George Floyd’s life was snuffed out in the most grotesque manner and his horrendous murder carried live on TV for all the world to view. The conscience of every right-thinking person was stirred – none more so than the sporting fraternity. ‘Taking the Knee’, became a symbol of identification with the ‘Black lives Matter’ movement.
In a lighter vein – and in no way intending to be disrespectful to BLM, I wish to relate to you the story of a different ‘bending of the knee’ from my youth.
The old Irish people had a wonderful and simple faith. I suppose you might call it a ‘blind faith’ in all things pertaining to religion. Comforting sayings and beliefs were handed down from generation to generation – without ever being ‘stress tested!’
My granny was a devout, God-fearing, kind-hearted woman. In hard times, the ‘bit of faith’ was the only consolation that the people had. Granny regaled us children with many lovely stories of mini-miracles and where good would always triumph over evil.
Granny was in her element at Christmas! She loved dressing up; the holly, the wren-boys, Santa, plum-pudding and so on. She was musical and above all, she loved the church on Christmas morning and the choir singing seasonal hymns in Latin.
It was Granny’s story of the animals ‘taking the knee’ that really intrigued me. She said that at midnight on Christmas Eve, all the animals in the fields got down on their knee to welcome the baby Jesus. My younger brother, Willie, did venture to ask if she had ever seen the cows do this – but Granny just brushed off the question.
After hearing this story for a couple of years, I asked my mother if it was true! At eleven years old, I got the same sort of evasive answer as I did to ‘where do babies really come from’? (After the lads at school filled me in on that one –I left it be!)
I said that this Christmas Eve I was going to check out the cows ‘taking the knee.’ Mammy said I couldn’t do that because ‘it wouldn’t be lucky to question an article of faith’ … or something like that. Now, dear reader, you get an idea of how these harmless beliefs were handed down from parent to child. Nobody was going to question its validity – and dare not anyone prove it wrong. That was … until I came along!!
I hatched a plan! I was going to know, one way or another, if the beasts of the field genuflected to baby Jesus on Christmas Eve.
I wouldn’t have been able to sleep anyway, with the excitement and anticipation of the night that was in it … and so I waited! Shortly after eleven o’clock my parents could be heard departing for midnight mass. (In those days a child didn’t require a baby-sitter ‘til they were fifteen!)
My brother Willie and I slept in the same bed and he was wide awake as well. He had promised to come with me, but the nearer it got to the inspection, the more nervous he became – before finally chickening out altogether. ‘I need to stay here in case you don’t come back’, were his parting words, as I tip-toed down the stairs, armed with the flash-lamp – which I had earlier commandeered from the hallway.
It was cold and wet outside, so I put on my coat and cap and got into my wellington boots. I trained the beam of the flash-light on the face of the grandfather clock in the kitchen. I didn’t want to be standing outside for any longer than the ‘act’ took; and so I watched as the big hand etched ever so slowly towards five to midnight … and then I made my move!
I called my faithful collie dog, Rover, as he exhibited an exuberant willingness to be a part of whatever this adventure was going to be.
The cow-byre was at the back of the house and we had four cows tied at the manger: There was the ‘Rowan Cow’, the ‘Red Bald-face’, ‘The Polly’ – and the one known to my father as ‘The Black Hoor’.
Two minutes to go when I arrived at the cow-house door. Rover was frantically wagging his tail and I took this as a sign that he too would kneel down. Three of the cows were lying down. How could they genuflect when lying … so I ‘hooshed’ them up. All four were now standing there and happily chewing the cud.
I watched and I waited: Definitely at least five minutes standing there and nothing happened. Then the battery started to fade in the lamp. Could this be the bad luck Mammy warned about? Without another glance, I high-tailed it back inside the house.
Cold, wet and disillusioned, I snuggled back into bed and told my brother ‘it was all a cod.’
“Did you remember that the kitchen clock is ten minutes fast!! …” he asked?
So I still don’t know; and I’m glad I don’t know – and I never checked again!
A miracle is something that cannot happen – until it does!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!