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Showing posts from November, 2020

In aghaidh an fhionnaidh, 1/3

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Donal Harris lived a few minutes’ walk from our estate and was in my class at the local Christian Brothers school. He was a soft-spoken boy, intelligent and shy, and we got on well.  In 1964 we joined the altar boys together. Once we had been trained in the liturgical rubrics and the Latin responses, we were chosen to serve our first Mass. Between bell-ringing and looking after the cruets, there was enough to keep two servers busy, even on a weekday. I remember little of it, but our parents were in the congregation and I’m sure they were proud of the pair of us. A year or two later things changed. We both liked pop music but Donal’s interest became more focused and more intense than mine. He took up the drums, grew his hair, and started wearing low-cut trousers called hipsters. One day in class I asked him who had written “Those Were The Days”. His answer, Ginger Baker, puzzled me. Shortly afterwards I learnt that Mary Hopkin was not the only pop star to have released a song of that na

An aois tuisceana

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One of the biggest events of my young life, but I can recall hardly any of it. It must have been the late spring of 1960. I had just turned seven, an important milestone in the eyes of the Catholic Church. That august institution calculated that I could now distinguish between right and wrong, that I had in fact arrived at the age of reason or understanding. It was time for me to confess my sins and take the Blessed Eucharist for the first time. I had already received the first of the seven sacraments when, as a week-old baby, I was baptised in our local church. Sacraments two and three, Penance and Holy Communion, would now follow in rapid succession. I was only seven, so I had no idea what these rituals signified. I just did what I was told and learnt what I had to.  As I said at the top, my mind is largely a blank about this period. I have no memory of those few minutes in a dark confession box as I tried to remember my rehearsed list of sins. Or of dressing up in my first suit and

Peaca na sinsear

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I grew up during the 1950s and 1960s in Ireland - an almost totally Catholic country. Like everything else we learnt in those days, from multiplication tables to poetry, we imbibed the fundamentals of religion through rote-learning. Every schoolboy had a Green Catechism containing the basics of Catholic dogma. No one expected us to understand the complex theological doctrines (like the Trinity) presented in its pages. We just had to memorise it all.  The Catechism contained 443 questions and answers divided into three sections: 1) The Apostles’ Creed, 2) The Commandments of God and of the Church, and 3) Prayer and the Sacraments. The book’s genius lay in its distillation of often arcane concepts into a few lines that, if repeated often enough, could be committed to a child’s long term memory.   If the idea of rote-learning turns many people off today, so too does a lot of what the Catechism contained - especially the idea of Original Sin. The term was introduced in question 57, one of

Ag dul chuig pictiúrlann, 2/2

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Although I was a frequent cinema-goer during the 1960s, it was impossible to see every movie that came to town. Some cinemas, like the Carlton, changed their programmes every week.  Others, such as the Ambassador, charged top dollar for the big money-spinners, e.g. My Fair Lady , making them unaffordable for an impoverished schoolboy like me. Nevertheless, time and cash permitting, I kept up as best I could with the latest productions from Hollywood and British studios. Many of these films focused on some aspect of World War II. Audiences could not get enough of films like The Guns of Navarone , The Longest Day , or The Desert Fox . One commentator has suggested that the enduring popularity of World War II on celluloid is due to the subject's perceived “moral certainties”.[1]  In the 1960s there was no doubting who the heroes were. The movies I saw were made by the victors, i.e. America and Britain, and so the Germans and Japanese were always portrayed as the “enemy”. Recently I wa