Molloy and Malone, Magee and Muldoon

I saw an old photograph of the road where my house is recently. It dated from sometime in the early 20th century, and featured a horsedrawn hearse with four formally-dressed funeral directors smoking while waiting outside a church for the funeral service to end. It captivated me, the life-in-death-in-life of it. Alas, I can no longer find it on the interwebs, but it evoked an era possibly contemporaneous with this one, from 1914.

Picture taken from a gallery posted online by BelfastLive.

Anyhow, it inspired a bit of verse, written for no good reason in an approximation of iambic pentameter.

Molloy and Malone, Magee and Muldoon

Molloy and Malone, Magee and Muldoon

Wait by the roadside, Tuesday afore noon,

Outside the wee redbrick church that was built

With money raised from parishioner guilt.

Magee and Muldoon, Molloy and Malone

Come from the New Lodge, the Ardoyne, the Bone

To bury, when time comes around at last,

The dearly departed of all North Belfast.

Muldoon and Molloy, Malone and Magee,

Smoking in black suits of conformity,

Won’t darken the door of the chapel at all.

They prefer the bar, or the grey snooker hall.

Malone and Magee, Muldoon and Molloy,

Scowl at the sunshine which they can’t enjoy.

Theirs is the burden and theirs is the curse

To hoist us on their shoulders and into the hearse

On not reviewing Branagh’s ‘Belfast’

A few people have asked me if I’d seen Branagh’s sepia-tinged movie about Belfast. I haven’t. I also don’t intend to. I’m sure it’s great, but it’s not for me.

Kenneth Branagh racconta 'Belfast': "Ci ho messo due mesi a girarlo e una  vita a concepirlo" - la Repubblica
Branagh on set.

I grew up literally one street away, the other side of a fence we euphemistically call a peace line. That fence is there today. It wasn’t there in the Seventies.

“Peace” line in North Belfast.

In this Google Maps image you can see where my house was (those ones are new). You can also see KAT (standing for ‘Kill all Taigs (Catholics)’ written on the wall. That’s today, nearly three decades into a peace process. If you can’t imagine what it was like at the height of a civil war, there’s plenty of archival news footage available.

I expect Ken would have made a very different movie had he grown up in the city at that time, as I did. Actually, I expect he’d not be making movies at all. So no, I haven’t seen it and won’t see it. It’s not something I care to revisit, in Ken’s sepia tones or in any other format.

It’s not a tribal thing. I’m proud of Ken and always have been. I’ve loved his work since the ‘Billy’ plays. But Ken’s Belfast and mine, though they almost overlap, are hugely different. When the civil war euphemistically known as the ‘Troubles’ erupted in 1969, Ken’s family quite sensibly emigrated.

What they left behind, and what my family moved into (after being threatened out of their home in a different part of town), was a North Belfast that quickly became a patchwork quilt of paramilitary loyalties, rival tribalisms, brute violence and war.

I really admire Branagh for never shying away from his origins, and also for the sensitivity he has always brought to the topic. But, to use a word in today’s parlance, I find this somewhat triggering. More pertinently, I’m not the intended audience for this.