Ciotógs no longer live in fear of heavy-handed retribution

Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

As always it was a great line from comedian Tommy Tiernan on the Late Late Show, as he ruminated on how quickly times can change: “We have a gay Taoiseach; it’s not that long ago that we weren’t allowed to be left handed.”

And he’s right on both fronts – fifty years ago, the penalty for a propensity to write with your left hand was a perpetual beating with the ruler until you learned the error of your ways.

Now us ciotógs are left to write with whatever hand we want to – and left-handers have finally been allowed to come out of the closet.

Why we were persecuted in the first place remains something of a mystery – although there is a train of thought that it was to do with a suspicion we were engaged in the work of the devil.

Because apparently medieval woodcuts show that, when the devil baptised his followers, it was with his left hand. And when witches said secret black masses in his honour, they performed the rites with their left hand.

So, we all had to pay the price for medieval deviants by having our knuckles wrapped on a regular basis just because we wrote from the wrong side.

In fairness, I was probably part of the first generation not punished for being a leftie; we were allowed to carry on without fear of the ruler rap or having someone forcefully pointing out where we were going down a very dangerous and devilish path.

Just one generation earlier, ciotóg would either be subjected to corporal correction – or in many cases they would have their left hand tied behind their back until they were trained to overcome nature by learning to write with their right.

But while they may have been part of a mass underground movement, left-handers have always been there.

A recent report in the London Times revealed that when scientists look at the teeth of our hominid ancestors they see angled scratches.

These are formed by holding an animal hide in the teeth and scraping with the dominant hand — the angle tells you which hand. And the teeth show a consistent left-handed minority.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.