Unlike most of my working-class forebears I'm not a regular drinker, having grown up with too much alcohol abuse in family circles - the refuge of the sad, the oppressed and addicted no-hopers, and the men who become monsters to their women and children.
What prevented the people from rising to their potential? The British Class system where the selfish gene is prominent, causing a continuous battle between the greedy capitalists like the Dublin Councillor slum lords who over decades avoided spending their money to maintain decent habitation for their tenants who paid the rent. Illiteracy, alcoholism, disease before antibiotics, are all typical living conditions of the people of my DNA.
No wonder they spent a lot of time in the pubs rather than their one and two room hovels - even today, there's a fire burning, Irish fiddles playing and when I taste my first sip of Jameson's whiskey there's magic in me, and my surroundings, and the rain outside is a picture of contented detachment, and everyone inside is in good spirits.
I contemplate the uncovering of family history and how shocked I was that my Irish relatives were not Republican rebel activists, but fighting for the English!
I was born in Birmingham, but for some unconscious reason and ignorance, my passion and sympathy always sided with the Irish who wanted to be free of the British.
When I was 11years old, the Birmingham pub bombings went off.
Mum was on a date in the city.
It was terror terrible, seeing it on the news, alone, my sisters upstairs asleep and knowing Mum might be in the middle of all that mayhem, but he was a responsible chap, John and put her in a taxi home, and I didn't have too long to worry. Even so I always felt there was a bigger story than what was being reported; this was a consequence or revenge to some injustices over there. Gerry Adams was banned from the BBC, the IRA were terrorists and I had to have my bag searched at the children's library in the city.
It didn't help that the Police manufactured Guilt when truth and justice was all that was ever wanted. Why did I side with the under-dog? Was it the sense of injustice and cynicism passed on from my Mother, as a female, born Catholic and illegitimate in a different war? Or was it also because I perceived how her Mother looked strangely disapproving upon mum's personality, when she herself had spent a life containing secrets and sins?
Of course Society is to blame! Kathleen senior may have been born in a Glasgow slum, to drunken parents who spent time in a Mental Asylum, leaving her an orphan and always on her own, just like her daughter would feel - but she was able to re-invent herself by marrying the right man, creating superficial comfort and respectability .
Most importantly, Mr. and Mrs F educated their daughter into middle-class profession. This was progress.
Thankfully the stigma scarred souls of my Grandmother's era has gradually eroded with the advent of civil rights and feminist rationalism - no Secrets necessary anymore Nan(and Nan!).
|Justice facing Dublin Castle, her back to the People.|
They must have had some personal responsibility to provide for their family and joining the army was attractive in high unemployment. Rents were high in Dublin even compared to London. If they wanted to eat a bit more than their daily bread being pawns of the British Empire so be it.