Critical Claptrap

I am all for criticism, keeps one on one’s toes you know but some stuff that gets sent to me is pure balderdash but looks good because the writer seems educated and erudite.  Here for your very eyes are four pages of neatly typed A4 but lacking a signature, which upsets me somewhat as you like to know who you are up against.  It was posted in England and that is all I know of its provenance, perhaps a reader might recognise a certain style that could put me in touch with an obvious fan.

I have numbered each paragraph so that I can comment or not as I see fit at the end.

1. I recently came across your blog and having read several items felt compelled to make this response, in defence of Mike Sheehan whom I believe you have cynically misrepresented to validate your self-appointed representation of some abuse victims.

2. I know of you throughout your time at St Bede’s, which like all institutions had its own systemic and deeply entrenched forms of abuse, though it’s the specific sexual abuse of Monsignor Duggan which you appear to be obsessed by.  I can recall multiple incidents of the much more common emotional, physical, psychological and contemptuous abuse, as well as the endemic bullying which seemed so prevalent in the early years.  The classic and multiple forms of institutional abuse were all there, yet strangely in this comprehensively abusive environment, you focus exclusively on Duggan and one single symptom of abuse.

3. For whatever reason, you left the school in 1963, and as far as I am aware your formal academic education appears to have ended at that time, a fact which you apparently later resented.  Perhaps related to your lack of experience of other educational establishments and comparative teaching methods, you appear to have a distorted assessment of the quality of teaching which St Bede’s provided at the time.  There were some good and a few outstanding teachers like Spike Martin and Bert Whalley but the majority were unexceptional and several were distinctly poor.  Had the school been subject to current Ofstead inspections, then given its culture, systemic management failings, drop-out rate and overall achievements it would almost certainly have been classed as failing and its management removed.

4. Sixty years later, unlike any of your contemporaries the school still retains some unfathomable and obvious attraction for you.  After leaving in 1963, you were amongst a very small number of the 57 intake who chose to maintain close contact with the school via your cricket interests and the Old Bedians Club.  Much later, you sent your own children to the same school which you had seemingly so admired yet would subsequently seek to villify for events which pre-dated their birth.

5. Attracted by the established culture and lifestyle as well as the wage or lump of the demolition and construction industry you appear to have enjoyed the post-academic life of a labourer, navvy or civil engineer.  Hard -working and hard-drinking groups of men, many of whom were single and of Irish descent formed close bonds in work, and especially outside, where alcohol became the mortar for establishing and maintaining those relationships.  Your own association with addiction to alcohol appears to have become established during this period, as does your apparent preference at the time, for socialising with almost exclusively and often older male company, in the pubs, clubs and sporting establishments you frequented.

6. I find your references to MS or Mike Sheehan, especially his “allegations” to be at best unfounded or more likely, a wilful misrepresentation and fabricated explanation of his sad circumstances.  As in so much of your writings, you show no evidence of causal link between your allegedly confidential information and the sad outcome for Mike.  Your connection, devoid of any supporting evidence or balanced argument is enough for you and much of your subsequent campaign of self-promotion and moralist indignation is predicated on this single allegation, which given the circumstances can be neither fully discounted nor confirmed, a convenient impasse for you.  I knew Mike many years after he had left school, he was an honest individual who like so many others in his situation believed or wanted to believe that he had the personal strength and wherewithal to control his addiction.  In my experience he never adopted the victim role, blaming others for his misfortune and took personal responsibility for the circumstances he found himself in, showing commendable resourcefulness and initiative to survive as long as he did.  You have written nothing about his life after school, his friends or family, did you really know him that well?  If you did, you might have written much more positively about a man who showed admirable self-awareness, accepted responsibility for the life he had once chosen, and was completely aware of his unavoidable prognosis.  Mike’s sad  but entirely predictable death was inevitable, only the precise timing and location were unknown.  In my opinion, you have abused the memory of Mike as a cover to somehow validate your campaign, but from my knowledge of the man, had he lived, I am certain that he would never have allowed you to use his name in the way you have done.

7. When I began reading your blog, I believed that you had some genuine interest, understanding and concern on the subject of abuse.  The more I have read your writings, the more convinced I have become that my initial assessment was wholly erroneous.  For a man who apparently spends so much time researching and writing about his topics you show a lamentable lack of awareness or understanding of the multiple different forms of abuse, or crucially any knowledge of the common denominators which exist in and influence all aspects of abuse.  The significance of the power relationship, dependency, transparent accountability and the distorted personal perception of the relative importance and value of the powerful against the powerless, would be cornerstones of understanding for most genuine students and observers of the subject, but apparently not for you.  There is no exploration or attempt from you to understand the complex history of abusive relationships in every culture and society across the globe which hopefully in the future, may guide our assessment and response to this universal and negative aspect of human nature.  Instead, your reader is presented with your own myopic view of abuse, namely sexual abuse in institutional settings, which interestingly is predominately male on male abuse.  I tried to find reference in your blog to abuse within families, which is generally acknowledged as being perhaps the most widespread and unreported source of abuse, and again could find no mention of the endemic psychological, physical, emotional, or coercive abuses in this area.  Strangely, unlike your frequent references to institutions, there was also no mention of sexual abuse within families.

