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By David Flynn

An imaginative tv series of separate stories about the unusual started on US tv in 1959, and whenever its title is uttered, it conjures up memories of the strange and extraordinary.

The Twilight Zone had an unforgettable theme tune that opens the black and white introduction of the programme into a space scene. A door appears in space followed by a window which breaks, followed by other objects such as an eye and a clock.

The creator and narrator of the series, Rod Serling, did a voiceover at the introduction when the door appeared onscreen. It went like this: “You unlock this door with the key of imagination, beyond it is another dimension, a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind, you are moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas, you’ve just crossed over, into the Twilight Zone,” said Serling at the introduction.

There were other such introductions by Serling as the series progressed.

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Jimmy Duffy recalls one of Donegal’s darkest days when a drifting war mine exploded on the Ballymanus coast

Living in west Donegal where very little trees grow owing to blowing sand and salt from the wild Atlantic Ocean, anything yielded by the sea was highly sought after.

Over the years many prizes were yielded from the incoming tide; mostly coming from shipwrecks or having been washed overboard on ocean-going ships that plied their trade along a transatlantic shipping lane close to Donegal’s northwest coast.

All sorts of treasured flotsam was washed ashore ranging from candle wax, pitch resin to prime timber; material essential to the coastal communities. The biggest “prize” of all came in 1856 when the sailing barque Salaia ran aground in Keadue Bar carrying enough timber to reroof the parish church of Lower Templecrone at Kincasslagh.
In 1940, two young men were washed off the rocks at Carrickfinn while trying to retrieve incoming timber log.

Nineteen-year-old Charlie Patterson was drowned while somewhat miraculously his fourteen-year-old friend, Hughie Duffy, was washed back ashore. Hughie later perished along with eighteen of his neighbours and friends when a floating wartime sea-mine exploded at nearby Ballymanus, on the 10th of May, 1943.

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By Colm Power

George Formby, O.B.E., who was born in Wigan, Lancashire, on 26th May, 1904, was an actor, singer, songwriter and comedian. He was adored by millions of fans through his films of the 1930s and 1940s and he became the highest-paid entertainer in the United Kingdom. He is best remembered for the comic songs he sang on stage, on screen and on records to his own accompaniment on the ukulele.

He wasn’t an odds-on favourite to succeed. He was born blind because of an obstructive caul on his eyes, but his sight was restored when he was still a baby. His formal education was brief and unremarkable. He couldn’t read or write, and he was removed from school at the age of seven and sent to become a stable boy, first in Wiltshire and then in Middleham, Yorkshire.

After working for a year in Middleham, young George was apprenticed to Thomas Scourfield at Epsom, and he rode his first professional race at the age of ten. In 1915, when he was aged eleven, he actually appeared in a film entitled ‘By the Shortest of Heads’, in which he played the part of a stable boy who outwits the bad guys when he comes first in a horse race. Later, in 1915, when the English racing closed because of the First World War, George moved to Ireland where he continued as a jockey until November, 1918. He then returned to England and raced for Lord Derby at his Newmarket stables.

He continued as a jockey until 1921. Unfortunately, he never won a race.

Continue reading in this week’s May Winning Writers Annual

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Actor, musician and writer Patrick Bergin shares highlights of his Hollywood career and tells Kay Doyle about his newly released song The Tipperary Waltz in which he pays homage to his great-uncle who fought in WWI.

From his unforgettable portrayal of a terrifying and abusive husband in one of Hollywood’s most memorable thrillers, to lighting up the small screen on the BBC’s popular soap opera Eastenders, Patrick Bergin has enjoyed an acting career that spans over thirty years, and the cameras are still rolling.

Born in Dublin’s Holles Street in 1951, and raised in Carlow town, he was the son of hard-working and aspirational parents. Drawn to Carlow as his grandfather was a stationmaster in the town, his mother ran a café there called The Sugarbowl; indeed ‘sugar’ would go on to have a prominent place in his family’s history.

His father, also Patrick, was the national campaign organiser for the Labour Party, eventually becoming a senator from 1954 to 1957. Patrick Senior led the famous sugar strike in Carlow, despite being threatened with twenty years in jail, and which ultimately led to the closure of the sugar factory.

