Category Archives: memories

The caller

Granny Kildysart was in the kitchen one dark, wet and blustery evening when she heard the loud Ding Dong. It was the door bell ringing. Out of curiosity she went to open the door. She took one look at the caller, and my father who was coming down the stairs, heard her say “We have nothing for you tonight!” before she quickly shut the door.

My father from his vantage point on the stairs was able to have a good look at the roughly attired gentleman before the door was closed so abruptly. This tramp looked like he had not seen a bath for a year and wore a crumpled, dirty, soaking wet old trench coat. The buttons were long gone so to keep out the weather it was tied around the waist with coarse string. At the neckline was a scarf and below the coat ragged trousers were tucked into thick woollen socks with holes in them. Over the socks were well worn work-men’s boots long past their sell by date. The laces were gone and again the boots were tied with string. On his head the tramp had a greasy rain soaked flat cap. Bits of hair stuck out at each side.

My father reached the bottom of the stairs as Granny Kildysart was about to go back to the kitchen. “That was a very un-Christian thing to do on a night like this” he said to his mother. With her hand still on the door knob she turned, “What do you mean? She asked. “That man looked like he had not eaten all day” said daddy. “How would you like to be turned out on a night like this?” “I think you should call him back and make him a cup of tea!”

Since it was her son’s house and she didn’t relish the thought of a journey back to Co. Clare that night she reluctantly opened the door and called the tramp back. My father stood and watched as she invited the tramp in to warm himself by the fire and have a cup of tea.

The living room was warm and inviting with the fire blazing away in the hearth. Chairs were drawn up to the heat and Granny Kildysart turned to go to the kitchen and put the kettle on for a pot of tea. As she reached the door my father called to her, “This man looks hungry” and turning to the man he said “I am sure you could eat a plate of rashers and eggs”. The tramp nodded and twisted his cap in his hands. “You better cook a few sausages and if we have any black & white pudding do some of that as well”.

The men talked while Granny Kildysart set about preparing the food in the kitchen. They could hear her banging about the pans. Soon the house filled with the aroma of the cooking bacon. Granny appeared, to set a place at the table. Ten minutes later she was back with a tray and the tramp was invited to take his place at the table. The food was placed before him and he was told to tuck in. Tea was poured and daddy and his mother had yet another cup to keep him company.

Granny Kildysart noticed that the men were getting on well and the tramp seemed to be familiar with the names of family members. Soon the plate of food was cleared and the tramp who was feeling rather warm, undid the string of the coat. Daddy invited him to take it off, which he did. The scarf was removed as well and he brushed his hair back in place. It was only then that Granny Kildysart realised that a trick had been played on her.

The man was no tramp; he was in fact Richard, a brother of my mother’s! Richard was full of fun and always up to mischief. Granny Kildysart was not known for her sense of humour so his arriving as a tramp was a little more acceptable than the summer night he came wearing a bright yellow dress, stockings and sandals topped off with a headscarf, and bright red lipstick.
Is it any wondered I turned out the way I am now?

We like everyone else had two grandmothers. They were both known as Granny. They also had the same surname, so we needed a way to differentiate between them. Mammy’s mother lived in Dublin and we saw her couple of times a week, Daddy’s mother lived in Kildysart, Co Clare, so she became Granny Kildysart.

Richard was a great favourite in our house when we were growing up. Alas he died in 1966, aged 44 while waiting for surgery to replace two heart valves, surgery that is so matter of fact nowadays.

At that time surgery to replace valves was unheard of in Ireland. In fact the only place capable of carrying out the operation was Guy’s Hospital in London. There was only one team of Surgeons and staff qualified to carry it out, so only one patient per month was operated on. There were 11 operations in the year and during the month of August the whole team went on annual leave.

Richard was scheduled for July and was actually over in Guy’s. The June patient had a relapse so Richard’s operation was put off until September. My aunt brought him home but he went downhill fast. She managed to take him back to London for the beginning of September, but alas he died on 11th before he reached the theatre.

Originally posted in August 2007 as a Podcast that has expired and been deleted.

I thought it might be nice to revisit the subject in word form.

The Marriage of….

