When I look back on my childhood, I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.
People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters; the English and all the terrible things they did to us for 800 long years.
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, page 11
We go to school through lanes and back streets so that we won’t meet the respectable boys who go to the Christian Brothers’ School or the rich ones who go to the Jesuit school, Crescent College. The Christian Brothers’ boys wear tweed jackets, warm woolen sweaters, shirts, ties and shiny new boots. We know they’re the ones who will get jobs in the civil service and help the people who run the world. The crescent College boys wear blazers and school scarves tossed around their necks and over their shoulders to show they’re cock o’ the walk. They have long hair which falls cross their foreheads and over their eyes so that they can toss their quaffs like Englishmen. We know they’re the ones who will go to university, take over the family business, run the government, run the world. We’ll be the messenger boys on bicycles who deliver their groceries or we’ll go to England to work on the building sites. Our sisters will mind their children and scrub their floors unless they go off to England, too. We know that. We’re ashamed of the way we look and if boys from the rich schools pass remarks we’ll get into a fight and wind up with bloody noses or torn clothes. Our masters will have no patience with us and our fights because their sons go to the rich schools and, Ye have no right to raise your hands to a better class of people so ye don’t.
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, page 272-273
Frank McCourt,Whose Irish Childhood Illuminated His Prose, is Dead at 78
By WILLIAM GRIMES
Published: July 19, 2009
Frank McCourt dies at 78: late-blooming author of 'Angela's Ashes'
Only a Teacher: Teachers Today interview with Frank McCourt