Saturday, 5 March 2011

One in five girls too large for Communion dresses / My First Communion

I well remember the day I made my First Holy Communion. I was rigged out in a little grey suit with short trousers, aunt-knitted socks with the texture of marbles under my feet, and patent leather shoes that cut into the rest of them. I was taken up to Ross's on Grafton Street for a photo shoot, the results of which I possess to this day.

My old pair borrowed a car for the occasion – a Mini that belonged to another aunt who was in America with a showband.  For some reason – a tea break at Leyland or something – water swilled around the footwells of the car, and I had to keep my patent leather shoes to either side to avoid the puddles.

Then, as the car had been left lying in my evil grandmother’s front garden in Crumlin, we had to get out and push it now and again -  suit, socks, patent leather shoes and all.

Other than that, it was a good day. I managed to avoid mortal sin by making sure the host (a biscuit that we were told contained God) did not touch my teeth, and it all went smoothly enough.

Then it was time for the good part - off to the relatives to get some money for Corgi cars and other such coveted goods.  By the time we and the Mini, which got into its stride as the day went on, had visited all the relatives, I had the grand tally of six pounds in my inside pocket.

Six pounds was a lot, as the old man was only on about 20-odd quid a week at the time.  Quite a handsome profit, in fact.   I was well impressed with this God thing and was already looking forward to my Confirmation.

Anyway, when I got home I put my six quid into a drawer in the living room.  Now and again I opened the drawer and marvelled at it.  A James Bond Aston Martin, a two-tone Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, a London Transport bus with “Outspan” adverts on the side were pencilled into the budget. No Corgi was safe.

One day, however, I opened the drawer and found the money was gone. My brother was too young for thieving at the time (he was four) so the finger of suspicion pointed squarely at my parents. They were “minding it” for me, I was told. 

Apparently, there were needs more urgent in the young Gombeen Man household than Corgis – cigarettes and ESB bills, for instance. Whenever I challenged them on it thereafter, I was told I had “got it back by now”. Presumably by instalments.

I got over the trauma eventually (?) but still brought it up in conversation for years after - right up until well after my Confirmation, when I was more careful.   My parents are both dead now – natural forces rest them – and all is forgiven. 

But what about today’s kids?  I just heard on the radio that one-in-five seven-year-old girls are too large to fit into “standard sized” communion dresses. That is shocking. Seven years old, and already on the way to a lifetime of obesity.

Nowadays, of course, they are whisked away from the churchyard by helicopter in their Christian Dior Communion dresses (that's sooo Celtic-Tiger era) to get Ronaldo-esque sums of money from their relatives.  Sums of money that, even allowing for inflation, leave my six quid in the ha'penny place.

Perhaps - like Sergeant Pluck in Flann O'Brien's Third Policeman, who stole citizens' bicycles to save them from the perils of molecular degeneration - the most responsible thing the little dears' parents could do is rob them of their Communion money.

Otherwise, you just know they are going to spend it on sweets.

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Holyboy said...

you bastard - six quid!!! I ended up with a tanner and that's only because I baled out early from the Sisters of Mercy's Communion breakfast with a bad case of indigestion. Whatever they fed us had my guts doing the salsa diablo on the walk home, so much so that Frank McKenna and his wife took pity on me throwing up by the side of the road and picked me up. They ended up giving me the tanner as they delivered me to my parents. Six quid though!!!!!!! - you got a pound for every miserable denarius that i got. I could have bought 2 of those slimline cadbury bars. You on the other hand would have had 480 of them. And Trigger Bars - Jesus YOU could have had 720 of them against my 3. Oh Well at least I can console myself in the knowledge that you got ripped off to pay for Silk Cut and BSL (it is our first language after all you know) bills cos as you know, despite my having the height of respect for you - c'mon, that pic of the two tone roller. You got it didn't ya. yeah and probably the 007 DB9 too whereas all I got was the stomach pump and the mortlar for chewing on the stupid host. See you in hell PB

Anonymous said...

I go two half crowns at my first communion that I was allowed to keep for about a half an hour, and then it was the “old disappearing coin trick” into my mothers purse. She reminded me of how much my outfit cost, and I suppose she was right. In the early 1950's things were fucking awful for everybody.

I would have liked if the girls at my first communion and confirmation had looked like the beautiful girl in your picture, but alas they did not. One size dress, usually handed down or borrowed from relatives appears to have fitted most of the girls.

The nuns saw to it that the children of the wealthy who has brand new dresses were not allowed to mix with the poorer girls. One rich girl still had the price tag hanging out over the collar, it was £11.00. That was in June 1950.

Jesus, as I recall there were not too many fat children of any sort about. People may have their problems today, but they are 100 times better off than I was in 1950. It was not just to do with money, but to do with being bloody ignorant about virtually everything.

Ella said...

Hi GM, my old dear made my communion dress. The same wee frock saw both my sisters and 4 cousins up the aisle. I kid you not! So had one of the other 6 been obese well... in those days kids just weren't. I was considered the lucky one as it had been made for me. The only purchase for the outfit was the shoes. Bag, veil etc. all designed by mother of Ella.

I can't remember what the spoils for the day were though.

Dakota said...

Em it's the Irish sense of humour right? I mean what else would make a parent pay multiples of their average weekly wage, salary, dole payment, for clothing to attend this ritual (open to interpretation)? I thought it was a CTiger phenomenon but not so. Heard similar myself, elsewhere....Nevermind getting into debt for property and white goods et al, what about this kind of debt? On this one, the big bad Government or the Church are not twisting peoples arms to buy this bizzare get up? So what is it? Back to my opening gambit, it must be the sense of humour? And some still wonder why Ireland is the way it is? Despite all that though, it really is a great laugh! Cheers!

