AFTER half an hour in McSorley’s Tavern in Clogher on Friday afternoon as the designated driver, Squinter gets bored (oh, alright then, jealous) of the raucously happy conversation, sets down his fizzy water and goes for a bit of a dander.
A hard right out the front door and a hundred yards or so up Main Street and he sees that they’ve put Clogher Courthouse up for sale. It is, we’re assured, “a unique business opportunity”, although given the number of closed shops and ghost estates we passed on our way to Killadeas in Co Fermanagh that day, they might now want to put that in the past tense.
Why they’re selling the place Squinter honestly can’t say. He leaned up against the sangar (built in the same sandstone design as the rest of the building, but still a sangar) and went online. Good connectivity in Clogher, but for the life of him he couldn’t find out why the courthouse – a relatively new building despite the exhaust-pipe grime of a HGV-clogged town that’s more ripe for a by-pass than any other Squinter’s been in – is now surplus to requirements.
Some wag has written on the marble courthouse plaque with what appeared to Squinter to be Tippex, and the message this republican stationer has left for passers-by is a simple and familiar one – ‘UP THE RA’.
Examining the building, it appeared to Squinter that anyone who acquires it will face difficulties above and beyond what might be considered the norm in estate agency circles. Despite the sandstone block facade, those are blast walls you’re looking at there and the glass in the sangar windows is thicker than the glass in Tom King’s spectacles. There’s not much you can do with that – it can hardly be turned into apartments or offices, unless you like your natural light in green-refracted two-foot squares. And so you’d have to rip it up and start again, as the song says, which is no easy task because the IRA’s East Tyrone Brigade found it hard taking these things apart with 2,000lb smokies. So this would appear to be what they call in the real estate business “a hard sell” – harder still when it’s got ‘UP THE RA’ written on the front.
Squinter wondered up and down the Main Street for a bit before reluctantly wandering back to McSorley’s where the drinks had been refreshed, the volume turned up to 11 and the craic up to 90. And as he sat glumly contemplating the bubbles in his fizzy water, it occurred to him that the scandalous behaviour of his city friends in this little pub in this little town (pop. 350) might attract the attention of the Clogher Valley PTA. If there is one.
Which you can only hope and pray there is.