Celtic Illumination, part 35, Up Down, Up Down, Up Down and George Best
If you remember many of you had asked me to give the details of my expulsion from Violent Hell and I have had to backtrack, so to speak, in order to line up the story. I think we have given ourselves sufficient room to now begin the approach to that story. In the last blog I gave some details about the crazy winter sport of ice sliding at Violent Hell. The main focus of sport at Violent Hell was on Gaelic football. Many of the boys excelled at this sport, the school won many tournaments and the senior boys would go on to represent their county, which was County Down. This was the ultimate in Gaelic sport. I however, being the sophisticated urbanite, from Belfast, felt uneasy at football matches cheering on the school’s county. I didn’t even feel that I was being in any way unfaithful to my own county, county Antrim. I just felt stupid shouting, “Up Down! Up Down! Up Down!”
In Belfast I played tennis, badminton, squash and cricket. Everyone did, well; everyone I knew. Yes we did kick a football about on waste ground and we emulated George Best and Bobby Charlton, but I don’t remember any of my circle of friends being that interested in soccer. We were actually more interested in wrestling than soccer and would gather on a Saturday afternoon in Samuel’s front room, he didn’t have a father so his mother allowed him to basically do what he wanted, and we would copy the wrestlers of the day such as Mick Mc Manus, Big Daddy and Kendo Nagasaki.
With my friend David it was tennis and cricket however one family the Kinning’s, they opened my eyes to so much. Mister Kinning worked at the Harland and Wolfe shipyard. He was a very proud Orangeman and his wife would often say that I had ankles like a Mullingar heifer, yet they were very kind and generous to me. He also had converted the attic of his house and constructed a very complicated and detailed train set, which as you would be aware, mesmerises any little boy, but everything this family did was fantastic.
The eldest boy, Brian had two go karts which he was constantly repairing, testing and racing. Mister Kinning had a 500cc Norton commando racing motorcycle which he would take to the old airfield at Dundrod and test it out. Roy had various motorcycles as did Dessie but their neighbour, two doors away, had cross country motorbike and side car set ups plus the streamlined racing motorcycle and sidecar, and when he opened the double doors of his garage and bring one, or more, of his machines out he and the Kinning’s would stand and talk nuts and bolts while I would stand there in amazement for hanging from the rafters of his garage was his collection of remote controlled aeroplanes.
I had such a fantastic time and know it is probably why I still love the smell of a two stroke engine and the thrill of white knuckle speed. Of course at Violent Hell this would all have been viewed as a very working class sort of pastime. I was useless at Gaelic football in fact I was worse than useless. I shall never forget the first time I had to play it. There I was all dressed up in my brand new togs. The other boys all sported their favourite football team’s shirt, I didn’t know which team my shirt represented so had already lowered any expectations for me; however it was my boots that gave me away.
They all wore the latest semi-leather, streamlined, football boots. I however wore a pair of handmade rugby boots. Each stud was made of three little nails and layered circles of leather. I know this, for as time went on, the nails began to poke through the sole of the boots and annoy me. But because of the price my parents had paid for them they had a certain life expectancy, so tough. As you may expect I was put in goal, where most useless players find themselves and I shall never forget the cries of derision from my team mates as I stood and watched a ball roll past me into the goalmouth. If they had wanted me to stop it they should have told me!