8. In the absence of any evidentially based alternatives, I am satisfied that you have no genuine interest in understanding the history, complexity, causes or potential resolutions of abuse.  Instead, you have a specific and enduring interest in one form of abuse, namely sexual abuse, the likeliest reason being your own sexual gratification.  There are many charlatans seemingly seeking to understand human nature whilst covertly searching to satisfy the darker and overpowering aspects of their character.

9. You appear to have no awareness or concern about your own abusive personality and the extent to which you mirror and often exceed the abuses of others.  I am not sure if you recognise the importance of the balance of power in all relationships, though I am certain that like all bullies you have a sophisticated and finely tuned system of identifying those you can abuse with impunity and those you should avoid, as witnessed by the physical distance and administrative obfuscation you have used to shield you from legitimate challenges.  The dead, the vulnerable, those who for whatever reason cannot defend themselves, and those who might rightly question the advisability of reasoning with a madman, are the easy targets carefully selected for your gratuitous abuse.  Like so many other abusers you have a distorted or delusional view of your own importance or cleverness and sense of power, crucially linked to your contemptuous rejection and dismissal of those who you deem to be irrelevant, worthless and less important than yourself.  you have the classic prerequisites of the abusive personality; all you needed was real or assumed power in which to exercise your abusive nature.  I have no doubt that in any relationships within family, groups, or organisations in which you have power, your abusive personality will emerge and it would be for others to speculate on the forms of abuse you are engaged in within those relationships.

10. I believe Duggan was abusive in his relationships with staff, parents, and pupils at the school, and for some pupils, the psychological, emotional, physical and contemptuous abuse was at times apparently accompanied by sexual abuse.  However, it is essential to recognise that Duggan was abusive in all relationships in which he held power, control or fear over others, in short, he was an abusive personality in a very powerful position which gave him the scope to exercise the dark and negative aspects of his own personality.  The similarities between yourself and Duggan are quite striking, you are both abusive personalities, apparently oblivious to, or unconcerned about the damage you do to others, cocooned in your delusional belief in your own importance, status and position.  Like Duggan you take vicarious pleasure from the anxiety and fear you create in others, any vestige of shared humanity, concern and respect for the feelings of others are alien concepts on which important men like you and the Monsignor would not waste your precious time or talents.

11. You are a staunch critic of governments, politicians, religious orders and other organisations promoting your ethical values and from the moral high ground you freely dispense your generally critical invective against those who have failed to live up to your implied rather than real standards.  Looking closely at your own and your family’s business dealings prior to leaving Manchester, highlights the serious contradictions in the ethical stance you appear to adopt when judging others.  With your record in business, you should be wary of continuing to throw stones at others.  Maybe you could enlighten your readers with a blog, perhaps entitled “Integrity in business-a personal account”.  After explaining your role in the rise and fall of Kavanagh and Mannion, no doubt your readers, HM Revenue and at least 707 other creditors would learn much from your insight and detailed explanation of the ownership, history and dealings of Topskips, PAL and Toptriangle.  Adding Companies House records of the business successes, dissolutions and administrations of the Attwood/Goodman branch of the family might give the reader a broader understanding of the ethics you espouse.

12. I have failed to understand what motivates you to spend so much of your time and energy in producing the abusive elements of your blog.  Like Roy Keane, you are a driven man but where that wasted drive comes from and what it is intended to achieve is a mystery.  I suspect that its intention seeking and certainly it’s about your self-promotion, no-one would accuse you of being a team p[layer, but it’s also about power.  Like the aloof and unaccountable despot Duggan in his robes, you share the same sense of importance, authority and contempt for lesser mortals in your writings having like all bullies, first carefully assessed the threat to your own safety.  You appear to be a very angry and resentful man and throughout your writings I had the impression of an author who was much more focused on trying to show how clever he believed he was rather than presenting a balanced view of the issues he was discussing.

13. You have consistently failed to gain any significant support for your campaigns from any of the former pupils of the school, because  they quickly identify your abusive and manipulative personality but also the self-evident conclusion from reading your blog, that you are demonstrably, neither a credible witness nor author.  Any barrister representing a plaintiff bringing a case against Duggan’s abuses would quickly identify you and your writings as a liability to be excluded from forming any part of their litigation.  Though you could never accept the fact, you are a severe hindrance rather than a help to anybody considering taking proceedings against Duggan’s abuses.

