Un­re­turned trea­sure

When Liam Collins went to re­ar­range his book­shelf, he found an em­bar­ras­ment of cu­riosi­ties, and a pil­fered Van

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - CONTENTS -

Re­cently, I was mov­ing books around and, of course, spent more time look­ing at those I hadn’t seen for years than re­ar­rang­ing them prop­erly. That’s when I be­came un­easy. What ex­actly was I do­ing with a worn vol­ume with the ti­tle Pope:

Satires and Epis­tles, bear­ing the stamp “Na­tional Li­brary of Ire­land 30 Nov 76” — which I take to be 1876, be­cause the pur­ple stamp car­ries the crown of the Bri­tish monarch.

I don’t have any idea how or why I have this book. I cer­tainly didn’t bor­row it, legally or oth­er­wise, be­cause I’ve never taken a book from the Na­tional Li­brary. But there it is on the shelf.

Fur­ther along, I have a set of 13 hand­somely bound vol­umes in French; 12 signed by Robert Ersk­ine Childers (the au­thor of The Rid­dle of the Sands, ex­e­cuted dur­ing the Civil War) and one signed Mary Alden Os­good, 1895.

How­ever, the first page of each vol­ume is stamped, in red let­ter­ing, “Al­liance Fran­caise de Dublin”.

I don’t sus­pect Ersk­ine and ‘Molly’, as his Bos­ton-born wife was af­fec­tion­ately known, pur­loined them from the Al­liance Fran­caise, but I do know that I didn’t steal them, ei­ther.

I re­mem­ber these books, be­cause I bought them at a garage sale, which used to be held be­hind my house on a Satur­day. I paid £3 for them, and I re­call the woman who was in charge say­ing, “I’m glad you’re buy­ing them, be­cause if some­body didn’t I was go­ing to take them home my­self, but I have enough rub­bish al­ready”.

Do the Na­tional Li­brary or the Al­liance Fran­caise want their books back?

They can have them if they want — ap­ply within, as they say, and I will re­turn said items with alacrity.

Ev­ery­body has bor­rowed things we re­ally should have re­turned, but didn’t. Books, records, tools and gar­den im­ple­ments are the most com­mon, but there are lots of other items around the house that we prob­a­bly should have given back to their right­ful own­ers. We start out with good in­ten­tions, but as time passes it be­comes too em­bar­rass­ing to re­turn the bor­rowed item, and we be­gin to as­sume the right­ful owner has hope­fully for­got­ten whom they gave it to, or, bet­ter still, doesn’t want their pos­ses­sions back any­way.

But that slightly un­easy feel­ing never quite goes away. Ev­ery time I see the cover of As­tral Weeks, it takes me back to a night I was babysit­ting for Michele Hand (my sis­ters were un­avail­able) and, af­ter mak­ing buns, she thank­fully went to bed. Her fa­ther, Mick, had a good col­lec­tion of records, and that night I dis­cov­ered Van Mor­ri­son. I bor­rowed the record, promis­ing to re­turn it. Now, sadly both Mick and the record are no longer with us, but I still get a twinge of guilt ev­ery time I hear Madame Ge­orge on Late Date. You of­ten find that things you bor­rowed and didn’t give back have ab­so­lutely no in­trin­sic value. They’re usu­ally things you once found in­ter­est­ing but that are now lan­guish­ing at the bot­tom of a drawer, un­seen and ba­si­cally for­got­ten.

One such item I have, which I re­mem­ber promis­ing to re­turn but never got around to, is the orig­i­nal con­tract for Planxty to play at the interval of the Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test in Dublin. Dated March 22, 1981, it re­veals that the folk band was paid the princely sum of £150 for the gig. Kevin Flynn, the band’s man­ager, gave it to me for rea­sons I can no longer re­mem­ber. Do I want it? I don’t, but then again, I couldn’t throw it out, ei­ther.

The one area I haven’t cov­ered is prob­a­bly the most con­tentious of all — women and girls bor­row­ing each other’s clothes. With a wife and three daugh­ters, I have seen the com­mu­nal strife that this causes, but I sus­pect an army of trick cy­clists couldn’t un­ravel that par­tic­u­larly mys­tery. As Polo­nius said in Ham­let, “Nei­ther a bor­rower nor a lender be”.

‘We start out with good in­ten­tions, but, as time passes, it be­comes too em­bar­rass­ing to re­turn the bor­rowed item’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.