The Kirrins and the Mystery
of the Sandy-haired Dwarf
by Robin Gordon
George, Dick and Harry
© Copyright Robin Gordon, 2001
Anne and Fran spent a happy morning together cleaning Kirrin cottage from top to bottom, while Jonathan and Nick hoovered, cleaned windows, relaxed a bit between tasks and managed to get away with far less work than little Fran. Harry did what she was told, accepting for once those household tasks that fell to her lot because the boys were working too, though from time to time she would pop out to the garden for a few minutes conversation with the two dogs who were lying peacefully together swopping yarns about past exploits with rabbits, bones, bitches and smugglers with guns.
George drove into town to wait for her parents. Luckily the bus was only a few minutes late, so they were back in good time for lunch. Aunt Fanny, as always was full of life and conversed happily with her daughter, but Uncle Quentin was tired and grumpy. He didn't see why they needed a holiday, even at Kirrin.
"Why don't you go by yourself, Fanny?" he had said. "I shall be perfectly all right here with my experiments."
"Really now, Quentin," she had replied, "you know how much good the sea air does you, and I know that you are totally incapable of looking after yourself. Even if I left the fridge full of ready meals that just need warming and full instructions about what to do, you'd either forget to put them in the oven, or, even worse, leave them in the oven till they were burned to a cinder."
"I'm not a complete fool, Fanny!" he grumbled, "and besides, I could always go and eat in college."
"By the time you thought of eating, my dear, the kitchens would be closed and there'd be nothing there at all," she replied. "I've made all the arrangements, and you agreed that couple of weeks in Kirrin would be good for you."
"I don't remember that."
"You never remember, dear."
"I certainly didn't agree to stay away for two whole weeks. Wouldn't one be enough, or even three days?"
"You'll enjoy it when we get there," she laughed. "You always do."
It was true, he always did, but he hated leaving his home, and his laboratory, and his colleagues in Auksford, where he held an emeritus fellowship at Transfiguration College - and he hated travelling by bus. The throbbing of those old-fashioned diesel engines was a constant reminder of the failure of his greatest experiment. He had thought that he had found a way of extracting energy from sea-water, a way that would have replaced all the expensive and polluting coal, oil and nuclear machinery with clean, efficient electricity produced without undermining the health of the workers or damaging the fragile ecology of the Earth.
He had been kidnapped and threatened with murder by crooks who wanted to sabotage his plans. Kirrin Island had almost been blown to smithereens, and he and his daughter George almost blown up with it, and all for nothing.Note 13 When he had checked his equations again he had found the error: it would have cost more energy to run the generating process than it would have produced. Free power, like perpetual motion or cold fusion, just didn't exist. There was a price to pay for everything and always would be. No wonder he hated travelling by bus.
At least he could relax in George's car, half-listening to George, beside him, and Fanny, on the back seat, conversing about all their friends and relations. George seemed to be telling some fantastic tale about smugglers on Kirrin Island, tunnels under the sea, kidnappings and rescues. It was just like the old days, when Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy were always getting into scrapes, having adventures and foiling the dastardly plots of a variety of nefarious villains - and then there was that woman, what was her name? Bossy sort of woman. Always coming down to Kirrin to interview them. Sometimes brought that other woman, too, the one who drew pictures. A bit odd, really, that one. Always so worried about germs, terrified of catching some Dread Disease that she would never put a name to. Quite sweet, really, but decidedly not quite right in the head. Still, she could draw ... and quickly too. Insisted on drawing him ... thought he'd have to spend all morning posing ... but she got him in just a couple of minutes ... zzzz ... zzz. Note 14
"Daddy's asleep," said George.
"No ... I'm .. no...zzz ...zzz
But he was.
And then they were drawing up at Kirrin cottage and Fanny was shaking him awake. She guided him up to the front door, and he shook her off irritably.
"I'm perfectly all right. That little snooze has done me good. I'll get our cases."
