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Rugby Is My New Religion


Hi my name is Shane. Some of you may know me from the yuku ex-JW site where I post as irishshane. For those of you who don't here is the story I posted there, slightly amended and updated since I posted it there 4 years ago.

I  suppose I will start with my mother. She was born and raised in  Ireland in a stereotypical Irish Catholic family. She was the eldest of 13 children. They lived in a farming community and being the eldest my Mum was a secondmother of sorts for her Brothers and Sisters. This in a large way due to the fact that my Grandmothers time was taken up with farming duties, that were being neglected by my alcoholic Grandfather.

Sadly my Grandmother passed away five years ago. She was a remarkable woman who we all loved and adored. If there is a heaven she is in it as she was the most kind, generous, hard working person I have ever known.

Anyway I'm digressing. So my mum had a tough childhood. She resented the home life and at the earliest opportunity (early 70's) left home to Luton, England about 30 miles North of London. For the first few years she worked in housekeeping in hotels to shop work. Luton has a high population of Irish people, mainly due to those that worked on the construction of the M1 Motorway, which runs close by. So she made many Irish friends and during this time became fond of alcohol as she was very shy and found it gave her courage in social situations. She had 1 or 2 boyfriends and fell in love with one lad who broke her heart. Shortly after this her friends set her up with the man who would become my Dad. To this day Mum says she was "on the rebound".

A while after they were seeing each other my Mum fell pregnant. As she was still Catholic she felt abortion wasn't an option for her. My Mum and Dad were engaged. Down the line with the invitations for the wedding sent out my Mum calls off the wedding. She says she realised she didn't love my Dad. She saw a pattern of drinking and gambling like her Dads and she had always promised herself to never get into that sort of relationship. Later she tells me when I'm in my late teens how she also reckons my Dad put a hole in the condom to get her pregnant. (Although she would never tell me why she thinks that).

So I was born in Aug 1974 into a single parent family. (I've never known or had contact with my Dad). I was christened Catholic later that year. My Mum was getting state benefit also maintenance from my Dad and we were housed in a tower block.

My Mum tells me that she went into a spiral of depression. I believe this as even to this day I have noticed her mood swings and could imagine this happening to her. As a baby I would have had two Christmases and Birthday celebrations spent at my uncles or great uncles homes in London.

Anyway some time in 1976 when Mum was particularly low who came a knocking. Yep you guessed it. I can't remember exactly what they were discussing but I know my Mum says she was hooked straight away. Of course being only 2 years of age at the time I can only tell you how I've heard my Mum describe it.

My Mum was baptised in early 1977 at the Bowes Rd Assembly Hall in London. She used to embarrass me when she would tell people how she nearly swallowed half the pool.

It's hard to say when my memories kick in. I only have memories from JW times I have no recollection of anything before my Mum joined "the truth".

One of my earliest memories is getting a right good hiding from my Mum in the lobby of the KH for fidgeting or talking during the meeting. By all accounts I was hyperactive as a child so how I was expected to sit still and quiet for 2 hours is beyond me.

I also have a vague recollection of an elder who spanked me as a toddler when it became obvious my Mum had "enough" at one meeting. I know he is now dead but I hated him ever since.

We went to the Leagrave cong in Luton if that's of any interest to anyone.

I don't remember this but my Mum used to tell the story of how on my 1st day at pre-infants she came to collect me and I was bawling because I didn't want to go home. I felt like saying to her "would you blame me". My Mum often accused me of being a willful, disobedient boy. I would plead, "The devil made me do it" as the wooden spoon came out of the drawer. Often in fits of anger she pulled me by my hair or lashed out with whatever was at hand. A while later, I was informed, "It hurts me more than it hurts you". Horseshit!

I loved school and was quite good at sports especially soccer. Because of the 'truth' and the 'worldly influences' I was never let join the school soccer team. My junior schoolteacher pleaded with my Mum to let his star player join mentioning my natural talent. As far as she was concerned that talent might as well have come from the Devil.

