Dec 13 2019

Published by at 2:12 pm under News

‘It was always around this time of year, on a winter’s day, that the Da’ would take us for a good stroll up along the Royal Canal. Up over Broombridge we’d go and turning right, we’d make our way towards Liffey Junction and heading into Cross Guns Bridge. Whatever hats and coats we could find, it didn’t matter if they fit us or not, we’d put them on. And the younger sisters with their scarves that they had knit in school around their necks and their hats that the Ma’ had showed them how to crochet on their heads. And off we’d head up the road and away on an adventure with the Da’.

I can still see him with his hands shoved into his pockets, his head held up high with his cap tilted to one side and a cigarette sitting in the corner of his mouth. Us younger ones would run ahead of him, not too far mind, as the Ma’ had told him to be sure to keep an eye on us going up by the waters of the canal. How easily pleased we were then and how excited it was to have the Da’ take us out for a good long walk. I think he needed a break from all the painting and decorating he was doing in our house in preparation for Christmas. And as sure as anything as soon as we’d eventually get home the Ma’ would have the Christmas Pudding mix ready and waiting for each of us to take out run at stirring it and making a wish. I always wished that Santy would bring me what I had asked for in my letter that was already up the chimbley.

As we walked along the canal the Da’ would be telling us stories of when he was a young fella and how it was in this very canal that he first learned to swim in his nude with all his little pals. We’d all crack up laughing at the idea of the Da’ in his nude. And he’d tell us that he was only four years old when his Mammy died and how sad he was then because he wasn’t allowed to go to the graveyard to see her being buried. I remember when we saw all these swans on the canal and the Da’ telling us about the Children of Lir and how their stepmother turned them into swans. He had a stepmother too he told us but he didn’t like her because she wanted to put him and his brothers into Artane and to give his sisters to the Nuns. These are some of the things the Da’ would tell us about and then he’d start singing some of the songs he’d learned when he was in the British Army all those years ago and we could sing some of them as well because he sang them every Sunday morning when he’d be shaving in the toilet upstairs, it’s called a bathroom now. After he died our neighbour told me that he misses me Da’ singing of a Sunday morning, he said he could hear him through the toilet wall singing at the top of his voice.

Now, most times when we’d get home from our walk we’d be freezing but we didn’t feel the cold and we knew that the Ma’ would have a great big blazing fire on the go and at least two home-made apple tarts on the table for us to have at tea time. So, as soon as we’d be finished stirring the Christmas Pudding it was put into a pillow case and hung in in the old porch, then we’d all give a hand to set the table for our tea. And do you know, after we had cleaned up from our tea we’d gather around the fire and most of us would doze off asleep. The Ma’ would sit on one side of us and her knitting needles would be click clacking away while the Da’ was snoring in the armchair, there wouldn’t be a sound out of all us little chickens sitting around the fire. Now, this Christmas I’m asking Santy to bring me a “Time Machine”, like the one I saw in the Picture House years ago, because I want to go back and take loads of photographs of how we were as a family back then and maybe include some of me little pals and the stuff they got from Santy and a photograph of the Da’ snoring in his armchair as well. That’s my wish for Christmas…’

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