Throughout my early childhood I’d always been pretty much in awe of my Da and aspired to be like him. When I was a child my Uncle and Aunty and my four cousins lived in the house directly facing ours. We were all of a similar age and like one big family and it was great craic having two houses to run in and out of.
Then came the 1970s – I know I definitely hadn’t reached double figures when this incident occurred, I am the youngest. I was woken up by a huge commotion in the middle of the night. I ran downstairs to investigate … My Da was halfway out the front door, my Ma and my 5 siblings were all on top of him, trying to drag him back. Beyond him all I could see were Saracens, ferret cars, land rovers and British soldiers everywhere. My uncle was being dragged down his path by a gang of Brits. It is the first and only time I saw my father lose that cool, calm demeanor he had. He was shouting and screaming “get off my brother youse bastards!” He was trying to get out the front door to get at them. The weight of my brothers and sisters and my Ma was preventing him – but he was still making progress – so much so that a brit crossed the street and pointed his rifle at him and threatened to shoot him. I was 8/9 years old so the Brits with their armoured cars and SLRs didn’t faze me.
The things that have stuck in my mind since that night are: the hysterical screams from my Ma and my sisters, which reached an alarming pitch when the Brit cocked his weapon as he pointed it at my Da’s head; the fact that the British soldier was so cool, calm and collected (to borrow a cliché) when he threatened to shoot my Da; the barking of orders in an upper class English accent to “restrain that man” didn’t faze me; the scream of the engines of the “pigs” as they reversed and regrouped as neighbours started coming out of their houses didn’t faze me.
What fazed me was the absolutely stunning, unbelievable fact that my Da was wearing the same underpants as me. Here was my Da, my hero - wearing the same underpants as me (so was therefore just another ordinary human being.) That traumatised me the most. It was right up there with finding out that Santa didn’t exist, only worse … My Da was just another ordinary man and he wore the same underpants as me … Nothing would ever be the same again – for any of us …