2nd July


One morning a boy called Archie came into school with the news that Bobby Kennedy had been shot. This was exciting to young boys, because although most of us couldn’t remember where we were when President Kennedy was shot we all knew it had happened and what a big deal it was. And now it had happened again, to JFK’s little brother Bobby. Some of us had little brothers and some of us had big brothers, so this meant something. The story spread like a fire.

There was a teacher called Mr Cheyne, who taught English, History and Scripture and sometimes played the piano at assembly. Mr Cheyne also sang, in a very loud tenor voice that I didn’t like. He had a singing career as well as being a teacher. He gave concerts and made records on which he sang sacred songs in his loud and, to me, objectionable way. He was not shy about proclaiming his Christian faith.

Something snapped in Mr Cheyne when he heard the story about Bobby Kennedy. He said it was nothing but a rumour, and demanded to know who had brought this rumour into the school. Pretty soon Archie was fingered. Mr Cheyne cornered him. This big, blustering man in his thirties roared at wee Archie, accusing him first of spreading malicious gossip and then, when Archie stuck to his guns, of lying. Archie said he was only repeating what he’d heard on the radio at breakfast, that Senator Kennedy had been shot in a hotel kitchen. That was all he knew.

The hotel kitchen detail made Mr Cheyne madder and redder than ever. I think he would have exploded if another teacher hadn’t come by and quietly confirmed that everything Archie was saying was true.

Mr Cheyne should have deflated like a punctured balloon, but he didn’t. He blew off down the corridor and was not seen for a while. Later he took Archie aside and apologised, but it was too late. General respect for Archie went up tenfold – we thought him a hero for defending himself and the truth. But as for Mr Cheyne, none of us ever believed a thing he told us after that.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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