Category Archives: My Life

Mickey Marley’s Roundabout – A Belfast Legend

Mickey Marley’s Roundabout 

A Belfast Legend

Mickey Marley's Roundabout header

Mickey Marley and his roundabout are woven into the fabric of Northern Ireland’s tortured history and generations of Belfast folk, catholic and protestant alike will have fond memories of grumpy old Mickey and his horse drawn roundabout.

As a child I remember vividly riding on his roundabout one glorious summers day in the Woodvale Park and this memory  always brings a smile to my face. Life was simple and innocent back then and the joy of a ride soothed my childhood soul and the world seemed not so scary for a few short moments.

Thank you for the memories Mickey!

 

 

The

Mickey Marley Story

Mickey Marley's Roundabout 2

Mickey Marley

Mickey Marley (died 28 April 2005) was a street entertainer from Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Born in the Markets area of Belfast, but spending most of his life on the Grosvenor Road in the Falls area of West Belfast, Marley was a common sight in Belfast City Centre for over forty years.

Drawn by his horse Joey Marley would tour the streets of Belfast with his hobby-horse roundabout. When he retired he sold the roundabout to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

His local fame was enhanced by a recording of the song “Mickey Marley’s Roundabout” (written by Belfastman Seamus Robinson) which was a popular children’s request on BBC Radio UlsterBBC Northern Ireland also made a documentary on his life. The 1973 film followed Marley’s everyday life, against the backdrop of the heavy British Army presence on the streets of Belfast during the early years of the Troubles

 

Mickey Marley’s Roundabout – Barnbrack

 

Lyrics to Micky marleys roundabout

Micky Marley had a wee horse
He kept it at the back of the house of course
It wouldn’t eat grass and it wouldn’t eat hay
But it would eat sugarlumps all day
Micky got wood and wheels for a start
Then he sat down and made a wee cart
He hammered and he hammered and he foutered about
Until he had built a roundabout

Chorus
Round and round and up and down,
Through the streets of Belfast town,
All the children laugh and shout,”
“For here comes mickys roundabout”
And then he went from street to street
A penny a time and pick your seat
A hobby horse or a motorcar
Jump on son and hold the bar
The children’s faces smile with glee
Laughs and smiles a sight to see
You haven’t got a penny and your ma’s gone out
You can still get on his roundabout

(Chorus)
But then alas to his dismay
The roundabout was burnt one day
Poor Micky lost everything he had
And all the children were so sad
But his friends they gathered round
From every part of Belfast town
They hammered and they hammered and they fouterd about and built him a brand new roundabout

(Chours)
Hobby horses don’t get old
I’m winter beds they all feel the cold
But Micky knows each winter pass
The roundabout is still at last
No more we’ll hear the happy sounds
Of his roundabout in Belfast town
We thank the horse and the wee small man
For the joy they spread across the land

(Chours) x2

 

Showman Mickey Marley’s funeral

The funeral of one of Belfast’s best known characters Mickey Marley, immortalised in a Barnbrack song, was being held today.

Mr Marley, who was made famous in Barnbrack’s hit single Mickey Marley’s Roundabout, died last Thursday. He was in his mid 80s.

Requiem Mass was celebrated at St Peter’s Cathedral this morning followed by cremation at Roselawn.

Mr Marley, who lived in the Grosvenor Road area, and his horse-drawn roundabout was a familiar sight on the city’s streets for decades.

After leaving school at a young age, he saved up to buy his first pony and his roundabout was a huge success, first in the Falls area, then Belfast city centre and beyond.

After Sean McRobin, of local band Barnbrack, penned a song about him he became a local celebrity.

He became so well known that during a trip to Stormont in the 1970s, Prime Minister James Callaghan got his driver to stop so he could have a word with him.

His roundabout is currently being restored to its former glory in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra

Source: Belfast Telegraph 

 

 

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Uncle Sam – Extracts from my Autobiography Belfast Child

Uncle Sam

uncle sam

Extracts from my Autobiography Belfast Child

 

Finally the day for Uncle Sam to be released from jail arrived and the whole family along with friends and acquaintances gathered to give him a welcome home party he would remember. All day long preparations were made for the night’s celebration and the house was awash with food and alcohol of every description. When Sam finally walked through the door a huge cheer rang out and after the greeting and hugs the party got into full swing. Although dad had only been dead a few months and the pain was still tearing me apart inside, I really enjoyed myself that night and for a while forgot about the state of my life.

Uncle Sam was dad’s younger brother and was well respected throughout the estate and surrounding areas. He was lovable rogue and with his swarthy good looks and mischievous manner all that knew him loved him and all the local women fancied him. Also, more importantly he was a Loyalist Soldier and had served time for a cause he believed in.

For your information:

I am writing this as a ten year old child growing up in Loyalist West Belfast during the 1970’s  and the worst  years of the Troubles . My daily life was engulfed and controlled by the “war” going on around me and the loyalist paramilitaries lived and operated among us.

Many were friends and family and that was all perfectly normal in our world. At the time there was no escape from the madness that was stalking the streets of Belfast and many normal , honest , decent men joined the paramilitaries in response to the continuing and never ended terror campaign of the IRA and other republican groups. Sadly the paramilitaries also attracted many psychopathy killers whom used the “war” to feed their dark desires at the expense of the innocent. 

As a loyalist child  I was completely submerged in the Loyalist  culture & traditions  and at the time I was way to young to understand or differentiate between republican terrorists and the nationalist community and like those around me I had been raised from an early age to hate and mistrust all Catholics and the hated Antichrist in Rome.

Thankfully as I grew older my hatred of all Catholics faded and I was to go on to have many catholic friends during my mod days and later life.

Now I don’t judge  any man or women based on their religious beliefs . In fact I don’t give  two flying fecks who or what you worship,  providing they are peaceful and respectful of all others , thats OK by me.

I still have a problem with Nationalism and the call for a United Ireland, but I respect democracy and peoples right to exercise their democratic rights. But that don’t mean I agree with them and I never will.  That means I wish to maintain the status quo in Northern Ireland and hope and pray our people can learn to live more harmoniously together and our children have a better future than the long , dark soul destroying days my generation lived through

Amen!

See The Loyalist Mod

All male members of the family looked up to Uncle Sam and we all wanted to be just like him when we grew up. That night we were permitted to stay up into the wee hours and when the adults were full of drink the talk soon turned to dad and I was proud to hear them all talk about what a great man dad was and how they all missed him terribly and wished things could be different.

Although we were a very close family, we were typical of the area and emotions were something men never showed and that night I felt proud when I went to bed, knowing that dad’s memory would live long in this house and others were sharing my grief at losing him.

1 painter funny

After Uncle Sam had settled back into life outside jail, his thoughts naturally turned to how he could earning a living and bring some money in for the family. Whilst in jail he had done a course in painting and decorating and on his release he let it become known around the estate that he was available for hire at a very reasonable rate. Before long the work started to come in and if he had a job at the weekend Wee Sam and I went with him and helped in any way he seen fit, which included cleaning up the mess behind him and making endless cups of tea. If we were really lucky and the owner of the house was out, Uncle Sam would sit chain smoking and watch us paint the bottom section of the wall to the best of our ability. At first he was making good money and Wee Sam and I were more than pleased with the few quid he give us after completely the job.

After a while the work started to dry up and Uncle Sam pondered long and hard to come up with a new means of earning some money.

