Sunday, July 22, 2012


A young boy's experience at the hands of the Law

by Victor Sullivan  © 2012

My father handed me a package one morning, neatly wrapped in brown paper.
"I want you to take this to the police station and give it to Gárda O'Connor at 11 o'clock today. We have had a chat about it, he will know what to do and there's sixpence for you at the end of the job."
"Yes Dad."
He drove off to work leaving me wondering what was in the rather light-weight packet and what else might be required of me in order to earn the sixpence, a substantial reward for a seven-year-old boy in the 1940s.

I felt rather important as I cycled up to the police station, parked my bicycle and, packet in hand, entered the building for the first time through the open door. Foreboding best describes my next emotional experience. I had heard tales of undesirable characters being 'detained in custody' and that meant they had been locked up in the cell. As I hesitated in the doorway a deep voice called from somewhere inside:
"Is that you? I've been expecting you. Come on in."
Although the summer sun shone brightly through the large window the room somehow succeeded in retaining its gloomy atmosphere. Posters about bull licenses, dog licenses, noxious weeds and long lists of items in small print adorned the dull, green-painted walls. Gárda O'Connor stood up, resplendent in his dark navy uniform with all its shiny buttons. He stepped towards me from behind his desk and took the packet from my outstretched hand.  
"Thanks. 'Tis all right about this." he explained, "The sergeant and the others are away all day at a Court hearing. This way." 
He nudged me back into the hallway and along a corridor towards the rear of the building. Whatever the next stage of foreboding is called, I experienced it then.
"Wait here for a minute while I get my kit." He instructed. 
Kit? What kind of kit? What's it for? More foreboding descended all around me.

Left alone in the forbidding corridor, I looked around. On my right was a half open door. It was the strongest wood door I had ever seen. It didn't have a proper door-handle either. Beyond it was a small, dark, bare, bleak and very foreboding-inducing room. It could only be THE CELL!

"Nobody will see us in here." Declared the voice of Gárda O'Connor in a friendly tone as he pushed me into the cell and he followed carrying a tall stool in one hand, a tea-towel and a shiny metal box in the other.
"Hop up!" 
I perched myself on the stool and then he stepped outside the cell door, leaving me to fight down the wave of sheer panic, the natural progression from the advanced stages of intense foreboding. A bare bulb high above my head suddenly lit the scene and my captor returned immediately. 
"This shouldn't take very long." 
The words were accompanied by the rattle of hard things in the metal box somewhere behind me and the tea-towel was draped around my shoulders.
Snip-snip, snip-snip, went the scissors and my hair fluttered towards the floor in a comfortingly familiar manner as I was skillfully trimmed to fashionable respectability. 

As I prepared to mount my bicycle Gárda O'Connor approached me and in a conspiritorial whisper said:
"Don't say where you got the haircut. Tell your dad I said thanks for the fags and here's the sixpence that he asked me to give you."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012



by  Madelaine Nerson MacNamara         © 2012

No nail varnish, lipstick, tattoos, make-up cases, fake tan, curly wigs, sunbeds, black frills, sequins or glitter, calculated to captivate small girls, in the shops of those days. And neither the money even less the freedom, in the Paris of the Fifties, for a child to shop on her own or dawdle in a day-dream at beckoning windows.
Yet from schoolroom, kitchen, public park, medicine cupboard, a full palette: inkspotted palms, chocolate chin, pollened nosetip, blackberry tongue. Orangy iodine or red mercurochrome patchworked wounds then scabs on shins and knees. Blue gentian dyed mouth ulcers, warts. White chalk or black coals settled tummies. On mud-spattered grazed elbows, colourless surgical spirit stung.