women of Shercock
was especially important to women who depended on it for
refuge and solitude. It has been said, with much truth,
that men had their local pub while women had their parish
church. Kevin Kearns, Dublin Tenement Life
It was dusk outside the Chapel. The priest, Dr. Connolly
was kneeling before the seventh station of the cross. He
was flanked by two alter boys, dressed in their long black
soutanes and white starched surplices and each holding a
lighted candle. He read out loud from his prayer book, aided
by the light from the candle held by the smaller boy who
was about nine years old.
The congregation, mainly women, were all on the left hand
side of the Chapel; this was the women's side. It would
have been most unusual for a woman to be on the right hand
side; the men's side of the Chapel.
In the dimly lit interior of the Chapel, the congregation
of the women looked like a small pious army of shadows,
all peering at the seventh station of the cross with their
heads reverently to one side, and all of them wearing headscarves,
which to some extent were similar to the garb worn by the
woman of Jerusalem in some of the pictures of the stations.
Some of their husbands claimed that they were intent on
suffering, and took delight in it, and there was nothing
that could be done about it.
priest arose from his kneeling position in front of the
seventh station intoning the words, "In thy sweet mercy,
sweet Jesus, suffer me, to suffer and die with thee".
The whole congregation of women gave the appropriate response
with great gusto. In the perception of the small alter boy,
this congregation intended not only to suffer with Christ
but to die with him as well, and they were taking ecstatic
delight in all this talk of suffering.
The priest and the alter boys turned and headed for the
eight station; the small alter boy leading the procession.
He had mentally switched off from these holy proceedings
and was picturing himself as Legs McDermott leading out
the Shercock football team against Kingscourt on the coming
Sunday. He was wondering how he would cope with Victor Shercock
of Kingscourt. Suddenly, he stepped on his long soutane
and tripped which caused his lighted candle to come back
against his forehead and singe his hair. The priest showed
slight alarm. The alter boy knew that this indiscretion
increased the suffering of his mother and her pals who were
amongst the congregation, all of whom were now peering in
his direction. He knew that his mother's increased suffering
and shame caused by his indiscretion would be referred to
in no uncertain manner on their way home.
The priest and the two alter boys reached the eighth station
where they genuflected as the priest intoned the words,
"At the Eighth Station Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem,"
and continued with the words, "We adore thee Christ
and bless thee".
The alter boys and congregation responded by saying, "Because
by thy holy cross thou hast redeemed the world".
The whole congregation of women stared a the eighth station
and saw the women of Jerusalem surrounding Christ; all of
them looking very sad, some with tears in their eyes. The
congregation of women tried to get into the same mood as
the priest continued with the words, "Christ, addressing
the women of Jerusalem, said to them - weep not for me but
yourselves and for your children."
The young alter boy thought that this was a very appropriate
comment by Christ and that the priest should turn around
and say the same words directly to the congregation and
stress the words, "Weep for your Children".
The priest continued the prayers and repeated again the
concluding prayer which he had intoned at each previous
station, which was, "Sweet Jesus, I am sorry for ever
having offended thee. Never permit me to separate myself
from thee again, grant that I may love thee always and then
do with me what thou wilt".
Even though these words had been said at all the previous
stations, the small alter Boy heard them for the first time.
The trip and the accidental hair singe had brought him rapidly
back to reality. He pondered over the words" And then
do with me what thou wilt".
Those words, he thought, were a bit strong. He resolved
not to say them any more. He and his pals were suffering
enough already at the hands of Baldy McCann, the schoolmaster
and he had no intention of praying for more suffering. Anyway,
if he did, he would be telling lies and that would be a
The stations continued and concluded with some final prayers
at the alter. The priest and alter boys then returned to
the vestry where both alter boys quickly took off their
soutanes and surplices and put them in their little cases
and rushed out of the vestry door to where their mothers
were waiting for them.
The father of the smaller alter boy was a Guard and on duty
that night was waiting at the Chapel gate to escort him
and his mother home.
The family dog was also waiting and fell in behind them
as they proceeded on their way. The dog was limping and
hopping on three legs.
"What happened to the dog," the father said to
"Eddie Hannon threw a stone at him and hit him in the
leg" replied the son.
"Christ" exclaimed the father and asked: "Why
did he do that"
"I don't know" replied the son and he added, "But
he threw a second stone and hit him in the back."
"By Christ" said the father "That young Hannon
fellow should be made to suffer."
"He should be made suffer like that dog is suffering,"
emphasised the mother. "Wait until I catch him"
replied the father.
"And when you catch him" said the son (entering
the spirit of the evening), "You should then do with
him what thou wilt".