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Suddenly one day he proclaimed that he was going to set up a door to door business selling firewood and half an half later the three of us were on our way to Glencairn Park behind the house , with a wheel barrel and a chain saw he had borrowed from a reluctant neighbour. When we had walk some way into the forest Uncle Sam stops, gazed around for a moment and before we knew what was happening shouted “ timber” as the tree first let out an agonizing groan and thundered to the ground below.

After Uncle Sam had chopped the tree into manageable sizes, wee Sam and I loaded the wheel barrel with as much as possible and taking a handle each swayed our way back to the house were we dumped the wood in the back garden and went back for more. Later that night we all gathered in the back garden and bagged the wood into bags , before setting off and selling it door to door around the estate. After a short time money was pouring in and we had established a large client basis throughout the estate.

Although what we were doing was highly illegal, we carried on oblivious to the laws we were breaking and chopped down trees on an industrial scale. In Glencairn and the surrounding areas we followed our own rules and pretty much ignored the laws of the land. Business was that good I was able to save enough money to buy myself a second hand chopper from the bike shop down the Shankill. Sadly all good things come to an end and one day as we were making our way to our favourite felling spot, a team from the forestry department apprehended us and Uncle Sam was read the riot act.

1 the riot act

The game was up and we watched with shock as Uncle Sam shamelessly agreed to everything they were saying and promised never to do it again. Wee Sam and I were bitterly disappointed and begged Uncle Sam to chance  his mind. As we made our way home empty handed he explained that because he was out on licence, the last thing he need was the police paying him too much attention or he might end up inside again. What he said made perfect sense and Wee Sam and I reluctantly agree with him. “Besides, as Uncle Sam pointed out winter would soon be over and sales would dry up with the changing weather.

1 loyalist prisoner aid

 

Another scheme Uncle Sam got me involved in was selling his UDA sweepstake cards. As a member of the UDA he was not only expected to pay a weekly donation or dues to the cause, he was also expected to help raise money for loyalist prisoners and their families. The UDA was run along very strict guidelines and had its own welfare department that raised and distributed money were most needed. This was done in a variety of ways, mostly illegal and generated huge sums of money for the organisation.

At the weekly meeting sweep cards were handed out to all present to sell and most members would take £25.00 quid’s worth and sell then to their friends and family. As with anything he couldn’t be arsed to do it himself, he recruited Wee Sam and me.One Saturday he handed us a bundle of sweep stakes and told us if we sold them all he would give us two quid each, which sounded like a fair deal to me. After giving us instructions on what we were selling and how best to sell them and how much they costed, he sent us of and told us not to return until they were all sold.

1 a pint of harp

He would wait for us in community centre, he informed us solemnly as though he was getting the short end of the stick, when in fact we knew that he would be having a few pints and playing cards with his mates.

Equipped with the necessary information wee Sam headed to the top of the estate and I headed to the bottom and knocked on the first door I came to. After a moment or two a woman’s head appeared round the door and I immediately went into my sales pitch, which I had been working on for a few days and perfected on the walk down the Road.

“Excuse me misses, would you like to buy one of these?

You write your name, pick two numbers between 1 and 50 and if you win you win £25.00.

Price 20p a go,…

most people buy a sheet of five and its  only £1.00 in total…….Oh and the profits go to the prisoners and their families “

“Ah…god love you love, thinking of the prisoners. Go on”, I’ll have two sheets she replied”

and I was in business.

I took this like a duck to water and before long I was outselling Wee Sam on an embarrassing g scale. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was a natural sales man and years later would have a successful career in London selling everything from life insurance to industrial chemicals, but much more of that later.

Eventually Wee Sam threw the towel in and I took over the whole operation. That’s not to say it was always easy. Lots of people turned me away, some were nice about it and others told me fuck off and never darken their door again. but even back then I was a natural sales man and the insults just rolled over my head and I apologized for interrupting them and wishing them a good day I  made my way next door and another  potential sale.

It wasn’t long before I had built up a substantial client basis and when on the job I knew exactly which houses to call at and which were best avoided. For my efforts I got £2.00, which was duly spend on sweets and other treats I had promised myself.

 

1 car bomb

 

As I pounded the Roads of Glencairn selling my sweep stakes the war raged on around me and like most people I took it in my stride. I took some pride in the face that I was contributing to the cause, by raising money for the prisoners and their families . One morning when we were all getting ready to leave the house for school, there was a sudden commotion outside the front door and we all rushed into the front garden to see what was happening.

There were loads of armed RUC personnel frantically running from door to door, evacuating the inhabitants into the field outside the community centre. Uncle Sam and Gerry gathered us all up and we went to join the dozens of other families milling about the field. After having a chat with one of the local leaders we heard Uncle Sam explain to Gerry that the IRA had planted a bomb under the car of one of our neighbours, who was a member of the UDR ( Ulster Defence Regiment ) .

This news sent waves of fear and anger through the gathered crowd. How dare the IRA enter our estate in the dead of night and try to kill one of our people. Apparently the man in question had left the house to check the car over before dropping his children at school and going through his normal security checks had discovered the bomb under the passenger’s side of the vehicle. Had he been less vigilant the bomb would have gone off killing not only him, but also his three children and anyone else in the vicinity. This relisation filled everyone gathered with outrage and resentment and once again our hatred of the IRA and their Catholic supporters was justified.

After they were sure that everyone in the immediate vicinity was evacuated, the army bomb disposal unit sent a robot in to detonate the bomb and we all watched in awe as the ground below us shook violently and the robot along with large sections of the car was blown high into the sky to smithereens. We were all kept of school that day and naturally the talk was of how close we had been to being caught up in the bomb that morning and possibly being killed. Wee Sam and I knew the children of the man in question and often played with them after school, so it was with sadness that a few days later we watched them pack their belongings onto a removal van and drive out of the estate never to be seen again.

Like Wee Sam, David and Pickle I felt an immense hatred towards Catholics and Nationalists that day and longed for the day I would be old enough to take up arms and join the war against the IRA and their Catholic supporters. Although I was too young to understand the complexities of the conflict between us and the nationalists I understood that we hadn’t started this war and all the pain and suffering in Northern Ireland was a direct result of the IRA and nationalist call for a united Ireland.

Northern Ireland’s Protestants were a remnant of colonial Britain and we clung to our sovernty like a comfort blanket and the IRA & nationalists were trying to rip our blanket away from us. We felt abandoned and Britain seemed to have turn her back on us The Americans and wider outside world sympathised with the romantic notion of a United Ireland and offered us no support. No one seemed to understand our position and we were living under the brutal, daily menace of the most brutal terrorist organisation of the century and this isolation feed the fears of the loyalist and ensured a steady stream of new recruits for the loyalist paramilitary groups.

During the mid 70s relationships between the two warring sides had reached a new low and innocent people from both sides became legitimate targets in tit-for-tat murder campaign like never before, between the nationalists and loyalist paramilitaries. The violence was out of control and as a child I watched in horror and disgust as the nightly news told of the latest IRA atrocity, as the death toll mounted. Like most of the people around me I rejoiced when news of an IRA or other republican member being killed or even better executed came through and I mourned the passing of any loyalist killed. I hated Catholics with a passion and blamed them on all the troubles of our country and like all around me I saw them as my natural enemy. In response to the increase of IRA atrocities and through self-preservation the loyalist paramilitaries, with the blessing of their people, stepped up the campaign and the streets of Belfast flowed with the blood of the innocent and guilty alike.

