Schooldays I’ll never forget: Fintan O’Toole on the head brother and the flying condom

The brother’s incredulity released itself in a volcano of rage. ‘Who threw this?’

Fintan O’Toole (left) and his brother Kieran, in the cassocks and surplices they wore as altar servers, with their siblings Mary, Valerie and Patrick

Fintan O’Toole (left) and his brother Kieran, in the cassocks and surplices they wore as altar servers, with their siblings Mary, Valerie and Patrick

 

The head brother was a fierce and imposing man. He patrolled the corridors, fixing miscreants in his baleful glare, keeping at bay the anarchy he knew to be seething beneath the surface.

He had us cowed. Most of us were, as I was, from families where no one had gone to secondary school. We were willing to accept the bargain of conformity in the Catholic Ireland of the early 1970s. We would keep our feral natures in check in return for some notion of advancement.

Then came a day when the head brother was walking slowly past the open door of the classroom, where we were waiting for the teacher to arrive for class. Something flew through the air and hit him on the head.

It was a small, silvery packet with the word Durex printed on it. It was doubly unbelievable. It was impossible for such an object to exist among us, and utterly beyond credibility that someone had the gall to throw it at the head brother

It was a small, silvery packet with the word Durex printed on it. It was doubly unbelievable. It was impossible for such an object to exist among us, and utterly beyond credibility that someone had the gall to throw it at the head brother.

His own incredulity released itself in a volcanic outburst of rage. He erupted into the classroom, roaring the question he could barely articulate: “Who threw this?”

He kept repeating it while every one of us cowered and looked away, terrified lest we catch his eye and reveal the guilt that now clung to us collectively.

As no one answered, he turned on the boy who was indeed by far the most likely candidate, the class messer: “It was you, wasn’t it?”

Johnny looked both stricken and offended by the accusation. “No sir, it wasn’t me. I’ve got mine in my pocket.” And he pulled it out as proof of his innocence.

I have never seen a man deflate so rapidly. The head brother shrank before our eyes. He could not speak. He shook his head three or four times and slunk away, utterly defeated.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.