Greystones History: Oh Holy Stones

What is a Protestant daddy? A poem I remember by Mr Durkan. It summed up my early fears of those so called “left footers” in Greystones town.

Greystones has always had a considerable density of Protestants since Oliver Cromwell rampaged his way through here. In my childhood, rumours abounded that the now genial Reverend Ian Paisley retreated here. Was that him that played the bagpipes at Smugglers Cove? I often wondered upon hearing the sounds of that alienated and most political of celtic instruments drifting out to sea.

Protestants weren’t exactly monsters, but they had crooked angular features not unlike a painting by Graham Knuttel, but without the colour and much darker. They were tall, thin and wandered silently about town in black clothes, stooped, and lurched in shadows in the early evening or so I thought. They wore sunglasses which made we wonder if they had eyes at all.

And St Patrick’s, on Church Road, was haunted with devilish ghosts. At least it appeared that way with uplighting and a full moon and my overactive imagination. I would run by quickly between the lampposts on the opposite side of the road.

My early education was mediated through what I know realise to be the intransigent diatribe of the Holy Christian brothers and they had one view of those hellbound others and that was they were heading downwards and to burn.

It didn’t help there were so many of them about town. They seemed to have all the money and live in the Burnaby. They spoke with Anglo accents, which I have to say as a teenager I later admired and thought sophisticated and even cool. Their shades looked cool now and no longer menacing.

Now I am back and my kid is going to a Protestant school, albeit she is sent out with an agenda to proselytise and convert the heathens. And perhaps make one or two of her classmates jealous of her communion dress – the girls of course!

And dare I say it. Just like our friend Mr Paisley north of the border I laugh and joke with the old enemy. Some of my best friends are Protestants. And two are even those dreaded Ulster Scots from the staunchest of Antrim and Down and shockingly they have a sense of humour that I enjoy. If it were not for the small family size, you would never know it.

I have realised that besides their crooked features and impending doom at judgement time some of them Protestants are a likeable lot.

According to the recent census we have the highest percentage of Church of Ireland attendees in Ireland. Not just Protestants but a baffling multitude of nonbelievers from Presbyterians to Pentecostal to Evangelical. I plead ignorance on the difference but they all have their churches and halls.

And I realise that most of the settlers were of Protestant working class. Now there is a good reason for cultivating my Upper Redford Park accent.


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