14. Having carefully reviewed my contact with Mike Sheehan, I am not persuaded that he made any allegations to you, but on balance I am convinced that the man I knew would have rejected your self -appointed advocacy, allegedly made on his, rather than your own behalf.  In my opinion you have cynically used the death of a former classmate, for your own abusive ends.  I have dismissed your implied interest and concern in the subject of abuse, such claims are fraudulent, you have an obsessive interest in only one form of abuse, namely sexual abuse, predominantly male on male from which I believe you gain some form of gratification.  Undoubtedly Duggan was an abusive personality just as you are, but like him, in his shared deluded sense of your own self-importance you fail to see or ignore the impact of that abusiveness on others.

15. I suspect that you have already had significant involvement with the psychiatric services in Roscommon and possibly in Stockport previously.  Whilst these services cannot alter your underlying sociopathic/psychopathic personality, they may have the capacity at times to ameliorate the worst excesses of your behaviour.  You will not change as your condition precludes you from having that opportunity but stop misrepresenting a decent man, Mike Sheehan, to excuse or validate your own warped self-interest and abusive personality.

On behalf of my memory of Mike Sheehan

Well that is it 2287 words of pure poorly written half researched nonsense.  Full of long sentences and even longer words, wanting to impress rather than make his point.  His character assassination of me was like water off a duck’s back  It is like writing a dissertation at the end of a degree course and not putting your name to it.  He considers I was right with Duggan’s abuses but he considers I am not fair to Mike Sheehan and it is for that I deserve such a blunt attack on my persona.  I have trawled through the 429 postings I have made on this blog and have come across four where I have mentioned the poor man, viz:-

1. Decline and Fall published 31.1.10.

2. Geoffrey Burke, Auxillary Bishop of Salford and Titular Bishop of Vagrouta published 1.3.10

3. Teenage Years published 2.3.10

4. Monsignor Thomas Duggan published 3.3.10

Google them, read them, and think about it, none of these seems to cast Sheehan in a bad light and except for the exuberance of youth with which I share my responsibility, the text is mainly in praise of the man.  I did not know him too well in his mature years because by then work and family life had made us drift apart but I was certainly a key figure in his life up to the age of 25 0r 26.  Certainly at school we were inseperable and I was at his wedding and sadly his funeral mass  where Dave McGarry officiated as he did at the funerals of most fractured Old Bedians.

Sheehan was never at the fulcrum of my campaign against Duggan and others but he was certainly a catalyst, because after I had written the first of those postings mentioned above, I was bombarded with e-mails from all over the world from former pupils explaining how they also were victims of Duggan’s sexual abuse.  Other forms of abuse fall into insignificance when compared to this.

At this time over five years ago I was totally naive as to this problem, I mentioned it in passing in the last line of that first posting thinking Sheehan was the only one ever abused.  Little was I to know what can of worms I had opened.

Para 13 suggests I have failed to gain any significant support and that lawyers would run a mile if they saw me coming but the truth is that we have probably 50 witnesses who will swear under oath of their abuses under Duggan, all telling roughly the same story as Sheehan, some I’m afraid are a lot, lot worse.  The case against the Diocese of Salford is scheduled for the High Court in London in May 2016.

So Mr “On behalf of my memory of Mike Sheehan” Dickhead expose yourself there is plenty I would be willing to discuss with you man to man because as you say that is how I like it.

Two last words before I post.  When I started this posting I numbered the paragraphs intending to disseminate each one but having finished my task I had to ask myself is it worth it, but if any reader wants to ask a question or make a point let them do so but I am really against cowards who cannot put their names to their writing.  The last and final word is from my ever youthful wife of 42 years.  She said ” I have a list of complaints about you but what this person has done is missed you by a mile.  He keeps adding up 2 + 2 and getting five”

Good day eejit.

Gallipoli Galloped

Last week I had the doubtful pleasure of taking 20 people to Gallipoli for an eight day tour of the battlefields and a chance to follow in the footsteps of the 5th Battalion Connaught Rangers.  I say doubtful because of the awful behaviour of three members of the party which spoiled the pleasure I would have gotten from the trip.

Leading a party of twenty people to a country as far away as Turkey takes an amount of organising to ensure that everybody gets value for money and months of work went into the project.

The 18th August this year started early at 3.30am, a shower, breakfast and on to our first stop at 5.30 am to pick up two fellow tourists.  I was accompanied by my wife who had not been well of late and it was a last minute decision to come.  It was a cold, damp, foggy Irish August morning as we drove the 125 miles to Dublin Airport, a total contradiction of the weather we were heading for.

I dropped my three passengers at Terminal 1 at 7.15, parked the car and was on station at 7.30am at the blue glass lifts in Terminal 2 to meet the other 17 members of the group who were coming from Portugal, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and from various parts of Ireland.  I had told them on no account be later than 9.30am.  All but four had arrived by 8.30am and had walked over to the Turkish Airlines desk in Terminal 1.  The last lady to arrive decided to wait with me for the other four.  We lingered and muttered at the lack of consideration of folk until 9.30am and we decided to wait another five minutes and still nobody arrived.

