Scam artists are a dime a dozen. We all know the fast talking schemer who can wangle his way in and out of trouble. They exist in the smallest towns and thrive in the largest cities. They are the real life Del Boy Trotters and Sergeant Ernie Bilkos.
These colourful characters are not a new phenomenon. In fact, one of the most audacious examples of quick-tongued escapism goes back over three hundred years. An Irishman, of course.
Thomas Blood was born around 1618. The exact date, as with so much of his early life, is unknown, although there is evidence to show that he was born in County Clare.
He was in his twenties when he fought in the English Civil War. Blood sided with Oliver Cromwell’s ‘new model army’ against Charles I’s Royalists and was granted lands in Ireland when cash ran out to pay the soldiers.
When Charles I was beheaded in 1649, Cromwell became Lord Protector (king in all but name) until his death nine years later. He was succeeded by his son, Richard, but within two years the English people wanted their monarchy back. Charles II returned from exile in France.
This was a nail-biting time for the likes of Thomas Blood. Some, but not all, the lands distributed by Cromwell were restored to their former Royalist occupiers. Colonel Blood, as he now liked to be known, found himself stripped of his possessions.
The colonel was not a good loser and he turned his anger against Charles’s representative in Ireland, the Duke of Ormonde.