The KNIFE (or why I'm so lucky . . .)

 Immigration is from immigrare, “to go into” (im + migrare) and emigration is from emigrare, “to move” (ex + migrare). They refer to the same action, from two diametrically opposed perspectives:
Very appropriate for this section on Northern Ireland.
I had three years of Latin in Northern Ireland. I'm glad I did.
Emigration: the act of leaving one’s homeland or country to settle in another.

The Ireland years, 1964-1970.

Irish joke number 1.

An Irish man asks another Irish man
'What are you, Catholic or Protestant'?
The second Irish man responds
'I'm Jewish'.
The first Irish man says

'But are you a Catholic Jew or a Protestant Jew'?

How do you explain over 300 years of hatred to a small boy?

My Rosebud

Every time I look at this knife it all comes rushing back to me.

I am so lucky.

To have something tangible that can fire up the memories of a small boy. That is a rare treat.  I don't want to make it sound like I had a terrible childhood. As a matter of fact I had a great childhood. I used to ride my bike from Coleraine to Portrush (12 miles) or Coleraine to Portstewart (3 miles) by myself. Of course we didn't have the news pounding into us the fear-abduction factor that seems so prevalent today.

I remember watching the North West 200 - a big motorcycle race. I went by myself to watch it. I have a picture I took somewhere. You can tell I took it. It has a great picture of the hedge across the road from where the motorcycles went flying by at 100 mph.

I never had corned beef and cabbage when I lived in Ireland. That's a Boston, USA thing. Surely now, I had plenty of potatoes. Turnips. Carrots. Lamb. Beef. Lots of fish. I never understood fish-sticks. They were mostly batter and little fish. Nasty things. Lots and lots of soup. If you could boil it we turned it into soup.


I collected football cards. Lots and lots of football cards. Some may be worth something today.

Especially the George Best  1969/70 Card 

George Best Front George Best Back

George Best was our golden boy. I saw him play when the St. John's Primary school football coach, Mr. Billy McVicar,  took us boys to see Ireland vs. Wales. That was a heck of a game. My first professional football game.
We had to go a long way on a bus. Very exciting!

Irish Joke number 2.
How did they find out Lord Mountbatten had dandruff?
They found his Head and Shoulders on the beach.
(His boat was blown up by the Irish Republican Army in 1979).



I remember when a truck filled with pop drinks spilled over near Screen Road, Coleraine, where Sean Hickey lived. The driver said 'take what you want'.  I picked up as many bottles as I could carry and brought them home. My Mum didn't believe me at first.  I remember when Sean and I were playing at the top of Laurel Park, where the new houses were being built. We were throwing big boulders down an unfinished drain. God knows why - we were kids! My timing was off and Sean dropped a boulder on my right hand's pinky finger. Took the top of my pinky almost clean off. It was hanging by a strip of skin. I had to go to the hospital and get stitches. The top of my pinky is misshapen to this day. I remember when the older not-Catholic boys got me cornered in the woods somewhere. They told me they were going to make me eat shit. One held my arms behind my back. Another stabbed dog droppings with a stick and held it up to my face. The others were jeering. They always hunted in packs.  I kept saying 'No, No'. The stick seemed to linger there for an eternity. I'm not sure how it ended, but I assure you I did not eat anything. However the word was spread that Bain had eaten shit. It was all over the neighbourhood.  I remember I had a crush on this beautiful blond girl who also lived on Laurel Park. Me and a friend were making crank phone calls to random numbers from my house. My idea was to call the local butcher and I ordered a ton of meat to be delivered to this girls house. Why? I don't know why. Are you kidding me? Anyway, later that week this girl approached me and let me have an ear full. I guess the delivery was made! I remember playing conkers. Conkers was huge in our neighbourhood. We had a Chestnut tree at the entrance to Laurel Park and every year we would climb the tree to get the biggest chestnut. Making the conker was a skill. First you had to harden it. They were several ways to do that. I think I soaked mine in salt water. There was a kid who soaked his in vinegar and every year his conker would go on to smash all of ours. He also had a good swinging technique, which I'm sure had a lot to do with it. I remember one day at St. John's we were getting some kind of medical injection (see Socialized Medicine), and I asked the nurse if I could keep the syringe. The Carry On nurse said 'yes' and next thing you know I'm filling up the syringe with puddle water and squirting the other kids with it. And the very next thing you know, I'm in Sister's room being told what a silly bugger I am. I really was. Other kids took advantage of the silly bugger in me. I remember one kid who said he'd take the bus home with me but first we had to stop and roll down a sand dune. So as I wouldn't lose the four pence, (a large penny an a smaller  thruppenny bit, he convinced me to leave the money at the top of the dune so it would be safe. I'd roll down a few times, look for my money and it would be gone. 'Lets look in the sand' he'd say and we'd look together. I think it was my Dad who told me what was really going on. I believe I planned some sort of trick to play one day so I'd find out. It was true. This boy I thought was my friend was stealing my bus money. That really shook me up. I thought we were such good friends. 


The tension was really bad by 1970. My Dad had worked for the Guinness Brewing Company in Belfast until 1967. By 1970 he worked for Standard Telephone & Cable (STC), still in Belfast. He was management and a Catholic. Bad combination. Belfast had a curfew. Nobody in or out after 9pm.  So when management worked late one time because there was a strike going on he couldn't get home.





























