The Kirrins and the
of the Sandy-haired Dwarf
by Robin Gordon
Two on a secret trail
© Copyright Robin Gordon, 2001
For the next few days the children kept out of Kirrin village and avoided going anywhere they might meet the poisonous little Irishman O'Shaughnessy. They took Timmy and Mycock for long walks on the moors or down to a little cove close to Kirrin cottage where they could bathe or just lie on the sand and discuss their plans. It was a really lazy, holiday sort of time, with no adventures or unpleasantness or encounters with criminals of any sort.
But, all too soon for little Fran, Sunday came, and it was time to stop their lovely relaxing holiday and for Andrew and Gavin to row out to Kirrin Island. The others came down from Kirrin cottage by Moor Lane and slipped into the Rectory without being seen. Andrew and Gavin had already told their father that they were going to take their cousins out for most of the day, but that they would be back for evensong. When Jonathan, Nick, Harry and Fran arrived, the two boys took them down to the cellar, handed over the binoculars, and left to take out their rowing boat.
Anne's brood made themselves comfortable on top of the tower. Fran had made them sandwiches and brought along some lemonade in case they got hungry or thirsty. Jonathan and Nick leaned on the parapet and swept the bay with the two pairs of binoculars, Andrew's and the mysterious spy's. Harry, who was looking down into the streets below, pointed out the bus taking the Irish builders to town for Mass.
At last they saw the little boat setting out slowly across the bay. They were able to follow it all the way until it disappeared round the western end of Kirrin Island, between the rocks and into the little cove where the hidden landing beach was. They knew that Andrew and Gavin would pull the boat behind a rock and drape seaweed over its prow so that a casual observer would probably not notice it. Then, at last, they saw the two boys appear on top of the island near the ruins of the old castle. Both of them waved their arms wildly as if to make sure they could be seen, then they disappeared into the ruins.
"Nothing to do now but wait," said Jonathan, putting down the binoculars. "I feel like a snooze."
"We're supposed to be on watch," Harry objected.
"You can watch," yawned Jonathan.
"Remember what happened last time you went to sleep when you were supposed to be on watch," said Harry.
"Don't remind me," groaned Jonathan."
"Seems to me," said Harry, "that you need reminding. If you go to sleep this time, Jonny, I shall take off your trousers and throw them down onto the church roof!"
"All right," groaned Jonathan, "I'll stay awake."
"What about a snack?" said Nick.
"No," said Fran. "We'll be here for another hour and a half. You're not to guzzle all my provisions in the first five minutes. We'll have a snack in three-quarters of an hour."
Meanwhile Andrew and Gavin had gone down into the dungeons. They found that they did not need to follow their chalk signs, for their torches revealed a well trodden trail leading to the eastern end of the cellars. There they found a new door.
"Blow!" said Andrew. "Probably locked. Why didn't we think of that?"
But, when they tried it, it wasn't, and it swung easily open on silent, well-oiled hinges. Beyond, a sloping ramp led downwards, curving round on itself, so that by the time it left the steep little island it was well below sea level. Steps would have taken up less room, but the smugglers probably wanted to run fork-lift trucks up and down. They were clearly not small-time operators.
"I bet we find stacks and stacks of smuggled goods," said Andrew.
"Or loot stolen from country houses," said Gavin. "Perhaps the gang bring all their swag here and then ship it off to the continent when the heat is off - like Lou and Tiger Dan." Note 8
"I think they're smuggling stuff into the country, not out," said Andrew. "Anyway, we've got our cameras, so we can take lots of pictures as evidence."
"Uncle Dick said the Five had to take pictures of each other all the time so that Miss Soper could draw pictures for Mrs Blyton's books," said Gavin. "I'm glad we haven't got anyone taking pictures of us." Note 9
"Too right," said Andrew.
"Remember that picture of Uncle Dick playing pocket billiards?"
"It was that adventure with Lou and Tiger Dan," said Gavin. "Uncle Dick was 13, and one of them took his picture with his hand in his shorts pocket - and he'd pulled the whole side of his shorts right round in front of him, dirty little beast."
"Oh yes, and Miss Soper didn't realise and drew him just as he was."
"I bet Mrs Blyton was peeved!"
"I wonder what the chaps at school said to Dick when they saw the picture," said Andrew.
They walked on under the seabed.
"Remember that adventure they had at Demon's rock?" said Gavin, "with the tunnel under the seabed".
