Picture courtesy of Norman Rockwell. Picture link.


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Mick Coyle


The Coyle Gene


Throughout my writings, you will come across the term “The Coyle Gene”, although gene is probably not the correct term to apply to this condition, since this not being a genetic disorder but more like parental indoctrination.

The male of the species, being the provider or breadwinner, whatever term you wish to apply, was looked upon as someone to aspire to, someone to emulate and because of his position as head of the family….

He was not allowed to have any faults.

Always in perfect health.

His judgments and opinions were just and final.

He was allowed feelings and emotions, but was never allowed to show these sentiments to his fellow mortals, as they were deemed a sign of weakness.

Such an antiquated attitude in this day and age, nevertheless a belief that my siblings and I were indoctrinated into from early childhood.

In my opinion, such values can be a boon to any child, but with respect to the latter a great burden.


I was now fifteen years of age and had started my career as an apprentice joiner. The turn of events in the following days were yet another lesson in life, which taught me that this corporeal existence is limited.

This day being Sunday and having recently received my weekly wage of three pounds two shillings and three pence, I hastened home after putting in a days overtime, although I considered the overtime rate to be of a pittance, it none the less put me in good stead, as my father would say,

  “Lad’s not frightened of a bit of collar”

At this point my mother had been in hospital for four days. I had visited her on those nights and she seemed in good spirit, and suspected she would be home soon. Upon my arrival home I was confronted by my father,

  “I’m off t’see your mam” he exclaimed, “are tha coming then lad?”

  “Not tonight dad, tell my mam I’ll see her t’morrow night, that’s if she’s not home by then”

  “OK, I’m off then” returned my father and made a speedy exit.

Well, after all I had a quid left and it was burning a hole in my pocket also I had promised the lads I would see them tonight in the pub.


That date was the Sixteenth of March, Nineteen Hundred and Sixty Nine.

That day was mothering Sunday.

That night my mother passed away.


I was awoken the following morning by my father.

  “Wake up, lad” he said, “I don’t want thee t’go t’work t’day, as your mam died last night” and retreated down stairs.

I slowly came to my senses, and then sat up. That was a bad dream I thought, I’m sure I heard my father say something about my mother being ………. no, that can’t be right.

I got myself ready for work then made my way down stairs.

There was a strange feeling about the house, no one about, the fire grate lay empty, the curtains still drawn, the atmosphere was cold, dreary and bleak. I heard the door creek open and turned to face my father silhouetted in the doorframe. This could not be my father but some older man with rounded shoulders, crouched back and a long solemn face. Then my father’s words came back to me,

  “Your mam died last night”

I felt the tears starting to well, as my father said,

  “Am r’eight sorry lad”.

Then he started towards me, his arms slightly outstretched as though he was going to give me a hug and comfort me. Then the Coyle gene kicked in, he stood bolt upright, the solemn look disappeared as he declared,

  “That a man now, so chin up and shoulder straight. Have got’t make final arrangements for your mam, so am off”.

He turned and left the house.

I just stood there for what seemed like forever as the flashbacks came flooding back.

I wiped the tears away and took time to reflect upon these moments.

The happy times.

The communal family spirit of Christmas, where we would rally together and enjoy the simple things in life, sat around the blazing coal fire, playing a game of monopoly as the music of Mrs. Mills or Winifred Atwell came drifting from the old wireless.

The not so happy times.

The scolding’s I frequently got from my mother. These were quite humorous in a way, as try as she may to compose and hold a stern demeanour, with one of my angelic smiles this would break down.

She could never hide the deep-rooted love and affection she held for all her children.

With these memories, there came the realisation that I was never going to see her face, feel her touch and hear her words of wisdom ever again. I don’t want to be a man, I want to be a child so my mother would hug me and make all this go away. The tears were trickling down my cheeks by this time.


My sister and I had both matured and as a result our love-hate relationship had abated somewhat. Consequently, I now loved my sister as much as any brother loves his sister, but not today, today I hated my sister.

Where was she when I needed her? Where was she when I needed a comforting hug? Where was her shoulder to cry on? My father’s shoulder was out of bounds to me; my mother’s shoulder was no longer available. Stuff the Coyle gene, I thought, and sat down and cried.

Then it occurred to me, Rover. He was always there when I needed someone to talk to, someone to confide in and a shoulder to cry on, so I wiped my tears and made for the door.

Now Rover had been my faithful hound ever since I was 5 years old, unfortunately, he had passed away 2 years previous, but I knew where to find him. I headed for the back of the coalbunker and sure enough, sat by the old plank was Rover. 


I sat down beside him and put my arm around his memory.

I snuggled my face deep into his fur and cried as the memories of my mother came back. I cried until his fur was dripping wet, and then my fathers words came back to me,

  “That a man now, so chin up, shoulders straight”, so I kissed Rover on the head, and then he disappeared. I made my way to the house and came across Mrs. Barber.

  “You all r’eight lad? It looks like tha’s been ruw’errin”

  “Am all r’eight” I replied.

   “And how’s your mam getting on, lad?”

   “She died last night,” I said.

Upon which she put her arms around me and gave me a hug. I gently pushed her away and said,

  “Am all r’eight Mrs. Barber, really I am” and walked into the house.

Then I heard her say,

  “That to hard for thee own good, Michael”.

How little did she know.

Rover was to stop with me for a good few years until I met my wife Karen and we had children Leah and Christopher.

Then Rover left me for good.

Well, I mean I had someone else to hug and cuddle now and of that I made sure they had plenty.

I wanted the Coyle gene to die with me.


Copyright © 2005 Mick Coyle