Wednesday, 28 December 2016

‘If you didn’t get to see the Baby Jesus
in the Crib, I’m sorry, it was me’

A crib without the Baby Jesus (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This is not my story. I cam across it on a closed group on social media that I am not a member of and that I should not have access to. But it is such a good story I thought it was worth retelling. I have changed it slightly, when it comes to spelling, punctuation and grammar, and I have changed the location and some of the details to disguise the original storyteller. If it did not happen in Wexford, it happened in another Irish town, and it is worth retelling.

For years, I have hidden my secret.

The shame of it.

My mother always hoped that nobody would find out. She wouldn’t be able to show her face in public if anybody ever knew.

I didn’t see it as a big deal, but I promised never to tell as it would embarrass her.

Well, here goes and I hope you can forgive me.

In 1969 I stole the Baby Jesus from the Friars’ Crib.

There was panic when it was noticed that the Baby Jesus was missing from the Crib.

Two friars knocked all the doors in Davitt Road, while a third friar knocked at all the houses on Saint John’s Road and the streets and avenues off it looking for the Baby Jesus.

I think something like that had happened around the time of his birth – men in uniforms knocking on doors looking for him.

The Guards were sent for and two policemen and a Special Branch man came knocking on our door. They said: ‘Are you the boy who took the child?’

A woman down John Street had said she thought she saw a little blond-haired boy with a baby on the crossbar of his bike peddling around Mannix Place and Menapia Avenue. So, the Guards knocked on the doors of all the kids with blond hair.

When they knocked at our house I was out on my new bike that I got from Santa. My mother told them I was out playing, that she would ask me when I got in, and she would let them know.

It was about 3.30 when I came in to go to the toilet. I put my new bike in the sitting room so it would not get robbed. I was having a tinkle when I heard my mother scream.

I ran out of the toilet, wetting my leg, to see if she was alright. As I ran into the kitchen, I got the hardest ‘larrap’ of a wooden spoon any child ever survived.

‘What do you think you are up to?’ the Ma screamed at me.

‘What is the Baby Jesus doing on the crossbar of your bike? The priests and the police are looking everywhere for him. What sort of child are you, stealing the Baby Jesus from the crib?

My mother was a very rational, logical cool-headed woman, not prone to over-exaggeration or embellishment. So, when she said I could go to jail for kidnapping the Baby Jesus from the Friary Crib I was really scared.

I said I was sorry.

‘Sorry isn’t good enough, you little brat. You stole the figure of the baby Jesus.’

I was still crying from the slap of the wooden spoon while I tried to explain to my mother that I had been praying to God every night for nearly two months for a new bike for Christmas.

‘I told him I would be good and share it with my sisters. I even promised that if he gave me a new bike for Christmas that I would give the baby Jesus a go. So, when I went around to the Crib I remembered my promise and took the Baby Jesus from the crib and put him on the crossbar and brought him for a go on my bike.’

My Ma had to sneak the Baby Jesus back into the Crib without being noticed.

So, if you were one of the people who visited the Crib in the Friary on 5 January 1969 and didn’t get to see the Baby Jesus, I’m sorry.

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