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16 October 2014
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Warwick Dalzell

Warwick was born in Co Down and taught for a time in Northern Ireland. He sought his fortune in Africa, but returned home penniless. After another stint at the chalkface, he went to London. There he met Peter O'Loughlin who advised him to head for Australia, where he lived on and off for forty years. He is now a frequent pilgrim to the old country.

Eddie by Warwick Dalzell

Our Shooey was the hero of the hour, but as Lynn Doyle once wrote, his triumph was "short and sweet like a jackass's gallop". "How did you do it we?” we wanted to know. "I didn't," he said modestly, and despite the promised adulation was firm in his denial. As for the tent people, you had to admire them - they were back the next night praying and singing as if nothing had happened. The young preacher, Mr. McAtamney, made no reference to the previous night's excitement, and, wonder of wonders, Shooey actually made an appearance inside the tent. Boys but it was a creepy feeling. There was Shooey sitting in the front row, obviously savouring his triumph, and a few feet away gritting his teeth and pretending not to see him was Mr. McAtamney. That was the scene for the rest of the week. It was like a battle of wills, and our money was on the bold Shooey. After a while we lost interest. Nothing was going to happen. Anyway the marching season was almost on us. The night air was filled with the thunder of Lambeg drums and fife bands played their shrill music as they prepared for the Twelfth. In the midst of this excitement we temporarily forgot Shooey and the preacher. The Twelfth came and went and in the temporary lull before the next marches, we turned our attention to the tent. "Let's go to the wee meeting tonight," said Budgie Mills. “I hear they've got a lot of new converts." "Sure they've always got a lot," snorted Tommy Beatty, “But they never last long." "Ah, you're wrong there," put in Barlow Brown. But then he had a vested interest; his second cousin was reputedly a Brethren. "All right!" said big Ivan. “We’ll go at half seven. Just make sure you have your tea early. We don't want to disgrace ourselves by gorbing all their food." For want of something better to do we all arrived early and stood whistling impatiently and occasionally pushing and wrestling to impress the girls. Talk about the Titanic! This proved to be a night to remember. We were in our seats at 7.30 sharp. The meeting began with a hymn and a prayer. Then there was the usual thanking God and being grateful for being saved. We quite liked that bit because we competed with one another to see who could make the most noise. When we sat down it was Mr. McAtamney's turn. "Brothers and sisters, for my text tonight I choose Romans, chapter ten, verse nine. I thank the Lord that I have been chosen as his humble instrument to preach his word -----." That was where we drifted off - mentally that is. We'd heard it all before. On he droned, his voice becoming shrill as the audience warmed to him. "And now I call on you to come forward and be saved. Come and join me in the Lord." This was the part we liked. Those who were saved staggered forward in a kind of trance. There were the same old faces - young and old, men and women, boys and girls. Oh, no! It couldn't be. Not our Shooey! But it was; Shooey himself, clean and neatly dressed, his hair combed and even the high tide mark washed away. We sat there unable to take it all in. This couldn't be right. Shooey would never join the Brethren. We started babbling to one another. "Shush youse ones,” said a voice from behind us. "Why don't youse listen to what he's saying." Shooey was indeed saying something, and in a voice that everyone could hear. “----- and I thank God that I have seen the error of my ways. Every night I go down on my knees and rejoice that I'm born again----" "This is Shooey's idea of a joke,” whispered Budgie. But it didn't seem to be a joke as Shooey continued his testament. "----I renounce the devil and all his works. I renounce the company of unbelievers. I am cleansed by the blood of the lamb.. " Was he talking about us? Would we never have his company again? That was the last straw. We left that meeting dismayed by what we had seen and heard. "My da says they brainwash you," said Big Jimmy, which would have been a first as far as he was concerned. "If they can do that to Shooey, imagine what they could do to the rest of us," gulped Tommy. “I’m not going back.” We drifted off home, too depressed to take advantage of that beautiful evening. Things would never be the same - at least for the remainder of that day. We were nothing if not resilient. Our recovery was swift and our rationalisation was sure. Sure, it wasn't good for you sitting in that old tent night after night. Better playing football or going for a walk over the Mines. Better walking up Scrabo or down to the Tide. Indeed better anything that would take us away from that field where we had lost a friend. It didn't seem to matter which way we went, north, south, east or west; we always seemed to pass that wicked tent on the way home. And the Brethren in that vile tent made sure we knew they were still there. As if to rub in their victory they nightly brayed out their hymn of triumph, Romans ten and nine Is a favourite verse of mine, Confessing Christ our Lord, We are saved by grace divine. The glorious weather lingered on and we now made the most of it. Our conversations were frequently tinged with nostalgia. The sort that began, “Do ye mind the time wee Shoey ----." But you can learn to live with anything. One day, in the middle of an argument with a budding hero from Mill Street, we heard somebody swearing. We never used such language so it could only be? Yes, you’ve guessed it. It was the bold Shooey! When the would-be hero saw who it was he took to his heels. Shooey pursued him enthusiastically but the hero outpaced him. Soon Shooey returned and answered the unspoken question. "Sure they're a great bunch of hypocrites. "What way, Shooey? This has to be a good one." we urged him. "All right. You know how they were always quoting the Good Book if they were stuck for an answer. Well I'll tell you what that's all about. Because I joined the Brethren I was able to get a job with the butcher, riding his message bike, home deliveries and all that. One day when I got back to the shop he was having a quiet drink “What are you doing,” says I, bold as you like. I had noticed the bottle of Sandeman's Port before this." Thought it was a sin to drink?" "1st Timothy 5, 1 and 23. Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; Drink no more water but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities," says he quick as a wink. "Oh!" says I, and left it at that. See the next day, when he was busy in the shop, I got stuck into the port. In next to no time I was nearly stoicious.Talk about your feet not touching the ground. The next thing I knew I was drummed out of the Brethren, and I lost the job into the bargain. "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging," said the pastor. "He that is without sin among you cast the first stone" I said, looking straight at the butcher. But it was no good. They voted on it and I had to hand back my New Testament." "Good for you,” we said in unison. “It’s great to see you back." "You can say that again," said Shooey with a laugh. “Come on then, let's go out and do some sinning." ;

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