The Aulí Man
"What is it now Dougie?"
"Sorry to bother you again Cormac, but which column do I
put this credit-note into, on the new supplier-card?"
For the third time that week, Cormac explained how the new
accounting-card system worked. Allardyce senior had retired and his son was
implementing new ideas. Dougie was in his late fifties and was struggling
with it. The old book-ledgers were out and new trays of cards had replaced
them. Charles Hutchinson beckoned to him from his office in the corner.
"You got it now Dougie? Iíve got to go and see Mr.
"Aye, I think so Cormac. Thanks."
"Come in and shut the door Cormac. Dougie doesnít
understand it at all, does he?"
"Heís struggling a wee bit."
"Donít try to make it any better. Heís never going to get
it, is he?"
"I donít think so Mr. Hutchinson."
"Thatís going to be a problem. If he canít do the work,
what are we going to do with him? Heís been with us for more that thirty
years. Old Mr. Allardyce would have known what to do about it, but the new
man is much more hard-headed. Iíd hate to see him out of a job."
"I know. Iíve been watching him as well. To be honest,
weíve been carrying him for a couple of years now. Iím sure thatís not news
"Aye, Iím not blind Cormac. I should have done something
before, but I never knew how. Iím really grateful to the whole
department, but I could never say anything; you know Ö.." He lapsed into
"Can I make a suggestion?"
"Cormac, anything, if it will help."
"Itís not my place, Ö."
"Open cards; anything you say will not be used as evidence
against you." Hutchinson laughed. "Seriously, youíre one of the trusted
old hands as it were, so speak your mind."
"Arthur McQueen is getting on for thirty. He got married
last year, and the first baby is on the way. Heís a good man, and I think
heís ready to take on more responsibility. If we were to reshuffle the work
a bit, you could broaden Arthurís job and at the same time put Dougie onto
the simpler, routine work. Arthur could use any extra money there might be
in it, and Dougie would be really relieved to get easier work. I donít know
if you can do the extra pay bit, maybe later, next year or so, Ö.." It was
Cormacís turn to trail off.
"A re-organisation? I wonder, Ö. Let me think about it. It
might be just what we need, Dougie or no Dougie. With all this new system
and everything, maybe we havenít got the right people in the right places
anymore. I bet you I could sell that idea to young Mr. Allardyce and
convince him that any extra costs came from all the changes. Iíll think
about it. Leave it with me."
Cormac went back to do battle with the new cards. Dougie
was not the only struggler.
The following spring, Cormac attended one of many meeting.
In his twenty years in the yard, Cormac had never been in the board-room.
The mahogany table with its matching twenty-two chairs made a considerable
impression on him. Bob Laird, the finance director, Charles Hutchinson,
Cormacís boss and Cormac sat down at the table. Laird introduced Cormac as
the new man responsible for the financial dealings with Ayrshire Glass Ltd.
He shook hands with Mr. Leslie, head of sales and Eric Marshall, sales
representative, responsible for contact with the Eglinton Shipyard. Cormacís
new title was senior book-keeper, goods inward. He was responsible for
processing all incoming invoices from suppliers. In the following weeks, he
met the representatives of all the yardís main suppliers. Before, he had no
outside contact. Visits from sales reps. were a pleasant break from
A few weeks later, Cormac saw a face approaching his desk
that he had difficulty putting a name to.
"Morning Cormac. Everything all right?"
"Hello Ö eh ÖEric. Everythingís fine. Is this just a visit
or does Ayrshire Glass need me to sort another of their problems out?"
"Just a visit. I need to get out and see the customers
regularly, otherwise, my boss thinks Iíve not got enough to do. No, I was in
seeing Eddie Lawrence over in purchasing, and thought Iíd drop in and say
hello. Here, I brought this over from Greg Barclay. Itís an invoice to cover
some replacement stuff for breakages."
"Thatís new to me. How does that work?"
"Itís to cover stuff thatís got broken in your stores.
Happens regularly. At first we used to ask for a new order for the
replacements, but it was getting to be too much work. So we made it easier,
and now we supply the replacements under the original order. Saves all that
paper-work. It works fine and weíre not talking about a lot of money; a
couple of pounds here and there."
"Right, Iíll see it gets done."
Later, Cormac walked over to talk to Eddie Lawrence.
