Thursday, September 27, 2007

My Politics: Part one...

Politicians and commentators like to suggest that class social background are no longer the determinants they once were when it comes to political alignment. From a personal point of view my background did play a part even if it was only to provide me with something against which to rebel.

My mother was born in Donegal in the Irish Republic in 1949 and raised there until she moved to Glasgow with her parents in the late 1950s in search of work. My father was born in Glasgow to an Ulster Catholic woman with vivid memories of the treatment her family suffered at the hands of the ‘Black & Tans’ in Derry as a child – memories which didn’t seem to diminish despite spending most of her life in Glasgow. I never got the opportunity to discuss politics with any of my grandparents although I’ve been told my maternal grandfather was a committed socialist. Beyond that I suspect their politics were exactly as you’d expect given that sort of social background – not overtly political but solidly on the left and loyal Labour voters.

Having met at the local Roman Catholic secondary school my parents fell in love in the housing estates of Glasgow in the 1960’s. They were married in September 1970 and I arrived in August the following year. In 1974 they moved down to Ayrshire not long before I was due to start school. The nearest Catholic school however was 10 miles away on a bus and my mum decided to send me to the local non-denominational school a few hundred yards away. This arrangement persisted until I was due to enter Primary 7 – having met other Catholic parents my mum was now comfortable with me going on the bus and so I told my (largely protestant) classmates that for the final year of primary I’d be going to Catholic school. They took this news in their stride, wished me luck and all signed a piece of paper that I still have somewhere. The following August during my first week at the Catholic school my classmates spent most of each lunchtime punching and kicking me and taunting me for having went to ‘proddy school’.

I don’t want to overstate the bullying – my parents visited the school a couple of times and after a few weeks everything settled down. However, in terms of social identity the dominant theme of my childhood was Catholicism. That’s not to suggest my parents were particularly devout, it’s just that long before I became aware of any class distinction I was aware that our Irish Catholic background set us apart slightly. Again, not in any significant way – the West Coast of Scotland in the 70’s / 80’s had plenty of families with such a background and attendance at Mass each Sunday made sure you didn’t feel like an outsider. Also the first awareness I had about anything political was my dad’s interest in Irish Republican politics.

I guess it's a mixture of age and political events that determine when someone finally becomes politically aware. Beyond that awareness of my Dad's interest in Irish affairs (frequently on the news in the late 70's / early 80's) my personal interest in politics probably dates from the miners strike and that's where I'll pick up in the next post.

(introductory post in this series here)


At 11:16 AM , Newmania said...

My family were all trade Unionists parting compnay with Labour in the 60s which was a period of great socila oportunity since stagnated thanks to Labour`s anti aspiration policies


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