Picture if you will a time of great superstition that will all end in tears. A time when there was no television or Raidío Teilifís a hAon (whether the “I” is on the “radio” or not is irrelevant, coz you don’t have to look at it), so people would make their own entertainment, with local sportspeople taking on the guise of more famous sporting luminaries.
Now, what I’m trying to say is that it wouldn’t be unusual – for example – to go to the local tennis courts or the nearby shnooker hall to see a game of Stunt Double Wimbledon or Stunt Double The Crucible Sheffield.
There was even a wedding for Wimbledon star stunt double John McEnroe, who married his childhood sweetheart from an Abba tribute band. It was such a fantastic party that people were lying around within an hour like they had been feckin’ shot by the security forces or the pro Treaty side or the anti Treaty side, depending on whether you were poring over the Press or the Indo or the Times we were living in and what have you, reading the sports pages to get any kind of a sense out of things.
Because London was that little bit a lot more further away in those days, there were numerous stunt doubles pretending to be British sports luminaries in Ireland. So it was all very faux unless the Gaelic Games were being played.
I recall one match between two fantastic shnooker stunt doubles, with a Stunt Double Jimmy The Whirlwind White taking on the actual Alex Hurricane Higgins, because he was in actuality born on this island, but both of them smoking like veritable chimbleys and knocking back the gargle as they lined up their shots and tracked the ball and performed plants of all sorts and sometimes fell off the table or went somersaulting over the slate to land with a thwack on top of the gorgeous looking female referee, made all the better by her rather feminely-cut tuxedo. And Jimmy got his hair fitted at the time. Fake hair for a fake sportsman – the real Jimmy White having got hair from his buttocks cauterised into his scalp at great expense some years previous. But they were all just stunts performed by the experts, not to be re-enacted at home or it could cause fatalities, and nobody got hurt.
Stunt Double Shnooooker Championships were a lot more exciting than their regular real world counterparts. Why so? Because of all the action. At a typical Stunt Doubles World Championship Final match that I attended as a youngster, the player playing “Steve Davis” – whose name actually happened to be Dennis H.W. deKlerK F.W. Bush Taylor – chipped the cue ball into the air and struck Stunt Double Dennis Taylor high up on the forehead, smashing his phwacking spectacles into his phwacking face and knocking him the phwack out. Dennis came round and ultimately cracked his shnooker cue over Steve’s back, before taking his final shot with Steve’s stolen cue. Phwack. The cue ball rolled across the velvet, at an even pace, everyone on tenterhooks.
And it all came down to that black in that very last game. Dennis sank that black like he was chugging down a richly hued pint of plain produced with the honey coloured Liffey waters just in front of St. James’s Fence. After the match, we all went to a gig featuring the Australian Doors with support from Bjorn Again, one of whose members happened to be married to the aforementioned Carbon Copy “John McEnroe”, and in triplicate at that.
Now, the Holy Mother was Herself a part of the every day lives of the Irish at that time, us being of a far more Marist sensibility than we are today. And in fairness to the Irish, while some people were Marist, others were Maoist.
There was a bit of a split – a social shkhckckchism, if you will, between those who popped off to Spain in the 30s to fight for what was “only right”, and those others who actually had a touch of genuine decency about them, and who were left here, and left there, over in Spain.
But Mary was the Big Deal, whether you were a Fascist or a Democrat. And so too was her Mirror Universe equivalent. Those who still clung to the old beliefs considered the Holy Mother to be beyond goodness itself.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART TWO.