Celtic Illumination, part 38, Bam, Bam, thank you man!
One day we became aware of a rumour that was spreading throughout the school that the Dean, the Wee Scut, was leaving. I can tell you, boys began to smile, and even appear to be more relaxed. Sure enough that evening in the refectory, at tea time, a new priest walked in. He was six foot six tall and his name was Bam. Bam was an old boy so we knew there would be no pulling the wool over his eyes, not that any of us could reach up that high, but the sight of him was enough to make you want to run away and hide in a cave.
The school really did relax, boys were actually allowed to be boys, and I would say that there was a certain spring in our step. But the school body was still waiting for the first boy, or boys, to be punished by Bam. As you might have expected that duty fell to Brian Lavery and myself who were caught smoking by Bam. That evening Brain and I arrived at Bam’s day room. We dutifully opened the doors to the senior study hall in preparation for our punishment and I promise you, every senior boy was gesticulating at us, smiling, laughing. In fact they appeared to have quite a blood lust intent about them, for they knew with the size of him, at the very least, punishment from Bam would be carnage.
Bam came out of his day room. He smiled at us and we nearly cried. However he closed over the doors to the senior study hall and looked at Brian and myself. We knew that the senior boys would be disappointed that they couldn’t enjoy the one sided fight fest but there would probably be blood splattered everywhere which might appease them
“Go and get your towels boys,” said Bam, which Brian and I did, thinking that he was going to make us mop up our own blood. But no, he gave us a cold shower. Once this information spread throughout the school it became like I imagine a summer camp might be like. Boys were laughing and relaxing and playing, boys were being boys. But within a matter of a few short weeks Bam was gone and the Wee Scut was back. It was like switching off a light.
One corridor in the school was given over to the priests. On one side would be the priests day room with a settee, coffee table, television, bookcase, whatever and directly opposite, on the other side of the corridor, his bedroom. Should a boy be caught being naughty outside the classroom then that priest would order them to report to his day room at seven thirty, just as the second study period was beginning.
Outside each priest’s day room would be a line of boys who would accept their punishment one after the other and not one would believe, as they are called in Ireland the gobshite, as he would claim, “This will hurt me more than it hurts you!” Often, having received six of the best from one priest you would move on to another door and receive more caning, as if they cared. At least you had the long lonely walk back to the study hall, which gave you time to compose yourself before facing your friends. I remember it well, placing your hands on the large cold radiators as you passed by, hoping to take the sting out of your throbbing little fingers and wonder what on earth you had done wrong to be made to go through this.
Little did I know that all this suffering and pain was part of my training to become the mightiest Master Candle Maker ever, the high Chief of the Clan O Neill and the true King of Ireland.