THE TIME I “RAIDED” THE PROTESTANT SHANKHILL ROAD
I was a curate in St. Peter’s Cathedral, Falls Road, Belfast from 1978 to 1983.
The Catholic Falls Road and the Protestant Shankhill Road in Belfast run parallel but were, at the time divided by peace walls and gates to stop murderers going from one to the other.
I learned that, long before The Troubles a number of Catholic priests from St Peter’s had crossed the divide to help nurse the Protestants on the Shankhill who were suffering a Cholera epidemic.
In rememberance of the generousity of those priests the Protestants of the Shankhill renamed a number of their streets after the priests. Two of those streets became BLANEY STREET and BRENNAN STREET after fathers Blaney and Brennan.
When the old streets were being demolished in the late 1970’s to make way for new housing I requested Belfast City Council to give me the name plates in memory of the priests.
They bluntly refused. They were going to bulldoze the nameplates with the streets ☹
One Christmas a fellow priest and I were walking back from a Christmas dinner in Bishop William Philbin’s palace on the Antrim. We were walking because we had a few drinks and because the roads were full of slow and ice.
As we passed Brennan and Blaney streets I said to my companion – Father Vincent McKinley – “There’s the nameplates I want”.
He replied; “Let’s take them”!
We walked back to the cathedral and got his car and I held a ladder out the window. Back at Brennan and Blaney streets he held the ladders and I went up with a hammer and chisel and removed the nameplates.
Next day I brought them to the woodwork department of out boy’s secondary school and had the teacher mount the nameplates on the wood they are still on.
Recently I had a telephone call from a new small museum on the Shankhill Road asking me would I be prepared to donate them back to the Shankhill Road?
Of course I agreed.
On Friday of this week I am bringing the nameplates back and handing them over.
They asked me if I wanted anything for them.
I said “Yes”.
“After the presentation I want you to take me to the most Protestant and Loyalist pub on the Shankhill Road for a pint”.