See:  The Loyalist Mod

See: Autobiography on home page

The Loyalist Mod: Death of a fellow Mod & A catholic friend! Noddy Clarke R.I.P

The Loyalist Mod

Death of a fellow Mod & a catholic friend!

Noddy Clarke R.I.P

noddy funeral

Newspapers Reports of the crash

By the mid 80s I was completely emerged in the Mod culture and I started slowly to migrate away from the loyalist run discos and clubs of my childhood and teens years. As I grew older and more confident ( wiser) I started to explore further afield and go to clubs and gigs in and around Belfast city centre and for the first time  in my life I was meeting and mixing with Catholics on a social level and I gradually came to realize they weren’t that different from me after all.

I”m the one with shades on

My evolving Mod identity was opening up a whole new world to me and I grabbed it by both hands and jumped on for the ride of my life.

As a young, self confident adult my Mod days were the best years of my life and if I had to live my life again I wouldn’t change a thing from that time. Well, maybe one or two things regarding beautiful women I was too stoned or to blind to see what they were offering me.

The Norns love to toy with destinies of mortal men.

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Me when I thought I was immortal & would never grow old

Prior to this my only interaction with my catholic counterparts was our nightly riots with the catholic kids from Ardoyne  & the Springfield Road and like  those around me I hated them all with a passion. I was living in the epicenter  of loyalist Northern Ireland and  I had been brought up to hate and mistrust Catholics from an early age. Like my peers around me I blamed them for the war that was ripping Northern Ireland apart and I could never forgive them for their treacherous support of IRA terrorists and other republican groups

My childish subconscious mind seemed to filter out the worst horrors the loyalist paramilitaries were visiting on the catholic population, but when a republican terrorist was killed I celebrated and praised those responsible.  We were fanatical in our hatred of the IRA and all things republican and the call for a united Ireland drove us buck mad with rage.

I was living in the Loyalist goldfish bowl and my horizons were dominated by the so called Peace Wall.

Welcome to my world.

My loyalist identity and culture was hardwired into my DNA and at first I struggled with the conflict of mixing with catholic Mods/folk from the other side, whom  I had always considered my enemies.

But my priorities were also evolving and my lifelong prejudices against all catholic’s was fading away .  I embraced the Belfast Mod movement with passion and enthusiasm and became a well known Face among the Mods and Mod clubs of Belfast and beyond.

 

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I’m the one wearing shades

Up until this stage in my life  I had been blanketed within the Loyalist culture and felt safe in the knowledge that the tight knit community I belonged too , was a part of , would work as one to protect me  and other children and shield us from the worst evils of mankind.

Which was kinda hard considering I was living in one of the most violent, deadly places on planet earth at the time?

 

Image result for loyalist paramilitary

The paramilitaries ruled our daily lives and this was all perfectly normal for us.  From an early age I was subconsciously aware that I lived in a messed up land and many of my family, friends and neighbours were involved with one of the various loyalist paramilitary or community groups.

I grew up with people who would become loyalist killers, others were killed by republicans and the never ending feuds between loyalist paramilitaries added to the ever growing butcher’s bill. Some also killed themselves to escape the madness going on around us and many ended up serving life sentences for terrorist activities.

Every death was someone’s personal tragedy and at times the slaughter seemed never ending.

I remember as a child attending family/local  funerals and when I  looked around  I was surrounded by loyalist legends and Godfathers  , paramilitaries leaders  and killers .Then I got really angry and annoyed because the police had loads of spotters out , recording the funeral and taking pictures of all those present and generally disrespecting us as we buried our dead. When someone died in our world the whole community suffered as one and our ties were much stronger for our shared suffering at the hands of republican terrorists.

But I loved this messed up land and as a proud wee prod I hated the IRA and all they stood for.  In my childish loyalist mind I looked up to the loyalist warlords and those that served them. After all they were taking the war to the IRA and fighting for God and Ulster and our continued freedom, weren’t they?

That made me feel safer, somehow. Twisted or what?

 

At times it felt like the loyalist people were under siege and I remember as a child during the strikes of the 70’s I was terrified as I stood at the top of Glencairn , looking out over  all of Belfast and watching thick black smoke  belch into the air  and the  whole sky seemed to be on fire. Loyalist paranoia was so acute at times that we were actually anticipating civil war to break out at any moment and I wondered  and worried if I and those I loved would survive the battles to come.

I was also a committed Christian for most of my childhood and teens and a pacifist by heart and I never felt comfortable with the never ending murder of innocent people, regardless of political or religious background.  In fact I hated it and I couldn’t understand why God in all his wisdom would let such things happen and the first cracks began to  appeared in my Christian faith. Living in loyalist Belfast my God was of course a loyalist God and my people were fighting the wicked IRA and despised the antichrist in Rome, Pope John Paul II ,  the head of the hated Catholic Church.

 

Image result for pope john paul ii death

.

But I digress; I’m suppose  to be telling the story of Noddy Clarke.

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My old scrapbook from  my Mod days.

I’d met Noddy and his girlfriend Maria in the Mod clubs and pubs of Belfast, mostly the Delta & Abercone and I quickly became friends with them and enjoyed having a chat & chill with them when our paths crossed. Noddy (Gerard Clarke) was a beautiful, gentle wise soul and he was one of those rare people who seemed to have time for everyone and seemed genuinely interested in what you had to say.  He was a top bloke and I had a lot of time for him and Maria. Maria was also a beautiful person and friendly to all.

The fact that they were catholic never entered my mind and this was testament to how far I had moved on from the entrenched prejudices of my childhood.  Although I no longer hated catholic’s my hatred of the IRA and republican terrorists never waned and still beats in my heart today. I can’t forget or forgive the past, but I want peace in Northern Ireland and if that means dancing with the devil, so be it.

The Belfast Mod scene was at its height at the time and as I moved in the same circles of the Faces and wannabies I got drunk (and high) on the joy of it all. I was young, seemingly acceptable to the female species   and my life was one long never ending party and I Really never wanted it to end.

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Me during my Mod days

There were always some big events happening in the Mod calendar and I travelled all over Northern Ireland and London with a group of about thirty hardcore Mods, attending all dayers and concerts. Noddy & Maria were often at these events and our love of the Mod culture transcended hundreds of year’s sectarian conflict and suspicion and give me a hint of a better future.

 

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Mods in Carnaby Street

Once a group of about thirty of us travelled to London for a Mod all dayer  , taking place in the  Ilford Palais. The concert wasn’t until the Sunday and as it was only Friday we decided to visit the most iconic Mod address in the World, Carnaby Street. As a Mod  it felt like the  pilgrimage to Mecca muslims make and for  me walking on the hollowed paved  streets of Carnaby Street It felt almost like a holy experience  and I was hypnotised by sheer joy of just being there and drinking in the  Mod culture it had given birth too.

But my joy was to be short lived.

 

Image result for psycho skinheads

I’ve  absolutely no idea who he is , but he fits into the story nicely.

As we walked the legendary streets and drank in the super cool atmosphere suddenly we heard a massive roar and what sounded like a football stampede and then three terrified young Mods ran past us as if the devil was on their tails.

Time stood still as we waited to see what had scared them so much and made them take such desperate flight.