The Gombeen Man said...

@ Holy Pony Boy. LOL. I'm in stitches here, mate... sorry for, erm, resurrecting those awful memories for you. And don't forget Snapper bars and Spangles!!! And there's me thinking I was coming over all Frank McCourt! ;-)

@ Anon (DB?). My Communion was in the 70s - and, true, I think there was one lad in the class who was overweight. People simply didn't have the money to spend.

@ Ella. Another Communion tale of woe! I'm feeling very bourgeois here, with the lot of you!

@ Dakota. Yes, I think it's a very working class thing - kind of like some sort of projected bling - getting into debt for Communions and the like. Sure we were forever hiding behind the couch as people queued up, banging on the door and windows looking for their money for various things. And there was me in my swanky suit with Fred Astaire shoes.

Maybe that's where my six quid went?

Anonymous said...

Yes, things are getting better all the time. Imagine having a communion breakfast at McDonalds or KFC. The priest could come round and take the order. He could say “Do you want wholemeal or ordinary bread, or would you like it toasted. There is a special offer, that you can have free blood to drink (after all it is about bodies and blood).

Then a kid might say, “Can I have a body to eat? The priest “whose body”? The kid might say “well that waitress looks delectable”, or a girl might say, “Well, I’ll have him for a starter”.

I take the view that if things are going mad, then it should be proper madness. Insanity, is not out of tune with contemporary Ireland, so let us all go fucking, bonking mad.

Anonymous said...

Marcus Aurelius

It is pertinent to point out that the origins of Holy Communion can be traced back to Marcus Aurelius who deemed it illegal to interfere sexually with children under the age of seven.

It was he and not Augustine who pronounced that seven was “the age of the use of reason” with the ability to make choices of free will, hence good and evil.

At the age of seven there was a May Ritual for Roman children whereby they would dress up in elaborate finery and participate in a ritual after which they could be exposed to and participate and assist in sexual rituals in concubines and brothels, but could not engage in direct sexual intercourse. They were learning their trade, so one can use their imagination.

The Catholic Church retained the practice but changed it to Holy Communion and to the month of June (the month of the Sacred Heart) also, The Catholic Church changed the confirmation age to eight so that the same dress and suit would serve both functions.

In Rome, Confirmation was a very important elaborate sexual ritual around the age of eleven, whereby it was confirmed that the person was eligible for marriage. The ritual showed them what to do, and they watched what other people did, like modern pornography.

The age of eleven was retained in the Anglican Communion for Confirmation, but whether to be confirmed, was optional. This option was not granted to Catholics.

Everything that happens in the Roman Catholic Church can be traced back to Mithraism, Sol Invictus and Roman rituals. For example, during benediction (exposition of the Blessed Sacrament) the host is in shown in a "Sun-Like" device: The Monstrance. With Sol Invictus it was usually the heart or genitals of the victim that was exposed in the Monstrance.

This is why The Roman Catholic Church is so cruel, perverted and sadistic, and the history of the Roman Catholic Church regarding Industrial Schools and Magdalene Laundries that were in some cases like concubines and brothels where corporal punishment was generously used.

This scourge is an outrage and a disgrace, and in time the Catholic Church will pay the price.


anna said...

Dear GM man, Yes I made a few shilling myself in the 60’s- not much. I can understand kind relatives wanting to give few bob then- few parents had much money then, and children were better brought up and didn’t ask for much. But The BLING that goes son now…fake tans, facials, bouncy castles, meals out!!! One thing other commenter said did strike me- a wealthy girl with a f= Very expensive dress back in the 50’s…I guess the working class here may have wanted to make an impression as well with such ostentatious shows of wealth and class superiority to pummel them into place; Which this country always had in Huge amounts compared to NI, John Bull did a great deal through free education and welfare state to promote the status of working class Catholics and protestants.
BTW - my self and 2 sisters all wore the same simple embroidered cotton dress bought in a village drapery in Armagh; we all wore a pretty veil Hand Embroidered by a neighbour who was an expert needle woman and a very dear friend to my mother.
Hopefully with the times that’s in it parents will stop spoiling their children and cut back on this nonsense. Re the recession, I discovered this on Irish Times yesterday:

Fascinating…..shows who could see it coming…and the deluded nuts who kept on with the lies.
BTW what used to always fascinate me was the ‘soft landing’ a mythical creature , now retired along with Pots of gold , Celtic tigers etc…
What was this ‘soft landing?’ I pondered. I knew very well this was a massive bubble from the start, I lived in UK when they had their bubble.. So I was Much puzzled to read often’ Ireland’s property bubble is not like the UK(!!!!)- we will have a Soft Landing‘(!!!) I scratched my head- all property bubbles ended with prices crashing- and 100,000s in 100,000s of negative equity - but by some miracle, Ireland Instead would have a Soft landing- Yet NO ONE Ever explained what this soft landing was- they just repeated it to each other like a mantra…

Anonymous said...

I didnt make my First communion untill i was 14 and it was horrible!We lived in a small town in Iowa and my parish was strict.All of us girls had to wear poofy,top of the knees,communion dresses with a bonnet[yes a bonnet!no veil]lace anklets and white mary jane shoes! To further remind us of the purity of our baptisms,we had to wear a cloth diaper and rubberpants[plastic pants] under our dresses with an under shirt.I didnt like wearing the diaper and plastic pants,as the plastic pants were toddler size and fit me tight over the diaper.

Anonymous said...

To Anon.on dec.26-I made my first communion at 15 and had to wear toddler size plastic pants under my communion dress.The little girls have to wear the toddler size so i was told i had to wear the also! they fit me tight and the leg openings dug into my leg joints and caused me pain.