Na seascaidí scóipiúla

"Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive But to be young was very heaven." These famous words by William Wordsworth capture his youthful enthusiasm for the French Revolution. They also sum up the attitude of many who lived through a more recent rebellion against the old order. I refer to the cultural revolution that took place during the 1960s. In later life the zeal that Wordsworth felt for the heady days of his youth waned considerably. As the years go by my own thoughts about the 1960s have also changed. Yes, a lot of great things happened during that time, especially in music. But was it all positive? Historian Arthur Marwick has argued that the sixties cultural revolution altered permanently the "material conditions, lifestyles, family relationships, and personal freedoms for the vast majority of ordinary people".[1] In other words, we are now living in a post-revolutionary world in which the past, i.e. before 1960, really is a 'foreign country'.

Ag dul sa tóir ar na deamhain

While going through some old papers recently I came across a document that made me pause. It was stuck in a folder along with a number of official-looking school certificates. This was a certificate too, except it had nothing to do with my less-than-stellar educational achievements.  It is a single sheet of roughly A4-sized heavy-duty paper. Most of the text on it is printed, with my own handwriting inserted in a couple of places. This is what it said.

Crosbhealach, 2/2

As I left John’s Lane church all those years ago, why did the thought that passed through my mind fill me with horror? Why was the idea of obeying God so dreadful? Was it because of who I imagined God to be? In my limited understanding as a 10-year-old boy, God was a man. That much was apparent when I read my Catechism. The male pronoun, He, was liberally used in the opening section dealing with God’s infinite traits. But the various prayers I had learnt by then muddied the waters somewhat. Three in particular come to mind.  The Lord’s Prayer begins with the words, “Our Father”. Clearly that prayer is addressed to a male figure. However, the second prayer, the Hail Mary, is directed at Jesus’ mother, evidently a woman. The third, formally known as the Doxology but we knew it as the Glory Be, is a prayer to the three persons of the Blessed Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The first two were obviously male. The third, the Holy Ghost, was represented as a dove in one of the illus

Crosbhealach, 1/2

Anyone who has followed my posts will know that as a young boy I was quite religious. This is not to suggest that I was in any sense “holy” or even “good”. I was merely following the common pattern of life in inner-city Dublin of the early-1960s. This was just before Vatican II got rid of many of the devotional practices then popular with ordinary Catholics.   The churches were open all day long and people came and went to pray quietly, light a candle, or sit in silence before the altar. The stillness inside a church building was a refreshing antidote to the clamour of the world outside. Whenever I visited a church it was like stepping across the threshold that separated the mundane from the divine.  In my corner of Dublin there were lots of Roman Catholic churches within walking distance of our council estate. About a half-mile away was St James’s, our local parish church, where I served Mass for several years during the 1960s.  Another half-mile further on was the Liberties, a workin


It’s a long while since I found it funny, but there was a time when I would not have missed an episode of the TV panel show, Have I Got News for You . One of its stalwarts was comedian Paul Merton. His deadpan, surreal interventions were often the highlight of the popular news quiz. A recurring theme of his weekly flights of fancy was the absence of the jet pack from the modern world.  Being of the same generation as Merton, I suspect his inspiration came from the 1965 James Bond film, Thunderball . The opening scene shows Bond escaping from several armed villains by donning a jet pack and flying to safety. As he takes off the jet pack after landing, Bond remarks to his glamorous companion that “No well-dressed man should be without one”. Both get into Bond’s Aston Martin sports car, which is equipped with an array of hidden weapons, including a water cannon that Bond uses to knock his pursuers to the ground. One of the great Bond pre-credit sequences, but is there another movie scene


By the time I started my solo visits to the pictures Cinerama had arrived in Dublin. Cinerama was the last word in movie-going. Instead of passively watching a film, you were plunged straight into the action. Cinerama achieved this illusion through a combination of the widest screen ever, and a multi-track system that filled the auditorium with sound from every direction. Cinerama was one of several technological advances that gave us a peek into a future that has yet to materialise. For instance there is nothing today like a Concorde plane that nearly 50 years ago could transport passengers across the Atlantic at supersonic speed. And, for all the hype, Imax cannot match the wonder and excitement of the Cinerama experience. My first Cinerama film was How the West Was Won in 1964. A terrific movie but, dare I say it now, a rather one-sided perspective if you happened to be a descendant of the Native Americans who already occupied the “West” before the Europeans arrived? But at the tim


I don’t have any specific memories of Easter during the 1960s. Christmas was far more important in my schedule, if only for the food and the toys. Of course Easter was also a holiday from school (and we had chocolate eggs!), but it was really a poor relation to the Big Day several months earlier. Because it commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, Easter is actually the more significant feast in the Christian calendar. The old Catholic Encyclopaedia calls it “the corner-stone upon which faith is built”.[1]  To honour this special day in this year of years, here is a unique description of the Resurrection itself. It is taken from Brian Cleeve’s The Fourth Mary , written in 1977 long after Jesus walked the earth.  The book purports to be “the story of the Crucifixion, told from the unfamiliar viewpoint of the enemies of Jesus, of those who planned it and regarded it as their triumph”.[2] Although Brian was a successful author with long experience in developing and crafting

An rúnseirbhís

In August 1971 I was given the piece of paper I needed to move from full time education into the world of work. That document was my Leaving Certificate.  Given that the failure rate in the 1971 exam was the highest ever, I should have been grateful for the pass result I managed to scrape.[1] But any sense of relief I felt was due to the fact that I would not have to go to school anymore. That was all that really mattered to me, although I think my mother felt differently. It must have been in 1967, during the summer break, that she mentioned the possibility that I would have to leave school following my Intermediate Certificate exam.  The issue was money. In those days my parents had to pay fees to the Christian Brothers’ school I attended. To this day I don’t know how much my education cost. But given that I went to an inner city school catering for a working class clientele, I suspect it was not a huge sum, maybe £5 a term.  It doesn’t sound like a lot of money but, when every penny