Why I came back to Ireland, Part 2

I arrived in Belfast on the morning of March 13th. Dad’s partner Maire O’Hare kept herself busy making all the arrangements for Dad’s funeral, informing all his friends and relatives, dealing with the undertakers, finding the family grave and getting it opened and innumerable other matters. All that remained for me was to come to the wake on March 15th and then the funeral the next day.

I was staying at my Aunt Maura’s house in Carrickfergus. (Mum would have accommodated me at her place in Downpatrick but she had only just moved in about a week before and the place was still a shambles.) And I got to see all of my surviving relatives, mostly on my father’s side, and nearly all of his friends, some of whom had known him since he was a child.

It was this pleasant atmosphere that I left behind on March 21st to come back to the life I’d been leading in Walthamstow, in a bedsit on a main road. To make matters worse, the guy who occupied the room immediately below mine had become mixed up with drug gangs. the upshot of this was there were drug dealers, junkies and other sub-humans in and out of the house in the small hours.

And then, if you please, word circulated that my neighbour and I were police informers and they demanded money from us or, to quote them, they would “f*** us up”. I worte a note to them saying, “We’re not informers. We’re nothing to do with the police. Please leave us alone.” Did that work? Did it heck!

And then, don’t you know, my idiot neighbour had his front door keys stolen by one of the gangsters. Now they could come and go with impunity. And that was the last straw. I vanished.

The place I’ve come back to is vastly different to the place I left in 1991 and this is where I want to live while I still have family around me.

Why I came back to Ireland, Part 1

St Nicholas Carrickfergus

The events in my personal life in the past six weeks have been truly bizarre, and they all happened during the season of Lent.

It was about 3:15pm on March 7th. I’d been out on one of my regular pleasure trips on my bike, up the River Lea to Dobbs Weir, thence to Broxbourne and Hoddesdon… and I was just approaching Waltham Cross when I got a call from Maire O’Hare telling me my father had been hospitalized. I phoned the Mater Hospital for more details and passed them on to my mother. Yes, my father was in poor health, he had had a blackout and was in a state of confusion, but his condition was stable.

On March 9th I phoned for more news. My father’s condition had improved a little, but the hospital staff couldn’t say if or when he would fully recover.

The next update I got was on the morning of Friday, March 11th. My father was on dialysis but he had had his breathing tube taken out and he was still taking food. There was more grounds for optimism at 5:45 that evening when I got a text message from Dad. He said he was slowly getting better.

That period of hope didn’t last, however. At about midday on Saturday the hospital staff called me to tell me that Dad had taken a turn for the worse. They discovered an aggressive cancer, blood had seeped into his lungs and he probably wouldn’t get any better.

I was undecided as to whether I should go to Belfast to see him. I was told that he was in a confused state and I was afraid he wouldn’t recognise me if I came to see him. I also had the memory of my grandmother in the hospital a day or two before she died. I didn’t want to see my father in the same way.

But with a little coaxing from my relatives in Ireland I made up my mind. At 6:00pm I booked a place on the earliest flight from London to Belfast the following morning and I expected to arrive in the City Centre by 11:30am.

But tomorrow was too late. My father passed away at 9:00pm.

I have gone. Je suis disparu. Exivi.

I am no longer a Londoner. I have broken clean away from Walthamstow. On the morning of March 31st I threw some of my clothes and my passport and birth certificate into a duffel bag and abandoned my gaff in London E17.

I’d really been enjoying my life in England, but thing started to go sour in 2009 when my neighbour (whom I shall not name – he is no longer relevant) fell into the habit of hanging around with all the wrong people – I mean no-hopers, junkies and just the dregs of humanity. He’s a nice guy himself and doesn’t do anything stronger than cannabis. But he’s the type whom everybody takes advantage of. He gets robbed and cheated in every way. And he frequently asked me to lend him money. And he just as frequently forgot to pay it back. That’s in addition to the fact that he never paid for his share of the gas and electricity. He claimed housing benefit and still did plumbing jobs yet never paid his rent. The man was a social and financial disaster.

But when he got stuck between two rival drug gangs who demanded protection money from him, I decided to jettison nearly all my possessions and disappear from Walthamstow altogether.

Now I’m back in Ireland where I have family I love and who love me. Where my future will go from here I don’t know, but this could be the best move I ever made. My heart is in Ireland, my past is in England and that’s where I’m leaving it.

Brian Moore, alias Cormac (14.9.1946 – 12.3.2011)

Those who regularly read “An Phoblacht – Republican News” will remember the little cartoons that appeared on the back of the paper. These cartoons ran on consistently from 1976 until the mid-2000s. He had another regular strip in Socialist Challenge (later Socialist Action) during the late ’70s and ’80s. And also I might mention ten full issues of “Resistance Comics”, from 1975 to 1978, which were nearly all his own work (And there was one more issue numbered 7 1/2 which were reprints of his “Notes by Cormac” strips from the aforementioned Republican News).

Some of his cartoons have been collected into books of various sizes, the earliest being “Cormac Strikes Back” from 1982. Another is “The Comic Book of MI5”, a collaboration, dealing with that secretive and downright creepy secret service. And there’s “Dog Collars”, about the clergy in Northern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant (script by “Cormac”, from the Catholic side, and Ian Knox, from the Protestant side). The most recent volume is “The Peace Process According to Cormac” from 2005.

He also turned his hand to drama. One example is the radio play “Gibraltar (and the days that followed)”, about the tragedies of 1988. In 2002 he wrote “Paddy on the Road”, a monologue about Christy Moore (no relation) with Terry O’Neill in the title role. Then came “The Session” the following year.

And then there was music. He only started to learn the guitar when he was nineteen and he was practically learning from scratch (pretty much the same way he learned cartoons and caricature). But by 1976 he was cutting records with Joe Mulheron and the Men of No Property, writing and recording contemporary rebel songs.

Among the people whose art and music influenced him were Art Spiegelman, Robert Crumb, W. Heath Robinson, Aubrey Beardsley, Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson…

He was a playwright, satirist, musician, family man, husband…

He was my father.