"No, dear, the boys will bring the cases," Fanny said.
"Good, good. I'll go to my study then."
It was just as it always was, that room with its wooden panelling, its bookshelves, its desk, and the comfortable chair by the fire. It was good to be back.
But there was a girl sitting on the hearthrug with her arms around a dog.
"George!" he said crossly. "What are you doing in my study? Take Timmy outside at once!"
The girl leapt up in a panic, and the dog barked.
"I'm sorry, Great Uncle Quentin!" she gabbled. "I didn't know you wanted to come in here."
"Where else would I go," he thundered. "Now take Timmy outside at once!"
"It's not Timmy," said the girl, "and I'm not George. I'm Harry, and this is Mycock."
"Harry?" said Quentin, coming back to the present. "Yes ... Harry ..."
Fanny was beside him again.
"You remember Harry, don't you dear. She's your great-niece ..."
Suddenly Quentin's face reddened with fury. "She is not my great niece. It's quite absurd for her to call me Great Uncle! I won't have it, I tell you!"
Great Aunt Fanny waved Harry out of the room and led Great Uncle Quentin to his chair."
"Really Quentin," she said, "you are impossible! How many times have I told you ..."
"I am a scientist, Fanny!" said Great Uncle Quentin, "and as a scientist I have devoted my life to the TRUTH. I will not collaborate in this ridiculous deception. If George thinks ..."
Aunt Fanny shut the door and Anne hurried Harry away, so she heard no more, but it was all very mysterious. A new mystery for the Lively Five and their cousins to solve? Not really? Not something that concerned her as closely as this. Not Great Uncle Quentin's great niece? Not a Kirrin? She couldn't bear it. She couldn't bear not to be a Kirrin. There was only one person she could tell her troubles to, but even he couldn't help her or even understand her torment. She sat under the apple tree with her arms around Mycock and poured out her heart to him.
The dog whined and licked her hands and her face, doing his best to comfort her, but he couldn't really understand either. He wondered if Timmy could make sense of it. Probably not. Timmy was rather a stupid sort of dog, and why that big old boss-man thought that a smart young hound like Mycock was at all like that boastful has-been, or never-was, Mycock simply could not understand.
He would have growled at the man, maybe even snapped at him, but he had the right pack smell, and he was obviously a big boss like Boss Julian. Maybe he would fight with Boss Julian and make himself leader of the pack. Then he might turn Mistress Harry out. What was it she was saying: not a Kirrin any more. Kirrin was the name of Boss Julian's pack, he understood that, but Mistress Harry's pack was called Pemberton. It was all very complicated. First Boss Christopher went away on one of his hunting trips, then Boss Dick came ... or was he a boss? He didn't seem to have a pack of his own. Then they all came and joined Boss Julian's pack, the Kirrin pack, and now the big old boss had come and snarled at Mistress Harry, and she said she wasn't a Kirrin any more. Then he wasn't a Kirrin any more either ... if he ever had been. They would wander the world together, two homeless strays, with everyone's hand against them...
Mycock raised his muzzle and let forth a plaintive howl while Mistress Harry buried her tearstained face in his fur.
He howled again: "A-ooooo! AA-OOOOOOO! And then a window opened and the Big Old Boss shouted, "BE QUIET!"
So he stopped howling and just whined. Maybe the Big Old Boss would accept them back into the pack if they showed they could obey him. So he licked Harry's hands, and she led him away to the bottom of the garden, where they sat together in silence.
After about half an hour Harry slipped out of the garden with Mycock close at her heels. She knew it was wrong and that she was disobeying orders, but she felt it no longer mattered. The Irishmen were gone, the building site was blown to smithereens, and O'Shaughnessy, or whatever remained of him, was buried under a million tons of earth and rubble. Besides, if she wasn't a Kirrin, not even a Pemberton-Kirrin, life wasn't worth living.
Together the girl and the dog hurried along Moor Lane. There was no-one about in Church Street. She slipped into the Rectory drive. Still no-one about, then she met Stubbs.
