“The boy? The boy in the Belfast jail?” That was just one of the very few lines I had while playing a ‘madam’ in a Western stage production last year. The name of the play escapes me right now, but it was based on the warring years in Belfast. I have a feeling someone will post the name of this play.
So, anyway, there I was yesterday inside a replica of a prison cell-the bed and door came from the Armagh Women’s Prison in Belfast. The devastating cell was one part of the Irish Republican History Museum that was opened in the Conway Mill complex in 2007, which coincided with the first anniversary of the death of Belfast Republican Eileen Hickey. Eileen had been one of the women republican POWs in the Armagh Gaol from 1973-77. Upon her release, it became her passion to educate people on the history and understanding of the republican struggle in Ireland. She collected artifacts and prison handicrafts,that represented various phases of the struggle for Irish freedom. Items also donated by hundreds of individuals and families date back to the Irish struggles from 1798 to 1977 and beyond.
The guide from Dublin to Belfast told us that Belfast is enjoying a calm atmosphere today. I could see that in the business of the street where I had an opportunity to play reporter.
The tour began from Dublin early in the morning. I’m not really ‘into’ tours that much, because my independent streak wants me to sometimes veer off to something that catches my eye, but in general, I tried to stay in my group. That didn’t happen yesterday, through another glitch…The Dublin bus stopped in the center of town, in Belfast, after we had seen a lot along the one hour trip getting there, and we were told to find a bathroom if we needed but to be back to the same spot by 1:55 p.m. to get on a Belfast bus that would take the Dublin folks and others on more extensive view of the City. Well, I ran off to a department store, found a W.C. and thought I had a few more minutes to spend, according to my watch. When I came back, and after learning I had missed the bus because the pin that sets the time in my watch had been pulled out and stopped recording the time, I just stayed put and played reporter.
I interviewed people about their lives in Belfast. Everywhere I go, it just convinces me more and more that people are basically good. Behind me on the bench where I sat, little teeny boppers were lining up. By the end of my time warming the bench, they were lined up all the way to the end of the street in front of a music store. A mother of one of the girls in the front of the line told me the girls were waiting for the group, Jedward to show up. For those not familiar with the Irish Pop Scene, let me explain that Jedward are twenty year old twins by the names of John and Edward. They are from Dublin.
They didn’t win the Live X Factor show in 2010, but gained popularity since then. The girl’s mother told me that both of the boys have a wild hair-do. I looked them up on the web, and she was right. The mother seemed calm and relaxed while the teeny boppers behind me squealed in anticipation of Jedward.
“Is Belfast quite a bit different than Dublin, would you say?” I asked her.
“Oh, I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been there.”
“Oh, are you from another area? Dublin is only an hour away.
“No, I was born and raised her in Belfast, but I don’t travel.”
Other people sat and joined me in eager conversation. They wanted to know about my travels and about the U.S. But how I missed the bus drew the most comments. They were so sympathetic that I had to assure them it was okay.
Then there were two twenty-something men, Adam McBurney and Ryan Murray, who eagerly joined me in conversation and they had a lot to say about Jedward. I think Jedward are more for girls, it seems. These two young men were so much fun to talk with, that the time slipped quickly away.
Before, when I was asking around about buses, I told one young bus attendant that I didn’t have any English pounds, only Euros and that I was thirsty, but didn’t want to buy the required 5 euros of items, to get a drink of water. In just a few minutes, the young man handed me a bottle of water. Good people everywhere.
There were two doctors who joined the tour in Dublin. They were both from the states and were playing hooky from a medical conference. When they arrived back to the starting point in Belfast, the woman doctor told me I didn’t miss much, that they were never off the bus, and when we arrived into town on the Dublin bus, we had already seen much of what they saw on the Belfast bus.
The stones are situated on the Ballymuscanlon Golf course between Dublin and Belfast.
The two young men I interviewed
The line of teenyboppers
A photo of a button collection inside the Irish Republican History Museum.