Saturday, September 27, 2008

“Nice to see you, Your Grace” (if it is Your Grace)

What an audacious act of impersonation!

Two years ago a man pretending to be Archbishop Dermot Clifford, patron of the GAA, gained free entry to Croke Park on the day of the All Ireland…

This impostor was treated with the utmost deference and actually ended up in a seat in the exclusive Ard Chomhairle section of the stand.

The only things he didn’t do was sit in the Patron’s reserved seat in the front row and make the presentation to the captain of the winning minor team!

The daring exploit was brought to the attention of The Squinting Eye following the revelations about the Croke Park Gate Crashers club in a previous column. Clearly the members of that club are not the only ones dedicated to gaining free entry to an excellent seat on the day of the All Ireland.

The man we are talking about is surely in the same elite category as that resourceful rogue in England who ingeniously manages to wangle his way into the line of dignitaries and celebrities being introduced to the Queen or slides into the team photographs on the day of the FA Cup football final.

In terms of likeness to His Grace, our man had a number of advantages. He is in advanced middle age. More than that, his habitual drinking in Byrnes of Galloping Green in south county Dublin have given him an archiepiscopal ruddiness of face and a porter-cultivated paunch. And the ceiling lights of that well-known hostelry have long been reflected on his bald pate.

His impersonation was certainly helped by his background. He once had acting ambitions and actually appeared on stage in a number of amateur productions; however, he had an increasing tendency to mumble his lines and be noticeably unsteady of foot; he was confined to the most meagre of walk-on parts as a butler or a messenger or, most suitably, one of those at the counter of the shebeen in their baggy, patched clothes and misshapen wide-brimmed felt hats.

However, it must be said of him that he is inventive and determined when his mind is set on something. When, one evening at closing time, someone dared him to get in free to the All Ireland hurling final, he accepted the challenge. Almost immediately he decided he was going to gain entry by pretending to be his ‘rivirence’ the Archbishop.

He went about his preparations with unaccustomed alacrity. Through a friend in Thurles he contrived to get himself invited to an anti-divorce meeting in Hayes’s Hotel in Thurles, knowing that the Archbishop was attending. Our wily impersonator watched Dr Clifford with an eagle eye, noting the way he walked and nodded his head, his avuncular smile, the way he looked about him observantly. With an actor’s ear for accents he listened with some intensity to the Archbishop’s Kerry-flavoured tones and his mode of expression.

Coming up to the day of the final our daring impostor easily borrowed a black clerical outfit, since among his many acquaintances were several ex-priests. At the amateur theatrical society of which he was still a member he was he was able to lay hold of a purple silk shirt of the hue worn by bishops and the normal black priest’s shirt. Not alone that but he was given a loan of an impressive ring worn by the actor who played the leading role in the black comedy “The Several Wives of King Henry VIII”. It fitted perfectly and had an Episcopal sheen about it. And he had recourse to a make-up kit so that on the morning of the All Ireland he could dab a little rouge on his cheeks to give him the authentic Clifford appearance.

He enlisted the aid of a friend who possessed a large black limousine. This man donned a chauffeur’s cap. Almost an hour before the minor match was due to begin the impressive car drew up to Croke Park. With our “Archbishop” in the back, the Gardai and the security people waved through the car.

There was a brief moment of alarm when a gingery haired fellow came forward as he got out of the limousine. But, to his relief and satisfaction, the greeter welcomed him with the words “Nice to see you, your Grace” and escorted him to the top of the Ard Chomhairle section. “I’ll find my own way, thank you” he said as he made his way down the tiers. There were very few people there at that moment and he was unable to resist actually going down to the front row and sitting in the seat reserved for the Patron of the GAA.

But, despite the immense pleasure he got from this, he did not linger long. His friend from Thurles had warned him “Don’t let Clifford catch you there. His GAA role means everything to him and nobody better intrude on his space. It’d be like taking a bone away from a hungry dog”

Our impostor went back up the steps and into the nearest toilet. There he divested himself of his purple shirt to reveal the black shirt beneath it. Then from his pocket he took a hair piece borrowed from the theatrical society and put it on.

With the help of another friendly official he found a vacant seat at the back of the Ard Chomhairle section ; it had been reserved for a monsignor from one of the competing counties who was unable to attend because he had been inflicted with a mild bout of food poisoning. Our man sat gratefully in the monsignor’s place.

Not fifteen minutes later there was a flurry of Croke Park officialdom at the top of the steps. He the gingery haired man who had greeted him in animated discussion with two others wearing the “Maor” badge. Then the real Archbishop appeared. He was escorted down the steps by the gingery fellow, who looked kept looking at him sharply out of the corner of his eye. As he walked back up the steps, this official had a look of frowning puzzlement on his face.

Our successful impersonator enjoyed the hurling game immensely. The only discordant note was when he overheard two people sitting behind him say “Isn’t that wig just like a lump a' shite plastered on that priest’s head. It’s worse than Donie Cassidy’s”

SV: for those in GAA officialdom, above is the (sober) picture of His (dis)Grace for your records althought he facial features can be either improved or otherwise once under the influence of alcohol which is more often than not!!

This is the only known picture of the AB whilst sober, as pictures of him being drunk are too widely available as can be evidenced in any local court in the Thurles area...

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Clerical Whispers’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sotto Voce

(Source: An Fear Rua)

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