About Me

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Typical Piscean, dreamer, story teller in the tradition of my country, I love to write. I'm not sure that I'm any good at it, but getting the words down has its reward.

24 June 2014

Irish Rural life and the way it might appear

On one of our recent trips away to rural Ireland, OH and stayed in a small village overnight, while attending a wedding.  The wedding was another story in itself, but I was amused by the Parish Newsletter which I discovered, was written by the parish committee - typed up by the local spinster on her new Windows Vista computer, [second hand in a thrift shop, and sure isn't it workin' grand, as the lady of the house we were staying in told me.]

The newsletter had all the local gossip in it, and it set me to thinking how lovely it was to find a newsletter that wasn't pc.  Sometimes I wonder have we become so politically correct that we cannot speak our hearts for fear we'll land ourselves in Court, prosecuted for libel and whatever else.  Anyway, I took a couple of parish newsletters that I have come across in my journeys over the years, and put one together, totally fictional, but something on the lines of what once might have been commonplace in rural Ireland.  Castlebattery and the other villages are a figment of my imagination, but there are many Castlebattery's in Ireland, Fr. Finnery is another piece of fiction, but in my childhood there were many Fr. Finnerys' lectures roaring out from the pulpit and I am sure that Henrietta Delaney would be truly overcome by the holiday slides if she existed.  Maybe some day she will.


MASS TIMES: Sat. 19.30 [if Fr. Finnery is home from the races in Kilmageegee.]
Sundays: 10.30 and 12.45 [please be on time for the 12.45 Mass as Mrs O’Shewlawan likes to have the Father’s dinner on the table by 1.30 so as she can get away to the bingo in the parish hall at 2.30].

Castlebattery Tidy Towns
Following on their big marks increase in this year's Tidy Towns competition, the hard working Committee are already preparing for next years competition and towards this end, they are holding a Church Gate Fundraising Collection on the week-end of October 12th - 13th and a Table Quiz on the 15th November in the Four Flowers Hotel Castlebattery at 9.30pm. Following the exertions of their fundraising efforts, the Committee will be on their annual trip to Santa Ponsa in early December and so no committee meetings will be held until 14th January. Please support the committee.

Ceili Dancing
The County organisation responsible for promoting all non-competitive céilí dancing amongst every age group in Ireland, has been awarded a grant from the County Council to organise six céilí dances  between now and early December.  The first of these will take place in St Declan's Parish Centre, Barnahoolia on Sunday 23th October from 2:30-4:30 p.m.  All are welcome to attend and participants will be guided through 5 céilí dances by certified céilí dance teachers.  No experience is necessary.  Fr. Finnery has stated that this is not a match-making ceili and will all couples attending please observe the proprieties.

Admission is £5 (£2 for childer) including a break for refreshments, the refreshments will be sponsored by the Cummagweela Golf and Pitch and Putt Society, as they have a surplus of beer which Mick the Ferret found in the basement of the Four Flowers hotel, the beer is only five years past its past due date.  Just come on the day or phone Marty Hourican for further information.

Hard luck to Knockemdawn Hurling Club which lost the Intermediate County Hurling final to Killawaspa last week-end.  Father Finery has stated that the Sunday collection in the Church of the Blessed Martyr, Castletownless, is not to be put aside and used for condolence pints in Barney Mulligan’s pub on Sunday night.

We wish Frockenstown every success in the Senior County hurling final next Sunday afternoon in Ballymuckla Park against the Killawilla Senior team.  It is to be hoped that they will have better luck than the Inter team.  New jerseys have been issued to avoid confusion with the Killawilla team as happened last year when Ballymuckla wore, with pride, white jerseys with a pink stripe and yellow sleeves, and Killawilla wore pink jerseys with a yellow stripe and white sleeves.  We have it on good authority from the Haymaker Quigley over in Bannawanton that Frockenstown is wearing navy and red jerseys this year.  Killawilla will take to the field sporting their new red and navy jerseys on Sunday.

Life in rural Ireland was, despite current revelations in the media, innocent, and moved at a slow pace.  The majority of citizens had no idea of what went on in homes for unmarried mothers.  Looking back, it is hard to imagine that there should be such ignorance, but the ignorance was in the behaviour of those who perpetrated what went on there, and in the families who sought to hide what they considered their shame, in such places.  Nobody asked questions, and there was an innocence in the acceptance by the people of church teaching.  What was overlooked, and should never be overlooked is the fact that people are people with all the good and bad that resides within every individual, and being a member of a religious order is neither an excuse nor a cure for the inner self.