"Gosh, yes," said Andrew. "And Mrs B put in all that stuff about the tunnels filling up at high tide."
"But she didn't explain how the water got out again at low tide if the tunnel was below sea level."
"Dad says she often put in lots of picturesque bits to make it more exciting," said Andrew.Note 10 "Like tunnels suddenly ending in sheer rock walls that they had to climb using footholds carved into the rock, and not remembering until later that Timmy couldn't climb sheer rock or rope ladders."
"Or describing deep shafts that they had to climb down and then suddenly saying that Timmy just jumped down.."
"I liked that bit where Dad climbed a sheer rock-face with a torch in his mouth and let out a cry of surprise when he got to the top," said Andrew.
"Do you suppose he dropped the torch?" Gavin asked.
"Knowing Dad, I'd say he probably carefully took it out of his mouth before he let out his cry of surprise," said Andrew."
"Yes, and put it back in afterwards," Gavin laughed.
It was perhaps foolish of the boys to have chatted so casually as they followed the tunnel below the sea into the heart of the enemies' stronghold, but they were pretty sure that all of the Irishmen had gone to Mass in the nearby town and that the tunnel was deserted. As it happened, they were right. They reached the far end of the tunnel without seeing or hearing anyone. It ended at another door, and this, like the first was unlocked and swung noiselessly open.
The boys now found themselves in a vast area of cellars. They flashed their torches around and saw that much of it was piled high with boxes and other containers. They now moved much more cautiously, for though the Irish labourers were good Catholics and had gone to perform their weekly religious obligations, the organisers of the gang were probably totally heathen, for as sons of an Anglican priest, Andrew and Gavin could not see how anyone who truly believed in God could take part in crime. So there might well be hidden watchers or patrolling guards.
The boys moved slowly from space to space with their cameras at the ready, and took flash photographs of anything interesting - and there was plenty there that the police would have liked to know about. For a start there were guns: revolvers and rifles, and also machine guns, and even rocket launchers. Then there were boxes of ammunition and grenades and anti-tank missiles, and many of the crates were stamped with Russian or Arabic lettering. Next there were crates and crates of bags containing white powder."
"Drugs!" said Andrew. "Probably heroin. It must be worth millions!"
"And there's money, here too," gasped Gavin. "Thousands and thousands of pounds."
"Counterfeit," said Andrew. "Look! Printing presses."
"There's enough counterfeit money here to bring the whole British economy crashing down in ruins," said Gavin.
"Enough drugs to keep half the population permanently doped," said Andrew.
"And enough guns and explosives to murder the rest."
"Who would want ..."
Then both together they chorused: "The IRA!"
Quickly they photographed the guns, the missile launchers, the printing presses, the money and the bags of drugs. Then they stuffed some counterfeit notes, a few bullets and a sachet of white powder into their pockets as evidence, and prepared to leave. Andrew took just one last photo - a cell complete with instruments of torture, and suddenly the lights went on and there was an furious shout.
"What the ...? Who's dhere? Mick! MICK! Dhere's intruders in dhe cellars."
The boys fled.
Pounding feet behind them.
Then a flash, and a crack, and a bullet went ricocheting of the wall.
"Sean! You stupid, bloody idiot."
"Don't fire guns, you madman!"
"You'll send dhe whole place up!"
Behind them they heard a scuffle, and something clattered to the floor.
"Bloody idiot, Sean!"
"Kill dhe lot of us!"
Then they were through the door and racing along the tunnel.
On top of the tower Nick had persuaded Fran to hand over some biscuits and lemonade. While the boys ate and drank and Fran fussed over the depletion of her stores, Harry kept watch with the spy's binoculars.
"There they are!" she shouted. "They've come back out of the tunnel. They're running."
"Someone must be after them," cried Jonathan.
Harry handed over the binoculars and he scanned the island.
"Four men!" he said.
Little Fran was dancing up and down in a frenzy of anxiety.
"Oh hurry up," she squeaked. "Hurry up! Hurry up!"
Would Andrew and Gavin be able to launch their boat before the men caught them? The four children on the tower gripped the parapet with white knuckles. Where was the boat?
Then the men came back into view, hustling Andrew and Gavin back towards the tunnel. They were prisoners!
For a moment Anne's brood froze, then Jonathan took charge.
"Find Uncle Julian," he snapped. "Quick!"
