As I was saying, the parents knew nothing of the niceties of procedure, etiquette or decorum.
One Travelling Woman in particular had no idea about rearing children, her horde being fed on sweets and such like.
One day as I was teaching she entered unannounced (as always), plopped her obese child on a nearby table and told him to share out his great big bag of sweeties around the class, regardless of what the teacher might say (I was spoken of as if I wasn’t there).
Having completed the exercise, she encouraged him with the words;
‘Now Barney, you’ve got something special for the Master, haven’t you ?’
From the bag he drew a tissue-paper twist, and out of it he carefully extracted a chocolate hippo, minus its head. Light reflected off moisture at this end.
‘He got a bit hungry on the way, so he had a little bite,’ the mother explained.
I tried hard to bring on any lad who showed some potential, but they were few-and-far-between among the Travellers.
Still one lad, Michael G***** learned to read and could memorise lines.
As a special treat, I gave him a speaking part at the ‘Prayers of the Faithful’ section of the upcoming First Holy Communion service.
News was brought home and there was general rejoicing round the camp fire that night.
Next morning the father burst in the door.
‘I believe our Mickey’s saying the Holy Communion Mass this year.
‘Good pick, Master!’
He surveyed the room critically.
‘You, boy!’ He pointed into one young lad’sface.
‘Why have you not got the right School Uniform on?
(The child was missing a school jumper, with crest).
You’d better be sorted for Saturday, when Mickey says his first Mass!’
On the big day, the front three rows were RESERVED for readers, singers, Eucharistic Ministers and special guests.
The gypsy camp moved in en masse.
When challenged, they were quick to allege discrimination:
‘It’s because we’re Travellers, isn’t it?’
They were let be,
a great vantage point from which to enjoy Mickey’s Big Day
and his Eucharistic debut!
… more later …