Then from a side road about fifty phycho looking skinheads appeared from nowhere, many of them wearing Chelsea and Rangers football scarf’s, covered in loyalist and swastika tattoos and they were obviously baying for blood, Mod blood to be exact.

The moment they spotted us they stopped dead and some even grinned at the Mod bounty fate had delivered them.  We were in some deep shit and I searched my mind frantically for a way out.

There was only a few of us  together at this stage and my heart leaped into my throat as I anticipated the beating  I was about to receive. But growing up in the badlands of loyalist West Belfast  I was use to brutal violence and  then two things  came to my mind at once.

Firstly I was use to gang battles between Mods and Skinheads and had fought in many in the backstreets of The Shankill & Ballysillian/Silverstream (a story for another day) and survived largely intact. But here we were vastly outnumbered, on foreign soil  so to speak and these guys wanted to rip us apart, limb by limb and savour every moment of our agony and shame.  Then I considered the Rangers scarfs and an idea started to take shape in my terrified brain.

Rangers was the team of choice for much of the protestant population of Northern Ireland and along with Chelsea and Linfield they were inextricably woven into the core of our loyalist culture. I hoped these baying skinheads or some of them at least would hold the same pride and love for Queen and country as me and I thought this might just save us.

I glanced over at the leaders in the front row and as they hurled insults and threats my heart sunk when I saw some of them had pulled out weapons and knifes and were preparing to attach  us  and I braced myself ready for a battle we could never win.

My survival instinct kicked in and once again my destiny was  in the hands of the gods , gods I no longer trusted. I took a deep breath and played my hand.

“Stay back “

I told the others beside and behind me, aware that some of them were catholic’s and possibly in more danger  than me, if that was at all possible in my current situation. I stepped forward and looking for the top boy I calmingly suggested they all slow down and tell me what the problem was?

You could have heard a pin drop as he looked me up and down as though I’d just insulted his life scarred mother and I could tell he were moments away from lunging at me and all hell kicking off.

Then I heard a familiar accent calling out from the skinhead crowd and hope returned.

“Are youse from Belfast? ”

And everyone paused to hear my reaction.

“Feckin right I said, from the glorious Shankill Road! “

Hoping and praying I’d made the right call.

“Really,  he asks, who do you know? “

I wheeled off a few names of Skinheads and badboys I knew and had grown up with on the Shankill and Glencairn and this satisfied them and we were safe for now at least. It turned out the guy “Biff” had grown up in Glencairn and now lived and worked in London and was involved with other loyalists living in the capital. They were a right nasty crew and I pity anyone who had the misfortune to come across them, especially if you weren’t a WASP .  Also if they had known some of the Mod present were catholic’s, nothing would have stopped them kicking the shit outta of me and the others and I silently thanked the gods for delivering us from evil.

With the situation defused I told the others to look around a bit and I’d catch up with them later . I didn’t want these badboys chatting with them and finding out some of them were catholic and undoing all my capital work. Biff insisted I joined him and a few others from home for a pint or two in the Shakespeare’s pub and it must have looked a bit weird a 60’s dressed Mod, wearing eye liner and a Beatles suite drinking and laughing with a load of phyco, Nazi skinheads.

But I had spent my life growing up among loyalist killers and paramilitaries and nothing really phased me anymore.  I didn’t particularly like Biff and his crew, but chatting with him over a few pints I realized there was much more to him than the stereotypical skinhead. His English girlfriend had just given birth to their first child and he was “trying to get on the straight and narrow “ whatever that meant!

After a few hours of drinking and snorting speed with Biff and the others I left them in the pub and return to the sanity of my Mod mates

I was to come across Biff and his crew later that weekend, when they and dozens of other Skin heads/Punks ambushed and attacked Mods coming into/out of the all dayer in the Ilford Palais. Luckily I was safely inside , stoned out of my mind and living the Mod dream and I didn’t concern myself with the  antics of those fools , although I did have a chat with Biff whilst grabbing some fresh air and a fag outside.

In one of those cruel twists of fate many years later I was to meet Biff  again, but this time he was down on his luck and tragically living rough under a shop front in Tottenham Court Road, London.   I was working in the city at the time and suited and booted I stopped to give a homeless guy a fag before realising it was Biff. He was in a right mess and obviously on hard drugs and my heart broke for him as I tried to remind him of our previous encounters and he looked at me with in utter confusion on his face. Maybe it was my suite and the passage of years that had confused him or the drugs had addled his mind but I left him with a heavy heart that day.

Thereafter whenever I was in central London I always looked out for him and did on a few occasions find him and shared a fag or two with him. And slip him a few quid.  When I moved jobs out to Kingston I lost contact with him and never saw him again, but I often think of him and hope he found his feet again and somehow turned his life around. How fickle fate can be.

Back in Belfast and the 80’s and my Mod odyssey continued and I was involved with all aspects of the Mod movement and all the joys that brought with it. I’d come into some money on my eighteenth birthday and was now the proud owner of a Vespa and took part in scooter runs all over Belfast and Northern Ireland.

I was gradually getting heavily into the 60’s Mod scene and my dress reflected this as I emulated the dress codes of The Small Faces and other Mod bands of that era. I was also doing a lot of drugs at the time and had many mind blowing experiences on a variety of drugs and to be honest sometimes I’m surprised I survived this period of my life. Drugs were an escape from the madness of life in war torn Belfast and I was going through the whole Psychedelic phase of my Mod life and was living the dream, so to speak.

See: Getting stoned with Paul Weller.

 

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Me on front of Mod Book

Around Oct 86 a group of about fifty Belfast Mods  , including myself , Noddy and Maria signed up for a Mod all dayer in Dublin’s CIA hall .As the day approached we were all anticipating a great day out and couldn’t wait to meet and mix with the Dublin Mods who had organised the event. We had clubbed together for an Ulster Bus to take us to the event, drop of and pick us up when it was over. Being nice kind  people we had a whip round for the bus driver and collected enough for him to have some  lunch , but sadly he would spent it on booze and was half tore by the time we returned, but we didn’t know of this until afterwards.

 

Image result for Dublin’s CIA hall

The all dayer was a great success and I remember vividly chatted to Noddy and Maria by the huge staircase in the lobby. Little did I know in a few hours times Noddy would be dead and Maria seriously ill in hospital, fighting for her life.

When the event was over we all made our way to the bus pick up point and began the long , slow , boring journey home. It was a miserable dark , cold night and rain pelted down the windows of the bus as we left Dublin and headed for the motorway and back to sunny Belfast. After a while we’d all settled down and I remember chatting to those around me, including Noddy and Maria about the day gone and upcoming events we were looking forward to in the near future.   As we came into Drogheda  I noticed the rain was  bucketing it down and visibility was very poor and  somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice whispered the bus was going too fast and the driver was  driving a bit  erratically and it started to worry and concern me.

A girl called me up to the middle of the bus and I went and sat in the seat behind her, by the window and chilled with her for a while. I’d had a few drinks and some pills and I was half way between sleep and a drug infused haze when suddenly I became aware that the bus was out of control and to my horror I watched out the window as it  drifted  in and out of lanes , narrowly missing fast moving traffic coming from both ways  , before  skidding to the  right and  crashing with a huge bang  into the side of a bridge or brick wall, that brought it to  a violent , shuddering stop.