Every morning we had to do the daily passage from if my memory is correct 'The Textbook'?? My Mum wouldn't let me leave the house unless she felt I fully understood it. I often got hit before going to school for not understanding it. Invariably I was often late for school too.

The thing is my Mum thought she was doing Gods will. That beating the arse off me would instil a love of Jehovah in me. Big mistake.

My Mum felt we were a model family in our congregation or at least as model that a single parent family can be in the JW's. I know some families who were more relaxed about studying or having 'worldly friends'. My Mum tried to keep me away from them. I lost count the amount of times I heard her passing judgement over them, "We'll see what happens to them when Jehovah's judgement day arrives".

I would be lying if I said there weren't any good times. When I was young (pre-teens) there was an Elder who used to organise day trips and tours. We went to Alton Towers, British Museum (that was boring but the game of footy in one of the London parks after was fun), Great Yarmouth beach (saw my 1st pair of boobs there. Lol). These were highlights. You could see all the JW kids, almost beside themselves that they didn't have to go preaching that Saturday morning. They had there cringe moments too. Like when Bro. so and so would pray for a blessing on our food in the communal picnic area as all the 'worldly people' laughed.

I made 'worldly friends' at junior school. Fortunately at the time I was there I was the only JW for the first couple of years. This really bugged my Mum and I was constantly getting lectured about 'worldly influences.'

As I got older the beatings got less frequent probably as I became an expert liar trying to squirm out of trouble (Needs must). I remember the last time my mother beat me. I was 12 or 13 years old. I think I cheeked her back or something like that. Anyway she beat me with the spoon and it broke. I looked her in the face and laughed and said don't ever hit me again. She never did, from then on it was groundings often for a week at a time. I often thought I would prefer the beatings again. Lol. Mind you groundings didn't include field ministry or meetings.  Sometimes she would call an Elder over if she felt she couldn't cope to act as my 'Dad' and counsel me over something wrong I had done. I tell you it took all of my willpower to not yell back, "You're not my Dad".

I can never honestly say that I believed in 'the truth'. It was easier just to pretend. I found study easy, as I got older. I could glance very quickly over the material and underline the right answer. I hated Saturday evenings when Mum would make me study The Watchtower article for Sunday's meeting with her. We had to read all the scripture passages and often had to cross-referencing them as well. It honestly took hours and often led to a beating or punishment as I got bored and showed disinterest.

By my early teens I had decided I didn't want to be a witness and as soon as I was old enough I was going to leave home. I think my Mum or Elders or someone might have picked up on this and I now realise they put there machine in to overdrive. They got some older baptized youths to include me in activities, let me hang out with them etc. I started to think they were cool. I was beginning to think maybe I could be a good JW.

In April 1989 my Granddad's drinking and smoking eventually caught up with him and he went to 'the great gig in the sky' (Maybe). My Mum who had some unresolved issues with him took it fairly hard, as did most of the family. Even though he had given them a rough time growing up they still loved him. When we were back home in England after the funeral I was my Mums only family in the house and tried to comfort her as best as I could. What do I do??? I tell her I want to get baptised. My own Mum didn't think I was ready and discussed it with our PO. He told her that he thought I was ready and so the process started.

I think I had 3 meetings with the elders. Where I had to answer questions out of the back of a green book (the name escapes me). Now to anyone bought up, brainwashed, had the truth beaten into him or her, the answers slipped off as smoothly as oil off a piston. My only worry was making the personal answers seem genuine enough. I feared that if the Elders were truly Holy Spirit inspired they would see through my lies and realise I hadn't come close to dedicating myself to Jehovah. They obviously weren't and I was approved for and baptised in Oct 1989.

