Celtic Illumination, part 25, Easter rising and the 12th of July
I am pleased to see that many of you are beginning to understand that although you may not be able to exactly copy my rigorous training you may duplicate it for your own life, or your children, if you don’t like them that much. Some of you may slowly be realising that you are actually undergoing training as we speak. Such is the secrecy of the training for Master Candle Makers many are not aware there are being trained until it is over.
The Belfast where I grew up has gone. It is such a beautiful city and what a wonderful playground. I think it was my final year in primary school, Holy Cross Boys, when we would have a class test every Friday. First, second and third places would receive tickets to go to the Ulster museum on the Saturday morning to see films about Flipper the dolphin.
In this day and age you might expect young Johnny to be taken in the family four by four across Belfast, dropped at the museum and later picked up and returned home probably via a drive through fast food outlet. This was Belfast, during the late sixties. I would normally walk, or skip, half way across Belfast, on my own. I would walk down the Shankill Road and I can promise you when the twelfth of July is approaching the roads and pavements are decorated with flags and bunting and arches and it is a wonderful sight.
My friends used to take me to the Queens Bridge in Belfast on the twelfth of July to watch the bands returning from the field. It was a fantastic sight and what little boy doesn’t love a marching band. As luck would have it our next door neighbour, Cecil Ross, was a senior member of the Shankill orange lodge and on the eleventh evening he would take me with him and we would tour all the bonfires on the Shankill. It is only now that I can see that my mentors had arranged for the Orange Lodge to expose me to their customs and rituals, after all, I would eventually become their King.
The library I used was on the Shankill Road and I might pop in on my way to the museum. After the film gangs of us would rampage through the botanical gardens, that sat next door to the museum, and then we would disperse and each go our separate way. I would always head for Smithfield market. Strange that a couple of streets away was Royal Avenue where all manner of shops sold a multitude of shiny plastic stuff but I was more content wandering through a dusty old market that sold everything from bric a brac to second hand wood screws.
For me there was no distinction between Catholic and Protestant. I never questioned who was what or why. Our neighbour may have been a senior member of the Orange Lodge but across the road lived a man called O Hare. He was an elderly man with a huge raspberry nose indicating a liking for the drink. He often came to our house and asked me to take some letters to post for him. He always put the stamps on the envelopes in front of me and he always put the stamps on the envelopes upside down. I remember asking why he did this and was told that he was ‘one of the boys at the post office’.
It didn’t mean anything to me then, and I was sure that the Queen would never know of the insult aimed at her, but one day, too late to go and talk to Mister O Hare about his experiences, one day I realised, and had it confirmed, that Mister O Hare had been one of the original volunteers at the post office in Dublin in 1916.