After the conclusion of World War II, sugar was hot property in Ireland. Experts from Czechoslovakia were brought over to show the Irish labourers how to cook the sugar, which was a finely skilled process. Patrick Snr had cut a deal with Major General Costello that once the Irish workers were trained up to the same level as the Czech workers, they would be paid similar wages. When they reneged on this deal, he led them to strike.

“One day, when my father went to Leinster House to present a case for the sugar workers on equal pay to the Minister, he was sitting in the tea room waiting to be called when the tea lady brought him and his colleagues a cup of tea,” recalls Patrick Junior. “She apologised that she only had saccharine, and no sugar.

“’That’s because of those bowsies down in Carlow,’ my father said, testing her for a reaction. She snapped back, ‘Don’t you run down those fine men and what they are trying to do!’ It was his way of gauging the opinion of the general public, and it was a boost for their cause.”

In his spare time, away from politics, Patrick’s father founded a Little Theatre in Carlow town, the goal being to teach the workers to walk and talk more proudly. After the bitter strike, they moved to a place called Jerusalem in Co. Kildare, situated between Carlow and Athy, and then to Dublin. The Bergins lived for years above the Labour Party offices on Earlsfort Terrace, before moving to Drimnagh where they would eventually settle.

“I had three brothers and one sister,” says Patrick. “When I was four years old I turned to my mother and said, ‘Ma, I want to go to school.’ I had a good teacher called Mr. Muldoon in Our Lady of Good Counsel on Mourne Road, who encouraged us to put on plays and musicals which we acted out in the Bosco Club.

“My mother worked in the Gaiety Theatre and the first production I became involved was Brian Friel’s Philadelphia Here I Come. Literature ran through the household, and we were always encouraged to read the classics. My older brother, Emmet, also went into acting, many people would know him for his role as the scheming Dick Moran in Glenroe.”

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1918 General Election gives insight into the tactical genius of the ‘Big Fella”

T. Ryle Dwyer charts an overview of the activities of Michael Collins from the stirring oration he gave at Thomas Ashe’s graveside to his role in the General Election of December 1918

Thomas Ashe’s death from injuries suffered while being forced-fed, had a profound impact on Irish public opinion. Michael Collins was particularly upset. “I grieve perhaps as no one else grieves,” he wrote.

Dressed in the uniform of a vice-commandant, Collins delivered the graveside oration, which was stirring in its simplicity.

“Nothing additional remains to be said,” he declared following the sounding of the Last Post and the firing of a volley of shots over the grave. “That volley which we have just heard is the only speech which it is proper to make over the grave of a dead Fenian.”
On October 7th, 1917, Collins went back to speak in Ballinalee, Co. Longford, where Ashe had made the speech that led to his death.

“In the circumstances,” Collins wrote to his sister Hannie, “I came out on the strong side.” Some of what Ashe had said that day was falsely represented by the two policemen at his trial. “I see some more of these potential perjurers about this platform to-day,” Collins added.

Although the Longford Leader’s report did not mention it, Collins noted that there was “a bit of unpleasantness with a policeman who was taking notes”. When confronted, the policeman thought it best to surrender those notes, and there was no further problem.

“You will not get anything from the British Government,” Collins concluded his address, “unless you approach them with a bullock’s tail in one hand and a landlord’s head in the other.”

Following the death of Ashe, President of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), Collins, and other members of the IRB supported de Valera when the various separatist organisations came together under the Sinn Féin banner on October 25, 1917. De Valera was obviously appealing to the militancy of young activists like Collins.

“England pretends it is not by the naked sword, but by the good will of the people of the country, that she is here,” de Valera declared. “We will draw the naked sword to make her bare her own naked sword.”

Collins campaigned enthusiastically for de Valera and gave members of the IRB a list of twenty-four people to support for the party executive. Most on his list were defeated, but Collins and his IRB colleague, Ernest Blythe, tied for the last two places.

Next day, at a separate convention of the Irish Volunteers, de Valera was elected president, again with the enthusiastic support of Collins, who was appointed director of organisation of the Volunteers. A twenty-six-man executive was established, but this proved too cumbersome.

