The Chevy

8th June 2001 at 01:00
By Gavin O'Kane, 11, St Joseph's secondary school, Creggan Estate, County Londonderry

The best place to play was up around the flats in Dove Gardens. There were loads of grassy patches but outside the flats there was a big square of gravel and it was great for playing football.

Nearly every night in the summer McKeever, Wankle, Fahy and I would go there. Wankle would bring up two football nets and we would make a pitch on the waste-ground.

As soon as the nets were in place, loads of other boys would gather and we would soon have two football teams. As the games went on we got more and more excited and we would roar and shout to each other. Then the dreaded Steve would appear at the balcony above us.

Steve was a big red-haired Scotsman in his mid forties who lived in one of the flats in Dove Gardens. When we got really noisy he used to come out on the balcony and shout, "Keep the noise down ye crowd of ..." I can't repeat the other words because they were bad words. He used to get so mad that his face would go all red and he would start to sweat and grip the rails of the balcony as if he was squeezing them like cardboard. Because Steve was so far above us we all felt really brave and cheeky and we used to shout "Nixon, Nixon, drink your beer". Then he would really blow his top and roar and shout like a bull, and come chasing after us. Sometimes he had two or three friends in the flat and they would come out too. Steve used to collect all the stray dogs in the bog and take them into his flat and, when he came running down after us to chase us, the friends and the dogs would come too and they all looked like a crowd of escaped lunatics. We used to get really excited then and we would all start to run away with them chasing us. Steve was a good runner and he could give us a good chevy but when he was drunk he would stagger all over the place and trip. Then he would get up and give us another chevy. It was great fun, we would rn like the wind laughing and shouting and enjoying the danger we were in.

We would run down the backs and climb over pigeon lofts and garden sheds and we nearly always ended up in McKeever's backyard. We would all meet there and we would gather round the pool table and fall out of breath, hot and killing ourselves laughing because we had really enjoyed the chevy, it was always a good night's craic.

Now there is a sign on the walls of Dove Gardens saying "No Ball Games". We hardly ever play there any more. When I pass Steve's flat I look up at it. It looks all dirty and dingy, his windows are filthy and there is a stain there for months where someone threw an egg at it. The net curtains on the living room window are black and dirty and the dirty curtains in his bedroom are pieces of old torn, wrinkled sheets. I've never been inside Steve's flat but I imagine it's all dirty and dingy and smelling of beer and sweat. When I grow up I will never live like Steve but sometimes I think it's lousy because a long time ago Steve was a wee boy who played football and made noise and I bet he used to enjoy a good chevy.

When Gavin submitted his account, "chevy" was spelled in three different ways. His teacher, library specialist Sinead McCrystal, says it is a dialect word and no one was sure if it really existed in the written language. Gavin says it means "a chase, when someone is running after you". He still plays football, supports Celtic and may be a joiner when he leaves school. He enjoyed writing the piece and liked it when visitors, including Red Doran, a local boxer, came to school to talk about their own life-experience. Ms McCrystal says: "If you mention writing to boys, their heads are likely to go down, so we all told our stories first, sharing them, which meant they relived their experiences. This is very much Gavin's own story in his own language. You can't read and not smile; it captures the devilment of the chevy."

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