Banned from the band
Growing up in Breaffy in the mid nineties there were few, if any, more shameful events for a ten-year-old.
Perhaps if I conceded a last minute goal against the Mitchels or set fire to Breaffy House I would have felt more stigmatised.
But the minute I was thrown out of the St Patrick’s Day parade, I knew I had brought shame to the family.
St John’s NS entered the parade in town every year with a fervour bordering on psychotic. Most afternoons after Christmas would be spent priming the school band for March 17. If there’s one way to get sick of A Nation Once Again it’s to hear it ten times a day for three months.
But the band prep was a great way to pass an afternoon away from the classroom. It was even easier for me as I was the Jedward of the school when it came to musical ability.
Playing the recorder was an instrument I had as much chance of mastering as Mayo had of beating Kerry at the weekend (Ed’s note - but, ah, arah never mind).
I was given a go on the triangle which consisted of hitting one piece of metal off another. Still a bridge too far.
So I was given the job of carrying the tricolour. For the opening parade of the Olympic Games there is no greater honour. But in the school yard in Breaffy I saw potential for nothing but mischief.
‘Edwin McGreal I won’t warn you again.’
Our principal Tom Higgins was never a man for idle threats but I was never a great one for taking heed of warnings either.
‘If you hit Tony Golden with that flag again, I’ll throw you out of the parade,’ was the precise nature of the warning.
But being the right old messer that I was, Tony got another poke with the tricolour as he tried to play the drums.
And, true to his word, our national school principal didn’t warn me again - I was out of the parade.
But before I had to go through the ignominy of telling my parents I landed on my feet. Mayo Roller Bowl, or the bowling alley to everyone, were entering a float and as members of the Strikers Club myself and Shane Moran, another Breaffy band exile, were called up.
The Mulroy family decided to enter a float with ten of us dressed as bowling pins while Spud O’Malley was the human bowling ball. Right in front of the judges he would run through us for dramatic effect and by the time the parade was over, we had won a prize for the best float.
Breaffy NS were presented with a contribution award but our teacher told the class that it was the overall prize they had won, unaware of the presence of two such winners in the room.
The fireworks soon started when, being the conscientious types, myself and Shane tried to correct her mistake.