Taken from Kicking Through the Troubles by John White ( – Buy your copy now

Pinheads or Stickies?

The first thing I recall about moving to the Short Strand around April 1971 was an encounter I had with three older kids. I was out and about exploring the area when suddenly I was confronted by these three kids. They couldn’t have been older than 11. One of them said to me: “Are you a pinhead or a sticky back?” I hadn’t a clue what he was asking me so I didn’t answer and tried to walk away. But this only provoked them and two of the boys grabbed me by the arms and pushed me against a wall. “I am going to ask you for the last time. Are you a pinhead or a sticky back?” he said. Clearly, this was something which was important for them to get out of me and I knew that if they did not like my answer I wasn’t exactly going to get hugged. Besides, my main aggressor didn’t look like the hugging kind. For some reason I thought about Panini stickers and not having heard the term pinhead before I thought this word must have some local meaning. So without even knowing what it meant I told them that I was a pinhead. “Good lad. Let him go,” he said and off they went in search of some poor unfortunate sticky back or some other kid who unlike me simply would pick the wrong answer to their question. But I did learn one important thing following my encounter with the three boys and that was: I had a lot to learn if I was going to make it in my new tough surroundings and in particular that supporters of the Provisional Irish Republican Army wore an Easter Lilly with a pin through it to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin whilst the supporters of the Official Irish Republican Army wore an Easter Lilly with an adhesive back, hence pinheads and sticky backs!

I used to think it was my fault that we were put out of Ballybeen. I got very friendly with the local window cleaner and when he did his Saturday morning round I would get him a bucket of clean water from our house. Mum didn’t mind me doing this because she knew I enjoyed helping him carry his bucket or ladder. He was about 22 years old and had long hair and tattoos on both arms. He had a stud in one ear and smoked. I thought he was pretty cool and he was always chatty with the girls. He would often say to me: “I could tell you some stories about things I have seen up that ladder washing bedroom windows.” But he never did divulge any bedroom tales. This particular Saturday he asked me to mind his ladder whilst he went to the toilet. I had no idea where he went when he needed the loo and guessed he just went behind the garages. Mum and Dad were not at home this particular Saturday and as we were near my house I said he could use our toilet. He asked me if Mum and Dad would not mind and I told him they were out and I had a key to get in. My Dad would always hang a spare key on a piece of string attached to the door and all I had to do was reach my hand through the letterbox to retrieve it. Not very safe I know but nearly every family did the same thing. I opened the door and he went upstairs. I was filling his bucket and he came storming down the stairs and shouted to me: “Are you a wee Taig?” I had no idea that Taig was a derogatory term for a Roman Catholic and asked him what it meant. He said: “A Fenian, a Roman Catholic. There is a holy picture at the top of your stairs with a holder full of holy water under it. Your Ma and Da are Taigs aren’t they?” Before I could answer he snatched the bucket from me and left. I never saw him the following Saturday and it wasn’t long after this incident happened that we were forced out of our home in Craigleith Walk. It could just have been a coincidence with the timing of events but I still thought I was to blame.

The one thing I cannot totally remember is whether I continued attending Saint Joseph’s Primary School or if I directly went to Saint Matthew’s Primary School. It may have been the latter as this just seems to make more sense. I was in P4 at the time and enjoying listening to the songs on the radio including a brilliant song by R. Dean Taylor called “Indiana Wants Me.” Today Ballybeen Housing Estate is the second largest housing estate in Northern Ireland, with 2,400 houses.

To be continued …………………………………….


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