During glorious July this year, my sister and I found ourselves with time on our hands one day, while waiting to collect a friend. We decided to go walking in the area, soon we arrived in a street that jogged at my heart strings. The three houses above played a part in my early life.
I knocked on that door in the centre, but got no reply. I wanted to ask for permission to take a photograph. We came away and walked on a little further. On our return we walked on the opposite side of the street. It was from there that I took this photo.
Heading back to find our friend, we travelled lightly, as I recalled visits behind that closed door.
Looking at the photo as I gathered my thoughts the other night, there seemed to be something wrong. It took me a few minutes to work out what it was.
When I frequented No. 92, the pathway was the width of the front doorway, you can see a line in the concrete where it was extended. The gate was removed, the pillar to the right was repositioned and new double gates fitted, the wall remains the same height. The steel framed windows have been replaced with PVC double glazing, All par for the course in a house of that age.
My problem is with the house on the left (No. 90), the wall has been replaced and the gateway moved to the other side of the garden, In the ‘old’ days,the paths and garden gates were side by side separated by a railing.
92 was built the year I was born.
Granny had moved in before I took my first breath. Mammy was not around when decisions were being made, she was far too busy in bed.
Yes, Mammy was confined to bed in a nursing home for months before I was born, it was one of the coldest and harshest winters in living memory. She had been sick all throughout the pregnancy and bed rest was prescribed in the hope of allowing me to reach full term. Alas, that did not happen.
There was no shortage of snow that bitter winter. Of the fifty days between January 24th and March 17th, it snowed on thirty of them. The snows that had fallen across Ireland in January remained until the middle of March. Worse still, all subsequent snowfall in February and March simply piled on top.
‘The Blizzard’ of February 25th 1947, was the greatest single snowfall on record and lasted for close on fifty consecutive hours. Nothing was familiar anymore. Everything on the frozen landscape was a sea of white. The freezing temperatures solidified the surface and it was to be an astonishing three weeks before the snows began to melt.
One quote I saw said:
‘It was pure black frost, night and day constant, and the snow was as high as the hedges. You couldn’t go outside the door without a good heavy coat on you. And there was no sky to be seen at all, or no sun.’
Daddy somehow managed to visit Mammy in the nursing home, he had to bring in fuel to light a fire in the hearth to heat her room (It was long before the days of central heating in Ireland), that heat came in the form of turf, hand cut from the family bog in County Clare, the previous summer.
Mammy never carried any of us for more than seven months, one for barley six, but six of her nine pregnancies still survive to this day. That barley six month sugar bag, born with no eyelashes or nails and porous skin, arrived two years ahead of me. He was fed by a medicine dropper every hour on the hour, was said to have lived for spite, but this month he is in Australia to meet his new granddaughter, his second.
No more than Mammy all those years ago, we never got inside No. 92 today, did we? I will return to it tomorrow and share my memories.