By Gerry Moran
There are three things that people of my generation know for sure. One: we know for sure where we were when President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States was assassinated (he had visited Ireland a short five months prior to the assassination).
Two: we know for sure where we were when Packie Bonner saved and David O’Leary scored.
And three: we know for sure where we were when Elvis Presley, the King of Rock & Roll, died all of 46 years ago on August 16, 1977.
A few of us were walking out of the CBS secondary school after an evening of study for the famous County Council Scholarship when Lar Hunt, one of the nicest teachers to walk this earth, came rushing towards us, saying: “Boys, boys, President Kennedy has been assassinated.”
We looked at Lar somewhat puzzled until he realised that we didn’t know what ‘assassinated’ meant. “Boys,” he said, “President Kennedy has been shot dead.” We walked slowly, silently, home that night suddenly aware that there was a big, bad world out there.
I was in Cleere’s Bar glued to the television, biting my nails, when Packie Bonner saved against Romania’s Timofte. And when David O’Leary scored, the pub, quite literally, erupted. I have never known such exhilaration, such unbridled joy at a sporting event (apart from Kilkenny winning four-in-a-row) before or since. I have never hugged so many men in my life and I have never kissed so many women. None of them my wife!
August 16, 1977. I am sipping a coffee on the patio of my sister’s house in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus. My sister Eadie works here with the United Nations and invited me, her younger brother, over for a holiday. I am listening to the BBC World Service on the radio when I hear some Elvis Presley songs being played. Rather unusual, I am thinking, for the BBC World Service to be playing popular music! And then, in a wonderful, plummy British accent, a voice reminded us that Elvis Aaron Presley had died at his Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 42. I was shocked and saddened.
I became an Elvis Presley fan because of my older sisters. I first got to like his music thanks to my oldest sister Frances who listened religiously to the Top 20 on Radio Luxemburg every Sunday night which regularly featured Elvis Presley hits. I listened in too and got to like his music.
Frances also subscribed to the fanzine Elvis Monthly which I surreptitiously dipped into out of boyish curiosity which further enhanced my appreciation of Elvis and made me envious of his to-die-for hairstyle.
My second eldest sister, Mary, may not have been quite as ardent a fan of Elvis as her older sister Frances but she found herself going out with a fellow who was a huge Elvis fan and who had acquired a serious collection of Elvis LPs. He very graciously loaned me those LPs. If I liked the music of Elvis Presley previously I liked it even more now, loved it actually, as I practically wore out the turntable of our radiogram listening to Heartbreak Hotel, Hound Dog, Blue Suede Shoes, Jail House Rock to name but a few. When he and my sister parted ways I secretly hoped that he would forget about the Elvis LPs he had loaned me. He didn’t. And who could blame him.
And then there was my late, third sister, Eadie, whose house I was staying in, in Nicosia on that sad August 16, 1977. Eadie and myself, being the youngest of five, were quite close in age and were more into the Beatles and the Rolling Stones than Elvis. Compared to our more conservative siblings, including our oldest brother John, Eadie and I grew up with one leg in the Legion of Mary, so to speak, and one leg in faded, denim bellbottoms. But there was no avoiding, no escaping Elvis in our house and Eadie, like me, succumbed to the infectious, vibrant melodies of Mr. Presley.
I finished my coffee and phoned Eadie, at work in the UN, with the tragic news of Elvis’s death when who should sidle up to me but her pet poodle, a loveable, jet black, curly haired mutt who answered to the name of Elvie, my sister’s female version of Elvis!