I was thrown forward and banged my head on the seat in front of me and was almost knocked out by the force of it. . Time stood still as I waited for the pain to kick In and in the background I could hear the sound of breaking glass , car horns and alarms going off  , cars skidding and crashing and as the lights blinked out  screaming filled the air all around me and  for a moment I thought I must be dreaming , on a bad trip or having a messed up  nightmare.

 

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But this was no nightmare and the horror had just begun.

As I recovered from the stunned shock of what had just happened my eyes drifted around the bus and all I could see was bodies, blood, broken glass and wreckage strewn all over the place. It looked as though a bomb had gone off and many of those inside were injured and I could see and smell destruction all around me. I glanced to the back of the bus and to my utter disbelief the whole back section of the bus had been ripped off and the seats which Noddy , Maria and others had sat on had completely disappeared . Looking out of the gaping hole my heart almost stopped as I saw bodies and debris littering the road and I could clearly see Noddy  and  laying lifeless on the rain soaked road , illuminated by vehicles caught up in the accident and others who had stopped to help and or gawk in amazement at what they were witnessing .

As my traumatised mind tried to process all this I picked myself of the floor and checking for injuries   I  was relieved to see I was mostly in one piece , although my head was bleeding and I think I may have been slipping  into shock.  Looking around my eyes could hard believe what my pounding brain was telling me and as I turned and looked out the window to my  left , I froze in terror as I watched in slow motion as a car lost control , crossed lanes and crash violently at speed into the bus right below where I was sitting. I’d automatically braced myself for the impact and my whole body rocked as the shockwaves of the crash reverberated through the bus and my aching body.

From this point on everything becomes hazy , as if I was watching events happen to someone else and I felt  oddly detached from my own body and mind. I should have been panicking and fighting to get off the bus and the danger below me , the car could have blown up or engulfed me in fire at any moment.   But I just sat there for what seemed like ages and although I could see everything around me and hear ambulances/fire brigades approaching, I seemed frozen to the spot and  just couldn’t move. I was in deep shock.

 

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Eventually someone guided me of the bus and I walked as if in a trance to where Noddy lay on the damp wet ground, lifeless and standing in the pouring rain I looked down on him and bowing my head I said a silent prayer for Noddy, Maria and the other injured and I cursed a God who would let such a thing happen.  I’d almost given up on a God who seemed to ignore the suffering of mortal men.

After a while ambulance crews came to check on me and the other walking wounded and patched us up were necessary. Eventually we were lead to a hotel or conference room, I can’t remember which and given hot drinks and interviewed by the Gardia . I honestly can’t remember anything about what happened next. I don’t know if we stayed in the hotel over night or how we got back to Belfast , but next thing i know I’m laying on the sofa at home and being fused about by my sisters and other family members. The Ulster News had carried the story about the crash and fatalities/injured and in those days there were no mobile phones and my family had spent hours not knowing if I was alive or dead. I should have called them from the hotel the night before but I was away with the fairies and it had not even entered my battered brain to call and let them know I was alive and well.

The Belfast and Northern Ireland Mod community was reeling from the accident and the death of one of their own and many gathered outside the City Hall in sombre groups, chatting and remembering Noddy and those injured in the crash. Maria was still in hospital fighting for her life and many others were scarred emotionally and physically and would never fully recover from the trauma of what they had gone through.

I was still numb to it all and hibernating at home and licking my wounds and I couldn’t face a world that seemed so unfair. In fact I refused point blank to talk about the accident and months later when many of those involved in the crash began the process of suing Ulster Bus and claiming compensation I wanted nothing to do with it and probably missed the opportunity for substantial payout.

I  was probably suffering from PTSD , but being Belfast i just got on with life and the wounds festered for years to come.

noddy funeral

Eventually the day arrived for Noddy’s funeral and Mods travelled from all over Northern Ireland and Dublin to attend his send off.  Dozens of loyalist Mods including me travelled into the heartland of republican Belfast, The Falls road on our scooters and we formed an honour guard as we buried one of our own. I recall standing outside Noddy’s house and being in nationalist Belfast I felt vulnerable and nervous as I clocked those around me whom seem to stare right through us, trying to discern if we were catholic or protestant.

But today was not about religion and as I paid my respect to Noddy’s friends and family I felt nothing but love and gratitude from them and I came away wondering why we couldn’t always live in peace and harmony and move on from centuries of the suspicion and mistrust that ruled and ruined our daily lives.

I often think of Noddy and wonder what he would be doing now if he was still alive and feel sadness at the grief the Gods put us mortal men through. .

R.I.P Friend.

 

Whilst living and socialising within the Mod subculture of Belfast /Northern Ireland, I was taught a valuable life lesson , for the first time in my life a person’s religion background had become completely irrelevant to me and I felt kinda liberated by it all . I foolishly wished the rest of Northern Ireland felt the same love and freedom as me, but I’ve always been a dreamer and some dreams take longer than others.

Back then I had many close catholic friends among the Belfast Mod scene and I dated a few catholic girls, who at face value seemed to be no different than the protestant girls I had dated thus far.

Hmmm, they lied to me again! But they are stories for another day.

Being a proud product of protestant Belfast and growing up in the hallowed streets of the loyalist Mecca , The glorious Shankill Road and Glencairn , I have always been prejudged and pigeon holed by people who don’t know me or understand my culture .  I have worked all over London and throughout the UK and you would be amazed at the assumptions people make when I first meet them.

Once I got chatting to a Muslim guy I worked with  ( and I’m going back about 25 years)   and  after telling me how much he admired the IRA and the republican movement ‘s “ freedom fighters”  he  then asked me if, by any chance  I was a member of the IRA?

Hmmm….. that was one work relationship than ended immediately I can tell you.

Another time I was in a bar in the West End and went to order a drink at the bar. I noticed an older  guy sat on a stool and it was obvious he only had one leg. When he heard my Belfast accent he turned and growled at me

“ is that a Belfast accent I hear? ”

 

“Yes “  says I as I absently order drinks.

He looks me right in the eye and say “ My other leg’s in Belfast”

Hmmm.

Anyways turns out he was in the Army and was blown up by  a SF/IRA bomb back in the day. Once I told him where I was from, I was a bit surprised when he grabs me , told me he loved the loyalist people of N.I  and almost hugged  me to death . He insisted I sit down with him and have a few beers, which I was more than happy to do. I’ll always make time for army veterans, especially those who served in Northern Ireland. He was happy for some company and to share a few stories from the “bad old days” and the encounter soothed my soul.

Back in Belfast and in the 90’s some of my loyalist friends had been arrested and charged with multiple terrorist related offences , including murder. The news shocked and saddened me, more so because some of them had been Mods and shared my love of the Mod culture  and music and mixed happily with catholic’s we met along the way. Although I had absolutely nothing to do with this , I was living in London at the time , many of the Belfast’s catholic  Mods started to give me a wide berth and  when I was home and went out clubbing I could sense their nervousness around me and I couldn’t really blame them , but it made me sad none the less.

 

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Me and David Holmes

I was guilty via association and that is a curse and legacy that has followed me through my entire life and I know I will probably never shake off. Just because I’m proud of my loyalist culture and traditions it doesn’t mean I’m a hater or bigot or would wish harm on anyone.  It simply means I am happy with the status quo and wish to maintain and celebrate the union with the rest of the UK.  That shouldn’t make people prejudge me, but it does and the piss’s me right off. Many peace loving loyalist/protestants will understand where I’m coming from, especially those living abroad.