1964. We emigrated from Scotland. We immigrated to Northern Ireland.

<-----...what you are looking at is my knife. My Rosebud

You see, I had this knife as a boy in Northern Ireland.

It was my fishing knife. I would go fishing with my best friend Sean Hickey down at the river Ban in Coleraine. We thought it was great that the fish congregated near the warm water that spilled out of this tremendous culvert coming from the 'Chemstrand'  Monsanto plant about a quarter mile away.

This was the middle 60's. Earth Day hadn't been invented yet.

If you notice, the knife is made in Sweden. I guess the Swedes make less expensive knives than the Northern Irish. (I bought this with my pocket- money). Northern Ireland. Better known as Ulster to the locals. The only bit of that island that belongs to Great Britain. Strange really. I didn't understand.

I knew my family was Roman Catholic. We had been Roman Catholic in Scotland.  This place would be the same - right? 1964. The Beatles were huge. I collected stamps. I sort of remember the  long boat trip from Glasgow, Scotland  to Belfast. N. Ireland.  Belfast is at the end of a long inlet and I could see the factories an houses from a distance.
Our first house was a rental in Portrush, just one large dune away from the ocean. My first real awakening happened when I was walking home from school one day and was attacked by 2 or 3 boys.
Boys I did not know from Adam.

They poured bleach on my head.
I ran crying all the way home. My mother was frantic, but I don't think we went to the hospital for some reason. That evening when my dad got home, my parents talked for hours. I heard some of it. That's when I found out there were two types of people in this new place. Catholics and not-Catholics. The not-Catholics didn't like the Catholics. The Catholics had been in this place first but then the not-Catholics had
invaded and taken over.
Everybody knew if you were Catholic or not-Catholic in Ulster.

Everybody just called it
'The Troubles'.

Can you find Coleraine?  


The green bit
is the
'not-Catholic' area...

See Irish joke number 1.  

It didn't matter that we were from Scotland. By the very fact that we didn't attend the not-Catholic local church, we were the enemy. Now eight and nine year old boys don't go around asking 'what side are you on'? They find out from their parents. It's been that way for more than 300 years and it will continue to be that way as long as the invaders keep hold of Ulster.

Find out why July 12 is a Holiday in Northern Ireland.

Coleraine-King Billy Mural Falls Road Belfast 1969
Mural in Coleraine current day.  William of Orange Reigns supreme 300 years after 1690 ... The British army closed off Falls Road in Belfast in 1969 so the Protestants and Catholics could not pass.
This was called 'keeping the peace'.

But, back to the knife (sort of....). The age of Confirmation in the catholic church is seven. Seven is the so-called age of reason. By seven you can supposedly separate right from wrong and make moral choices. I've had this knife since I was seven. It's well used. For years it was just a knife and used as such. As time has moved on it has become much more than that. I  look at it now and realise the pain and anguish my parents must of  felt when I came home that day. They came to this land to seek work, To better themselves. To make a better life for me. And now I  was standing there with my eyes stinging asking 'Why'? What could they say? The world is a messed up place ? Turn the other cheek? Those boys are savages who do their parents bidding?

How do you explain over 300 years of hatred to a small boy?

You don't. You get them to play football together.
And when two ankles clash in the course of play and one says to the other

"You Fenian bastard!",

you yell out, "Hey Willie, knock it off".


Colerain-St Patricks Fotball Team 1968

It's 1968. Our Coleraine St. John's Primary School Football team had just won the Doherty Cup. I still have the little medals they gave us.
I'm the one on the far left. (Note: not one speck of dirt on my shirt!)


My wife and I went to Coleraine in1989 on our honeymoon. I took this picture with me and asked Sean Hickey to name all the lads we had played with.
Sean Hickey and I were substitutes on the same team.

Sean's memory was a lot better than mine. This is what he came up with.

Colerain-St Patricks Fotball Team 1968

I want all these lads to know that I loved them like brothers. Cheers!

Correction: April 2014:
I was informed that the man on the far right, our coach, is
Billy McVicar, not Jimmy McVicar and the man to the right of Mr. Hart is Mr. Jim Leighton, Brendan's father.
Sadly Billy McVicar passed away in October of 2013. I will always remember him as he is in this picture.

General Chronology:
1957, November 30, Born, Irvine Hospital, Ayrshire, Scotland
    I should of been called Andrew...
1957 - 1959?, Lived at 8 Smith Cresent, Kilwinning, Ayrshire, Scotland
1959-1964, Lived at 10 Back Temple Hill, Troon, Ayrshire, Scotland
1964, Immigrated to Northern Ireland
1964-1964, Lived at Portrush, Derry, one dune from the sea...
1964-1970, Lived in Coleraine, Derry.
1970, Immigrated to America on a cruise ship called the Hanseatic,
1970-1970, Lived at the Parkade Appartments, Manchester, CT USA
Somebody cut all the cables on the bike we had brought from NI - could not get replacement parts
1970- on, Lived at 6 Indian Drive, Manchester
1970-1974, East Catholic HS, Manchester, CT, graduated HS at 16
1973, March 30, 15, Hit by car walking to sneak into Manchester drive-in.
  My Dad asked the Dr. how high they would have to remove my leg...
  The Dr. said, we have a new procedure I'd like to try... it saved my leg
1971-1986, 29 and still living at home.