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Ireland

Alice Kyteler, convicted witch



"He's after writing me a letter"

leaving an Irish kitchen job


Kilkenny, autumn 2002—

The owner of Kyteler's, known as "Mrs. Flynn" to her employees, was livid about a letter that I had given to her. I'd been working in the kitchen, doing washup, and wrote to her upon quitting — if you'd call it "quitting."

I had walked out on the previous Monday at 4 o'clock PM. I had found out then that the schedule for the coming week included no hours for me, and had asked the manager Richie, who was evasive. He had told me just that weekend that the woman I had been hired to replace was coming back. That hadn't sounded good to me, but I waited to see what would happen — and now I saw.

Stiffed a few quid

I can't count the number of times that an employer has tried to steal that little bit of wage at the end of employment....

Richie said maybe next week. We had a few words. He insisted this is just the way of business. After getting a cup of tea and sitting down for a few minutes, I told him I wasn't going to stay until 6 o'clock, and that I'd be back on Friday to get my wages.

On Friday, Mrs. Flynn handed me the small square brown envelope that is the traditional Irish pay packet. I found that it was short. Mrs. Flynn said I'd have to come talk to Richie after 6 o'clock because he takes care of the office work.

I told her that I wasn't happy about the way I'd been treated there, and that this was just the last of it. I pulled out the letter that I'd prepared, and gave it to her. I told her that I'd posted it on the internet. She took it and turned to the side, without a particularly pleasant look on her face.

Later that day, Mrs. Flynn was on the 'phone behind the bar. A friend of mine, a woman whom I had met there, heard Mrs. Flynn talking to Richie. "He's after writing me a letter," she was saying. She was slapping the letter against the counter, and speaking in an aggitated voice. "I think we should go ahead and do what we'd talked about," she said, and refered to "the guards." The guards are the Irish police.

Kyteler's redux

I paid a return visit to Kyteler's, the spring of 2005. The manager asked me to leave....

I went in just after six o'clock to see Richie. I had decided to be explicitly sweet, amicable, and to act as if this matter of the shorted paypacket had an easy solution. But I wasn't going to let it slide.

My friend the ex-coworker, who was a waitress at that time, had tried to warn me, via email, not to go back to Kyteler's that evening. Nothing bad happened, but apparently that wasn't what Mrs. Flynn had expected.

I said to Richie that there was a problem with my wage, but that "it seems pretty straightforward." I showed him the Postit note on which I'd written my hours. I hadn't written the cash amount, which was in my head; I figured that if the money he gave me was somewhere very close to the correct amount, I would accept it. Richie took the Postit pad, went to the cash til, came back saying yeah, you're right. He gave me €37.50, which was exact. I said thank you very much, we're sorted, I appreciate it—and left.

I don't know what the pair were devising, why they had already talked about calling the guards, nor how their plan evolved that Friday afternoon. They wouldn't have known, of course, that I wanted no trouble but only to express myself. So few people do it, which I feel partly accounts for the awful state of the industry. Nothing happened, and I'm glad. But I was flattered that Mrs. Flynn took my communication seriously.


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