We didn’t start the “war” and the world has largely ignored the suffering and tribulations of the loyalist people because they are blinded by the actions of few .And yet SF/IRA seem to be have been forgiven all and lauded by many. The mind boggles.

Go on Surprise me

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Thanks for taking the time to read extracts from my Autobiography Belfast Child, which I hope to get published one day soon.

Its a work in progress , so be gentle on me!

 

See: Steve Marriott Jan 1947 – April 1991 All or Nothing

See: Getting stoned with Paul Weller.

See: Home page for more chapters of my amazing life story

 

 

loyalist

ˈlɔɪəlɪst/Submit

noun

a person who remains loyal to the established ruler or government, especially in the face of a revolt.

“Tory loyalists”

a supporter of union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

noun: Loyalist; plural noun: Loyalists

a colonist of the American revolutionary period who supported the British cause.

noun: Loyalist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grrr… Guess where I’ll be during the Royal Wedding in May ?

Guess where I’ll be during the Royal Wedding?

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I’m fecking raging & I HATE WWE

The things we do for our children.

As a proud Protestant, Loyalist  die hard Royalist I love our Queen ( long may she reign) and senior members of the Royal family and I wear my British citizenship like a badge of honour for all the world to see.

Amen.

Growing up in Loyalist Belfast the Queen was the mother of our nation and as a child  I greeted the Queen every single morning whilst eating breakfast as she watched over me from pride of place above my grannies fireplace , alongside King Billy of course.

In fact we were such royalists that when the BBC use to end the night with the  National Anthem  we would all stand and salute our majesty and most clubs and pubs in loyalist Northern Ireland  ended the night with The Queen and god help you if you didn’t show proper respect. They still do.

Anyways I digress ,my 10 year old son  like millions of other kids around the globe  , is obsessed with WWE and spends ever spare moment watching it, reenacting it and boring me senseless with facts and figures about  his favorite WWE Superstars .

Snzzzzzzzzzz……………………………………………

But being a good father and trying to make sure he has the best childhood possible (mine was a living nightmare) I indulge him and  am often waylaid into four or five hour marathon viewings of the greatest WWE fights ever….snzzzzzz….

Anyways we got him tickets for Xmas and the wife and I will be travelling with him to Sheffield on the 18th of May for a two day stay and I’m going to miss the Royal Wedding. Grrr……

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Its the wife’s fault , I give her my card to book the tickets and told her to check and make sure it didn’t clash with anything , its the day after his SATs end and she got that part right , but she didn’t even consider the Royal Wedding & my Royalist Heart!.

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When I was a kid these guys dominated the sport & I loved to cuddle up with my dad on a Saturday afternoon and watch them do  battle.

The good old days.

British wrestling Big Daddy vs Giant Haystacks

Anyone got any suggestion for a good place to eat out in Sheffield

Listening to Classic FM & working on my Book

Listening to Classic FM & working on my Book

(Which I need to get moving on)

classical fm

I know music is very subjective but I personally love Classical Music and often have it on in the background when I’m working on something that requires my total concentration.

This is not a normal or easy state of mind for me and to be frank it sometimes takes me a while to get into the flow – as I love to procrastinate. But Classical Music seems to have a magical switch that when turned on focus’s  my mind completely.

For a little while at least………..

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Me when I was young & cool. And yes I am the one with shades on!!

I have a very diverse taste in ,music and can listen to almost anything , apart from heavy metal ( sorry guys)  and as a teenage Mod I worshiped the Mod bands of the 60’s & The Jam provided the  soundtrack to my teenage odyssey , which  was full of angst and exploration of the body and the mind. The drugs give me glimpses of a fleeting utopia and the music fed my soul.

 

 

For all the effects music is thought to have on the brainclassical music seems to fall in a gray area. … The results showed listening to classical music enhanced activity of genes involved in dopamine secretion (the feel good hormone), and “transport synaptic function, learning and memory.”

 

The Jam – Thick as Thieves :

One of my favorite tunes of all time. The  words speak to my soul.

 

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I’m the one in the shades in case you wondering

See:  Mod days & getting stoned with Paul Weller

Classic FM. radio

I have progressive lung disease & I need to stop smoking. NOW!!!!

NO SMOKING

 

If you see me smoking please give me a slap!!!

I’ve been to the hospital for a check up & the news ain’t good .Unless I stop smoking soon I know I am hurtling towards an early, painful death & I can’t do that to my wife , children , cats and goldfish.

I consider myself an intelligent person and am normally very good at tackling problems like addiction and/or bad and unhealthy habits , but for some reason , no matter how hard I try I can’t quit smoking and its driving me up the wall and unless I get on top of it I know it won’t end well.

Dad & Me 

The  thing is my dad died at the very young age of thirty nine  from lung cancer & as a ten year old child this hit me like a sledge hammer and I have never fully recovered from his death and never will. A part of me died with him that day and although I’m now relatively happy and married with a wonderful wife and children I can never be 100% happy because of the absence of the man whom my childhood world revolved around  and I still miss him every single day.

And I don’t want my own children and family to go through the soul destroying agony of me dying young and the never ending emptiness of  not having me to share their future lives.

At the time I hated everything to do with smoking and made a promise to myself that I would never smoke  and I didn’t actually start smoking until I was  in my late teens and this was because some of my friends use to smoke a wee bit of weed now and then and I found it relaxed me and saw no harm in it.

Gradually I stopped smoking weed and this was replaced with fags.

I have always had an addictive personality and  slowly , almost without noticing , I became a smoker  and before I knew it I was smoking 20/30 a day and hating myself for my lack of will power and the unseen long term damage I knew I was doing to my already fragile health.

I now have a multitude of complex medical conditions , many of these smoking related and its time I took control and kicked the habit for good and started looking after myself and thinking about how my smoking  effects those closes to me & my family as a whole.

 

So , if you see me smoking please slap me!!!

Thank you Sir Walter Raleigh

 

Dad’s Death

Extracts from Belfast Child

Chapter Six

Dad’s Death

 

 It was around 1976 that it first came to my attention that dad was ill and he was getting sicker and weaker by the day. He had always been a heavy drinker and smoker, but this was normal where we lived and we never really thought anything about it or the health implications these habits would have on him. One day when dad was supposed to be working I got home from school and found Margaret, Jean and some of their friend’s standing outside the front door. When I asked them what they were doing they said that had arrived home from school and on entering the house had heard a strange noise coming from upstairs and they had fled the house.

Trying to act all brave in from of my sisters I causally moved into the house, making sure I left the front door open, in case I had to make a quick getaway. After a nervous look downstairs and not finding anything, I began to make my way slowly up the stairs. As I got to the top I became aware of a deep rasping sound growing louder and louder that stopped me in my tracks. I’d seen enough of Dr. Who to know the sound I heard wasn’t coming from a human and I flew down the stairs and out of the house as fast as my legs could carry me. When the girls finally caught up with me I confirmed that I had indeed heard the sounds and I thought it might be one of those monsters from Dr.Who. The others looked rightly shocked at my analysis of the situation and it was decided that we would call the police. Christine Russell’s mum was the only neighbour we knew who had a phone and while Margaret and the other’s went to make the call, David and I made our way back to the house, making sure we kept a safe distance between us and the front door.

