Ace of Spades


September 1966, a memoir.

The imminent return of the prodigal son has my mother on overdrive. My father’s on the late shift. That’s a blessing in disguise when the expected is accompanied by the unexpected. A grey Ford Commer van bearing the trademark of its contents, crosses, graffiti, and obscene proposals, pulls up outside. It’s The Rocking Vicars. The vicars step out, wearing dog collars and an unconventional ecclesiastical attire. Long coats, long boots, long hair greets my long-suffering mother as she answers the door to the prodigal.

As they enter the buzz is definitely rock’n’roll. But I worry that this volume of vicars may further undermine a house already buckling with religious iconography. In the tradition of an Irish welcome my mother prepares an Ulster fry. Appropriately it’s served up on her best Royal Dolton reserved for the priest and Sunday visitors. This ample banquet will fuel ‘The Vicars’ rock’n’roll mission preaching to the converted at some smoke filled speakeasy in downtown Belfast. The prodigal will be there but not me.

I’m 14 and it’s a new school term. New exercise book, I’ve homework and I’m distracted. The lord will provide. “Let me help you kid,” says a vicar wearing knee length reindeer boots and the poise and confidence of a biblical prophet. If truth be told, he doesn’t look above mugging Santa and leaving the wellbeing of Rudolph in serious doubt. He takes up my pen and inscribes the inner leaf ‘The Rocking Vicars are Great, not grate’ signed Lemmy!

I’m impressed by his mastery of common English usage and hope my teacher will be likewise. This brush with celebrity does have its pay-offs. My ‘street cred’ gains points on the Dow Jones. Friends ply me with cigarettes in exchange for first hand rock’n’roll gossip. But it’s my mother who deserves the credit for giving new meaning to entertaining the clergy!


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