I was in a dilemma, I had 16 other people to consider, my wife especially as I had dropped her off, two hours and twenty minutes previously and had her passport and airline ticket.  One hour and twenty five minutes to walk over to Terminal 1, find my wife, check in , negotiate security and get to the departure gate.  I made the decision, the party before individuals, we went hoping if they came they might have the sense to head for Turkish Airlines.

The airport was very busy but we eventually boarded the plane with 15 minutes to spare.  Just before take off a slight commotion and the missing four struggled on to the plane, hissing and verbally abusing me for not being at the rendezvous point.  I explained that I had been there for longer than was allowed but they said I had not been there at all.  Things settled during the four hour twenty minute flight which tipped us into the  international chaos that was Istanbul Airport.

I sought out a seat for Helen, my wife and went to collect our luggage and change some money.  It seems the four people who had been late had stayed at airport hotels, three at one and one at another who had used the courtesy bus from the hotel but had left his luggage on board the bus and was obviously late in retrieving same. The other three had just been late but had not the sense to appreciate this and apologise.  In Istanbul airport they attacked me twice more and I have to say I have never heard language like it from women.  Because the agitators were women, I had no defence.  The one male amongst them kept quiet whilst the women blathered.  All I could do was smile at the idiocy of it all.  Fisticuffs would have settled it but not with women.  The rest of the party just stood in amazement.  My wife suggested an anger management course was useful, the older of the two witches called her a bloody slut and so it went on.

We eventually boarded a coach to take us to the hotel and that was moaned about as well.  The whole thing had split the party up.  The wicked witch, as the older one of the two women became known, her daughter and the poor man who was accompanying them became a clique, while the rest of us gelled but with this shadow hanging over us.

We had a few drinks in the rooftop bar of the hotel overlooking Santa Sofia on one side and the Bosphorus and that relaxed most of us.  Breakfast and an early start for the five hour drive along the Sea of Marmora and down the Gallipoli peninsula to our splendid hotel, Gallipoli Houses in the little village of Kokadere.  It surely is the best situated of any hotel for battlefield touring, just to the east of Chanuk Bair, only three  or four miles from Anzac if you were a crow.

after settling in to our rooms, a trip out to one of the Turkish forts on the straits and a look at V Beach where the Dublin Fusiliers and the Munsters ran into a bit of bother on 25th April 1915.  The River Clyde beached itself by the fort of Sed el Barh and the Munsters  were cut to pieces as they ran down the gangways both sides of the ship.  The Dubs similarly as they came ashore in lighters.  The scene is very similar to the diorama Boyle Men’s Shed built for us in King House this year.  The sandbank still there but slightly diminished.

Dinner at eight and Eric was displaying his new range of wines from Suvla, just up the road and nice they were, too nice.  Bed at 11.00 and up at 6.00 to a cacophony of cockerels explaining to the world as to who was the best guy in Kokadere.  Our room faces west looking at the Chunuk Bair Ridge, with Lone Pine out of sight and beyond.  The minaret of the village mosque is only 50 metres away and the muezzin has just started his call to prayer, outdoing the cockerels with his electronically amplified system.

It is 7.45 and our team are filtering down to breakfast, it is a comfortable 20C but the humidity is high.  Our first stop this morning is the hill known as Achi Baba.  It is only 220 metres high but it commands the Helles plain about 6 miles north of V Beach.  It was the Allies first objective on 25th April 1915 but in eight months of fighting they did not get to within three miles of it.  We can see the whole of the Helles battlefield and can understand why it was an important objective.  Down to the French memorial on the east side of Morto Bay.  The French made a diversionary landing at Kum Kale on the Asian side of the straits and after two days reformed here and helped form the right flank of the Helles operation throughout the campaign.

Visits to the impressive Turkish memorial and the British Helles memorial followed and then a look at V Beach from a Turkish perspective and immediately you could see why the Dubs and Munsters had a hard time on that first day..  Throughout the campaign the Turks had the high ground and this spot was no exception.  So much could be defended by so few.

After lunch in a roadside cafe next to a stream full of turtles we hit East Anzac and first was Lone Pine where four thousand Turks and two thousand Australians killed each other in bloody and vicious hand to hand fighting in early August 1915.  It was here the Connaught Rangers had their baptism of fire as they buried the Turkish dead whilst under fire from Turkish guns.  On to Johnson’s Jolly and the Nek where the Australian Light Horse came to grief in a bayonet charge in broad daylight up a steep slope in waves of 150 at a time.  At this spot we got word of our own tragedy as the mother of one of the party had died.  In this regard we were greatly helped by Eric and his wife at the hotel.  Transport to Istanbul was arranged and new flights for those returning were obtained as if by magic.  Many thanks to our friends in Kokadere for their work.

