Their recollection of the matches is hazy; the fun stayed with them. Michael Culbert elected to skip the Ulster final so he could go on a hostel tour of Ireland with his girlfriend. He was dropped for the semi-final and came on as a substitute. But I was back in for the final. They knew of other players by reputation or by what they read in the newspaper. The coverage was smaller so imagination took over. That evening, they were entitled to predict a heady few years.
But it never worked out that way. Others faded out of sight. Liam Boyle spent two decades in Seattle and has only recently returned home.
Billy Millar made a life in Canada. Jimmy Mullan disappeared entirely. Michael Culbert became a social worker and, ultimately a Republican activist who served 16 years in prison. I am named after my grandfather who never came home from the first war.
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And my uncle Jack lived in Bombay Street and was burnt out of it. He had one arm — he lost the other in the first world war. So it is not as if I was raised in a Republican cauldron. But my politics evolved and probably climaxed in Bloody Sunday.
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Accumulatively, people come to their own conclusions about stuff. And I came to mine. I was a social worker, my wife a school teacher when I went to jail. I was no victim of circumstance. But the only thing we had in common on that team is that we were playing Gaelic football. What was happening was never part of our conversation.
We just played. Out of their skins. And when the whistle blew in Croke Park, on September 14th, Antrim were champions of Ireland; a good news story at the end of a disturbing summer, a young team with it all ahead of them until, magically, inevitably, 50 years slipped by. Andy McCallin is already sitting in the social club in Casement Park when the others arrive. Raymond, who runs the bar, has served up coffee, a plate of kitkats, bakewell tarts.
The former team-mates are meeting up to try and make sense of what they achieved that summer. McCann and Boyle are still greyhound-slender, McCallin retains the efficient, elusive movement and Killough looks fresh-faced even if they are all in and around a landmark 70th year. In the empty lounge, the voices merge.
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And we beat them by a point. So he came up with: Street Lighting in Belfast. Other than that, it was like any game. There was never any pressure or tension that you see in teams now. But in all seriousness: what was ahead of me on the field. Ye were bloody good footballers. That was obvious, One of the papers said we were favourites for the final.
He was one of the best players to ever take a field, I thought. He had red hair and the quiff. Loved Elvis. He was very quick. He was very sharp. When you were a kid the big ambition was to play in Casement. You can still see the floodlights as you approach the park but inside, it has become an eerie skeleton of a football stadium. It must be the loneliest place in Belfast. The posts and nets are gone, the yellow bucket seats gone and the field turned to knee-high weeds and strictly speaking, the field is out of bounds: boarded up and off limits.
But anyway, Killough was tremendous. There was one particular save in the last few minutes of the game where he caught a ball in the square and next thing: bang. He was on the ground. I ran onto the field and he just looked up at me as if to say: I am taking a rest. So the ball was cleared out and who gets it but Earley. They had a free very late on. The referee said: this is the last kick. He emphasised it. And it just went wide. People went.
And that feeling never left me. It did Antrim good. Could it have been more? The team was, Andy McCallin thinks now, unusual. The way things had gone, it looked as if we were going to win more. The following summer, five of the side were on the Antrim senior team that made it to the Ulster final.
Gerry McCann remembers Eamon Grieve ripping into them for laughing and joking as they got off the bus in Clones. The lightness was all they knew. There was something stirring in the city game in the early part of the decade. The county won further Ulster U titles in and It was clear that there was latent talent scattered around the city and county.
Assembling them remained a problem.
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Jimmy Ward was managing the senior team around then. A killing nearby — a ladder used to gain entry to an upstairs window — convinced them that it was time to move. Still no response. He moves closer about 20 feet. She replied,. Murphy goes into the confessional box after years of being away from the Church. He pulls aside the curtain, enters and sits himself down. And on the wall a fine photographic display of various women who appear to have misplaced their garments. He hears a priest come in. Paddy Irishman checks into a hotel for the first time in his life and goes up to his room.
How do I leave? An Irishman, an Englishman and Julia Roberts were sitting together in a carriage in a train. Suddenly the train went through a tunnel and as it was an old style train, there were no lights in the carriages and it went completely dark. Then there was a kissing noise and the sound of a really loud slap.
