An Ardboe octogenarian created havoc in mid-Ulster yesterday after setting out on a 37 mile journey to Omagh to visit a sister he hadn’t seen since 1988. James ‘Gonzales’ Quinn, a former eel skinner and well known for his speedy knife method, cranked up his 1957 Wolseley for a journey that would hold Tyrone to a standstill as 944 motors found themselves stuck behind him up the Omagh Road for almost four hours. One such driver, Peter Devlin from Carnan, explained:
“Jaysus it was cat. I was also heading to Omagh to pick up a part for a woman’s undergarment when I found myself directly behind Gonzales at the Cookstown roundabout. I remember being stuck behind him in 1996 but overtook him when he stopped the car near the Battery for a bite of a sandwich. This time, he wasn’t stopping. Twice I made the move to go by him only for Gonzales to veer right over the middle lines. Any other man and you’d think he was winding you up. Not Gonzales. He’s just a wild man at the wheel, and him doing 20mph.”
By the time Quinn reached Kildress, a line of 200 cars had formed behind him, mostly at a snail’s pace. One impatient passenger, reportedly a postman from Coagh, took a head stagger and went on a rampaging 70mph bolt up the wrong way, only to be catapulted up a side road towards Greencastle when Gonzales edged out at the last minute. Paddy McCann told us:
“I saw a cavalcade going past the house at Sandholes, so like any other right-thinking man I joined in. The whole family were greatly excited in the motor, guessing away at what the queue was for. I was thinking maybe a bouncy castle at Gortin but the wife was hoping for a half price day at the Centra in Drumragh. It was a bit of a let down that it was only oul Gonzales going up to see the sister. We didn’t reach Omagh til dark.”
Quinn has yet to return as police warn motorists to listen to traffic updates for information on his journey. The PSNI also confirmed they will not be prosecuting the line of toilet-stoppers during the ordeal.