In March 1918, seven members of the executive – Collins, Mulcahy, Dick McKee, Gearóid O’Sullivan, Diarmuid O’Hegarty, Rory O’Connor, and Seán McMahon – met to select a chief of staff.

Even those close to Collins were “wary of entrusting him with anything like complete control,” Mulcahy noted. They turned instead to Mulcahy, who recognised the tremendous organisational talents of Collins and was prepared to give him full rein, without being upset at what others might have considered meddling.

Collins was appointed adjutant general in addition to Director of Organisation. He travelled around the country re-organising the force, and speaking at various meetings. On April 2nd, 1918, he was arrested in Dublin for a speech in Longford some days earlier. He was bound over until in July and was jailed in Sligo because he refused to post bail.

While Collins was in jail, Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister, announced that his government intended to introduce conscription in Ireland. “If he goes for it, he’s ended,” Collins wrote to his sister Hannie next day. The bill was rushed through parliament, and the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) walked out of Westminster in protest.

This was another major turning point for the independence movement. The IPP was irreparably damaged by the conscription crisis.
Its withdrawal from Westminster in protest against the new act was tantamount to endorsing the abstention policy advocated all along by Sinn Féin.

“The conscription proposals are to my liking,” Collins wrote. “I think they will end well for Ireland.”

He posted bail in order to partake in a massive anti-conscription campaign that was largely organised by the Catholic Hierarchy.

The country’s bishops virtually sanctified the anti-conscription campaign by ordering that a special mass be said the following Sunday “in every church in Ireland to avert the scourge of conscription with which Ireland is now threatened.”
Church leaders also called on people to take a formal pledge “to resist conscription by the most effective means at our disposal.”

With the country in uproar, the British dared not implement conscription, but they did try to remove Sinn Féin from the scene on the night of May 17th, by rounding up around 150 of the party’s more active members for supposedly being involved in a German plot against Britain.

Collins was warned of the impending arrests by his intelligence network. He notified de Valera, Griffith and some of the other leaders, but they decided that there was more to gain politically by allowing themselves to be arrested.

With most of the leaders in jail, Collins later gained effective control of both the IRB and Sinn Féin itself. He became “the real master” of the Sinn Féin executive, according to the party’s National Secretary, Darrell Figgis, who described the Big Fellow as “a man of ruthless purpose and furious energy, knowing clearly what he wanted and prepared to trample down everybody to get it.”

No evidence of the supposed ‘German Plot’ was ever produced, so people inevitably concluded the arrests were really in retaliation for Sinn Féin’s role in the anti-conscription campaign. The party therefore gained enormous political capital from of the arrests, and those who were still free continued to act defiantly.

On July 5th, when the British banned all public gatherings, such as football matches and political rallies without a police permit, Collins encouraged the GAA to defy the ban. Football and hurling matches were held throughout the country on August 4th, in open defiance of the ban.

Eleven days later, on Assumption Thursday, Sinn Féin held some 1,800 public rallies throughout the country in a mass display of open defiance.

The Armistice, ending the First World War in November, 1918, was warmly welcomed throughout the British Empire, but there were some very ugly incidents in Dublin.
Collins was attending a meeting at the time, so he was not involved, but he seemed to take vicarious delight in writing about the attacks on celebrating soldiers.

“As a result of various encounters there were 125 cases of wounded soldiers treated at Dublin hospitals that night,” he wrote to a colleague in jail. “Before morning three soldiers and one officer had ceased to need any attention and one other died the following day.”

When the British government called a general election, Sinn Féin put up candidates throughout Ireland. With so many leaders still in jail, Collins played a major part in the campaign. He, Harry Boland, and Diarmuid O’Hegarty, were mainly responsible for the selection of Sinn Féin candidates, and they nominated many who were in prison.
The whole thing was essentially a propaganda exercise, as far as Collins was concerned.

