Long Hot Summer Days ... and Checkpoints

Guest writer, former Blanket regular, Davy Carlin, within a further installment of life growing up in West Belfast. 

My mum had got married to my stepfather when I was about three years old. Seeing the pictures of the wedding with the women with long hair and the fellas with their side burns showed also a picture of that ‘mad’ seventies fashion. Although it must be said that it, and the Retro style have come back {although updated} which is followed closely by my wife Marie.

Also in those pictures are those of myself, a toddler in wee shorts and shirt standing at the doors of Corpus Christi Church with my mum, stepfather and surrounding family. The church is within the heart of the Murph and the now famous priest, Father Des Wilson, married them. Father Des Wilson had stood up to the Catholic Church hierarchy who were slowly becoming alienated from that working class estate. This due to their one sided approach in support of the Brit establishment. Des - a play was eventually made about his life - went on to establish essential social and educational programmes with others for the area. This while continuing his stance against the one sided Church authorities.

The summer days of the Murph at times where long and hot and at the weekends we would go for a drive over the border to some sea side destination with my Gran, and differing aunts and uncles at differing times. Getting out of the estate was also a breath of fresh air, metaphorically and well as literally speaking. I loved those trips and felt at ease without seeing those Brits and peelers all around the place. 

It was though on one of these trips that we did meet up with the Brits or in fact the Brits moved against us. I remember my Gran having been in the front seat and my uncle driving and I believe my aunt and another where in the back with me. My head was lazed against the window as I sat in the back on our way home, which was unusual for me, as I got carsick. Sometimes violently so, and therefore always had the window down, with many occasions my head leaning out of it. Then I heard my Gran say, ‘do you know something, I think that helicopter is following us’. I had not even noticed a helicopter, so I wound down the window as so to hear its rotors. With that the fresh air of the country embraced my lungs, far better I had thought than the smell of war and death.

‘Naa your imaging things’ came a reply. We travelled on, yet ten minutes later my Gran again said, ‘I am telling you that helicopter is following us.’ And in fact it was still on our tail. Maybe we were, as said, still though imaging things. I continued though to follow and trek it with my eyes, as we all now did. Yet it had begun to come closer and come lower until I could see the Brit within. Then it swooped down over us. It then went a few hundred metres in front of us, landed, and it doors opened and what looked like Brits jumped out aiming what looked like sub machine guns at our car. ‘Don’t be afraid son we will be ok’ my Gran said as she looked around at me. Those next to me tried to put my head on their lap as comfort – but I stayed upright, as I had wanted to watch. The Brits moved forward either side with their sub machine guns trained on my Gran and uncle. ‘Get the fuck out of the car’, as they banged and kicked at the vehicle. ‘You get out and open that fucking boot.’ One of the big Brits stared through the window at me now with his machine gun trained at me also. Now I felt scared and I put my head down for comfort. I heard a number of thuds, and the hateful, foul and brutal language directed towards my relatives. I closed my eyes and put my fingers in my ears as I thought that if I was to be shot, to die, that I did not want to hear the shots. Although having heard shots on a regular basis echoing within the Murph and the surroundings areas, I nevertheless never quite got used to it as others seemingly had done.

‘It’s ok love’ as a comforting hand shook my head. I opened my eyes, we were alive.

Once everybody was back in the car we set off on our way. As I looked out the back window of our car I watched the Brits get back into their helicopter. With that I said softly to myself, ‘youse black Bastards’ while still following them with my eyes. (This name was called to the peelers because of the dark uniforms they wore, but as kids they were all the same to us, Brits and Peelers alike). I had only said it softly as I feared a clip around the ear for using bad language, yet in hindsight I believe I may have actually got away with it that day. The irony at that time had not yet dawned on me - a Black kid uttering those words. It did not dawn on me yet as I had not yet been directed entirely to my ‘difference’. That would take time, with the help of the racist brutality directed towards me by such instruments of the state. Oh yeah, they would remind me ok, with regularity, and many of them would take pleasure in doing so. Only then would I become fully aware of my ‘difference’. Then I would be driven by hatred and defiance into arming myself with childhood weaponry, bricks, bottles catapults etc. With already also witnessing the brutality being dished out to loved ones and friends, such actions would then bring forth a ‘violent’ reaction into a once passive kid.

