Boston, The Irish Mob & The IRA.
Its a great story about Patrick Nee who emigrated from Connemara, Ireland to America and settling in Boston with his family when he was young. The story starts with him growing up in Ireland, through to his criminal career in Boston and everything in between.
This is my first experience with an audio book, I’ve a mixed reaction to it, its different as I would be more used to holding a book and reading it, this time around its listening to someone tell the story, which isn’t bad because its a lot better than listening to the news when I’m working at night, so may invest in a few more. And I do also intend to buy a physical copy of the book to read it.
Ill get the issues out of the way first. First off which is only a slight issue is the way names and places in Ireland are pronounced, no Irish person would say them like that, so I assume this audio-book is intended for U.S audiences. Another issue which I found a bit harder to get around was that he hated Whitey Bulger, hated him and its apparent throughout the book, which leads me to the issue of how objective he is being when it comes to his dealings and stories about Bulger. But having said that, he does have a grudging respect for Bulger which balances out the objectivity issue some way.
It starts with his early life in Connemara and going to school in the Christian Brother system, he was left handed so meant that he was beaten by the teachers until he learned to use his right hand, a common story from that time in Ireland. He got so badly beaten that he couldn’t use his hand, his mother was having none of that and paid the teacher a visit, he never got another beating after that.
He then moved to America, through New York and onto Boston, which didn’t really go well for him, it started at school where he was picked on and bullied by the other kids, it didn’t help that his mother forced him to wear a traditional Irish school uniform, to the amusement of the other students. He was bullied by the bigger guys in the school, until one day when he had enough and decided to take on the local bully, which he did. One day he set up how he was going to take on the bully, he had a toy bow and arrow set which sharpened and ambushed the bully after school, while the arrow didn’t stick into him it hurt enough to make him cry, bleed and run home to his parents. The bullies parents came to his home one day and it was decided that Pat would have to fight the bully fairly, the bully at this stage was to frightened and didn’t put up much of a fight. he was never bullied again.
Later in Life
When he grew older, he had been in street gangs and fighting other local gangs, getting into trouble, drinking and all the rest. The Vietnam war had begun, he joined the Marines. the stories of when he was doing his Marines training were good and interesting.
He was guarding his platoon and barracks when he got into an argument with a cadet from another platoon, according to Pat this cadet was much bigger than him and almost twice as wide, the cadet told him they would sort it out after dinner. And they did. Before Pat could eat his dinner the cadet came from behind him and asked him outside. They went outside to the woods, Pat said he stayed two steps behind him all the way, when the time was right Pat said he unloaded a load of punches into the cadets head, it was the only time he hit him, the cadet put him on the ground and let him have it, after a while the drill instructors stopped it. Inside the barracks, Pat with a severely beaten face was called in front of the drill instructors to explain himself, which he refused to do, winning the respect of his instructors, platoon and others.
Boston Gang Wars
After he came home from Vietnam and after a few meaningful jobs he decided to join his old friends in the Mullen gang and a life of crime. Tensions between the Mullen’s and the Killeen’s were rising and it all kicked off one night when members of the Killeen’s gave one of the Mullen’s are severe beating in a bar, which lead to more of the Mullen’s come to the bar to fight it out, it was a big move, the Killeen’s were the organised crime gang, big, experienced and dangerous, you could the describe the Mullen’s as a local gang of burglars, thieves, armed robbers, not killers or major serious criminals.
And these were some of the best stories, the ones that included Whitey Bulger. The night of the bar incident Pat Nee and Whitey Bulger were in a different bar drinking together, Bulger was an enforcer for the Killeen’s, Nee was in the Mullen’s. Someone came rushing into the bar and told Bulger and Nee what had happened, they both looked at each other and knew what was happening, Bulger asked him did he need a lift to the other bar and they drove there together. And this is the part of the story where you get a sense of the grudging respect Pat Nee had for Bulger. According to Nee, Bulger was so cunning that when they drove to the bar, there was a parking spot right outside but Bulger drove further down the street to park. “Clever prick” thought Nee, he knew Bulger was leaving enough time and space to survey the situation before going into it.
