Laurel Holliday Children of the Troubles

ISBN 13: 9780671537364

Children of the Troubles

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9780671537364: Children of the Troubles
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A collection of young people's experiences throughout the twenty-five years of violence in Northern Ireland known as "The Troubles" shares their thoughts on growing up with fear, getting injured, facing loss, and confronting personal rage.

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About the Author:

Laurel Holliday, formerly a college teacher, editor, and psychotherapist, now writes full time in Seattle. In addition to Children of "The Troubles": Our Lives in the Crossfire of Northern Ireland, she is the award-winning author of Children in the Holocaust and World War II: Their Secret Diaries. The third book in the Children of Conflict series, Children of Israel, Children of Palestine: Our Own True Stories, will be published in hardcover by Pocket Books in the spring of 1998. Ms. Holliday is currently at work on the next anthology in the series, Children of the Dream: Growing Up Black in America.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

ADRIAN FOX
CRAIGAVON, COUNTY ARMAGH

Adrian Fox was born in Kent, England, in 1961. Both Irish, his parents had gone to England to find work but later returned to Northern Ireland to set up a home for their growing family and to start a business of their own. "Little did they know," Adrian says, "that in just two years they would become part of the nightmare [the Troubles] and that my father's small car repair centre in Belfast would be taken over and used as a British Army post and our home would be taken from us by force and burned."

Having spent his first six years happy and content in England, Adrian simply was not prepared for the violence he saw in Belfast. "It seemed like hell," he says. His school life was so affected by the chaos of the Troubles that he left school at age fifteen to become a butcher's boy.

"A friend of the family saved my life in a gun battle," he recalls, and was killed just minutes after getting me home safely." Adrian himself sometimes was involved in the violence until one day everything changed for him: "As a young teenager, thinking this war a part of me and I a part of it, one day I was rioting with the British Army and I split a black soldier's head open and my friends congratulated me on such a fine shot but I ran home through the streets sick to my soul. And on the way a woman stood screaming in an alley, 'The bastards have shot my son!' Her son's busted body lay there with his intestines hanging out like snails on the concrete. Then as I cried myself to sleep I knew this war was not a part of me. I can still see those faces of the dead and injured."

Now living in County Armagh, happily married with three children he loves very much, Adrian's commitment is to his family, his writing, and peace. He has had quite a few poems published in anthologies. One of his poems, "Breath of Peace," was recently issued as a song on a CD by a Belfast band. The following story is Chapter Two of a book he is writing called Freedom Winds.

One for the Road

I didn't feel the beat of my heart until I was six years old. If I felt it before then it was only a faint murmur so I take it for granted that my first six years were spent cocooned in peaceful innocence.

Mum said I was a laid-back child full of wisdom. As long as my high chair tray was piled high with food I was content. Dad, who always differed, said I was a lazy child who needed too much attention. I suppose I was somewhere between the two assumptions.

My heart beat like it had never beaten before. It felt like my body was vibrating with fear. Reluctantly I stumbled up the mobile staircase, mother's strength tugging at my arm as I stopped, taking in the sight of the massive steel bird, holding the handrail like the branch of a tree when falling.

On reaching the platform, she turned to me to reassure me that everything would be alright. Seeing the fright written on my grimaced face and the buildup of tears, she took me into her arms. I clung to her like a leech -- so close our heartbeats entwined.

This was my first time on an aeroplane. Flying to Belfast, of all places, with my head stuck in my second sick bag as if I had been given some premonition of what the future had in store. The year was nineteen sixty-seven.

What a rush of relief I felt when the aircraft taxied to a halt at Aldergrove Airport and we were in a taxi rolling through the lush green countryside. My heartbeat returned to normal as the beautiful rolling hills opened to me from the backseat, as we climbed hills filled with cattle, sheep, and little cottages and farm buildings. I had only glimpsed scenes like these in books or stories from my mother's childhood as my early years were spent in built-up towns and cities in England.

I was lost in a daydream of what my new home would be like, picturing fields to run and play in, rivers to fish with friends. My dream was shattered as the taxi fell from the last hill to civilization, past houses, shops, schools, churches, and hundreds of people on the streets.

The taxi turned off the main road where the sun was shining brightly. The side streets were dark and dismal as if an instant depression had erupted in the heavens. Grey clouds formed above, blending bleakly with the rows of closed-in redbrick terraced houses, like a garden filled with overgrown weeds.

I knelt on the backseat observing with disappointed eyes my new world, far from the beautiful scenery of my imagination. The nearest resemblance to trees were the old gaslights. Now converted to electricity, they lined the dreary streets. Scruffy, hard-looking kids swung around them enclosed in a strong rope.

I watched the older boys who played football on the road without any fear of the traffic. They leered at me through the glass.

"There's the school you'll be going to," said my father. It stood empty and evil behind the high rusted spiked double gates, surrounded by a brick wall. Along the top of the wall ran three layers of rusted barbed wire. My heartbeat grew wilder at the thought of attending such a school.

The taxi turned left into a narrower street and pulled up alongside the kerb. The daylight withdrew even further. It was more like dusk than late morning. This is hell, I thought, standing there on the pavement, waiting for someone to open the blood-red door of the bleak two up/two down [two rooms on the first floor/two rooms on the second] terraced house.

An old worn woman with mousy dead hair and an apron over her drab dress opened the door. We stood staring at the stern old woman, awaiting a smile or some expression of welcome. Dad approached her and they embraced, bringing a slight smile to her tired face.

Sarah was old and had lived alone since my father left her and the only home he knew as a young teenager. She had little time and energy. Working at the local mill where she had lost two fingers and all her pride, she spent the rest of her time in the chapel. She was a stern woman who never wed. Not many got to know her or wanted to as she dictated her religious beliefs too often.


I lay deep within the blankets of my temporary bed, a mattress on the cold linoleum floor. I shook with fear of the night coming into the room. My mother's voice from the room below brought a little comfort until my mind went wandering.

The story Sarah told me earlier was reoccurring in my mind, my imagination running wild. As she spoke with a hard northern brogue, she shot forward, just inches from my face, like a witch from the darkness. "The banshees cry at night," she said. "Don't let them see you. If they do, they'll throw their invisible combs and, if they hit you, you will die."

My insides were cold. Wanting to urinate, I took the chamber pot that rested on the only piece of furniture in the room.

With my left hand I tore at the tiny blemishes on my skin. I lay there looking at the only light in the room. A tiny crucifix enclosed within a glass tube shone a subtle red glow onto the picture it projected, adding to the sinister face of a man with a fixed glare, blood trickling from the thorned wounds of his forehead.

I turned away from the light and buried my head in the bedclothes, thinking this is an evil place with evil fleas and people talking of banshees and death, trying so hard to remember friends and good times from my short past. Eventually I fell into a sleep.


I rose from the floor and stumbled across the room in my brother's hand-me-down pyjamas. The turn-ups of four years fell in the night and hung around my feet like slippers.

I opened the curtains revealing the darkened street. I looked up to see a bright sunny day. The morning could not penetrate the street's shadows, the identical rows of houses on each side of the cobbled road were so close. I watched an elderly lady bending over her fire hearth with a lit

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