Nov 10 2017

‘Dear Santy…’

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Dear Santy

Dear Santy,

I hope you and Rudolph are well. Do you remember seeing me in Finbar’s Hall last year? I was the boy with a plaster over me eye because the brother hit me with a Hurley Stick because he had told me to keep me eye on the ball but he missed it and hit me instead. I cant wait for Christmas Day. Can I please have a train set and a gun and holster for me present and an Orange in me stockin’. I have seven brothers and seven sisters and that’s why I’m sending this letter early because I want to make sure that you don’t forget me because last year I only got an Annual and an Orange. Me Ma’ said that was because you probably ran out of toys when you came to me. You write like me Da’ when you put all of our names on those little pieces of paper next to our presents. Last year we left out a carrot for Rudolph and a glass of me Da’s whiskey for you. The Da’ was given out because he said that someone had drank his whole bottle of whiskey and the brother said it must have been you. He said that he went to see you in Clery’s and there was a smell of whiskey off a your breath. We are having a small turkey this year even though it looks like a chicken but the Ma’ said it’s a baby turkey. I have to go to Mass on Christmas morning and the Da’ said I wont be getting any breakfast until after I get Holy Communion but I do be starvin’ at Mass. The Ma’ got the Chimbly Sweep in to clean our chimbly so you wont get dirty when you come down our fireplace. There are two Puddin’s hanging up in the back porch in pillow cases and the Ma’ said Rudolph’s not to go near them this year. Last year he took a few slices off a the biggest one, well that’s what the Da’ said anyhow. I’m after been trying really really hard to be a good boy this year.

Thank you Santy

Marty Coffey

Nov 08 2017

‘They Just Appeared’…

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Martin & Anne Coffey 572w" sizes="(max-width: 211px) 100vw, 211px" />Martin & Anne Coffey

‘In recent times, if I had a day off I’d  often go over to visit the Ma’ in Cabra West. Now she loved nothing more than to be sitting in the parlour looking out at the neighbours houses and people walking by and telling me stories from years ago. She’d be after telling me all about when she was a Young One living in the tenements and all the ghosts that haunted them places. Other times she’d talk about our old neighbours and how they all got to know each other when they first moved out to Cabra West. You see, there was no proper bus service or anything like that and most of Cabra West was still a gigantic building site with wild horses roaming around the place. So the Ma’ had loads of stories to tell me and I even managed to convince her to speak into a tape recorder and tell her stories. But I remember one day in particular when we were gawking out the parlour window and a woman passed by that used to play Skipping and Piggy Beds with one of my younger sisters, years ago of course. I said to the Ma’ “Is that who I think it is“? and she replied with “Yeah, that’s her alright, she’s another one that just appeared, you know”? Well now, I can tell you that a whole new avenue of conversation and thought opened up for me right there and then. Because, you see, there were a lot of young children and boys and girls I remember who seemed to just appear out of nowhere.

   One day my sister was playing Piggy Beds with some of her usual pals and another Young One. And I said to my sister “Who is she“? and she said “That’s me new pal, she lives in O’Connor’s (Name changed)  house“. Now, I didn’t ever remember seeing Mrs O’Connor with a new baby and especially one that was almost eight years old. Another time in Finbar’s School the Teacher was calling out the Roll at ten o’clock one morning and he up and calls out “Jimmy Smith” and a little unknown voice answers “That’s me sir“. Now, that wasn’t the way to answer the roll call and all our heads swivelled to get a look at this strange voice and even stranger fella sitting up near the classroom door. He told us later on that he lived in town with his Granny and that she had a stall in Moore Street and that he came to school on the bus. Other times there were boys and girls with English accents who just appeared on our road and started going to school with us as well, they never went back to England or that. There was one family in particular that the father went to England “looking for work” and came home a few years later with a set of twins belonging to his other woman and let them with his wife. My mother told me that there were other children in the area who were legally adopted. Some belonged to the “New Mammy’s” sister who may have died or was unable to manage.

    Now, there were none of these “Just Appeared” children treated any different to the rest of us kids because after a while of living amongst us they became one of our own. The Cabra West people from back then were great people altogether. And of course wasn’t it better than seeing them little ones being put into an orphanage or Industrial School. Sure the Ma’ told me that she often took in neighbours children and fed them and looked after them if their own mother was sick or in hospital. Do you know what it is all the same?, they don’t make people like that anymore…’

Oct 03 2017

‘Dream on…’

