Celtic Illumination, part 27, The French resistance and the Ministry of Defence
We are now at a very important stage in the training for the exalted position of Master Candle Maker. I felt like I had bailed out of my Spitfire over occupied France and was now being take care of by the Free French Resistance, being moved from safe house to safe house. If you too have found yourself being moved from one safe house to another then there is a good chance that you may be in training to be a Master Candle Maker either that or you might be in a witness protection scheme. Because of the dangers of candle making there is no central point where you can go to get information. There’s no point in contacting other, so called, candle makers, for most of them just import containers full of the stuff from Asia using the ‘pile it high sell it cheaply’ method. They are not candle makers, they are shop keepers. I bet not one of them is trained in Kung Fu.
As you can imagine the parochial house was brilliant, the Catholic Church doesn’t seem to be short of a bob or two. Two of my uncles were priests and two of my aunts were nuns however this one was the only one in Ireland. He was the parish priest in a lovely little seaside town called Warrenpoint. He was a very interesting man who had used to be a research physicist for the ministry of defence in England during the Second World War. As such his rooms were full of electronic equipment, tape recorders, cameras, projectors, radios. It was pure heaven for an inquisitive little boy. More importantly I had always thought that this fellow was my father.
I had always been told that my mother had died giving birth to me and my father had gone abroad. Well; England was abroad to us! He was also the only person who showed me any emotion. He only had one bed and quite naturally I would have to sleep with him, although I was no stranger to sleeping with him. He would often stay in our house in Belfast and sleep in my bed, with me, as driving the forty miles to Warrenpoint was probably far too demanding for a fully grown man who had spent a hard day praying.
I still remember the stink of tobacco from him and how he would rasp the stubble of his face against my bare skin. I will also never forget standing by the side of his bed with him lying there telling me that it was unhygienic to wear underpants in bed as I cried my eyes out. It was years later before it occurred to me what had actually happened and unfortunately with my well-honed and proven combat skills he went and died before I had the chance to murder him to death.
But such are the pitfalls of the Master Candle Maker, like writers, we have to experience many, many, things, both good and bad, in order to be able to write about them. But life in the parochial house was really interesting. One special memory would be Sunday lunch times. There was a beautiful large dining table and as all the priests would be busy in the church next door, the housekeeper would sit me down at the head of the table and make a fuss of me. But towards the end of my repast the helpers would come in to the dining room and place all the money from the church collections that morning on the table. It just felt so biblical.
It was this priest who would take two weeks off every summer and tour Ireland camping. I don’t know if I was lucky or not but he took me with him; I’ll leave that up to you. I do remember that the moment we crossed the border from Northern Ireland to the Republic he would pull in at the first available lay-by, jump out of the car and take his clothes off. It’s all right, he wasn’t streaking, he would be wearing short khaki trousers and matching shirt. He would then continue for a fortnight incognito, as I was. I have to admit I loved discovering Ireland and little did I know that years later I would find Ireland to be my Kingdom and myself to be the true heir to the O Neill throne, the High Chief of the clan O Neill, King Malachy.