So begins Mahon’s detailed account of the incredible and audacious coup carried out by Cork’s anti-Treaty IRA forces. A seemingly impossible heist that involved the capture of the British arms ship Upnor by a group of soldiers whose chances of coming across ‘a ship in this vast expanse of grey water would be about as likely as finding a needle in a haystack’. The subsequent transportation and concealment of eighty tonnes of seized weapons-amazingly achieved without a single casualty- was an event that changed the course of Irish history, and the ‘most astonishing’ act of piracy ‘carried out in Ireland in the last hundred years’.
Mahon’s evident flair for storytelling is combined with a comprehensive glossary, forensically researched details and a section of references, resulting in a book that is not bogged down by facts, but is instead a lively revival of them.
Mahon’s rendering of the backstories of key characters and their supposed conversations are perhaps the highlight of this book. He deftly weaves them into the narrative, providing the reader with a deeper understanding of the emotions, beliefs and decisions that were involved, not only in this event, but in the fight for Independence as a whole.
Words: Holly Gash
The Ballycotton Job