Reporters on the Job

A Hitchhiker's Guide: Bus service to the Catholic town of Crossmaglen, Northern Ireland is infrequent. So correspondent James Brandon decided to hitchhike to the small farming town that was once the epicenter of armed Catholic resistance to British rule. It was an inspired mode of transport because, as it turned out, some of the locals were reluctant to talk to journalists.

"On my way there I flagged down a ride with a Protestant man from Belfast who was traveling down to Dublin. I got in and without further ado we got lost.

'Until a few years ago I wouldn't have dreamed of coming down here,' he explained. 'I'm from the wrong side of the tracks,' he added ominously, as we drive past a telephone pole with letters 'IRA' nailed to it in two-foot high letters.

'Bandit country,' the man mutters, as we pull into Crossmaglen. 'They're going to love your [British] accent as well,' he says as I get out into the rain.

"A little later, I am tired of incessant rain and decide to kill two birds with one big stone - get dry and talk to some stout-hearted locals," says James. "Merrily, I trot into a pub. Inside I find a jolly scene of locals gathered around the bar, laughing and chatting.

" 'What can I get you?' beams the barman.

" 'Well actually I'm a journalist and I'd just like to have a chat,' I say.

"Instantly the laughter halts and the pub's inhabitants rotate silently on their seats to face me.

" 'We don't talk to the press," growls one man.

" 'But I work for a paper from Boston,' I say hurriedly. 'American.' "

The atmosphere fails to improve, and James leaves quickly before, he says, "I'm thrown out of the window."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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