Dec 31 2019

The Ma’ & Da’ 50 years married in 1988,,,

Published by at 7:20 pm under News

” This is my last story for 2019, Happy New Year to everyone out there, both at home and abroad, keep the sunny side out…”Although my father always worked, there was never an overabundance of money in our home. My mother was a very private woman and was never in favour of my father borrowing money from the Bank, which he would get, interest free, being a Bank employee, a Bank Porter. Instead my mother borrowed money from a legal money lender, a Jew man from Mary Street. He would call to our house every Saturday morning for his payments. My mother would always bring him into our front parlour so that he could do his business in private. It was only years later that I discovered my mother was acting as a kind of collecting agent for him and for which she never received any payment. There were many of our neighbours who also borrowed money from him but they didn’t want him to be seen calling to their door, so my mother’s front parlour took on the role of being a central point for each of the neighbours to bring their money and excuses to.
My father would also take on extra work to earn money. In the early years he worked Monday to Friday and half day Saturday in the Bank. The other half of Saturday was usually spent doing work for some of the bank employees, in their homes, painting and decorating, digging their gardens or putting up shelves and the like. Most of these people lived in the Stillorgan area of South County Dublin and my father would cycle out to their houses from work and then home again in the late evening. During the summer months he would cycle to the seaside town of Bray in County Wicklow where he worked in a shop owned by a friend of his from Camden Street, in Dublin. He would also help out, whenever he had the time, with Fun Fairs run by the Belvedere Newsboys’ Club of which he was a member in his teen years. Most of his holiday time was also spent working, putting up wallpaper for my mother or doing odd jobs for some of our neighbours, especially if there was a widowed woman who lived nearby and had no one to do the work for her. I remember when my mother started earning money by working at home. A large brown box would arrive at our house filled with plastic toiletry bags and a bundle of string. My mother would have us all sit around the kitchen attaching one piece of string to each bag. When she had so many finished, she would put them into a shopping bag and bring them into a place somewhere in town and when they were all finished and delivered, she was paid for her work.
Most of what we wore as children was almost always second-hand clothes. They were either handed down from older siblings or maybe older cousins or most times bought in a second-hand clothes market, and that would include shoes as well. Us boys never wore anything under our little trousers like underpants or anything like that. We wore the same shirt from Sunday to Sunday and we never took it off going to bed either. Our beds were over-run with fleas that would feast on our blood as we slept and the collars of our shirts would then be full of red spots from the blood bites that they would give us. Sometime after my older sister had emigrated to England and had settled in to her nursing career she began sending home large cardboard boxes of second-hand clothes from the hospital where she worked. This was always a time of great excitement for us because we never knew what would come out of the box and we were under orders from our mother to save the twine and string that held the box together because it might come in handy for something one day. There were of course other families worse off than we ever were and one family in particular would get our cast-offs or what was left of them.
I’m sure there were many times over the years when my parents were struggling financially and otherwise, much more than we were ever made aware of. I do recall times when my mother wouldn’t sit down and eat with us, she’d make an excuse that she wasn’t hungry from doing all of the cooking. I look back now and wonder was she making sure that she had enough food for my father’s dinner when he’d arrive home from work. Our Granny Burke, my mother’s mother, lived with my Aunt Kathleen, my mother’s younger sister, and Uncle Ned, not too far from where we lived. Ned worked in the ESB in Ringsend and Kathleen had a job in Bachelor’s Food factory. Ned was always paid on Thursday. Because money was always scarce and there being little or no food in our house, on Thursday we’d often be sent to my Granny for our tea, we’d be given a cup of tea and two slices of bread and margarine. Sometimes Kathleen would send us home with a loan of money for my mother. Then on Friday, after my father would arrive home during his lunch time with his wages, my Granny would visit my mother and bring home the borrowed money to Kathleen. I suppose in this way my Granny was making sure that her two girls didn’t fall out with each other over the money.
My two eldest brothers, never got on with each other, every chance they got they’d be scrapping and serious fighting it was too. Maybe it was part of the dynamics of being in a large family. Everyone else seemed to get along okay. I have no memory of my father and mother ever having a row in front of us, they never used bad language in front of us either. Things may have changed in that respect after I left home at nineteen years of age. My father would, on the odd occasion, arrive home from work of a Friday evening with a few drinks on him but he was never violent or frightening. After his dinner he’d always fall asleep by the fire. My poor mother, similar to my father, never stopped going from one end of the day to the next. They were hard working people who took their parental responsibilities very serious.
To me, our neighbourhood was always an interesting place to be in, there were so many layers of social standing between those who had and those who hadn’t. They all came under the heading of being “Working Class” and yet there were some of them that never worked and others that never wanted to. Some appeared to be very grand and even posh. In our eyes any families that had six children or less were always considered to be posh. We’d see some of our posh neighbours going off to Mass of a Sunday morning and they’d be all polished and shining like saints up in heaven, the father with his Sunday hat on his head and his shoes all polished. And his wife linking arms with him like they were teenagers and her head scarf blowing in the early morning breeze as they headed off to nine o’clock Mass.
They were the type of people that always got to sit up at the front of the church and they used to stick out their tongues further than we ever could when the priest would be giving out the Holy Communion. And of course, they sang the loudest when the hymns were being sung, you could even hear them from down at the back of the church. And when the Holy Communion was finished being given out, they were always the loudest to cough, the whole church would be lifted up in a grand chorus of coughing in three-part harmony. All the men would be trying to outdo each other coughing and spluttering all over the place and sometimes if you were unfortunate enough to be sitting in front of a good cougher you might get it down the back of your neck. I remember trying to figure out who it was that started it all off, it must have been someone posh because the first cough always seemed to start up at the front and work its way back.
And so it went for many more years in our little community where us kids always felt safe and loved, posh or poor. I wouldn’t change anything of my growing up years with my father and mother at the helm, they didn’t have to tell us that they loved us because we just knew it by what they did for us everyday without question. So now, that’s my last story for this year and I hope the New Year is good to you all…”

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