The subject of a new short film by Garret Daly, Nothing to report tells the story of two Irishmen and their thirst for adventure. Reminiscing about one of their biggest getaways to date, the clip recalls how they once boarded an international flight to New York… even getting a personal guided tour of the city upon arrival.
Things kind of fell into place in a very organic way for the young boys who met on a beautiful summer evening in 1985. Warned “not to go overboard” by his mother, 10-year-old Keith Byrne has nodded a gracious “yeah, sure mum”. before going to meet Noel Murray, 13, somewhere in Dublin. Once together, the two jumped on a train (without buying tickets) and decided to see where it would take them. A ferry and another train ride later and the two were then boarding an Air India 747 international flight from London to New York.
Except they weren’t boarding as fare-paying passengers, but as stowaways. They might not have bought tickets, but it didn’t save them much anyway and all they had to spend money on was a few coins they had stolen from some public fountains. Their parents had no idea where they were (the “don’t go far” comment had gone in one ear and out the other), but it wasn’t long before they caught up after the youngsters’ adventure made international headlines around the world. .
Filmmaker Gary Daly was among those who read the story a few years later. Intrigued by how the duo pulled off such a feat, he reached out to both men, and so Nothing to report was born. A mixture of “grainy archival footage” and more recent interviews with the men, both now “middle-aged and grey-haired” as the New Yorker he says, the short strives to recreate the duo’s journey from Dublin to New York.
Combing through endless newspaper clippings, YouTube videos and old Irish interviews, Daly admitted that “it was a big challenge to do the archives and find everything that matched”. “But, once we did, I guess it was a little enlightening because it suddenly became a very lively and engaging piece that sparked all the memories from all parts of the journey.”
What happened when the boys arrived at JFK airport that fateful day? Well, eager to continue their journey (they had already come this far after all), they tried to bypass security as best they could. “Our mother is right behind us,” they assured officials, who suspected otherwise, but the two ran to hell for leather once he turned his head. First spending a few hours wandering around the airport, they then decide to venture outside where a policeman, Kenneth White, stops them to ask where they are going.
Lying and saying they were meeting their mother “in town”, they quickly admitted that they were in fact alone when pressed further and White radioed his supervisor, Sergeant Carl Harrison, to come help him. Many more questions later and they found themselves in the back of an NYPD car where they were driven to a police station and held in a room for several hours – finally confessing their sins.
According to the new yorker, the police then called overseas jurisdictions and the boys’ parents before feeding them ‘chips and soda’ and giving them their unloaded guns to play with (because of course they did) .
“Air India installed Byrne and Murray in a gigantic five-star hotel suite and offered them McDonald’s and movies,” the article continued. VERY Kevin McCallister “I eat junk food and look at garbage”. “I had never stayed in a hotel before, so this was awesome,” Murray says in the short. The same security guards were assigned to monitor the boys for the next few days. Asked why they had come all this way, Byrne and Murray said it was because they wanted to meet the character BA Baracus from The A-team. The guards’ response was to take them on a sightseeing tour of the city, give them money, and buy them “I love New York” t-shirts.
The guards then took the boys on sightseeing tours through the boroughs, gave them money and bought them “I Love New York” t-shirts. Naturally.
Things took an even more false turn when Air India began investigating the two boys. Unbeknownst to them, another Air India plane had exploded just weeks before their trip, killing all on board. “Officials wanted to know if the boys had terrorist intent or were trying to smuggle things into the United States,” the official said. New Yorker reports. They were just boys who wanted their moms. Other people they had come into contact with throughout their travels verified their story and they were put back on a plane to Ireland.
Strutting around with their tourist t-shirts in hand, a media frenzy ensued and the two boys were positively famous. Even Margaret Thatcher was in disbelief at the story, apparently expressing her doubts about the whole thing during a live radio broadcast. “But we did, Maggie,” Murray joked now in response.
Needless to say they would never make it these days – people probably thought so back then too, but the 80s were a different time and kids had more freedom than they knew what to do with . “1985, when you were that age, was a lot freer than it is now,” Daly told reporter Vivian Cheng. The playful friendship of the dynamic duo was also partly to thank. “Their relationship together – they hadn’t seen each other in years when we brought them together, and that was it. They just clicked.
Byrne was then sent to boarding school, and Murray, who at the time had a few misdemeanor warrants against him, was nearly placed in a boys’ home. The judge let him go but the two grew apart over the years. Byrne now lives with his longtime partner and their children while Murray has since overcome 30 years of drug addiction and was sober for 17 months while filming. “Maybe one day I’ll go back, but I’ll pay on the plane this time,” laughs Murray.
It all reads like the plot of a movie… except you’d probably watch it, leave the theater and think, “No, that was all a little too unrealistic for my tastes. Only two young Dubliners were able to scam a private tour of New York before being deported. I know it’s a cliché but the phrase ‘the luck of the Irish’ seems apt here.
Imaging via Unsplash