skinny surrenders the pillowHooliganism


Mike Houlihan


Having just recovered from our second annual Skinny & Houli Return to Ireland tour, I bring sad news from Northern Ireland.

Sectarian violence once again broke out last week in the Irish border city of Derry, when Skinny Sheahan left a “dirty bomb” in the toilet of the Tower Hotel.

The incident was triggered when a Buddhist named Ronan McNamara was leading our group along the walls of Derry. Skinny sidled up to me and said, “Ask him where the nearest bathroom is, it’s an emergency! And don’t bring attention to me!”

I raised my hand and asked the question, which was met by laughter from the group. And even more laughter when Skinny broke from the crowd with a butt-clenched trot in the direction Ronan had indicated.

I could write a book about the puny man’s many peccadilloes while in Ireland but probably the most offensive breach in our cultural relationship with Eire came to be known as “Pillow-gate”.

Regrettably I wasn’t aware of Skinny’s malfeasance until it was too late. We were staying in a charming little hotel in Stranorlar in County Donegal one night whilst traveling across the island. The Kees Hotel hosted a sumptuous dinner for our entire group.

Our driver and tour guide, the inimitable Philip Duffy, took me aside. We’d been invited to bring our entire group next-door for a music session with our Irish fiddler Katie Grennan. “You’ll have the whole bar to yourselves and Katie can put on a private show in the back room.”

Sounds great I said, but Duffy then cautioned. “How will you explain to the hotel manager that you are taking the whole crowd to the pub next door?”

It was indeed a breach of etiquette since the Kees Hotel has a cozy bar of their own we could spend our money in, but they had music booked of their own. I told Philip I would simply make an announcement after dinner informing the group that we would just be popping next door to The Snug for our private concert and then return to the warmth of The Kees at 9:30. Problem solved, or so I thought.

Before I could make any announcement the hotel manager, an imposing fella named Liam McElhinney, appeared at my table inquiring, “Which one of youse is Houli?”

That would be me.

“What the hell are you trying to pull? Your partner tells me you’re taking all 30 of your group to the pub next door, and me just serving you all this great dinner!”

I turned to see the giggling face of Skinny laughing as he watched me once again being ground under the wheels of the bus he had thrown me under. I managed to mollify Mr. McElhinney by telling him we would be back by 9:30, plenty of time to spend oodles of dough in his establishment.

Suddenly our driver, Philip Duffy, summons me and says, “I need to speak to you in private! ‘Tis very important!”

He then steers me over to Skinny’s table where he is having a grand old time, toasting the ladies at his table and basking in their adoration. Duffy beckons Skinny with his finger, “I need to speak to you both privately!. Skinny saunters over with a big stupid grin on his face and Duffy grimly looks at Skinny and says, “Did you steal a pillow from the Europa Hotel in Belfast?”

Looking squeamish, Skinny points at me, “He did it!”

Duffy says, “We know it was you. The guarda have driven down from Belfast and are waiting outside to speak to you, come on now the both of youse and we will speak to them, You’re in a heap of trouble. That pillow cost over 350 Euro!”

He then hustles us both out the door of the hotel and out to the street where the guarda are waiting. On the way, Skinny starts double-talking.

How the hell could it cost 350 Euro?

“It was embroidered.”

My sister gets headaches, she needed the pillow, and I took it for her!

I was starting to enjoy watching Skinny squirm.

We came out of the hotel and our bus was parked in front, but no sign of the guarda.

We looked at Duffy, where’s the cops?

He laughed at us and led us into the pub next door. “Come on, I’m going to buy you two amadons a drink!

That’s the funny thing about Ireland, everybody likes to get in on the joke. The whole pillow-gate incident was Philip Duffy having us on. Well Skinny did steal the pillow, that much was true. The three of us then concocted the story some more, kept it going, and I was sent back into the hotel to inform Skinny’s sister Mary that she was now implicated in the crime and would have to give up her credit card number to pay for the pillow. The story spread among our group like wildfire and the next thing we knew, Skinny had become Public Enemy Number One in Belfast.

Freddy the Lithuanian, one of the more colorful members of our tour group, took Skinny aside and told hm, “Take it from me Skinny, I come from a criminal background: deny, deny, deny!”

Katie was transcendent playing her fiddle and we all headed back to the Kee’s Hotel for our nightcaps. As I walked into the lobby, Liam McElhinney, ran out from behind the counter in a faux rage, “What the hell time do ya call this Houli? You told me 9:30 and it’s now 10:30!”

He spent the rest of the night and into the next day busting my balls. Gotta love Ireland, everybody gets in on the act!