At a Pro-Life procession in Dublin today, a van with megaphones blared Bible verses to the pedestrians.
It reminded me of the early 1980s, a primitive time before mobile phones with video recorders and Internet memes, when I witnessed a related incident that has been passed on through the generations by way of oral tradition.
In the run-up to the Pro-Life Referendum, a man had parked his car on the pedestrian section in the middle of O’Connell Street, with a statue of Their Lady held upright on the roof rack by some stretchy straps with hooks on the end.
He also had megaphones attached to the roof rack. He was in the driver’s seat, praying through a microphone: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art Thou, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…”
When he reached the response part of the prayer, he would hold the microphone back towards two ladies sitting in the back seat, who would lean forward and reply: “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen…”
A crowd had gathered. Some were praying along with the occupants of the Marymobile. Some were amused by the spectacle. And one was a policeman trying, unsuccessfully, to persuade the man to move his car as he was causing an obstruction.
Eventually, a police tow truck arrived. The car was slowly hooked up from behind, so that it was now leaning forward on its front wheels, with the occupants and Their Lady facing downwards at an increasingly precarious angle.
As the police slowly towed the car away, the occupants continued to pray. The man was now leaning into the steering wheel for the ‘Hail Mary…’ part, and the two women were leaning over the backs of the front seats for the ‘Holy Mary…’ response.
They returned a few times after that, but with a different tactic. They would slowly drive the car up and down O’Connell Street, with Mary above the car vibrating to the prayers being delivered from beneath her feet.
Those were also the days of the lady who used to sing and dance to the Lord in the middle of O’Connell Street, and the lady with the cross wrapped in tricolour ribbons who used to walk up and down the pavement.
And before that, the days when otherwise rebellious Mods, in I think Wexford but it may have been Waterford, appeared on RTE queuing up to have their scooters blessed by a local priest.
If only we had had the Internet then.