MARRIAGE OF MR JOHN MOLONY AND MISS KENNY

The marriage of J Molony and Miss Kenny took place on 30th January when the lonely surroundings of Coolmeen were enlivened by a gay wedding party. The ceremony was performed by Rev D Courtney, PP and Mr Martin Moloney cousin of the bridegroom was best man. The bride, youngest daughter of the late Daniel Kenny Coolmeen, was given away by her brother and looked charming in a biscuit coloured dress trimmed with chiffon and roses.

Miss Roche, Ennis, and Miss Mary Reidy, Boloughera were bridesmaids and were tastefully dressed in fawn colour cloth with hats to match. The wedding party were met at Kildysart by a number of young men bearing torch lights who headed the procession through the village. The guests were entertained at the home of Mr Moloney (Martin).

Unusual wording for this day and age?

The above report appeared in the Clare Journal on Monday 12th February 1900. The wedding took place one hundred and fourteen (114) years ago today.

Coolmeen is a townland in County Clare, Ireland. It is located on the north bank of the Shannon Estuary 7 kms (3.5 Irish miles) to the south west of Kildysart.

Modern road sign at the  cross roads

Modern road sign at the cross roads

Why my interest?

1. Mr John Molony and his bride with no first name were my paternal grandparents!She did actually have a first name: Margaret. She was the daughter of Daniel Kenny and Bridget Kelly. The Kenny’s were part of the reason for my auburn hair!

2. The different spellings of the name Molony/Moloney.
They were correct. John Molony & Martin Moloney were in fact double cousins, each related through both of their parents.** Years later my father served his time as a draper’s assistant to Martin Moloney & Sons, Textile Specialists.

3. The description of the outfits worn by the bride and bridesmaids.

Can you imagine any bridesmaid or flower girl today, being described as ‘tastefully dressed in fawn colour CLOTH’! Jen, Triona and Alice, I am looking at you three in particular! 😆

The giddy goose of my inner crafting eye is visualising the Misses Roche & Reidy, wrapped mummy fashion from a large bail of fawn cloth as sold by Martin Moloney & Sons! Do you think they got a discount. 😉

Bale of cloth

Bale of cloth

Let me take you back before this date in 1900……

It was in March 1878 that John was appointed Postmaster of Kildysart.

Besides running the Post office, John became:

  • Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths
  • Travel Agent for all the Trans Atlantic shipping lines
  • Insurance Agent,
  • The Inspector of Gunpowder and Gun Licenses.
  • An Import/Export Agent
  • He opened a grocery/bar, so stamps and postal orders were sold at one counter and groceries & liquor at the one opposite.

My grandfather was the man who anyone wishing to emigrate to America or England, went to for his or her Identification Papers.

Mind you, “The Licensing Act of 1872 forbade anyone to be drunk while in charge of a cow or steam engine on a public highway”. I wonder how that effected business on a Fair Day?

1907 Molony Family at Post office

1907 Molony Family at Post office

John & Margaret Molony with the first five of their eleven children, outside the Post Office in 1907. The babe in arms dressed like a doll, was in fact John. Sure ’tis no wonder he ran off to America in 1925! No. I don’t think he was wearing dresses when he went! 😉

John later extended his portfolio, as we say today, by buying a small farm – he had a large family to feed and rear, and the boys took their turn at bringing home the cows for milking and taking them back to the fields before and after school each day.

My grandmother worked in the shop as well as keeping hens, geese & a goat. I think a couple of pigs were under her charge too!

In the early 1900s there were many businesses and trades in Kildysart: saddlers, shoemakers, nailmakers, dressmakers, milliners, blacksmiths, tailors and millers. Alas, most of these no longer exist.

Moving forward to 1942/3 the following description of the Kildysert area is interesting.

Considered a quiet village in today’s world, Kildysart has minimarkets, hardware shops, a bank, pharmacist, clinic, veterinary clinic, credit union, garage, RC church, Community Centre, Quay Marina and seven pubs. Alas no mention of the Post Office.

The post office is now McMahon’s Chemist Shop, a name mentioned in the 1942 link above

The Post Office is now a Chemists shop

The Post Office is now a Chemists shop

*Not alone were they my grandparents, but there were many similarities unknowingly repeated in my life.