I remember how delighted people would be that the local curate had called, if the Parish Priest paid your house a visit, sure weren't you mixing in high society altogether was the general thought.  It was the hope of every mother then that if you had four children one would become a priest, one a nun, one go into the civil service and one would stay at home and care for you in your old age, and sure, if they managed to get married after you were dead and gone, wouldn't that be wonderful altogether.

My maternal Grandmother, a lovely elegant lady, annoyed her own Mother by marrying a man 18 years older than her.  When he died nine years after they married, of Parkinson's Disease, Great-Grandmother resumed communication with her daughter - to tell her how stupid she had been, marrying and now left to rear three children aged 7, 3 [my Mother] and 18 months.  When the eldest died at the age of 11 of diphtheria, Great Grandmother informed her daughter that this would never have happened if she had done as she was told.  Join a nunnery.  Ah! charitable christian Ireland.  May you never return to that attitude.  Gradually, over the years, with every house in the country having at least one t.v., the rural Ireland of yesterday is dying away.  I have no regret for the loss of the cruelty and hardship that was put on people, but for the gentle innocence and the old fashioned courtesy that is passing, that I do regret.  

I refuse to let go of the lovely innocence of my youth, both in suburban and rural Ireland. Childhood holidays where the rainy days were spent making button pictures, the buttons supplied from my paternal Grandmother's enormous sewing box, shoe bags for school in September, hand stitched using leftover pieces of chintz curtains.  To this day, I still hand stitch bags for everything; bags to hold newspapers until everyone has had a chance to read them. Bags to hold the unopened packs of kitchen towel rolls and save space in the kitchen.  They nestle between a book case and a press in the study.  The latest effort is Toile de Juouy [blue and white]; I have hand stitched the cream and cinnamomn cushion covers on the garden room chair - the material once adorned my Mother's windows as very pretty curtains.  Why not use a sewing machine I hear you ask?  Well, when we had sewing class in school, being left handed I was awkward, and the machine at home fired needles out from it like a Bofors gun.  That put me off sewing machines for life.  The nuns were insistent that we "lefties" should use our right hands as we were "spawn of the devil" if we didn't.  I can sew and write with either hand, but typing I still lead with my left hand, a fact that irritated the nun that taught me.  A right handed lady, she feared for my soul with my typewriter!

08 June 2014

'Tis glad I am to be Irish

Wind harp
[John Montague]

The sounds of Ireland,
that restless whispering you never get away from,
seeping out of low bushes and grass,
heather-bells and fern,
wrinkling bog pools,
scraping tree branches,
light hunting cloud,
sound hounding sight,
a hand ceaselessly combing and stroking the landscape,
till the valley gleams like the pile upon a mountain pony's coat.

The Farmer's Son
[T. D. Sullivan]

Where'er are scattered the Irish nation, 
In foreign lands or on Irish ground,
In every calling and rank and station
Good men and true will always be found;
But 'midst their masses
And ranks and classes,
When noble work must be dared and done,
No heart's more ready,
No hand's more steady
Than the heart and hand of a Farmer's son.

His homely garb has not fashion's graces,
But it wraps a frame that is lithe and strong;
His brawny hand may show labour's traces,
But 'tis honest toil that does no man wrong.

For generous greeting,
For social meeting,
For genial mirth or for harmless fun,
'Midst high or low men,
'Midst friend or foemen,
Oh where's the match for a farmer's son?

[Francis Stuart]

Over you falls the sea light, festive yet pale
 as though from the trees hung candles alight in a gale
To fill with shadows your days, as the distant beat
of waves fill the lonely width of many a western street.
Bare and grey and hung with berries of mountain ash,
Drifting through ages with tilted fields awash,
Steeped with your few lost lights in the long Atlantic dark,
Sea-birds' shelter, our shelter and ark.

OH  has retired, and we now venture off on "day-trips" to various places.  He is now entitled to free travel on bus and train, and this has opened a whole new vista.  Some of his great travel plans come to naught; being more experienced than he with Ironród Eireann, I am somewhat underwhelmed with the Dublin to Waterford train.  Over the years while he was working and the girls were at school, I usually paid an annual summer visit to a relative; my journey taking me to Athy in Co. Kildare, on the Dublin Waterford line.  I have an abhorrence of the area known as Hazelhatch.  I am sure that the people who live in Hazelhatch are perfectly wonderful; but they have my sympathy.  Two and a half hours sitting a mile out from Hazelhatch on a train that has chosen to sit down, when I pick my annual day out, has not enhanced the Dub/Wat line for me.  This is not an odd hiccup.  No, it is more of a regular feature.