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Now, this is a long way off to how we grew up on Killala Road years ago. None of us lads ever wore Bijarmers, we kept our shirts on and that was all, not even a pair of underpants to keep our little pieces warm. The bed was always freezing and I remember trying to cuddle into the brother for his heat and he roaring at me to move away, ‘And get your knees outta me back as well’. The Ma’ always gave the sisters Hot Water Bottles for their beds, they were Lemonade bottles with a drop of hot water in them. No such luxury for the boys. And we never had a bedside lamp either, we’d no bulb in our room and we used to pull the curtain back so the light from the street lamp would shine in through our bedroom window. If you were lucky enough to get a Torch from Santy you’d be doing well reading your comic under the covers. And none of us boys ever had a Teddy Bear, they were only for babies. Sometimes we used to wear our socks on us in bed but we were always afraid of getting “Wah Wah Feet“, well that’s what the Da’ used to say to us if he saw us wearing them. It was all very well for him, he had the Ma’ to cuddle into for the heat. Up to the time I was eighteen I was still sharing a bed with two of my brothers and then the Ma’ got a set of Bunk Beds on the Never-Never from Sloans. The brother got married thinking he’d have a bed all to himself, little did he know…’

Sep 29 2017


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‘Now, when we were kids there were certain times when you never stopped and asked “Why” or “For what” and one of them times was when someone shouted “Run”. You just ran, and it didn’t matter in what direction you ran, you just knew that you had to skedaddle out of it. I remember a gang of Young Ones were playing Rounders on our road with a tennis bat and a Golf Ball of all things. Well nothing would do only for us lads to get involved and challenge the Young Ones to a game. Things were going great, we were having a ball of a time and then suddenly everything changed colour, one of the Lads lashed the Golf Ball straight at the parlour window of a cranky neighbour. I had been standing there fed up waiting for my turn on the Bat when I suddenly heard a shout “Run…” And that’s when I heard the ball crash through the window. I ran straight into our house and up the stairs and locked myself in the toilet. Then I heard this banging on the toilet door and two of the lads shouting at me to let them in. And there we were, as quiet as three Blind Mice, one sitting on the toilet bowl, one sitting on the edge of the bath and one sitting on the floor. I think we stayed there for about an hour or so or until the sister came banging on the door wanting to get in. After that we sneaked out to our back and into the Da’s shed. Then we kept a low profile for several days until the storm calmed down….’

Sep 28 2017

‘Hidden Treasures…’

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‘Now, I remember when we had a Sideboard like this one in our parlour, not that I ever got to see it too often, because our parlour door was always kept locked. When the Da’ came home from the Army he had two swords that he brought back from Palestine, they were kept on the floor under our Sideboard. In later years he gave them to a butcher friend of his who made them into knives for his shop. Our Sideboard was like Aladdin’s Cave, the Ma’ kept all her private stuff in there and other things as well. She had an old biscuit tin in the bottom of one of the presses that had things in it belonging to her little sister that died when she was only three years old. In later years she would take the tin out and tell me all about her sister, stories that she had kept locked away, not only in the biscuit tin but also in her heart. And then she had a small tin of Jacob’s Biscuits that she kept in there for her and the Da’ to have with a cup of tea on a Sunday after we were all sent to the Cabra Grand Picture House. In the bottom drawer she kept her First Holy Communion Rosary Beads and Prayer Book. She also had a Holy Candle and a Black Cross with Jesus on it for when someone died and a set of clean bed-sheets to lay them out on and she also had a statue of Holy Mary and Blessed Martin in there as well. In the top drawer she kept all the “One Penny” insurance policies and payment books and any paper-work to do with getting stuff on the Hire Purchase. And in the middle drawer she kept every rent receipt that she ever got from the Corporation Rent Office on Lower Carnlough Road. She had them all wrapped up in elastic bands by the month and by the year. On the top of the Sideboard she had two dogs that the Da’ won at a Carnival on the Nephin Road or “The Blind Lane” as the Ma’ always called it, where the Christian Brothers School is today, across from the Bogey Fields. The dogs sat on a lovely piece of old lace that her mother had made years ago. In another place she kept every Memorial Card that she ever got of people who had died. She’d take them out and go through them one by one and tell me all about them and who they were related to, some of them were girls that she’d worked with in Mitchell’s Rosary Bead factory in Waterford Street, “Behind the Dandy Garage” she’d always tell me. And there was also a photograph of herself standing with her arms around two Young Fellas from Ringsend. She was only sixteen then, she would tell me, and one of the lads was her fella and the other one was her pals fella. They were going out to Howth for a walk. Her mother didn’t allow her to go anywhere near Ringsend but her and her pal used to sneak down there and watch the lads getting in for a swim in the Shellie-Bank, near the ESB place. There was also a Postcard that my Da’ had sent her from Egypt when he was posted there with the army. They had only started going out together at that stage and she brought the card in to work to show to her pals. She was full of story’s was my Ma’ when she opened up her Sideboard in the parlour…’


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