"Thatís right Cormac. Theyíre always breaking panes of
glass in the stores or out in the yard. We even add two percent to the
orders to cover it, but even then, we regularly need more. At first, I was
making orders for extra glass every other week or that. So me and Ericís
boss agreed to do it this way. It saves me work. If itís less than ten
pounds, you just sign if off yourself. You donít need to come to me for a
counter signature. More than a tenner, I do want to see it though."
Thatís funny, thatís the third one this month. Cormac put
the invoice from AGL, (Ayrshire Glass Ltd.), aside. Iíll check that out
While drinking his tea that afternoon, he pulled the
invoice from the pile and went to the drawers with the customer cards. On the
card for AGL, he saw nineteen invoices entered since the first of October
the previous year, when the new system started. In that time, there were
seven invoices for replacement glass, all for less than ten pounds. Three
were in the last five weeks, all for the same order number. He took down the
AGL folder from the current creditor section, and found the three invoices.
The last two had the bank account number blanked out with xís from a
typewriter and a new number typed in. A later invoice for a regular order
had the normal bank account number.
Thatís strange, he thought. Iíll send a note to Barclay,
Winton, 21, Apr. 1922
Can you explain this. It struck me they might be a
There are three of these invoices in the last couple of
weeks. They all have the same order no. Invoices :- 7339 / 7351 / 7377
Has AGL a new bank account number?
Please let me know if it is all right, and I will process
them for you.
Cormac pinned the last invoice to the note, and addressed
the envelope to Mr. G. Barclay, (Personal).
Four days later the office junior put a letter on Cormacís
desk addressed to Mr. C. Sleanagh, (Personal).
Irvine, 23, Apr. 1922
There is no mistake. Just sign the invoices off and make
sure they get paid and nobody asks any questions. If you make any
trouble, I will go to your wife. So if you want to stay out of trouble, just
sign the invoices off.
The invoice was pinned to the note.
Hell and damnation. The buggerís forging invoices and
wants me to sign them off. I should never have given in to that bastard. I
did it twice and now he knows that Iím afraid of him. If I pay one of these
invoices, heíll really have me by the balls. Up till now, he could only tell
Beth about Maisie. If I give in this time, the only way out will be for the
pair of us to go to jail.
He did nothing. Two more threatening letters came. Still
Cormac did nothing. In July, the annual Kerlaw- Irvine inter-club bowls
competition took place. At the social that evening, Barclay joined the table
where Cormac sat with Beth and a few friends. There were raised eyebrows at
such a hard-line Orangeman sitting at their table, but no-one made any
reference to it. Barclay made a point of monopolising Beth with whom he had
several dances. Beth, a beautiful dancer, went out of her way to embarrass
Barclayís lack of grace.
"Have you ever been to Helensbugh, Mrs Sleanagh? Itís a
lovely place to have a holiday. We go there every year on our Ďdoon the
watterí day out with the club. You should try it some time. Iím sure youíd
"Good night Mrs. Sleanagh. Good night Cormac." Barclay
tipped his cap to Beth and as he did so, he produced a folded piece of blue
paper from his pocket. "Here, if you ever decide to spend a week or two in
Helensbugh, there are plenty of nice guest houses to stay at." He handed it
to Cormac, saying, "Take it. Iíve got another one at home."
"Good night , Greg. Thanks, if we get the notion, Iíll
take your advice."
"What was that all about?" Beth asked on their way out.
"Oh, donít pay any attention. Since the re-organisation,
heís the man I have to deal with at Ayrshire Glass in Irvine. He hates
the idea of having to work with a Catholic. He takes every opportunity to
try and make my life difficult."
"What was that all about Helensburgh?"
"I havenít got the faintest idea."
She took his arm and they walked home.
"Youíre shivering," she said.
"Oh, itís probably just coming out of the clubhouse. It
was awful hot in there with all them people. I thought it was awful close
"It was. I felt it too."
The following Monday there was another letter.
Irvine, 19, Jul. 1922
Next time, I will give the leaflet to her. If the invoice
is not paid by the end of the month, I will come and see her. I am warning
"Right, Iím taking the dog for a walk." Cormac took the
lead from the hook in the passage and put on his cap.
" Hang on. Iíll come with you." John put down his tea-cup
and followed him to the door. Nell danced around their legs.
