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We Survived by Mattie Lennon

Writing.ie | Magazine | Mining Memories | Tell Your Own Story
Mattie Lennon

Mattie Lennon

“He’ll romp home”. “She’ll head the pole”. “It’s not going to snow”. “He won’t see morning”. “That one won’t let you an inch above her knee.” Predictions. Predictions. Predictions. We all make them.

There was a brand-new prediction doing the rounds, according to which cataclysmic or transformative events would occur last December 2012. (and it wasn’t the budget.)

No the 21st of last December was regarded as the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the  Long Count calendar.   According to some sources that date marked  the end of the world or a similar catastrophe. “Scenarios suggested for the end of the world included the arrival of the next solar maximum, an interaction between Earth and the black hole at the center of the galaxy or Earth’s collision with an object such as an asteroid, or a planet called “Nibiru”.

Haven’t we spent our lives listening to predictions?”

All forecasts with not a great track-record of accuracy. I’m inclined to agree with Bacon “…..predictions ought to serve but for winter talk by the fireside”.

I’ve encountered prophecies of doom from various quarters. Nostradamus left us some cryptic clues about the END, as did Malachi, nearer home. My late father found out somewhere that we were promised two thousand years with “a tilly in” not to mention a Dunraven farmer I met in the late nineties. I gave him a lift to a match in Dublin, and apart from his endeavours to dispel my naïveté of the wiles of the female; he frightened the life out of me with some lesser-known Biblical revelations which he claimed would have particular relevance in the year 2000. (I nearly picked up a couple of on-the-spot fines in my haste to deposit him in the Metropolis- or somewhere – as quickly as possible).

I’d be the first to admit that futurists have been frighteningly accurate, at times, down the centuries. I wouldn’t be one to nit-pick and labour on the fact the nobody predicted the nose-ring, that politicians would be caught taking back-handers or that there would be a mass-exodus in the Labour party.

Since some predictions have been about as accurate as D’Unbelievables’  weather forecast, what about historical accuracy if, as has been said , “a historian is a prophet in reverse”?

Yet, the future has been foretold with amazing exactitude, since the beginning of time. Who could argue with T.S. Eliot’s assertion that “time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future and time future contained in time past”.

Nostradamus had many accurate predictions under his belt, including the manner of the death of Henry II of France. And even the most severe and  skeptical critics of Jean Dixon credit her with some precision. However, despite the informed anticipation and pessimistic augury of the aforementioned et al, my trepidation is tempered by a stubborn if cagey skepticism. It dates back to my first long-trousers.

Let me explain. When, I was growing up it was normal for boys to wear  short-trousers up to the age of fourteen. In 1959, my aunt in Coleraine who had a son a couple of years my senior sent me my first hand-me-down  long trousers, which had to be consigned to mothballs until my 14th  birthday. Since I had ultra-conservative parents, the tradition was honoured to the full. I had to serve the full sentence, with no remission for good behaviour. By the time I was thirteen and a half, I began to see something incongruous about my bear knees and certain “manly” pastimes.

Now, in the late fifties an article appeared in a Catholic newspaper – was it the Standard or The Irish Catholic? – informing the Faithful of the imminent termination of the planet.

We didn’t manage to get our hands on the paper at home, but several well-meaning neighbours, enlightened relatives and acquaintances met a  fairs and Devotions, relayed the good tidings, piece-meal, to us; THERE  WOULD BE THREE DARK DAYS IN 1960. Black pigs would walk the earth. The  smell of brimstone would be stifling.

And no family would be together when this calamity would occur. (I interpreted this latter as meaning that in the case of each family, unit,  the father would be at the turf Rick, the mother would be in the cow-house  and each of the offspring would be out playing a solitary game in a different part of the Inch).

1960 came and went. I attained the age of fourteen (and I haven’t used  camphor balls since). I got my first bike. There were no dark days, in  Kylebeg anyway. (Well not in the sense that we were deprived of diurnal illumination).

There was no smell worse than cow dung and rotten spuds evident, and there hasn’t been a dark member of the bacon-providing species seen in the area since the days of the Yorkshire pigs. So, seers past and present, I’ve heard what you have to say about flooding and disaster. I’m less spiritual but just as doubting as Thomas.  So if you were to predict that; David Norris was getting married, Shane McGowan would visit the dentist, Michael-Healy Rae would be next Taoiseach or Wicklow would win the 2013 all Ireland Final I would treat it with a healthy skepticism. Wouldn’t you, if you had spent in initial years of your teens worrying that you were going to die in short trousers?

About the author

Mattie Lennon was born in 1946 at Kylebeg,  Lacken,  Blessington.  He spent the first 25 years of his life on a small farm, but moved to Dublin in 1971 to work at construction. Joining CIE in 1974 he worked as Conductor, Driver and Inspector until his retirement in January 2011.  In 2005 he produced a DVD, Sunrise on the Wicklow Hills.

In 2006 Mattie edited ‘There’s Love and There’s Sex and There’s the 46A’ a collection of transport workers’ writings. In 2010 Mattie wrote ‘And All his Songs Were Sad’, a play based on the life and works of the late Sean McCarthy. It was staged by the Pantagleize Theatre Company in Fort Worth, Texas in October 2010.

Mattie Lennon has compiled and presented radio programmes for RTE, Radio Dublin KICK FM, Liffey Sound and WFU Radio in the Bronx. He recently edited a further collection of “Bus” writings, ‘It Happens Between Stops’. He now lives in Lucan, Co. Dublin.

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