**This double spelling surfaced again in the next generation. My father, Dan Molony married my mother – Eileen Moloney, although she was born in Dublin, her paternal Moloney ancestors came from Murroe in County Limerick, across the mouth of the River Shannon from Kildysart County Clare.
The double cousins have come into play for some of my nieces and nephews, since two of my brothers married two sisters.

Dear Mary,

‘Write a letter to someone I admire’ was one of the aims on my ‘To Do’ list for 2013. It was only yesterday, when checking to see how many items I actually managed to complete, that I discovered this one almost slipped through the net. With a last flourish, I plan to right that situation now.

Dear Mary,

It was a privilege to have known you, even if it was just a few short years. Well into your 80s when our paths crossed for the first time. I well remember the day. A tiny effervescent bundle with snow white hair framing an open smiling face and eyes that sparkled like diamonds.

The stories of your young days and wartime working in the drawing office at Shorts Aircraft factory, in Belfast, were fascinating. Water Polo, your favourite sport is one I am only familiar with, from your tales. You made it sound like so much fun. The tricks you played on dancing partners, the guys you liked and those you did not.

You were always contented with your lot in life, yet never married, despite being so admired and had many suitors through the years. – Your sister Madge, confided that to me. You were so proud and generous with you time for your niece and nephew and later their children: your grandnieces and grandnephew. They all loved you dearly.

You loved to hear Jack sing, and on mornings that we were collecting you, he gave the front passenger seat an extra dusting for our treasured passenger.

Having stopped driving years earlier, you were never afraid to walk the busy road to the corner, no matter what the weather, on the off chance you might catch a bus to Belfast. If none materialised, you had no problem accepting lifts from total strangers, who often went out of their way to take you to the destination you were headed for. I have the feeling those sparkling eyes won them over! Following these adventures you always came back with amazing life stories that they shared with you along the journey.

The hours we spent together thinking, talking and working on craft ideas were so rewarding. You had so many items at hand to solve an intricate or difficult project problem, and always made it fun. I loved the set of tiny real glass buttons that you gave me. I used two of them on Elly’s wedding outfit to attach the tiny hand made bag, for her items ‘old, new, borrowed and blue’. I know you would smile at the idea of me sitting up in bed, in the hotel on the morning of the wedding, making the bag by hand – beading included! The buttons did their work well and brought you close to our hearts on the day.

Your house was a treasure trove of furniture and well loved items from your late mother and grandmother’s homes. With each visit I found a new treasure that I had not noticed before, each had a story and your eyes danced as you lovingly recalled the memories. Nowadays young people must have ‘new’ and all modern conveniences that ping, sing or are touch control. Nothing these days is made to last, no stories or history to pass on, yet on many occasions, such as in our recent power cuts, it is the old reliable items from a previous age that see us through.

I must tell you about a wonderful young girl, Catherine or Kate as we called her, that I had the great pleasure of working with, after I was widowed. Kate, met the man of her dreams and often shared her tales of her romance and the fun that she shared with Peter and his sister Lois. The names were familiar, but I did not think any more about them.

Eventually Kate & Peter became engaged and a wedding was organised. I was privileged with some fellow work mates to be invited to the evening do! Chatting over morning coffee break at work, we ‘girls’ decided we would like to go to the church and see our friend actually get married, then meet up again in the evening to join the fun.

I arrived at the church early and sat into the back row. I noticed a woman moving about in the chancel and realised, even at that distance, that I knew her. Mary, it was Mildred, your niece! It was only than that I put two and two together and realised that Peter the groom, was your grandnephew! What a small world. Lois too played her part, she was a bridesmaid.

Peter & Cate are well settled into married life and now have three young children. Mary, you would be so pleased with Peter’s choice, they are well matched, a steady couple with many shared interests.

While Elly was here a couple of weekends ago, she was driving past where you lived, The house has been totally rebuild, but as Elly said “I am glad Mary’s house was built in the style of the old one!” It looks well and you would not be displeased.

As this year draws to a close, I spent some time thinking about and reliving memories of friends, alas no longer with us, who made an impact on my life. Mary, you left a mark on my heart in the nicest possible way.

For that I thank you,

Your forever friend,

Marie.

Tomorrow, I will run through the list to see where I fell down!