"All right, all right, calm yourself. Weíre going." Cormac
opened the door and the dog ran out ahead of them. They turned right, up
towards the Rec.
"That dogís daft about you. I canít imagine why. The way
you refused to have one for all those years. Now, youíre always taking it
for a walk."
"Ach, you get wiser as you get older. And anyway, she was
making my life a misery, always on about wanting a dog. The woman just wore
me down till I had no resistance any more. Then there was no stopping her.
Now weíve a dog, two cats and a dozen hens. Remember me telling you never to
get married? I sometimes wish Iíd taken my own advice"
They walked on up the hill.
"Slow down there Aulí-man. Youíre marching along here like
ten men and a young fella."
"Aye, I suppose youíre right." Cormac slowed to a more
"Youíre awful wound up the last wee while. Whatís up?"
"With me? Nothing. Iím fine. Maybe a wee bit tired. Itís
been busy with all them changes at the work. Havenít been sleeping too well.
Iíll be all right once things settle down again."
"Come on Da. Thereís more to it than that. Things have
been busy before and you havenít been like this."
"Like last night when you were screaming at Thomas,
banging your hand on the table, and ended up crying with pure anger. Your
face was purple. Thatís not the Aulí-man we know. And that wasnít the only
time. Youíve got something on your mind. Whatís up?"
"Nothingís up. Iím just tired."
"You can tell me. Iíll keep anything you say to myself.
Iím worried about you. We all are."
"So youíre all worried about me, are you. Youíve all been
talking about me behind my back." Belligerence bubbled up. "Whatís everybody
saying? Heís cracking up; loosing his grip; getting to be a bloody nuisance
in his old-age? Eh."
"No, just that youíre not yourself. Weíre worried. And we
have no clue whatís wrong. Weíre wondering if itís something weíve done to
"Nobodyís done anything to upset me. Iím just tired. Now
leave me alone."
They walked down the hill to the playing fields. The dog
chased the seagulls and came back to be praised.
"Good girl. That showed them." Cormac fondled her ears and
she ran off again. Cormac began to pant. It got worse and he began to take
deeper and deeper breaths.
"Whatís wrong Da? Are you all right?" John, thinking he
was having a heart-attack, tried to make him sit down.
"Leave me alone. If I sit down it gets worse. I need to
They walked on, and the spasm got less. After a few
minutes, his breathing was normal again.
"What was that all about? Have you had that before?"
"Iíve been getting it for weeks now. It comes and goes. I
canít get enough air. I keep taking bigger breaths but it doesnít help. It
seems to make it worse."
"Right. Weíre going straight home and Iím going to get Dr.
McGrath. That sounds like your heart."
"Itís not my heart. Iíll be all right. Now leave it be."
"Youíll not be all right till you have a bloody heart
attack, and whereís that going to leave us all. What about my mother?
Whatíll she do if you peg out? Weíll have you checked out and thereís years
in you yet if you take care of yourself. If you donít Ö "
"For Godís sake, leave it be. I am not going to see any
doctor. Thereís nothing he can do for me. Thereís nothing wrong with my
"Then what is wrong with you? If you donít tell me whatís
up, Iím going to see him. Iíll make such a bloody fuss that youíll have
no choice. What am I going to say if you die on us, and Iíve got to tell
them I didnít get you to a doctor after Iíve seen you like this? Eh?"
"Iím not dying. Now I want this so stop here and now."
"Da, itís not going to stop here and now. Itís bloody well
going to start here and now. You can see the doctor willingly or
unwillingly. But youíre going to see him, if Iíve got to carry you there in
"You fucking, stupid, bloody man. Leave me alone. I donít
want to see any fucking doctor. Now leave me alone." Cormacís voice rose to
a shriek and he started to lash at John with the dogís lead.
John stepped back and watched as his father beat the
ground with the lead. After a few minutes, he stopped and sat down and wept;
great sobs with mucous streaming from his nose. Shocked, John took the lead
from his hand and, kneeling beside him, put his arm round his fatherís
"All right, Aulí-man. All right. Everythingís all right.
Easy now. Easy now."
Cormacís whole frame was trembling.
John helped him to his feet. "Come on. Weíll go and sit on
the bench over there." He led him over to the side of the playing field.
"Now, for Godís sake, will you tell me whatís wrong?"
"I canít. I canít tell anybody whatís wrong."