It was at this point the wicked witch came into her own advising everybody of her importance in the matter and explaining to all of the new arrangements, except she was not part of the new arrangements but I was.  I let her have her head and then explained as best I could how the show must go on.

Up to Chunuk Bair first thing this morning, the highest point on the Sari Bair range, towering over Anzac and Suvla to the West and giving mouth watering views over the straits to the East.  This really was the key to the whole campaign and which the New Zealand forces captured on 9th August 1915 with much loss of life and their relieving force, the South East Lancashire Regiment and the Gloucester Regiment, was pushed off it the next day with great vigour by Mustafa Kemal’s troops and caused much loss of life in the reserve force of the 6th Leinsters and 10th Hampshires  Our task was to walk down to Anzac on the same footpath the New Zealanders went up, a distance of about four miles and a descent of330 metres which because of the undulations of the landscape meant there was as many ups as there was downs.  We made it easily enough to the Farm, an area where the 5th Battalion Connaught Rangers spent three days on 10th/12th August 1915 burying dead and carrying down wounded whilst under Turkish sniper fire at all times.  It was round this spot I found a spent British .303 bullet 100 years and one week later.  From this place we descended the Chailak Dere in a gruesome walk for most, ending up at Embarkation Pier.  Some of the men there 100 years ago went up and down this path, two or three times a day.  My head shakes just thinking about it.  But now we know of what these soldiers endured.

On to Anzac beach and the cemeteries at Ari Burnu and Anzac Beach.  On Ari Burnu we discovered a number of graves of Indian soldiers who were killed in 1921, six years after the fighting here.  On enquiry we were told they were in a party constructing cemeteries and memorials when a massive explosion of unused ammunition killed about 20 of them.  At Anzac Beach cemetery an emotional moment occurred when most of us stood round the grave of the grandfather of one of our party.  He had been killed early in the conflict in late April.  Also in this cemetery was the grave of Samuel Hall, a Glaswegian and the first 5th Battalion man to die on 9th August when whilst sheltering in a trench in Shrapnel Valley, a shell burst immediately above him taking off his head at his shoulders.

After that it was up to 7th Field Ambulance Cemetery where about 15 5th Battalion men lie.  These men had been badly wounded on Hill 60 on 21st/28th August, they were too badly wounded to be moved down to the Beach for evacuation and died there at this Australian Field Hospital.  In fact one man from Boyle lies here, Bartley Higgins from Green Street in Boyle.  A little street in Boyle in Co Roscommon where I have found 15 inhabitants who were killed during the war.  A mile further on and we arrive at Hill 60 where the Connaught Rangers came to grief on this same day 100 years ago about 160 men out of the 220 deaths in the 5th Battalion occurred on this insignificant hill.  In another emotional ceremony we read out the names of these poor men and where they came from.  At least we still remember them.  We also found the wells that the Rangers so famously captured on 21st August 1915 and which had evaded our previous searches.  They are still there full of water, a prize in those far off days and our link with the past.

A great day for those of us interested but still the looming hatred emanating from the wicked witch, her equally wicked daughter and her poor tagged along consort.  It was hard to ignore them but we tried.

The next day we were off to Suvla.  In the past Suvla was so remote, just dirt tracks that no coach driver would motor on but our man was one of the intrepids, taking us first to Green Hill Cemetery where the grave of a young Lancashire Fusilier lies, this man was executed for desertion in December 1915, one of the last deaths on the Peninsula.  There was 100 soldiers  here who were condemned to death but 97 of them had their death sentence commuted, only three were shot.  It is a puzzle to me how anybody can desert from such a place, it just ain’t possible.  In this cemetery is also the grave of Lord Longford and also the father of David Niven, the film star.

We ventured on to nearby Chocolate Hill where the whole of the panorama of Suvla could be seen, a most important objective in the early days at Suvla.  We passed by Lala Baba, a small hill where Suvla’s only defenders created havoc for a while, where 150 Turks held up 20,000 Allied troops until General Stopford had a rest on his sloop Jonquil out in the bay.  Next stop was B and C Beaches and on C Beach, just south of Nimbrunesi point one of our band jumped in the sea fully clothed to imitate his grandfather who stormed ashore here with the Royal Irish Rifles on 6th August 1915.  Then round to Suvla point, passing Hill 10 where some of us had a quick swim in the clear waters of the Aegean while the rest of us enjoyed a quick beer at a roadside shack.  It is here that we saw the wreck of a Beetle, one of the first landing craft ever made capable of putting two companies of men onto a beach without wetting their feet.

We then drove down to the ferry to Cannakale, others went on to Troy.  I and a few rested our weary limbs in the town had some koftes and a few glasses of beer.  Back at the hotel we scoffed our last meal and prepared ourselves for an early dash to Istanbul.  Farewell Gallipoli Houses and thank you.

