Thursday, May 16, 2024

One From 12 Years Ago Featuring Father Vincent Davey

This post refers to events that happened in the late 1960s so almost ancient history. Father Davey, the Parish Priest of Antrim during my childhood, was quite the character, a sportsman, missionary and community worker. He got on so well with the people of Antrim that he was sometimes referred to as the Protestant Priest. He was also the first dead person I ever laid eyes on when his body lay 'in state' in St Comgall's in 1970.

And so, on to the recycled post.

In A Graveyard

So that is St Patrick's Day and Mother's Day over for another year. We had a few friends around last night and the talk came round to parading. Swisser complained that she had been held up earlier by an Orange parade and Bert and me had a little disagreement when I opined that I thought Orange Men only paraded on St Patrick's Day for complete twistedness and he opined that I was a sectarian bigot.

Usually on Mother's Day it slips my mind that I am a mother and have been so for 37 years. It always seemed far more important that I was a daughter and I had a mother. I visited her grave today and left a little posy that I plucked from my garden. Hannah went with me. I took her photograph by the grave and afterwards I said, “Were you smiling in that picture?” and she said, “Yes. Everybody puts on a solemn face by a grave. I didn't want to.” I've never been in St Comgall's cemetery with Hannah alone and we walked around and I told her stories about the people I knew who were buried there.

There was an Aunt who died of cancer when I was a teenager. She had the most beautiful smile and she loved to laugh. Her daughter was seven years older than me and she had a really quirky sense of humour. One day I went to visit my Aunt and my cousin was there as well. She came out with some remark (I forget it now) that I found so funny that I laughed until I wet myself. My Aunt was tickled pink at this disaster and she laughed until tears ran down her face. She died not long after this.

I knew so many stories about people who were buried there. There wasn't the time to tell her all of them but I did tell her one about Father Vincent Davey who was Parish Priest in Antrim when I was a girl. In those days the Parish Priest was a figure of authority and although Father Davey seemed to be a jovial sort of man, we children were taught to fear him. Father Davey had been a missionary priest in Nigeria from 1922-1932 and was still devoted to that cause. He was very skilled at raising funds or, to put it another way, squeezing money out of his parishioners. As I remember, the bulk of his sermons were fund-raising drives and exhortations for money. Still the people of the Parish would far rather have given their money to the Missions or the Parish than to the Government.

I would have been around fifteen and becoming very wilful and defiant and my parents were despairing of me. Matty had the bright idea of sending me in to Father Davey for a good talking to and I was given the busfare to Antrim and instructed to go and see him. I can't have been that bad a girl or I wouldn't have went near the Parochial House but anyway I stood at that bus stop and I got on that bus and I was trembling with fear and I'm sure there are people who've gone to the scaffold who were not as afraid as me.

I got off the bus at the Chapel Corner and presented myself at the Parochial House. I knocked the door and, after what seemed like a long time, it was opened by the old dragon of a housekeeper. She looked down at me with great disdain. “Yes. What do you want?” I quaked and said in a very tiny voice. “I'm here to see Father Davey.” She went off and a few minutes later he appeared at the door. I must have interrupted his meal for he was wiping his mouth. He was pink and shiny and not terribly cross looking at all. I said, “My mammy sent...” He stopped me, looked at me benignly and he said, “Now – you're to be a good girl, say your prayers, work hard at school and do what your Mammy and Daddy tell you,” and with that he smiled at me and closed the door. I was delighted to have got off so lightly and made my way home with a far lighter heart.

I did not make Matty much wiser as to what had passed between me and the Parish Priest and I'm afraid that I did not take his advice to heart for I did not say my prayers, nor did I work hard at school or do what my parents told me. But I probably should have.

No comments: