Jun 20 2017

The Letter…

Published by at 9:43 am under News



Every Sunday in our house we always had our Tea at five o’clock. Except in the summer that is when we were handed a “Tomata Sambich” and sent out to play. Because we didn’t have enough chairs most of us had to stand around the table having our tea. The Da’ had a metal mug that he said he got in the Army and the rest of us had chipped cups and the odd Jam Jar to drink out of. Only the little ones were allowed to drink their tea off a their saucer. The Ma’ and Da’ sat at the top of our table and the rest of us, according to age, eldest to youngest took our place around the table and you weren’t allowed to take anyone else’s place or you might get a box in the ear. Our kitchen table had two extension pieces on it, if you pulled out each end of our table it opened a hole up and the extra leaf would be in there. That was the Da’s job to fix that up because he was the strongest in the house, or so he used to tell us. Now, the only difference between Sunday and any other day was the fact that we looked cleaner, the girls all had clean dresses and yellow ribbons in their hair and the boys all had clean shirts that wouldn’t be taken off until next Sunday morning. The collars of the shirts would be manky dirty with red blood spots from the Hoppers all over them. The cuffs were full of hard snots from wiping our dirty runny noses on them. And we never took our shirt off going to bed either.

But one of the things I remember most about Sunday night in our house was the Da’ writing his letters. We’d be all sitting on the kitchen floor doing our “Ecker” for Monday and the Da’ would sit at the table with his “Fountain Pen” that the Ma’ had bought him one Christmas. He kept that pen locked away in our parlour so none of us could get our hands on it. Then he’d say “Do your Ecker and don’t be talking, I have to concentrate’. The Ma’ would be sitting over by the fire with her knitting needles clacking away as she gazed into the fire. With 15 kids, the Ma’ and Da’ didn’t often get a quiet moment in their marriage but Sunday night was that moment. Until I broke the silence that is, by asking the Da’ some question or other about my Algebra and that was sure to start him off. “Can I not get a minute to meself to think in this house…” he’d say “…will you ever ask your Ma’ and leave me alone“. Then with his head back down in his letters he’d start talking under his breath. “Dear Vera…” he’d start off, now that was the sister who went to England to train as a Nurse. “…I hope this letter finds you well as we are all here. I’ll phone your hospital from the phone box on Ratoath Road next Sunday night at eight o’clock, Our Martin broke his finger when he fell off a our railings…’ And on he would go writing page after page of the comings and goings of our family and not only our family but every family on our road. “Mrs Norton had another baby last Friday. Canon Burke was going around last week collecting his “Easter Dues” and Mrs O’Brien had another fall. Your Ma’ thinks there might be another one on the way…’. And on he would go from door to door up and down our road telling her all the latest new. Other times he would write to pals of his from the army who were living abroad or to relation down the country. And whenever he got a reply from any of them, him and the Ma’ would lock themselves into our parlour and he’d read them out to her and the pair of them would go into fits of laughing at something or other, they were a gas pair all the same. I don’t know whatever happened to all his letters or where they went to because he threw nothing out. Wouldn’t it be great craic all the same to sit down and have a read of them now…

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