Apr 03 2020

“Look After Yourselves…”

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Feb 25 2020

“The Ma’ and Da’…”

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‘This is the day in 1954 when the Ma’ and Da’ went to the Isle of Man on a day trip, it must have been like a Honeymoon for them, without all their kids trailing behind like little ducks. They never had a Honeymoon when they got married in 1938, they didn’t have that luxury back then. It was into the Pro Cathedral in the morning for the wedding ceremony and then off to work with the two of them. They met up with family and friends later that evening for a few drinks. The Ma’ was eighteen and the Da’ was twenty three when they got married. She worked in Mitchell’s Rosary-bead factory in Waterford Street and the Da’ had a temporary job as a Bus Conductor in Clontarf Bus Garage. They moved in with my Granny in Cumberland Street flats until they got a place of their own over a Butcher’s shop in Parnell Street. Some Saturdays the Butcher used to give the Ma’ the off cuts of the meat he had left over. My Da’ had only recently left the British Army and was struggling like most men of that time to find permanent work. Then he got some Christmas work in the Postal Sorting Office.

My Da’ never knew that he had an older brother named William and an older sister named Agnes, they were born and died as infants before he was born and it was only in later years that I found this out in my searching through records. His father remarried and his wife gave birth to a little girl named Jane Catherine who was born very premature and died the following day. My Da’ never knew about her either, now isn’t that strange to think that? My Ma’ told me one time that people back then never spoke about the little babies and children that they had lost in infancy. My mother told me that babies who died years ago had to be brought by the father to Glasnevin Cemetery for buriel on a Saturday morning. I checked this out with an old grave digger who started working in Glasnevin when he was fifteen. He told me that he remembers a queue of men lining up outside the gates of the graveyard of a Saturday morning, some of them on their way to work, waiting to hand in their little bundle wrapped up in a white sheet or a small home-made wooden box. The Ma’ told me that the Da’ made two little such boxes for a neighbour of ours who had lost little twins. She remembered putting her arm around the mother of these little infants and trying to console her at her loss as they watched the Da’ and the baby’s father carrying a little box each up to the graveyard in Glasnevin.

When I look at this photo of the pair of them in the Isle of Man they look as though they hadn’t a care in the world. This is probably the first time as a married couple that they got to spend time together on their own. Do we ever know all the same what stories and experiences the older generation had to go through all those years ago? My Ma’ said that there was never a time in her life that she didn’t know my Da’ as they grew up in the same street. She used to write letters for families that had sons in the British Army and she’d always write a little note of her own to them letting them know how their Ma was doing and she did the same for my father’s family. When a letter would arrive back from the son all the neighbours were brought into the tenement room to hear my Ma’ reading it out for the family while they all sat around drinking tea and shedding tears because they missed him and were worried about him.

And that’s the way it was all those years ago when the Ma’ and Da’ took the boat over to the Isle of Man for a day trip, away from all of their worries and cares back home in Dublin in 1954…’

Feb 14 2020


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‘I remember when I was a Young Fella almost every boy on our road was always running. Running to the shops, running to school, running to Mass, running to the Playground, running to the Bogeys, running to the Phoenix Park, running after girls, running from trouble, running up the stairs, running to the Cabra Baths, running up to the Canal, running for the bus, running for bread, running for the Da’s cigarettes, running for the newspaper, running to the Rent Office, running for the sake of running, running from a dog, running after a cat, running with his hoop, running up a hill, running for a message, running after robbing an orchard, running with his ball, running to a football match, running to the Pictures, running across the road, running home from school, running for his dinner, running to the Barbers for a haircut, they never stopped running…I’m out of breath after all that running’

Jan 31 2020

‘When I was sick…’