Babies

Ward Miles Scot was born in July of 2012, fragile and tiny at 26 weeks, three and a half months premature. Over the following 15 months, his dad, photographer and filmmaker Benjamin Scot chronicled his son’s progression from the frailty of 101 days in incubation to full health.

This reminded me of a true story I told a few years ago on my old blog. I am unable to link to it, but I feel it is worth retelling.

Donal’s Cot

Donal weighed in at 2lbs which is just short of a Kilo. He was a very premature baby that his mother carried for less than six months. He had no hair, eyelashes, eyebrows or nails and his skin was porous. He was not expected to survive for very long so the Paediatrician suggested taking him home. His actual words were “He might as well die at home as in here!”

Donal’s homecoming was not as easy as it sounds. His father was sent to find a ‘small’ cot/crib which he did, and it was ready and waiting for the new occupant when he arrived with his ill mother and a nurse. The nurse lived with and became part of the family over the next six months, she was called ‘No-No’ by Donal’s two year-old brother, and the name stuck. To this day if you say the name ‘No-No’ to any of the family they know exactly who you mean.

The Paediatrician soon arrived and set to work.

He gave precise instructions about feeding and cleaning the baby. Donal was not to be washed or bathed in water! His skin was to be cleaned with olive oil and cotton wool.

Food was to be administered by medicine dropper, every hour on the hour!

He rigged up a large light bulb over the cot to provide extra heat for the premature baby and it was to remain on night and day. Being wintertime the temperature was quite low. A fire was lit in the bedroom and kept going day and night.

Each day was a milestone, but there were many, when they fought to keep the baby alive. The Paediatrician was a regular caller and was delighted with any little improvement.

The danger stage eventually passed and Donal was introduced to bottle feeding and began to put on a little weight. The first size baby clothes fitted and slowly the pleasure of washing and bath-time became part of the daily routine. The light was removed from over the cot, but Donal slept in it for a full year.

With Donal’s move to a normal sized baby cot the little one was cleaned, covered and stored in the loft. It was used again with pride for the arrival of each of his four younger siblings.

The little cot appeared for the first time 62 years ago. There were no incubators, or ‘Baby Units’ in hospitals like we have today, the only clothes for premature babies were dolls clothes. Houses had no central heating and washing was all done by hand. Nappies were rinsed, then boiled and when washing was complete they were line dried. The feeding bottles were sterilised by boiling. A baby was hard work back then!

The little cot moved through the family for the arrival of each new baby. Cousins, nieces and nephews all started their lives in it. I spent my early months in it as did Elly. For Donal the most precious moment was the day he placed his own daughter in the little cot. Now once again the cot is stored away and who knows, someday Donal might be blessed with a grandchild to sleep in that very special Cot.

The post above was written on October 29, 2007 – six years ago. Since then Donal has been blessed with two granddaughters the latest one born a couple of months ago, almost a world away in Sydney, Australia. The proud grandparents have just arrived home from a month singing, dancing round the room, and getting to know the latest arrival.

UPDATE: The video link above about Ward Miles Scot, a very premature baby seems to have been removed. Born at twenty six weeks, the tiny baby was almost invisible for tubes, drains, monitors and huge pads over his eyes so large they covered his face.

UPDATE 2: Barbara found a new link to the video and has added it in the comments below. Perhaps it is better there to show how different the treatment is for premature babies these days.

 

Donal had none of that. He clung on to life by a thread for so long, some said he lived for spite! BUT with tender loving care he made it through.

92 ~ Part 2.

Yesterday I told you that ‘92’ was built the year I was born. Granny, almost the age I am now, moved in a couple of months before I was born. She sold her corner shop that she lived over and worked in, since she married my grandfather in Aug 1909. He told her that he wanted to mark the occasion of their wedding with a gift and asked what she would like?

“I always wanted a shop.” she replied.

Her wish was his command and she happily raised her family and worked in the shop even after my grandfather had died in his sleep in 1942. She was tipped off in 1946 that there were to be major changes in the area, with the loss of many of her customers, so she heeded advice and sold her business.

