Raid on Altamont
Espionage and adventure, those were the key things for the Simps and their operations extended far beyond the old railway line – all the way across the road to the Digbys’ house. There was one target that presented a particularly exciting challenge: a room stuffed with treasure – silver trophies, platters and cups, all won by Karl Mullen, the man who led Ireland to their first Triple Crown win in 1947.
This treasure room was located in a row of old stone outbuildings and was probably the only room in a half decent condition. Stairs led up to the room next door, rickety stairs that brought the fearless spy past scuttling beasties to a room with even more rickety floorboards and a stone wall, behind which the vast treasure trove was secured. Had we wanted to see the treasure we could simply have asked for a key but there would have been no adventure in that, so the decision was made to break through the wall by unpicking the soft mortar and removing the obstacle, stone by stone, each one carefully and quietly placed on the rickety floorboards.
Other approaches had been discussed. Simon (chief engineer, architect, general and planner) considered the possibility of constructing a winch and pulley to allow the Simps access to a small window in the outbuildings that formed the party wall to the Digbys’ back garden. This plan had several advantages; girls and grown-ups wouldn’t have the strength or courage to climb up, it would be exclusive to the Simps and only we would know how to operate the cunning system. It would also have considerably shortened the journey to the wonderland next door. The fact that we had neither rope (an elusive and highly sought after commodity back then) nor pulleys, made putting the scheme into practice a little difficult so that plan was shelved until the following summer.
Work continued on the old wall until there was a glimpse into the bullion store. We had recently been treated to a viewing of Goldfinger. My father had somehow managed to lay his hands on a screen, projector and the film reel and we watched it, enthralled in a darkened sitting room. I can still hear the sound of the projector. No doubt the film influenced our view of what lay behind the wall. It simply had to be gold bullion, it couldn’t possibly be boring old silver.
The hole grew until it was big enough to climb through. The obstacle was breached and entry made. There were tables, fine antiques and glass fronted cabinets, some filled with silver. But no bullion.
Still the operation was deemed a major success – because we had proven that not even stone walls could stop us. Covering our tracks was a little difficult though. Rebuilding a three foot wide hole in an old mortar wall was beyond our abilities.
Whatever happened to that hole, (or to the nippers who created it), escapes my memory for some reason.