John McCullagh May 5, 2010
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It constitutes a slight curiosity only, now, I’m afraid, but fifty years ago and more, it played a fairly central role in many of our lives. 


It was the rings which brought the memories flooding back.

 

There was men’s Confraternity on Tuesday evenings in the Cathedral and women’s on a Thursday. I often wondered then what they could be told that was not for our ears. But you wouldn’t dream of sneaking in the back! In the first place, how? 


Go disguised, be found out and then be declared a sissy? I think not.

Anyway who’d want to go twice in the one week?

 

For you wouldn’t dream of skipping the Tuesday night. You see, your seat was reserved for you. You’d be missed! After all, your father and uncles occupied the seats beside you. 

 

This remarkable feat was achieved by the sectioning off of 2-3 pews per Street  for males (Tuesdays) or females (Thursdays) in a set area of the aisles, left, middle and right. These were marked by the erection of concave metal shields [about A4 size] bearing the Street Name – visible from metres away as you walked down the aisle – mounted on the end of a six-foot iron rod that was held in place by two metal rings mounted vertically eighteen inches apart and fastened to the seat-end nearest the aisle. 

 

The rings are still in place today, awaiting a huge Confraternity revival. 


Go check for yourself! 


That’s what sparked the memories.

 

This was devotions, rather than Mass. There was a lot of incense burning for I remember the aroma. 


We were halfway down the middle aisle on the right and it took a bit of metronome-shaking of the crucible by the altar-boy before that strong scent reached our nostrils.

 

The Virgin Mary figured prominently in the prayers. There was one called the Litany where the priest chanted numerous titles bestowed upon her, after each one of which the congregation responded with the mantra : Pray For Us.

 

Mary, Queen of Peace …………………………………………………………..Pray For Us

Star of the Sea……. …………………………………………………………….Pray For Us

Mother of God……………………………………………………………………. Pray for Us

Queen of Heaven………………………………………………………………… Pray for Us

 

You get the drift. And it was often easy to let your mind drift and reply automatically.

 

Occasionally some adults were absent from our Street and a parcel of us young rogues would find ourselves unsupervised and fairly hidden among the crowded pews. 

 

Then the fun would begin. 


Some joker played the priest’s part and the rest obediently replied.

 

Bangers and Mash………………………………………………………………..Pray for Us

Simon and Garfunkel……………………………………………………………..Pray for Us

Cowboys and Indians…………………………………………………………… Pray for Us

Fish and Chips…………………………………………………………………… Pray for Us

Of course, as in all such capers, things escalated after the first successful trial.  Soon we were making a pop quiz out of it.

Peter and Gordon……………………………………………………………World Without Love

Walk Right Back……………………………………………………………..Everly Brothers

Travelling Light………………………………………………………………Cliff Richard

Now or Never………………………………………………………………..Elvis Presley

 

The challenge was to speak in tandem with the priest and also to come up with some new – but familiar – couplet each time. 

 

The trick was NOT to laugh ourselves. 


Attention would be drawn then to those sniggering in adjacent seats for our words were indecipherable from those of the whole congregation just a few pews away.

 

And we were quite good at it, with solemn faces exuding total devotion. 


When the sniggering ‘culprits’ were singled out by the faithful for approbation, we scowled in their direction as fierce as the best of them!

 

Ah, the good old days!

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