- Roger Deakin, Wildwood
5 october 2008
It's Flann O'Brien's birthday.
The master was named Osborne O'Loonassa. He was dark, spare and tall and unhealthy with a sharp, sour look on his face where the bones were protruding through the yellow skin. A ferocity of anger stood on his forehead as permanent as his hair and he cared not a whit for anyone.
We all gathered into the schoolhouse, a small unlovely hut where the rain ran down the walls and everything was soft and damp. We all sat on benches, without a word or sound for fear of the master. He cast his venomous eyes over the room and they alighted on me, where they stopped. By jove! I did not find his look pleasant while these two eyes were sifting me. After a while he directed a long yellow finger at me and said:
- Phwat is yer nam?
I did not understand what he said nor any other type of speech which is practised in foreign parts because I had only Gaelic as a mode of expression and as a protection against the difficulties of life. I could only stare at him, dumb with fear. I then saw a great fit of rage come over him and gradually increase just like a raincloud. I looked around timidly at the other boys. I heard a whisper at my back:
- Your name he wants!
My heart leaped with joy at this assistance and I was grateful to him who prompted me. I looked politely at the master and replied to him:
- Bonaparte, son of Michelangelo, son of Peter, son of Owen, son of Thomas's Sarah, grand-daughter of John's Mary, grand-daughter of James, son of Dermot . . .
Before I had uttered or half-uttered my name, a rabid bark issued from the master and he beckoned to me with his finger. By the time I had reached him, he had an oar in his grasp. Anger had come over him in a flood-tide at this stage and he had a businesslike grip of the oar in his two hands. He drew it over his shoulder and brought it down hard upon me with a swish of air, dealing me a destructive blow to the skull. I fainted from that blow but before I became totally unconscious I heard him scream:
Yer nam, said he, is Jams O'Donnell!
Jams O'Donnell? These two words were singing in my ears when feeling returned to me. I found that I was lying on my side on the floor, my breeches, hair and all my person saturated with the streams of blood which flowed from the split caused by the oar in my skull. When my eyes were in operation again, there was another youngster on his feet being asked his name. It was apparent that this child lacked shrewdness completely and had not drawn good beneficial lessons for himself from the beating which I had received because he replied to the master, giving his common name as I had. The master again brandished the oar which was in his grasp and did not cease until he was shedding blood plentifully, the youngster being left unconscious and stretched out on the floor, a bloodied bundle. And during the beating the master screamed once more:
Yer nam is Jams O'Donnell!
He continued in this manner until every creature in the school had been struck down by him and all had been named Jams O'Donnell. No young skull in the countryside that day remained unsplit. Of course, there were many unable to walk by the afternoon and were transported home by relatives. It was a pitiable thing for those who had to swim back to Aran that evening and were without a bite of food or sup of milk since morning.
from The Poor Mouth