"Andrew and Gavin have gone down to look at the remains of the building site," he told her.
"I was looking for Uncle Dick," she said.
"He's in the garden."
He was - sitting in the dappled shade of a tree with a pile of newspapers and a drink.
"Harry! Come and sit down."
She had meant to be calm and dispassionate and tell him exactly what she had found out, but, unexpectedly, she sound she had thrown herself into his arms and was weeping hysterically.
He calmed her, and she was at last able to talk comprehensibly.
Dick sipped his whisky and sighed.
"Don't worry," he said. "You're a Kirrin. There's no possible way you could be anything else."
"Then why does Uncle Quentin say I'm not his great niece."
"Because ..." said Dick, "because ... because you're his grand-daughter. He's not rejecting you. He wants you to be able to call him Grandpa. You're George's daughter."
Harry stood silent.
"I know it's a shock for you," said Dick, "and don't think you're illegitimate either, not that that seems to count for anything these days. George secretly married your father more than a year before you were born. He was in the same kind of business I'm in, and he was after a particulary nasty gang of terrorists."
"So he's dead?" said Harry.
"No. He had to go away. They made it clear that they would kill George and the baby - that's you - and to underline the point they killed Timmy V. George found his head on her doorstep in London. It upset her so much she didn't have a dog for quite a while. So after that they decided to live apart until things calmed down. George moved to Norfolk, then eventually back here to Kirrin, and you were adopted by Anne and Christopher.
"But why didn't my father come back?" she asked. "He must have been a swine to leave Aunt George alone all these years."
"Yes, I think he was," said Dick. They met on holiday, sometimes abroad, and sometimes in Scotland. They were happy then, but it could never last long. I ... I know he wanted to leave the service, but it was never possible. But he's just pulled off a big coup, and he had a phone call from the Duke this morning, and he's coming home - for good."
"I hate him!" said Harry. "And I shall always hate him. He abandoned Aunt George, I mean ... I mean MUM ... and he's never even been to see me at all!"
"Er ... yes he has," said Dick. He's been to see you quite often, so often that Anne gets quite sick of him. I'm afraid, old girl, that there's another nasty shock for you. Um ... I'm your father."
He looked at Harry. She had the air of one stunned by a poleaxe, then a grin spread across her face, a grin so broad it looked as if it was going to disappear behind her ears and lift the top of her head right off.
"You don't look exactly distressed," he said hopefully.
"I'm a KIRRIN!" she grinned, "I'm doubly a Kirrin! I never really fitted in with the Pembertons. I somehow felt I wasn't quite like Daddy ... I mean Uncle Chrisopher ... though he was always kind to me ... but of all the people in the world if I could have chosen my parents it would be you and Aunt ... I mean YOU and MUMMY!"
"Not a word to anyone," said her new-found father. "This is going to take some sorting out. Julian and Laurence and Anne and Christopher know that George is your mother, but no-one knows about me. I must phone George ... you'd best stay out of sight for a while."
Dick and George decided that the family dinner that night at Kirrin Cottage was the time for all to be revealed. Mycock still couldn't quite understand what was going on. Had the Big Old Boss expelled Mistress Harry from the pack or not? He had made her unhappy, and Boss Dick had made her happy again. Perhaps Boss Dick would challenge the Big Old Boss and become leader of the pack. Timmy told him the Big Old Boss was Mistress George's father, but that was obvious. The pack leader always fathered all the puppies. Mistress Harry and her brothers and sister were Boss Christopher's pups, and Boss Julian had fathered Andrew and Gavin. He asked Timmy if the Big Old Boss was Boss Julian's father, but Timmy didn't know.
