The Angry Corrie 16: Dec 1993-Jan 1994
Korn probes suffering crofters
My first day back at W & S and I find the business has been going to hell in a handcart while I've been in Scotland. What else is new?
I'm shuffling a stack of mail that'd choke a horse when I see this package with a Brit stamp. Inside is a newspaper called The Crofter and a note saying I'd see a piece about superquarries on Page 2.
(I better explain here that I got so interested in the BBC's program about quarries I hired an itsybitsy Scotch PR outfit to keep me in the picture.)
I figured from the program that crofters are kinda like the small-time sodbusters we got rid of years ago by having the banks foreclose their mortgages and generally make life hell for them and their sickly kids. I hear the Frogs have them too and Mickey Kantor, Billy's man on GATT, is working on them.
Anyway, this piece is written by Iain Wilson, Mr Superquarries himself. I start to read it - and damn near fall asleep after a couple of sentences.
You better believe it, PR-wise this guy ain't got a prayer without Landward's back-up. My time is too valuable to cut thru it, but on the other hand I need to get the matter squared away before I contact Joe Tomatoes who doesn't like loose ends.
I send for Gus K Korn a sleazy, sneaky sonofabitch I only gave a job to cause his pop did my pop a couple of favors back in World War II "Get me the lowdown on this shit," I tell him. "And I want it yesterday."
Kom is back in three hours which is 2 hours and 55 minutes more than I cared to wait. He tells me: "This paragraph - it's 27 lines long for chrissakes - was written by a guy called Cooper 50 years ago. It's about dams he wanted built in the Highlands."
Cutting the crap language, he's saying these dams will bring all kinds of goodies for the natives -jobs, big pounds, so they won't have to bust their asses crofting or prostrating themselves before tourists. And Wilson is using it to help make his case."
"So," I say. With an ingratiating grin that makes me want to smash his slimy face to a bloody pulp, Kom goes on: "It didn't work that way."
"What happened was for a couple of years, 'cept for smart Micks who could handle drilling machines, guys, a lot of them shipped up from cities, slopped around in stinking tunnels, lived in lousy leaky huts and were fed crap food. They worked up to 120 hours a week and more'n a few were killed cause they couldn't tell a mucking machine from a horse's ass.
"Oh sure a few locals got jobs, laboring and the like and a couple who had old trucks to hire out made enough to buy houses and send their kids to fancy schools."
"So," I say. "Well," says Korn, "pretty soon the dams have flooded the best scenery and screwed up the salmon fishing, the Micks take off for pastures new and the guys who can't or won't follow them stick around to be housed and go on relief, the truck businesses go phutt and the whole goddatn cosy culture is down the tubes."
"So what are the locals doing now?" "They're bustin their asses crofting and prostrating themselves before tourists," says Korn, "but these places were never the same as before."
Now he gets to a couple of real interesting things I didn't hear on Landward. First he quotes Wilson as saying he thinks crofters would suffer environmental disbenefit. What the hell does this mean, I ask myself. Three REAL BAD words, suffer, environmental and disbeneflt.
Maybe the goddam sheep they're always sounding off about will choke on rock dust. Maybe the quarry outfits 'll build harbors plumb on top of prime shellfish beds. Maybe they'll want to work Sundays on Harris. Wilson doesn't say.
He does say crofters should get compensation, a GOOD WORD (so he did learn something on Landward), from an Environmental Levy now being discussed. But he doesn't say who's discussing it or just who in hell will decide what all this suffering is worth.
"Get on to that," I tell Korn, glad that I don't have to see his stupid repulsive kisser any longer, "and make it snappy this time."
He's heading for the door when I call: "What'd Wilson say about pay and conditions in the quarries?" "Nothing," says Korn, "not a goddam thing."
I tell my secretary: "Get me Joe Tomatoes. If he's not at his Long Island pad he'll be at the Family's place up in the Catskills." I activate the scrwnbler and wait for Joe's call.