to order a drink when from behind you; ‘Is that an Irish accent I hear… where are you from?’. You feared this – but you are ready. ‘Ah I’m from Ballybejaisis on the west coast, but I left there a long time ago.’

‘Are you now… well isn’t that a ‘fret’… you must know the Bianchis so? Grandfather started with a chipper – and without a word of English; sons now own the fish farm three miles out… and isn’t it unbelievable that three of the grandsons played for the county.’ ‘You don’t know them? Bejazus you are a quare sort of a Ballybejaisis man.’

At that moment Westmeath score a goal against three-time and reigning All-Ireland champions, Wicklow, and you go berserk in the bar. You might as well go home now…

If I got found out and had to do a midnight scamper incognito, I don’t think I would run any further than trying to lose myself in the UK. The Liverpool accent is one I can do a bit with. ‘Am from Bootle, aren’t I’, I would tell the woman from Castlepollard who thought she recognised me.

I often wonder how those in a witness protection programme live out their lives. It is bad enough being prevented from communicating with family and friends, but to be carrying the additional fear of constantly looking over your shoulder is almost unthinkable. There are only three ways out of the programme: the first is that the ‘witness’ voluntarily withdraws. Naturally, this is very much discouraged by the authorities. The second reason is a ‘red card’. The Witness violates the conditions of the programme and is set adrift. There are rules involved; especially that the subject remains law-abiding. The third way out is the bullet in the back of the head – and that is not as uncommon as you might think. Anyway, those in the witness protection programme were benefitting from serious crime to begin with. They are never very nice people so spare your sympathy here.

Finally, should the urge take you to head off and start again, think long and hard and make sure it is what you want. There was a man in the town I lived in a long time ago… whom we’ll call ‘Tom’. Tom found a girlfriend, despite having a wife and after very little thought (with his head, anyway), decided he would keep the new one. Tom’s wife was on night duty at the hospital when he wrote the letter, pointing out all her defects and the reason he was doing better for himself now. The new couple went to bed early in Dublin, in order to be well rested for the boat the next morning. But the excitement of it all wore off in an hour and Tom couldn’t sleep. As dawn approached, Tom jumped out of bed, grabbed his trousers, made his apologies, ran for a taxi to get home and destroy the letter left on the hallstand. The taxi man had to get £40 before getting into second gear.

Well, you know early morning traffic! He saw her car in the driveway before he charged in, hoping she hadn’t found his letter. If you are looking for a happy ending… wrong page!

Tom went from having two women to zero…

Don’t Forget

It’s what you do when you have nothing to do that reveals what you are.