We were intrigued over half a century ago when Padraic Pearse McGuinness came to Sydney Boys’ High from St Ignatius, Riverview. I imagine him to have been bearded, in black, with a cape.
Of course he wasn’t. He was wearing a grey suit with the school crest - an open book, the Crown and the motto, Veritate et Virtute, “With Truth and Courage”.
Paddy’s funeral notice courageously proclaimed that he died “UNREPENTANT”. This was in capitals, no doubt to ensure St Peter took note.
I hope he has sent Paddy off to some purgatory to reconsider his position. But I fear that he will be outraged by what I am going to say.
The fact is that through his pen, Paddy radiated the truth as he found it, and he did it with great courage, inadvertently following the school motto he believed to be mere bourgeois twaddle. He was a rebel to the end. Named after the leader of the Easter Uprising, how could he have been otherwise?
We schoolboys were intrigued because we knew that in the confessional, the Jesuits forgave sin. So of what shocking sin was he guilty that led to his being sent down?
It was only years later that I learned that an uncle who paid his fees had fallen on hard times, and Paddy had declined a scholarship. This was in the cold war, and he soon revealed an unhealthy interest in Marx. And he was sufficiently loquacious to supersede even Marcus Einfeld and Peter Wilenski in distracting our masters from their lessons.
Without athletic prowess, and no apparent interest in music, acting, or even, strangely, debating, oratory or the school magazine, he seemed alone. But instead of trying to make close friends, Paddy set about recruiting members for a Marxist cell. I don’t think he was ever serious. The evidence for this was that no member, apart from Paddy, knew who the others were. I wonder how many judges and other eminent persons were members of his Marxist cell.
His only other contact with the boys was in intellectual discussion.
To improve his understanding of Marx, and the reading of Das Capital, he began to teach himself German. He was at his best in economics. He would often engage in long and erudite discussions with the economics master. Once it was about James Burnham and the managerial revolution - needless to say, no one else had ever heard of Burnham. But his interests were not just political and economic. He particularly loved George Bernard Shaw and was often to be found reading from a large volume of Shaw’s plays.
He was of course a republican, but well before it became fashionable. He would remain seated during the playing of God Save the Queen in the cinema, often to the outrage of those nearby. On one occasion I feared that he would be the cause of a riot.
Sitting when it is conventional to stand seemed to be a particular affectation, and not only for the National Anthem. I remember a few years ago at a mass celebrated by The Australian’s James Murray. When the procession entered the large congregation stood, except for Paddy, who was of course seated prominently and defiantly.
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