At that circuit assembly and the 3 subsequent weekends after my Mum and I were interviewed on the platform. She talked about how difficult I was to raise especially when I was a toddler (the shame of it). Me, sitting beside her, as this model JW youth. I don't think anyone noticed the way I was scratching the side of my head with my middle finger. After the last time we had to do the interview the elder invited us and the other 2 brothers interviewed to his family's house for dinner. They got onto discussing how they used to discipline their children. One of the brothers who was newly baptized as well said to my Mum and this elder, "Why do JW's delight in telling stories of beating there children?" You could tell it genuinely concerned him. Needless to say they laughed it off. I didn't.

For a few weeks after my baptism I did try to do things the 'right' way. I even remember praying to Jehovah that I found it impossible to believe but I wanted him to help me do so. He didn't.

So time moved on. I did my GCSE's in 1990. Did ok in them. Trying to revise for the exams and keep up with the studies for the meetings and attending them was no joke. I'm sure if I were able to concentrate on just my exams I would have done better. In my house 'the truth' always took priority I'm afraid.

Although, I was a baptised Bro. My Mum was very possessive, overly protective, petrified of me going out into the big, bad world. She wanted me to be a pioneer, Bethelite, missionary. The only missionary position I was interested in was the bedroom one.

That summer of 1990 I had to decide what I was going to do after school. Was I going to go to 6th form college and onto Uni? Do an apprenticeship? Get a job?

All through my childhood years my Mum never worked. She got welfare benefits, I got hand me down clothes and she Auxiliary Pioneered. She also had to get a job as the state wouldn't support her now I was over 16. This upset her, as she wouldn't be able to put the hours into the field ministry. I think she only pioneered to look good in the congregation and set an example. I can remember her crying as she explained she wouldn't be able to pioneer to an Elder. Honestly I don't know anyone who is up the arse of the Elders as much as my Mum. I know 2 people who were reproved because of my Mums sneaking to the big boys. I also have heard she may have ratted someone out who got DF'd since I left.

Anyway I went for an interview with the local electricity board, for an apprenticeship as an industrial electrician. They accepted me after I passed the rigorous exam. The apprenticeship was to be in Nottingham, about 150 miles (I think) North of Luton. My Mum freaked. She went off on one - how would I cope, the hours and studying for the course you have to put in - you'll miss meetings. You'll be boarding with 'worldly people' who'll try to corrupt you. I reckon within 1 hour of my telling her about the offer 2 elders were around our house, rushing over to the pleas of my panicked Mother. Invariably after the pressure exerted on me by the Elders, my older 'friends' and my Mum I declined the offer. One of my biggest regrets to date.

I got a sales position in the Electricity board shops selling washing machines. Great career prospects (sarcasm). Of course to my Mum if the world is ending soon why want a career? People I worked with knew I wasn't a proper witness. I swore at work, laughed at the dirty jokes, flittered with staff and customers.

My Mums family were worried about me. I remember my Uncle in London trying to convince me to go on to further education. My Mum rubbished his ideas to his face telling him,"The system will end soon". You could see him thinking 'freak' about his own sister. Sad.

Things went on the same for a while. I wasn't happy. I wanted to get out into the world. I wanted to get drunk, to get high, to have sex, to be young.

Then the bombshell came. I think it was late '92. It could have been earlier or later. Not sure. I didn't go to the meeting one Thursday evening, as I was sick. I was watching Top Of The Pops (music chart show). The phone rang. It was an elder ringing from the KH. I was shitting it. I wondered what they had found out about me. He then tells me that they are appointing me as a Ministerial Servant and could they announce it in my absence. WHAT?! ME?!

I was flabbergasted. I accepted in a sort of numb shock and relief that I was off the hook for wrongdoing. I will always remember the song playing as I put the phone down. Take That "A Million Love Songs". No wonder I hated them apart from the fact they were/are shite. Now I felt a right hypocrite. I wasn't a JW. I was by name and association but I didn't believe the truth. I had to escape and soon.

A couple of years passed. I was doing parts on the KM school on Thursday nights. I stood in for when the book study conductor couldn't make it. I was being groomed to do public talks soon.

