Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Do Ye Kin Malky?

It was just over a year ago from now that my dear dear old chum Anthony Captain passed away. Dear Mercurial Anthony who back in the day woke me up to the wider world beyond the limits of Ardoyne and the idea of illuminated beings who made the music that changed the world and made it a tolerable place to live in. People like Bowie or bands like The Sex Pistols and so many other musical treasures which have enriched my time on this planet ever since. He lived in Old Ardoyne then and I lived in Newer Ardoyne.
             Now it is all Old Ardoyne.
             I crossed the Berwick through the alleyway in Brompton Park and made my way to his old house in Herbert Street where I heard Diamond Dogs for the first time. (Those hungry peopleloids really haunted me that first night as they looked down from Hunger Hill).Got chased back through that opening by some other kids from Old Ardoyne who were going to kick my head in for daring to cross into their streets. Seemed to happen to me a lot back then. Getting a kicking.
              I was thinking the other night about one of our get togethers a few years later at the height of The Hunger Strikes. There had been quite a bit of civil unrest on the streets and I suppose for those living outside it that the Catholic Republican Ghetto of Ardoyne never seemed to be at peace. It could be something of a tinder box and one had to be careful of sparks.Some nights dandering around its tightly packed maze of back to back working class housing it could feel like the forest where the wild things ran.On that particular night the wolves were running and they came in the shape of a new regiment of Scottish troops who patrolled the streets stopping, searching and questioning. The Scotch troops always were the worst in terms of lack of respect for the "peace" they were keeping. They could be aggressive and quite frightening in the blink of an eye and there was a natural fierceness in their speech patterns. I think they believed all Catholics were republicans or their sympathisers (me and my mates were barely Catholic much less political.)I used to think that most of them came from the same kind of backgrounds as we did so they had to prove themselves by being extra mean. Their very presence on the streets and the way they actually treated people was adding to the tension in the area  which was bubbling like steam beneath a sauce pan lid. At any moment of the day or night the news of the death of another hunger striker would break with the sounds of whistles blowing and bin lids being hammered on pavements. A sound like the end of the world.A sign to batten down the hatches and sit tight cause anything could happen and frequently did.
                 Anyway one night me and my chums were getting together in my house in Etna Drive and they were making their way there from different parts of the district and in different streets they were stopped by the same Scottish foot patrol.Paul was stopped on  the way over from Mountainview, searched and questioned. "And where are you heading now?"
               "Malachy Coneys in Etna Drive", he answered.
              "Malky Coey" they wrote down in their wee black note book.
               Jimmy was stopped on his way down Estorial Par.Same thing happened to him and he replied in the same way. Heading to Malachy Coney's in Etna Drive.
               Anthony was stopped on his way from Farringdon Gardens and received the same treatment. They wrote down in pencil his destination;Malachy Coney's in Etna Drive.
               Then they also stopped poor Willy on his way round from Brompton. They searched him and before he could answer where he was going they asked him;
               "Do ye kin Malky?" which startled him no end. "Tell him we will be callin round later" they promised in what could only be described as a joyfully threatening and sinister way.Willy was quite pale when he got to my ma's house"No messin' lads", he stressed"I think they are goin' to kill us all and say we are provos or somethin'". We considered the possibility of this happening and laughed our heads off. We would between us make the worst terrorist cell in Irish history. Even in retrospect it stretches credulity.
                 Yes it is true to say there were many dark days growing up in that troubled part of Belfast but I had the good fortune to have a very loving family and a group of friends I loved very much. Anthony and Willy are no longer with us but I think of them all the time. I have heard many people describe the future and the days yet to come as the Undiscovered Country but the past also requires its maps. The memory plays tricks and at times that vast and changing landscape become some where to get lost.
                  Sometimes it is like digging for treasure on a beach you used to know so well.
                  In fact that is how some one once described me and my mates;
                  Beach Bums without a beach.