Over time the shooting war between the gangs broke out and led to some serious encounters between the gangs, it finally finished when some of the Mullen gang ambushed Donal Killeen in his car on the driveway outside his house. This led to a sit down between the gangs, they were in a restaurant in Boston, they had Howie Winter from the Winter Hill gang and a representative from Mafia boss Gerry Angiulo on each side while they came to a peace agreement, both gangs merged and worked together from that point onward.
This was one of the most interesting parts of the book for me, I do find the whole Whitey Bulger story fascinating, so to hear and read first hand accounts and stories about Bulger is interesting, you don’t get a first hand account like this anywhere. During the Boston gang war Bulger and Nee were big time enemies and tried to kill each other a few times and it sounds as exciting as just about everything else in Boston at that time.
The first time they tried to kill Bulger was when he was spotted in traffic, stuck between two cars at the lights, they were spotted. they tried to ambush him in the car but were spotted by Bulger in one of the mirrors, that’s when Bulger made an escape in the car through the traffic.
Soon after that it was Buglers turn to have an attempt. Nee was sitting in his house one night, with his daughter playing in the room when he noticed a flash coming from outside the window, he looked up and seen a gunman with a rifle at the window, he says it was Bulger, Nee moved to get his daughter out of the way but Bulger dropped the rifle and ran off, there was a rule that kids don’t get caught up in the shootings, which was respected. After a couple of seconds Nee ran grabbed his rifle and jumped out the window, took aim but couldn’t get Bulger in his sights with a clean shot, Bulger escaped. There were a couple more attempts by both sides, until they had the sit down.
There was a great chapter in this book about Irish history, it gives a brief but very good run down of the history of the conquest of Ireland by the British through the rebellions right up to the Troubles from the 60’s to the 90’s. It was actually very good hearing this and a good account of what happened and how it got to that point.
This is one of the most surprising parts of the book and a lot I didn’t know. About how Boston and Ireland were linked, the surprising part of this for me was how much they were linked, I always thought that Ireland’s strongest links were in New York which isn’t the case. During the Troubles many Irish based in Boston did their part for the cause, whether it was hiding people on the run or fund raising for the cause.
Pat Nee decided he couldnt sit back and do nothing he wanted to help and help he did. In some of his armed robberies he wouldnt do them unless the IRA were guaranteed 20% of the total, in one case the haul was 2 million, which meant the IRA got 400,000, Nee and others would receive 260,000 each. In other cases they would send weapons home in coffins, they would put 5 rifles, handguns and ammunition under the corpse, who wanted to be buried back home. Another time they stripped vans filled them full of weapons and transported them to France, then drive them to Ireland.
But the biggest score would come in the 80’s when a shopping list of 7.5 tons of weapons were to be sent to Ireland by boat, the Valhalla. the boat was to travel across the Atlantic and be met by another Irish boat, the Marita Ann. The weapons never made it, as there were informants involved on both sides, in the US and in Ireland. The informant John McIntyre was tortured and killed by Whitey Bulger
As I said at the start this was an audio-book so I havn’t actually read it, I will be buying the actual book as soon as I can as audiobooks and physical books are completely different. In saying that I really enjoyed it and loved listening to the stories. The best stories for me were the ones about Whitey Bulger, and especially the stories from the gang wars when they were trying to kill each other. There was also a lot of surprising information in it regarding the links to Boston and too about helping the IRA, something I didnt know much about before starting to hear the stories.
The audio book is quite funny at times, especially when the speaker was doing other peoples voices, Nee’s mother, the drill instructors and Whitey Bulger, they were pretty funny.
I will probably buy some more audio books, they are good to listen to when I am working late at night, so i wont have to listen to the same news cycle every twenty minutes.