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I never liked being sick when I was a little boy, because I had to stay indoors and I couldn’t go out to play with my pals. Sure even now I hate being stuck indoors. All my brothers and sisters would have gone off to school and I was left in bed on my own. There was never a noise outside because my pals as well were all in school. The Ma’ would come up the stairs to check on me and make sure I was comfortable before she headed off to the shops to get her messages. It was only on the rare occasion that a doctor was involved in any of us being sick, the Ma’ would consult with my Granny or our older next door neighbour, as to what to do. And if it was a Friday the Da’ would arrive home from work with a great big bottle of Lucozade for whoever was sick. That was always sure to get us back up on our feet fairly quick and sometimes he’d even bring us home a Comic to read while we were in bed. I used to keep my comic under my pillow. I used to love reading about Dennis the Menace and his dog Gnasher or about Desperate Dan and his Cow Pie with a pair of cow’s horns sticking out of it. The comic was always guaranteed to cheer me up no end. Two of my brothers used to always sleep beside me at night when we had to go to bed but when I was sick they had to sleep at the foot of our bed, down the far end. My brother Noel used to always tell us ghost stories before we’d go to sleep, he used to make them up as he went along but we didn’t know that until years later. I remember him telling us a haunty story about a hand that would come in through the window and crawl into our bed and we’d be roaring in terror until the Da’ would come up and tell us to get to sleep. And even then Noel would be running his hand up and down our legs to frighten us. But if one of us little ones became ill it would do the rounds of the rest of the family. I remember when my sister Anne got the measles and the Da’ says ” I hope it’s not German Measles”. That was the worse thing you could get according to the Da’ because his cousin fought against the German Army during WWII. Sure us kids didn’t know the difference, measles were measles and meant confinement in bed for a few days, a terrible experience altogether. I remember one time when I was nearly better and the Ma’ let me little pal, Willier Kavanagh, come up the stairs to see me. I was delighted of course to see him and he started off telling me about a scrap between two boys in our school yard and how the headmaster broke up the fight with his cane. I was raging at missing all the excitement. Willier was my bestest pal in school and we started off in the convent when we were only four years old and we were holding hands as we walked up our road because we thought we were big boys now. Willier is with Holy God now and I still think of him and all the great times we had as kids playing cowboys on the railway and kicking an oul tin can for a football. Sure I remember the many times him and I would sit at our kitchen table after school and the Ma’ would feed us both. But once I became better from being sick I was like a wild stallion trying to break out of his corral in a cowboy film, I’d be after bursting a gut to get outside and play. The Ma’ would be standing at our hall door watching me climbing over our front gate with a look on her face that said “Whose next”?

Jan 12 2020

‘Early Memories…’

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‘I think this is another Sunday morning photograph due to the lack of neighbours and kids out on our road. My sister Mary is on the left, that’s the Ma’ holding my little brother Tony and then we have my sister Catherine on the right. The Ma’ made the girl’s dresses and knit their cardigans. My older sister made the Ma’s dress. The little hedge on the right came from somewhere up near the local dump. The Ma’ said the little blue flowers on it are called “Veronica” and she loved it because that was the name of her little sister that died when she was only three years of age. Isn’t it gas all the same that the Ma’ never forgot that and always remembered her sister. And we always called it “Our Road” even though there was over one hundred houses on it. But I think almost everyone did that back then, they all laid claim to own their road or at least the part of it where they lived. There were some roads we were never allowed to play on because they weren’t ours. “Here young Coffey, get back around to your own road” or you might be told “Here young Coffey get down to your own end of the road”, territorial or what!

Now, when I have a good look at this photograph I can see all the oul neighbours who lived across the road from us, Mrs Lally, Mrs Keegan, Mrs O’Leary and Mister “Tomorrow” and Mrs Norton. We were never allowed to call any of our neighbours by their first name, they had to be called Mister or Misses. And if you ever answered any of them back in a cheeky way they’d give you a clout and if you told the Ma’ she’d give you another one. We were always taught to respect our elders and never to answer them back.

The field across the road from us was called the “Compound”. The Ma’ told me that when our family first moved into our house there used to be horses in the compound and sometimes if she left our parlour window open a horse would stick his head in to have a look around. When they moved in there were no baths in at that time because the Corporation was waiting for them to come in from England and with the War on, “The Emergency” as it was known in Ireland, everything was up in the air. Tony was my Ma’s 12th baby and there was another three waiting to follow him into our family.

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