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This Man's Wee Boy

Tony Doherty
This Man's Wee Boy


From Moore Street, 1967-68

My father ('me da') was at the open front door, standing between me and the sunny street. He was smoking and he looked up and down the street while I stood behind him in the darkened hall with my homemade drum hanging from a cord around my neck. Earlier he had made holes in the sides of a square biscuit tin with a screwdriver to knot the cord through. I had a wooden stick in each hand.

The marching band was forming under the sun in the middle of the street, halfway between our house and McKinneys' across from us, mostly boys with one girl. Our instruments were sweet tins and biscuit tins; one had a family-size Heinz Beans tin. Some, like me, had their drums hanging around their necks; others just carried the tins in their hands. Our drumsticks were the kindling sticks used for lighting the fire in the house. The band gathered in the street, banging, clanging, clunking, raring to go.

As me da stood in the doorway the sound of a car could be heard coming to a quick stop at the bottom of the street.

'What are these cowboys at now?' said me da out loud to no one in particular. He stood down from the front step onto the street and I squeezed past him to join the band. At the bottom of the street two policemen got out of their car and one took a football from three older boys who had been playing there.

'Hi!' called me da, slowly making his way towards them. He had his beige shirtsleeves turned up as usual. 'Hi! What the hell are yous boys at there wi' them fellas?' He stopped about twenty yards away from them and then began walking towards them again more slowly.

The dark-uniformed policemen looked unsure of them­selves as he approached. The marching band stopped drum­ming. There was complete silence in the terraced street.

'The days of yous boys messing wains about are over. Give them back their ball and get the fuck from this street!'Me da was desperate with his temper when he started.

The policemen looked even more uncomfortable. The lanky one whispered something to the one with the ball in his hands, who promptly threw the ball back to the teenagers. None of them said anything.

Me da lowered his voice but you could hear him say, al­most in a whisper, 'Now fuck off into your fancy car and get the fuck out and don't come back here messin' people about.' He pointed with his thumb towards the end of the road as he spoke each word.