I jointly dedicate my song today to my great-niece from Heckmondwike, 19-Year-old Jessica Louise Eggett, and my Facebook friends, Jodie O Fusco from Halifax and Mary Mason from Northampton. All three celebrate their birthdays today. Have a super birthday today and leave some room for lots of cake and suitable refreshments.
Today’s song is ‘That’s Alright Mama’. This was a song written and originally performed by blues singer Arthur Crudup in 1947. It is best known as the debut single recorded and released by Elvis Presley. Presley's version was recorded and released in July 1954 with ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’ as the B-side. It was ranked number 113 on the 2010 Rolling Stone magazine list of the ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’. Elvis changed some of the words as it was recorded back in 1947. In July 2004, exactly 50 years after its first issuing, the song was released as a CD single in several countries, reaching Number 3 in the United Kingdom, Number 31 in Australia, Number 33 in Ireland, and Number 47 in Sweden.
As an Irish man born and bred, I learned very early on in my life who the most important person in my life was. It wasn’t the pope or the parish priest, it wasn’t my teachers, my siblings or even my dear father; it was my mother!
Even when I became a man and put away my childish things, even when I left home and married, I still never escaped my mother’s influence over me and my life. An Irish Catholic man’s wife can be the best cook in the kitchen, the best whore in the bedroom, the purest saint in public and the finest mother to their dozen children, but when push comes to shove, in areas of disagreement with her mother-in-law, her husband will always come down on his mother’s side! She was the first woman to whom he was born and suckled, bred and beholding for life. In his eyes, Mama will always be at the top of his tree of priorities and influence.
My very first example of goodness witnessed daily as I grew from infant to manhood was to be seen in my mother; in her wise words, in her positive and hopeful attitude displayed, in her blunt truth spoken, in her honestly expressed emotions at the moment of their birth, in her endless compassion towards the poor, in her own acknowledged fears and failures as a human being, in her capacity to forgive, and above all, in her unqualified love. I also learned that in any Irish Catholic household, Mama rules supreme in all things; always has and always will!
Your father might be the wage earner whose earnings bring in the family bread, but it is your mother who cuts the loaf, butters and distributes it. She is effectively the head of the household, the power behind the throne. It is she who is ‘The Chancellor of the Exchequer of Household Management’ and the worker of financial miracles. Dad might have earned £10 weekly wages when my parents were married with seven children to clothe and feed, but it was my mother’s wizardly skills which enabled how to make it spread thinly over £15 weekly household expenditure.
It was no mean art that enabled my mum to know which tradesman and bill to pay first, who could be put off until next week and which debt to pay last. It took the wisdom of a Solomon to be able to continue the gas supply to our house, while at the same time emptying the metre and replacing the required amount of shillings ‘borrowed’ to satisfy the gas man’s next metre reading, just before his house call. It also required the strength and physical endurance of the most loving of mothers, never to eat herself until her husband and seven children had partaken of food. A poor mother’s personal food rations amounted to what was left to eat, if anything, after the rest of her family had dined.
All Irish children soon become familiar with the 'dos and don'ts' of daily life. One is allowed to fight fiercely with one’s siblings, even push one’s little sister to the ground in anger, argue with dad, question the Immaculate Conception, be sceptical about papal infallibility, curse the priest for giving you the maximum prayer penance in the confessional box for some minor sin you committed, but… whoever you may offend or do wrong to… never let it be your mother! Such an act within any Irish Catholic household is unconscionable, unforgivable and wholly impermissible.
It represents the gravest of stains upon one's character, and It will lead to the offender being instantly excommunicated from their parish church, ostracised by their family and neighbours and cast out on the streets with bare feet and a torn arse in their breeches; never again to set foot back upon the doorstep of the family home until an apology has been given and accepted by the Mama of the house.
Even if Mama eventually relents and ‘forgives’ the transgressing child in later life before she dies, the offending child will still never be granted instant access through the Gates of Heaven however good and charitable a life they lived thereafter. The best a contrite and truly repentant sinning child against their mother can hope for is one hundred thousand years in the prison of purgatory, wrapped tightly in sheets of barbed wire and fed only on a diet of six-inch worms that have been marinated in rotting vinegar.
But, those children who never find a lasting peace with their Mama are unfortunately destined to eternal damnation in the flames of hell. Every word of what I have written I know to be true, because my Irish mother told me!
Love and peace Bill xxx