Numbers 90, 92 & 94 Herberton Road

Numbers 90, 92 & 94 Herberton Road

By the time Mammy got to see number 92 from the outside, never mind the inside, Granny had settled into a routine. Mammy didn’t like it at first sight. Perhaps it was after the snow blinding whiteness of the previous months, the fact it was not the ‘home of her childhood’ that she was used to visiting, and the post wartime rationing that gave the place a dark drab look. That feeling stayed with Mammy for the fourteen years that Granny lived there.

We had no problem with visiting as Granny filled the house with laughter and sunshine. We loved the chance to go and stay with her. We went in pairs. I think Granny suggested it that way in case we got lonely.

Our days were fun filled. We were each asked what we would like for dinner, something that never happened at home. Mammy made one dinner for all of us, take it or leave it. No matter what she made it was tasty, we were hungry, so the plates were cleared in double quick time.

We might be in the middle of lunch when Granny would ask “Will we go to the pictures”? That question was always met with a loud chorus of “Yes, Yes, Yes! So once the dishes were cleared, we all trooped off to the pictures/movies for the afternoon.

One day, whichever brother was with me, tripped over his feet and grazed his knee. Granny Florence Nightingale soon had the patient cleaned up, with a ginormous bandage and a sucky sweet – she knew how to do it! 😉 She soon had us giggling and said that if the leg had not healed by tomorrow she could put the patient on the kitchen table and chop his leg off. Well now! We knew all about having legs off!

Our other granddad had a wooden leg. The fact that he died in 1922, when daddy was eleven, had nothing to do with it. We had heard enough stories from daddy and our uncles to know exactly what to do! Sure the boys had spent many an hour walking round the house with a ruler tied to the back of their knee to practice, in case they ever needed a wooden leg.

Granny told us she had a wooden leg, we were at the table at that time, so there was plenty of surreptitious peeping under the table cloth to check it out. Granny must had enjoyed our face making and voiceless conversations across to each other because she let it go on for quite a few minutes.

Eventually she told us it was not ‘her’ leg, it was a spare wooden leg and it was out in the coal hole. Now the coal hole was not actually a hole. It was a shed in the back yard where she kept the coal. Come on now, if I can have a cupboard under the stairs – in a bungalow, then Granny can have a coal hole, that is not a hole! Right?

So once again, when the dishes were cleared, we were marched out to the back yard. Our footsteps shortened and slowed the closer we got to the coal hole door.

Granny disappeared into the darkness.

We heard a bit of clattering and banging and wood scraping along the floor… then…

Granny appeared with the wooden leg of a table in her hand! It had a claw foot. I do not know whether we were relieved or disappointed, but we stood in mouth open silence for a couple of minutes. Granny laughed heartily and in minutes we were laughing along with her. You know to this day, I can still see Granny standing there in the doorway with that dusty old table leg with the claw foot, and hear her laughing.

Bath time was another high point. Granny made paper boats for floating and sailors hats for us to wear. She wore a hat too. I cannot swear, but I think the same pattern of folded paper was used for the boats and the hats.

The two of us were put in the bath together and we played happily while the dirt soaked off, then she washed our hair, our faces, necks and ears, while we washed down as far as possible, up as far as possible, not forgetting to give possible a scrub! All the while we were led in a chorus of sea shanties.

I remember staying with her on a St. Patrick’s day holiday weekend. We were all dressed and ready to go out, when re remembered we had no shamrock to wear on our coats. When we told her, she had a solution. Granny turned to a plant sitting on a shelf of the Hall stand. It was evergreen and shamrock like, though the leaves were at least ten times the real thing. Quick as a blink, she had broken off a bunch, divided it in two and pinned it on our coat lapels! We were wearing more ‘shamrock’ than any American President ever held in that cut glass bowl!

Slowly things began to change. Little things.

Granny would forget where she left her glasses, she might not remember where she left her purse. She would ask us the same question over and over again.

During school holidays we spent more time with Granny. She was minding us, but we were actually there to mind her.

She might send us to the shop twice for the same message. The dinner might be served without the potatoes, because she forgot to cook them. Our evening mealtime got earlier and earlier.

She soon made tea at 4pm. Every day.

By eight o’clock, we were starving again, growing children had hollow legs, remember. Mammy warned us to check that the gas was turned off after Granny had made the meals.

Granny would leave lights on, not put the guard in front of the fire and a time or two burnt her self on the gas stove.

