Moving to our new home in Trasnaway was a new adventure for me. I had got to know most of the people who lived around me in Union Street but i did not really know very many in Trasnaway. One of the outstanding features in it was the small green right in front of our house, number 26. I had loved kicking a ball as early as i can remember and here right in front of my door was a football pitch.
The small green was not designed for that purpose but that is what it was being used for. Around the corner in Russell drive there was a much larger green where there was another street team and we would challenge each other to see who the best street team was. These matches were taken seriously and you always went home with more bruises on your shins than you left home with.
Football was the thing in my life that i loved most at the start of my teens. I was the goalkeeper in the Carrick primary school team that won the Belfast Telegraph Cup. Apparently this was the FA cup for primary schools at that time. We were invited to the Mayors Parlour and had our photos taken with the Mayor, i think his name was Mr Gordon. It was made a big deal because as far as i can remember this was the first time that this prestigious cup had entered into mid Ulster. Up until now its home had been in the Belfast area.
I think the final was in Shamrock Park in Portadown and as far as i can remember the team we beat was from the Falls Road in Belfast. I was so nervous that i felt sick. All of my memories about that day are special except one; neither my mum nor my dad was there to watch me play. The other boys had parents or family members cheering them on but there was silence in my corner.
Looking back there was hardly ever a time that i can remember my dad doing very much with me. I can remember him taking me out hunting with him a few times but that is it. I have no memory of him ever kicking a ball with me. One of the times he did take me out hunting was unforgettable. It was a Sunday morning and he had not fully sobered up from the night before.
He decided it would be a good idea to get some rabbits for the dinner so he saddled up our Greyhound Ferret and off we went. As i said earlier we had no car so we proceeded to walk a couple of miles out of the town and into the countryside to find some rabbits. Eventually we found a field that had a hedge row full of rabbit holes, we covered as many of the holes that we could with the nets that we had carried with us, put the Ferret down one of the holes and waited expectantly for dinner to run out and tangle itself in a net.
This was my first time Ferreting, the other times that my dad had taken me out with him he had brought his shot gun. I loved going out with him shooting but it was more important to me than it was to him, hence it did not happen very often. I was unsure what to expect, so i waited for something exciting to happen. Eventually something exciting did happen but it was not what i expected.
I do not know how long we had waited for a rabbit to bolt out of the hole and into the net but it was not happening. My dad then explained to me the science of ferreting for rabbits. He had apparently forgotten to feed the Ferret before we left home and because the Ferret was hungry he said that it had probably killed a rabbit in the hole and decided that it was going to be for his dinner and not ours.
He then sent me to find stones and remove the nets from the holes and replace them with the stones. After we had blocked up most of the holes he proceeded to light a fire in one of the holes, the scientific explanation, smoke the hungry boy out. Most of the holes were surrounded by thick dry wind bushes. Surprise surprise, the wind bushes caught fire and in seconds there was thick smoke and flames everywhere. The science lesson in effective Ferreting was put on hold and a lesson in athletics took its place. The instructions were not complicated at all, they were run and don’t stop.
I could hardly run for laughing, here was this short little man wearing wellington boots that looked too big for his feet, half drunk and carrying a pile of rabbit nets in one hand and a Ferret box in the other sprinting up this field before the farmer could get a hold of him. There were not many funny moments like that in the years to come.
I did not settle in well to my new school in Lurgan Boys Junior High School. During my first year i was introduced to the subjects of French, Latin and German. I hated all three with a passion and made very little effort to take them seriously as something that i need to learn. I became more and more unruly in and out of the class room. I had my fair share of disrupting the classes and fighting with the other boys.
One of the best beatings i received at the school was not from another boy but a teacher. We were waiting to get into the science lab and i noticed that inside a small rubbish bin outside the adjacent biology lab someone had put UN hatched eggs. I thought it would be a good idea to put a couple of them into the blazer pocket of the boy in front of me and break them as we entered the class room.
When the teacher opened the door i pushed passed the boy in front of me, breaking the eggs in his pocket. The stink in the class room was unbelievable. The teacher thought someone had let of a stink bomb and he went into psycho mode. He demanded that whoever had let the stink bomb off come up to the front or else the whole class was going to get detention.
At that moment the boy with the broken eggs in his pocket discovered that the smell was coming from him. He stood up, trying not to be sick and told the teacher what he had found in his blazer pocket. This particular teacher had naturally a very red complexion but now it looked like all the blood in his body had suddenly relocated to his bald head.
I did not think a man could scream like that but in this moment of uncontrollable anger his voice seemed to climb a couple of octaves. Verging on some sort of emotional melt down he demanded the culprit come forward or he would punish the whole class one by one. I could not let the others take a beating for something they had not done so i stood up and walked forward.
The silence in the classroom was unbelievable but it was the calm before the storm. Before being beaten i was called a number of things, most of them true. Then out came the tried and trusted Perspex ruler. I cannot remember how many times he hit my hand but i know he missed with the first two shots as i pulled my hand away in defiance. I do remember the pain and after a few direct hits my hand went numb. I think he probably wanted me to at least say sorry or as a bonus for him to break down and cry, but i denied him both. We small people can sometimes be stubborn.