When the train came out of the tunnel, Julia Roberts and the Irishman were sitting as if nothing had happened and the Englishman had his hand against his face as he had been slapped there. Paddy and Joseph were walking home from Mulligans Irish bar on Halloween night. Right in the middle of the cemetery, they were startled by a tap-tap-tapping noise coming from the misty shadows. Trembling with fear, they found an old man with a hammer and chisel, chipping away at one of the headstones.
Paddy walks into a bar and asks for ten shots of the establishments finest single malt scotch. An Italian lawyer and an Irishman are sitting next to each other on a long flight. The lawyer is thinking that Irishmen are so dumb that he could put something over on them easily…So the lawyer asks if the Irishman would like to play a fun game.
The Irishman is tired and just wants to take a nap, so he politely declines and tries to catch a few winks. The lawyer asks the first question. The next week, they met again in the pub and talked about their prizes. Declan extolled the pleasures of his smooth Irish whisky, while Mick reported that the turkey was the most delicious he had ever tasted Seamus looked rather glum when asked about the toilet brush.
If you enjoy these you will love the others here. An elderly woman walked into the Bank of Ireland one morning with a purse full of money. She wanted to open a savings account and insisted on talking to the president of the Bank because, she said, she had a lot of money.
The president of the Bank asked her how much she wanted to deposit. The president was curious and asked her how she had been able to save so much money. The elderly woman replied that she made bets. The president started to laugh and told the woman that it was impossible to win a bet like that. She favors practical clothing, usually black, and has never been one for a night at the pub.
Those headaches and anxiety attacks, though, remain a part of her withdrawn life. Aidan, her husband, has become accustomed to attending wakes and weddings by himself. A few years ago, he booked a Mediterranean cruise for two; he traveled alone. But thoughts of the dead children of Tuam pushed Catherine beyond her fears. Adding to her fury was the knowledge that when a Tuam hospital run by the Bon Secours closed in , the religious order disinterred the bodies of a dozen nuns and reinterred them in consecrated ground outside the nearby pilgrimage town of Knock.
Seeing no other option, she contacted a reporter for The Irish Mail on Sunday, a national newspaper. Not long after, in the spring of , a front-page story appeared about a certain seven acres in Tuam. She was, after all, only a housewife. Mary Moriarty was getting her light-blond hair done at a salon in Tuam one day when the beauty-parlor chatter turned to this troublemaker Catherine Corless. The entire matter should be forgotten and put behind us , someone said. Mary, a grandmother well known in town for her advocacy work, would have none of it. Well , she said.
Every child is entitled to their name, and their mothers could be any one of us but for the grace of God. She left the salon, introduced herself by telephone to Catherine, and recounted a story that she rarely shared. In , Mary was a young married mother living in one of the new subsidized houses built on the old mother and baby home property. One morning, close to Halloween, a neighbor told her that a boy was running about with a skull on a stick. The boy, Martin, said he had found his prize in the overgrown muck, and there were loads more. What the boy mistook for a plastic toy was actually the skull of a child, with a nearly complete set of teeth.
Mary and a couple of neighbors followed the boy through the weeds and rubble, across the soft wet ground. Suddenly, the earth beneath her feet began to give, and down she fell into some cave or tunnel, with just enough light to illuminate the subterranean scene. As far as she could see were little bundles stacked one on top of another, like packets in a grocery, each about the size of a large soda bottle and wrapped tight in graying cloth.
What had she seen? That very morning, she reached out to a person in town who might know. Soon a stout older woman arrived on a bicycle, her faithful dogs trotting by her side. Julia bent down at the hole and peered in. Mary did not know what to make of this. Perhaps these were the bodies of stillborns — and therefore unbaptized. Eighteen months after falling into the hole, Mary gave birth to her son Kevin at a Tuam hospital run by the Bon Secours sisters.
After breakfast, a nun presented her with her newborn, who was swathed like a little mummy. The veteran geophysicist guided her mower-like contraption over the thick grass, back and forth across a carefully measured grid. Equipped with ground-penetrating radar, the machine sent radio waves through the topsoil and down into the dark earth. The curious machine was hunting for secrets concealed in the ground of the old mother and baby home, all beneath the gaze of a statue of the Blessed Virgin. Its charge: to examine a once-accepted way of Irish life in all its social and historical complexity.
The high infant mortality rate in some of these facilities was startling. In the Bessborough home in Cork, children died from to — or about one death every two weeks.