My uncles and aunt noticed changes too when they visited. So it was decided for her safety that she should not stay living on her own.

She was still lucid and agreed that living alone was no longer the ideal. Of all the families, ours was the one where she felt most comfortable, but she refused to move in with us saying she would not be able to hold off interfering if we children were being chastised, so a residential home a short bus run away from us was selected.

Thus ended her fourteen year stay at number 92.

Granny lived in the home for about seven years, my brothers took it in turns to visit her each school day on their way home. The would check if she needed the evening paper, if so, one of them would go and buy it for her. I would go to see her in the evenings, my school was in a different direction.

In the early days she was able to go out alone and often hopped on a bus to our house. she would stay until after the evening meal and daddy would drive her back. One of us always went with him to take her back to her room, hang up her coat and make sure she was comfortable.

Slowly she deteriorated, her bag would be hidden in case somebody stole it. One day mammy walked across the room to open the window and outside on the window ledge, two floors up, was a bundle of bank notes rolled and tied with a rubber band.

Mammy lifted the bundle in and asked Granny why it was out on the ledge. It was Granny’s pension she had collected it that morning and put it out there for safe keeping. From then on, with the agreement of her siblings, Mammy collected the pension, gave her some pocket money and paid for what ever was needed. One of my uncles already looked after the major finances.

We were on the slippery slope….

  • Granny began to think I had been at school with her.
  • She introduced daddy as her son and not her son in law.
  • She never remembered having any previous visitors that day, even if we knew she had.
  • She constantly longed for sausages, telling us she had not had one for years.

Then there was the man.

She would point to the bottom of her bed and tell you about the man there. “He was no trouble. Very quiet. See those children? He is very good to them. He never laid a finger on them!”

She slowly sank away from us. On a good day we could steer her back to happy times and her eyes would light up for a few minutes.

Several times she became ill and we thought it was the end, but she rallied, never quite reaching the same step on the ladder of life.

She finally had a turn, but we had seen this so many times before, the staff were wonderful. Mammy, daddy and I were with her when she died.

That evening, at the dinner table daddy suggested we go en famille to say our goodbyes, so when the meal was over we drove back to the home. We gathered around the bed and daddy let us in prayer. Suddenly one of my younger brothers began to laugh heartily. Daddy stood up to his full height and asked for an explanation. My brother told him that Granny was always playing dead with us, and any minute now she would sit up and say: “Ha Ha. I fooled you all!”

We all began to laugh, Mammy and daddy included. It was how Granny would have wanted us to see her off: With laughter.

That was 12th July 1968.

We still talk about her and recall the laughter.
We loved the bones of her. Back then we never heard of dementia or Alzheimer’s, we just saw her as getting old, frail and her mind closing down. We laughed with her and never at her. We loved her.

RIP Granny (1884 – 1968).

92 ~ Part 1

Numbers 90, 92 & 94 Herberton Road

Numbers 90, 92 & 94 Herberton Road

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.

Photographing the Alphabet ~ S

S ~ Shelves

Shelves overflowing with Bric-à-brac

Shelves overflowing with Bric-à-brac

I wonder how many items above you owned or used? The ceiling light shades bring back memories from my childhood and we had one of those old glass washboards, it came from my paternal grandmother’s home in County Clare.

Glass Cabinet, sometimes called a China Cabinet

Glass Cabinet, sometimes called a China Cabinet

I remember visiting homes where bric-à-brac had a place of honour on mantelpieces, cluttered tables, and shelves, or was displayed in cabinets with glass doors to display the items within while protecting them from dust.

Shelves filled with oddments of willow pattern crockery

Shelves filled with oddments of willow pattern crockery

Willow pattern tea sets with large breakfast cups were in everyday use in my other granny’s kitchen.

“Bric-à-brac” nowadays refers to a selection of items of modest value, often sold in street markets or shops like the one above.

A bull whip Part two

Right class; who remembers A bull whip?

1bullWhip

bull whip from Wikipedia

Ach, come on now, sure it was only five days ago. There might be some excuse for me right now, sure aren’t I getting on a bit….. and drugged to the gills, so you can expect me to get a fact or three wrong. Right?

No way. Not with a legal eagle for a toyboy. He keeps me on my toes.