Word quickly spread around the estate that we had one of those monsters from Dr. Who hiding upstairs and before long large crowds began to gather, in the hope of seeing some action. When the police arrived they asked a few questions before entering the house and slowly making their way up the stairs. Whilst we were all waiting about outside to see what happened, Granny arrived and after a quick chat with a neighbour she made her way into the house with the police up stairs. After a while Granny came out with one of the policemen and explained to us that it was dad in the house, that he was sick and would have to go to hospital. In the distance we could hear the sound of an ambulance rushing towards us and suddenly it wasn’t funny or exciting anymore. I watched with the others as dad was stretchered out and placed in the ambulance and taken to the hospital. By the time everyone had cleared, Aunty Anne, dads younger sister arrived and explained to us that dad was going to be ok, but he would have to stay in hospital for a few days and she would be staying with us whilst he was away.

Being so young I don’t think I fully understood the magnitude of the situation and as usual I just ignored the situation that was going on around me and got on with my life. After that first time, dad was in and out of hospital all the time and gradually he became more and more ill. I remember many evenings at home, dad would take these horrible, agonising fits and one of us would have to run to Christine Russell’s house to call an ambulance. This became almost natural to us, but it was always distressing to see dad suffering so much and be unable to do anything to help.

Gradually we all began to realize that dad was very ill, although none of us wanted to accept or believe that he might die. I had already “lost” my mother and surely God wouldn’t take my dad away also? Once when he was in hospital Margaret decided that we would all do up the garden for dad and plant some rose bushes. We all went to work and by the time dad got out of hospital, the garden was looking great and dad was really impressed with our efforts and monitored the progress of the rose bushes with us. I remember the last time Granny took me up to the hospital to visit dad, I was really shocked and upset at how bad he looked. He was thin as a rake and I remember the watch he had worn all the time on his wrist had slide all the way up his arm to his elbow.

I’ve still got that watch, but I’ve never been able to wear it and every time I look at it I see dad in hospital, all skin and bones and at deaths door.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was too young to understand the seriousness of how ill dad was, this was the last time that I would see my dad alive.

I wish I had told him how much I loved him and told him how much the others and I would miss him, how much we needed him and didn’t want him to die.

When I got home I went straight to my room and begged God to save my dad and not take him away from us. But as usual God wasn’t listening and fate was once again messing with my destiny and making my young life a misery.

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One day when we got home from school, Aunty Anne was waiting for us and told us that dad had been taken to hospital again, but he should be home in a few days. The day he was suppose to come home arrived and we all busied ourselves tidying up and making the place as nice as possible for him. Someone had told us that dad would be home around three o’clock and when the time came we all went down and stood on the main road watching for the car that would bring him home. Three o’clock came and went, then four and by 5 o’clock we were all getting bored waiting around. Eventually a car did approach us and pulled up, but our relief turned to panic when we realised that only Granny and Granddad were in the back. As they got out it was obvious that Granny was very upset and had been crying. Granddad told us he was taking her home and for us to wait indoors and they would come to see us in a while.

Dad never did come home.

Later that night Granny and Granddad gathered us all in the front room and through tears told us that dad wouldn’t be coming home. She explained to us that dad had died and was now in heaven watching over us. From the moment I heard the news I was distraught with grief and numb to everything going on around me. Dad had been the one stable thing in our lives since mum had left and now we were being told that he had died and we would never see him again.

The pain was almost too much to bear and I kept praying to myself that somehow there had been a terrible mistake and dad was going to walk through the door at any minute. But the brutal truth of the matter was that I wasn’t dreaming and once again fate and chance had entered my life and left a trail of misery and destruction in their wake.

The week of the funeral was the worst and longest of my live and to this day I am still trying to come to terms with dad’s death and the consequences it had on all our lives. After the autopsy dad’s body was brought home and laid to rest in Granny’s front room. Endless people came to pay their last respects and the sound of crying drifted constantly through the house, reminding me of my huge lose. Since the moments dad’s coffin was laid out in the front room, Shep curled up underneath and didn’t move the whole time it was in the house, apart from going for a pee. It was almost as if he was guarding dad’s body and at night when we were sleeping upstairs in Granny’s room, we could hear him whinging softly to himself, as he kept his 24 hour vigil. On the second night we were all brought in to see dad and as I stood over the coffin, looking into his lifeless face, I was praying and willing for him to move and for me to wake up from this horrible nightmare. I don’t know how long I stood looking down at him, but I was completely numb with pain and vaguely remember breaking down in tears and someone leading me away from the room.

When the day of the funeral finally arrived Granny got us all up early and dressed us in new clothes she had brought us for the funeral. I still remember the green and silver dogtooth blazer I wore that day as if it was yesterday and how I hated that jacket. After the coffin had been removed from the house we made our way to the church and I remember being surprised that there were so many people making their way to the church and the main road to see dad off. In the church we took our seats in front of the coffin and suddenly Granny absolutely lost it and threw herself over the coffin, screaming and crying for her baby son. It was really heartbreaking to see Granny suffer like that, but I was so numb with grief that it hardly registered at the time. It had been decided that dad’s band would all attend the funeral and when they stood up and played Amazing Grace it seemed as if everyone in the church was crying. When the service ended dad’s brothers and close family and friends lifted the coffin onto their shoulders and carried dad out of the church and unto the main road, for his final journey. Dads younger, Uncle Sam had been let out of jail for the funeral and his guards respectively give him the freedom to carry dad’s coffin. As the cortege made its way down the Glencairn Road, David and I fell in behind it and we followed the coffin down the Forthriver Road.

Dad had been such an integral part of the community that the whole of Glencairn came out that day to see him off and people lined the whole route all the way out of the estate. I don’t remember much about the graveyard, apart from the fact that it was a beautiful day and I could hear birds singing against the background of people crying. After the burial everyone headed back to Granny’s house for the wake and I remember wishing that I was at home in bed and alone with my broken heart, instead of being surrounded by people talking about dad and the happy memories he had left behind. It was the longest night of my life, with various people coming and going all the time and although they might have been trying to be kind to us, I just wished they would all go home and leave me alone, so I could go to bed and try to begin and comprehend dad’s death and life without him.

Eventually Aunty Anne gathered us all up and brought us home, to our own empty house and eventually got us into bed. I still remember lying there in the dark and thinking over and over again:

Why?

Why you dad?

Why, why, why?

Surely if there really was a God, what possible reason would he have to let this happen to us.

Why would he let this happen to us, after everything else we had been through? I lay awake for hours tortured by the reality of what had happened and what the future now held for us without dad to protect us and mum being a distant memory.

Eventually I feel asleep from exhaustion and had a dream about dad that I was to have for many years after his death .In the dream I’m asleep in my bed and am woken up by the sound of dad gently calling my name. I begin searching the whole house for him and finally I realise that the voice is coming from the attic. When I get half way up the ladder, dads arm reaches down and helps me the rest of the way up. In the loft I notice that dads got a camp bed, a gas oven, kettle and it looks as if he has been here for some time. I ask him what he’s doing and tell him that I thought he was dead and I feel really happy now I know that he’s alive and well and still with us. Dad sits and talks to me for ages and when I ask him to come down and see the others he says he’s hiding and I have to keep it a secret from the others. The dream always ends with me crying hysterically for dad to come down from the loft with me and him reassuring me that everything would be ok. I would always wake up crying and upset and glace through the darkness towards the loft in the hallway, wishing the dream had been real.

