John McCullagh October 1, 2005
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It was a night in the summer of 1958 when I was nine years of age of which I write.

With my cousin Brian Dean I emerged from the Frontier Cinema at the end of the ‘First House’.  It was about 8.30 p.m. and there was – what to us was –  a very intriguing-looking female of about fourteen or fifteen years of age standing at the William Street corner. 

To be fair, I have to state at this juncture that this girl was minding her own business, and I, being from Warrenpoint had never seen her before.  But Brian Dean said to me,

‘Do you see that one over there? 

Call her Annie Oakley!!

But, give me a head’s start! 

Wait until I get up as far as Casey’s pub’.

 I followed his instructions to the letter.  I gave him ample opportunity to get as far as Casey’s pub. Then I innocently ambled up to this person and greeted her in a friendly manner,

 ‘Well!  Annie Oakley’.

I should have guessed, I suppose, from Brian’s attitude. Still I never realized how ultra-sensitive she was to that nickname!  I can tell you now, she gave me some hiding for my indiscretion. I quickly regretted adhering so rigidly to Brian’s instructions.

She came at me like Kali, the eight-armed Hindu Goddess of Destruction. She never took time to draw her breath, raining down blow after blow upon me.  I never got a hammering like it before or, thank God, since.

I recall it yet, trying to stagger away, a painful but chastened young man, making pacts with God,  [I will never do that again! Please save me from further punishment!  I will be good from now on’] I was virtually immobilized with pain.

Brian Dean, under a misplaced sense of loyalty [I hope] and from the comparative safety of the William St./ River St. junction, started to taunt her again,

‘Annie Oakley!   Annie Oakley!    Annie Oakley!’

As she could not get at him, she laid into me all over again. She was incandescent with rage by this juncture, the smell of blood was in her nostrils, but this time it was like Mike Tyson in his prime coming at me.

Had it not been for that one-legged man with the crutch, Peter Carr, interceding on my behalf, she would probably have left me a basket case.

I wished I was back in the ‘Point, where, in that boring, but calm little oasis of tranquility, terrible calamities like these just did not happen. 

When I eventually got back to the sanctuary of my Auntie Sue’s and Grannie McCann’s ‘down the entry’ in No.6, Chapel St. I never again ventured beyond Minnie Grant’s corner shop until it was time to return to the ‘Point. 

I would happily have faced the Mescalera Apaches rather than face that Amazon!  I was thoroughly traumatized by the whole unsavory episode.

Running around with Brian Dean was always great crack! He was a larger-than-life character, but you had to grow up very quickly if you were to survive the ‘Annie Oakleys’ of this world.

 

 

Apparently ‘Annie Oakley’ now lives in Dublin and has married quite well.  I am sincerely happy for her, but for a long time after that traumatic night in the summer of 1958 I did not wish her so well.

As well as that, when Brian Dean gave me any sort of advice thereafter, I thought long and hard about it before acting rashly.

This was definitely the less painful option.

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