May 25 2017

The Homing Pigeon…

Published by at 8:39 pm under News

‘I remember years ago when I was about ten or so and I was Ear-Wigging in on a conversation between the Ma’ and Da’. Some Young One or other from our road had gone off to England to train as a Nurse but came home after a few months. The Da’ was saying “A chance of a lifetime that is, a chance of a lifetime”. Then the Ma’ says “Ah sure, she’s a Homing Pigeon that one”. I think that’s the first time I ever heard that phrase, ‘Homing Pigeon’ but never really understood what it meant until years later. Now, I knew the names of some pigeons like Gick-Nah or Meelie –Pie ‘cause some of the older lads on our road had them kind of birds. Sometimes if we brought scrap metal to your man down in Smithfield he’d give us a few pigeons instead of money. And you see that lifted us up on the social ladder in our gang because we actually owned something of our own. I brought mine upstairs and put it into the wall press in our front bedroom, then someone squealed to the Ma’ on me. But when I brought it out into our back yard it took off like a bullet and never came back. Later on I told the Da’ about it and he says “Ah sure that’s a Homing Pigeon”.
Now, when I was nineteen I packed a bag and left home. I went off to the south of England to live with the brother and his family. I was off on a great big adventure. It wasn’t too long after that when the Home-Sickness began to kick into place. Now I had a job and all that but I had no pals as such and I had no-one to play the guitar with. I had a good job with great prospects and all that but I missed the Dublin Craic and all the familiar places I used to go to and the Ma’s cooking of course. After living three years away from home it never got any easier and especially around Christmas time and that. So I decided to save up a few bob and go home on a short holiday.
Shortly after arriving back in Dublin I found myself on a Sunday morning sitting on the oul 22 bus to Cabra West. And there was the Bus Conductor whistling a tune out of one side of his mouth while he puffed on a fag out of the other side. There was loads of Oul Ones who had gone into the Pro Cathedral for Mass and they talking away ninety to the dozen and they all wearing their good ‘Sunday Scarfs’. Then the bus turned the corner onto Carnlough Road and it was time for me to get off at Drumcliffe. And do you know what it is, nothing had changed in those three years, everything looked exactly the same as it did when I left for England. There was Mrs Donnelly sitting on the compound wall with her legs crossed, selling her apples and oranges and a gang of about thirty lads in the field playing football with their jumpers acting as goal posts. When I looked down Inver Road and saw the Precious Blood Church I knew for certain I was home.
As I turned the corner onto Killala Road I saw Mrs Mitchell sitting on a chair at her front door with a cup of tea in her hand. And there was Mister McKeever at his gate standing as tall and proud as ever wearing his cowboy hat. “Well, young Coffey” say he. And there was Mrs Marshall and Mrs Pepper hanging over the railings between their gardens yapping away to their hearts content. I had to laugh when I saw Jimmy Bergin sitting on his gate playing his guitar because I was the one who showed him how to play it a few years before. And there was Veronica McGrath “The Elephant Woman”, well that’s what the Da’ called her because she worked in Billy Smart’s Circus and she sitting out in the garden brushing her long black hair. I got a “Hello” from Johnnie and Michael King as they headed off to twelve o’clock Mass. Lordie Abbott was heading down the road to McKee Barracks in his army uniform and Marty Gorman was playing a game of marbles with Pat Byrne.
To be honest with you I thought I was in Heaven, it was great to be back home. I was naming all of the families on our road as I walked along, Mrs Rogers, I think her husband worked in the theatre, Yerkel Nolan’s Ma’, the Meades, the Hamilton’s, Sean Quinlan playing football on the road with a group of young lads and they using the Lamp Post as their goal, Dykie and Caroline Barry, Molly O’Brien and then our house. When I walked into our house the first thing the Da’ said was “Ah, here’s the Homing Pigeon”. And that’s what I’ve always been, no matter where I’ve lived over the years I always come back home to Killala Road. There’s none of our gang there now, there’s someone else living in it but I still call it “Our House”. Sometimes I might just slow the oul car down as I’m passing by and in my mind’s eye, catch a glimpse of young Marty Coffey looking out of the front bedroom window. So that’s me now, the Homing Pigeon…’

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