The day after the funeral the reality of the situation hit all and we all dealt with our grief privately. Now that dad was dead there was the immediate problem of what was going to happen to us and where we were going to live. Aunty Ann had moved into the house and we all waited apprehensively to see what would happen to us. I remember thinking about mum and wishing she was there to pick up the piece and sooth our agony over dads death. Due to the fact that we were now orphans the social services got involved with the case and there was talk of us all going into a home. When we heard this we all prayed that it would never happen and in our childish innocence we hoped that they would let Margaret look after us, so we could all stay together.

This was never a realistic options as Margaret was only thirteen at the time and legally too young to look after us. Although we were all grief stricken at dad’s death, we really wanted to remain together as a family and we let Granny know this. Granny and the family pulled together and fought tooth and nail for the social services not to take us away from them and finally our future was decided. We were to be split up among the family in Glencairn. At least this meant we would still be living close together. Because Margaret was the oldest and closer to Granny and Granddad, she and David would go to live with them. Jean would go to live with dad’s brother Uncle Jim, his wife Maureen and my cousin’s Denise, Karen and Stephen, otherwise known as Pickle, at the top of the estate. I was going to live with Uncle Sam, Aunt Gerry (who was Maureen’s younger sister) and their children Wee Sam, Linda, Mandy and Joanne, on the Forthriver road. It was not a perfect solution and although we were all really upset that we were to be split up, at least we would all be living with members of the family and would see each other on a daily basis.

I was only 11 years old at the time and like the others had suffered a terrible life at the hands of fate and destiny, but there was one more tragedy just around the corner for me to deal with. Because I was so close to Shep, it was decided that he would come and live with me in Uncle Sam’s house. Since dad’s death Shep had refused to eat or drink and two weeks after the funeral he died one night in his sleep. The vet said that he had died of a broken heart and no one doubted this. There was so much misery in my life that I was almost to numb to mourn Shep’s death at the time. Beside’s I felt like I was also dying from a broken heart and I didn’t care whether I lived or died. I was 11 years old and I had lost the will to live.

See home page for first eight chapters of my autobiography

 

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Please come back soon for additional chapters or visit my blog -you might find something of interest.

 

 

My Proud Loyalist Heart

The definition of loyalist is :

a. A supporter of union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland

b. A person who remains loyal to the established ruler or government, especially in the face of a revolt.

 

Growing up in and around the Shankill during the worst years of the Troubles  it is hardly surprising to learn that  I hated Republicans and all they stood for. But that doesn’t mean I hated Catholic’s or Irish people and would  wish  any harm on them – I don’t and I didn’t.

It means I have a different point of view and democracy is all about freedom of choice and my choice is to maintain the Union with the UK and embrace and celebrate my loyalist culture and traditions. It also means I have the right to take pride in the union with the rest of the UK and I wear my nationality like a badge of honor for all the world to  see.

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The other woman in my life

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I’m helping ( just a little ) an American student write a thesis on Conflict and Compromise for an annual competition , National History Day and he has chosen to write about the Troubles and the  Northern Ireland Conflict and asked me for some input.

Which I’m happy to do so – but as a Proud protestant from the Shankill Road I’m always a little suspicious when people , especially Americans & Irish  folk ask me about the Troubles  & what my views on  the the various paramilitary groups  are.

Often they seem to think that I am guilty via association and make gross generalizations about my people and local community and I have also experienced  much prejudice both in mainland UK and abroad directed at my culture and protestant heritage. Ignorance reigns supreme and I have been astounded by the sheer stupidity & lack of understanding most folk have regarding the complex events that lead to 30 years of sectarian madness on the streets of Belfast & throughout Northern Ireland and the slaughter of 1000’s of innocent people from both communities.

I have learnt from personal experience that many  ” Irish Americans ” and other  deluded folk have a romantic view of Republican terrorists and  to put it frankly this really pisses me off. However I’ll save that rant for another post.

Once when I was in New York  visiting an American  friend I was invited to a family gathering and a group of about thirty of us went out for a meal. It was a pleasant enough evening until the talk turned to Northern Ireland and the “war” against  British oppression being waged by the “boys” in other words the IRA.

Now a few of the folk were second  & third  generation American Irish and boy did they get a bee in their bonnets  and I was left in no doubt were their loyalties lay.

Then to my utter amazement some fool called Sean starting saying it was all the fault of the PRODS (protestants )and they were solely responsible for the “war” and should all fuck of back to Scotland & mainland England and leave Ireland to the Irish.  I was fecking furious and had a face of thunder.

Apart from my friend none of those gathered knew I was protestant and I could see my friend dying a death at the other end of the table , obviously mortified. I excused myself and  went to the toilet , stopping at the bar for a quick drink to calm myself down. When I got back to the table….total silence and I assumed my friend had informed them of my protestant background.

The rest of the evening was awkward to say the lest and I ignored the sectarian bigot and other fools who had insulted my culture.

At the end of the evening the biggest fool Sean came up and tried to apologize and offered me his hand in friendship. I leaned over and informed him I thought he was a fecking dickhead and he should be ashamed of himself.He looked a bit startled and made his way out of the restaurant and I’m glad to say it was the last and thankfully only time I came across this bigoted bastard.

 

 

Questions about growing up in Loyalist west Belfast

Here are the questions I have been asked to address and please feel free to supply some feedback or your own views in the space at the bottom of the page.

  1. How did the IRA affect your life in Northern Ireland?
  2. How did the UDA (and other Protestant organizations) affect your life in Northern Ireland?
  3. What religion were you raised under?
  4. Did you receive discrimination due to your religion?
  5. Did you and your family feel that you had a better Quality of Life than Catholic families?
  6. Were you ever a victim of violence by the IRA?
  7. Do you believe that the Northern Ireland Conflict was either side’s (Unionists or Nationalists) fault?
  8. Do you believe that there is still a divide between Unionists or Nationalists in Northern Ireland today?
  9. After reports and evidence came out, do you have a position on Bloody Sunday?

 

 

Being a Dad is stressful…..

My Baby Autumn 

I’m finding being a father of a teenage daughter who’s just turned eighteen  a little stressful.  She went out with friends for a drink last night (only 2nd time ever) & I couldn’t relax or settle until she was home & safe in her bed.

Hmmmm.

I know I need to give her freedom and let her explore the world around her, but no matter how old she is she’ll always be my baby girl & I’ll always want to protect her from the evils of this world. Plus she’s a pretty girl and too many teenage boys are sniffing around her. Grrrrr

I suppose it’s a cross all loving father have to bare and I need to man up and let her go.

 

Royston J Noblett – April 1939 – July 2017

Royston J Noblett

roy on horse

 

Heartbroken at the death of my beloved father in law Roy , who passed away after a long and cruel soul destroying  illness. Your free of pain and suffering now  and its time to Fly among the heavens and find answers to questions no mortal man can ever know.

Rest easy Roy until we meet again.

 

 

Eurovision Song Contest 2017

Eurovision 2017

Challenge

Right then , the wife is in the kitchen cooking  a beautiful authentic chicken curry (wish you could smell it!) and the kids are busy or otherwise engaged. So I have challenged myself to watch the WHOLE of Eurovision  2017.

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I know what your thinking ,  Gez – get a life , sad git – but I’ve been busy all week and am now going to chill on the sofa , cold beer in hand and watch the show.

Plus the show reminds me of a younger age when life was less cluttered , more complete and I could enjoy the simple things in life and have no worries – nobody said life would be easy.

 

Wish me luck!