Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Mass appeal of the man with Blue Suede Shoes

Do you remember where you were when Elvis Presley died?



It's one of those iconic moments in your life, like when JFK was shot or Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris.

I may have only been a nine-year-old child when The King passed away, but I still remember it well. I remember where I was, who I was with and how my family marked his passing in our own special way.

We were in Donegal the day the news broke, staying at our holiday home in Fanad.

Our house was a bit like Charing Cross Junction, always people coming and going. My mum was the type who'd bump into someone in the supermarket and invite them for tea. Among the motley bunch who'd stayed at 'Rapps' were a Rastafarian woman with dreadlocks, a Polish Bishop, French campers whose tent had burned down and some German tourists. That particular year, we were playing host to a violin-playing nun.

The day of Elvis' death was unusually sunny and we were on the beach nearby, enjoying a picnic. Also relaxing in the sun was a holidaying priest, though he wasn't dressed in normal clerical attire. My mum, however, has a radar for priests - as finely tuned as mine is for popstars - and guessed straight away that he was a man of the cloth. Something to do with his sandals. Anyway, she invited him for dinner and he accepted.

Afterwards, the priest was keen to return the compliment, so offered to say mass. By this stage, news of Elvis' death had reached us at Rapps and the grown-ups were all a bit sad.

"Poor Elvis. There'll never be another one like him," my mum said, shaking her head.

So there we all were - squashed into our make-shift chapel - mum, dad, my brother, sister and me, my aunt Gemma, my gran, a few neighbours who'd been drafted in and the violin-playing nun.

Like a typical nine-year-old child, I was wishing mass could soon be over so I could go and climb rocks or chase rabbits, when the strangest thing happened. As we bent our heads in silent meditation the priest asked us to remember Elvis Aaron Presley in our prayers.

Then suddenly, without warning, he burst into song.

"Well it's one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, now go cat go ?"

My head shot up and I stared at this man as he danced his way through Blue Suede Shoes. I remember all too well my father's bemused expression and my own attempts not to collapse into hysterical giggles. I looked straight ahead, too scared to catch the eye of my brother seated beside me. My mum sat smiling, like this was the most normal thing she'd ever seen. She later told me her only concern had been for my gran - and how she would react to this. But no, there was gran joining in as well.

When he finished Blue Suede Shoes he started another song and asked us to sing along. I remember Jailhouse Rock, Gemma recalls Can't Help Falling In Love With You. The nun got out her violin and we all sang along.

It was all a bit surreal, but there, in Rapps, we thanked God for Elvis Aaron Presley and prayed for the peaceful repose of his soul.

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