His own election address to Cork voters was brief and to the point: “You are requested by your votes, to assert before the nations of the world that Ireland’s claim is to the status of an independent nation, and that we shall be satisfied with nothing less than our full claim – that in fact, any scheme of government which does not confer upon the people of Ireland the supreme, absolute, and final control of all this country, external as well as internal, is a mockery and will not be accepted.”

Sinn Féin performed magnificently at the polls, winning seventy-three seats, against twenty-six for the Unionist Party and only six for the once powerful Irish Parliamentary Party.

Shortly after the election Collins, Robert Barton, Seán T. O’Kelly and George Gavan Duffy, went to England to explain the Irish situation to the US President Woodrow Wilson, who had arrived in London on a short visit on December 26, 1918.
When Wilson was unwilling to meet them, Collins was so annoyed that he suggested kidnapping the American President to make him listen. “If necessary,” he said, “we can buccaneer him.”

Fortunately, nobody took the suggestion seriously, but the proposal gave insight into why some friends thought Collins sometimes allowed his desire for action to cloud his judgment.

Realising that there was little chance of getting recognition at the Peace Conference, Collins set about preparing for a war of independence. While Dáil Éireann met, Collins was absent, busy arranging de Valera’s escape from Lincoln Gaol.

The ‘Long Fellow’ had been held in England since his arrest on the night of May 17th over the aforementioned ‘German Plot’ during the conscription crisis. Collins was now looking for de Valera to ‘draw the naked sword’ as promised in October 1917.

“All ordinary peaceful means are ended and we shall be taking the only alternative actions in a short while now,” Collins wrote to Austin Stack after the escape. “We mean to make a public declaration before starting.” In short, they would soon be declaring war on the British.

Read the history of 1918 in Ireland in our 1918 Centenary Special – on sale now!

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Maureen O’Hara appeared as Mary Kate Danaher in the 1952 romantic comedy ‘The Quiet Man’. The film was based on a 1933 Saturday Evening Post short story written by Irish novelist Maurice Walsh, and it would provide Maureen O’Hara with the most iconic role of her long career, writes CYRIL McHALE


Where should one start with Mary Kate Danaher? There are probably as many answers as there are fans of the lady who played her. I first encountered Mary Kate in 1952, when the movie ‘The Quiet Man’ burst into life, and she with it, as portrayed, of course, by the late, great Maureen O’Hara.

Maureen’s life has been well chronicled over the years, of course, and older movie fans like myself will readily recall many of the great cinematic contributions she made, depicting a variety of feisty, strong-willed heroines, who would never allow their dignity, or principles, to be compromised.

Born as Maureen FitzSimons on 17th of August, 1920, and reared in Ranelagh, Dublin to a Catholic household, she showed immense talent for acting and performing from a very young age, and won many Feis awards. She was also a talented soprano, and aspired to become an operatic performer.

Her achievements led to Abbey Theatre training at the age of fourteen. By chance, actor Charles Laughton saw a screen test she’d made and was so captivated by her beautiful eyes, contrived to land her the starring role opposite him in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Jamaica Inn,’ in 1939, aged nineteen.

The one condition was that she had to change her name to ‘O’Hara’, a concession she made reluctantly. In the same year, she played the young gypsy girl in ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame,’ again starring opposite Laughton, and gained a contract with RKO Pictures.

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By Dave Flynn

A comedy series, featuring a family of liberal parents and children with opposite viewpoints, made for interesting and very humorous storylines back in the 1980s.

Family Ties main star when it began was actress Meredith Baxter, who had several hit sitcoms to her name. The programme was set in Columbus, Ohio, and Meredith played Elyse Keating and her husband, Steven was played by actor, Michael Gross.
The couple had two daughters, Mallory (Justine Bateman) and Jennifer, (Tina Yothers) and a son, Alex played in a breakout performance by Michael J. Fox!

Family Ties premiered on NBC in America in Autumn 1982, at the late time of 9.30 pm on Wednesday nights. Its main competition was The Fall Guy, starring Lee Majors on the ABC network and for the spring of 1983, Family Ties was moved to Monday night at the earlier time of 8.30 pm.

Shortly after it began in America, it was screened in Ireland on RTE2 on Tuesday nights, where it gained a popular viewership.

