How many of you have been told a “story” that the teller swears is true, because he or she knew the person that was there or has some knowledge of the incident? These are those stories that seem to have entered into urban myth, stories that circulate in certain quarters, and which are attested to be true – without any real evidence.
It is at this point that I quote the famous Welsh Comedian of the 70’s and 80’s Max Boyce, whose stage persona included carrying a very large inflatable Leek or Daffodil whilst wearing the Welsh Rugby Strip. He would regale the audience with tales of seemingly miraculous wins by Wales, and of his travels with Welsh Rugby Supporters and their drinking exploits, and he would emphasise in his very lilting Welsh accent “I know – ‘cause I was there”.
I have a Chinese friend, who lives in Singapore, who asked me once, “Is it true that British building–site workers have such thickly tea-stained billy-cans they only need hot water for their brew?”
Try explaining that tall tale to person from a different culture, and why British Sailors in the Port of Singapore Naval Dockyard would tell such stories.
Anyway, to return to my tale; I have heard the following story about ten other Military Garrison towns, and each teller of the story swears it’s true, is about a particular military unit and it gets more fantastic and embellished on each re-telling:
One balmy summer night, in a garrison town somewhere in the North of England, the local Paratrooper Unit had been unleashed from captivity. The townspeople were used to such very heavy carousing, revelry and drunkenness, following a stint of action or duty abroad. They were quite hardy folk, already well used to such a level of hard partying.
Occasionally though, things would get out of hand, and locals and soldiers would get involved in disturbances.
About closing time, The Provost Marshal of the Regimental Military Police, gets an emergency call to the local pub where – it is alleged – that Paratroopers are having a bit of a rough and tumble with the locals. The Civil Police are having a hard time dealing with the situation.
The Provost heard a cacophony of sound and noises down the line, ranging from screams and shouts, and growling menacing Glasgow accents uttering phrases like ” pick yer windy son, ye’re leaving”. Fearing the worst possible situation for any Civil or Military Unit attending to sort out the situation, the RMP mobilised the dog unit.
These big, vicious, nasty brutes were chosen for their strength, fearlessness, and loyalty to their handlers. They wore boots to protect their feet, and in the kennels or on training they were usually given spare Paratrooper combat clothing to chew on, just for fun. So they were sent into the pub alone. From inside the pub came the sound of screams, shouts, loud growling, snarling, and a para came crashing out through the pub window.
It was at that point, the Provost thought better of it, and sent in the dogs as well.
Legend records that it took hours to arrest the dogs that, by this time, were biting anyone that approached them. They seemingly resisted being taken away from their ration of free drink left behind, or spilled into a lethal cocktail on the floor. Or so the handlers said. It took another 48 hours for the dogs to sleep off the effects of their night out at the pub.
The Provost Marshal though, was allegedly puzzled when he received a bill a few days later, requesting reimbursement for a few gallons of beer, which were allegedly consumed by four dogs alone.
In Scotland we use a two word phrase which has a multi–function usage.
When said with the right amount of cynicism, disbelief or dryness, it sums up tales like this.