Thursday, August 16, 2012
Lord Bonkers at the 1999 Harrogate Lib Dem Conference
A dreadful storm this evening. The sky is the colour of Messrs Postlethwaite's Blue Black India Ink (with which, as it happens, I am writing these very words), and it is only because of the distant beam of Knaresborough lighthouse that I am able to find my way back to the hotel.
Later, after a stiffener of Auld Johnston, I walk by the shore - the locals have long since barred their shutters and bolted their doors - and watch as the Harrogate lifeboat is launched. There is a crash of thunder and a cry of "God save any soul on The Stray tonight" goes up.
Then, as if by a miracle, a familiar figure in sou'wester and oilskins rows into sight. It is, of course, my old friend David Rendel, the finest oar in the House. Better still, he has with him two picnickers who were cut off by the tide.
"You look just like Grace Darling," I call across to him.
"Nonsense," he shouts back, "Grace had a bushy black beard. And don't call me 'darling'."
Today we have the bittersweet occasion of Paddy Ashcan's farewell. Say what you will about the man - and I have said more than most in my time - he knows how to please an audience. After saying some jolly nice things about us (well deserved, I think), he finishes with an old Irish folk-song which he learned at the knee of his grandmother, Bridey O'Ashplant:
May the road rise to meet you,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others,
Before others do for you.
We'll keep a welcome in the hillside,
We'll keep a welcome in the vales.
How are things in Glocca Morra?
It's much nicer there than Wales.
The pale moon was rising above the green mountains,
The sun was declining beneath the blue sea.
Despite what was said in the Dublin newspapers
'Twas there I first met my sweet Mother Machree.
I am not ashamed to say I blubbed.