THE GENERAL, THE OBLATES AND "SONG FOR A RAGGY BOY"Added on October 13, 2007
I refer to my recent article "Martin Cahill and the Oblates at Daingean" [7th October] regarding Frances Cahill's proposed appearance on the Late Late Show to promote her book about her late father "The General".
In May 2006 I wrote a letter to the Sunday Tribune (copy attached) about the film "Song for a Raggy Boy" and about Patrick Galvin who wrote the book AND the screenplay for the film. In view of the gross inaccuracies in book and film, I wondered what institution Patrick Galvin is supposed to have attended.
Since then I came across an article in which Patrick Galvin claims that he was in Daingean. That would explain why the book and film depict a religious order made up of Priests and Brothers (the Oblates). It does not explain why Patrick Galvin does not seem to know the difference between the two. Above all it does not explain why the film depicts rapes and the murder of a boy by a Brother, whereas there are no such allegations in the book!
Frances Cahill demonises the Oblates in her book "Martin Cahill My Father" which I have just bought. This depiction does not come from the experiences of her father at the time. It probably derives from films like "Song for a Raggy Boy" and the general demonisation of religious orders in the media. Detective Inspector Gerry O'Carroll has obviously read Paul Williams book (which includes the letter of thanks from Martin Cahill to the Oblates). He forgot about the letter in his Liveline interview because he too is affected by the climate of hysteria about Catholic clergy.
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Date: Thu, 18 May 2006 13:15:02 +0100 (BST)
From: Rory Connor
Subject: ?The Da Vinci Code? vs ?Song for a Raggy Boy
To: Editor Sunday Tribune
Letters to Editor
?The Da Vinci Code? vs ?Song for a Raggy Boy?
The Da Vinci Code features a vicious albino monk who flogs himself as penance and murders people to protect the secrets of the Catholic Church. There are no monks in Opus Dei! Monks are members of an enclosed religious order whereas Opus Dei seeks to sanctify the secular world. I think that monks are the only Catholics who are NOT eligible to join Opus Dei!
Does it matter? After all everyone knows it is just fiction and fun. In that case why don?t we have films featuring murderous Rabbis who seek to cover up Jewish conspiracies against mankind? Most people (though not all) would realise that this is fiction also.
In any case the Da Vinci Code is not unique. In October 2004, RTE1 broadcast the film ?Song for a Raggy Boy?. This features vile members of a religious order who rape boys and finally murder one. From an ethical point of view the film has a lot in common with the Da Vinci Code. For example;
1. The ?Brothers in Christ? are led by a priest Father Damien. The name of the order is ?Christian Brothers? backwards and the review of the film on the RTE website refers specifically to Christian Brothers. (So did a review in the Irish Times). Problem: there are no priests in the Christian Brothers!
But perhaps the film is supposed to be about De La Salle/ Presentation Brothers etc? There are no priests in any order of Brothers. The word "Brother? means a religious who is NOT a priest.
2. The mechanics of the story require Father Damien to be a sympathetic character because he hires the heroic lay teacher Franklin. However Father Damien had also promoted the vicious Brother John to the post of Prefect of Discipline. He explains that he had to do so because the Bishop ordered him.
Problem: the local Bishop has no control over religious orders in his diocese. These are subject to their own superiors and eventually to Rome.
Some people may say that these are just technicalities. The basic story is about child abuse and child killing and this story is fundamentally true. Actually when I made a complaint to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC), RTE claimed as much. I quote from the BCC determination of my complaint: ?RTE point out that the film is a work of fiction based on a memoir of actual events. Allowing for dramatic licence therefore, everything depicted in the film does not have to be fully accurate.?
3. So naturally I went and bought the ?memoir of actual events? on which the film is based. This is the book ?Song for a Raggy Boy? published by Patrck Galvin in 1990. And I discovered something very strange. There is no sex abuse in the book and no boy dies of any cause. Certainly no boy is kicked to death. (There is physical punishment but even that is given a very odd twist in the film.)
It would be nice (in a way) to say that Director Aisling Walsh perverted Galvin?s book. However Patrick Galvin is named in the film credits as a screenwriter. Moreover the mistakes about the Bishop who gives orders to the priestly Brothers also feature in the book. Mr. Galvin appears to know very little about the Catholic Church.
I suspect that the book is more ?moderate? simply because it was written before our current child abuse witch-hunt. However the film was made in 2002 and obviously Aisling Walsh believed she could get away with anything.
A final comment. I have read a number of mini-biographies of Patrick Galvin on the Internet and elsewhere. Either they don?t say what industrial school he was in or they refer to ?St. Judes? i.e. the fictitious school in the film. What institution did Patrick Galvin attend? And does ?Song for a Raggy Boy? have the same relationship to truth as the Da Vinci Code?
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