He swears on all dem big hard bukes. You know the ones….. Every TV drama about the law from Perry Mason, to Rumpole of the Bailey, The Good Wife or Kavanagh Q.C. have a wall of leather bound legal books behind a ginormous desk!

I bet my toyboy eats them for breakfast.

So where did I go wrong?

First off:

Brian reminds me that he joined the musical society after he left school, through a couple of lads who were already members at the time. He began by making some posters for a Talent Competition to raise funds… then he was asked to man the sweet shop at the intervals and slowly he became more involved. he remembers coming to see me at home, prior to Viva Mexico which was a production before Kiss Me Kate.

Secondly:

I did go to Callaghans for the whip, but they were not theatrical outfitters as I stated in my earlier post. They were saddle harness and horse-clothing makers, at 13 to 16 Dame Street, Dublin. That was why asking for and having the whip free of charge for the duration, made such an impression on Brian. I know I should have given the memory corner of my brain a big stir before submitting my homework to print, so with knuckles well rapped, 😉 I did a little research and found this humorous poster:

Callaghan & Co

Callaghans Poster from Wikipedia

P.J. Bourke, were theatrical costumiers, in Dame Street, Dublin, (1906-1994). They were in-laws of Eamonn Andrews – Presenter of This is your life (Uk Version). He married Grace Bourke, who lived with her family on the same Avenue where I grew up.

While looking for a photo of Bourkes, I found this interesting article from May 1993.

Gings, another theatrical costumier, was to be found on the other side of the street and I found a picture of Gings in Dame Street Click on the link to see it.

So I got there eventually, sorry it took so long.

A bull whip

Tilly, The Laughing Housewife teased us with a pun the other day:

I’ve planted a riding whip.
I’m hoping for a nice crop.

It was the second mention of a whip in recent days, so I decided it was a sign.

A sign to tell you a little story…..

Meet Brian

Meet Brian

I tease Brian that I knew him since he was wearing short trousers & knee socks. Not quite, but he was in his final year at school when we met at a newly formed Musical & Dramatic Society. We encouraged young school leavers to join, it gave them an interest, a way to mix and interact with adults of a wide variety of ages, to discover new talents and most important – kept them off the streets.

You may not have met Brian before, but you have certainly heard of him. He was the young man who conferred the title Grannymar on me way back in my late twenties. It was a joke to begin with, but everyone in the society latched on to using it, so it stuck. With time it became very much part of me.

Was he being disrespectful? Not a bit. With four brothers & a younger sister, I was well used to the nicknames they had for me!

Brian, now a retired Legal Eagle, spends his time between his homes in Dublin and Spain. All down the years he kept in touch, even if it was a post card from some exotic far flung shore.

One particular post card stands out. A very young Elly (just learning to read), ran to discover what caused the letterbox to rattle. She lived in hope that it might be another letter from her Nana, or a surprise from one of her relations far away.

On this particular occasion it was a Post Card addressed to Grannymar, at my address.

“It’s from Brian!” I was informed.

“It says: I am now an im pe cu nious Barrister. What is im•pe•cu•nious?” asked Elly.

“It means he has no money!” I said.

“Huh! Impecunious…. on Holiday in Ibiza?” Threw back miss Elly. *

Anyways…… the card was placed on the counter and off she went to play.

Right. Where was I? Oh yes, back to the Whip!.

I had a call from Brian the other morning while I was pottering around the house. He was walking back to his Dublin home after leaving his car in for a service. You see the world around you from a different perspective when on two feet, instead of behind the wheel.

Although it was a road he knew well and travelled almost daily when at home, he noticed something outside a house that made him think of me, So he phoned. I’ll keep you guessing for the moment, as it might provide an opportunity for a blog post at a future date.

I did ask if he had taken a photo, but no, he was more interested in sharing what he found, than taking pixtures!

“Anyway, I wouldn’t really like to without permission.” Says he.

“Then you should do what I do, and knock on the door and ask permission. You never know you might be invited in for tea and curranty cake. It might even lead to inspiration for your next novel.” I suggested.

“Did I ever tell you I did that at Bram Stoker’s house?”

Apparently not, so I emailed a link to the piece I wrote about Bram Stoker’s house.