‘Jesus H Christ I am going to be late for work’. The voice was so loud it had awoken me from my slumber and it came from a young man who was impeccably dressed in a suit and tie with a small brief case on his lap. I sat up straight in the Black Hack of 2004. I was still stuck in a traffic jam and only half way down the Rock just before St Thomas’s school. ‘Had a wee sleep there luv’ an elderly woman enquired, ‘Aye, I’m shattered’ I replied. ‘What’s the holdup’? It’s the police luv checking for tax discs and stuff’. ‘I know you’d think they would have something better to do with their time’, replied the guy who was urgently seeking to get to work and getting increasingly irritated. I sat back again and looked over to my right at the graveyard and the Falls Park. I remember in the seventies that there had been an open-air swimming pool there but it was eventually shut down, before I had really got the full benefit of it.


  1. That swimming pool in the Falls park was called the "cooler" Davy and for good reason ,it was always fucking freezing, and all sorts of things floated in it, believe me a cara ya missed nothing, the yarn about the road block will stir many memories among many here who have had the pleasure of such experiences on dark lonely country roads, I for one can still taste the SLR rifle barrels,happy days eh!good post.

  2. Davy Carlin-

    Enjoyed reading that-

    Some-things I will never miss-some
    i cant do without but the brit army checkpoints is one that I was glad to see the back off although there was no or very little media coverage given to this fact-

    Heard a brit army officer crying on the news tonight because he is going to lose thousands of more soldiers to budget cuts-
    "but how are we going to fight the next war" he complained-aye the next one-despite is army losing their last few wars he still wanted another one to be beat in-

    Some of the precious here cant even handle just police patrols now-lot of good they would have been back in the day-

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Davy.

    Its funny how things pop into peoples minds, even just looking at a Photograph. I used to keep a Diary In early 70s, Then our house was raided, Myself and younger brother were not at home and as we sat and watched in from a safe distance further down the street , but on the otherside from a friends window, now we both new my da would not be up yet, 15 minutes later theres my da and another younger brother being dragged down the passage and a special branch guy bringing out a rifle, it was under my da's mattress!, they both got one hell of a beating, that's one thing that keeps popping into my mind, and ,who was the tout. But memories from the past never leave us, especially from the troubles era, some memories have to be kept closed and private . But , The first thing I done when it was okay to go back to the house was, get my hidden diary and burn it, now for a good laugh, I can't remember one thing which was written in it!.

  4. trust our luck Michaelhenry that the only war the clown won was here

  5. michaelhenry:

    "Some of the precious here cant even handle just police patrols now-lot of good they would have been back in the day"

    Aye Michael , the same patrols who lifted some of your own, Latest being Mr Downey, WHO SUPPORTS THE ot Fuck All. You have to wise up Michael and see the big picture, Britain has now decided that "SF" are expendable , Britain has done what the are good at, "Use and Abuse", No what I mean Michael? , If you don't, I apologise for saying this, You are one hell of a moron, you have to take the blinkers of, the road is never that straight.

  6. Anthony ,itsjustmackers c,mon lads ease of on Mickeybroy ,he,s on a long journey,down the yellow brick road.

  7. Michaelhenry

    my days would be dull without you

  8. Ah, the memories of RUC/Brit roadblocks, these fucker's detaining you under EPA/PTA and asking you for your drivers licence, the bastards got well annoyed when, as a young student I realised the difference between the Road Traffic Order(s) and emergency legislation and refused to provide said document, they're at it again today.
    MH, back in the day is not so long past, I met some brit's in Fermanagh just a couple of year's ago.

  9. Menace-

    "I met some brit's in Fermanagh just a couple of years ago"-

    Were they on a fishing holiday with some French friends-

    Now I know why there are so many police about these few days-its to stop all the locals from hugging O'bama-

    Security threat my arse-