I have read many little stories from the beautiful writers of Limerick, sure enough, some are maybe my school mates whom I have little recollection of now since 60 odd years have been like a slow drawn blotter on the blackboard of my life, erasing,erasing with that terrible screech every now and again as the chalk falls like snow onto the well worn wooden floor at Creagh Lane.
It started in the island field in 1935 where I was the first born on the island at 76 St. Itas Street, next door to the Fitzgeralds with the Kellys on the other side. With workmen putting cement paths in, that was my first recollection, my handprints and those of my dogs paws would bear witness that a two or three year old and his tormented dog had themselves laid claim to the island, Seanie Morrissy, my real name was (John Morrison) I learned that when I was about 13 years old in 1949 as Judge Gleeson, the hanging Judge, rest his poor soul, sentenced this, thorn in the side of “Guard Whites”, to almost three years in St. Josephs Industrial School, Glin.
I have also read stories about poverty from many noted writers, I have often wondered what poverty was, indeed If I had no friends I would know poverty. If I was not an Irishman, I would definitely have been impoverished. If my sence of humour deserted me, then poverty would surely place her hand on my shoulder. But the lack of money, food and clothing and fuel for the fire, was not poverty, but an unfortunate circumstance for us in those far off days. They were the happiest days of my life, God forgive me for saying that.
I begged (have you a piece of bread or a penny, please) I always said please, that was my lament, whilst mooching from Gerald Griffin, along my favorite road, the Ennis road.
I had three sisters and a brother to feed. My old man had long ago left for England as had many others and it wasent long before my Mother wasn’t receiving the couple of quid from the telegram boy. Sure the rent for the council house had risen to seven and sixpence a week from five and sixpence. We were eventually evicted for unpaid rent and off we trundled to No 10 Robert Street, next door to Mossy Reidy,s coal yard.
It had been a butchers shop before we moved in under the cover of darkness, the rats as big as cats would pay us a visit now and again at night, coming down the chimney. In the one room which had the old grey blanket covering the shop window, was our bed, with the straw mattress which seemed to be infested with fleas even though we changed straw quite often. That was Rosaleens job, getting the straw from the Irishtown.
Upstairs,was a one room where my Mother and Joe would be, I suppose she was lonely, God love her. Breeda, who was the eldest girl looked after Michael, (Mutt) and Francis (cod eyes), Rosaleen was the (bag of nails) and independant, whilst I (40 boots kayli) took over as the father figure.
Stealing became a way of life. There wasn’t a bread van in Limerick safe. I remember one in particular, it, as well as all the others were horse drawn and they all tilted back, they would have a wooden peg in the doors. I had fallen out with my Mother and had run away, I hid out in the bushes, where?. on the Ennis road of course. I put newspapers down and pegged them with little sticks and slept on them for a couple of nights. I had to rob a bread van to get some food. I ran after the van pulling the wooden peg out and Jesus, Mary and Holy St Joseph, trays of buns and bread showered me, a tray landing on my barefooted toe causing me to let out a yell, (*^x#). I grabbed one cottage loaf or was it a pan loaf? and was off like a hare.
I have never forgiven myself and the trouble I must have caused that poor driver, he must have lost all his bread and buns along the road. My toe throbbed all night under those bushes but I had a full stomach, for milk to drink and wash down the feast I begged a penny and bought an ice cream, found an old condensed tin can, went to the zink bath that the cattle drank from and filled it with water adding the ice cream and, Walla, instant milk, it tasted a little rusty though.
After being kicked out of Gerald Griffin, no one would have me, only Leamys. I had heard that a couple of rich yanks had been or were also pupils and now presume that the McCourts must have been them. I didn’t really care.
I wasn’t there long before laying eyes on His Honor. I had taken an old bike left lying against the railings outside Barringtons and with my leg between the bar rode it for 35 miles,running away again for the umteenth time, to above all places, Tarbert, just about three miles past Glin. Fate indeed had charted my course and a course that would be tempered by travels across the globe as a special forces commando. Some ignorants called me a mercenary, but would Patrick Sarsfield (if this were only for Ireland) have been labled a mercenary also, when he fell in the fields of France, (enter, feelings of granduer). The SAS embraced this son of Limerick and I, in turn, thanked God.
On a return to Limerick a couple of years ago I had the pleasure to meet Ger Hannan. We had a little chat and he was kind enough to invite me on to his radio talk show. I balked at the invitation, I was really unprepared for that exposure, and promised Ger that on my next visit I would honour that request. I love his one book in particular, Bards to blackguards, it is very good.
I am writing a memoir for my childrens sake, and I have put a name to it ( my psychiatrist will kill me). Damaged Goods. The reason that I am writing is that all through my childrens growing up I was terrified that they would find out who their father really was, a Glin inmate. I hid all my history from them until one day my son Michael, he is 44, said to me over a beer, Dad, we know nothing about you.
A terrible injustice by my lack of education. I went from studying at home to attending colleges at every opportunity and eventually having three trades certificates under my belt was accepted into the University of Victoria to study “project management” which was not completed because of other commitments.
I further studied and trained to eventually become a Private Investigator and started my own company, Secure Active Service Ltd. SAS for short, which is presently flurishing. A long road from Glin, many tears shed, a lot of wrinkles from smiling, but ask any limerick man what he would have done under my circumstances and I’m sure you would get the same positive responce, “If this were only for Ireland”.