*This article from Michael O’Riordan’s column Outside Looking In, was
originally published in the Dumaguete Metropost on the 22nd of July 2018.*
*Golden Year *
*“No doubt you are aware it’s been 50 years since we finished school! In
celebration of this, we will be having a 50th-anniversary reunion.”*
I checked to see who had sent this as it must be an error. Imagine my
surprise when I realized that, yes, it has been 50 years since I escaped
from that Dickensian house of torture in Ireland.
Other than that revealing comment, I’ll refrain from the usual clichés
about time passing *quam celerrime.*
Fortunately, I won’t be able to attend the auspicious event in Ireland.
When the reunion takes place, assuming I haven’t drowned while paying
homage to Neptune after crossing the equator for the first time, I’ll be
roughly 14 days sailing out from Montevideo, Uruguay.
I’ll be close to fulfilling a life-long dream of sailing across the
Atlantic on a sailboat. There will be no phones, laptops, emails, no
communication of any type with the outside world. I’ll be experiencing a
rare opportunity to move back in time while working on a hundred-year-old
Dutch three masts, sailing vessel. *How sweet life is!*
Regarding school reunions, I’ve never attended one, and I never will. Their
attraction eludes me. Indulging in the past holds no attraction for me.
With limited time available to me on this life journey, I prefer to focus
on moving forward, rather than trudging backward into the questionable mire
that was my childhood.
Despite past behavior that would understandably invite a lingering sense of
regret, I refuse to indulge in this negative emotion. That would simply be
a form of self-pity in disguise, a counter-productive and delusional form
of energy that bears only bitter fruit.
Spawned in the environmental crucible of mid-20th century Ireland, I was
raised in material and social privilege while the vast majority of Limerick
lived in wretched physical and emotional poverty. Even today, I can sense
their confusion when enduring a twisted, Irish version of Roman Catholicism
that was used as a weapon to subjugate them, and accept their
perversely-loving God’s will for their daily misery. Working-class boys
were sent to be broken by the UnChristian Brothers, while we sons of the
newly-emerging Irish middle class attended a private, Jesuit-run
It was there I went five days a week from age six to 18. Experiences there
molded me, for better and worse, into the man I am today. A Jesuit saying
is “Give me a child, and he’s mine for life.” I believe this to be true.
I’ve never been able to objectively evaluate the quality of the 12 years I
spent there. But I know for certain the following: I was sexually molested
by a priest who was conveniently relocated to do more harm in Australia.
I had any love for God mercilessly beaten out of me on an almost daily
I was indoctrinated to become a social snob.
I learned to value people not for what they were but depending on where
they lived or what their father did.
I learned to despise the lower classes whose only redeeming quality was
their ability to work the machines in our factory.
But on a positive note, the Jesuits did prepare us to master any future
academic challenges. Even though I didn’t begin college until age 32, and
law school at age 38, it was almost effortless because I’d been trained to
master any academic course with ease.
There were 44 boys in my graduating class. Most began, like me, at age six,
and remained until graduating at 18. We began as innocent children. I don’t
know what we collectively were upon graduation. John Cosgrave committed
suicide a year after graduation. He walked down to the docks and into cold,
murky Shannon river waters. I’d had a drink with him earlier that day.
Others have died because of illnesses. I lived in New York with three of
them. They were wonderful, exciting, dear friends who died far too young.
Perhaps that’s partly why at 8 pm Irish time on November 6th, when sailing
closer to the coast of Uruguay, South America, I’ll raise a glass to those
lads in Limerick, Ireland who are an ocean and a lifetime removed from me.
I’ll then offer a silent toast to them, and to my childhood.