There was a lot of human barking that the dogs couldn't understand, and some of that funny choke-barking, though there didn't seem to be a choke. Then Mistress Harry went to the Big Old Boss and he licked her face and she licked his, and it seemed as if he'd taken her for his puppy, and the Big Old Boss said, "You see, Fanny, I was right," and Fanny said, "Yes dear, you were quite right," and they all choke-barked again and everybody seemed to be happy. The Big Old Boss was leader of the pack, and even Boss Julian was happy. Then they did more barking, and then they were barking with surprise, and nobody seemed more surprised than the Big Old Boss.
Then Boss Dick and the Big Old Boss suddenly jumped to their feet and lunged at each other, and Mycock barked because he thought they were going to fight, but they shook hands and embraced, though they didn't lick each other's faces, and after that Dick sat with his arm round Mistress George, and Timmy was terribly jealous till Boss Dick called him and patted him, and it looked as if Boss Dick and Mistress George and Timmy were all in the same little pack.
Then Mistress Harry licked Mistress Anne's face and went and sat with Boss Dick's pack, and there seemed to be three families: Boss Julian's, Mistress Anne's and Boss Dick's, and the Big Old Boss was leader of the whole pack, and Mycock didn't know what to do until Mistress Harry called him and he knew his place was with her in Boss Dick's family.
"It's all very confusing," he said to Timmy.
"Poor Mycock," said Harry. "He finds it all very confusing.
"We're a very confusing family," said her grandfather. "Do you remember, Julian and Dick, when you used to be called Barnard?"
"Gosh, yes," said Dick.
"Why were you called Barnard?" Laurence asked. "I have not heard this before." Note 15
"We were called Barnard till I was about fourteen," said Julian. "Then Father decided to go back to our real family name."
"My grandfather was Henry Kirrin," said Quentin. "He was killed in the First World War, leaving my mother with two young boys to bring up. She married Andrew Barnard, who brought us up as his own, though he didn't live very long, poor man. Mustard gas on the lungs, you see, exacerbated by years of smoking. When he died I decided to go back to my real name of Kirrin, but my brother stayed Barnard for quite a few years more before he decided to change. When the family moved back to Devon and Julian and Dick went to public school at Okehampton he made the change."
"It was quite odd for us really" said Julian. "One day were were Barnard major and minor, and the next we were Kirrins. But let's leave that. What we really want to hear about is Dick's work."
"Well," said Dick, "you know that when I came down from Magdalen I joined GCHQ. A few years later I was approached and asked to join a new organisation. It hasn't really got a name, we just call it the Duke's Team."
"Is the leader a duke?" asked Fran, wide-eyed.
"That's just what we call him," said Dick, hastily. "Anyway, the Duke got it into his head that some of the nastier crime syndicates were being run by the IRA. Things had been quiet for a good while on the Irish front, but the terrorists had never really gone away. MI5 had their hands full with the Russians and the cold-war and Berlin and all that, so he set up this special team to keep an eye on what was going on nearer home.
"As it turned out, he was quite right, and my investigations soon had me hot on the trail of a particularly nasty criminal called Con McNally. He seemd to be behind almost every major crime you can think of - not that he ever got his hands dirty himself. Oh no, Mr McNally was far to big an operator for that. He was the puppet master of a whole network of crime: some of it for his own profit, some of it for the IRA, and much of it so inextricably mixed that even he would have been hard put to say whose pocket the profits went into.
"I was using the name Dick Barnard then, because I was courting George and hoping to keep my personal life and my work entirely separate. As you know, it didn't work. I got a phone call one day, man with an Irish accent: Your floosy's been sent a little present with dhe compliments o' dhe organisation.
"It was Timmy's head, wrapped in a copy of the Irish times. Poor George was dreadfully upset, and so was I because the message was obvious: we know who you are and who it is you're attached to. This time it's the dog, next time it could be her.
"The Team rallied round. George was sent to Scotland, and then to Norfolk. I was taken off the McNally case and put onto tracing a ring of vicious paedophiles who were kidnapping children then torturing and murdering them to make snuff films.
