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Friday 15 December 2017

U2 and UB40 - dooles on the bag of schoolboy

Philip Cairns who went missing in Rathfarnham in 1986
Philip Cairns who went missing in Rathfarnham in 1986

After nearly 30 years Philip Cairns' school bag is both a fascinating and a sad object.

Like a portal to the past, it is the only tangible physical clue that detectives have in the heartbreaking case.

Through the plastic cover protecting it from contamination, the bag will be instantly recognisable to anyone who was a schoolboy in Dublin in the 1980s. Made of canvas, they were generally bought in army surplus or camping shops.

Most lads of the time had one, and often wrote band names or their own names on them to make them unique so they would not be mistaken for someone else's bag.

Philip's was no different. Battered and frayed, it had probably served him through his national school days in Ballyroan Boys School.

Even three decades later his first name can faintly be seen written in black marker on the back of the bag in a style that replicates the logo of the band Def Leppard, who were enjoying huge success at the time.

A tiny U2 logo can also be seen very faintly drawn on the front in black biro, while a less artistic UB40 can barely be seen - written in red.

Apart from that, the bag is dotted with the marks of leaked biros, and meaningless doodles that colour-in squares of stitching where the strap buckles attach to it.

As a schoolbag it is standard of the time, but as an item of evidence it takes on a whole new meaning. For the Cairns family it represents the last physical link to Philip, but they can't hug it close or touch it - it has to stay locked away in a garda safe.

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