In My Father’s Words

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In My Father’s Words

B.M

03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018

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Enquiring Mind or Difficult Bastard?

Penned 19/01/07

It was a small battle, a battle conducted over about a two-year period.  It was a battle I lost.  The adversaries were mismatched.  I was a boy, wet behind the ears, wading waist deep through the difficult years from eleven to thirteen.  The opposition was the hierarchy of St Malachy’s Catholic Grammar School in Belfast.

Northern Ireland, in the 1950’s was on a different planet from the rest of the world.  The Republic of Ireland was in a different galaxy.  The Catholic Church told the Government what to do in Dublin.  Unable to do that in the North, they had to be content with ensuring the young people in their schools were sent into the world as good Catholics and fervent Irish Republicans.

My parents were both Catholic and Republican and I failed them.  Part of the problem was that in the area where we lived, most other people were non-Catholic, in a fairly mild non-confrontational way.  My mates, and, more importantly, the girls I admired, were Protestant, in that vague way Catholics defined all people who were not of their own tribe.  My passion for girls was only exceeded by my love of cricket.

Also, at the age of thirteen, I fell in love with Elizabeth, who was a good-looking girl.  She had also just become Queen of England, and I have to say that my admiration for and loyalty to the lady have not diminished in the intervening years.  Needless to say, the staff at SMC shared none of these enthusiasms.  They were male, to a man, and about half were priests.  My folk memory is that they were Jesuit, but they might have been Dominican.  Either way, they were Fascists.

Clashes were inevitable.  Their received wisdom was that Catholics were good, Protestants bad; Irish was good, English bad.

Father Larkin was a tall, dark, gaunt man, with black eyes and a hawk like nose.  When he strode into class with his black skirts sweeping, he reminded me of the Angel of Death.  He hated me; the feeling was mutual.  Once after a dose of this propaganda, I had the temerity to question God’s chosen one.

“Father?”

He glared at me over the top of his glasses.  “Well?”

“I read in the paper that there are five million Catholics in England, which is more than the entire population of Ireland.”

“So?”

“Are they good because they are Catholic, or bad because they are English?”

The result was inevitable, six on each hand.  I bit my lip, cursed the good priest to hell and tried not to cry.

Sometime later, I questioned why we had to learn Henry V’s speeches as they praised the English, who were so clearly evil.  Once more onto the breach, dear friends and another dozen whacks with the cane.

I only failed two exams in my time at school, both in Irish language.  I had to see the Head teacher, another priest, short and fat, but similarly equipped with a cane.

“Don’t you care about the Irish language?”

“No,” I replied truthfully, “it’s a waste of time.

“But it’s your native language.”

“No, it’s not.  English is.  I don’t know anyone who speaks Irish.  In any case, the Queen doesn’t speak it, and you don’t need it to join the RAF.”

Different conversation, same result.

After two years of this, I gave up, and remained silent.  It didn’t always work; I was once caned for ‘dumb insolence’.

These experiences taught me more than my tutors realised.  I grew up despising Catholicism, detesting bullying and hating oppression.  I learned that a man, and a woman too, has to work things out for themselves and to live their lives according to principles in which they believe, not meekly accept what one is told to believe.  I learned that fists do not destroy ideas, merely reinforce them.

They won the battle; I won the war.  

Written by my Father B.M

15 thoughts on “In My Father’s Words

  1. I’m sorry you had to go through all that, Rory. What’s interesting to me is the persistence of this type of man, not necessarily because he rapes his way into continuing his genetic legacy but because women keep choosing him voluntarily. Just look at the horrible leaders chosen via democracy ~ they are often this mold of man. I have to wonder at the psychology of it… do people feel he’ll protect them from wild beasts, so it’s worth it?

    1. Hey Paula, l honestly don’t know the answer to the question either, but you are right, this particular ‘mold’ of man still dominates and people allow them to.

    1. Hey Cage, hope you are keeping well 🙂

      Yes, that is it precisely, they do, and then they have to keep lying to keep it active and so much so then they become even more embroiled in that story that it can only be the truth.

      1. And you, Rory – I worry for you going through this every day; I’d do one a week so I could intersperse the rest of the time with the things that make life worthwhile, better – Scrappy, Suze, snow …

        1. Suze expressed the same thing Cage. She said is this helping you.

          I answered her with this … “These things happened a long time ago. He was at his worst when l was younger. I still have the memories of course, they’ll never go away.

          I am not doing this for any kind of catharsis relief, more a purging, once it’s done it’s done, if that makes sense?

          I want this series of reflection over – but l am doing it literally to lay my ghosts, we each tackle our demons differently.

          Years ago, l was involved in a very serious car crash, my injuries paled in significance to those of my two passengers my fiance and my 18 month old Son, who were killed. I never faced it properly, ran away from my gried, kept my anger and rage within for too long. Last year on the 30th anniversary l purged the demons at long last, l stopped blaming myself, and l was able to release a lot of my demons and guilt that l lived.

          The 31st anniversary of that crash was literally only days ago on the 17th. When it came, l was able to reflect peacefully on my loss, but l no longer did l get angry at it.

          Now with the loss of two loved ones when l was 24, and despite not being in any way or shape responsible for their deaths that as an event was far greater than even my horrible childhood.

          I am purging my Father from my life, and this is how it is helping me.

          Thank you for your concern though Cage 🙂

  2. Rory, I’m just starting to follow your blog so don’t know anything about you. After reading this about your dad and what your family was subjected to I have to say you are courageous for sharing it. Any family terrorized like yours was — especially by the very person who was supposed to love and protect you — has my sympathies.

          1. Do you think the fact that your dad is no longer alive makes it better or worse as far as your catharsis process? I ask because I’m not to that point yet with my mom and she’s still living. There is so much I would like to say to her, and I still can, but her responses end up hurting even more, and then she tells my sibs that I’m picking on her and they think she walks on water so they come after me. Right now I’m in avoidance mode and feeling pretty good, but it’s all still there, waiting to be purged.

            1. Mine is not so much a catharsis process at all, mine is literally a purging. When l am finished with the series my ghosts will be concreted. Of course memories and nightmares will linger, for a while longer.

              But my Father dominated my life both directly when younger and indirectly when l left home and l will not let him dominate me from the garve.

              when he was alive we constantly argued and when l was forty we nearly came to blows when l told him exactly what he was and what l thought of him. The last 15 years since then, he looked at me very differently and our relationship which was already weak at best, may have weakened further, which was why we went for a second bonding holiday in 2005.

              I do this series for me, but as l have said the title is not right – I knew My Father and nothing l am reading changes that view, sadly.

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