I have a clear memory of when I was first introduced to Deborah, the new girl from Clabby who was starting out as a reporter in the ‘Herald office.
“I’m pleased to meet you,” she said with a polite handshake as I smiled, reciprocated the ‘hello’ and thought to myself, “Where in the hell is Clabby?!”
After a few weeks of friendly exchanges and trying to be helpful, I almost choked on my coffee when dear Deborah mentioned to the boss that she rang a man about a story but he was in ‘Londonderry.’ Eek!!
My brain screamed as the coffee ran down over my chin and stained my new shirt.
It reminded me of the time my Da rang an official and asked about a scheme in Derry to be met with, “You mean Londonderry?” to which dear Paps steamed, “You call it whatever the f**‘ you want, I call it Derry!…” beep, beep.. “Hello are you still there?…” Da had such a way with words but meanwhile back in the John Street office I could only laugh in bemusement.
It’s been quite a journey, the meeting of two apparent polar opposites that has forged a wonderful friendship. It’s not exactly akin to the camaraderie made between Gusty Spence and Cardinal O’Fiach or indeed the Chuckle Brothers, McGuinness and Paisley, but our collision of cultures has at times seemed like a sociological experiment.
You see Deborah, who is all of 23 summers, is the daughter of a Church of Ireland minister, attends garden fetes, waved a little Union Jack as a child when the Queen visited Fermanagh, can’t wait for the Twelfth day, thinks a Gael is a badly spelt weather report and is fiercely loyal to Mrs Foster.
When I was 23 I lived in a skip, spat, swore, ran to GAA matches, rolled up the street on St Patrick’s Day, was airlocked, locked up, locked down, locked in and locked out, a rebel without a clue and hostile to all things British. Some of those traits remain dear reader. That is why I do a Rant. It was recommended as part of my therapy.
A late vocation to the fourth estate, I came from the school of hard knocks while Deborah arrived from university. Her dad preaches the Gospel from the pulpit but when I think of my late Da, I am reminded of the line by poet Paul Muldoon, “There is a madman on every street, unfortunately the madman on our street was my father.”
For f*** sake she never ever curses, unless ‘flip’ is a swear word, but is never offended by the muck savage coarseness all around her. It’s a quite a dichotomy in socialisation but there it is, we get on like the proverbial house on fire.
I have, however, taught Deborah some Gaeilge: “Cad é mar atá tú a Dheborah?” (How are you?) I’d ask of a morning to which she would reply, “Tá mé go maith, go raibh maith agat.” She always felt good apparently! In return I get the insight on the craic her young friends enjoy in the Orange Lodge.
We have crossed swords too, most recently on the morning of the Brexit result and when Arlene gloated when crowned Queen of Ulster.
The differences continue. Deborah is leaving us and can’t wait to get to Stormont, and after the last two weeks I want to get as far away from politics as possible. Ironically echoing the EU vote, I will Remain and she will Leave, the office on John Street that is.
There is a moral to the story somewhere. In France supporters of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland got on famously. Alas closer to home the tribal makeup of this society ensures that folk less than a couple of miles apart will live in mutual mistrust and never socialise together. It is a tragedy that people spend all their lives in such proximity and will pass each other in the streets and shops and never speak.
There are so many barriers. It is a sad reflection on many parts of the wee North that initiatives to get young people from different religious backgrounds together involves taking them to camps far away from their homes. Many return much richer for the experience.
We are all sad to see our Clabby friend leave the ‘Herald fold. Her mum’s cakes were a treat while our plans to start up Clabby Pearse Og camogie club have had to be put on hold.
A Sinn Féin MLA who had many dealings with Deborah paid the best tribute to her genial journalistic skills when he remarked that he had “no idea” she was a DUP stalwart. She has been a breath of fresh air in the ‘Herald office.
Those Republican and Unionist MLAs better treat her well on the Hill. I’m going to miss my friend Deborah and wish her well in her new role as press officer to the DUP in Stormont. Now there’s a line I never thought I’d write.
Slán go fóill mo chara.
Posted: 8:30 pm July 6, 2016