As I said, it was all about the children. If they were raised in the 'other' faith, the implications on a personal level could be enormous, or so it seemed. Most times the decision to cross the line was life-changing. A very bright girl destined to go places might get married off and start producing babies at nineteen and not stop till she was forty plus, the family's ambitions for her unfulfilled, even if she were happy with her life.
If the family became Protestant, then Catholic members worried that their grandkids were destined for hell, not having been baptised in the faith, thus fearing that they had failed in the one truly religious duty that mattered.
One thing was certain. Each could not easily retain his or her own faith, except on a most private basis. It was usually all or nothing on the quite rare occasions where it happened at all, but there was much nipping in the bud. The church where they were married signified which "all".
This wasn't restricted to Catholic-Protestant connections either. If a C of E/Presbyterian marriage was on the cards, it could also be a matter of family honour as to which church it was, as again that would determine the religious fate of the kids. Once in, there was no turning back.
It wasn't really about dogma, it was about family. "Religious" rivalries often are. In Northern Ireland, where are the theological debates? There are none. It's about land, money, jobs, power ... anything but theology.
In Australia, there remained an element of class as well, the invisible luggage from very old rivalries and hatreds between British Protestants and Irish Catholics. As descendants of Irish immigrants, many Australian Catholics were lower class (by timeworn and inaccurate definition), although it was not really recognised as such in little places like Calliope. Yet the Catholic church itself was well away from the township centre – in the town as it was then – where they could practise their mysterious rites without anyone else having to know about them.
Amongst themselves, in the playground, children were hardly aware of it, except for the occasional spouting of propaganda on religion overheard from adult conversation. What mattered at school to the kids were sporting ability and grades, often in that order.
But it was always a matter of interest to discover the religion of three people - the teacher, the policeman and the publican. God only knows why. It made not a scrap of difference in practice to the way they did their job, but somehow it just mattered.
I hope that you realise I am voicing old prejudices here, playing the game of "them" and "us", and I certainly have no convictions that makes one sect of Christianity any "better" than another to me. Each "tribe" had its place, but when it came to the crunch, community in the wider sense was always more important than creed.
We could not afford any holier-than-thou nonsense in our family. A quick survey shows that strict sectarian boundaries were a luxury a close-knit family like ours could not have afforded.
After all, judging by the Bible she left behind, my grandmother on my father's side must have been a Catholic who crossed the line to marry a man who, my sister tells me, seems to have been one of the original trustees of the stark little Union Church sketched here. Their children, twelve in number, were married either as C of E or Presbyterian, nominally at least. As well, there were times in little communities when there weren't that many available spouses in good nick, and people had to be less picky than they might have been otherwise; individuals and families. There are, for example, many names on the War Memorial Monument just up from this church.
Of my parents' children, we have managed to squeeze in three intermarriages within the Protestant camp, and two between those born into Protestant and Catholic households, with no blood on the congoleum.
Admittedly, most of these marriages were just a few years beyond the 1950s, coming into the time when the worst of this nonsensical prejudice was being swept away by social change. Family and job mobility tell the story. This resulted in breaking the stranglehold of the extended family over the nuclear.
...which is just a bad academic way of saying kids moved away from the power and influence of their wider family.
All is not what it seems, that's what I meant, in spite of some of the arrant prejudice I've been spouting.
Here endeth this epistle. Please turn to Hymn Number 365, O God Our Help in Ages Past.