My Mum was working nights and so on non meeting nights I'd run off to parties, pubs, dates etc. Come home shower, throw clothes into washer dryer. Somehow I kept getting away with it. I even had a fling for a couple of months with the single Mum living next door.

Anyhow I was getting desperate to leave, in the summer of '94 my Mum, two brothers and I came over to Ireland on a pioneering trip. That was two weeks of fun-not. We went to Bantry, West Cork. I loved the area. I've always loved Ireland even to the point of considering myself Irish rather than English. I blame my Granddad who when we came over on holidays to visit family as a child used to tell me how awful the British soldiers had been when they were in Ireland. He was quite the rebel. Anyway on this trip I decided this was my get away.

When we came back home to England I told Mum that I was moving to Ireland. Of course, I told her that I was going to pioneer and help spread 'the truth'. Imagine my shock when she tells me that she was thinking the same. Oh! No! I knew I needed to leave the organisation but couldn't do so still living at home. It would have emotionally destroyed me to actually see the hurt on my Mums face as her only child renounced Jehovah. As much as I hated the JW religion, I did and still do love my Mum. I was fed up of lying. My whole life at this point was one big lie. I needed to get away. So I stuck to my story and hoped she might change her mind.

Another reason Ireland appealed to me was that having my Grandma, Uncles, Aunts and cousins there, if things in my life got out of hand I knew I could go to them for help.

Anyway a few weeks after I had made my announcement Mum tells me she's not going. She felt she couldn't leave the cong. She would find it too much upheaval. Needless to say I was delighted. In May 1995 I moved over. Of course the Bantry cong. were delighted that I was moving over. I had to give a talk at my first Thursday meeting. I moved over with the help of two Bro's who stayed for a week. Hence why I went to 1 or 2 meetings after moving over. Very quickly though I got into the 'worldly ways'. I started going to pubs, got off with a few girls even smoked the odd cigarette.

Bantry was a small town. I knew that word would reach back to the brothers very soon and that I would be up for disfellowshipping. I decided to take it out of their hands and one Sunday afternoon whilst they were at their meeting I posted a letter through the PO's door. In it I explained how I had never dedicated myself to Jehovah. I had never believed in the teachings. Yes I could quote them by rote but I didn't believe them.

I explained that I was involved in practises that would be serious wrongdoing in their eyes and rather than have to go through their judicial committee I felt it best to disassociate myself.

Of course the PO did call to my house one night to try and talk me around. He explained that by disassociating myself I would be viewed by JW's as a dfd person. I was headstrong and stuck by my decision. In hindsight maybe it would have been better to drift away but I didn't want the brothers calling to me trying to give me their pep talks and guilt trips.

Mum was not a happy camper. She rang after she received my letter explaining my decision and told me she wouldn't talk to me anymore. I expected that. No surprise but still hurt. After a couple of months I wrote her a letter explaining that I did love her and valued our friendship and though we couldn't discuss 'the truth' there was plenty else to talk about. I also told her I would send regular letters about my life whether she contacted me or not. A few weeks later she rang me and said after talking to the elders it was all right to talkto me on non-scriptural matters. I knew she would get the elders approval before she would contact me. She said our relationship would be damaged till I came back to 'the truth'. I told her not to be waiting for that to happen, otherwise she would die an old disappointed woman. I got silence on that one.

If I am honest, in the year to 18 months after I left the Borgs I did go wild. I drank every night had numerous one night stands. Took ecstasy, cocaine, acid, magic mushrooms on occasions and daily smoked cigarettes and hash. When I was a JW I felt isolated from the 'world'. I wanted to fit in so I let peer pressure push me into doing some pretty silly shit.

Around the end of 96 early 97 I was in a bad place and heavily reliant on hash to get me through the day. Then around May of that year I started going out with a girl. Soon she asked me to move into her apartment. Due to space constraints there was no room for my JW books. So one wet Thursday evening with the rain lashing down I left all the JW publications at the back gate of an elder. I hope they didn't get too wet - not! This girl helped me straighten out and we moved to Galway in the Oct. Unfortunately she had lots of issues of her own, which would surface down the line. And being young in our early 20's I don't think we had the maturity to face our own problems fully let alone each other's.

