Tommy O’Hanlon says he knows some families up Carnley Road way, who still speak Gaelic at home. Most of 'em from Mayo he reckons. I'm doubtful, but then again, when we were kids he once told me Father Mullin tried to touch his arse one afternoon, so he could be onto something.
Anyway, we've never been like that in our house, though I know the old bloke still gets a twinkle in his eye when Ireland beat England at rugby. Nothing to do with nationalism, or republicanism, or religion. He still half-believes, but when the Provos started blowing stuff up over here, it turned his stomach. All those old songs he used to sing. He doesn’t sing them any more. And whatever residual notion he had of the pike in the thatch, has also gone.
One time he was first through the door at St Theresa's. Every Sunday. Think he still winks at the place when he goes past, but funerals apart, that's as near as he ever gets these days. Our Patricia's the same; Irish-lite. Four Green Fields and a bit of Pogues.
Had to laugh the other week though. Sunday afternoon and after half a pig and a sackful of potatoes and veg, most of the family is dozing in front of telly and fire. Songs of Praise comes on, so our Patricia turns the sound down and puts a tape on. "Rebel songs of Erin" or some such bollocks. Got it off a car boot for ten bob.
Anyway, the old lass wakes up during some line about a prison ship sailing away, and she sees the great British middle class, washed and polished on the telly, apparently singing along, and she’s up and shouting at me dad, “Wake up will yer Jackie…they’re singing the Athenry on Songs of Praise…”
Reddened and roused, he opens his eyes. It only takes him a couple of seconds to work it all out. He’s quick that way. Doesn’t say anything to ma and he’s already closed his eyes again as he silently mouths “Feckin’ eejit” and goes back to sleep.