IMAGINATION rules the mind when you’re young.
When I was growing up in Cupar Street, I belonged to the Cupar Street Gang. As a trusted member of this tight band of youthful desperadoes, I was sworn to secrecy so all names must still remain anonymous.
Our gang consisted of seven devoted and dedicated comrades whose average age was nine-going-on-ninety and the things that we got up to would make your hair stand on end.
We all went to St Gall’s Primary School where the Christian brothers did their best to break us, not knowing who they were dealing with.
For the purpose of this journey down Memory Lane, the leader of the gang will be known as Séamus. Back then there was not much money about, so our imaginations ran wild as imaginations do at that ripe old age. Most of the gang members had pets, except for Séamus. We had an Alsatian dog which was our most threatening weapon and other members had smaller pets such as cats.
I was close with Séamus and admired his dare-devil attitude. Nothing scared Séamus, not even the movie Dr Death and the House of Horrors that we saw in the Clonard Picture House. Séamus was the man – that’s why he was the leader of the gang. I remember he spent a couple of days building a wooden cage with a wire front in the his backyard.
“What’s this for?” I asked Seamus, and he told me that it was for a pet that he was getting. I asked what type of pet and he told me that I would see in due course.
Days went by and then, out of the blue, Séamus invited me to meet his pet which was in the cage and my eyes nearly blew out of their sockets when – lo and behold! – there as large as life in the cage was a full-grown hen Séamus had liberated from Lawnbrook Avenue.
He told me that he was going to train the hen to walk on a lead. Of course if anyone could tame a hen, Séamus could. He would walk the hen up and down our entry with a piece of string as a lead and the hen would be the mascot of the gang as we all marched behind the hen, who was given the fine name Setanta.
It wasn’t too long before the word got out that a hen was stolen from Lawnbrook and our class was interviewed as to the whereabouts of the critter. Headmaster Brother Leopold was a towering figure of a man dressed in his black robe, scarier than Dr Death himself.
He roared at us, as if he knew it was one of the boys in the class – and Séamus confessed. “Get to the back of the class and stand with your face to the wall,” Séamus was told by the furious Brother Leopold. Anyone who dared talk to Séamus would end up with him, we were told. “Don’t worry, Seamus, I’ll talk to you,” I cried out – and was duly ordered to join our gallant leader at the back of the class.
That to me was an act of comradeship, but you would have had to be in our gang to know that. The hen, I am pleased to say, returned to its rightful owner in Lawnbrook Avenue. Let’s just say our gang had proved that we weren’t chicken.