We lived in West Belfast.
My father worked in the Grosvenor Road area. One day he brought me into a street called Burnaby Street near Distillery Football Club. And he told me that he used to live there.
Back in 1921, it was evenly divided between Protestants and Catholics and my father (quoting his mother) said that there was sectarian rioting and a Protestant woman had shouted out that there would be no Catholics left in the street that night. And sure enough the Catholics were expelled for fear of their lives.
My father was a babe in arms at the time. My Uncle Jackie would have been about 11 years old. There may have been a boy “Wee Bobby” in between or as he died as a child, he was more likely already dead. My granny was already pregnant and Auntie Sheila was born in a room above a pub at Peters Hill in 1922…a gun battle was happening outside.
Shortly afterwards they moved to a house in the Broadway-Beechmount area of the Falls Road. Trauma over? Not quite …my Uncle Jackie would witness a totally innocent man, the caretaker of the Presbyterian Church at Broadway, shot dead by the IRA in a blatantly sectarian reprisal. Uncle Jackie never forgot it. And around the same time, a truck load of B Specials cruised the area, indiscriminately shooting into side-streets and Uncle Jackie pushed my father behind the wall opposite their home. Neither Uncle Jackie nor my father ever forgot it.
So the trauma was over …my grandparents lived in that house until their deaths almost forty years later (1959 and 1961) and my Auntie Sheila lived there until she left in 1983.
So the trauma was often recalled on Sunday night visits when the subject would come up. It was of course the early 1960s and this was the stuff of History…some forty years previously.
My mother…who came from Counnty Armagh was always frightened. I even recall two of our elderly neighbours telling similar stories… how as schoolgirls they carried guns and bullets “for the boys”. Scary enough for a 10 year old boy like myself to be simultaneously scared to death and relieved that this was 1962 or whatever and nothing like this could ever happen again.
Trauma over? No….ten years later and I cant get home from work because there is rioting near my own house. And I only make it as far as that same house in Broadway-Beechmount…now only Auntie Sheila and Uncle Charlie (her husband) live there…and I sleep on the couch.
Next morning, I am leaving for work and the British Paratrooper manhandles me across the street to a space between the Butchers Shop and the wall where Uncle Jackie shoved my father fifty years before…and they laugh at my Auntie Sheila tearfully berating them …”Dont touch that child ….I have every hair on his head counted”.
GOD love her. They are all dead. My parents. My Grandparents. Uncle Jackie and Auntie Mary. Auntie Sheila and Uncle Charlie.
Fireside Tales from forty years previously. And I have more Fireside Tales to tell my sons and grandchildren. So has Mrs Fitzjames Horse.
And now I am blogging about it.
I wont kid myself…it is NEVER over. NEVER.
By the way, Broadway Presbyterian Church closed in the 1980s and is now ….An Cultúrlann…the Irish Language Centre.