Monday, 12 June 2017

A brief Autobiography: How Irish dancing went from being a hobby into a passion into an obsession. Part 10 - My first year with Royal Tara, My parent's separation, crazy teenage parties, clubbing at 15 and my sister's suicide attempts.

A brief Autobiography: How Irish dancing went from being a hobby into a passion into an obsession. Part 10 - My first year with Royal Tara, My parent's separation, crazy teenage parties, clubbing at 15 and my sister's suicide attempts. 

Eventually, my mum agreed to collect Suzanne and I, and her mum leave us up. I remember going to the class in Carrickfergus, Suzanne and I had split up but remained friends. It was in Sunnylands Community Center, which is a loyalist estate and was quite scary for me - especially being a Catholic and from quite a privileged background. The school's pupils come from a wide range of socioeconomic background and clashes between myself and some pupils enfolded. Most of the pupils in my own class were nice to me though - Suzanne, Kirsty (Jordan - Doherty-Petri), Ciara, Gillian and I were in the Carrickfergus class together, it was the pupils in the Larne class mostly which created the problems.  Kirsty often taught me steps - she had been dancing since she was a baby as all of her older siblings danced and were very good dancers, in particular, the eldest Kerry.

The teachers put me in “Reel shoes” and completely changed my style to make myself more masculine. Although a lot of festival adjudicators did not like this and saw it as “feis” and that the Royal Tara teachers were maybe being influenced by their son (Curtis Long) dancing for a feis school. They gave me a very technical set dance and it was a bit faster than what I was used to, hence why I struggled with the timing of it the first year, this is probably which I didn’t get many good results in the championships . Though I did do very well in my heavy solos - I was usually 1st or 2nd in that.  

Although I qualified in my first year for the Ulsters, which was quite impressive, I didn’t get placed, though i wasn’t that surprised because my timing in my set was going a bit. Same for the Northern Irelands, however, something kind of dodgy happened to me at the Northern Irelands  - I stopped half a step short in my light round, despite dancing till the end of my second step, which was what I was told to do. I wasn’t sure of what to make of this because some people have side steps etc in festival dancing which makes that more confusing.

Gillian won the Ulsters that year and I was very happy for her, despite that she had started to be a bit strange to me in class. She refused to do a three-hand with Suzanne and I was one example.

The result was 16-17 1st Gillian, 2nd Ashleigh 3rd Holly (she was given Lauren Smyths set dance “The Whirlpool”) & Catherine Lamont 4th Nicola Mitchell, Alice Nickell and Victoria McNamee 5th Conor Smyth. Natalie McAlister wasn’t placed which was a big shock.

Northern Ireland's: 15-17 : 1st Juliet Stirling 2nd Gillian 3rd Niamh Hunt 4th Conor Smyth 5th Suzanne Gray 6th Holy Sweeney and Megan Mccullough 7th Victoria Mcnamee 8th Natalie McAlister. I actually thought Niamh deserved to win that day. We got along okay after junior school - we had matured.


During this period of time my parents separated, it wasn’t that much of a shock to me, after my dad's mum died the things that my parents had been fighting about came to an eclipse. They separated temporarily for a while and got back together, my mum left on christmas day a year or two prior to this. The next year would prove to be crazy.  

I was allowed to have a party for my sixteenth - I could invite 50 people. It turned out to be 100s. Fireworks going off, lots of promiscuous behavior amongst teenagers, people crowd serving in my living room, one of my friends drank a whole bottle of aftershock and asked people to kill him. It was like something in a movie, it was like a “Skins” party. It was strange because people who I hadn’t seen in years had came and changed so much, it seemed like yesterday when i knew them as children and this seems like yesterday to me. It wasn’t a “sweet sixteenth” it was the sixteenth party from hell, but it was  a great party. I had lots of parties like this during this year and so did my sisters - none as crazy as that one though.

However my younger sister went a bit off the rails for someone her age. I think she found my parents splitting up harder than me and she acted out as  a result, she had been self-harming and then she tried to commit suicide twice. Even though she was "acting out", she was also being influenced by a movie she watched called "thirteen" - acting really silly and self-harming because she thought it was "cool". I didn't tell anyone about it at the time though.. She retained her title, and was very lucky she did. I think due to their being concerns over her well being at the time, it might of helped. My youngest sister got placed that year also - she was still in primary school.

This was all ongoing during my GCSE year of school. I hardly put pen to paper I was either on bebo, partying and going out clubbing - I actually went to "Skye" (an old nightclub in Belfast) the night before one of my exams. I use to be able to get served and get into clubs despite not usually having an ID and probably due to a mixture of reasons I was more interested in this than my GCSES - I was more interested in how many girls I could pull and how many shots I could take than how many As I could get. I was quite the "playa" and my v plates had definitely gone at this stage, between the ages of 15-17 I had been to virtually every club in Belfast. I somehow managed to still pass them all though, despite not even applying for extenuating circumstances. Though I was angry I didn't get all As, because I thought could just wing them.


  1. Why do you feel the need to tell people you're from a privileged background? Normal people couldn't care less and it just makes you sound like a d**k. It probably contributes to why people don't like you very much.

  2. My favourite but it when you describe yourself as a 'playa' πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜Š chill out Kanye lol


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