“I go round in circles
Not graceful, not like dancers
Not neatly, not like compass and pencil
More like a dog on a lead, going mental”

De Mussenden Carey / Tempest

On Wednesday morning I found myself in Dublin with the wonderful opportunity to wander around and then meet a friend for coffee in The Fumbally. I parked in St.Stephen’s Green and walked through streets that I haven’t been on in donkey’s years. I had almost passed The Swan before I realised it was there. In my defence it looks a lot smarter now than it did when I frequented it many years ago on a Friday afternoon to meet my friend Micky’s brother Paul and his mates from the Royal College Of Surgeons for a few pints.

I remember the mosaic floors and the toilet in the basement which you descended to directly from the bar floor. The toilet featured in The Courier film, the one with Gabriel Byrne, not the one with Benedict Cumberbatch.

Across the road the Whitefriar St.Church caught my eye. It’s one of those city churches that are part of the streetscape with the only giveaway that it is in fact a church, is the doorway, flanked by statues. As soon as I saw it I was catapulted back to the first wedding I ever went to of a friend rather than a relative. My friends Mark and Fiona got married there. I walked over , and having time on my hands, wandered in and slowly walked around the church , looking at the statues, reading about St.Valentine and how what’s left of him ended up in Aungier St. in Dublin  1500 years after his death in Rome. His skull is on display in Rome, and the rest of him is in a box under a glass fronted side altar here. The statue of him above the altar would suggest he’s not happy about it. I giggled to myself at that, and was congratulating myself on my worldly cynicism, when I spotted a large hardbacked book on a plinth where people wrote down their petitions for help from most of St.Valentine.

The most recent entry, which must have been written shortly before I swanned in, simply said :

“Please help Susan find love, or a good friend this year. She deserves it. Needs it.”

I read it twice.

I immediately said a prayer for Susan, and then lit three candles, one for Mark, one for a friend, and one for Susan.   

I wandered on and spotted in the wall of the National Archives warehouse a plaque commerorating that this had once been the site of French Peter’s church. It was established in 1711 as a church for French Hugenots. I thought that it was nice that they found refuge from persecution at home here, and also that they built there church near Whitefriars with its abundance of saints’s relics and statues.

There’s a huge new Garda Station nearby, that I thought at first was a museum or library, as it had a wonderful set of railings with quotes from pieces of great Irish literature, and engravings on the wall behind of images and more quotes from the same authors. It was gorgeous.

After an hour or so I stumbled upon The Fumbally. I was meeting my friend Karl there for a coffee, which ended up being three coffees and perhaps the most delicious scrambled egg on toast I have ever had in my entire life, second only to the guggy eggs Nanny Bond used to make us. I picked The Fumbally, as our Jake’s great friend Shaun told us at Christmas that he’d started working there.

Karl and I had a great chat over the next two hours or so, and met Shaun, he was busy in the bakery, so we only had a quick chat, Karl said afterwards, “That chap exudes joy.”

He does.

We headed back towards the car park, I telling him about the times and memories I’d recalled on my way to meet him , and he then recollecting about his time growing up in the same place, and his Granny taking him to pray in Whitefriars.

Kae Tempest’s song ‘Circles’ popped into my head. Our lives circling around, back sometimes, but not to the start, because we’re different now, even if we’re in the same place, our circles overlapping with others.

When I was driving away I remembered meeting Geore Wyatt Jnr. back in September in Brushy Mountain Prison in Tennesse.

The prison closed in 2009 and is now a tourist attraction. We were there as it is a focal point of the annual Barkley Fall Classic race that our friend AnnaMarie was taking part in the next day. During the race you run under the prison and through it twice.

It was a tough place. The prisoners were forced to work in a local coal mine and were whipped if they didn’t dig their quota. The stocks were in the yard. It had a horribly decrepit Victorian air about it, and yet only closed 14 years earlier. It wasn’t a large prison, but had one of the largest prison graveyards. I didn’t hang around.

On our way out we passed a gentleman who said ‘Hello’. We got chatting and it turned out that he had been a prisoner there in 1986.

