Murray was a distant and rather slow lad who arrived into our fourth class. We were nine. He wore a black, cut-down suit. His shaven head always hung down, and he looked up at you from under his eyebrows. I don’t know what he had witnessed in his life, but though he was only nine like the rest of us, he had a grown-up’s frown. Somehow, through that strange bush telegraph that schoolchildren operate, we all learned within hours that Murray had no father. Murray’s father was dead.
Marrinan the teacher was an arsehole who used to hit us with a wooden coat-hanger. He hit me once for not drawing a map of Ireland exactly right. He wasn’t very old — perhaps still in his twenties — and he had a stock of interesting facts about scientific discoveries and Greek mythology. I learned a lot from him, because I was a quick learner, and I must admit that he told us many fascinating things when he didn’t have the urge to attack us.
I was lucky: I only got the usual arbitrary, unfair slappings. Marrinan never singled me out for the special kind of bullying, though it annoyed him that I never showed any reaction when he hit me. Sometimes he hit me a little harder but I wouldn’t show him he was hurting me.
Murray was not smart, or quick, or alert. He didn’t have a circle of friends, and he didn’t carry the threat of some father in the background who might come to the school and smash the bully’s face in if he went too far.
One day, Marrinan drew a diagram of the solar system on the blackboard.
Murray, come up here and show me the Sun.
Murray looked up at Marrinan from under his eyebrows. Marrinan caught Murray by the ears and slammed the back of his shaven skull against the blackboard where the Sun was drawn.
Now, Murray. Show us where the Sun is.
Murray said nothing, so Marrinan picked him up again by the ears and pounded the back of his head against the blackboard, five or six times.
Show me the sun
We all saw that, and there wasn’t a single damn thing we nine-year-olds could do about it. Whatever about poor Murray, it brutalised me, and it brutalised all the other young boys in the classroom.
Murray didn’t come back after the Christmas break.
It was savagery.
Murray’s name has been changed to protect the poor devil, but Marrinan’s has not. He wasn’t a Christian Brother, and he didn’t sexually abuse anyone. He was just a piece of shit who made a habit of terrifying small people, and I’d face him down now if I ever met him but I wouldn’t hit him, even though I’d like to kick him senseless. That would give him a reason to complain he was assaulted.
He was bigger than me in those days, the cowardly prick, but I’d love to confront the ignorant bastard now, if he’d be kind enough to make himself known to me. However, since he preferred beating children, I imagine he wouldn’t have the guts to face a grown man.
I’d be happy to testify to this under oath and no doubt I’d be able to call as witnesses some of the forty other people who saw what he did.