Thursday, June 19, 2014

Black and White and Denial All Over - Part 5

See Part 1 here

See Part 2 here
See Part 3 here
See Part 4 here

I'm now going to get personal on how the abusive nature of all this patriarchal priestarchy has affected me and my entire life.

BTW - Priestarchy is a term used in a book I'm just finishing up - House of Hate by Percy Janes. I truly can't believe how so much of this book resonated with me. But those reflections are for another time or post.

My father's eldest sister, here I'll call her Elizabeth, was a brilliant woman, a pianist of some local renown when her aspirations were smothered by her mother who had an all consuming belief, fostered by the RC church, that a life on the stage was akin to prostitution. E was thrust into service at the local manse which was headed by a widower, the protestant minister of their town. Encouraged by the reverend, Elizabeth resumed her piano playing and tutorials and the gods smiled and the minister and Elizabeth fell in love despite their age-gap of nearly 30 years.

In the Ireland of 1924 this whole affair had to be kept under wraps. Even for the week after they were secretly married in a little village protestant church many miles from their town, E continued going home every night just as before while the minister arranged a transfer to the North of Ireland. She never said goodbye to her family, she just left for work as usual on their day of departure and took the train from her town to Bangor in Co. Down with her beloved.

When the truth of what had happened hit the family, my grandmother immediately held a wake for her daughter and declared her dead to the family and forbade anyone to mention her name in the house again. An order that only ended on her death in 1958. 34 years of bitterness and estrangement. Her husband, my grandfather, never recovered from the loss of his favourite child, my aunt, and died "broken-hearted" seven years later in 1931.

But more was to come. As they sat in their customary 5th pew of the huge RC church of their town the following Sunday after E had fled with her husband, they were assaulted from the pulpit by the roars of the local parish priest who denounced the family for having "harboured a harlot", and my father, the head altar boy, was removed from his position forthwith. My grandfather, to his credit, marched the whole family out of the church before the mass was over and they did not attend services in that particular church ever again but walked 5 miles every Sunday to a small village church.

You can only imagine the ripple effect this had on my family of birth which continues on to this day.

See Part 6


  1. This sounds so familiar to me in the sense that religion, and the godawful ties that bind people to their particular brand, causes an awful lot of harm and I fail to see much of the soothing qualities that the man Jesus so fervently preached. Quite the contrary. I am sure that he did not have any of this in mind. I shudder at the thought of this kind of brotherly love.

  2. This resonates from my side of the divide - the ( protestant ) Church of Ireland. As late as the 60s my teenage sister was harangued by my aunt for visiting her in Belfast and not telling her the friend she brought with her was catholic. Thankfully my parents were not cut from the same bigoted cloth and we all went on to marry catholics, South Koreans, even English people!

  3. in my experience religion causes so much pain and suffering. it does lend itself to this kind of interpretation and practice by disgusting bigots, and gullible frightened congregations. i have no time for formal religions. ann mcgee.

  4. How family does it's things with us. What happened to your Aunt was probably typical for the time there, then.
    I can't imagine the mind set it must have taken to either do these thing to women, or for women to tolerate it.
    I hope in your country, and in mine, we've changed, and that change will endure.
    I'm sorry.

  5. I have followed your series with interest and a heavy heart for so much pain and suffering for generations for no reasons other than to benefit and perpetuate a male hierarchy. Your personal narrative makes the story all the more compelling. Thank you for helping me better understand....


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