They tore down the winding staircase and into the tunnel beneath the church. They ran like bats out of hell along the underground passage. They burst into the Rectory cellars. They clattered up the stairs and banged on the door of the Rector's study.
"Uncle Julian!" shouted Jonathan.
"What's all this then?" It was Mr Stubbs, suddenly appearing round the corner.
"Oh Mr Stubbs, we've got to find Uncle Julian! It's urgent!" said Jonathan.
"I'm afraid the Padre's not here," said Stubbs. "Old Mr Trevissick's dying and the Padre's gone to see him through to the next world. Can I do anything to help?"
"Oh, corks!" groaned Nick.
"Oh, what shall we do," wailed Fran. "Andrew and Gavin have been captured by the smugglers and we need Uncle Julian."
"What smugglers? said Stubbs sharply.
"The smugglers on Kirrin Island," sobbed Fran. "There's a tunnel from the new hotel, and the boys went to the island and ..."
"I'll tell Mr Dick," said Stubbs and vanished.
"Oh!" wailed Fran. "I didn't mean to tell Mr Stubbs."
"Uncle Dick will help us," said Jonathan.
"But Andrew and Gavin didn't want Uncle Dick to know," Fran sobbed.
"Uncle Dick will know exactly what to do," said Harry. "Uncle Dick will rescue Andrew and Gavin. He's the best. I sometimes wish Uncle Dick was my father."
"Ooooooh!" wailed Fran.
At that moment Uncle Dick appeared with Stubbs.
"Tell me quickly exactly what has happened," he commanded. "No! Stop! Just one of you! Harry!"
Harry summarised the story concisely and succinctly. Uncle Dick nodded.
"Right, you four. This is important. These men are not just ordinary smugglers. They belong to one of the most ruthless criminal gangs known to man. I don't know whether I can do anything to rescue Andrew and Gavin, but I'm going to try. In the meantime I want you all to stay inside the house out of harm's way. Stubbs, come with me! Oh, one other thing, kids! Not a word of this to your mother or Aunt Laurence! They'd only worry. When Julian comes back tell him quietly on his own, and say I'm handling it. You can tell Aunt George too if she comes."
Uncle Dick and Stubbs disappeared upstairs, then, a few minutes later, came down again and left the house. The children looked at one another.
"Let's go into the garden," said Nick. There's a place you can look over the wall and see right down to the Kirrin Arms."
"Uncle Dick said we were not to leave the house," Harry objected.
"He meant the Rectory, and the garden's part of the Rectory," said Nick.
"He said Stay inside the house" Harry insisted.
"Let's compromise," said Nick. "You girls stay inside the house and Jonny and I'll go into the garden and look over the wall."
"I'm not staying in the house while you go out having adventures," roared Harry. "I'm as good as any boy, and you'd better believe it!"
"Good old Harry," said Jonathan. "I think we could risk going into the garden. We'd still be in the Rectory, and we might see or hear something useful."
"All right," said Harry. "Let's go."
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Lou and Tiger Dan used their travelling circus as cover for burglaries and hid the loot in an underground cave in the hills above the lake where the circus camped between shows. (Five go off in a caravan, 1946). [Back to text]
According to Julian the boys were wrong about this. "We couldn't possibly have take photographs during our adventures," he said, "but we did take ordinary holiday snaps and sometimes gave copies to Enid Blyton and Eileen Soper. Miss Soper used to come down to Kirrin with Mrs Blyton, and while Mrs Blyton was asking us questions about our adventures, Miss Soper used to sketch us. She could draw children and animals at lightning speed." [Back to text]
Enid Blyton followed the children's amazing adventures in chronological order for the first twelve Famous Five books, up to Five go to Mystery Moor which was published in 1954 By then Julian was 18 and he was called up for National Service soon after. He rather enjoyed the experience, was picked for officer training, and rejoined the army after Oxford.
The Famous Five adventures had come to an end, however, and Enid Blyton, in response to the demands of her fans, was obliged to write up some earlier experiences of theirs and expand them into full-blown adventures. Sometimes, as with Five go to Demon's Rock her imagination ran away with her. Why, for example, should the builders of a lighthouse, when they have solid rock to serve as foundation, dig down through it and build brick foundations on top of an underground cavern? Or, as Andrew and Gavin said, how can a tunnel under a bay, a tunnel that is below sea level even at low tide, fill with water at high tide and empty when the tide goes out? [Back to text]
Links to other pages are at the end of the text, before the notes.