Up early, had breakfast and paid our mess bill and on the road for Istanbul which we reached in four hours 15 minutes missing most of the traffic.  Booked back into Erboy Hotel and half the party went off to Santa Sofia and the Blue Mosque but once you have seen it you have seen it.  I held back, rest is what I needed not 70mph pedestrian trips.  That evening a meal in a fish restaurant, a bottle of wine and early night and up at 6.ooam.

On the bus for 9.00am and off to the Asian side of Istanbul for a visit to the Florence Nightingale Hospital which is now part of a working Turkish Army barracks.  Although interesting, we were made to jump through hoops at security.  Understandable with the present political climate where angry Kurds are targeting military establishments, it still took the gloss off the place for me.

We then went on a cruise of the Bosphorus which was fantastic.  If you can imagine the M25 round London was a waterway, we wandered up the European side and back down the Asiatic side dodging oil tankers, freighters, ferries and fast moving boats of all sizes.  It was hair-raising, exciting, colourful and interesting. Then it was back to our hotel where we found a lovely roof-top restaurant to have our last meal and spend what few bob we had left.

Next morning we were thrown into the chaotic inferno that is Istanbul airport, shuffled through numerous queues and eventually ending up in our seats on the plane.  The wicked witch et al still not looking or talking to us, why she came can only be to cause trouble, they showed remarkably no interest in the military side of things.  We landed safely and on time, everybody thanked me for my efforts but not the witch, who had disappeared.

Feelers were put out in the following days as to the character of these people and reports came back of her and her ilk being the most hated of their area.  Unlucky for us that we were saddled with them for eight days.


Hey Ho you have to take life as it comes, but lessons have been learnt.

Ireland For The Fit And Healthy. If Not???

As the title says, Ireland is a lovely place if your fit and healthy but if you have a twinge, a cough or a problem of any kind with your temporal being; stay away.  You could be on the road to perdition.

I’ll tell you a little story.  Two years ago after suffering with her knees for a couple of years, suffering brought on probably by four or five miles of a jog every morning for more years than I care to remember, my wife went to the doctor.  Now the doctors in Ireland in our experience, or at least the GPs are not the best people to approach when it comes to relief from pain unless you want a hefty and dehumanising painkiller.  If you want a blood test -€15, if you want a blood pressure check – €50, if you want an ECG – €20, a vaginal health and safety check -€60, it is OK, anything where they can increase the basic consultancy fee of €40  is good, they welcome you with open arms to keep the till jingling away.

Pain is different, there are no gadgets for measuring pain so they pass you on as quickly as possible and in this case the doctor referred my wife to Galway Hospital, some 90 miles away.  Which is far enough away not to complain when you hear nothing from them.  I have previous experience with Galway, driving down there on an early winter morning for a 9.00am appointment must surely shorten your life quicker than the medical profession could possibly do, even with their Agenda 21 programme.

To digress a little here, I hear that our old friend, Big Pharma, has brought out a new drug which can detect Alzheimer symptoms early so that life threatening drugs can be introduced into the human frame sooner.  Imagine being told at 25 that you are going to suffer from Alzheimer’s in 20 years time.  “It is not a pleasant thought but here take this pill because it will probably kill you before the onset, so that the few years you have left at least will be enjoyable”.

However to get back to my point.  I laboured down to Galway on three occasions for them to examine, scan and consult on my varicosed left leg.  They do not perform these three acts on the one day but on separate days, so I used up a lot of diesel and driver life going down , for what – nothing!  Then a year later they wrote to say they wanted to examine, scan and consult again, to be sure, to be sure.  I told them to kiss my arse and it seemed to do me a bit of good.  Do you hear me Mr Sultan, your department is in a mess.

Anyway Helen was referred to Galway in early 2013 and nothing until two weeks ago, over two years of patience, suffering and pain.  Galway wrote to ask her if she was dead or if not was she still interested in treatment.  By now, the knees although troublesome, but after two years the ankles, which had been under pressure for some time because of the poorly performing knees, were showing signs of distress and giving her little mobility.

Helen jumped at the chance of some attention, said yes and a week later Galway wrote back saying that because of a massive waiting list her case had been referred to a private hospital.  So lo and behold, she received a telephone call from South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen.  South West that is of Ulster, a different country and there was I thinking we would have to travel 200 miles to Kerry, the country we live in.

The South West Acute said she had been referred to them from Galway which had a massive waiting list, they wanted to know if she could attend them on Saturday , two days hence, at 1.45pm to see one of their orthapaedic consultants.  Two thoughts came to our minds.  Yes Enniskillen is only half the distance but the roads are not good.  Since partition in 1922 all roads in Ireland lead to Dublin, but there are still ancient cattle tracks across the border mainly used by rustlers and the Provos.  Our other thought was because Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh is a little bit of England still, why were the National Health Service doing the job of the Health Service Executive in Ireland.  We said yes without considering peripherals.  Action we respond to, sluggishness appals us.

