Celtic Illumination, part 39, Big Jed, Pascal and a black hole
By now some of you may think that the level of brutal violence that I had to face, on a daily basis, was extreme. It was. You may also think that it may perhaps be too extreme, especially when I was being prepared to be a world leading Master Candle Maker, the Chief of the O Neill Clan and the King of Ireland. The secret cabal who organised my training didn’t think so. From the moment I could understand, if not before, I had been told that my mother had died giving birth to me and that my father, a recently qualified professional, had gone abroad to further his career, knowing that I would be able to access better medical care and enjoy a better education if I stayed in Ireland. They could never remember which country my father had gone to or exactly what profession he had ‘recently qualified in’.
Almost every day I would look at the line of cars on the Belfast to Dublin road and wish that one of the cars would be driven by my father, my biological father, and that he would sail up the long avenue to Violent Hell, and take me away to safety. It never happened and I do think that the secret cabal who organised my training had sent me to Violent Hell to allow me to experience the bitter loneliness that many of my people might experience. So that on taking up my role as King of Ireland I could begin to effectively protect and help the elderly and the persecuted. In order to maximise the experience, they placed an uncle of mine, the other priest, at Violent Hell.
One of the ‘nice’ things that could happen to you at Violent Hell is that a priest would invite two or three boys to his room for the entire second study period where they would watch television and enjoy tea and biscuits. I promise you I never heard one whisper about malicious intent or perverted behaviour during my time there. My uncle had been brought back from the missions in Africa as he was to undergo an operation on his throat. He taught me physics yet I was never invited to my Uncle’s room. He never spoke to me, apart from once when he told me that my paternal grandmother was dead and we were to go to the funeral the next day.
So as you can imagine the levels of loneliness I was experiencing was intense, now put on top of that the oppressive violence I was subjected to and simmer for a couple of years.
I remember once I had gone to Ireland for a short holiday. I was with my favourite aunt and she was asking me what had gone wrong at Violent Hell. The simple equation that one of the top academic schools in Northern Ireland plus one of the highest IQ’s in Northern Ireland being brought together equals zero did not compute. All her brothers had attended Violent Hell; she had even considered sending her own son there. I began to explain about the oppressive brutality there and was actually naming the priests. I began to speak about one priest, who I considered to be the most violent of the lot, Big Jed.
This was a country boy made good. Jed ran the school farm and taught Latin. Most schoolchildren remember teachers throwing perhaps a small piece of chalk at them. In one of the second year classrooms was a hole in the blackboard where Big Jed had thrown a blackboard duster at a boy who was supposed to be declining a verb on the blackboard. The hole remained there for a good number of years and some said it was to remind us what would happen if we got it wrong.
I explained to my favourite aunt how this animal was so short sighted that we, when being punished by him, would try to pull or push our hand so that the cane would hit our hand and not our arm or shoulder. Big Jed, if he noticed, would take this as cowardice and really lay into you. My aunt looked at me and nodding toward the local church just across the road from her house said, “Well he’s my parish priest now, but he’s all right as long as he takes his medication.”
Once he called a distant cousin of mine, Pascal, to the front of the class and began to slap him with a cane on the hand. Pascal moved his hand to try and catch the blows. Big Jed became furious and began to lash Pascal’s legs with the cane. Pascal entered into, and began to suffer, an epileptic fit. As he writhed on the floor Big Jed continued to attack him thinking that the boy had the audacity to fight back. At least Pascal’s parents had the moral courage to go to the school tell the priest what they thought of them and took Pascal away to a place of safety.
I do not know how it came about but suddenly the priests were not allowed to carry concealed weapons. They still held them in their day rooms, but they were not allowed to take them into the classrooms, nor were they allowed to launch into us with their boots and fists. It must have been nice for the new boys joining the school but for those of us who had suffered, under the old regime, we still lived in fear.