A Giant Abscess


Just outside the UFF-decorated village of Bushmills there stands irregular piles of old chimney pots which eventually disappear into the sea. A case of illegal dumping, if ever I saw it. On certain maps the illustrations for the site are exaggerated through trick photography so that as you drive out of the distillery town you are expecting to see huge towering ‘naturally-formed’ corinthian and ionic columns which inspired some ancient Greek architect on a visit to the emerald isle long before your mother was born.

But I have seen bigger Lego blocks.

What a fraud has been wrought on the world by the Tourist Boards, whoever preceded those bodies before partition, and all those disappointed, yet twisted foreign visitors, who went home and perpetuated the lie by claiming to have seen the Emperor’s new clothes: "Otto! You just gotto see the Giant’s Causeway. Itz something elze!"

Firstly, you can’t see the Giant’s Causeway as you approach it, and you can’t even be sure when you’re standing on it. It was actually made by an ostracised, midget volcano which erupted in 40,000 farts of lava. And, secondly, it is something else.

I saved up for 47 years to see it and took along two excited American friends who heard it was as breathtaking as the Grand Canyon given that it has been designated a World Heritage site along with the Great Wall of China and the Great Barrier Reef.

"When are we gonna get there?" said Anne, as she scanned the horizon with her binoculars. "I think I see it now!" she shouted enthusiastically, but it was just the ladders of a window cleaner in Rathlin Island she had spotted.

In its promotional material the Northern Ireland Tourist Board says that William Thackeray visited the place in 1842 and wrote: "When the world was moulded and fashioned out of formless chaos, this must have been the bit over - a remnant of chaos." What the NITB omits is Thackeray’s other comment: "Mon Dieu! And have I travelled a hundred and fifty miles to see that?" And Samuel Johnson’s 1776 comment: "Worth seeing, but not worth going to see."

According to the NITB: "He [Thackeray] had read that the Causeway is a geological freak, caused by volcanic eruptions, and cooling lava. The ancients knew differently: clearly this was a Giant’s work and, more particularly, the work of the Giant Finn McCool, the Ulster warrior and commander of the King of Ireland’s armies."

Finn, one of the first recorded chiropodists, could "pick thorns out of his heels while running… Once, during a fight with a Scottish giant, he scooped up a huge clod of earth and flung it at his fleeing rival. The clod fell into the sea and turned into the Isle of Man. The hole it left filled up with water and became Lough Neagh."

So that’s where the Isle of Man came from! Our poor thirty-third county: out there occupied by the Manx.

"He [Finn] lived most happy and content, obeyed no law and paid no rent. When he fell in love with a lady Giant on Staffa, an island in the Hebrides, he built this wide commodious highway to bring her across to Ulster," unfortunately running out of Lego before completing the task, and leaving it like a Phoenix gas roadworks’ site.

However, another legend offers a different explanation. According to this, Finn McCool built it so he could lure his rival, Benandonner, across from Scotland. Benandonner came, but he was much bigger than Finn had expected so Finn’s wife quickly disguised her husband as a baby, complete with bonnet. Benandonner was so impressed by the baby’s size - and clearly six tartans short of a kilt - that he feared to meet the father and fled back the way he came, tearing up the Causeway as he went - and discovering North Sea oil and gas fields before braking.

If you think about it, we in West Belfast are sitting on a veritable gold mine, given that the Trades Description Act clearly does not apply to tourist attractions. It is believed that recently discovered manuscripts, which the NITB has known about for years and suppressed, show that Finn McCool actually spent his early years in Ballymurphy, cutting down trees with a hatchet (where did you think the Hatchet Field came from?) which he used to pick cows from between his teeth.

At the weekends he went on the tear, beginning in Kelly’s Cellars and finishing in Yee Olde Bee Hive, drinking hogsheads of Guinness, and eyeing up the local tall women, some of whom were over eighteen. He fell on his face coming out of Yee Hive one night and that’s why there’s a hollow on the road around Beechmount in the shape of his Celtic nose and lovely chin. Of course, the Leisure Centre wasn’t there in those days, but Riddle’s Field was and was known to be haunted and Finn was afraid of ghosts, despite his giant size, so he had to go up Beechview Park to get home.

And it was here that he was attacked by the draconian RUC under the Powers Special Act. Five hundred of these drunken louts tried to seize this fine warrior’s carry-out but failed because of all the prayers that had been said for him. Finn escaped and all that the RUC were left with was a Giant Boot in the shape of this Giant’s Foot, and I know it sounds far-fetched and calls into question some other things I have told you, but it’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, as Sir Jack Hermon use to say.

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© 2007 Irish Author and Journalist - Danny Morrison