Growing up in small-town Ireland, my childhood aspiration was to become a native American Indian chief one day, complete with a full feather headdress. I guess the fantasy was nourished by the “Cowboy ‘n Indian” westerns that we watched on Irish television, and maybe also a showband called “The Indians” who appeared on Christmas programmes.
So it was with great delight that one Christmas around 1974 or 1975, Santy brought me an American Indian outfit, complete with the full feather headdress along with a bow and arrow. My two older brothers also got kitted out by Santy, the oldest with a full Cowboy outfit and the next with a US Cavalry uniform. All three of us did battle in our garden as soon as we returned from Christmas morning mass and before the great Christmas feast that our mother so lovingly prepared for the whole family.
Could I say if all three of us came to realise those roles in our adult lives? My sixteen years living in Belfast, first as a research student and then as a lecturer at Queen’s University, felt at times as a venture into the Wild West. Ultimately though, my move was to the east, coming to live and work in Budapest. I never did make it to be the big chief – too many cowboys and cavalry got in the way – but I still remember that Christmas present as the most magical to my innocent mind all those decades ago.
Michael McAteer, Pázmány University Budapest and Budapest Centre for Irish Studies