DAVY CARLIN: Fighting the Scoopie Monster

Guest writer Davy Carlin regales us with more of his story on growing up as a young child in a West Belfast scarred by political conflict.

And so with that, I shook off that thought {switched it}- and therefore shook off my growing anger – and returned to the very spot I was taxiing and to the late 70’s, and to the child at war. 

‘Yes, that’s it, step by step’, came the call.

‘Keep it going’ I said. 

This, as four of us kids, one at each corner carrying a large door, step by step, made our way down the Falls Road of the late 1970’s. 

We were collecting wood for our annual bonfire, a bonfire lit upon most streets of the Lower Falls at war. On this day though, I was helping to collect wood with a few mates from another street. They and others were dressed in jeans and bomber jackets or snorkel jackets, all the dress sense of the day. 

They were also some of those that had seen me at our local disco with my black face and afro hairdo with my arms around them – those white skin headed bomber jacketed kids of my childhood, going mental on the dance floor with me – good, fond and classic memories. 

And as we carried the door and other such wood I had thought of the derelict houses - casualties of war, in which we had got the door. I remembered standing on open rafters on the top floors looking up at open skies of what was once a roof, and then me dropping wood down to the floor level to be carried down the road. 

I then also briefly thought of my early teens {early 80’s} and Twinbrook, and of our back garden over spilling with ‘planked wood {hidden or out of sight wood}. Of those times when we would build huts amongst the wood, as we did within trees and even underground Viet Cong style in the then rural countryside of the Rise, as opposed to the lower urban Ghettoes of the Falls or the Murph.

I also remembered getting a ‘clique together {a group} when people had settees or beds or wardrobe units, or even wanted a whole house cleared – it all went on our bonfire. Yes, it was door to door we went with a huge trolley collecting wood, then to the forests for trees and then to the local tyre factories for tyres and wooden pallets. 

‘For fucks sake yee bollocks yee’ was the shout from one of us as an older teenage guy threw more wood onto the door we were carrying, and so had seen our legs buckle. 

‘For fucks sake take the wood off and stop acting a dick’ another teenage guy said to him, ‘what age do you think they are, their fucking bollocks haven’t even dropped yet’ – as he slapped him around the head and took the wood off. 

With this we had briefly put down the door and had made all sorts of hand gestures to the one chastised who was going off in a sulk – yes, this was the childhood urban ghetto way and no malice was meant for any quarter. It was also part and parcel of the solidarity and bond of war and so we would all soon be roasting spuds and toasting toast in a pre-bonfire bonfire singing rebel songs and getting wired into the Brits until the earliest hours of the morn. 

And so as we ambled with our door on our way down the Falls another older guy came past with a door on his back, walking with ease. Then behind him was another guy of similar age with a similar door, but with the bottom of the door trailing on the ground behind him, with the sweat lashing off him. 

I mention this as this is one moment of those numerous occasions during my childhood war days that did indeed bring a smile to my face, and it is good to throw in some humorous moments. 

It is also one of those times that show the immediate switching of my emotions. 

So, as the guy came past us lashing with sweat with his face almost touching the ground there was a kid of about our age sitting with his backside in a groove in the middle of the door while his feet were within the groove at the bottom of the door to balance himself. 

With that, he was munching on chips which were wrapped in newspaper, and he just smiled and gives us the thumbs up as he went past. 

Well, we went into a buckle with laughter and this was further intensified when the guy carrying the door realised what was happening, dropped the door, and then ran after the younger kid who was far faster and so was running while still munching away at his chips. 

Then as we had passed large rocks {rocks in the lower Falls that I used to jump from one to another with the upmost concentration over years}, I then heard a shout.

‘It’s a fuckin ‘Scoopie.’ 

That was our call that a British army convoy was on the way, which could consist of huge green camouflaged {Scoopie} tractors, diggers, sixers/tanks, Saracens, and other such.

And so our eyes still wet from laughter – the door we were carrying – was instinctively dropped. 

With that, one kid put his snorkel hood up and then his tee- shirt up around his face then fully zipped up -{snorkel Cyclops style}, the other kid pulled a scarf out from within his coat and covered his face and head with it, as so only his eyes showed – {West Belfast Palestinian style}. 

The other kid pulled his jumper up around his face as did I – naively, with my big black forehead – and my huge afro hairdo bouncing around freely – {Marge Simpson hairdo style} – as we ran to get tooled up with bricks and bottles and any other weaponry at hand. 

Other older kids were getting tooled up with even heavier weaponry as I heard the roar of the Scoopie monster tractors and seeing their huge billows of smoke in the distance. 

Now – I could feel the adrenaline pumping around, I could see the casualties of war, and I could smell the preparation for war – as my thoughts were further driven to trance. 

I could feel the energy around, from fear to hate and much more within that range – all that passion and rage from those around me – entering me, affecting me, and evermore changing me. 

I could feel it then entering my brain – and so arrived the {invisible to others} mist {this both in mind – and in my reality around at its greatest of height}.

Then there was the sounds and sparks within.

I could feel all entering the nerves of my veins as my blood bubbled and boiled, and as the mist became thicker I could feel my eyes glaze over ...

... And then ...

... I was no longer me.

No comments