I love this inscription on the Floraville path of memories: The beatings will continue until morale improves. It’s for your own good. Spare the rod etc. On Monday morning, after the childrens’ sodality, the schoolmaster beat the boys who had not attended church from three o’clock to four, the previous day. No excuse was accepted. ‘Where were you yesterday?’ ‘Sick, sir.’ ‘Not good enough. Sín amach do lámh.’ Think of the courage of a small boy stretching out his hand for the cane. ‘Caddying, sir.’ ‘Caddying! Caddying!’ This was a ‘reserved sin’. To endanger one’s immortal soul for a few pieces of silver from a good natured golfer on Sunday afternoon, smacked of the treachery of Judas. ‘ How much did you get? What did you do with it?’ ‘Gev it up, sir.’ ‘Not good enough. Sín amach do lámh’. The child had contributed his few shillings to the household budget, no small consideration in the hungry Forties. One boy admitted that he had bought noranges. Nobody laughed. ‘Sín amach do lámh.’ Noranges, in the lean years after the war! Bloody luxury! The boy will be hung. ‘Now stand up the boys who were up in the gallery.’ This was , for some reason, a particularly offensive offence. I don’t know what depravity went on up in the gallery. There is an old music-hall song, ‘Miss Jenny Lind, With the Entire Company and This Time , Principally YOUR—SELVES’: The boy/girl (Delete as appropriate) I love is up in the gallery. Up in the gallery… The church is no place for that sort of thing. Down with that sort of thing etc.. Sín amach do lámh.
Margaret and I sat at the back of a crowded church yesterday. We were in the chidrens’ room, sometimes called The Crying Room. It was Mike’s First Communion Day. The children looked very smart in their new outfits. They were happy.They sang a song about thanking God ‘for making me me.’ Songs of Innocence. There was another one that sounded a bit like: Ob-la-di Ob-la-dah life goes on brah, la la how life goes on.. Some small children in the room, broke off from their kick boxing, to dance together. The parents smiled indulgently. A granny with a walking -stick tried to restore order. Let’s hear it for grannies. My mind wandered. I remembered sodality. Sodales, dining companions, boon companions, members of a secret society. No we weren’t. There was no fine dining on Sunday afternoons in the church. There were hymns in Latin: Jenny Tory, Jenny Tokway, louse et jubilatio… I liked the sound of Latin, although I wondered who Jenny was and where the louse came into it.. Somebody up in the gallery, played the organ. My older brothers took me to my first sodality. ‘Then the priest comes out with some yoke and lights a fire in it. The church fills up with this lovely smell’. I loved the drifting smoke and the lovely smell. I imagined that my prayers rose up, like the smoke in the afternoon light, to wisp about the throne of God.
Those windows haven’t been opened in years. No waft of fresh air has come in there for half a century. The spiders are secure in their tenancy. I thought of the countless numbers of good people who have given their time to the church. Their contributions built it. It was thronged every Sunday, as it was for yesterday’s Mass. Nowadays it is mostly a church for children and old people. I went to an evening funeral. By the time the crowd had finished sympathising with the bereaved family, it was time for the visiting mission priest to address the mens’ retreat. I stayed on. A mind, just like a window, should be opened occasionally. He spoke about lust and the sins of the flesh. I looked around. I was the youngest in the church. The other customers were propped up on sticks. Down with all that carry-on, we agreed.
I felt sorry for Colin Powell when he was instructed to address the U.N. on the matter of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. It was obvious that he didn’t believe his own words. Body language. He showed a spy camera video of a large truck manoeuvring in a circle. This was to put the fear of God into the members of the U.N. Be careful around large trucks. The invasion went ahead anyway. Iraq was destroyed. A more frightening enemy, Isis/Is/Isol came into being. To Isis, we are all infidels. A Christian church, filled with children on Holy Communion Day, would be a plum target. Very dark thoughts in the Crying Room on such a happy day. By the way, Tony Blair became the Peace Envoy to the Middle East. For crying out loud! He resigned recently to concentrate on making a few bob for himself. I felt sorry also for decent churchmen who were obliged to repeat the ‘party line’ on the referendum on Marriage Equality for gay people. Body language again.
The light comes through the mottled glass and makes the alcove glow. It’s a granite building. The mica glitters in the sunlight. We came out to see the people laughing, taking photographs and greeting one another. I saw one or two grandaddies who were there on the day I made my First Communion. If only I could recapture some of that innocence. The news was that the Yes had been carried in the referendum. Ireland had not disgraced itself yet again. I felt proud that a sense of fairness had lifted the dark and cruel shadows of the past from fellow citizens who had suffered too long. We went to Mike’s birthday party. There was a bouncy castle, as decreed by the Third Vatican Council—-well, it will be. Things change. We were charmed to see our children and their children enjoying a family day together. The other news is that Mike made a few bob. I could well have gone caddying in the golf club and made a few for myself, on such a fine day, but I don’t know a niblick from a five iron. Tips would have been thin on the ground.
We are living in a better Ireland today. I spotted this sign on the way home. A bank open on a Saturday! For mortgage appointments! A few bob available. No grovelling required. (I made that bit up.)
In a couple of years they have built a home sweet home/With a couple of kids running in the yard/Of Desmond and Molly Brown…./Ob-la-di ob-la-da life goes on…yeah..la-la-la-la life goes on…
Indeed it does. The beatings have been suspended. Let’s hear it for the Beatles.