 The last trip was 40 minutes delay [I was flabbergasted when the train started to move], the one before that we sat for 1hr:58 minutes, two and a half hours the previous one...why didn't I just drive down?  Well, the rewards for taking the train [when it travels as per schedule] are hares dancing in a field, cattle running across another field to look at the train, a lone white horse with windblown tail and mane standing in a boggy field.  On the return journey the rewards are manifold,  the setting sun lying golden across the green fields, colouring the May [Hawthorn] and elder bushes, rabbits grazing 'neath the shelter of a ditch or low wall; calling to mind Watership Down, and tractors, days work done, heading back to the farmyard.  This is MY Ireland. The 9p.m., train never sat down yet, Hazelhatch or otherwise.

We have agreed, pro tem, that he and some of his recently retired friends can take the Waterford trip, lunch and a few pints, a boy's day out while I get on with whatever it is I want to do.  In two weeks time we are heading down to Galway for the day.  Train to the city, bus to Salthill, lunch in the Galleon restaurant, stroll along the prom, bus back to train and home by ten. T'will be a grand day no doubt.  Weather permitting.

Some years ago E.D and I took this trip in March.  She was treating me for my birthday and it was a Grand Day.  The weather proved mild, and we got to do everything we wanted.  I brought a notebook along with me to jot down anything that tickled my fancy and the conversations on the train down to Galway had me in stitches:

"...Carty said he hadn't a knee nor a knickers on him when he joined the club..."

"...pinta green stuff spread all over his face to take the redness outa that puss of his and he that high on blood pressure tablets..."

"...mind you, Mickeleen The Ferret said yer man's very nice, not like most as come down from Dublin with their uppity *D4 idea's..."

"...herself at home couldn't go to the Barnabullia dinner dance 'cos she had to stay home and watch them Kardizzynan's on dat show, now they've got the sattylite..."

There's nothing like a country train to hear all sorts.  Reputations are made and broken, news is passed along and all of life is there.  Irish life that is, and long may it, in it's uniqueness, last.  

"...told him them cattle of his had the scour, OOOH! yes, powerful bad it was too, but looka, would ye tink he'd listen...vet is drivin' 'round town in his big jeep on de profit he's making on them cows and their effen scour so he is...l

I am look forward to our day trips; some by car and some by train.  We dine out in local hotels and restaurants, and my face is nearly like stone nowadays trying not to laugh out loud and "make a holy show" of myself.

"Ah! Ireland, Mother Ireland, on your own facing the Atlantic spray, 'tis God's own gift I was born here!".  A quote from my Father, who loved his native Kerry and wore his county pride like a blanket. 

* D4 a very wealthy area of Dublin full "glamorous people; one of the most desirable area's to live in in Dublin.

03 June 2014

The Great War and our Village

Last year while out on one of our country drives, OH and I came across a charity shop in a small village in Co. Westmeath.  It was one of those places that had everything from a needle to an anchor and my biggest regret was neither of us had come away with our cards and only had whatever was in our pocket.  Despite this, I managed to buy a lovely linen table cloth, complete with embroidered shamrocks and edging that was only slightly faded in the sunlight.  A good wash with lemon juice in the water brought it back to being near enough to its usual white.  I paid the princely sum of approximately £5 in euros for it.  The bargain of the century in my opinion.  Since then it has graced my kitchen table on, as my Kerry Grandmother used to call them, “Saints Days, Holy days, birthdays and when guests came for tea”.

Among my other purchases were a vintage biscuit tin with roses on it [mild rust attached at bottom corner -  €1] it now graces my desk with my pens and pencils in it, and four shabby, much worn and handled wild seed packets with a date of 1989 on them.  These cost me the princely sum of 50 cent.  They promised me that I would have a garden full of Scabious, red poppies, Scarlet Pimpernel to mention but a few. 

