Nov 16 2019

‘A little walk and a talk…’

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‘I took a walk up along the canal and had a great chat with meself…’

we talked endlessly about all the pals we remembered from over the years, the teachers we had in school, the food we ate, what we drank as kids, the games we played, the neighbours we had, the dogs we had, what we wore, the kind of house we lived in, all our brothers and sisters, the second-hand shoes we wore, the hand-me-down clothes we wore, people who died, the neighbours out fighting, the da’ fixing a bicycle puncture in the kitchen, the ma’ hanging out the washing, the clubs we joined, our days spent up in the phoenix park, robbing orchards, telling lies in Confession, women hanging over the railings having a chat, picking blackberries, help the halloween party, what did you get for christmas, bent nails and rusty screws, two dogs stuck together, the cattle market, funerals on our road, the ragman, the slop man, new babies, people going to england to work, the milkman, the priests in our parish, the holy nun’s in school, making slides in winter, collecting turf, the may procession, the corpus christi parade, schoolbags, mitching, kittens in a sack, dead dogs, the sister’s dolls and pram, smoking behind the da’s shed, collecting jam jars and old newspapers, swimming in the canal, throwing stones at the trains, bonfires, how many easter eggs did you get, the stew house, bicycles with no tyres, me granny, scutting on lorries, playing nick nack on doors, where babies came from, girls playing skipping and piggy beds, the sisters playing shop with the broken chainie, going to the picture, my pal who broke his leg in the playground, venetian blinds, net curtains, coats on the bed, christmas pudding hanging up in a pillow case, washing clothes in the bath, the pawn shop, holy communion, going to mass, hoppers in the bed, making toast at the fire, wearing stockings in bed, a plate of coddle, a bowl of stew, cloth nappies boiling on the gas stove, babies soothers, syrup of figs, the young one with the patch on one side of her glasses, our birthday, the sunshine home in balbriggan, a day in dollymount, dodging our bus fare, chasing girls, playing cowboys and indians, a burst football, playing football on the road, hoola hoops, making our own swords for a fight, making a snowman, pushing each other on a trolley with real ball bearing wheels, going to see someone laid out dead, getting slapped in school, sodality, getting knocked down by a car, going into woolworth’s, santy clause, the playground, playing conkers, first holy communion, a boil on our neck, getting washed in the kitchen sink, getting a chase, red rover red rover, fights with other kids, bread and jam, piggy beds, going out to bray on the train, stingers in a field, silver paper for the black babies, the moving crib…

Now these are just a few of the things I talk to meself about when I’m on a walk on me own…’

This is me at three years of age. Taken in our back yard in Cabra West. This was around the time that I was taken into hospital for a “Little Boy’s” operation. I remember standing in our kitchen with my mother holding my hand, my sister Vera standing next to me holding a “Potty” out for me to try and pee into. My other sister, Chrissie was standing on a chair by the kitchen sink with the water tap on trying to encourage me to pee. My father brought me to Temple Street Hospital on the cross-bar of his bike to have it sorte out.

Nov 12 2019

The Belfast Sink…

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‘Now, it may seem strange to some people for me to remember this but it’s almost like it happened yesterday. I remember standing in our Belfast kitchen sink when I was about five years of age and the older sister giving me a good scrub in preparation for Santy on the night before Christmas. Then she got me to stand up and step out onto the kitchen chair, the only one we had at that time, and she drying me in the half of an old bedsheet. She asked me what Santy was going to bring me and I told her I wanted a cowboy suit with a gun and holster. Then she put me standing by the fire to get a heat before going up to bed and she then started washing my little sister, Anne.
When I was all dried she put my vest on me because that’s all I wore back then to bed, she took me in her arms and carried me up the stairs. She told me that I’d have to kneel down beside the bed to say my prayers and ask Holy God to tell Santy what I wanted. Over the years the Da’ used to write all the letters to Santy for us little ones who couldn’t write, it was gas when I think of it because there was no such thing as a Biro or that, he had to use a pen and ink and he’d put some ink on one of our fingers and get us to press it on our individual letters so that Santy would know which of us it was from. I think this was something he had learned in the army.
I remember so well standing by the blazing fire that the Ma’ had put together with an old shoe and a bucket of slack and cinders and bits of potatoe skins and stuff like that and gazing up in wonderment at our Christmas Tree, it was pure magic for a five year old to see the fairy lights glowing in the semi darkness of our kitchen. I suppose in some way it was what I imagined Heaven would be like. The Ma’ would take down her home-made pudding that was handing up in our back porch in a pillow case and cut a slice for Santy while the Da’ poured out a glass of Stout for him as well and of course poor oul Rudolph with the red nose had to be included, he got half a carrot, the older brother ate the other half.
I know now that back in the 1950’s the Ma’ and Da’ certainly didn’t have much and I’m sure we barely got by on what they did have but they never let us down when it came to Christmas. The poor Ma’ would sit up half of the night looking after the bit of meat and the skinniest turkey you ever saw, that was cooking in our gas oven. The Da’ would be there playing his part in helping to clean and tidy the place because Baby Jesus was about to arrive at any minute. And sure our few decorations were always the same ones that went up every year. We had a little cardboard Santy that opened out and his fat belly would stick out and we had an Angel with a smiley face as well.
And do you know, the poor Ma’ and Da’ would only be gone to bed when the older sister and the brothers would shake us little ones out of our sleep and carry us quietly down the stairs to see what Santy had brought for us. And there would be all the presents beautifully wrapped and laid out with out individual names written on pieces of paper and placed on the presents. And do you know what, Santy used to write the exact same way as the Da’, isn’t that strange or what? Well now, wait till I tell you what, when I opened my present there it was, a little Cowboy Suit with a hat and a shiny silver gun in a plastic holster, I was so excited that I started crying. Then I put my hand into my stocking that was on the floor beside the fire and I took out a whole orange, I was laughing and crying all at the same time.
Now, that’s what Christmas is all about for me and I thought of all this when I came across this photograph that I took some years ago…’

