Sectarianism is still alive
and well in Norn Iron. It is not surprising given the still mostly segregated educational system. The government schools are secular and open to children from any background and faith. Most Catholic children however opt for schools administered under the aegis of the Catholic Church leaving many of the government establishments de facto Protestant schools. Thus bigotry and suspicion, which can be imbibed with the mother’s milk, can unwittingly be sustained by the educational system. There are now integrated schools-a growing number in fact-including primary and secondary in Newcastle. They cater for both Catholics and Protestants but it is only (mostly) the ‘middle’ ‘professional’ classes who send their children there. Sectarianism needs to be tackled at a lower social level to have any chance of it being effectively eradicated.
Huttonian went to a private ‘preparatory’ school in Co Armagh. Founded by two English army officers it catered for the sons of professional families hoping to get their offspring into English Public fee paying schools (Public equalling Private in the curious English middle class speak) or failing that the top independent schools this side of the water.There sectarianism was not only flourishing it was positively encouraged to the apparent delight of the well heeled Norn Iron establishment parents. (The school turned out two future Prime Ministers of the province and a load of eminent jurists and senior ‘Orangemen’ Free Masons to a man) On the 12th of July-the annual commemoration of the battle of the Boyne of vivid memory (fought as recently as 1689)-the head boy (One glorious year Huttonian himself) played the part of King William –the saviour of Protestant Ulster and the school wimp (usually classified as a ‘spastic’ in the school boy jargon of that day) played King James –the Catholic Monarch. Stirring songs were chanted including such riveting ditties as ‘Beads and Beads and Holy Beads, we will stuff them up with rye
; we will get some rope and hang the Pope on the Twelfth of July’
Or as an encore: ‘Up the long ladder, down the short rope-God save King Billy, to Hell with the Pope’ It was only after a few years at a posh English public school did I see how absurd and silly this all was-a symptom of a ruling class feeling under constant siege from the Fenian B*******. And I wonder how much I was influenced in my attitude to the ‘other community’ by my own family’s attitudes. One of my aunts with a double doctorate from London and Wales who had lived on ‘the mainland’ most of her working life once told me that she could smell a Catholic at 50 paces! She would never have used 'Fenian', 'Papist' would been her choice of epithet. But that is over 50 years ago and the 'peace process' has changed quite a lot of that. One hopes.