By Shengas McGlumphie
A mix-up at the EC in Brussels resulted in Coalisland, population less than 5,000, being accidentally twinned with Cologne, Germany’s 4th largest city with a population of over 1 million.
“I suppose it was a wee touch embarrassing” admitted Des Crawford, local businessman and Chairman of the Coalisland Enterprise Trust, which sent a delegation of six to meet with the Cologne mayor and his team to celebrate the twinning. “We meant to Google Cologne beforehand when the penny might have dropped but to be fair what with all the excitement of going on a plane we forgot”.
One of the Irish contingent, Seamy Hughes, a butcher from the Island, came close to sparking a major diplomatic incident within hours of landing in the city.
“To be honest we only invited him because he said he had a good bit of the German language as he did it at school”, admitted Crawford, “So when Heinz started rabitting away in German we pushed Seamy to the front to do a bit of the German chat. Jaysus, did he not just stand there in front of yer man and yell “Vot is it you vont”, at the top of his voice in this mad German accent, followed by, ‘Vood you like to see ze papers?’ We didn’t know where to look. I thought at one stage he was going to start goose-stepping”.
Affairs took a further turn for the worse on the 4-day programme during the official exchange of gifts, with Cologne giving Coalisland a set of commemorative coins, an original piece of German artwork nearly 200 years old, and some bespoke jewellery believed to be valued at €30,000 (£25,000). In return, the Coalisland team had brought Cologne a Tyrone GAA car air freshener and some Kimberley Mikado biscuits. With the help of an interpreter, relations improved on the second evening over several glasses of Reisling.
“It was a bit of craic, and they were bangin’ on about all these famous boys that came from Cologne, including some composer, Beethoven”, said Crawford. “So they’re saying about how proud they are of their Beethoven boy and we just sat there and said two words – ‘Dennis’ and ‘Taylor’. Aw, you should have seen their faces. Total silence! They never knew Dennis came from the Island see. They had no idea. We trumped them there boys! Deadly!”
Exchanging information on the relative merits of Coalisland and Cologne presented no issues for the Island team, according to Crawford.
“Jaysus they were going on about their ‘40 museums’ this and their ‘Cologne Cathedral’ that. It all pales into insignificance when you see thon new Newell’s Stores in the Island. It’s a belter. Did you know they even sell parmesan cheese? Unbelievable. It knocks themuns and all their fancy Cologne boutiques into a cocked hat, I’ll tell ye that”.