OH laughed at me when he saw the date; but as I said, what have I to loose.  The charity benefits by 50c, and if they can cultivate thousand year old wheat, well… ED started school in 1989, and that doesn’t seem so long ago.  When we got back home I mixed up all the seeds together, soaked them in water over night.  On the morrow I filled up the watering can with my watery seeds and, while not quite dancing around the garden like Pam Ferris in Rosemary and Thyme singing “Nymphs and Shepherds…” I fairly flung the water around the areas that OH hasn’t managed to cultivate.

We already have Rosebay Willow herb, Stone Crop, Bird’s foot trefoil, Yarrow, Queen Anne’s lace, Vetch, Lucerne, Rough and White clover, and more Orange and Yellow poppies than we need.  I even managed to introduce pink poppies into the garden a few years ago.  They came in a pot of Fuchsia I had bought in our local garden centre.  It was closing down and I was first in the queue to load my trolley.  Plants were crammed together on trestle tables for sale and seeds obviously had been exchanged.  I came to call them my “value pots”.  I purchased my charity plants in April last year and OH spent the summer shaking his head and gleefully telling me “I told you so”.

Four of Mum’s cousins no longer live in Ireland, but had decided to “come home” for a visit to Ireland.  They avoided The Gathering of last year, instead choosing 2014 to be their year to travel.  The son of one of them did the driving and they arrived last Wednesday.  I had organised accommodation in our local hotel for them.  The youngest is 81, the eldest, who lives locally, is 93; she booked into the hotel with them for companionship.  

They all stem from here where I live.  Their Great-Grand or Grandfathers were my Grandfather’s brothers.  In their 80’s you say and you’re 60 how come the generational difference?  Grandfather was the youngest of seven brothers and four sisters and the one who stayed to continued dairy farming here.  The cousins are descended from his elder brothers.  Over the years they had kept in touch with Mum, and when she passed on six years ago they corresponded with me.

On Saturday afternoon I hosted afternoon tea in the garden for them.  We sat out in glorious sunshine and I brought out the best family china for the occasion.  Some of it inherited from our mutual Great-Grand/Grandmother.  All of them had spent childhood holidays here and we had a memory fest!  The old gate OH discovered buried in the ground and which we restored, caused many Ooh! and Ah’s! Winnie and Deena – the eldest at 87 and 93 remembered swinging on it and were delighted to see it back only a few feet from its original site. On the new lane we have created at the foot of OH’s formal flower beds, there is a riot of colour with red clover, red poppies, cranesbill, corn marigold, fox gloves [which we already had] and many more wild flowers.  OH is remarkably quiet about this show of colourful glory.  My smirk is wide. 

The sight of the red poppies caused Laura (86) to recall her Father’s memories of the effect of The Great War on the village.  Three boys joined the British army and went away to fight on Flanders Fields. Two of them, Georgie and Ned, were brothers.  Both survived the war, but never returned, apart from visits to family, choosing to live in England.  One of them made a career in the army and saw fighting in India, Africa and elsewhere.  He retired, as far as she knew, to open a pub deep in the English countryside.  Tom returned, suffering from the effect of gas and lived on his pension to the ripe old age of 77. 

Georgie and Ned’s last surviving nephew died two weeks ago.  He was born in 1920. No one of that family lives in the village now.  All descendants have emigrated. Tom used to sit on fine days on a low wall near the bus stop.  As children we loved to hear his tales of the war.  He had been a “gunner” as he old us.  We, being very young and very innocent of life in the great big world equated this with “runner” and wondered how he ran around with a great big gun under his arm.  He had shown us pictures of himself and his comrades beside their great big gun.  In those days, everything was “great big” to us..

My Grand-Uncle Nick, third brother up from Grandfather, was keen to join up in 1914 at the age of 16 but his eldest sister put her foot down on this plan.  Their mother had died when my Grandfather was thirteen and Kate (second eldest child) reared the youngest members.  Nick died of TB aged 21, working on the farm.

Emily (81) remarked on the current fashion for young men to wear their hair cut short over their ears and to wear beards.  One of her Grandsons, she told us, has taken to wearing Edwardian style suits, and has gone from looking like a member of ZZ Top to someone just about to embark for the Somme.  As she was describing him, a neighbour’s son arrived with some post that had been dropped into his Mothers letter box by mistake.  Sporting the short back and no sides’ haircut, neatly trimmed beard, grand-dad shirt and khaki trousers with braces and brown boots with a high shine on them, he brought her description of Shane to life. The only thing that ruined this living sartorial piece of history was the mobile phone ear piece.  2014 meets 1914.  I wondered if the mobile phone had been invented then, would some lives have been saved.