Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Independence Indifference: Thoughts on the Easter Rising

By Des Farry

© Des Farry

On looking back at my school days, if I was asked the question ‘What did the Easter Rising mean to you?' the answer has to be not a lot or complete indifference as something which happened in Dublin and had nothing to do with us.

Outside of school the only influences and tenuous links with the Rising were an old man who tried unsuccessfully to sell copies of The United Irishman or Inniu (‘Today’, an Irish language paper) outside Church after Sunday Mass, a background low level IRA Border campaign conducted  by outsiders  with little local input which had largely petered out and occasional home visits from people selling leather goods and Celtic Crosses made by internees at Crumlin Road Prison to raise funds.

Our only contact with the actual events of the Easter Rising was when the film Mise Eire with music composed by Seán Ó Riada was released. We were all marched down to the County Cinema en masse to see it. It was followed by a couple of Gael Linn shorts.

The first was called Peil starring Christy Ring the Cork hurler demonstrating Hurling skills with commentary in Irish and greeted in silence. Nobody had any interest at all in Hurling and not a great deal in Irish either.

The second was Gaelic Greats which finally produced emotion, when Sean Purcell, the Galway footballer appeared on screen to be greeted with a loud chorus of boos. He was infamous in Tyrone for a very heavy unpunished tackle on County goalkeeper and local man Thaddy Turbitt. Gaelic Greats??? With no mention of Tyrone maestro Iggy Jones?? Ridiculous!!

Omagh was football country, soccer on Saturday night at The Showgrounds, Gaelic on Sunday at St. Enda’s.

So what did I take from the film session? It has to be the magnificent music from Mise Eire which has never been bettered.

Sculpture of the composer Seán Ó Riada in Cúil Aodha
Photo: Dlindod (Own work); licensed under CCA.

And about the content of the film?  Nothing at all, it was never mentioned again.

So why the indifference?  Looking back it was partly down to the History syllabus of the time. Although we followed both British and Irish history as separate subjects which frequently came together albeit from different viewpoints, the time period only extended from about 1485 to the early 19th century.

Also, the local economy in early 1960s Northern Ireland was booming with the production of man made fibres and goods being major new employers alongside existing large scale traditional shirt and clothing factories. Similarly, in services new opportunities were coming through its  own TV networks and music prowess.

High levels of emigration from the Republic underlined its failure and lack of attractiveness as a dull, backward place. The aspirations expressed in the Proclamation and the film Mise Eire did not match up with the reality on the ground.
Text © Des Farry

Des Farry comes originally from near Omagh in Northern Ireland and has lived in Greater Manchester for over 40 years. He has been writing since about age 15 (local notes for Ulster Herald). He has written or contributed to various published and internal non-fiction organisational professional guides and books on corporate finance plus a number of short stories for various competitions and the former Dublin Writers Site (Electric Acorn).

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