John gave him a handkerchief. "I usually do this for my
Cormac smiled, and wiped the mess off his face.
"Right. You can tell me. At some stage youíre going to
have to tell somebody. If itís that serious, that itís doing this to you,
youíll have to face up to it sooner or later. Itís not going to go away. Now
for Christís sake, what the hell is going on?"
"Iím being forced to sign off forged invoices at my work."
"How the hell can anybody force you to sign them off if
"Iím being blackmailed."
"How in the name of God are you being blackmailed? What in
the name of Christ have you done to get blackmailed about? And who the
hellís doing it?"
"Thatís what I canít tell anybody."
"Look, I donít give two fucks what youíve done. If youíve
murdered some bugger, then the bastard deserved it. Now, tell me whatís it
Cormac began to sob again. Great spasms racked him. John
sat next to him and watched helplessly.
"Daddy, listen. If thereís anybody in this world you can
trust, itís me. I donít give a shit what youíve been up to. Youíre my daddy
and Iím on your side. Please, trust me. I donít care how terrible it is. Weíll
get it sorted. Please Ö. "
The dog came and licked his hand. Cormac tousled its ears.
"Iíve got another family in Helensburgh; a woman with two
There was a silence. They looked at each other.
"You old goat." John gave vent to a great gust of
laughter. "Everybody always gave me a hard time because I was always chasing
the women. They all asked where I got it from. And all the time I get it
He took his father in his arms and hugged him. "Ye great
daft bugger. I never thought you had it in you."
"What will your mother say?"
"Who the hellís going to tell my mother? You?"
They walked home, left the dog, and went down to the White
The whole story came out; Girvan; Maisie; making love by
the burn; running away; Paisley; Corrie; prison; Corrie dying; Hurlford;
falling in love again; Phillip; Ellen; Helensburgh; Barclay; the blackmail.
"What am I going to do?"
"Right now, youíre going to do nothing. If he was going to
do it, - tell my mother that is, he would have done it by now. Heís just
putting the pressure on you. If he tells my mother, heís got nothing left,
and then you can tell the police. As long as you donít sign the invoices
off, youíre in a stronger position than him, and he knows it. The longer you
let him stew, the stronger you are. Heís only got the one card, and once
itís played, its not worth anything any more. Just sit tight. Youíve got
nothing to worry about."
Thunder rumbled and lightning flickered over Arran as they
walked home. Is that a good or a bad omen, Cormac wondered.
"Michael, howís that cousin of yours getting on these
days? Howís his arm? I hope it mended all right."
"Iíve been told that he arrived safely and that heís all
"I went out of my way to help him and his friends. I could
use a favour in return. Get in touch with them and tell them to contact me."
"They donít like being asked to return favours, John."
"I didnít like being asked to put my neck on the line for
them Michael. So they owe me one. Tell them to contact me."
The shop was empty. It was Thursday afternoon. The three
brothers sat drinking tea in the back-shop. The door opened.
"Iíll go." Mack went to serve the customer.
"Somebody to see you John."
"Afternoon. Can I help you?"
"Put your coat on and walk down to the shore. Keep walking
till somebody catches up with you." A Dublin accent came from behind a high
scarf and a low-brim.
"Iíve got to go out for a minute. I wonít be long."
"Everything all right?"
"Aye. Iíll be back in half an hour."
John walked towards the shore. As he walked across the
level-crossing at the station a voice behind him said, "Donít turn round.
Keep walking till you get to the shore."
On the beach, he turned right towards Seabank.
"Go into the kiosk and sit down."
John chose the furthest corner in the beach shelter known
as the kiosk and sat there. After ten minutes, the scarf and brim came and
sat next to him.
"Whatís your problem?"
"When you had a problem, I didnít ask any questions my
friend. I helped you as an Irishman."
"What do you want?"
"My family is being blackmailed by the Orangemen. I want
"How do you expect us to do that?"
"Iím a grocer, not a soldier. Do what you have to do, just
get it stopped."
"So you want us to eliminate these people?"
"Thereís just the one."
"Whatís it all about?"
John explained leaving out the details of his fatherís
"Has he got a name and somewhere we can find him?"
John gave all the details he had about Barclay.
"You stay sitting here for another fifteen minutes and
then go home." The man left and walked off along the beach towards Seabank.
John waited and then went back to the shop.