His name was George Wyatt Jnr. and he was a gentleman…but a terrible arsonist. He had robbed a vending machine and decided that the best way to make sure he wasn’t caught was to then set fire to it so that they wouldn’t get his fingerprints. He got away with it.

A short time later he got a job as a security guard in a country club. They had lots of vending machines, and he knew that they were only emptied of their day’s takings the next morning, so he hatched a plan to rob them one night and then set fire to them. As there were a lot of them he decided that the fire needed a bit of a kick, so he acquired a gallon of petrol…and a few sticks of dynamite.

He robbed the vending machines, and instead of poring the petrol over them and setting a match, he tied the dynamite to the petrol cannister and lit the match.

The explosion threw him though a set of double doors, blew the roof off the country club and set it ablaze.

He turned up for work the next morning ,expressing shock at what had happened, but smiling to himself, until he saw FBI agents taking prints from what was left of the vending machines. His persistent enquiries to the agents about how likely there was to be a usable print aroused their suspicions, and he was quickly arrested and charged.

“I was indeed a criminal…just not a very clever one.”

He told us that the worst part for him was that his Dad was a local police chief. When he was sentenced his Dad pulled in a favour and asked if he could drive him to the prison rather than put him on the prison bus. When he surrendered his son at the prison the prison officer looked at the names on the forms :

Custodian  : George Wyatt

Prisoner   : George Wyatt Jnr.

“Is this some kind of Joke ?” he asked.

It wasn’t . George told us that his father hugged him, called in another favour asking the prison officers not to let anyone else know that Junior was the son of a policeman, hugged him again and said goodbye.

That was the last time George saw his Dad. He passed away the following year while George was still in prison.

George said that some of the older prisoners took him under their wings and only for that he wouldn’t have survived. He told us he saw drug overdoses and murders regularly. He got out early, for good behaviour, a few years later and swore he’d never return.

Many years later his Mother and his daughter cajoled him into taking them there for a visit when they found out it was now a tourist attraction, and while showing them around and talking about his time there, a few other visitors started trailing after them to hear what he had to say. By the time he finished there were more people following him around than were following the official tour guide, so the new owners offered his a job as tour guide.

And that’s how we met him.

He told us he was incredibly lucky. The bomb he set off was so powerful that if it had been facing the other way it would have brought down a block of condominiums built on to the country club, and he’d have faced the death penalty. His time in prison turned him around, and he now enjoyed meeting new people every day and telling them his story, and hopefully changing the path of someone else’s life.

His only regret was that his Dad’s last memory of him was handing him in here.

We thanked his for his time and told him to write a book.

“Several people say that. Maybe I will.”

I hope he does.


I was due to meet another friend on Wednesday , for more coffee, at lunchtime, but I had to head home earlier than planned, and messaged him to say I couldn’t make it. Colm messaged back to say we’d meet next time, and that he was going to mention a lady called Milly to me to get in touch with regarding a cancer journey documentary she was involved in. He sent me her email address, and I sent her a brief email explaining what I’d adventured through.

She rang me later to chat. She particularly liked the idea that I’d given my marathon medal to my consultant , Ms.Little. In a throwaway comment I said I never kept my race medals.

“You never keep your race medals ? I’d have them on display !”

“Well, a number of years ago I got involved with my friend Carol Dublin’s group in America, ‘I Run 4 Michael’ where they match runners with kids who are ill and you send them pictures of where you ran today, how you got on and dedicate the run for them. I was matched with Jarett , a boy in Ohio. I communicated with him through his amazing mother Jamie on FB. I sent him all of the medals I got and the odd Monaghan jersey, Tayto crisps and Cadbury chocolates.

I ran for Jarret from 2014 to 2018 when Jamie and I agreed that maybe he was getting to old for posts about a middle aged man huffing and puffing his way around Monaghan. Jamie and I stayed in touch and I got regular updates of him progressing through school and eventually going to college.

And then in 2022 when I posted about starting my cancer treatment a parcel arrived at home from Ohio from Jamie and Jarett. It contained warm shearling socks, lip balms, ginger lollipops and a tee shirt with ‘BeastMode’ written on it, and a card wishing me well.

“Wow!” Milly said. “ It came full circle.”

It did.

I Love circles.



Author: paul

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