Rock In Peace


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 as the expected arrival home of the prodigal son is accompanied by the most unexpected. A grey Ford Commer van pulls up in the street bearing the trademark of its contents: crosses, graffiti, indecent proposals. It’s The Rocking Vicars. The Vicars, dog collared and dressed in unconventional ecclesiastical attire of long coats, long boots, long hair, greet my long-suffering mother as she answers the door to the prodigal son.

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 under the weight of religious iconography. The Sacred Heart, bearded, long-haired and lit by the flickering votive lamp, with has his hands outspread in benediction welcomes the clergy.

I am dispatched to the shop for bacon, eggs, sausages, black pudding, potato and soda bread, the makings of an Ulster fry a traditional Irish welcome. My mother prepares the feast for the hungry travellers serving it up appropriately on her best Royal Dolton which is reserved for the clergy, Sunday visitors, and special occasions. 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 with 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 attention and credit for giving new meaning in the neighbourhood to entertaining the clergy!