"It took a few years, but eventually I broke that ring. The director of the films turned out to be a popular tv personality, and he committed suicide rather than face the disgrace. His name never came out, and the rest of them went behind bars for many years, though the films still continued to circulate.
"I was put onto tracking down the distributors, and using my own name of Dick Kirrin I became a film director as cover. The Duke put up the funding for The eccentricities of William IV, and I still don't believe it was anything like as bad as those smarty-pants London critics made out. After that I went around in film circles discussing project after project that was never made, and letting it be known here and there that I had directed films like Childprey and Prey for us sinners.
"I was beginning to hope that McNally had forgotten about me and that I'd be able to live openly with George and little Harry, when I got a lead - and of all the possible leads I might have wanted this was the most unwelcome. The big-time distributor making sure that the paederasts got their sickening entertainment, the entrepreneur who bit on the hook and let poor Dickie Kirrin know that his organisation would be interested in more of the same, was none other than Con McNally.
"I reported direct to the Duke himself. He decided to infiltrate another agent into McNally's gang while I kept him at arm's length by pretending to think he was some sort of policeman trying to entrap me. The Team took me off the case as soon as they could, and for the last couple of years I've been on roving assignments, most recently keeping an eye on Liam O'Shaughnessy. And you know the result of that.
"As you know I was disappointed that McNally had slipped through our fingers again. I knew the Duke would be too. He's been extra keen to nab McNally since Lord Mountbatten was murdered, for although McNally was miles away when Mountbatten was blown up, we soon discovered that he was behind it. Note 16
"I had another reason to be disappointed: McNally at large would pretty soon find out that I was behind the collapse of his Kirrin project, so any chance that I had of settling down with George and Harry was right up the spout."
"What?!" cried Harry. "But you said ..."
"Sh! Sh!" said Dick. "I haven't finished. This afternoon I got a phone call from the Duke. When the news of the Kirrin explosion reached the IRA, McNally's stock went right down. Rivals began asking questions about how much IRA money had gone into it, and I suppose it became apparent that McNally was putting in less than he was drawing out. Whatever the reason, someone decided to eliminate him. His body was found this morning just outside Crossmaglen. Bullet through the head. So, you see Harry, your new-found Dad is free to retire in peace."
The dogs had found all this rather difficult to follow, especially the bit about Timmy's head. Timmy was sure he would remember if anything like that had happened, but they did understand that their human families were happy when they began hugging each other again and licking each other's faces.
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In Five on Kirrin Island again, published 1947. Uncle Quentin worked on a similar project to provide cheap light and power in Five have plenty of fun (1955). [Back to text]
Enid Blyton and Eileen Soper. Miss Soper's father, George, also an artist, was always afraid of germs. Eileen and her sister came to believe that cancer, the Dread Disease, could be spread by coughs and sneezes like the common cold, and in their later years they lived as total recluses in the family home, the four-acre garden of which became an overgrown nature reserve. When their gardeners and maids retired they were not replaced in case the new staff brought in the Dread disease. They phoned for shopping which was delivered to the garden gate. Both lived to be nearly ninety. [Back to text]
Enid Blyton calls the mother of Julian, Dick and Anne "Mrs Barnard" in Five get into a fix (1958). This is the seventeenth book about the Five, but, as can be seen from Miss Soper's illustrations, Enid Blyton had gone back to an earlier adventure. [Back to text]
Lord Mountbatten of Burma (1900-79), a great grandson of Queen Victoria and related to both Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, was Chief of Combined Operations Command during World War II and then Supreme Commander in SE Asia. After the war he became Viceroy of India and prepared India and Pakistan for independence. He was assassinated by Irish terrorists in 1979, though he had no connection with Irish politics. He was however a soft target as he used to holiday without security guards at his home in County Sligo.
The usual cowardly method was used: explosives detonated from a safe distance. The only unusual feature about this particular IRA murder was that the terrorists chose an individual target instead of planting bombs in a crowded shopping area. [Back to text]