Steven and Elyse were still liberal from their 1960s days, which was a time that they spent protesting on ‘Ban the Bomb and ‘Save the Whale’ marches. Great comedy usually ensued between the Keaton parents and in particular the conservative Alex.
The two girls, dizzy Mallory and brain-box Jennifer gave the parents headaches in different ways.

As the first season got going, producers realised that Fox was proving popular, and they began to write more storylines with him at the centre. Alex was a supporter of President Ronald Reagan and it was widely reported in the 1980s that Reagan called Family Ties his favourite programme.

After first season its ratings weren’t major, but it was successful enough to be picked up for second and third seasons.

In the third season, Elyse became pregnant with a fourth child, reflecting Meredith Baxter’s real-life pregnancy. A second son was born to the Keatons, named Andy, and in the next few seasons, he quickly grew up to be played by child actor, Brian Bonsall.
Michael J. Fox was invited to be lead in the movie, Back to the Future in 1984. His tv and movie production teams facilitated him as much as possible, and he worked practically around the clock on the movie and on Family Ties.

Back to the Future became a huge hit, and a sequel and other movies came in the offing for the 25 years old actor. The movie success of Fox had a benefit for Family Ties because from very low ratings, it bounced into No. 5 in the ratings for the 1984/85 season.

There was tension in the series with other cast members when storylines became more focussed on Alex, (according to a 2011 book by Meredith Baxter) but Michael J. Fox didn’t leave the series even after his movie career took off.

In its fifth season, Family Ties went to No. 2 in the ratings in America, even though it was now screened early on Sunday night, directly opposite the drama series, Murder She Wrote, on the CBS network.

Also in the fifth season a new character, Nick (boyfriend of Mallory) joined the hit comedy series, and proved to be very popular. Nick, played by Scott Valentine was a happy-go-lucky type of guy who was unambitious but proved to be Malory’s soulmate. The character was liked by viewers and producers, and was even approached to be the star of a Family Ties spin-off series. However it never got off the ground.

At the height of its fame in 1985, the cast and crew flew to London to do a tv movie, Family Ties Vacation. It was a critical failure, and didn’t reflect the magic that the series had on its home ground in America.

When the series was coming to an end in 1989, Michael J. Fox won a Golden Globe for Best Actor. He had been nominated three times before, and the series had been nominated for three Best Series Golden Globes.

Fox won three Emmy awards as Best Actor for Family Ties, and the series also won two Emmys for camerawork and for writing.

Michael J. Fox met his real life wife, Tracy Pollan, on the series back in its early years, when she played his girlfriend. Courtney Cox, from the hit sitcom Friends, played his girlfriend for the final two years of the series.

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Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea who condemned Jesus to death, eternally hovers somewhere between innocent-at-large, cornered in a no-win situation by the wily citizens of Jerusalem, and villain. But in some Christian churches, Pilate, and his wife, Claudia Procula, are revered as saints.
PAT POLAND considers the elusive figure who washed his hands of Christ.

According to the New Testament, when Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judaea, He summarized His mission in the following terms: “I came into the world…to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.”

“What is truth?” (Quid est veritas?) said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer, we are told, thus consigning countless Christians to two millennia of frustrating speculation.

But just who was Pontius Pilate? We know that Pilate’s chief claim to fame is his role during the final stages of Christ’s ministry on earth. He was, in fact, a minor figure, just one of many hundreds of Roman officials tasked by the emperor to administer his far-flung dominions.

Pilate lived from c.20 BC until sometime after 36 AD, and served as governor, or Praefectus, of the Roman province of Judaea from 26 AD to 36 AD. Depending on which source one tends to believe, he was born in either Italy, Spain, Germany, or Scotland.

For many centuries, the legend has persisted that Pilate was born in Fortingall, Perthshire, the son of a Roman envoy sent by Caesar Augustus to establish diplomatic relations with British chieftains and the important Caledonian chieftain, Metellanus.