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The apparent coercion of unmarried mothers to surrender their children for adoption, often to Catholic Americans. The vaccine trials carried out on mother-and-baby-home children for pharmaceutical companies. The use of home-baby remains for anatomical study at medical colleges. It was all part of a church-state arrangement that, decades earlier, a longtime government health inspector named Alice Litster had repeatedly denounced, mostly to silence. The Tuam case incited furious condemnation of a Catholic Church already weakened by a litany of sexual abuse scandals.
Others countered that the sisters of Bon Secours had essentially been subcontractors of the Irish state. But laying the blame entirely on the church or the state seemed too simple — perhaps even too convenient.
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After all, many of these abandoned children had fathers and grandparents and aunts and uncles. The bitter truth was that the mother and baby homes mirrored the Mother Ireland of the time. As its investigation continued, the commission would occasionally provide cryptic updates of its work in Tuam. While she waited for the commission to complete its work, the woman responsible for this national self-examination, Catherine Corless, returned in a way to those days when her children and the children of neighbors packed the house.
Only now the ones gathering about her were in their 60s and 70s, with hair of silver. Often lost in the uproar over the many children who died at the Tuam home were the stories of those who had survived. Catherine assumed the role of pro bono private detective, following paper trails that often led to some cemetery in England, where many unmarried mothers had gone to start anew.
Before long, some of these survivors were gathering at the Corless house for a cup of tea and a chat. In their habits and manners of speech, they reminded Catherine of someone close to her who also had been born out of wedlock.
They feel a bit inferior to other people. It mirrored, really, the way my mother was. During her research, Catherine had built a detailed, wood-and-clay model of the home, large enough to cover a dining-room table. It had helped her to visualize. Now she and Aidan would occasionally remove the model from a high shelf in the barn out back so that survivors could do the same.
They would touch the gray walls and peer into the small windows, as if to imagine themselves in the arms of their mothers. Haverty, a retired mechanic, sat at the Corless kitchen table one day, sipping tea and eating a ham-and-butter sandwich. He was born in , the son of a year-old woman who had been left at the home by her father when she was eight months pregnant. Eileen was her name, and she seemed to vanish a year after giving birth. The white-haired man remembers only a few snapshot moments of the home. Wetting the bed mattresses that would then be propped against the window to dry.
Walking out the door with his new foster parents, the father choosing him because he looked sturdy for farm work, the mother because he had smiled at her. Thanks to a hint dropped here, a secret whispered there, P. After leaving the Tuam home, she had taken a cleaning job at a nearby hospital and, for more than five years, returned every week to demand that she be given back her child — only to be turned away at the door.
I want to look after him. The ground-penetrating radar and delicate excavation had revealed what appeared to be a decommissioned septic tank. The Corless household, meanwhile, became an international newsroom, with family members fielding the constant telephone calls and accommodating the television crews forever at the door. Catherine answered every question out of duty, not vanity.
There was her ever-present anxiety, which now limited her driving to little more than weekly five-mile runs to the SuperValu grocery in Tuam. More than that, she feared being accused of self-aggrandizement at the expense of dead children. With her family all but demanding that she accept — I magine how many home-baby survivors, suffering in silence, might be reached — Catherine reluctantly consented, but only if she would already be seated when the program returned from a commercial break.
She did not want to be summoned from the curtain to unwanted applause. Aidan drove her into Galway City to buy an outfit: black pants and a black top, of course, brightened slightly with a silver trim. Then up to Dublin. I have to do it. When she finished telling the story of the Tuam home on live television , the audience rose in what the host described as a very rare standing ovation. Catherine nodded, smiled slightly, tightly, and exhaled. Watching on a monitor in an adjacent room, her husband fought back tears. Photographs of grandchildren adorn the tan walls.
A silver kettle rests on the stove. A laptop computer sits open on the counter, beside a window that looks out on a garden, a bird feeder and, beyond, an undulating field of grass. This is the kitchen of Catherine Corless, and her office. She conducts her online research here, and keeps assorted documents on the kitchen table for easy retrieval when yet another call comes in. Can you help me find my mother, my sister, my… She never refuses. The future of the Tuam grounds that her questioning disturbed has yet to be revealed.
The government is grappling with many complexities, including the sad fact that the remains of infants and children, the Marys and Patricks, the Bridgets and Johns, are commingled. One option is to leave everything as is. Another is to disinter the remains for possible identification and proper burial — although it is unclear whether DNA evidence can be recovered from those who died so young, and so long ago.