Later that day he replied to my mail:

Excellent… but one could expect no more. Russian jewels bit amazing… imagine us giving a loan to Russia at that time… when some people did not have their breakfast.. should we not remind them of that now?!

He continued:

I remember when we needed the bull whip for Kiss Me Kate – you told us you walked into Callaghan’s, then in Dame St and said to the men there:

I have a problem and wonder if any of you gentlemen could help me?

I need a whip!

The rest is history – we got the whip – beautiful worked in plaited leather and it was there for all the rehearsals and the show – essential for rehearsal to get familiarity with its use.

You have not lost your touch.

Plaited bull whip (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Plaited bull whip (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So there you go. I was a brazen hussy back then.

Callaghan’s, then in Dame St in Dublin were Theatrical Outfitters. I managed to talk my way out of the shop, with as we say in Dublin: the lend of a loan of a bull whip, for the duration of rehearsals and the Show run, without having to pay a rental fee!

Do you think I have changed?

The moral of the story is: if you want something, just ask. The worst that anyone can say is NO!  It does help if you ask nicely!

I spent quite some time trying to find a video clip of the Finale Act 1 of Kiss me Kate, to let you see the bull whip in action, but alas, I could not find a descent version.

* In our house the ‘no biscuits rule’ was set in place as soon as we thought of booking a holiday. Well, we all need to save our pocket money for our holidays. Right? ‘No biscuits’ actually applied to bought biscuits/cookies and sweets. I still filled the tins with home made cake and cookies.

I actually got away with that one…. For YEARS!

Camping in Tipperary so far away!

Three car loads of us went to a festival in Tipperary we were camping.

Fifteen bodies, fifteen sleeping bags and three or four tents, gear to wear, gear to cook with and of course the sausages and bacon etc., for breakfasts! My friend and work mate, came from Tipperary, it was she who suggested the whole thing, read: It was her fault! She knew a good place for us to pitch the tents. I had been to stay in her home a couple of times, so I led the small convoy of three overflowing cars all the way from Dublin to Tipperary on a Friday evening in early summer.

We had to call at my friend’s house for directions to this ‘free camping site’! Tommy the man of the house, opened the door to me and of course I had to go in. His daughter, my friend, was up stairs so he gave her a shout. We went into ‘The room’ for a chat while we waited for my friend to appear. Ten minutes later she sauntered down to join us and her first question was “Where are the rest of the gang?”

Tommy insisted that the gang be brought in for a cup of tea. Do you think he wanted to suss us out? There was no saying “No!”. The others were parched and hungry by this stage. Betty, the lady of the house – who had a touch of my mother – she was used to feeding the hoards that descended without notice, came up trumps. Food appeared, we were fed and watered, quizzed, and stories were told. Eventually Tommy looked out a window and saw rain on the glass.

That was it. No way was Grannymar (well it was long before I became Grannymar) going out to sleep in a tent. I argued that I had a sleeping bag and a tent, so there would be no problem.

PROBLEM?

The only way I would sleep in a tent that night, was over Tommy’s dead body. He had an answer. Everyone was dispatched to the cars to get the sleeping bags and bring them indoors. Fourteen bodies slept in sleeping bags on every floor space while I was given a bed!

In the morning after a cooked breakfast for all (God bless Betty!), Tommy drove his two eldest daughters with a convoy of campers to a disused quarry and insisted he help set up camp.  Happy that all was secure he went home, leaving us to our own plans for the duration.

We headed off on foot to find the festival, the singing, the dancing and a drink or three. It was into the early hours of the morning when we rolled home to the comfort of our sleeping bags. With only the odd sheep for neighbours, we sang ourselves to sleep.

Up with the birds on Sunday Morning, we set about cooking breakfast, Tommy and Betty arrived to see how we had survived the night.

Our visitors were handed plates to join us for our feast. You know, given half a chance, I think the pair might have joined us for the whole weekend of fun if we had thought to ask. We shared our stories of the day and evening before, and how we planned to fill our Sunday before packing up and heading back to Dublin.

The friendship didn’t end there. Tommy’s family and mine became entwined a few years later. His two eldest daughter’s married two of my brothers, so now we are one big happy family and the girls are my sisters in law.