Just after Xmas 1997 she discovered she was pregnant. We got engaged, more as a symbol of commitment not a marriage statement. I had to tell my Mum. She actually took it very well. I suppose she had me out of wed lock so couldn't give out.

In Aug 1998 Cian was born. My life had a new purpose. I was going to make sure he had every chance in life that I didn't. As it turned out down the line he was diagnosed with Autism, which can be a challenge to cope with, but he is a good lad with a good heart. Unfortunately if a relationship is weak a newborn baby will help to stretch those cracks wider and his mum and I broke up Jan 2000. Being an unmarried father leaves me very little rights under Irish family law but fortunately his Mum does to this day let me have regular access. Cian also would have it no other way as he loves his Daddy.

So Jan 2000 I moved out and moved 5 minutes away so I could stay close to Cian. I moved into a house sharing with 5 other people. Once my Mum got wind of this she did try to get me to come back to 'the truth'. You know, "Jehovah will give you the strength to cope if you repent". Needless to say I told her to dream on.

Anyway one of the people who I ended up sharing with was  Trish. We built a very strong friendship at first and down the line things progressed as they do to the point that we have been married since July 2004.

Trish is my rock. She has had to put up with a lot from me. I do get mood swings at times. I can be a grumpy old fart as anyone who has seen my facebook ravings will attest to but she always stands along side me and sometimes gives me a kick when I need it too. She loves Cian as her own, which is all I can ask of her. She is very family orientated and just cant accept the way JW's cut off family members who leave the religion. It must be hard from someone on the outside to understand. I knew it would happen and so no shock for me. It can be upsetting, sometimes annoying but I know I made the right decision.

I hold a lot of resentment to the JW organisation for the hold they have over my Mother. She hardly knows my wife or her grandson since she wont stay at our house or let us stay in hers. I wish she could see the real truth. But if I'm honest I don't hold out much hope of it ever happening.

So my advice to any young person in the JW organisation.

1 Do not get baptised to please someone else or to show off.

2 If you are baptized and want to leave try and drift away. At least you'll be able to have some family contact.

That's all I suppose. Keep the heads up peeps.



In the 4 years since then things pretty much plodded along. Myself, Trish and Cian are mad rugby heads, where we worship regularly at the Cathedral that is Thomond Park as we pray that God (Paul O'Connell) leads Munster rugby to glory.

My Mum kept in phone contact and would even visit from time to time though she wouldn't stay over night or let us stay over night with her. That was till the infamous 'mentally diseased' article last September time when she rang and solemnly proclaimed that she had been doing wrong and she could no longer keep in contact with me.

I was expecting the call so I asked her if it was because of the article that called persons like me mentally diseased. She point blank refuted that the article said it. I told her I'd seen the article, I could give her the page and paragraph and that I had also seen the newspaper article (think it was The Guardian). She got really angry and told me to stop accusing her of lying.

In the end I told her I had been a member of an ex-JW recovery forum and had even moderated on it. I told he I hated the WTBTS and what they do to families. I told her I hope she comes to her senses soon because I might not feel like talking to you the next time the society relax the rules on talking to ones like me or when the religion collapses. I then hung up.

We haven't spoken to eachother since. She rings Cians Mum to talk to him. However he has started to ask why Granny doesn't ring him at my house anymore. He's worked out we are not talking. He's nearly 14. He might be autistic but stupid he aint. So I am going to try and contact her and ask her to at least ring once in a while to talk to him. I don't care if she says nowt to me.

So thats where I'm at. A bit long winded but once I get typing off i go.

p.s. sorry about the formatting. It went all screwy. Probably because I copied and pasted the story.



Quite a story, thanks for sharing. And welcome to the Broad Road!
The real truth will stand up to any scrutiny.

Nothing wrong with worshipping at the temple of Rugger!