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Finbar Furey is back on the road again with his exciting new album Don’t Stop This Now. He tells Kay Doyle about his incredible life journey and how his family background, which is steeped in authentic Irish tradition, ensured that there was no way of escaping his musical destiny …

A few years ago Finbar Furey was standing in a hotel lobby in a New York hotel when a familiar piece of music began to waft its way through the air. The strains of When You Were Sweet Sixteen, now played to a different musical arrangement, instantly transported the second-eldest of the Furey brothers back three decades to the upstairs room in his mother’s house. It was here that he had first picked out those famous notes on his banjo, echoing with poignancy in the aftermath of his beloved father’s passing.
“I had found some lines of a song on a piece of paper that my father had kept,” he recalls. “The song was Sweet Sixteen. It had been written by a vaudeville performer, James Thornton, who thought up the song when his wife Bonnie asked him one day if he still loved her. He answered, ‘I love you like I did when you were sweet sixteen’.

“I brought the piece of paper upstairs and took out my banjo, which I hadn’t played for some time. I restrung it, cleaned it up and started to pick out some notes to create an introduction to go with the song. I knew immediately, and so did my mother who was listening downstairs, that this was something special. It went on to be a big number one for us here in Ireland and got to number 12 in the UK Top 40, and we got to perform on Top of the Pops. It went on to mean so much to not just us but to so many people around the world.”

Finbar Furey was born in The Coombe Hospital on September 28th, 1946, and spent his very early childhood in Dublin’s Liberties, before his family moved on to Ballyfermot. His parents were blessed with musical talent, his father, Ted, having first spotted his future wife, Nora, while she was busking on her banjo at the Kilorglin Fair.

Ted was the ‘fix-it’ man for many traditional fiddle players around Ireland, and as a result other musicians dropped their instruments off at the Furey house when in need of repairs.

“The house was always full of instruments,” he says. “When I was around five or six, my mother sent me off to buy some groceries and when I was at the shop I spotted a tin whistle. I bought it for a few pence and brought it home with me. The first tune I learned on it was Home Sweet Home, an old folk tune that I would have heard my mother singing as she went around the house.

“Then one day my father arrived in with a half set of uileann pipes and I was drawn to the sound straight away. When I turned six, he brought me to the famous piper, Tommy Moore, for lessons. Tommy taught me what I needed to know but he also encouraged me to free flow, and develop my own groove.

“He was a great influence on me and when we’d finish the lesson he’d sit with my father and they would have a glass of poitin or whiskey, just the one glass mind as none of them were big drinkers, and I would sit there falling asleep listening to them talking about music. But in the kitchen Tommy’s wife, Bridie, would cook the best potato cakes you ever tasted. I can still smell the melted butter on them and it makes my mouth water even now.”

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Actor Bela Lugosi (1882 Ð 1956) and actress Martha Mansfield (1899 Ð 1923) in the 1923 film 'Silent Command'. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Bela Lugosi;Martha Mansfield

The dark arts of the secret agent have always held Hollywood movie makers in thrall, writes Tom McParland.

Our first forthright spy was the magic mirror in Snow White, which could only relay to the Queen that she had become an also-ran in the beauty stakes. Later in childhood we learn – if not the noun, the verb – about the capabilities of my little eye. But perhaps our earliest awareness of deliberate duplicities is Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. One for money, the other for skin-saving. That’s why only the child of a cynic is called Judas, and why becoming a spy is never high on a child’s gonnabe agenda.

We were further inculcated into the black arts by everything from The Beano and Girls Crystal to the School Friend and Wizard. We learned from them how to easily identify spies. If a sneaky class prefect had an older male cousin with a van, most likely she had her eye on the school silver. Foreign spies stood out always wearing beards or a fez.

Also, although words like perspicacious or catastrophic caused foreign spies no problems, their pronunciation of the (zee), or this (zis) was a dead giveaway. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? That in spite of this thorough grounding, what we know about spying could be written in code as duck awl.

It is on our – and their – thankful ignorance that the writers of spy fiction depend. For the unambiguous enjoyment of spy stories the reader or viewer must occupy the position of the totally incorruptible. And we do. Would we betray our country? No. Not even for money? Certainly not. If our life was threatened? Definitely still no. The wife’s life? – Em – Definitely still no! The mother-in-law? Em – OK, whaddaye offering?

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