Furthest Right

No Blacks. No Dogs. No Irish.

From Into the Void: From Birth to Black Sabbath―And Beyond:

With us kids, it was mostly just rough-and-tumble. But I witnessed a lot of proper violence, especially in and around the White Swan. When I was little, our neighbourhood was mainly Irish, with a few Scottish families and one from Yorkshire. But as more families from the West Indies, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh moved into the area, attracted by work in the various industries, interracial clashes increased.

One night, I saw a West Indian have his head bashed in by a brick, thrown by an Irish bloke. His crime? He wanted to have a drink in the White Swan. Another time, a young Pakistani man was stabbed outside the pub. Mom cradled him until the ambulance arrived. Then there was the time I came home to find a man slumped against our front wall, being shredded to pieces by a couple of Pakistani men with broken milk bottles. His flesh was hanging off his face, and he was barely breathing by the time an ambulance and a couple of coppers arrived on the scene.

Some of what I witnessed was just weird. For example, a West Indian bloke, who moved into one of the houses across the road, would hang out of his bedroom window and shout, “Go back to Africa, ya Black bastard!,” at any Black person who happened to walk past. Who knows what was going through his head, but he didn’t last long in that house – probably taken off to a mental institution.

A teacher told us to welcome Asian newcomers by saying assalamu alaykum (“peace be upon you”) if we saw them on the street. But the first time I tried it out, the bloke produced a knife and chased me. I’ve no idea why he did that, but he obviously felt offended. On another occasion, I was walking along Victoria Road with my girlfriend when we were stopped by an Asian man. I thought he was lost and wanted directions, but eventually I worked out he wanted to pay for my girlfriend to go to his house. I told him no and was again threatened with a knife, but we managed to give him the slip.

However, it wasn’t all misunderstandings and hostility. When an Indian family moved in next door, I became friends with the son Magenlal and developed a crush on his sister Madhu. The day they arrived, the mother came knocking on our door in a panic. I followed her into her house and she pointed at a running tap, which was causing the kitchen sink to overflow. She didn’t realize that she only had to turn the tap clockwise to turn the water off.

I was always intrigued by their home. Because they couldn’t readily get Indian ingredients, they’d grow herbs and spices in their backyard and dry chapatis on the roof of the outhouse. Inside, they had pictures of an elephant-headed god and gurus on their walls, just like we would have pictures of Jesus and Mary. As Dad had been in India with the army, he explained that the elephant-headed god was the Hindu deity Ganesha and that a guru was a Hindu spiritual teacher. Dad made friends with the father, and they’d often talk over the garden wall while smoking cheroots, which Dad hadn’t had since his time in India.

My parents would never admit they were discriminated against, but being Irish in Britain at the time was often difficult. I struggled to understand that, because Dad and thousands more Irishmen had fought for Britain in both world wars. My uncle Tommy was wounded in Burma, where he pretended to be dead so the Japanese wouldn’t take him prisoner. He lay in the mud for so long he caught malaria, and he had to recuperate in our house in Aston until he was well enough to go home to Dublin. I suppose the hostility had a lot to do with the IRA’s bombing campaign around the start of the Second World War. One bomb killed five people and injured seventy in nearby Coventry, so a lot of British people assumed the Irish were on Hitler’s side. I suppose some were, but the vast majority – including my dad and uncle – were not.

One day, me and a friend from Belfast were playing outside when a binman said, “Get out of the way, you little Irish cunts.” I’d never heard that word before. That evening, we were all sitting around the dinner table when I blurted out, “What’s a cunt?” Our house had a strict no swearing rule – if as much as a “bloody” or a “bleeder” slipped out, Dad would tell me that only ignorant people swear and beat me with his belt – so it was as if I’d announced I was the devil.

My brothers and sisters almost choked on their food. Mom and Dad blessed themselves and said about ten Hail Marys. Undeterred, I followed up with, “Is it like the Count of Monte Cristo?,” because that was on TV at the time. After a long, awkward silence, someone finally told me that it was a bad word and not to be used again. Even now I seldom swear, despite spending thousands of days in the company of Ozzy Osbourne.

We never went on holiday in Britain or ate out in restaurants or cafés. On day trips to seaside towns like Rhyl, Weston-super-Mare and Aberystwyth, we’d take our own food. My sister Maura once booked to stay in a bed-and-breakfast in Blackpool. When she turned up, she saw a sign on the door that said: NO IRISH. NO BLACKS. NO DOGS. She turned around and came straight home.

Repatriation to North Africa really is the kindest thing we can do for these soft-headed mixed-race people. Boats!

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