In Belfast, in the 1970’s, the best operator in the motor trade, by a country mile, was the bold Herbie Malloy – always on the go, always looking for a way to make money, always spending more money than he made.
To look at him if you didn’t know what profession he was in, his dress code would give you a good clue: always a sheepskin coat (apart from that warm week every year in July), the green Robin Hood hat, cavalry twill trousers, and brown brogues (a.k.a. ‘dealing’ boots).
He was also the first motor trader I ever saw wearing what was later to become obligatory in the trade – the ‘gold Rolex watch’, which he would further compliment with his two gold sovereign rings on his left hand. He was always wanting to buy every car, never happy to be out bid on anything, and content to make a small profit as well as a big one. He was always the first to call in every morning and visited every afternoon as well. Herbie was the ultimate grifter.
Sometimes though, he lapsed.
You see, among the other things – gambling, women, booze and the horses, especially the horses, were some of the bold Herbie’s failings.
Several times a year, he would disappear off to see the horses – sometimes in Ireland, the Curragh, Leopardstown, or Galway. Sometimes over to England, to Aintree for the Grand National, or Cheltenham for the Gold Cup Festival. He was always accompanied by a new lady (no, not his missus), and would take a load of cash with him, for the horses and the high life.
You could, however, sort of forgive Herbie for taking someone other than his wife away… Monica his wife was more than hard work. In fact, she was impossible.
She had one of those whinging faces which ended up that way because she whinged so much. She never stopped talking, was never happy with anything, and was always complaining about something, always sticking her nose into something which was none of her business. On top of that, every time she spoke it was invariably at the top of her voice.
Why he married her no one knew, and why he stayed with her we couldn’t figure out either.
Anyway, Herbie would always come back from his regular jaunts to the races totally broke, and ultra-rough from too much whiskey. It was always the same story – either the horses didn’t perform, or his ladies took him to the cleaners when he’d got pissed. Herbie, however, had a master plan to recover his losses and get back on his feet every time, which, to my knowledge, he implemented on numerous occasions.
His wife, the delightful Monica, had some beautiful jewellery including a heavy duty, diamond clustered wedding ring and a similarly expensive necklace. After each loss making sojourn to the races, the bold Herbie would claim for the loss of this jewellery from his insurance company. Seemingly, he had his jewellery insured with a number of different insurance companies and went about making his claims on a ‘rota’ basis – “to treat them all fairly” as he once put it to me. Obviously, all this took place before computers were the norm so it was much more difficult for insurance companies to check up on such escapades.
The bold Herbie, however, over quite a few years, managed to replenish his coffers without any major problems… that is until one sad day when his loving wife Monica left him, and ran off with another man taking her jewellery with her!
About two years later, word was passed around the town that she had been arrested by the police, apparently after making false claims to her insurance company for the loss of all her expensive jewellery.
How did they catch her? Did she try to use the same scam as Herbie?
Believe it or not, the silly cow wore the bloody jewellery she was claiming for to a crunch meeting with the insurance company’s senior staff!
”Bang to rights” as they say.
To celebrate her rightful conviction, Herbie invited us all to join him in the bar of the Europa hotel for a celebratory drink. The manager of the insurance company was invited as well and did attend, along with Monica’s arresting police officer. It was a riotous night with Herbie in top form – Guinness and whiskey chasers were the order of the day. ‘Disaster’ was to strike, however, late into the evening. Somehow, sometime during the evening’s shenanigans, Herbie lost his precious gold Rolex watch. He asked everybody if they had seen it. He asked everyone to keep an eye out for it. But to no avail – watch was gone.
But all was not lost.
As ‘chance’ would have it, Herbie just happened to have a number of significant, upstanding citizens available as witnesses to support his forthcoming insurance claim!