- THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS , THE CRUISER, A POSER AND SWEET FANNY ADAMS by Donal Kennedy
From September 1948 to June 1957 I went to St Fintan’s CBS, then on the Burrow Rd, Sutton, Co Dublin.
I was first in the Primary,and then in Secondary when I did my Inter Cert.
As I lived near Howth Summit I used catch the Hill of Howth Tram down to the Railway Station, beside the sea and walk to the school, a mile away, whose main playground was the sandy beach, which everyone who spoke English called the Strand.
During the later 50s I used be sat opposite an adult passenger whose nose was forever in a book or other documents.I never heard him speak to or with anybody. There were schoolboys and schoolgirls, Catholic and Protestant on the tram, some, like myself going to St Fintan’s.
The Quiet Man was Conor Cruise O’Brien, much of whose work I still enjoy. There is no doubt but he was a learned intellectual. But he knew Sweet Fanny Adams about the Christian Brothers, yet he committed his ignorance to print.
That ignorance has been relayed to others by Roy Foster, who writes fine prose, but whose pose as an historian of stature is challenged by more erudite and fastidious authorities.
I quote the Cruiser/Foster line –
“For a significant minority of Irishmen.. the Manichean picture offered by the ChristianBrothers…of wicked Protestant England oppressing virtuous Catholic Ireland, had anenduring appeal. But for most Irish Catholics, at the beginning of the second date of our century, it clearly didn’t fit the modern realities they knew….
“All in all, most Irish Nationalists in 1914 must have been reasonably satisfied with Home Rule – with partition- and within the Empire,or they would not have reacted as they did to the British declaration of war against Imperial Germany. The fact that the occasion of war was German aggression against a small Catholic nation – Belgium – helped the emotional climate, but it could not have been decisive had not been the mood of nationalist Ireland…been favourable, on the whole, to Britain. Inside any given nationalist,there must have been,as it were, a little Christian Brother, screaming to be let out, and he is screaming to be let out, and he is still at large” (O’Brien, Ancestral Voices , 1994, p94 -5)
Compare this Balderdash with my BLOG Schools of Violence, Brothers and Arms .
In 1956 when Britain, France and Israel were launching their attack on Israel (Stringing up “terrorists”in various places, and bombing them to smithereens in others) Mr Khruschev whose troops were putting downa revolt in Hungary, warned that he could drop nuclear bombs on Britain. A Christian Brother, a decent man was shocked by Khruschev’s reminder, but was apparently not concerned for the victims of Western aggression.
I said nothing, but silently gave one cheer for the Soviet Brute.
Another Christian Brothers boy, Tariq Ali, wrote that his Irish Christian Brother teachers in Lahore were pro-British as against Pro-Egypt .
On a happier note there is a film “ONCE UPON A TRAM” shot in colour just before the Hill of Howth Tramwas withdrawn in 1959. It has a narration by Cyril Cusack and it is a beautiful film.
It is great contrast to the Beal Bocht/Angela’s Ashes/Fintan O’Toole Misery Memoir and you can see it on YOUTUBE