LBC Members: Ashok (will return shortly), Conrad, Gaelikaa, Helen, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria, Marianna, & Ramana are all Heroes in my eyes. I join along with them as we turn our thoughts to Heroes, the topic chosen for us this week by Magpie 11.
My first thoughts were to take a box of sweets and find a Hero to match each variety. This would involve thoughtful tasting while considering the talents and gifts of family and friends. The fact that all but one were milk chocolate, something that I must refrain from eating, I changed direction and went in search of inspiration somewhere else.
Mary my father’s eldest sister is the person who fostered my love of a needle. She taught me to crochet and to read a sewing pattern properly. I had lessons on her old treadle sewing machine and she helped me to make a dress for the very first time. To this day I still see it in my minds eye. Being the early sixties it was A-Line, sleeveless, fully lined and had two fringed patch pockets on the front. Auntie Mary was a teacher and had a love for her craft and passed on her knowledge with love and gentle dedication. I have never forgotten anything that she taught me.
A young lady full of hopes and dreams in the photo above taken in 1919, was all too soon to taste sorrow and sadness. Having trained as a teacher she then married at 24 and within four years was left a widow with two young children. She once again embraced the world of the classroom, teaching for many years in a two teacher school in the heart of the country. Her early years of widowhood were difficult with little money for the necessities never mind luxuries.
When her family moved to Dublin and College she joined them finding work in an inner city school. It was a very different environment from the one she had left. Most of the young ladies were the daughters of street traders and their aim in life was to leave school on the day they reached fourteen, it was the legal age to leave school at that time. Back then it was also the legal age for a young girl to marry. Marriage and ‘Babbies’ (babies) were all those girls wanted. In fact it was not unknown for a young girl to arrive in school with a baby in her arms. On asking the for the reason, my aunt was informed “Me mammy had to go to the market, and I was left to mind the babbie”. My aunt turned these occasions into lessons on Life skills!
Daddy who was only eight when the photo above was taken, was very helpful to his sister over the years. Once in Dublin she became a regular visitor to our home and table. She regularly sought his advice. She eventually moved to a school a few miles from us and bought a house in the locality of the school. She loved the place and the children and worked on for many years past retirement. Her class in those years was of 40 children; and I remember at one time another teacher was on sick leave for several weeks, My aunt took care and taught both classes (80 children) for the duration! What teacher would do that nowadays?
I loved to visit her house, yes, me who hated school! She had school projects everywhere and patiently showed them to me. Once she was on the topic of school she forgot everything else, food seemed unnecessary, as she worked on items for display to her pupils. I loved how her long elegant fingers seemed to caress fabrics for our sewing. With each visit there was something new to learn, and she was generous with her knowledge. I wished that she could have been my teacher.
She always adorned her dress with a brightly coloured scarf or a sparkly brooch. One day I remarked on the fact. She told me the reasoning behind it. They were a tactic to hold the children’s attention. If she felt that some of the children were drifting away from the subject, she simply moved across the room and the bright colours in the scarf or the light playing on the brooch soon brought the focus back to her.
At her funeral it was wonderful to see so many of her past pupils turn out to pay their respects. Auntie Mary was a Hero for all those children too!