By John Morrow
John Morrow’s bawdy humour and his grasp of the working class Protestant culture of the mid to late 20th century, and his mischievous take on the politics and Troubles of the time made him a hilarious contributor to many radio programmes and a delightful deflator of earnest myths and pretensions.
Northern Myths is a collection of short stories that give an insight into the working class Protestant culture.
It was long, single-decked, open charabanc with, I think, solid rubber tyres. I, aged five, stood up on the back seat beside Aunt Minnie and waved goodbye to my parents, Father scowling and shaking a last admonitory fist at his sister as we chugged away up the street of mill terraces, the doffers cheering wildly and singing ‘Oh I do like to be beside the seaside ...’
... En route to the briny Aunt Minnie distributed stout to the girls and lemonade to me. She yelled for the driver to stop a mile beyond the Belfast tram terminus and threatened to turf out two mean sisters unless they paid the final installment of their fare - which they did. She led the singing (not, I might add, the doleful work songs that I’ve since heard attributed to mill girls by academic folk singers but plaintive old melodies such as ‘Fuck the Pope an’ no surrender/Bash he’s balls agin’ the fender ...’ to the tune of ‘Dixie’). She stood up on the seat beside me, peroxide perm shattering in the wind, her great bolster of a chest rolling up and down beneath her jumper, and scored a bull’s-eye on the driver’s neck with a hard bread bap from the hamper. She was twenty-seven then, a fine looking targe of a woman posed in the middle of a snap taken on Tyrella beach that day, skirt tucked up in the legs of her drawers, and me perched on her shoulders, surrounded by her gang of tipsy doffers.
Extract courtesy Lagan Press
Morrow was one of the first of the really funny satirists of conflicted Ulster, taking the risk of inviting us to laugh at attitudes which were, as he wrote, implicated in violence on the streets.
‘Morrow prefers a realistic and witty, if facetious, undermining of political rhetoric and ‘idealism’ to the more conventional attempts at serious artistic analysis. His anecdotal, comic style exaggerates petty ambitions and libidinous habits as the common denominators between the conflicting sides in Northern Ireland. His main characters tend to be simple, self-serving humans who remain blissfully unaware of the layers of historical irony with which Morrow surrounds them.’
John Morrow Biography - (1930– ), The Honest Ulsterman, The Irish Press, The Confessions of Prionias O’Toole
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