*Excerpt from Ciaran Carson’s Question Time
. This is a piece of prose from his volume of writing entitled Belfast Confetti
. A bit of reminiscence from me.
Also a bit of pertinence to the current state of Belfast and the Provos.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I was reminded of this today, when I went out for what I imagined was a harmless spin on the bike. A showery day, blowing warm and cold – past the west side of Girdwood Barracks along Clifton Park Avenue – a few inhabited houses in a row of derelicts backing on to Crumlin Road Jail – up the Shankill; I come to the Shankill Road Library on the corner of Mountjoy Street (the name of yet another jail) remembering how I used to go here as a child in search of Biggles books because I had exhausted the entire Biggles stock of the Falls Library – I was older then, and was allowed to go, I think – how was it, across Cupar Street, up Sugarfield Street?
I see the green cupola of Clonard Monastery towering high, almost directly above me, it seems, and I realize again with a familiar shock how little separates the Shankill and the Falls, how the troubles of ’68 or ’69 it was rumoured that this monastery tower was sniper’s nest – so yes, I think, why not re-trace the route of all those years ago, 1959 or 1960. I turn idly down Mountjoy Street, Azamor Street, Sugarfield Street. Dead end. Here is the Peace Line, a thirty-foot high wall scrawled with graffiti, mounted with drab corrugated iron; Centurion Street; Battenberg Street; dead end again.
Where I remember rows of houses, factories, there is recent wasteland, broken bricks, chickweed, chain-link fencing. Eventually I find a new road I never knew existed – or is it an old street deprived of all its landmarks? – which leads into the Springfield Road. Familiar territory now, well, almost, for going down the Kashmir Road into Bombay Street – burned out in ’68, some new houses there – I come to other side of the Peace Line, which now backs onto the St. Gall’s School – still there, graffiticized, wire mesh on the windows, but still the same, almost; the massive granite bulk of Clonard is still there; Greenan’s shop is now a dwelling; and the west side of Clonard Gardens, where the Flax & Rayon mill used to be, is all the new houses; Charleton’s shop is bricked up; Tolan’s the barber’s is long since gone, I knew that; this side of the street is all derelict, breeze-blocked, holes knocked into hole; so on to the Falls.
I go down the road a bit, almost as far as the library, then stop, I’d like to go down the Grosvenor Road, so I make a U-turn and stop at the lights at the Grosvenor Road junction, and I’m just wondering what’s the point, it’s Sunday and there’s no traffic about, and certainly no policemen, when somebody mutters something in my ear, I turn, and I’m grabbed round the neck by this character, while someone else has me by the arm, twisted up my back, another has my other arm and I’m hauled off the bike, Right – where’re you going? Here get him up against the railings – what do you think you’re at?
– Legs kicked apart, arms slapped up, Right, here, get him here – come on, MOVE
– and I’m dragged across the road into what used to be McQuillan Street, only it isn’t there anymore, into one of these hole-in-the-wall taxi places, arms up against the breeze-block wall, legs apart, frisked, and all the time….
*Poetry bit of this tomorrow