Saturday, 16 April 2011

Piano Man. Oh Brother.

Half past three.

I climbed the metal staircase on the outside of the building, the only means by which to get to the upstairs classrooms. All the other boys had left for home, all except for the privileged four, we were the 'talented ones', the four who would get free piano lessons with the 'music brother' after school finished.

He always had treats for us, oranges or bananas, what luxuries for kids from 'the island', exotic wonders to seven year olds from probably the poorest area in a drab 60's Limerick.

He sat me on his lap while 'Muddy McCarthy' did his scales, peeling the orange and teasing me with the segments. I misheard his question as "are you wearing other pants". Why would I be wearing 'other pants'? It was only years later, when the memory of those lessons raised it's ugly head, a memory I must have pushed, wrapped, tied with the string of childhood guilt and hidden in the far reaches of my mind, that I realised he was talking about underpants.

I loved that piano. Loved playing the scales, loved it when I played my first simple tune for the other Brothers who came to see how his pupils were progressing.

'See the monkey on a stick, he can do a clever trick'.

"He really loves his piano pupils" one brother would always say. And I think we really believed that he did.

'Muddy' committed suicide before he was twenty.

To this day I cannot put a finger to the keys without seeing his face, his thick black wavy hair, the dandruff on his soutane, the hairy knuckles.

"Are you wearing other pants?"


  1. I was just lucky I guess but I was never exposed to these things growing up and was well into my 20's before I'd even become aware of it.
    Like Jayne said....

  2. I guess that's also answered why you cannae play a single note on the recorder as well.

    Here's to Muddy McCarthy, and all those who didn't finish the journey.

  3. I hope you've found ways of getting rid of the unjustified sense of guilt

  4. It was only in recent years when writing about my childhood that I remembered being given a piggy back by an older local boy. I was about five. The experience had been stuffed down in my sub-conscious, like a pair of dirty socks and I didn't write about it. This post brought it back.

  5. It's astonishing that this sort of thing went on unchecked for what seems like a millennium! My God! How did they get away with it for so long? Times are changing, though.

  6. (Sighs and shakes head sadly)

    There is a special place in Hell for adults who take advantage of children...even for making them feel uncomfortable with inappropriate words.

    I'm glad you and music embraced each other. :)

  7. I've no experience with anything like this... and so can only say I am thankful you've turned out to be such a wonderful, warm-hearted, in tune kinda guy. xoxoxo

  8. Oh, Map..... so sorry, dear Map.

  9. Jaysus Christmas....
    great but very sad wee story
    Dark days for such a wean..
    I raise a wee glass tae Muddy
    cheers mate..

  10. my dear map - much to my sorrow and dismay, it seems that the phrase "suffer the little children" takes on a literal life of its own within the "church" - this story you share with us, such a beautiful testament to your own strength and goodness - and as jimmy said, here's to muddy mccarthy and all the others who didn't finish the journey - wishing all peace and love -


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