In the two days between phone call and appointment, the South West Acute rang us twice, once to make sure we were coming and secondly to bring the appointment forward an hour.  It all looked good, delay in Ireland was what we are used to, alacrity is to be admired.  So we went.

The South West Acute on the Omagh road outside of Enniskillen is brand new, opened in 2012.  It is the finest hospital I was ever in, more like a cathedral than a hospital, with high ceilings, wonderful art work and an absence of people.  It was a place you would not mind getting ill in.  We were called in dead on time for our appointment and ushered in front of an enormous Ulsterman, 2 metres high at least, 110Kgs of muscle and as brown as a berry.  I shook his hand and felt my fingers dislocate as he gave myself and Helen a warm greeting.

I asked him the obvious question, “Did you enjoy your holiday” and he boomed back “It was very good, thank you”.  I asked him why was the National Health Service looking after poor us from Ireland, “Is it because we paid all our taxes during our working lives in England”.  He said “No, the HSE are in big trouble with waiting lists and they are paying us to step into the breach”.  Well, I thought, if we are going to be treated anywhere, this certainly looks the place.

“Now Helen”, he said in his 200 decibel Ulster brogue, ” Tell us what is wrong.  It’s the knees isn’t it?”  “Well yes” said a timorous Helen “But it is affecting my ankles as well.”  “Oh” said the mighty Ulsterman, “I’m knees and hips and I will not get paid to look at your ankles.”  I retorted “Well I’m a tits and arse man myself but I do not object to looking at other parts of the anatomy, if proffered.”  He looked at me and gave me a shy north of the border wink and explained that the HSE only pay him for the original referral of knees.  “So even if you had been shot through both ankles, in a case of this nature all I could do was rub your knees and send you down to A & E in Galway”

He then gave a swift examination which entailed listening to the bone movement in Helen’s two knees.  “yes there is wear and tear and it looks like a problem at the back of the patella, but I need an x-ray to be sure, to be sure.  Our x-ray department is not open Saturday afternoons, so go to your doctor and tell him to organise one and I will see you again in a months time.  Good day to you Mrs Malpas and to you sir.  By the way where does that name come from.”  “Normandy” says I.  “Are you French?” says he.  “No, we are descendents of the Normans who came over with King Billy the Conqueror.  That King Billy was a good old skin, he gave us land in Cheshire.”  He looked at me quizzically as he towered over us and shunted us out the door.

We wiped the sweat from our brows and wondered where we were at, as we walked down the South Aisle of the cathedral and we both thought that while the National Health Service is at least fur coat and no knickers, the Health Service Executive has neither.  It looks as though we are back to ancient natural remedies and I have started saving for a wheelchair.  I can see me taking up the position of pusher shortly.

Anthony William Martin “Spike” RIP

Well I was here back in Manchester for the second time in a month, the last time was full of joy for my new grandchild but this time was a sad mission.  I was here to attend the Requiem Mass of a truly great and good man.  I had been ferried over from the West of Ireland in a make of a plane called a Dash 400 and the last thing you want in going to a funeral of a friend is a dash.  You want calmness, circumspection, a measured head and certainly not dash.  The plane was full of people my age, no youngsters at all.  Are we baby boomers the modern mid-week argonauts?  We all looked as though we were travelling the same path.  We all looked as though we had seen the dark days.

Because make no mistake the twenty years after the war, the second war that is, Manchester was enjoying dark times and to make matters worse we were led by a Church that wanted total obedience and gave nothing but fear, led by priests who offered damnation and took away our souls and into this darkness I entered St Bede’s College in Manchester to start my second level education in 1957.

We did not know it then but we , the product of VE Day excitement, were a different breed to those who had come before us.  We did not accept what had been landed on and forced into previous cohorts who meekly swallowed what they were taught .  We wanted questions answered, we wanted a fresh look at the dichotomies that life threw at us but all we got was gloom, depression and fear.  Fear in the respect of the need for discipline, fear in the respect of bullying, not by our peers but by the generation or two older who taught us and had not the wit or ability to answer our questions.

But in this opaqueness there shone a light, a light that opened our eyes and helped us to see.  A light that not only answered our queries but a light on full beam that showed us the way ahead.  That light shining in the torpid, black vacuum that was St Bede’s, was Mr A W Martin or Spike as he was known to over 30 years of pupils.

In the formative years of 12-16, when you need a helping hand often, when you need a nudge in a particular direction, Spike was there to help, advise and guide.  His gentle persuasiveness set our course through life.  If not obvious at the time, it became obvious as we notched up the years and that is the mark of a true educator.  Not to be bullied and beaten into success in a subject, a way of life, a subject and a way of life that you soon rebel against and cast aside, but Spike’s gentleness, Spike’s wit, Spike’s interest made you return to those qualities time and again as you past through your adult years when all exams were past tense.

