Prayed for the Sun to Rise

Guest writer Davy Carlin returns to begin the second part of his reflections on what it was like for a young black child growing up in West Belfast during troubled times.

It wasn’t until the year of 2012 that I had decided to return in such in-depth thought to my early years, and of growing up in West Belfast. It was in that year that I had found myself standing at the bottom of the Rock outside that bookmakers waiting for a Black Hack to arrive, and with that, I thought.

I thought of my life to date, and I again thought that if someone had wanted to live a life in which they could get to experience all the human emotions available, then this would be the life chosen.

And I further thought that it may only be that of life’s circumstance chosen and the time and place of such, which would be pre written in that regard.

And so with that, I looked up the Rock and my mind again went back to the 1970’s.

I felt my mums comforting hand and seen my kin but babes in arms with my stepfather, yet I could sense the fear around as we walked the dark and dangerous streets of the West Belfast of the 70’s.

It was the early hours of the morning and circumstances had meant us having to make our way back home to our Lower Falls home.

And while my parents were doing their best to attempt to reassure and comfort us, I could also see the packed car following us, watching us, maybe searching out their prey.

It was the time of the Shankill Butchers, a brutal loyalist sectarian gang who would roam Catholic areas armed with butcher knives, cleavers and such, and would snatch, torture, mutilate and literally gut their innocent victims throats almost through to the spine. 

And although we were to later learn it was in a Black Hack that they snatched their victims into, the thought, and so the absolute fear – of what if it was them and what would be done to us, created as a powerful emotion/feeling and reaction within {and so around} as any such that I had then felt to date.

Yet we all did make it home that night alive wherein we barricaded ourselves indoors and prayed in the ways of old for the - sun to rise. 

And so, I removed the thoughts and so the fear of those days and returned to the present as I looked back up the Rock. With that, I again thought of the Murph, and of the massacre of innocence that had taken place there.

I thought also of the eleven innocent civilians who were murdered by the British Parachute Regiment in 1971 – known as the Ballymurphy massacre - with the families still seeking truth and justice today for those terrible events. 

So much death, so much suffering, so much fear. 

Now in the distance I had seen a Black Hack approaching, but for a brief moment amongst the many going about their daily life I had also seen a local Chinese kid and a local black kid with local white kids – all friends on their way up to play football in the park. And at the same time going across the Road on the other side was an African family, while further down the road a black and white couple held hands – and with that I smiled. 

Then the taxi pulled up and stopped and I got in and saw that three people sat in the back, a couple maybe in their 30’s and a younger black guy, which seen us nodding to each other, as I have found that that is the black thing to do. Maybe it is just through politeness that we do this or maybe it is an acknowledgement of something that bonds us deeper. 

And so as I settled into my shared seat I glimpsed out the window on the left of me and to several large houses being refurbished. I thought briefly how until quite recently these houses were left empty like thousands of empty houses and buildings that can be seen our society over while we have thousands of homeless citizens. I also thought of the many losing and being evicted from their homes as the greed of the profiteers evermore ascended above the needs of the people. And I further thought as to how those houses were part of a list some of us were drawing up across the city of Belfast not that long ago, to be occupied and opened to those in need.

But in time, larger buildings were agreed and occupation was done in the name of need and not greed, and with that I smiled, and began once again to laze my head against the window. 

Indeed we were now on our way down the Falls Road and I was going back to my roots, back to my early years – and so as my eyes again closed, my mind then started to drift back – back to West Belfast 1970’s style – and back to that little black afro kid and to the Lower Falls at War ...

1 comment:

  1. Davy, Lenny Henry had a story about the friendly, reassuring nod between black people in London. He was outside Buckingham Palace and he noticed the guard on duty was a black man so he nodded. Then he remembered that the guards of the palace are meant to show no change in expression or composure and decided the guy wouldn't nod back. He was right for a while. But after a long pause and when people turned briefly away and looked elsewhere the guard gave him a quick nod.

    Felt the fear with your description of the Shankill Butchers. It really hit home how terrifying these scum were.