My Father In Reflection
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
The series is a journey of reflection and a final honour to laying the ghosts and demons that have been with me since l was five.
There is some very dark and perverse humour to this tale of my Father’s and to those not just following this series but aware of many of the writings in my blog, you undoubtedly will have seen to which l refer, if not here …
“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.”
In case you missed it, l will highlight the lines that astound me the most … detesting bullying and hating oppression .. wow extremely stiff stuff coming from a bully, a mental violator, manipulator and coercer! My Father believed in three things to win ‘the wars’, and that was 1] when you cannot shout them down, 2] you cannot skull fuck them, then it can only be 3] you must beat them into submission! I had a broken rib awarded to me at 15 by my Father who kicked me when l was lying down studying for exams writing up my homework, and all because l did not wish to travel down to Kent from Surrey one Sunday afternoon to visit his Sister.
Other lines that confuse me somewhat … 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… no, sorry Father that is … how did Socrates verbalise it? Oh yes, that’s bollocks!
My Father never once held that view, and if he did he did not live with that credo in the household where we as his family resided during the growing up years from childhood to teenager! It was ‘his way or the highway’, or ‘everyone is right Rory, except when it goes against my version of right, right?’ Mm, now that doesn’t sound terribly diplomatic or demoocratic in my eyes or ears? My Mother was most assuredly NOT allowed to think for herself, she he would say would constantly forget five important things … 1] She was his property, 2] She was there to cook, 3] She was there to clean, 4] She was there for his sexual pleasure, entertainment and gratification only and 5] She was to raise the children…. please note not HIS or even ‘OUR’ just THE children.
My Father for all of his ‘anti-Catholic’ ways, would use a condom on his affairs, but never practice any kind of birth control with his wife, because that was ‘against the way of the Catholic’. [This is reference to the many miscarriages my Mother had at his hands and they were the result of no birth control practices] My Father carried the disciplinarian ways of that school and his upbringing to the table of the matrimonial home. He would mete out absolute punnishments to those who disobeyed his words.
This story of his is an insult to everything, it was always his way, it was only ever his way – it was to his principles of belief. Nothing else.
All this story does is show 1] that he was a victim in his eyes and 2] he was in his eyes again a hero. Whilst l will not attack his beliefs when he was aged 11 – 13 and what he thought to be right, l will ask the question, which will never be answered .. “Really, and what changed then?”
My Father was above everything an overly judgemental narcisstic hypocrit!
Enquiring Mind or Difficult Bastard?
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.
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.”
“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