He took us out of the dull classical past and made us look ahead to a bright, brand new modern future.  His teaching of English and History made us appreciate the value of words, the lessons of the past, the joy of being in your own time and space as apposed to someone else’s of a hundred years previous.

As I write these words, it is nearly 6.00am in the early morning of what looks like a cloudy, sad day.   I am nearly 70 years of age and I am thinking back over all those years and trying to think of iconic figures in my life.  There are one or two grey shapes who I think could be this one or that but in the middle is that clear image of just one man, Spike.  And dear reader, do not think I have gone over the top, that I am full of sadness for our dearly departed or that I am overcome with emotion.  Yes there are tears in my eyes at his leaving us but as I have said before, I am what he made me into.  He will never leave my mind and that cannot be said of many.  How lucky we were to have that experience.

Spike’s funeral mass is at 12.00 noon, I will prepare myself, keep emotion in check as best I can and hope everybody else does the same. The last time I was in that church of St Catherine of Siena in Didsbury to wave goodbye to another good man, Dave McGarry, three or four years ago, I received a punch in the back and called a hypocrite by a worthy parishioner.  I could well get the same today and more, but Spike taught us to look with disdain on blows, he taught us how to be men.  My mind goes back immediately to the figure of a bullying, useless priest who was taking nets practice at the playing fields on one lovely summer evening in 1963, who scathingly put me down after I had bowled him out and Spike who witnessed it and condemned his behaviour later, gave me hope.  I will not bother with details as I have told the story so often but concentrate on Spike’s little nudge.

Another thing about Spike was his marvellous memory.  I met him in Rome some years ago and although I had spied him from a distance before, I felt unable to approach him.  He was the master, I was the fool, I felt sure he did not want me in his life.  My maturity took a long time developing. Anyway this time I determined and went up and introduced myself and before I could continue my praises, he interrupted me, “Paul Malpas, yes the lad with the pikes in Cheshire”.  He was referring to an essay I wrote some 38 years earlier of which I was rather proud and of which Spike was not.  “D slapstick, write again” was his comment.I did not and he did not insist, but why should he remember such an insignificant piece?

He used to give us reading lists at the end of each term, books the College would never have heard of and even less approved but books which opened our minds, books by angry young men and not so angry old men but books that made us think and made us ask questions, books that made us understand the joys of reading and made us appreciate words.  Certainly books that could not be obtained in the College library as the last new book had slithered in unrecognised sometime around the time Duggan, the Rector of the school, had been a pupil there before the Great War.

But I digress a little, I like to keep these postings down to 1ooo words but I have already used that up and I have not arrived at the ceremony.  Eulogies and no ceremony is my wish but I suppose Spike would rather ceremony and no eulogy.  Ceremony not for himself but for the boys he turned into men, to remember him by.  So let the ceremony begin.

I was there 45 minutes before the appointed time, it was nice to sit there in the deserted church and think of the man, but my dreams were interrupted by another early bird, John Byrne, the cause of Spike’s early retirement 25 years ago.  Byrne was the thrusting new Head put into place by the Governors in the mid-1980s.  Byrne’s view on history was not as Spike would allow and as Byrne was boss in position but not in intellect,Spike took the honourable course and divorced himself from Byrne’s hostile company.  I guessed he had come early to expiate for past sins and so he should.  Byrne was closely followed by Moynihan, Byrne’s side winder during that painful but successful epoch, who generously but unknowingly came and sat next to me.  We had past history and I was half expecting a stab in the back and a dig in the ribs.

There was a sprinkling of teachers from the school from Spike’s day, Barnes, the admirable Berry, Noonan, Weiss, Gibson brother and sister, one or two old boys, I was surprised how few and a lot of parishioners, all to a man and woman, a lot older than when I had last clapped eyes on them.  However the church was only half full, I have seen more at a villain’s funeral.

There were four clerics on the altar going through the motions.  I am that far removed from the Catholic Church and its witchcraft, the action meant nothing to me but I was nicely surprised to see my photograph on Spike’s mass card.  A picture of the U 15 cricket team in 1961 prior to our trip to Rome to beat the Venerabile into submission on the hillside overlooking Castel Gandolfo and Lake Albano, surrounded by cardinals and bishops to numerous to mention.  The game after the ceremony was to match a present day’s face with that of sleek youth.

One of the team gave a eulogy and more or less said what I have just written, it needed saying and I stress again how lucky we were and after that I wanted my own thoughts.  I did not bother with the crematorium or the funeral breakfast after, I just wanted my own peace, so I returned to my daughter’s house and shortly afterwards headed west.

If there is a God and he certainly is not the God of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic  Church let him please look after Spike because he has a gem of a man there.

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