Sep 21 2019


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My Aunt Rooie was originally registered at birth as Jane. She was born in 1915, in number 6 Elliott Place in the Monto, a house belonging to her Granny Doyle. Rooie was named after her Granny Coffey, Jane Somerville, whose family were Protestant and whose father was murdered by drowning in the Royal Canal, by a group of Fenians in Westmeath in 1883. Rooie’s mother’s neighbour, Annie Cowap, delivered the baby; Annie lived in number 10 Gloucester Place. When she was two years old Jane’s mother died while Jane’s father was off fighting in WWI. Her father later remarried but things didn’t work out with the stepmother and his children. Jane’s uncle, her mother’s brother, Sonny Doyle and his wife May, took in five of the six children and reared them as their own; the sixth child was taken in by another family. Jane was the baby of the family and grew up to be a very happy and contented child in such a loving home.
As a young girl she attended nearby Rutland Street School where she loved learning and especially singing. Jane’s older siblings always looked out for her and she became very close to her eldest and only surviving sister, Biddy, there was rarely a day in their lives that they didn’t see or talk to each other, right up to the end. Now, Rooie’s aunt, May Doyle was a very industrious type of woman who could make and sew anything on her hand worked sewing machine. She was very often given paid work by the Nun’s in nearby North William Street Orphanage. May would cut out and sew up little white pinafores for the orphan girls. Almost everyone in her neighbourhood came to May to have something or other sewn up or taken down.
On one particular occasion May was asked by a neighbour to sew up a set of brand new Net Curtains. It was on this particular day that Rooie arrived home early from work and told May that she had a boyfriend and that she’d like to bring him up later that evening to meet herself and Sonny. May was delighted of course but knew only too well that Rooie had been seeing some boy or other recently, like a lot of girls who fall in love; Rooie couldn’t help mentioning his name at every opportunity, thus giving the game away. May decided she would try and impress this young man and so she fixed the net curtains as quickly as she could and put them up on her own window.
Later that evening Rooie arrived at the flat with a young man on her arm named Alfie Kane, a young merchant seaman whose family lived in the area. After Alfie left later that evening May took the net curtains down again. Alfie Kane would often go away to sea for months on end and of course “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” with each passing day.
It became a regular thing for Alfie, when home on shore leave, to take Rooie to a nice restaurant in O’Connell Street as a treat; it was called the “Green Rooster”. This restaurant played such an important role in their courtship that Alfie started calling Rooie his “Little Rooster”, which eventually and over time became Rooie and that’s how she got that name. After a while everyone, including her family, began to call her Rooie and that was the name she settled on for the rest of her life.
Alfie eventually walked Rooie up the aisle in 1934, in the old tin church in Sean McDermot Street. They went on to raise a family of eight children. Whenever Alfie was away at sea Rooie could be heard, as she went about her housework, singing a song about her “Sailor Boy” far out on the ocean waves. The two men in the above photograph are her eldest brother Paddy Coffey and Alfie Kane. So now, there you have it, the story of my Aunt Rooie Kane and her strange name.


Aug 24 2019

‘The Milk Jug…’

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‘This is the Ma’s old milk jug, the good one that was always kept in the China Cabinet in our front parlour and only taken out whenever we had visitors. Sure most visitors we had were our relations and they drank their tea out of cracked cups like the rest of us. The milk jug was part of a set that the Ma’ was given as a wedding present in 1938, there was also a sugar bowl and a delph teapot that she got. The milk jug is all that’s left of the set. But the Ma’ treasured the jug, she’d put it out on the tea table of a Sunday and it was just for her and the Da’ to use. Isn’t it gas all the same, how little things meant so much to the Ma’ and Da’?…’

Aug 06 2019

‘The May Procession…’

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